Last week, I set off on a mini-vacation to Los Angeles, California. As usual, I went alone and had an absolutely fantastic time.
Flew direct to LA on Air Canada, using my Aeroplan reward points. The flight only cost about $100 – just had to pay some admin costs and taxes. Not bad for a flight to LA! The flight there was pleasant and uneventful. I watched The Runaways, with Dakata Fanning and read the book Blind Descent to pass the time.
Car Rental Experience
After arriving in LA, I took a shuttle to the Enterprise car rental location. This was my very first time renting a car while on vacation and I was a little nervous about driving in a strange city by myself. I was worried about getting lost, ending up in a bad neighborhood, or getting into an accident.
Instead of worrying about those things, I should have been worrying about the cost of the rental. I was not impressed with all of the extra charges I had to incur. It ended costing about $200 more than originally quoted online (booked through Expedia). Had to pay extra to have a GPS and insurance. The GPS was necessary to help me get around LA and insurance was too as I do not own a car at home in Canada. Apparently you can extend your auto insurance to your rental.
Anyway, I was happy to score a red Volkswagan Beetle and soon speeding down a busy freeway headed to my hotel. I was pretty scared driving and pissed off the locals with my slow speeds, but I have to admit driving around LA was super fun and it made me feel independent and liberated.
Some of the good points. The hotel has a decent, albeit overpriced, menu with tasty food in their restaurant (also offered through room service), the spa is excellent with a wide variety of services, and the hotel staff, from the parking valets to the concierge, treat you like royalty. The lobby is beautifully decorated and makes you excited to enter the hotel.
Unfortunately, there are more bad points than good ones. The room while nice, felt old. The decor needs to be updated to be hip, urban, and fresh. It needs to be on par with the nice lobby entrance. The bath tub was dirty – someone had emptied a bunch of sand there and I had to request that it be cleaned. The pool while really nice is not heated, so during cold weather (and it was really cool when I was there) it’s not usable. Further to this, they did not have any attendants around to serve drinks or food to the guests lounging by the pool. The room itself had a bizarre set-up – in order to access the sundeck you had to go through a narrow passage way. I’m not that big and I had to go sideways in order to fit. This would present challenges for anyone who is a larger person and reflects poorly on the hotel.
Like the car rental company, the hotel really got me on the extra charges. It costs about $30 per day to park a vehicle, another $13 per day for wireless Internet access, and $9 for any outside calls. I made a call to Laguna that lasted less than 2 minutes and they charged me $9. I was able to get the phone call charges removed , so it helped a little bit.
Day One Activities
After arriving there on Friday, I was really tired and just wanted to relax. It had been a long day! I had a lovely lunch in the hotel lobby, complimented by a glass of bubbly. I then spent several hours at the spa taking time in an infinity bath, getting a body scrub, massage, facial, and later on manicure and pedicure. It was blissful. I then went back to my hotel room, read a book, and ordered room service.
Day Two Activities
The next day I started off by driving to the Farmer’s Market for a tour with Melting Pot Tours. It was fantastic. We toured the Farmer’s Market and West Third St, sampling things like Brazilian beef, monkey bread, salt water taffy, bundt cakes, organic coffee and more. The tour cost about $50-60 dollars and lasted about 3 1/2 hours. I would highly recommend it to anyone and is a great way to see a bit of the city and sample some of the local food. You can check out my photos of the tour on Flickr.
On a humorous note, I was pulled over by a cop en route to the farmer’s market. I had made a right hand turn when the stop light was red and completely missed the signs that said you were not permitted to do so. I managed to make the cop laugh and he let me off with a warning. The art of sweet talk FTW!
Next, I went to the Beverly Centre and did some shopping. Got a shirt, purse, and pair of sun glasses. Not bad!
Later that day, I went back to the hotel, chilled by the pool, warmed up in the hot tub, and read more of my book.
That night I went to Mario’s Peruvian Restaurant and had some ceviche and lomo saltado.
Day Three Activities
I was originally scheduled to do two tours on Sunday. A kayaking trip to Laguna and snorkeling off the coast of Catalina Island. I ended up not doing either one of those tours!
I received a call from the tour company that a big swell was coming in, so the kayaking tour was cancelled. I was a little bummed but thought I would head off to the beach anyway. I went to the beach in Santa Monica quite early in the morning. What a nice drive – cliffs and mountains on one side and ocean on the other!
I sat at the beach on my beach towel for a few hours. Watched the waves come in, read my book, and froze my butt off! The sun finally came out and things warmed up, so I went further down the beach to explore the pier area. It’s such a nice beach! The pier is a little cheesy – but I went on the Ferris wheel and roller coaster anyway! Even spotted a lady dressed as cat woman. When I went to take her picture, she stopped me, and told me “I only work for tips sweetheart”. Hmmmm, I wonder what kind of tips she works for!?
Here are the Flickr photos from the beach in Santa Monica and pier.
It was a really enjoyable day and I headed back to my hotel to get ready for the snorkeling tour. When I spoke with the concierge, he told Catalina Island was more than an hour’s drive from the hotel and that you still had to take a 2 hour ferry ride after that. There was no way I could get there in time! I was disappointed, but it was my only fault for not planning better. (BIG project manager fail!)
A lot of other things that I would have went to see like the San Antonio winery or the Getty were closed for the 4th of July. I thought about seeing fireworks, but none of the events were close to the hotel and I did not want to drive after dark. Too scared!
I ended up going to see Toy Story 3 (in 3D) in the El Capitan theatre in Hollywood – a restored Disney theatre. It’s pretty cool – it’s lovely inside there’s even an organist playing a bunch of old Disney tunes. After the movie, you are provided entrance into a Fun Zone, where they have all sorts of silly Toy Story themed activities. I rode another ferris wheel, like the big kid I am. I never want to grow up, ever!
Here are the Flickr pics highlighting the Toy Story experience.
Day Four Activities
On the fourth day of my trip, I went on an excursion to Tijuana, Mexico. It was such an experience, that it deserves a blog post of it’s own. Click here to read more.
I also had a pretty funny thing happen to me that night when I got back to my hotel. I locked myself out of my hotel room! You can read all about it here. It’s one of my better moments. =D
Day Five Activities
I woke up early, packed my bags, sped off to LAX, returned the car, and settled down to wait for the plane to board. Bad or good? I did a little shopping at the DFS and picked up another purse. 😛
Once back at YYZ, I had to pay taxes on my purchases and I wasn’t too happy. Boo to them! I already paid 9% sales tax in California and had to come home and pay more. I detest our tax happy government sometimes. Grrrr.
Awesome trip! Another one for the books. Lots of fun and I hope to visit the city again someday. I would especially like to try those tours that I missed and check out some other things that I wanted to do.
On a side note, I am also happy to be home again. It always feels good to come back home where you belong. They always say, home is where the heart is, and for a very long time has been Toronto for me. 🙂