Monday, April 21, 2008

Eloise in the Land of the Lotus

It is a truth universally acknowledged that girls grow up and stop enjoying road trips with their mothers. Thank God for California which has saved us, if only temporarily, from this sad but inevitable day. Everything - the sun, the beaches, the friendly people and unfriendly cars - all conspired to make this “at risk” couple the happiest of travel companions.

Like most visitors to California, we focussed on the coast, starting south of Los Angeles and slowly making our way along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to San Francisco. To reduce the length of this post, over the next few days, we will divide the California story into three sections: Orange County, the PCH and the San Francisco Bay area. But first, a word about LAX.

Entering the United States through Los Angeles Airport (LAX) is a bad beginning. No, we were not cavity searched, finger printed or roughed up (with our US passports we were in the line for the chosen people) but we seemed to make it to the luggage carousel at about the same time as all the “aliens” on our flight, so they probably weren’t cavity searched either. Clearing Immigration took about 30 minutes, which I suppose, in today’s world, should be considered acceptable but the LA Times recently published an article about a substantial increase in foreign flights into LAX, so expect waiting times to get a lot worse.

What can’t get much worse is the whole business of retrieving your luggage, and oh the horror of the baggage hall at LAX. Eloise understood immediately that extraordinary measures were necessary, ducking, jiving and improvising like a native.
The British neophytes from BA Flight 283 took longer to get the hang of it. For a long time they just stared in disbelief at the third world chaos but finally, finding their inner Darwin, they launched into the fray, raising the threat level of being taken out by flying luggage to Orange. As one tired traveller remarked, “Can this really be the world’s only superpower?” I will say it now, as a gateway to the United States, LAX is a disgrace. Avoid it if you can. A much better idea is to enter via San Francisco which has a new, beautiful and efficient international terminal.

Despite the bad beginning of LAX, it did not take long to slip indolently into the pursuit of pleasure that is southern California. Before facing the famous rush hour freeways, we spent a pleasant hour in the LA beach town of Santa Monica, checking out the neighbourhood of a soon-to-be in demand and respected screenwriter (Eloise’s brother). We thought Santa Monica looked like a lot of fun. We especially liked the Santa Monica Pier with its old fashioned vibe and funny collection of amusements which include a beautiful vintage carousel. Since the screenwriter brother was out of town, we decided to save further explorations until his return and as the diabolical traffic had eased off, we began to make out way south to Orange County, now known as the OC, home of surfing, shopping and breast implants.

No comments:

Post a Comment