I know. I was supposed to post this days ago, but somehow the longer I don't update, the easier it is to just never get to it. But tonight, stuffed to the gills with Tempura Soba from Yabu, I feel ready.
So here it is, my week playing tour guide in LA. We didn't get to everything on the list, but there will be a next time...
Day 1 - Meet my family shortly after they've checked in to the Beverly Hilton. Discover that it is NEVER going to cost me less than $20 dollars to park in their seemingly vast lot. Same for the one across the street. Decide that it doesn't really matter - I do not have a full time car, and in spite of my inclination to rent one for the week (to be able to make my escape when necessary), I will just have to be picked up in the rented minivan every day. Later in the day after lounging at the pool and enjoying a round of expensive cocktails, we enjoy our first LA family dinner at Da Pasquale, a lucky find in Beverly Hills. Because of the unbelievably kid-friendly nature of the establishment (despite all appearances to the contrary) with many prompt tablecloth changes after numerous spillages, we decide that we might be eating here every night for the next week.
Before we move on to Day 2, I have to say that I did not recommend this hotel. First off, I think they had better choices at their disposal, and second, I would never advocate supporting the Hiltons and their slutty spawn. But my brother decided not to take the advice of his youngest sibling (who lives here), but that of a friend in Cape Town (who does not live here) instead. And that is what it is like to be the youngest of four. You are usually wrong.
Day 2: After a much needed morning/early afternoon of bill-paying and catching up with my life after being in San Francisco for longer than intended, and excusing myself from the Rodeo Drive excursion, I decide it would be as good a night as any to entertain chez moi. After all, we did just buy that dining room table that seats 6 in comfort, 8 with a push. It all went better than expected. (Understand that living thousands of miles away from most of my family, I am not used to having a crowd of them at my house, eating my food). Thank god for the Weber and outside cooking. I did learn, however, that my toy collection is not up to snuff. Apparently Jenga, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit are sub-par. (shortly after Day 2, we added Operation and Monopoly to the mix. I am addicted to Operation.)
Day 3: After having breakfast at my house (this first meal of the day could cost upwards of $150 for a party of 5 at the Hilton), and working hard to divert my obsessive compulsive eyes away from cornflakes crusted on every surface and milk puddles all over the floor, we head to Santa Monica. Somehow we manage to not spend too long at the Pier before heading to the Third Street Promenade and getting a welcome icy treat at Angelato. At least it's a little cooler over there in the West. Venice is next. I'm not a big fan of the Venice beach boardwalk, but it's something that visitors tend to want to do, so I grin and bear it. While we're there, I get a call from one of my co-workers. They need to access one of my files and I realize that my network password is a distant memory to me. This is very embarrassing and makes me feel quite unprofessional. Then at last it comes to me, and I have to call back and reveal that my work password is definitely one of two things, and both options feature the name of a cocktail.
The drive home couldn't have been a worse representation of L.A. traffic. Why we headed East on Pico at rush hour is beyond me. But I haven't figured out all the turns and tricks. It COULD NOT have been slower, but I still found myself defending the situation. "Really, one hour and 20 minutes from Venice to West Hollywood is not bad!"
Day 4: This is the day of The Getty. And what a smashing day it was. After my rather curmudgeonly rant about the beaches of Day 2, I have nothing but good things to report about this field trip. Getting there was easy, parking was easy, the tram ride was efficient, the building was spectacular, the gardens were lovely and the sandwich was delicious. The art collection isn't the most awe-inspiring I've experienced, but I didn't have those expectations, so it didn't disappoint. I did have to practice immediate and blatant disassociation from my tour group when I saw my nephew fondle a 15th century tapestry just moments before setting off an alarm by trying to exit through a "door that must remain closed at all times".
For dinner, we grilled what seemed like the side of a cow after my brother got a little enthused about the quality of Whole Foods meat. It will be a while before I eat steak again.
Day 5: Today is Grove and Farmers Market day. It is a treat for me to be at the Farmers Market during the week. As usual, I am torn between the Vegetarian plate at Moishe's or the delicious soup at the Singapore noodle place. I settle for Moishe's, although one of these days I am going to have to try the Mexican food at Loteria. My family has an equally hard time deciding, and lunch takes a good 3 hours from start to finish.
Later that day we pick up my sister and niece who fly in from San Francisco to be here for Day 6, which is...
I am a Disney virgin (unless Euro-Disney counts), so I was very excited about this day. Despite the fact that Anaheim is a furnace and I knew I would be hard-pressed to avoid either severe sunburn, heat stroke or general crankiness. Not to mention that most of the ride from L.A. to Anaheim was accompanied by the ONE LINE of Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" that my 5 year old niece can remember.
Disneyland is actually difficult with 3 kids who are into everything and can go on all the rides, and 1 who can't go on most rides, and is terrified even by the ones she can. But thank god for that visit to Mickey's house. All 10 minutes of it. The wait for which was an hour at best. Anyway, I was most excited by the Materhorn (which I kept referring to the following week at work as the "Matador", for absolutely no good reason), and wanted to go again and again. Of course the lines were very long and tiring, and there was no way we were going to get to everything. Space Mountain and its 80-minute wait wasn't an option. I suppose with better planning, we could have done the Fast Pass thing and reserved ride times. Wait, that is what organized families do, the requirements for which are simply not in our gene pool. Even the ones who marry into the gene pool suffer from serious advance planning deficiencies.
Day 7: Recovery from Disneyland by relaxing at the Hilton pool all day. Well, that's what smart people do. Dumbasses (like me) decide that no period of togetherness in my family can pass without a curry night and that curry must be homemade, with side dishes, like dal, Indian-spiced zucchini and rinsed and soaked Basmati rice. 4 burners going in the heat was sheer insanity, but it was all in the name of tradition. I'm sure I've mentioned before on this blog that a family get-together with my kin is synonymous with the word "curry".
Day 8: The San Francisco branch of the family goes home. I actually don't remember what the rest of the gang did that day. I think it was gift shopping in the cool reaches of the Beverly Center and a little Hollywood sightseeing. I didn't join. I needed a little time to myself. And that meant lying on the couch in my skivvies, as close to the AC unit as I could possibly get. Later we debate taking a drive out to Malibu but it gets vetoed. It's not like they don't have fabulous beaches back home in Cape Town. Instead we head to Sawtelle for an early sushi dinner, something we had all been craving. Well, not the kids so much. They complain bitterly about the fact that our choice of restaurant is heavy on raw fish selections, until they get wind of chicken tonkatsu. That goes down like candy.
Day 9: So sad. It all comes to a tearful end at a sweaty breakfast at Mark's around the corner from our house. It's the only place I feel confident about being able to eat right away as a party of 7 with an international flight schedule pending. After endless hugs, sobs, and the final door slam of the Kia Sedona, we get a flurry of "Dammit! We're lost!" phone calls made en route to LAX. My family gives The Griswolds a run for their money, but I wouldn't trade them for anything.