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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Travelogue: Los Angeles

Residence Inn, Marriott, Beverly Hills
Most of the times, I favor a home-cooked meal over eating out. This makes establishments with kitchenettes a preferred choice while traveling.(Try VRBO for vacation rentals by owners) This time we booked a suite at Residence Inn for our stay in Beverly Hills. A step down from the usual comforts at home but it can be managed for a week with some effort.

When we first reached LA, we got down at a Ralphs to buy some groceries. The  streets looked sprayed on by a drizzle. Petrichor filled the air. I never realized how much I missed the rains until that moment. California is in a state of drought emergency.

We checked in at about 2 a.m., leaving our car for valet parking for the night. All I wanted was to take a shower and slide into a bed. The porter who helped us with our luggage was a guy named Juan from El Salvador. SG made most of the conversation, I listened.

I wondered how the porter would manage to carry our luggage trolley over the steps. He asked us not to worry, so I left him to his proficiency- I was less experienced in practical matters such as these. I set to refrigerate the groceries at once. He asked us our names, enunciated SG's first name crisply and bade us good night when we paid him for his troubles. When I had settled the kitchen and washroom shelves to my liking, and lent a safe space to my suitcase, I took that shower.

SG discovered a curious thing. The sliding window in our bedroom had no bars/mesh. You could wake up and fall straight on to the street from the 7th floor, if you got up from the wrong side of the bed. The possibility worried me, and I asked him to sleep on the other side. He had to wake up early in the morning, I could roll over and get up safely. Keeping the window as a mere slit also helped.

Monday morning I woke up late, missing the complimentary breakfast (6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays). At first, I thought I'd go for a walk but I seemed surrounded by only dance academies, plastic surgeons and kosher meat.

The kitchen in Riverwood Cottage at Russian River was a dream- it had become the gold standard in my mind. However, it would be unfair to compare, and it would make me unhappy. I try to avoid unhappiness for my long-term health. So, when I came to terms with my new arrangement, I started to plan my meal. A friend was expected for dinner. I decided to keep it simple. Salmon, rice and a vegetable. At home, I'd be uneasy if I had anything less than 5 dishes to serve. But we must make the best of what we have. The stove has only two burners. And the knives suck. (We forgot to pack my favorite knife. Never again)

Getty Center
SG doesn’t heart museums much, so I visit them on my own- the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in DC, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, and now the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, SG dropped me at the level P2 of the parking and I took the tram up the hill, which is essentially a horizontal elevator that takes you to the summit, 881 feet above the sea level in about 5 mins. I felt grateful at once. The view from the arrival plaza was one that your senses need time to devour.  I lost track of time browsing through years of history.

Museum Courtyard


 Sketch: The return from the race
( A young athlete teaches his companion how to ride his vehicle. His victory at a competition is suggested by the laurel wreath hanging from his waist)

 The vexed man (from a series of 69 character heads)

I got out just in time to catch the sunset. It was a day well spent.

Random guy: Which one is this? It is a good camera.
Me: T5i
Guy: That's the body. The lens?
Me: 24-105mm. Luxury
Guy: Good camera. Great lens!
Me: Thanks :)
Guy (to his friend):Why didn't we bring our camera?
His friend: I don't know.

Maybe because you aren't allowed to take pictures at the exhibits which often feature private collection. Currently, they have two masterpieces of English medieval art: stained glass from Canterbury Cathedral and pages from the St. Albans Psalter, a book of psalms.

Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Pier
Wednesday evening we went window-shopping at the famous Rodeo Drive. That was all we could do anyways because the place has a curfew after 6 p.m. It didn't occur to either of us that a city known for its nightlife might have a prime shopping location close down so early. I am sure they have their reasons. It gave us ample scope for uninhibited photography though. I thought I was in a museum again. The display of the merchandise was nothing short of art: provocative mannequins, elaborate floral arrangements, crystal chandeliers, and wooden horses. Celebrity-spotting wasn't possible on the deserted streets so we decided to come back during the day. We had some time before dinner, so we drove to Santa Monica Pier. That, fortunately, is open 24 hours. Even if the local businesses close down, no one owns the ocean. What a comforting thought!

I wasn't dressed for a beach, but who cares. It wasn't too chilly. We parked a block away from the ocean and walked down the pier. Cirque du Soleil ‘Totem’ was on tour. We saw the yellow tent with blue stripes from a distance. A man was selling some sort of lighted chute that he threw up in the air. He wanted to peddle us one, SG was keen on it. It looked pretty, but I didn't think we would have much use of it later.

We took some pictures of the Ferris wheel and walked further down. A section of the pier was under renovation. After 100 years of existence, you need some mending. The waves lapped up suddenly and the first roar gave me quite a turn. It must have been rather comic because I saw SG laugh heartily. I am his 24 hours Comedy Central.

Paly Center, Spadena House and Hollywood Boulevard 
The best part of the trip was Saturday when SG was with me the whole day. First, he made breakfast: my favorite mushroom omelet and tea. We got dressed and headed for The Paly Center of Media. It was a surprise. He had planned the day’s itinerary. I love it when he does that.

Several props and costumes from Warner Bros productions were on display.

A lady named Betty Ashley went out of her way to make sure we enjoyed our time there and suggested the VIP tour of Warner Bros Studios in Burbank, California (‘Maybe next time’, we said. We had already been to the Universal Studios on a previous trip). She even suggested some great ideas to click pictures. Before we left, we chatted for some time. She ran her fingers through my hair fondly and said, ‘My hair color was like this once.’

Next we visited the Spadena House, a house designed to look like a witch’s abode. On our way to Greystone Mansion, we cruised through a huddle of dream houses at Beverly Hills. Mouth agape, I wondered where else in US could I see such pretty houses. The Hamptons maybe, or Fisher Island. SG said it reminded him of Southern France. I like it when beauty and snobbery go together. I think it should. What is the purpose of exquisiteness if it is easily attainable?

At night, we walked on Hollywood Boulevard, it was chilly but walking kept us warm. I was reminded of the Fremont Street experience in Las Vegas, where people dressed up as famous movie characters. We strolled past The Joker who was having his dinner on the stairs of a closed shop. Batman had great teeth, and he didn't mind flashing it. There was Bumblebee from Transformers and Captain Jack Sparrow with eerie likeness to the original. I think I saw Superman and Elvis too.

I spent some time at Sephora where I found an eye shadow I had been looking for some time.Then we got little flowers for our home. The seller said that the flowers closed with morning dew or light mist and bloomed again when dry.

We went back to our parking after crossing TLC Chinese Theater where there were footprints, hand prints and autographs of celebrities on cement. It also houses the largest IMAX (seating capacity) theater in the world.

An attendant came to help us with our ticket at the paying station, though we didn't need any assistance. It was routine. We tipped him anyway, and as we got into our rental car he remarked, 'Great car'. SG said it was a rental, and it wasn't much for a week. He said,'Not for me. It is a lot.' I was suddenly reminded of the stark difference between the have and the have nots. And though we are not what I would call 'rich', I realized I was fortunate in many ways.


Ravikumar chintoju said...

Wonderful articulation of a trip ma'am. your writing skills are exquisite. Some time back i happened to see your fb page, apparently i started liking your posts, opinions on various subjects. i always wanted to write like you but couldn't start some how....Any how, nice post....Thank you.
Ravikumar Chintoju
IIT Delhi

Aparna Kar said...

Thanks for your kind words. Hope you always find something you like.