The Sea-Tac Southwest Airlines gate side cattle call and subsequent scramble for a seat was an adventure in itself and once that hurdle was overcome the rest of the flight to California was uneventful. Within minutes of exiting the airport, we were picked up in our Uber car and whisked away to the next leg of our journey. We arrived to the Beverly Hilton to paparazzi flashbulbs and an elevated frenzy . . . how did they know we were coming?? Well, they didn’t . . . There was really only one tidbit of trivia we knew about this hotel is that it hosted the television Emmy awards every year, and our Uber black town car just happened to arrive in the middle of “celebrity drop off” – nothing like a red carpet and disappointed photographers to welcome a pair of backpackers!
Once we’d dropped off our bags, we went back down to the lobby to check out the scuttlebutt among the dozens of celebrities filtering into the theatre we didn’t know – we got to see one actually did know: Mario Lopez! Whether one knows him as the character Slater from the 80’s TV show “Head of the Class” as I do, or as a Hollywood entertainment talking head from the current run of “ET” as Christine does, it was actually pretty cool. So, now that we’ve got our celebrity gawking moments out of the way – now what? Time to see the sights.
The next day we took some mass transit to Long Beach. The the bus (720) and the Metro (blue line) were our chauffeured (although far from elegant or private) chariots of leisure and efficiency. The subway was an entertaining leg of our journey as while we were going through Going through Watts Towers and Compton, more than one reformed gang member opened up to all in the car – confessing their past, and sharing some poetry of a rap about Jesus in exchange for a few bucks from those paying attention. Very entertaining. At a distance of 33 miles this trip would normally take a car almost an hour, however, our chariots communal inefficiency carried us to Long Beach in just over two hours . . . hmmm. We justified it by reminding ourselves we had nothing better to do and this is why we travel. Finally, we were enjoying a tasty lunch @ Modica’s Deli on Ocean Blvd with the scent of salt water wafting from across the street. Neither of us had been here before and didn’t really know what to do so after lunch we walked along the boardwalk and took a wonderful little $2 commuter ferry around Queensway Bay. The sunshine, the marina, the aquarium – it really was a nice way to spend the afternoon. We even found a free shuttle bus to take us over to the Queen Mary, however we weren’t keen on spending $32/person for afternoon tea so after a few looks we were on our way. Soon, knowing we had a two our commute ahead of us, we head back to the Metro. But that was OK, because like we’d said so many times before – “Why not, what else are we doing?”.
We got back into Beverly Hills in time to get cleaned up and walk to an amazing Italian restaurant named Sfixio and then back to the room to relax and reflect on a really fun day. So, here’s what we don’t understand. In the most remote regions of nowhere we’ve paid as little as $8/day for a room and had free wireless internet and free breakfast. At the Beverly Hills Hilton – internet is $25/day and a pot of French Press is $11. Crazy rich people! We grabbed our laptops and headed next door to Starbuck’s for free wifi and $3 drip coffee!
The next day Tammy picked us up and we spent a wonderful day in the sun and fun of Santa Monica. Walking the pier, meandering through the freaks (I mean “Creative Artistry”) of Venice Beach, and finally over to the 3rd Street Promenade for a patio lunch and the serenade of a street musician. The afternoon was spent catching up while enjoying the scenery along Pacific Coast Highway. The end of the day found us back at the hotel and another celebrity awards show in full swing . . . crazy celebrities we don’t know!
So, today is Bertie’s birthday and after our ritual of cheap coffee and free internet @ Starbuck’s, we headed back to Santa Monica to ride bicycles along the Venice Beach Boardwalk – amongst the characters in Muscle Beach, Chess Park, and misc “musicians” willing to share their “talent” with those willing to listen. Afterwards, we strolled along the opulence of Rodeo Drive and popped into a few shoppes to see what was on offer. A $500 pair of shoes or a $1200 purse @ Fendi? How about a $100K wedding dress @ Vera Wang? Make a point to see the $1.3M Bugatti Veyron sports car parked out front of “The House of Bijan”, billed as the most expensive store in the world. After walking along some of the streets which contain 5-9 million dollar homes, we were ready to call it a day. But not before Craig picked us up for a night cap of cheap tacos and cold beer.
Craig picked us up the next day and we had a wonderful afternoon meandering the stalls of the Farmers Market at “The Grove”, good fun. Now we’ve reached the time when our paths diverge – Bertie is heading out to Cambodia for her ESL program and I’m off to Toronto to spend time with family, but I don’t think it could be better than the time we’ve spent so far.