Time to re-LAX

Got up at 6.45am to find that the Celebrity Eclipse was docked in Los Angeles, right back where she started from.  Felt really depressed that this was the last day of our fabulous, long-awaited holiday.

The weather was dry but dull, and certainly cooler than it had been when we’d arrived. We walked along Deck 14 to the Ocean View café to get a substantial breakfast today as we didn’t know where/when we’d be eating next.  I therefore opted for the full American breakfast: coffee, juice, crispy bacon, corned beef hash, pancakes, waffles and maple syrup.  The self-service restaurant was fairly crowded as expected, and we thought enviously of those, such as quiz team-mates Frank and Norm, who’d be staying on board for the next cruise.

After breakfast we returned to stateroom 8166 to collect our bags and have a last look round to make sure we hadn’t left anything behind.  Then we left the room for the last time and made our way to the Eclipse Theatre for this morning’s excursion.  Yes! As our flight wasn’t until 20:50 hours tonight, we had time to do a half-day excursion around Los Angeles with a handy airport drop-off afterwards.

We waited for a short while in the theatre before our bus number was called, then off we went to Deck 2 and the disembarkation process.  At the quayside we were directed to our coach and we took our seats, stashing our carry-on bags in the overhead lockers, and settling down.

The bus set off through the busy Monday-morning LA traffic towards Beverly Hills, the millionaires and movie-stars hangout.  I’ve read a lot of the late, great Jackie Collins’ books, many of which are set in the cut-throat movie business in Beverly Hills, so it was interesting to see some of the places I’d only read about.

We travelled along the famous Santa Monica Boulevard on the way, and eventually the coach pulled up and we got off in Beverly Hills.  By now the sun was shining brightly and it felt pleasantly warm.  Our first stop was for some people to use the restrooms, and then we followed our guide across the busy street to the picturesque Beverly Gardens Park.

Beverly Gardens Park is 22-blocks long and stretches along Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California for 1.9 miles. It was designed by landscape architect Ralph D. Cornell.

The park serves to provide a lengthy green swathe between the northern residential area and the commercial sections of the city. It features a two-mile jogging path, many hundred-year-old cypress and ficus trees, gardens, sculpture, and the big, iconic Beverly Hills Sign, a re-creation of the original arching, lighted historic sign, built near the city’s centre.

The 6-monthly Beverly Hills Art Show is held on the park’s central blocks, during the third weekend of every May and the third weekend of each October. Approximately 250 artists from around Los Angeles and throughout the United States are selected to display work, and up to 50,000 patrons attend throughout the weekend.

It was pleasant and relaxing in the park, and Trevor posed for a photo in front of the sign.  Then we followed our guide along the streets towards the famous and elegant Rodeo Drive, full of designer shops and often frequented by the rich and famous.  On the way, the guide pointed out the area where the iconic “shop scene” in the movie Pretty Woman had taken place.

We strolled along the street, looking at the famous names like Louis Vuitton, Max Mara, Bulgari, Hermès, Rolex, Cartier, Tiffany & Co – all shops where Trevor and I could never afford to buy anything.  We were quite amused to see that many of the shops had their Christmas decorations up, and outside Versace was a huge Christmas tree and several ornate wreathes.  I know it’s already November, but I don’t feel at all Christmassy yet, and certainly not in the hot Californian sunshine!

At the end of Rodeo Drive, our guide pointed out the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel.  This hotel is famously frequented by movie stars, millionaires and politicians, and it was also the hotel featured in Pretty Woman.

We then made our way through the streets and back towards the park to where the bus picked us all up, and we continued on our way to the famous Santa Monica pier.  Along the way, our guide pointed out all the huge, expensive properties and said it was impossible to buy even a small house here for under a million dollars.

We pulled up along the seafront and were told we had an hour and a quarter of free time here, so Trevor and I decided to go and find somewhere to get something to eat.

We walked up a side-street and spotted a Subway, so in we went.  Our guide had gone in there too for her lunch.  You can’t go wrong with a Subway sandwich; you can choose what type of bread you want and choose your filling and sauces.  We opted for the meal-deal and I chose a beef and cheese 6″ sub with lots of salad.  This was accompanied by a cardboard carton of Diet Coke and a bag of jalapeño crisps which were pretty hot.

After lunch we walked back across the road towards the park and funfair, where a small crowd had gathered round a couple of street entertainers.  The two guys had a massive ghetto-blaster and were doing break dancing to the loud bass rap music.  As we were watching, a couple arrived with their dog on a leash and stopped to watch as well.  Just then, I turned to look at the dog (which was quite an attractive animal) and it caught my eye, then launched itself at me with a series of frenzied barks!  It was just as well it was muzzled, because I surely would have been bitten.  I was a little shaken, but there was no harm done, and the couple apologised profusely.

We then returned to the bus and continued our excursion, this time towards Malibu.  We passed lots of huge, beach front houses and saw several surfers, swimmers, walkers and joggers just passing their time with insouciant ease.  Across the road from the beach the rugged hills rose into the cloudless blue sky, and we could see more of the millionaires’ homes perched in the hills with incomparable views of the sparkling Pacific Ocean.  How the other half live!

Soon we came to Malibu Bluffs park where we once again alighted from the bus for a walk around. There were a great many grey squirrels and signs up advising visitors not to feed them as it would lead to over-population and increase the nuisance value.  One of these signs was posted above another sign warning people to look out for rattlesnakes.

All too soon it was time to get back on the bus and make our way towards Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).  We arrived after about an hour, and the guide asked which airlines we were using so we could be dropped off at the correct terminal.  Trevor and I were the only ones getting off at the British Airways terminal.

Now came the extremely boring and tedious part of the day; the long, long, long wait around at the airport for our flight.  We had about six hours to kill, so we hoped it wouldn’t be too early to check our cases in.  The queue at the BA desk moved pretty fast, and when we got to the front we asked if we could have the upper deck on the Airbus A380, and preferably seats in Row 80, as these were the ones we’d been in on the outward journey.  When we received our boarding passes we noticed that the woman on the check-in desk had ignored our request altogether, giving us seats on the lower deck; one at the window and one in the centre of three, which meant there would be a stranger sitting beside us in the aisle seat who we would have to disturb from time to time.

In the meantime, we went through security and over into airside.  We browsed the duty-free shops but as the pound is weak against the US dollar, everything appeared very expensive so we didn’t buy anything.  We then went to a cheerful little wine bar that also sold craft beers, so we grabbed a bar stool each and ordered a bottle each.

We stayed for two drinks and the bill was an eye-opener; around $32.00 for four bottles of beer.  We then decided to move on, and just spent some time sitting and reading or playing games on my phone, as the time passed by so slowly.

Finally we decided to go to another bar.  We found one that seemed to be doing a roaring trade and we sat on bar stools; I had a large glass of Pino Grigio while Trevor had a pint of beer.  We took our time drinking them, and I got out my laptop and used the free wifi to check my emails and upload some of this blog.  We then asked for the bill, and it was a colossal $35.00, which worked out at £27.28 for two drinks !!!!!  Good grief.

Afterwards we just made our way along to the departure lounge and sat it out.  Soon came the time to board and we took our seats and settled back before the giant aircraft was pushed back from the gate and taxied to the runway for the 10 hour flight back to Blighty.

Flight BA268 then took to the skies and carried us east through the vast cloudscape, ever closer to home.

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