Leaving Las Vegas we had a feeling that the previous two days had been kind of wasted. It’s not that Vegas is bad, it just doesn’t naturally form part of a Route 66 experience in our minds. It sits in a different type of holiday. We stopped for obligatory photos by the famous Las Vegas sign, fuelled up and obtained our ‘lunch-on-the-go’ from Whole Foods (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/lvb). We bought four outstanding Whoopie Cream Pies here – so named because you can’t help saying ‘whoopie’ when you eat them.
Vegas to LA is a long trek and mostly on the Interstate through the desert. The temperature got up to 89 degrees in the Mojave desert and we stopped to visit a former silver mind ghost town called Calico which has been turned into a tourist attraction. (http://cms.sbcounty.gov/parks/Parks/CalicoGhostTown.aspx) The power was out in Calico so they waived the $8 entry fee. It was hot, very hot for a ginger from the North of Scotland! Only one place to go…
We didn’t waste too much time here as we knew LA would be a challenge to get to during daylight. Here is the last mile or so set to BB King’s Back in LA. Should be part of Hazard Perception Test.
Our first night in LA was a walk to Hollywood Boulevard and back. Not realising just how big LA is we took most of the evening to do it. Finding a decent place to eat was also a challenge but we got fed at Pollo Loco (http://www.elpolloloco.com/).
Another fast-food Mexican place. Still too many beans on the plate but apparently Brad Pitt worked at one of these in LA (not the one we used). It certainly tasted ‘Brad Pitt’.
Breakfast next day was skipped as we had a Paramount Studio tour booked early.
Look at the star I spotted there!
The tour was the ‘VIP’ version which mean’t we enjoyed access to the movie archive area (the highlight of the whole thing) and got a ‘posh’ lunch in the Executive Club where ‘we might bump into anyone’. We bumped into no-one at all even though our guide kept saying ‘omigod – did you see who that was?’ Unfortunately we knew none of the stars there that day.
Lunch was not great despite the alleged ‘poshness’ of the whole affair. The cafe next door had better grub and anyone who knows me knows that I know the difference between posh food and ‘small’ food. The soup starter was poorly made but tasty as was the pasta dish I chose.
My good lady enjoyed the waiter’s description of her meal. He certainly made it sound a lot more than what it was. Burger and chips on a nice plate.
I was amused as our guide clearly thought we had never eaten in a decent restaurant before and she suggested we ’embrace the moment’ and ‘choose something we wouldn’t normally eat’. With a choice of burger and chips, pasta and fish tacos that was going to be difficult. I felt like suggesting we choose to eat in the cafe.
Anyway, I am being unfair to the tour which was terrific overall. How could you not fail to be impressed by seeing such treasures as these?
Forrest Gump’s running shoes and hat (still covered in mud). Me – impressed. Wife – impressed.
Archive of every film made by Paramount. Me – impressed. Wife – impressed.
Costume worn by Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. Me – impressed. Wife – unimpressed.
Lingerie worn by Pricilla Presley in Naked Gun – Smell of Fear. Me – impressed. Wife – disgusted.
You can’t please everyone.
After the tour we walked back up to Hollywood Boulevard to visit the Walk of Fame and to see the hand prints outside the Chinese theatre. This is good fun and we enjoyed measuring our own hands against those of our favourites.
This is me with Mel Brooks who inspired the long train video posted in a previous blog entry.
I will not show you Will Smith’s feet. Needless to say my size tens don’t fill his prints!
Our evening meal was another mistake. We walked past some wonderful restaurants and landed in a burger joint called Jack in the Box (http://www.jackinthebox.com/)
It was average. I think we were sick of burgers by this time (there was more to come though!). We ought to have tried harder.
Next day was our last day in LA and the last of our holiday. We got off to a flying start by skipping breakfast again and taking the Metro to Hollywood for the sightseeing bus tour. This was pretty good value to be honest as we got to cover the city in a few hours and had the sights pointed out to us. Better than trying to work it all out for ourselves when the most mundane of locations turn out to be significant in the history of film and music.
Whisky a Go Go. (http://www.whiskyagogo.com/site/) where everyone who is anyone in the music industry played at one point.
Building used in Die Hard as the Nakatomi Tower.
Room at the Dunes Hotel where there no flippin’ internet access so it took me until today to write this blog.
There are hundreds of others and it makes a fairly dull looking city much more interesting.
There is a strong sense of the rich and poor divide in LA as you see beggars sleeping beside their carts on the street and then look up to see the vast mansions on the Hollywood Hills. It’s not something you can ignore.
As part of our tour we took in the Santa Monica Pier which marked the end of our Route 66 journey.
We messed about on the beach for a while and walked up and down the pier ‘people watching’ and enjoying the sun.
Our lunch was a final burger, and a good one this time.
The only way to get this burger is to go to Pier Burger at Santa Monica (http://www.pierburger.com/). They don’t do it anywhere else. We were glad we made the journey. It was terrific.
Our last action before leaving the pier was to obtain an entirely authentic and completely official certificate marking the completion of our journey. It was not in any way a tourist gimmick but a reward for the effort we had put in getting here. The fact that it was sold to us by a bloke in a stall on Santa Monica Pier did not in any way take the shine off it. It was signed and will take pride of place in our home (probably in a cupboard or drawer).
He also gave us an excellent recommendation for dinner in LA.
Cliftons (http://www.cliftonsla.com/) is a buffet style eatery and what you get on the plate does not look as good as it tastes.
It looks god-awful in fact.
This was turkey, gravy (the white stuff), cranberry sauce, stuffing and mash. It tasted fantastic and was a much needed change from fast food. We were burgered out.
And so all that was left or our Route 66 adventure was the travelling home. Up at 5 a.m. to drive to the airport and endure the two flights home (one five hours and one six). With plenty to read and the films (on the international leg) this was not as much trouble as it would seem. I saw three good movies including the new Vacation movie which was fun to see after doing a similar journey.
We reflected on the trip and agreed that this was a great way to fill a two week holiday. We could have gone to one place and explored it in more depth, but we are the kind of people that enjoy quick fixes and get bored easily. Some of it was too quick, we needed more time in places like St Louis and less in places like Vegas. We enjoyed the driving though. The feeling of travelling through so much of America and seeing so much is worth it. The people were mostly wonderfully friendly and welcoming, in a genuine way. The driving is not difficult until you get into the cities and even then it is no worse than visiting a strange UK city. Overall I would recommend this trip to anyone who likes to explore, enjoys dipping into local culture and who loves big scenery and, more to the point, big food.