Sunday, 6 October 2013

Notes from LA

Having spent the first six months of this year in LA and being a few days off returning for another stint, I thought I'd share what I've learned from this fascinating city. 

Even though I told myself my trip was largely a reconiscence mission to find out how the industry works, get to know the city and generally regroup after a difficult and intense couple of years, you can't help but hope that when you first venture out into the Cali sunshine, Speilberg will be lurking in the nearest palm tree waiting to thrust a three picture deal into your hand, you'll bump into Angelina shepherding her rainbow herd of children into an In and Out Burger and Bradley Cooper will bend down to tie his shoe laces in front of you. You'll think he's proposing and he'll go along with it out of sheer embarrassment and you'll live happily ever after. 

Sadly, Speilberg must have missed me. There were no herds of any people because Los Angelos don't walk anywhere and Bradley Cooper was off shooting films in shoes that don't have laces. 

The flight to LAX is between 9 and a half and 11 hours depending on conditions and if you have the Lewis Hamilton of the air flying your plane. On my first trip out there, while I was still pretty wedded to my palm tree, children sheep, shoe lace fantasy, I treated myself to a business class flight.  

I'd travelled business class once before, when a boyfriend took us to New York. Once you've had a flat bed experience it is very hard to go back to the upright long haul hell of economy but at £1700 a pop the East End girl in me refused to pay those prices. You're having a giraffe, BA.

However, for this special trip, I figured, I can afford to fly in style and BA didn't let me down. It's not just the flat beds, its the champagne upon taking your seat, the delicious menu including warm bread rolls (though I'm surprised any of the LA locals ate them as carbs are the devil dinner apparently). The space, the quiet (no children and any kids that are in business have rich parents who have probably bribed them to shut the hell up for the whole flight). It's delightful and if I could afford to always fly business all the time, I would but... I can't so I don't. 

Incidentally, something to remember when returning from LAX is this airport has the worst airside facilities you'll ever see. You would have thought that an airport that serves such a glamourous city would have a host of designer shops once you pass through customs. Wrong. My local newsagent has better facilities. The first time I found myself airside at LAX I thought I'd taken the wrong exit going to Guantanamo rather than Heathrow but no, that was it. A small cafe, a machine selling water and one that sold iPods, and a tiny book store and that was it. 

Upon first stepping out into the sunshine the first thing that struck me, after coming from England, was the warmth. It's glorious and rarely gets too warm. Having said that, this year they had a major heat wave. (A real one. Not like the ones that people in England refer to. That's just summer). Temperatures were hitting the 100s and even the locals were complaining. 

But by and large the LA weather is lovely year round. It can get a little cooler in 'winter' and you hear about the infamous June Gloom where there's a bit of a mist, or fog in the mornings. Also, the costal areas like Santa Monica can vary in temperature by as much as 10 degrees (lower) than the city.  And the valley can be up to 10 degrees higher.  

You have a number of options in terms of getting from the airport into the city. Obviously you can grab a taxi but I think LA taxis are expensive. You can get a shuttle bus which actually run in several cities all over the world. They're a fraction of the cost of a taxi but they take several passengers and you better hope that you're not the last one as this can mean a 45 minute journey takes three hours. 

There's also a new service called Lyft which is very cheap. This is a network if civvies who offer lifts to passengers. You can book it through their app and you'll know the Lyft cars as they have a big pink moustache on the front of their cars. How very LA.

Probably one of the most popular options is to hire a car. I'll talk about LA driving another time but one thing I was told is if you can, avoid hiring a car at the airport as you'll be subject to additional taxes. Also, if you're not used to driving on the right, you don't want the additional stress of driving an unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar city. There are car rental places all over Los Angeles. I usually ake a taxi then hire a car the next day. 

Also, when you're done with the car, you can drive it back to the airport as many of the rental car companies have drop off depots near the airport and a free shuttle bus that takes you to all terminals. 

Also, one other tip. They call these cars 'rentals' or 'rental cars' not 'hire cars' like us Brits. I got into an amusing miscommunication conversation with a driving instructor when he thought I was refering to a 'higher' car. he said, "you men like a hummer or something". Ah yes, divided by a common language. 

I'm not sure what the public transport options are from Lax as I've never ventured down that road, Usually because I'm tired, hungry, hot, bothered and jet lagged and just want to get to where I'm going. 

So you've landed in LA. what next? Next week there'll be more hints, tips and discoveries from my time in the other sunshine state. 


  1. I found L.A to be underwhelming when I visited (it was in the 90's so I appreciate it has no doubt changed). Due to the building restrictions it was quite small (vertically) compared to NYC, for example. It had an air of despair I thought. Hollywood was depressingly seedy and there seemed to be a stark contrast between rich and poor areas. I didnt experience the whole city by any means but having arrived in L.A from a stint in San Francisco (my favourite city) I was actually quite happy to leave. I'll see if your hints and tips do anything to entice me into a return visit :-)

  2. I flew to LA for the first time in my life earlier this year, and in Biz Class to boot.

    Was a pretty glamourous way to arrive into the City of Angels, and is a trip I will never forget!

    You are right - the sun is just glorious in LA. I departed from Heathrow on a crisp, sunny spring day, and to think just 12 hours later I was in.. *Los* *Angeles*? That star studded city we hear about in California?

    Mind. Blown.

    I liked LA. It was very spread out. I was shocked that there aren't really any public transport facilities from the airport into the city. The freeways are plonked everywhere like spaghetti.

    I did like LA, but I preferred San Francisco. SF felt liveable. Organic. Spontaneous. Connected. At times, it did not feel like an American city.

    I love California.


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