Sunday, August 7, 2011

Los Angeles, CA - 1st-4th August

Monday, 1st August 2011
Due to my later-than-planned arrival into LA my hosts decided it would be far kinder on me if they were to come and collect me in person, rather than let me battle my way to their home on LA's notoriously atrocious public transport. My hosts were Tom and Susan Rowe (or French as she goes by in the academic world). Both Tom and Susan are Law academics who now, in their semi-retired life, teach one course a year in the spring at UCLA. No sooner had I arrived at their lovely house in Marina del Rey, just a stone's throw away from both Venice Beach and the Marina itself, and I was deep in a heated-discussion with Susan about resulting trusts - or rather my view that they don't really exist.

Legal debate was cut short by Tom arriving back from the grill in the garden with supper - lamb chops, rice, tomato and avocado salad, and amazing Californian giant artichokes, supplemented by two very good 2008 Californian Pinot Noirs (a Navarro and a Dehlinger). After a desert of ice-cream and toffee sauce I was ready for bed.

Tuesday, 2nd August 2011
For my first day in LA I planned a trip to the infamous Venice Beach. Famous for its collection of preening muscle men and women, it was the natural place for me to go and do a spot of relaxing - I was once told by a lonely man on a Croatian Island that I had 'very nice legs' and I thought it only fair LA should have the chance to witness my revered physique.

I set off along the Venice Beach cycle-path on Tom's lime-green racing bike stopping along the way to admire the view, watch the occasional street performer, or take a break to do some reading. Along the way I passed an odd abandoned building. Sandwiched between two fancy, recently developed properties, this beach front property lay empty and lifeless in a sad state of repair.

The only abandoned building in LA (that I bothered to find)

I moved on, bewildered as to how such prime real estate could lie unused and unrealised.

After coming to the end of the cycle-path up near Malibu Beach I made my way back down to Santa Monica, which I explored by foot, and had some lunch. I also bought a nice new snazzy pair of shorts from a trendy men's boutique. All the morning's cycling had taken its toll, and I was in desperate need of a rest. So, I took advantage of the lovely beaches and spent a good few hours sunning myself, reading, and catching up on some music-listening in the 88 degree heat.

 Venice Beach, LA

 Air, Sea and Land

Baywatch

Having astounded the preening-inhabitants of Venice Beach with the Lamont Gun Show I made my way back to Tom and Susan's. That night Susan was hosting the meeting of her Ladies' Investment Club - a group of 8 women from one of their Yacht Club who get together once a month and collective invest the subscription fees they contribute. Tom and I, not being of (a) the consortium, or (b) the fairer sex, were banished from the house for supper. We ended up going to a lovely local Italian take-away on the trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard which we had planned to eat outside on the patio - however, since a few of the consortium couldn't make, and the prospect of having a nice young Scottish chap to quiz, pinch, and ply with some more lovely wine, we were invited inside to join the money-making team.

We all got along famously, and after desert I was privileged to sit in on the final decision-making as to this month's stock purchases and sales. After some more wine and some seconds of Susan's delicious rhubarb and strawberry cobbler the ladies bade their goodbyes to me (which involved a worrying amount of holding and squeezing my hands) and we all retired for the night.

Wednesday, 3rd August 2011  
Most of Wednesday was spent on a tour of LA that Tom took me on. We left late-morning and headed first up Mulholland Drive to a little, hidden beauty spot which Tom and Susan had stumbled upon when exploring some years ago. Up high in the hills it provided a fantastic view West over the Pacific, South across to Downtown, and East over to the famous Hollywood sign.

After soaking in the view we next drove across to the Getty Center. Designed by famous architect Richard Meier, the $1.3bn complex is perched in the Santa Monica mountains with amazing views over Downtown LA (and the thick layer of the infamous LA smog) and across to the coast-line.

View from the Getty - Downtown LA

The buildings themselves are wonderful examples of Meier's style and works (cf. San Jose City Hall and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art), and mine and Tom's first stop on arrival was to an architectural tour of the Center. We grabbed a spot of luncheon in one of the Center's cafes, and then explored some of the Center's art collection which houses a brilliantly diverse collection of fine art. Time was getting on, and so after a quick tour of the photography exhibition on Cuba ('A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now) which in addition to Evans' own photography featured some of Alex Harris' famous series and some of Alexey Titarenko's which I didn't care too much for.

Supper time soon beckoned, and that night Tom and Susan took me to one of their yacht clubs (the Santa Monica Windjammers' Yacht Club) where they have an early 20th Century launch boat moored. After supper we stopped by Tom and Susan's other club, the California Yacht Club, where they moor their 50ft cruiser. Both the CYC and the Windjammers' clubhouses put my home Solway Yacht Club into modesty-induced shame: suffice it to say, we don't have chandeliers and mahogany staircases at the Solway.

Thursday, 4th August 2011
Thursday morning I left Tom and Susan's, just before they were heading off to their yacht for a weekend-cruise to nearby Catalina Island, to make my way to San Diego where I was to spend the next two nights. The journey by bus from Marina del Rey to the bus station, being much easier than I had expected, had lulled me into a false sense of security with American public transport. I was soon brought sharply back to reality by the cancellation of busses from LA to San Diego and a sobering 5-hour wait in the Greyhound station. What should have been a 2hr 15min journey turned into a 7-and-a-half-hour marathon. Eventually, however, I made it to my next destination.

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