WARNING!! May contain gushings of a besotted granny and lots of baby related stuff.
This time I am off to L.A to visit daughter, Faye, and her husband, Tom, and to meet my newest granddaughter, Freya. Freya made a somewhat traumatic entrance into the world, prematurely and not without a degree of drama but mum, baby and dad are now recovering and doing well and Freya is, of course, cuter than cute.
Yet again an early start from Glasgow. This time to catch the 6.05 KLM flight to Amsterdam. Despite a 25 minute delay leaving Glasgow, necessitating a sprint through Schiphol airport to catch my connecting flight to L.A. (not very dignified or advisable for someone of my age and level of fitness) I found the flight very pleasant and preferable to my BA flight to London on my trip to Tokyo. (Though probably unfair to compare as not “like for like”.) The second leg of my journey I didn’t enjoy so much, not least because of the non stop walking up and down the aisles by other passengers (did I board a “party plane” in error?), so BA won here for long haul. I need to do some further research before travelling again I think. Also, was amazed they actually let me enter the USA as my ESTA machine photograph was definitely reminiscent of the walking dead. Sadly, I had to hand it in before leaving the airport or I would have posted it!!
Arrived in L.A. to sunshine and the wee bundle of happiness that is my new granddaughter. So very tiny but, as they say, beautifully formed.
This time round the jet lag was much worse and so the first few days have been spent recovering whilst still trying to give some practical support to Faye and Tom.
It is now the weekend, the jet lag has at last gone and I’m beginning to feel human again. Much excitement today as Freya’s jogging stroller has arrived so we can get out and about and get some exercise. It has been somewhat overcast since the sunny day I arrived but it’s warm and there is no rain. If I were home in Skye I would be rubbing my hands with glee at the thought of all that laundry I could be drying outside but, sadly, that’s not something they do in the States.
Now for the weekend and, with Tom very kindly giving up his time to drive us around and show granny some of the sights of L.A., we are having a wee jaunt. Late afternoon (I had forgotten how much time a small baby can take up and how long it takes to get ready to go anywhere) and off we set for The Grove shopping mall (the first American mall I have visited) and a trip to Pottery Barn Kids to buy yet more baby stuff. This time a Boppy pillow (something I never knew existed but would have loved to have had in my own breastfeeding days!).
Lots of palm trees on the way with some stunning trees and shrubs. I loved what at first appeared to be giant red hot pokers but were yellow and mega sized and, on closer inspection, turned out to be some sort of cacti.
Everything is so green and lush (and oversized compared to back home) and we drove past what I always think of, solely based on films I have seen, as American style houses with their flat roofs and beautiful gardens. Also some really spectacular mansions. Passed the sign for Santa Monica Boulevard which set off an ear worm of Sheryl Crow’s “All I wanna do” buzzing round my head for the rest of the day. Then on past Little Ethiopia (famed for its restaurants and food), on past Little Armenia (not surprisingly, known for its Armenian food) and on to Pottery Barn. I did spot the Hollywood sign up in the hills but it was too misty (smoggy!) to get a good photograph. We also passed the Getty Centre on the way which is definitely a place to put on the bucket list for future visits, along with the Getty Villa.
Next a very interesting drive up to the Griffith Observatory, a public observatory owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles with free admission and featuring a planetarium, exhibits, public telescopes, a cafe, a bookstore and the best views of the Los Angeles basin. The observatory is also well known for featuring in James Dean’s “Rebel Without A Cause”. Another must for the L.A. bucket list. A quick stop on the way home at Koreatown and Beverley Soon Tofu Restaurant for takeaway (and very good it was too!) then back to the apartment and, other than a quick trip to the local supermarket and pharmacy (both supersized) that was the end of our first day out.
The next day finds us at a Baby Wear meet in a local park for Faye and Tom to try out some slings and carriers for the wee one before making a choice. Such a wide range to decide from but I’m sure they will make a good choice when the time comes to buy. I can’t remember ever researching baby items before buying but then this was all before the accessibility of Google.
On the road again and already bamboozled by the number of traffic lanes and the amount of traffic but before long we spot lots of cypress trees, giving the area a definite Mediterranean look. Next an amazing drive through Topanga Canyon. I loved this area and this description from Karin E Baker describes it perfectly. “Perched between Malibu, Calabassa and the West Fernando Valley, the bohemian vibe of hippie enclave Topanga Canyon makes it one of Los Angeles’ most unique communities. Topanga’s utter lack of chain restaurants combined with a sense of untamed nature, proximity to the ocean,and small town feel can almost fool you into believing you’re not in L.A. anymore. It’s the kind of place where no-one bats an eyelid at barefooted shop patrons or pet llamas hanging out in front yards.” Not surprisingly Topanga Canyon has been home to many artists and writers but also musicians including Neil Young (he wrote After The Goldrush here), Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell and Jim Morrison to name but a few. Now I am truly star struck, having at some time in my life been a fan of all of these especially Marvin Gaye. I also noted that the wonderful Al Green will shortly be appearing at the Greek Theatre. Feel as though I am reliving my youth here just remembering. Would love to spend more time in Topanga Canyon, my favorite location so far.
After Topanga it was on to Malibu Beach, then through Santa Monica and home. Hoping to get out again next weekend to explore these areas some more and perhaps take a few better photographs next time.
Wednesday morning and we have a visitor in the shape of Tom’s brother who arrived bearing a box of amazing donuts and cronuts (a cross between a croissant and a donut and extremely delicious and moreish!)
Donuts eaten and visitor departed and it was back to the hospital where Freya was born to attend the Mother and Baby Group (as a plus one). Great to meet other mums and other babies, one older and one younger than Freya, but the highlight was the amazing lactation specialist who was running the group. Oh how I wish I had had access to someone like this when my own children were born but these are changed days since the 70s and 80s and there is so much more help available. In one session even I learned lot of stuff I hadn’t known and it was great to see the mums reassured by her answers to their questions.
Next an alfresco lunch with Tom, who had been away doing other stuff, and then a guided tour of UCLA campus (beautiful buildings and landscaping) in the California sunshine).
Have lost track of the days here. Out for a walk in the sun with Freya in her stroller. We were only heading for the local Trader Joe’s for messages but passed this magnificent fig tree in the grounds of a church along the way.
Even though I am not a fan of burgers, my trip to the US wouldn’t be complete without at least trying one so it was a quick trip to the Drive Thru at In N Out where the burger was surprisingly good (the fries not so much so!)
Thursday and my first trip on the train with Faye and Freya (and our wonderful new stroller). Today we are off to Santa Monica. First a quick look around the shops (when you live in Skye you cannot visit anywhere else where they have “joined up shops” without needing to have at least a look around). Most of the shops here are exactly the same as any other shopping centre (mall) anywhere else I have been but we did have a stroll around Bloomingdale’s which as far as I know is strictly American. Certainly a beautiful shop but, surprisingly, very few customers apart from ourselves. An eclectic mix of visitors here and was surprised to see a gentleman sitting meditating in the middle of a busy shopping street. I should have thought it would be much more pleasant for him down by the beach with the sea air but his posture was amazing. Perhaps I shall take up yoga.
Next downhill to Santa Monica beach with its big wheel and amusement arcade, Muscle Beach and miles of glorious sand and sea. Was amused to see Muscle Beach situated directly across from the Chess Park with its chess board tables. Exercise your body and then your brain all in one visit!
Usual morning taken up with baby stuff and in the afternoon we are fitting together a chest of drawers. In actual fact Faye is doing all the work and I am the willing apprentice, lifting the heavy bits and making cups of tea!
Sadly, the Scottish Government don’t sell their baby boxes but Tom was able to buy a Finnish one and the box itself is amazingly useful for daytime naps without the bassinet having been carried through from the bedroom or baby being left in a room on her own.
Lovely sunny day in L.A. (no surprise there) so a change of plan and we are heading for Pasadena and Huntington Park.
First a stop in Old Pasadena (very pretty but with extortionate parking fees) to buy a sun hat for the wee one in Patagonia ( couldn’t get one small enough but bought one anyway) and then off we set again,
Now on to Huntington Park, beautiful enough to just find a bench anywhere here and do some forest bathing but also so much to explore (whilst avoiding those wild geese at all times!)
Far too much to see in the time we had available and, once I had reached the Chinese Garden, I was too captivated to move on. Another L.A. attraction on my bucket list when I have more time.
Quick stop to take a couple of family photos ,,
And it’s on the road again back to Old Pasadena on the hunt for coffee and donuts. Luckily Tom spotted the 85°C Bakery Café and what a find that was. From their sea salt caramel coffee to their delicious cakes and pastries we were spoilt for choice (but we still managed to eat all we had bought!)
Later in the evening I was informed that my visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Taco Truck so it was another quick stop on the way home for tacos and burritos (will definitely need to cut down on food once I leave L.A.) and I wasn’t disappointed.
Sadly my visit is now at an end. Narrowly avoided a crisis at Border Control when I realised I still had Faye’s handbag slung over my shoulder whilst she and Tom and the wee one had already left the airport but, thanks to the kindness and quick thinking of the lovely Erin, all ended well.