Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. The easiest way to visit Los Angeles (domestically) is flying into the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. And now it is easier to rent a car from BUR at the car rental facility. It has been awhile since I’ve needed to attend to business in Los Angeles. Southwest Airlines flies almost every hour directly to Burbank from Sacramento. It is a small airport and easy to access by train or automobile.
The car rental agencies used to be located at the end of the United terminal with a small lot for cars. Some of the rental agencies required you take a bus to their lots. Now everything is located together in a new multi-story facility. It is a bit of a hike to the facility, but much easier once you are there.
I once took a human-centered design workshop and they challenged our groups to redesign a process that didn’t work well. We chose the car rental experience. We redesigned it into something that is like the experience today of taking Lyft from the airport (except with ride-sharing you don’t get to keep the car). My experience with Alamo was almost stress free. They no longer print the contract out on an old printer with carbon forms. They sent me off with my contract and I was met by a greeter who directed me to my economy car. It took longer to walk to the office than it did to rent my car and be on my way. One more reason Burbank is the best airport if you are visiting Los Angeles.
Most people visit Los Angeles for longer than 24 hours, unless they are going for business. I have flown down and back many times for a business meeting from Sacramento. Southwest Airlines makes it possible to say yes to attending a meeting in person. Southwest Airlines also makes it possible to say yes to welcoming the New Year with a show at Largo.
Sarah Harriet and I flew to LAX on the 11:55 a.m. flight. We had a relaxed morning and good night’s sleep. The flight was full-ish but all of the Rose Bowl fans would have flown the day before or earlier. We grabbed a Lyft to our hotel. While we took surface streets to The Elan, the traffic was light for Los Angeles.
Sarah Harriet gifted the tickets to see Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert at Largo for Christmas, so I gifted the hotel room. On this visit The Elan was a let down. Small room with light pouring in no matter how you close the curtains. It was a great location though. We were able to walk every where until the following morning when we headed back to LAX.
We walked to eat Plancha Tacos. This taco joint in a strip mall (some of the best food in LA is in a strip mall). We tucked in to a yummy Mexican feast. Then we walked past mostly closed shops (good on these merchants for taking a holiday and giving their employees the day off). We checked out a bakery and decided everything looked too sweet. If they had a fruit pie or a bun with a little bit of icing they’d have had a sale.
We walked on to the Beverly Center. At first we weren’t sure if it was a parking garage or a shopping mall. We rode escalator after escalator and then found the mall. This was unlike any mall in Sacramento as it had all high end designer shops like those on Rodeo Drive. We window shopped and then returned to the hotel.
Although we didn’t feel that hungry we wanted to eat before the 8 p.m. show because neither of us enjoys eating late at night. We used Trip Advisor and Open Table to decide to try Taste on Melrose.
We had the choice of the courtyard (outside with heaters) or inside. Although it was January it was still more than 10 degrees warmer than home, so we said “Courtyard!” The service was slow but the food was really delicious. Just right was the Melrose vibe.
To get to the show at Largo we had to walk just a few blocks back towards our hotel. Largo is a club that seats 300 people and the posters gave us the impression it is where Sarah Silverman and other comics try out material. We asked for our tickets at Will Call and couldn’t believe our luck! We had front row seats!
We didn’t know what to expect from Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert–two of our favorite authors who are friends–certainly not dancing for more than 5 minutes to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Can’t Stop (I always thought it was called Shindig). We laughed and laughed because they fully committed. I kept thinking “Don’t they realize how long this song goes on?” It helped to set the tone of vulnerability and fun.
You can hear the resulting conversation between Bell and Gilbert on The RobCast podcast. There are two episodes. I won’t spoil any of the good stuff, except to say that it was so much fun. One weird part of our experience was the woman sitting next to Sarah Harriet who must suffer from sleep apnea. First she was all into the show, then she got up and sort of tried to sneak out about 15 minutes in. Then 30 minutes later she comes back with coffee and noisily adds cream and sugar and chugs it down. Ten minutes later she is snoring loudly in spite of Bell and Gilbert talking no more than 10 feet in front of us and lots of audience response. The person next to me was frustrated and said, “Nudge her!” Sarah responded that she had several times. Afterward I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when Sarah said that when she elbowed the woman, the woman elbowed her back without a pause in her snore. It takes all kinds of people in the world. We’d go again in a heartbeat to hear Bell and Gilbert (preferably in Sacramento–we have the Crest Theater!)
After a restless nights sleep, which often happens when you are nervous about getting up in time for a 6:50 a.m. flight out of LAX. Southwest delivered again. This time there were many elated Ohio State and disappointed Washington University fans in the airport. We were home by 9:30 a.m., before we left the house the previous day. Kind of amazing when you think about it.
I was looking for some hidden gems in Boston so I checked out the website Atlas Obscura. Reading about Caffe Vittoria was intriguing. When I shared the address with my son, he’s wanted to go too because it is in Boston’s North End.
You got to love a big city that costs only $10 to Lyft across town. Boston is very compact and you can walk 15 minutes in almost any direction to a new neighborhood and experience something unique and fun.
We were dropped off across the street and faced Caffe Vittoria on the left and Mike’s Bakery on the right. There was a line down the block to get a cannoli from Mike’s Bakery. But we came for coffee and gelato and the coffee related ephemera in Caffe Vittoria. It is also the first Italian coffee cafe in Boston. I loved the pistachio gelato and Tevis enjoyed his blackberry gelato. My decaf Americano was good.
We started walking off our dessert as we headed to the T Station. We paused at North End Park where many people were relishing their cannoli and playing in the fountains. It is a great small park with adult swings and nifty lawn chairs.
People in Boston complain about the T and the need for maintenance. Yet it goes where you need it to go and is affordable. Coming from a place with limited public transportation I find it delightful. We walked home from the station enjoying the cooler evening.
Some people would say Central Park is not at its best in January. The greatness of Central Park is that it is terrific year round.
When the tree limbs are bare and the sun is working hard to shine, you notice the statues more, and without the quacking ducks and geese you hear the horses hooves on the pavement as they pull the carriage by.
My mom and I just enjoyed a weekend in New York City. She wanted to spend time in Central Park. She is 82 years strong, although her knees give out after a third of a mile. So we walked from our hotel to Rockefeller Plaza to watch the ice skaters, then called Lyft. Our driver dropped us right at Tavern on the Green where I made a reservation a week ago on Open Table.
We slept in because for the first time in I don’t know how long, neither of us had pets to wake us up. And then I walked around the corner to Essa Bagel to get bagels. So it hadn’t been long since breakfast. Nonetheless at 1:30 p.m. we happily dove into cobb salad (me) and crab cocktail (Mom).
I expected something much more humble because it had “tavern” in the name. Wow. It is really beautiful and the service is great and the food is great. And it only has 2 $$ on Open Table, which in New York City means entrees are in the $20-30 range. It was so worth it. Even my mom, who has been on Weight Watchers her whole life, said we should splurge on the apple crisp a la mode. The ice cream was incredibly rich and delicious.
When we were done we felt like walking. We set off for the lake to see where Stuart Little sailed his boat. It was iced over and quiet except for the high school kids living out their Glee fantasies. We sat on a bench unraveling a ball of yarn and watching people and dogs.
We continued but it was very cold, thankfully without wind, so we sat on a few more benches. I realized that Mom needed to warm up. Previously I had researched a few yarn shops. It made sense to head to the closest one where she could sit and get warm and I could call Lyft.
We made it to Strings at 144 E. 74th Street. It would be a super store if the salespeople were friendly. Instead I had a sullen woman act as though my desire to buy yarn and patterns was the biggest imposition. Plus Mom had to walk up a flight of stairs and then back down. You also have to ring a buzzer to get into the stairs. It’s all kind of Upper East Side snooty. I did buy yarn though because they had some yarn I had never seen before.
We rode back to the hotel and Mom rested so we’d be ready for our musical later in the evening. I was worried that she was disappointed with how little we walked in the Park. She was thrilled. She estimated that we walked miles so I’m glad we didn’t have a fitbit to contradict her. I enjoyed our day and the cold didn’t bother us much with an extra shawl for warmth and her special scarf hat and long underwear.
I love Manhattan. I’ve been to New York City numerous times and I always have a great experience. Never the same either. I’ve done most of the tourist must-dos: Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Metropolitan Museum of Art and even stood outside the Today Show with a sign. One of the things I’ve longed to do but wasn’t able to until this summer is see the murals by Ludwig Bemelmans, the author and illustrator of the Madeline books. They are in a cozy bar in the Carlyle Hotel at 35 E 75th Street (not far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
I’d been walking since 10 a.m. with a couple of stops but plenty of time in the hot humid summer sun. A gin and tonic sounded fantastic. It was only about 4 and food service isn’t available until 5:30 p.m. Good thing I might have ordered a charcuterie plate and been doubly shocked by the $37 price tag. As it is my drink (excellent by the way) was $22. I spent a good while enjoying the ambiance and air conditioning. I will definitely bring my Mom here when we next visit NYC.
On Sunday and Monday nights they have jazz music starting at 9:00 and there is a cover charge. It was Monday, but I called for a Lyft ride and returned to the hotel to refresh before dinner and to find a bookstore. There aren’t as many independent bookstores as there used to be but I found the Strand and got lost in the stacks on a bit of a shopping spree, then enjoyed a delicious and almost normal price steak dinner at Phebe’s at 361 Bowery.
Our last full day in New York City and we had one more Broadway Show. We were tired and so we took the morning easy and and then had the bellman hail a cab to Amy’s Bread in Hells Kitchen on 9th Street. This is where Cousin Carrie works and also where you can get an amazing chicken salad sandwich and a pastry. We also had our first opportunity to do a bit of shopping in the neighborhood. It was the first time I had spent so much time in New York City without the challenge of lugging shopping bags home. I was packing lots of great memories though.
We arrived at the theater in plenty of time to get our tickets from Today’s Tix and get in the lengthening line. Mom really wanted to see Kinky Boots because the music was by Cyndi Lauper and she had seen “numbers” done on television and like it. Apparently lots of groups of women who were in the City for a girls weekend or day had the same idea. The line moved quickly and we had great seats. Today Tix was able to buy them for less than originally quoted so we received a voucher towards our next purchase. It is only good for 60 days, so I passed it on to Carrie.
Mom’s review:Of all the shows we saw (all fantastic), this one was what I would expect from a Broadway show: singing, dancing and big production numbers. All extremely well done. Lola was a delight–funny and sympathetically played.
We really enjoyed the enthusiastic performance and I am once again impressed with how open-minded my 80 year old mom is. She did not bat an eye at the unconventional plot details.
Even though our next stop at Ray and Jim’s was about three quarters of a mile, we caught a cab and went to my friends’ for a great conversation and Thai delivery.
We ended the evening with a Lyft to the hotel. Both Mom and I were completely satisfied with our theater experience and our time together in New York. We were also tired and the bed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Chelsea felt marvelous.
The next day we just had to get up, walk a half block to get an egg McMuffin and be back to meet Lincoln Limousine for our ride to Newark airport. God willing we will do it again in a few years only we will stay in the Theater District and save money on cabs.