Veberöd Chronicles

(Very) sporadic insights into the life of a family in a small Southern Swedish town

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Santa Monica and the Getty Center

Santa Monica beach and pier

Our first excursion upon arriving in LA was naturally down to the beach. We chose Santa Monica. Having jet lag we were up and ready for breakfast as soon as it was served at 6am. It would have been a "short" drive but the LA freeways are infernally complicated and we ended up driving down Wilshire Boulevard instead of the Santa Monica Freeway. Lots of traffic lights. However we got to drive through a small part of Beverly Hills. We were in Santa Monica at 8.30 and on the beach by 9, down by the pier. Nice and quiet! We were done, and almost sunburned, by lunchtime. I haven't tanned so quickly since I fell asleep on the Côte d'Azur one afternoon in 1993 and got so badly burned on one side that I could hardly sleep for several days.

We had lunch at a Chinese fast food place in a shopping mall, reminding us how good fast food can be in the US. Then we walked up and down 3rd Street Promenade, with its ivy-covered metal dinosaur sculptures.

On the way home we decided to visit the Getty Center, which is perched up on a hill on the western side of LA. You travel up there from the gigantic underground parking lot using a small driverless train. The building itself is truly magnificent, a modern Californian architectural dream with breathtaking views over downtown LA.

One of the Getty Center wings

The art contained in the buildings was also fairly interesting but it was rather overwhelmed by the buildings! There were beautiful geometric gardens too. Saskia had a great time playing an "art detective" game where she had to identify certain motifs in the artworks.

Part of LA seen from the Getty Center

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Our first disastrous travel experience

Once again it's been a while since we posted but our holiday in California deserves recording, especially in view of the way it started out.

We had bought a ticket from Copenhagen to Los Angeles via Heathrow. British Midland / SAS did the first leg and Virgin Atlantic were to do the second. We had two hours to change at Heathrow but things went quite awry. First the plane from Copenhagen arrived on time, but had to wait for 35 minutes on the runway as a Cathay Pacific jumbo was blocking the gate. Next the stairs they brought didn't fit our aircraft - 5 more minutes while SAS found their own. Then we ran into an enormous queue for security checks at Terminal 3, which we found out was because one of the X-ray machines had broken down. Despite being rushed through we arrived only around 15 minutes before the plane was supposed to take off. However we were reassured that the takeoff had been delayed by an hour to allow many passengers whose connecting flights were late to check in. We were second last in the queue but, despite a man and his daughter who were actually behind us being allowed on board, we were denied boarding because it was apparently "closed". We were told that we could either travel with VA at the same time the next day or see if Star Alliance (BM/SAS and partners) could sort something out.

Now when we went over to Star Alliance they were very helpful and checked every possible flight for the coming few days. They said that VA didn't have any free seats until Saturday, which made a nonsense of what VA had told us themselves. The only possibility was to stay at Heathrow overnight and get up at the crack of dawn for a 6.25 flight to Frankfurt and then onwards to LA. We had no choice but to accept and chose not to argue more with VA. When we got outside we discovered that the hotel room was going to set us back £250 as there quite simply were hardly any rooms because of Wimbledon. Again we had no choice but to accept. I got in touch with a BAA customer services officer to try to get compensation from them, as I thought they were mainly to blame, but after talking to him for over an hour my suspicions that we had not been fairly treated by VA were strengthened and I was encouraged to write letters of complaint to both VA and BAA. I resolved to do this while I was still angry.

The Sheraton Skylines is clearly a cash siphon for businessmen on expense accounts. Internet access was not even included in the price, and breakfast would have been an extra £17.50 per person, had we still been around when they started serving it. There were special Saudi and Yemeni TV channels, which is a bit of a giveway.

When we checked in for the Frankfurt leg we discovered we had been given three seats in different rows and compartments on the aircraft. This would have been hell for 11 and a half hours. However the cabin crew are professionals at these kind of rearrangements and found us three seats together with space for a bassinet in front. However they told us that Virgin had probably not released our baggage to them so they didn't know where it was. The only positive surprise of this whole palaver was that the luggage was actually waiting for us when we arrived at LAX.

Next our rental car was gone because we hadn't picked it up in time. They had no more of that type but offered an upgrade to a Chrysler Jeep for $10 per day, which seemed reasonable, even if I now have to go and say prayers to the gods of the environment for having rented an SUV for 23 days...

Our first motel is in Pasadena. When we arrived there it appeared that the room had no air conditioning and it was at least 35°C outside. However I found the button after half an hour or so, which changed my impression of the place no end.

We will never make a Heathrow connection again. All the airport staff we spoke to were resigned to the chaos and the airline employees said "Heathrow is hell - avoid it like the plague". Well, at least Marit enjoyed the in-flight entertainment.

In-flight entertainment with Lufthansa