And we’re off again! This really has been a crazy month for us in terms of travel – not that we’re complaining.
But with our very recent trip to South Africa only just over and now our plane to LA just about to board, by the end of the month we’ll have clocked up 13 flights. Lucky for some!
This trip to the States has been on the cards for ages, so we’re excited to be finally getting back over there. Our plan is to see LA, visit Kansas City MO, explore Chicago again then finish up with a lovely bit of chill time in San Diego.
But first up, that crazy city of mavericks and movie stars. LA here we come!
As we prepare to say farewell to Sydney, from our comfy seats in the New Zealand Business Lounge we admire our boarding passes. Of all our flights so far this month, this is one that’s set to be the most memorable.
We’re trying out the new United Airlines Polaris Business Class!
That’s right, for once we’re turning left when we board and heading all the way up to the front. Row 1, baby!
Not only are we about to enjoy 11 hours of airborne comfort United’s new Polaris programme offers, we’re also on one of the new Dreamliner planes. It’s full of cool features like the window blinds.
You may notice there are none.
That’s because you can dim them electronically. When you press the button, an electric current runs through them gradually turning the glass dark. Very cool.
We’re welcomed to our seats with enormous glasses of Champagne and a stack of stuff to keep us happy on the flight.
A duvet, a memory foam lumbar cushion, a beautiful blanket from Saks 5th Avenue, and a wonderfully soft pillow for us to sleep on when it’s bed time. Oh, and yes, these seats recline all the way into beds. Perfect!
It’s amazing how much legroom there is here. And there’s almost enough storage space that we don’t need to use the overhead bins. This is the way you want to turn up to LA. My goodness!
To get things moving, we’re served a light meal – the most difficult part of this process is choosing from the menu.
It’s truly amazing the difference between economy class food and the stuff they give you in Polaris Business. This actually tastes good!
Oh, and yes please, I’ll have a little cheese after my meal. Thank you!
We arrive in LA feeling fresher than we ever have coming this far. It’s like we’ve only been in the air a few hours.
I’m not wishing this trip away, but I’m really looking forward to our home-bound flight in a couple of weeks!
LA – as usual – is as warm, elegant and as strange as ever. There’s always that feeling of something unexpected about to happen here. You never know what you’re going to see round the next corner.
We make our way to our hotel. We’re staying in the Standard in West Hollywood. It’s a very cool hotel that has the feeling of one of the fun hotels we stayed in when we visited Palm Springs – a mix of super-cool interiors and vintage ’50s motels.
It’s also a bit of a party spot. You don’t have to check out until midday here, but you can only check in after 4pm.
Our flight landed at 6am.
Looks like we’ve got some time to kill.
Thankfully, our Uber driver here was very handy at knowing some cool spots to hit in the neighbourhood, so we leave our bags at the hotel and mooch off in search of fun.
Fun, in this case, in the shape of a hotdog!
Pink’s Hotdogs has been here for years. 79 years in fact. What started as a humble hotdog cart owner Paul Pink pushed around to stave off hunger in the Depression turned into the shop you see here.
Most famous for its chilidogs, Pink’s has a cult following in LA. In fact celebrities come from far and wide to craft their own crazy versions of Mr Pink’s original dawg. There’s usually a massive queue here, but we’re lucky.
We’re also lucky to find a ‘faceout’! Pretty happy with this one.
After walking almost every street in West Hollywood (we’re up to about 22,000 steps by now) and the bliss of Business Class having worn off, we head back to the hotel to see if we can achieve early check-in.
So there’s only one thing for it: back to the pool and crack a beer.
The sun’s really starting to heat things up by the pool, so we retire inside to the cooler (and very cool) lounge area. The Standard really is a lovely hotel… I just wish housekeeping could hurry up a bit.
We keep checking with reception, who seem to only just care, but no luck on our room.
Finally, with the help of our very nice barman, we get into our room and the luxury of a shower right before the stroke of 4pm. Just like reception said. Clever ol’ reception.
After a bit of a rest, a much-needed shower and a change of clothes, we’re back on form and hunting down our dinner. We walk down Sunset to El Compadre, an absolute zinger of a Mexican restaurant.
We weren’t sure if it was open at first and were about to walk away, but thought we’d try the door first. Thank goodness we did!
We relax to a couple of flaming margaritas and some of the best chips and salsa we’ve had.
We’ve ordered two of our favourites, which come out even better than we were expecting. I order ropa vieja – a kind of pulled pork dish – and Christina gets carne con chilli.
She’s won this round, I must say. This dish is superb. Rather than chilli con carne – that classic mince dish we’re all used to – carne con chilli is chunks of slow-cooked beef in a delicious chilli gravy. Yum!
El Compadre has such an amazing atmosphere, and the tiled roof that covers the booths this side of the restaurant makes an almost streetside feel to the dining experience.
I don’t know when this place started up, but it’s clear it’s been here a while. All the booths and furniture has been custom built and upholstered, and the way it’s decorated makes you certain this restaurant has survived the ages.
It’s also busy here. On a Tuesday night!
The three-man mariachi band entertain the crowd drinking at the bar and their lilting songs drift through to the dining room too.
Their tip jar on your way out is hard to miss. It’s big, but still overflowing. As it should be.
This morning, we’ve come to the pretty city suburb of Larchmont Village for a bit of pampering. It couldn’t come at a better time after all the walking we did yesterday!
Larchmont Sanctuary Spa is discreetly set back from the road and from the moment you walk in makes you feel relaxed.
After getting changed into the softest gowns, Christina and I reconvene in the lounge with its open fire, comfy chairs and recliners, and drinks table.
We’re here for a couples treatment called Rekindle Romance that promises to get us right back on track.
We start off with a luxurious bath in the spa’s amazing giant copper tub. There’s enough room for both of us here (Christina promised to move over after the photo!) and the jets sooth our travel-weary muscles and joints.
Soon enough – just as the last few bubbles disappear – it’s time for the next part of our treatment.
In this room specially made for couples massage, our therapists Lisa and Violetta pamper us first with an incredible sugar and herb skin polish that rejuvenates and refreshes our skin until it’s softer than it’s ever been.
Next is a 60-minute full-body aromatherapy massage that re-centres us and de-stresses our bodies until we’re absolutely relaxed. It’s wonderful.
Our time in LA has been all too short, but even on this quick trip we’ve found time to get to our spiritual home! You really can’t come to California and not have an In-N-Out.
Our favourite trick: order a double-double animal style – and then order animal style fries too!
We’ve come to the In-N-Out by LAX because it’s also one of the best places in the city to see the planes come in to land. Look how close that one is!
As the planes fly in low, we make our way back to our hotel in preparation for the next leg of our journey.
To Kansas City, Missouri – and all the barbecue the City of Fountains can throw at us!
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx