A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

El Mercado to El Denny's

Will the waiter do anything to be in the movies?

sunny 23 °C

Room 251, Doubletree, San Pedro, CA.
Saturday 19 May 2012

Last time we were in Los Angeles, (DON'T call it LA, the locals don't like, whoever they may be) and the time before that, and the..... we meant to go to El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the original part of LA (whoops, don't tell the locals).

This time we went. But before that, we'd also heard about the "Grand Central Market" and decided to visit that. All of this is in, or on the edge of Downtown LA (I give up). For those who have not visited, Downtown LA is like Downtown in many other big American Cities with big 30s office blocks (mostly restored but empty, very sad) flash modern blocks, plus lots of Bag People and empty blocks, used as parking lots. But this means you can park for only $6 for the day.

Central Market is the market Mazarrón should have had. To be fair, perhaps Mazarrón is not big enough to support such a market but, because it's surrounded by Hispanic areas, it feels like a great, bustling Spanish mercado with a good sprinkling of Koreans and Chinese.


It was FABULOUS! In the old days, we were always a bit nervous of Hispanic areas but now it feels just like home. And speaking Spanish gets you far.


Wander a bit further through Downtown


you come to the Civic Center with the City Hall, and Federal & City Courts.


These have all been cleaned and restored and some very posh looking gardens and parks are being laid out and planted

One building which was semi-derelict last time we saw it, was important during our youth. For why? Here's a clue:-

Aaah, Perry Mason. That window is one of the iconic windows of the old City Courthouse that used to be shown in the opening credits. We just read the building is now being converted into luxury condos.

Hands up who knew Raymond Burr was gay?

Anyway, we digress. Past the Civic Center and we came to the old pueublo and what may well have been the original mission around which this city grew:-


There was a whole bunch of school kids. There to visit a schools art exhibition which we visited and were really impressed by the high quality. All of the names, of course, were Hispanic and many reflected the tough upbringing they must be experiencing.


On then to marvellously preserved, Art Deco, Union Station. Via which the Movie stars travelled to and from New York, or wherever. It's still, very unusually, a very busy railway station. The only part not in use is the massive booking hall.


We then walked a long hot way (a few ounces lost, maybe?) back to the car. Then onto Manic Highway 101, northwards.

It pays to be fitted with blinkers when driving on LA freeways. The traffic on up to 12 lanes is of more than M25 proportions, running continuously and each junction brings sudden tailbacks as cars join and leave, and freeways merge. It's a matter of heads down and hanging on to your bit of tarmac (sorry, blacktop).

This was to get to the top of Topanga Canyon, home to the aging hippies from the 60s and 70s music and movie scenes, including Neil Young, who still lives there, Dennis Hopper who doesn't, given that he's dead, The Doors, Linda Ronstadt etc.


A nice drive back to the Ocean, where we stumbled upon Paul Getty's beach hut:-


We were looking for somewhere for an early dinner but could not find anywhere. So we put "Denny's" into the navigator and it took us back to Culver City. We had decided to avoid Dennys for anything other than breakfast. But it turned out to be excellent and cheap, served by an extremely pleasant young Hispanic waiter who clearly wants to be in the movies. I wondered if he thought we were two English film producers. Anyway, he certainly looked after us!

John's salad:-

"Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad. Grilled seasoned chicken breast, glazed pecans, apple slices and dried cranberries atop a bed of crisp spring mix. Served with balsamic vinaigrette and dinner bread. "

Bob's chicken:-

"Sweet & Tangy BBQ Chicken. Two grilled seasoned chicken breasts smothered in our Sweet & Tangy BBQ sauce. Served with smoked Cheddar mashed potatoes, fiesta corn and dinner bread."

Oh, on the way, we spotted this classic motel. Puts you in the mood for Route 66.


Right, time for tonight's salad! See you soon. Off to the California desert tomorrow.

Posted by Johnash 18:31 Archived in USA Tagged usa los_angeles_el_pueblo Comments (11)

Meandering round Long Beach

From A Millionaires Canal to Mexican Mayhem


Room 309, Embassy Suites, La Quinta, California
6.30pm, Sunday, 20 May 2012

A great day today, having at last got to "Just Driving" empty roads instead of manickly full ones.
The temperature in the California High Desert as we crossed it was 108F and we've now arrived at an unreal oasis where very wealthy Californians come to die. But more of that tomorrow, perhaps!

Yesterday was a tranquil and gentle one.

We reluctantly departed the Doubletree at Santa Monica, and pottered down the coast towards our new Port O'Call (see later), at San Pedro, (pronounced round these parts as San Peeedro) near the massive Port of Los Angeles

and across the water from the (mainly) prosperous city of Long Beach.

Our aim was to visit the Museum of Latin American Art.

Interesting but most of the art was not particularly to our taste apart from this interesting window, through which you could see yourselves looking at you from two other windows.

Arthur was not even interested in this but was interested in the exciting range of "flaaans" in the smart little cafe attached to the museum. We refrained, but Arthur ordered a "Mowcha" one with a Chocolate one on the side.

Unfortunately, his eyes were, unusually, too big even for his tummy and we had to help him out.

After surviving the traumas of buying gas for the car, (will the card be accepted? NO. Which button should I press? No idea. WHAT LEVER should I lift? Ouch. Was it wise to leave my card with the lady in the office while I filled the car.....?) we pottered on to an area called Naples. A canal runs down to the sea and up to 4 streets away from this canal is a very sought after area by those who can afford it. There's an awful lot of awfully rich awful people in California!

This is the way some of them get about, by board 'n oar. This also demonstrates the body shape John is aiming for after his diet, after his return to Spain. Not.

Meanwhile, back at our hotel, we wait for our room by exploring the marina it sits on. Boats as far as the eye can see, and none of them ever seem to move.

This is the car Arthur wanted to rent, but we said "no"!

For Dinner we traded this...

for this..

Just 5 minutes down the road which we read in the guide books to be some twee artificial port, "Ports O'Call" (geddit?). Far from it. Most of the area's Mexican population plus other latinos seem to come here to enjoy a meal and some music and fun on a Saturday night. It felt like a gigantic fiesta to us.

It was terrific. And we got some really good sea food.

Thank you all for your comments. They are really appurrrsiated!

Posted by Johnash 21:33 Archived in USA Comments (8)

Seething metropolis to lush wooded hills to arid desert

With pie on the way. And all this in California

sunny 41 °C

Room 21221, Gold Nugget, Las Vegas, NV
22nd May 3.53pm

California is an incredible state. From one extreme to another. Cool, foggy coasts, to hot wooded hills, to arid empty deserts to market gardens the likes of which we've never seen.

We spent some time planning our routes and the last couple of days showed how well worthwhile it was. Apart from a stop for pie, in a little place called Julian where, on a Sunday, the bikers come up from LA, we all-but had it to ourselves, something we thought we could no longer do with advanced and mass tourism. But we could and did.

This was the essence of our trip. We were Just Driving.

We left San Pedro on the San Diego Freeway, and Lori, our navigator-in-a-box, took us onto a stretch of toll road. Just like home! Hardly a soul on it. Remarkably like the AP7. We came to the toll booths, about twenty of them, and just one of them was manned, and he did not look in very good condition. I suspect he liked a drink or twenty!

Of course, MOST Americans are perfectly sane.....

We first came to the San Luis Mission, the biggest and wealthiest of the Spanish missions, built, originally, as fortresses.


Then we turned into the hills and climbed and climbed, with the blue Pacific Ocean behind us, right up to the Palomar Observatory.

On the way, we passed through about 7 native American ("Injuns", says Arthur) reservations, the first containing a giant casino. Rather sad that tribes have to resort to making money from gambling to survive. As they are outside state law, any gambling regulations do not apply.


Down again to the apple growing area where the town of Julian was its pie-eating capital. Could we resist? I leave that for you to guess. Anyway, Bob's was traditional apple pie with cinnamon ice cream and John's was mango n´apple with cinnamon ice cream. Very small portions I hasten to add.


From here, we crossed an invisible line into bleak yet beautiful desert, skipped a town called Borrego Springs and down to the inland salt sea of Salton. Here was planned a sort of giant Camposol for people to come and live in the desert by this salty sea. But it never took off and the early birds are still there, with no hope of selling there bleak and lonely houses.


Then along the shore through massive market gardens where huge date palms are farmed as well as mile upon mile of pots of succulents and citrus trees for resale in garden centres throughout California. Huge groves of mature citrus trees, meanwhile, seemed to have been abandoned and looked rather sad.


We came for the night to the town of La Quinta. A very well healed retirement resort (houses available "in the low millions") where illuminated signs were banned and everyone lived in gated and walled communites, to keep the nasty Hispanics away, apart from those allowed in to tend their gardens. As mentioned, a place for aged, well-heeled and moneyed Californians come to die before which they drive round in their Lexus and BMW SUVs.


A lovely hotel where we were upgraded to a fabulous suite and given a free comprehensive brekafast with LOTS OF FRUIT!

Then on through the desert, even more arid and hotter than before (107F). Through the haunting Joshua Tree National Park and on through the Mojave Desert Preserve. Empty of humans but quite a few million succulents and aloes and creosote bushes one colony of which is reputed to be 10,000 years old.


We stumped across an old railorad depot (Kelso) which had recently been restored.


Oh, and some local lads, who only allowed me to photograph them in black and white for religious reasons:-

Eventually we hit the busy Interstate to Las Vegas where we are safely esconced in our great room on the 21st FLoor looking towards The Strip waiting for the lights to come on.

2 Fantabulosa days, as Julian may have said.

As ever, thank you so much for all your comments, especially ones about wigwams!

PS, a few more memories of those days. One Indian tribe is called "29 Palm Trees". As we turned away from that reservation, we saw the warning "No Services For 100 miles". And another, "Watch for Tortoises".

Posted by Johnash 17:11 Archived in USA Comments (13)


It's like Marmite

sunny 34 °C

Room 21221, Golden Nugget
24 May, 3.50pm

You either love it or hate it. We love it. And we love to see how this city has changed, a lot for the good, but not all.

As you sit playing your chosen gambling game (we find Video Poker almost profitable if played properly) you listen out for call of the drinks waitress. "Cocktails" (pr CAAKTAYYELS). If you're gambling, even on a 1c machine, you're entitled to a "free" drink, though a dollar tip is expected.

These waitresses can be buxom youngsters to aged, toothless hags, all in extremely short, "sexy" outfits. The older the waitress, the more downmarket the casino.

Unfortunately no photography allowed in Casinos so we have no evidence of this. But take our word.

We now always stay at the Golden Nugget, in the new "Rush Tower" which has its own entrance and valet parking. We were lucky enough to get the room we hoped for. High up (21st floor out of 25) with a view towards the strip. So, this is our view:-


After a cruise up and down The Strip we were ready for bed, but only after some VP (Video Poker) where Bob almost immediately won $100. This has been the pattern for most of our sessions: nearly always walking away with a small profit.

Next morning it was off to Caesars Palace to collect our tickets for the Elton concert on Thursday.


Of course it wasn't to be as we learned this morning that Elton was urgently taken to hospital early yesterday with respiratory problems. So our concert is cancelled. We will automatically get a refund. Elton was released from hospital so hopefully he will soon recover.

I nearly typed Elvis, instead of Elton then. Was it Antonia who asked if we had yet seen Elvis? Well, of course we have:-


Tuesday evening we repeated our "special treat" from last visit. Dinner at dusk in the restaurant at the top of the Stratosphere tower. Of course, it rotates every hour or so.


The only morning we could fit it in, so Wednesday we drove down the Strip to the poshest of the casinos (resorts) that of Encore, which is the even-more-upmarket and OTT sister property of (Steve) Wynn's. All very posh. And very camp!

John's Eggs Benedict (a very light breakfast!)


Bob's Corned Beef Hash:-


We've found the posher the place, the more polite and friendly the Valet parking boys/girls are. Valet parking adds enormously to our fun when here. Instead of bothering about finding a parking place, THEY do it. For free (well, small tip expected on car return, as ever).

There's sometimes a problem in the evenings when Valet Parking can be full. Last night, it was full at Manday Bay so we just drove round to their adjoined and also very posh and expensive "THE Hotel". "Are we checking in sir?". "Nope". "OK. Good luck!". Only in America.

Fremont Street (not THE Hotel!):-


Arthur's stretch Hummer limo:-


Today we explored new civic projects aimed at regenerating Downtown.

A new arts centre built in traditional art deco style and there's a new convention centre as well as new Clark County admin HQ all on land "on the wrong side of the tracks".


No breakfast today so we needed coffee. We decided to return to Bellagio (pr BELLAAAAAJIO).


A lot busier than the last time we were there in 2001, 2 days after 9/11 when the place was deserted.

Finally we visited the Mob Museum. Another Downtown project. The story of the mob in Las Vegas and throught the USA. Fascinating. An excellent museum.

This guide at the museum, it turned out, was a Brit, now living in Las Vegas, who used to have an apartment near Cartagena. (We've heard much talk of "not liking Americans". Well, almost without fail, we have found every single person we have encountered to be friendly and polite. Politeness is so much a way of life. And they are all interested to talk to us and find out about our trip).


Finally to the downside of changes here. Following the corporate greed of the 2000s when they bought up and blew up a number of iconic casinos in order to build ginormous resorts, at least 3 of these projects went belly up and there are now huge tracts of land on the strip either empty and barren, or containing half-built and also empty tower blocks. Also, a lot of the traditional neon lights have gone and our traditional drive up the Strip, for Bob to film the lights, was not as exciting as it used to be.

Still damn exciting, though. Just Love Drivin' in Las Vegas!

While I've been typing this, Bob has been sorting out the packing. Tomorrow we are off to Flagstaff via long, empty sections of Route 66. We'll be leaving early at it's a big drive

Posted by Johnash 17:09 Archived in USA Comments (11)

Route 66 Most of the Way

Just a dusty drive from Las Vegas to Flagstaff, Arizona... and beyond!

sunny 16 °C

Room 315, Hilton Garden Inn
Saturday, 26 May 2012. 4.40pm

This is the route planned and followed exactly:-


It seemed like it may be too far in one day but, because of all the varieties of landscape and points of interest, it turned out to be a doddle.

A long straight drive down to Needles, back in California. A very dusty and forgotten corner of California. But an ideal place for our first proper wayside American breakfast.


John had the corned beef hash and Bob ham 'n eggs. Multiple choices, of course, of how you want your eggs (over easy or "ciernos huevos" in Spanish we learned). Toast? Rye and white.

Then turning off the main highway on to the original routing for Route 66 through the gold mining town of Oatman. Route 66 was diverted to an easier route in the 30s. The gold ran out, and the town died. Why on earth the route through the difficult Black Mountains was chosen heaven only knows.

Oatman today is famous for the wild burros which wander the streets looking for carrots from the tourists who now pour up here. The burros were left here by the miners when they abandoned the town, but survived in the wild, as did the town, thanks to tourism. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their wedding night in the hotel, allegedly. The hotel has certainly seen better days.


Not being that partial to tourists nor to animals being fed by packs of kids, we soon skedaddled out o' there, back onto Route 66 as it winds through the Black Mts, past the reopened gold mine...


...and finally down to the dusty plain where lies the town of Kingman where we refuelled.


We then took the next loop of Route 66, North of the modern Interstate, through Hualapai indian reservation and their headquarters at Peach Springs. For once a tidy tribe, it seemed. With all due respect to American indians, they do tend to collect a lot of, let's call them, redundant items round their houses. Maybe the chief is a tidy man? Chief Nomuchlitter?


Back down to join the Interstate at Seligman, a mecca for Route 66 fans:-


A climb on the Interstate till we reached over 8,000ft and pine forests and a temperature of the low 60s and a bitter wind. From 107 to 62 in a couple of days! Brrrr. The heating was on and a fire lit in our hotel for 2 nights in Flagstaff.

Arthur had been going on about going back to a "Cracker Barrel". This is the first one since the Pacific Ocean and we last (and first) ate in one in Nashville, Tennessee. (Hands up who thinks of Doctor Cameron when they hear the words "Cracker Barrel"?).

Anyway, they're sort of mumsy and popsy good ole home cookin' type restaurants and you are forced to walk through a gift shop full of mumsy and popsy cr*p. But Arthur likes the food - a typical offering bein' roast turkey with all the trimmin's an' dumplin's an' corn bread on the saaad,

We enjoyed it too, as we were served by the delightful trainee waiter Adam and his "trainer" whose name we forget. We guess most of the staff are students at the local Northern Arizona University. Being served a meal in the US when you have a good "server" can be all the fun you need of an evening. But then, we're easily pleased.


By the way, don't try doing this at home whilst driving on the freeway:-


Today Saturday, has been a gentle day. Exploring first the prospering downtown area (mainly upmarket gift shops and cafes - but a least it's still going unlike most American cities' downtowns), as well as the old 1926 station, an important stop on the Chicago to Los Angeles line (sadly one train a day now, in each direction). But still loads of freight trains (around 125 a day) and all sounding their hooters at every crossing. After a campaign by the city, the amount of hooting has been drastically reduced, we are sad to report.


We then did a loop drive to take in Sunset Crater National Monument, a volcano that erupted last in the 11th century but the lava of which can still be clearly seen as if it was last year. Then on to various ruins of the Wupatki Indians also dating from the 11th century,


We then took a back-road over Schultz pass. A first this was an easy, or fairly easy gravel forest road but then the gravel disappeared, then the dirt disappeared, and then we had a very bumpy ride over a rutted rocky track for the last 7-8 miles. We were very pleased to get back on to a blacktop and a gas station to fill the tank and wash the dust off the car. Phew!


Junctions can sometimes be a little confusing. Right or left?


"Left for Denny's" says Arthur. Night night. Tomorrow, down through Sedona to the Western town of Wickenberg, AZ.

Posted by Johnash 16:37 Archived in USA Comments (7)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 26) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 »