Earlier this year (at least I'm in the right year!), I managed a combined pleasure work trip to the US and home to Ireland. Though I can't believe I was home that short a time ago - it seems like much longer :(
Flying to the states from Wellington is always a bit more arduous than it needs to be. Currently it means a flight to either Sydney or Auckland as the runway is too short for international travel. I'm really hoping that at some point Wellington extends the runway and we can fly out directly from here. At the moment, it tends to add an hours flight and a few hours killing time in Auckland (on the up side there's a walk between the domestic and international terminals that can blow the cobwebs away).
This strange sight greeted us on the latest trip to the States in Auckland airport - so at least there was some interesting diversions on the way! Yes, that is powdered milk! Who knew there was such a market for it in Auckland.
My brother lives in LA with his wonderful girlfriend (hello!) and they have just bought a house. I immediately googled fabric and craft stores in the neighbourhood when I heard. So the day we arrived, I got BM out for a 'walk' in the neighbourhood to stretch our legs and magically we ended up in the Joann's nearby...
Downstairs is craft central while upstairs is sewing supplies and fabric. I purchased a few bits and pieces (pins, etc.) and I'll post about them later as the photos have yet to be sorted (I only took the photos after I got back to NZ).
My brother also lives near some furniture shops and the next morning (there was only so much I could do to interest BM in a constitutional that evening!) we wandered around while trying to get our bearings. He's in a rather accessible area so it was fun to see what was on offer in the stores. We also saw our first police chase (on foot) and helicopter. It is LA after all!
We used Lyft (a ride sharing scheme run by non-taxi drivers similar to Uber) a lot and really could manage without a rental car for the first time I've visited the city - hurray! The whole Lyft experience was really only possible with a local phone plan with data and thankfully (despite trying to sort thi out the last few times) I managed to get a pay as you go plan and sorted myself out for a month. This was BM's first time staying in LA - normally he would fly through to other destinations so unfortunately that doesn't mean we're not both overly familiar with the crap LAX. We went for a beach walk in Venice Beach and walk to the Santa Monica pier. Unfortunately the water wasn't especially inviting in April.
At the end of the Santa Monica Pier, we spotted a seal - as per usual, you'll have to have your computer screen zoomed right in to make him out!
BM has been espousing the virtues of the Monty Cristo for years. NOT A FAN. Ick. Though BM yummed it down and my brother's girlfriend who joined us after work was also impressed. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular delicacy (lucky you!) - its a triple decker ham, cheese and turkey sandwich on white bread, then battered and deep fried. Served coated with powdered sugar and with jam (yes, that is a heart attack waiting to happen). For the calorific unafraid, here's the recipe.
This particular outlet seemed to springing up all over LA - an oxygen (O2) bar. Yup, flavoured air. It was all over Vegas too where I even managed to get action shots! I just couldn't bring myself to try it. I really hope it doesn't go the way of bottled water and become ubiquitous.
This was the first visit to LA where I had someone to explore with - in the past I've visited my brother but he's not that excited about going to Venice Beach yet again! We got tickets for universal studios and availed of some 'real American dining' in the Hard Rock Cafe. Thankfully LA has a great system of printing the calories on the menus of chain restaurants so I knew just how bad for me this was! (Very and more than I was expecting!)
There's a lot of queuing in Universal Studios for the different rides. Most of them were good fun - but the Return of the Mummy ride was an exercise in extreme patience was we queued and queued and queued. In the end for a fairly sub par experience.
Quick stop off in Springfield's Moe's Tavern for a Flaming Moe (Fanta with dry ice).
The tour around the studios was great. It was really interesting to see the different sets and how thin the facades really are!
Random collection of 'movie' cars
The scale of some of the sets was really amazing. It was a pity we couldn't get out for a poke around.
One of the real highlights of the Studios visit was the Waterworld show. Lots of pyrotechnic and water effects.
So lessons learnt: Go early to miss the crowds. Queue to go as a solo rider - you get to queue together but have to take the rides separately - not a bad tradeoff as the rides are rather quick.
One of the other fun things this time about LA was walking a lot - there's some funky architecture near my brother's and this birdhouse tree was a delight.
Some of the signs were unexpected!
One morning, BM went to the La Brea Tar Pits (I've already been) while I went into the Fashion District in Downtown LA. On the way, we stopped off in Whimsic Alley - who were obviously preparing for a Game of Thrones something.
Cute buys in store for the inner geek.
Before we separated, we encountered a few LA food trucks - Really love the idea of these and the food was great (though seating was limited!).
The last time I stayed in LA I was there for a conference and stayed very close to the Fashion District. So I wasn't quite as surprized at the condition of the downtown and the massive number of homeless. What I hadn't realised the last time was the small number of public toilets. Having had a foodtruck lunch and a bus ride into town, I was in need of some. The security guard in one of the shops pointed me across the road to this hat (and belt and shoe) shop. If I paid the sales assistant a dollar I would be able to use their toilet. Sure, why not... Unfortunately I couldn't use my camera but behind the front shop was a long room of pool tables and middle aged gentlemen hanging out and playing pool. Such a surprize! (Especially as I walked past the shop every day when I stayed here before). I really love the idea of these hidden social lives.
Anyways on to the fabrics and notions of the Fashion District. On my last visit, I didn't have much time to wander around and while I bought a few things, I was quickly overwhelmed.
The Fashion District is a collection of mostly fabric and notion shops - home and garment. There's a few other types of shops too - this bead shop being a shining example! A lot of the shops specialise and it would have been great to go with particular projects in mind.
This time I did a bit of homework first and used that to direct my wandering. I still ambled in a number of different shops but also knew that there would be a few good ones in the mix. I ended up getting quite a bit of elastic lace trim and some thread by the end of the day but not much else besides. Though perfectly happy with that arrangement.
I made sure to visit Michael Levine and their discount shop across the road. Where they sell fabric by the weight! I don't know enough about differentiating fabric by touch or visually so wasn't willing to risk getting anything here (as well as nothing really caught my eye - feeling serious guilt about the size of my stash at the time!).
I don't really like LA as a city but there are pockets of brightness and its also hard to be unimpressed by the sheer availability of things to do and see. The street art is especially fun in places.
This time I also went to the Magic Castle - definitely worth a visit if you can swing a ticket - but be careful there's a strict dress policy. Unfortunately it was dark when we visited so no good photos of the outside and cameras were forbidden inside! In case, like me, you hadn't heard of the Magic Castle... Its a members only club for magicians and hosts a number of different magic shows each night from American and international magicians. You can only get tickets through a member (though if you ask around enough in LA that's not as hard to do as it seems as most street magicians have a membership). You pay a small entrance fee but have to have dinner there (not the greatest of food and our waiter was a rude git). But the venue and the experience are definitely worth it!
On one of our wanders around the city, we stopped off in the Farmer's Market and I found a great sticker store (Sticker Planet LA). While a small shop, it was jammed with a spectacular array of stickery goodness. (Which also happens to be light enough to bring back to NZ easily!)
We also visited the gun range near LAX. Not my thing but BM had a more fun time.
There are certain things about the States that stand out from my impressions as a child - and Chinese food in the white cardboard takeout containers with fortune cookies seemed so terribly foreign and sophisticated. And I'm still a serious sucker for fortune cookies!
On our final day in LA I made it to Mood Fabrics for a browse.
Fantastic selection and I was suckered into buying a bit too much fabric - only my skill level stopped me from buying the more slippy fabrics (at least until I've sewn up my current stash of this stuff!).
The trip was one of my more enjoyable visits to the US - I got to hang out with my brother, his girlfriend and their cats and then spend the days exploring with BM. Though the cat wasn't too pleased about our departure.
I'm slowly catching up with my photos :) I've a few posts in my recent trip to LA, Vegas, Ireland and Chicago (Though I'm hoping its just two!)