Route 66 travelogue #13
Los Angeles Day 1
Or “The finish line!”
Our hotel, the Wyndham, is a big, dark, imposing looking place on the outside but very friendly on the inside. We were told that the carpets on our floor had just been cleaned so they might be a bit damp. On arriving on our floor we found a large blower pointing down the hall, attempting to dry the carpets.
The floor seemed to be in the middle of a refit with builders coming in and out of a couple of rooms. The carpets in the room were indeed a little damp but at least they were clean. After a shower and a change of shirt following our heavy drive through LA traffic we headed out for a wander.
The first place we stopped at was a little bar called ‘Blue Moon’ (It’s actually called ‘The Commons’ i think Blue Moon may be one of the ales on tap) just around the corner from the hotel.
The boys ordered a couple of ales which arrived in jam jars with screw tops for lids. The beer pumps were all mounted to a sheet of aluminium which was screwed to the wall. People were sitting around at benches, some eating pizza they’d ordered from a takeout place, some playing Jenga, some playing connect four, all having a nice time.
The table games were all provided by the venue which also had a small PA system & stage in the window for karaoke and perhaps acoustic gigs. The bar tender came round and cleaned up the pizza boxes while he was picking up empty glasses.
On reflection this isn’t something you often see in the UK, most pubs are funny about you ordering in food but this place had a very communal vibe, in fact, there was an illuminated sign on the wall that said ‘The Commons’.
There was music playing but I could see no jukebox, then I caught sight of a stereo in the corner with a turntable and a big stack of vinyl, we were definitely in LA.
After a nice chat and chill we went for another walk making our way a couple of blocks down to the coast. We hung a right at the pier as we’d been advised to stay clear of the pier by night.
We passed an art gallery which appeared to have a band setting up in the window with a ‘live music here’ sign but they weren’t ready or in a hurry and we were hungry.
We soon found a large restaurant (The Water Grill) that seemed to have a good seafood menu , interesting dark classy decor and a good ale menu so we pulled up a barstool and settled down for some scran.
This place was perfect for people watching, big shore front windows allowed us a great view of the LA revellers parading up the promenade.
The food arrived and was stunning.
I had a simple tomato salad, Mick was still full from the Diner so didn’t eat and Mike had a Lobster Roll- Connecticut style.
The food looked and tasted excellent and was presented impeccably, a good solid 9/10 all round.
After a few more ales and a good bit of people watching it was decide that we’d eat here the following night as well.
Now full and very satisfied we wandered back to the hotel and hit the sack.
Our first morning in LA and we had official Route 66 business to attend to. The Santa Monica pier is the official finish line so we needed to get some pics of us at our journeys end. The pier itself could be Blackpool pier to be honest except most of the attractions are outdoor owing to the more favourable weather and there’s a couple of oddities like the flying trapeze school where for a reasonable fee you can go along and learn how to swing and jump and such with the aid of a rather large safety net. The obligatory Ferris wheel and roller coaster are adorned in bright primary colours and give the pier a carnival feel. The boardwalk is being restored at the moment so there’s the buzz of workmen with cranes adding the lingering smell of fresh cut wood to the tang of the ocean breeze, a very pleasant combination.
Finish line photos now taken we went for a wander up the pier and there’s a whole host of buskers, artists, sculptors, performers and tat mongers of all kinds clinging to their own little pitch. An old black guy was murdering a stratocaster and screaming distorted evangelical “songs” about how Jesus had saved him (one can only imagine what he’d sounded like before this heavenly intervention), there was an acoustic guitarist and drummer kicking out some really nice grooves in the sun while further up the pier a guy sat with an electric piano playing very nice but sad sounding ballads, a perfect soundtrack to the view of the lapping ocean.
There was a murky, misty feel to the morning. It was still hot and sunny but some mist had rolled in and visibility was not good.
Food on the pier is either seafood or fast burgers, neither of which excited me for breakfast so we continued wandering and found a place called True Food Kitchen round the corner from the hotel. An airy, light, modern restaurants with a huge kitchen and piles of fresh fruit and veg stacked high. One look at the menu and I knew I was home! This place is fantastic. Breakfast consisted of kale aid, Mediterranean tomato and quinoa salad topped with grilled salmon. I was in heaven! This, is a proper breakfast! In the same way Mike & Mick were impressed by the lobster and ale from the previous evening, I was in love with this place. This is what LA is about for me. The health conscious, sun seekers of America.
Breakfast dealt with it was time to hit the road, We wanted to find the Hollywood sign, have a drive through LA and generally check the place out. We fired up the sat-nav and hit the road. Navigating in LA is a challenge as the sat-nav just wants to take you on the highway and therein lies madness for it is a seething car park, so, avoiding the minefield of the interstate we twisted and turned ever higher into the Hollywood hills. The scenery, eclectic characters dotting in and out of their mansions was magical and very familiar at the same time.
We eventually got about as close to the sign as we could and I don’t know why but I thought it would be bigger. Perhaps the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam had just ‘out bigged’ it, but it wasn’t the spectacle I was hoping for. Iconic and great to see it but not breathtaking. The drive there, the views of the valley and the sights along the way on the other hand were fantastic and it was well worth the drive just to spend an afternoon cruising around LA with the boys.
Tea time was approaching and after a chill and a shower we went back to Mike and Mick’s favourite seafood restaurant and they had the lobster sandwich again (and why not) while I took it old school with fish and chips, which was presented on a board with the chips stacked vertically in a cup, more of a fish and chips art installation but tasty none the less!
Again, the food was 9/10, certainly as good as anything we’d eaten on the road thus far. Seafood on the pacific coast is always going to be a win but you’d best enjoy this while you can as there’s talk of California becoming contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima disaster in the coming years, it’s all good for now but make the most of it.
Fed and watered we headed for a music bar that Mick had clocked earlier (Harvelles). The long dark venue was making all the right noises. Red leather booths, seedy red lighting, lots of different beers, a stage at one end and area for tables doubling as a dance floor on the black and white tiling in front of the stage. Suitably in the mood we pulled up a few barstools to the left of the stage and settled down to watch a night of blues band “Rusty”. They lied, they weren’t rusty at all, they were a very tight little combo, bass, drums, 2 guitars vocalists and a trombone player. The guitar/voc/ front man sang all the songs in the first set and the lead guitarist sang a second set of mostly original material, think Richie Valance jamming with Santana, old Fleetwood Mac and Chris Isaac and you’ll get the picture. Once again a very high standard of player and nothing too fancy, just really solid performances and lots of little nice melodic touches
LA is full of dancers and one of these decided to give a chap (sat at a table with his date) a lap dance (fully clothed mind), and quite a raunchy one at that!
She was very energetic and at one point I thought she was going to have someone’s eye out. All the world may well be a stage but in LA there’s a feeling of eternal performance, like everyone is part of a production, all the time, just in case a producer, director or casting agent might be watching.
Another cultural difference here is that the date of the lap dance-ee/victim, got her camera out and whilst laughing with her mouth agape, was snapping pictures and video of this random display of manufactured affection. Had this been in manchester, someone would have probably got bottled to the soundtrack of swearing in a honking mancy, chavvy tone! But not here.
So after a day of adventure and a night of lobster and top tunes we headed for the hotel, tacitly sad that it was nearly all over but giddy with what we could make of our last full day in LA