If you are wondering what happened to Day 1, well that was spent in London doing my usual thing in the office so nothing really exciting or interesting to mention. However, I did think it might be interesting to ‘blog’ the rest of the trip especially since I am heading into unchartered waters for me next week.
Today I left London at 12pm on British Airways heading for Los Angeles. The flight was full (from what I could see). My first taste of America was actually at the gate as we were boarding. An American lady had taken it upon herself to instruct and organize the boarding of the plane. She wasn’t a BA staff member – she was a passenger like the rest of us but I think she just couldn’t help herself. Even the BA staff were amused. She announced loudly that the flight was boarding and that first and business class could board on the right and the plebs (her word not mine) could board on the left but only rows 39-55. It was quite amusing.
Once on the plane I realized that I had the unfortunate privilege of being in a cabin with at least two couples who had never travelled outside of the US before and they were now returning home. They talked so loudly it became evident that they also had not travelled in that class before either. So every new discovery was announced not only to their partner but also to the whole cabin. They also shared their trip details with all the other passengers even if you didn’t want to hear them (like me). I fired off a Whatsapp message to the family complaining about them (it was cathartic) and also asked the kids to predict how many movies I would watch and in return for the one who got it correct I would buy a present from LA. Fortunately after we took off the champagne kicked in and the couples quietened down and went to sleep so that I could watch my movies in peace. Having said that, they might have continued talking incessantly but my Bose headphones (the best thing I ever bought for myself) blocked them out.
After take off I stretched out and prepared to get stuck into the movie selection. Of course I had already watched about 50% of them but I had cleverly held back on flights recently knowing I was going to need a store for this trip. I selected ‘Girl with Dragon Tattoo’ (see S, M & C I remembered the title) and settled in to watch Daniel Craig in action. I am probably one of only a handful of people that never read the book so I didn’t know what was coming. It was a 2.5 hour movie and while I was watching we were served lunch (scallops to start, chicken-ala-king as main and ice cream for desert). Lunch ended before the movie. When the movie was finished we only had another 8 hours to go. Everyone was by this stage asleep in the cabin but it was mid afternoon so I got down to reading some of the papers for my meetings in LA (Cecilia kindly printed them for me and gave me a stack 10cm high as I left the office last Friday!). I managed to get through about 60% of them before getting bored (and I still have to get through the meetings this week). Played a game or two on my iPhone and then decided I should try and get some sleep. Managed to get about an hour before the chainsaw snoring from across the aisle woke me up and there was no way I was going back to sleep again. It was 10am LA time so another 5 hours still to go.
I went to the toilet (this is the PG rating bit) and walked past one of the couples. She was lying VERY close to him and he had both his hands under the blankets on her side of the seat. She blushed profusely as I walked past. I didn’t even need any imagination to know what was going on there…. On the way back I noticed they were still awake but very much watching out for my return. I settled into movie number 2 – ‘We bought a zoo’ – which is a Hollywoodized version of a true story of a Guardian journalist who bought the Dartmoor Zoological Park in the UK. It was quite good (Matt Damon and Scarlett Johannsen) – a warm, feel good movie. After that I still had about 2.5 hours left so I watched another rubbish movie whose title I have already forgotten and the only reason I watched it was to consume 90 minutes. We were then served English ‘Afternoon Tea’ – Scones with clotted cream (of course). Some reading fitted in between, some more games on the iPhone and we were starting to descend into LA. Passed the Grand Canyon (nice view from the air), over Las Vegas and lots of desert and then down into LA to land on time at 3pm.
Fortunately LA on the international side is not very busy and we were the only flight landing at that time. So I managed to get right in front of the queue. But of course the weren’t ready yet for passengers so we had to wait another 2-3 minutes while the guy unpacked and set up and placed everything in precisely the right spot. They really do have to be the world’s grumpiest passport control people. The guy just said “Why do you want to be let into the USA?” in a very demanding tone. I wanted to reply “actually I have just changed my mind, I don’t want to come here” but instead just said “business”. This was followed by “when will you leave” and I wanted to say right now but actually said “Saturday”. Fortunately he didn’t read my thoughts and so he let me in. My luggage came off almost immediately and I was through customs and out quickly as well. Paul had arrived 40 minutes earlier (he came on Emirates via Dubai) and he didn’t want to pay for the taxi fare (those of you who know him will know he is a cheapskate) and so he was waiting at the coffee shop in the arrivals hall.
We got a taxi to our hotel which is in downtown LA. It is a standard USA type hotel (Marriott) and is situated at the Staples Centre (sports arena) and there are a whole lot of restaurants, movie theatre’s etc in the area (called the LA Live area). My room is on the 13th floor (I hope the fire alarm doesn’t go off). The check in procedure restored my view of American service. It was the slickest and quickest check in I have ever had. Very pleasant and helpful. It was 4:30pm when we arrived and Paul and I decided that an earlier dinner at 6pm was the way to go. Given my head was already pounding I was wondering whether I could make it to 6pm but after a shower and starting to type this email the time vanished. Paul and I headed for the Japanese restaurant which is famous for it’s sushi (meant to be the best in California). American Idols have a set up in the square today and tomorrow and all “your favorite idols stars” are on hand. Given neither Paul nor I have watched American Idols, we had no clue who were the stars and who were the help. People kept cheering (or rather shrieking) and hold up their phones taking photos. I felt like I should have joined in but I resisted.
Dinner was ok – tasted better sushi in SA. At the price (R850 for the 2 of us), our whole family could have had sushi back home. Just another reminder of how cheap eating out is in SA. Paul wanted his mandatory after-dinner ice cream (hence why he has so high a BMI) and so he got 3 scoops in a waffle cone from some New Zealand ice cream shop. I restrained myself and had nothing. We walked around the block and tried to look impressed at the Idols people again but when Paul had consumed sufficient of his ice cream to ensure he wouldn’t drop it on the lobby floor of the hotel we came back to our rooms. It is now 8:00pm and I can hardly sit upright and have no idea how I can keep going for another hour or so. I know if I go to sleep now I will be awake at 3am or 4am so I really have to keep going for awhile longer. Excuse any spelling errors or typos or missing words (my kids always critique me over those) – put it down to the jet lag.
Feel free to forward on if you know someone else might like to read it too (and let me know if they want to be added to the distribution list for the rest of the updates). Until tomorrow.