Learning to fly

Kenley’s parents’ trip to Los Angeles was a success before they even landed at LAX because it marked the first time in decades that Mr. Young had boarded a plane. Luckily they encountered only a minor delay.

Once they arrived, it was our goal to make sure they enjoyed the trip  so they would want to come back — or get on a plane bound for another destination (Vegas, Ireland, France?).

No pressure.

But after hosting my brother, Patrick, and his girlfriend, Laura, as well as my parents, I think I’m getting to be a pretty good L.A. tour guide.

The first destination, depending on the visitors and when they arrive, is either In-N-Out Burger or dinner in downtown Culver City.

For parents, we like to show off downtown Culver City, so we had a late dinner at Rush Street, our favorite casual restaurant.

On Saturday, we started off at The Grove, where we caught Mario Lopez shooting the introduction to “Extra” — a celebrity encounter for Kenley’s parents, right off the bat! We then had lunch at The French Crepe Co. in the farmers market.

From the farmers market, it’s a fairly easy route up the Hollywood Hills to Mulholland Drive, where you can get views of the San Fernando Valley to the north, the Hollywood sign to the east and the city of  Los Angeles to the south. It was an unusually clear day for June. The fog usually sets in for what locals call “June gloom.” But not on this day.

Since it was the Youngs’ first time in Los Angeles, we decided to park and join the throngs of tourists along Hollywood Boulevard. We strolled down the Walk of Fame (where 2,442 stars of film, television, music, radio and theater are recognized), climbed the stairs of the Kodak Theater (where the Oscars are awarded), and walked in the footsteps of the stars in the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (where a more exclusive set of 175 celebrities have imprints of their hands and feet in the cement).

At the next stop, we window-shopped along Rodeo Drive, where Mr. Young, a car enthusiast, got to see a Bugatti: the fastest and most expensive car in the world. You can buy one for $1.9 million. A set of tires alone costs about $25,000 and, oh yeah, can only be changed in France, for an additional $75,000 fee.

Owners of such monstrosities include Ralph Lauren, Tom Brady and Simon Cowell.

The special edition Bijan Bugatti is parked in front of the designer’s Rodeo Drive store and features the Bijan colors and logo on the hood. Kenley says it’s fitting that his dad and the car are wearing pretty much the same outfit.

This is Kenley’s favorite part of the Wikipedia entry about the Bugatti and how it reaches its top speed of 253 miles per hour:

The car’s everyday top speed is listed at 350 km/h (220 mph). When the car reaches 220 km/h (140 mph), hydraulics lower the car until it has a ground clearance of about 9 cm (3.5 in). At the same time, the wing and spoiler deploy.

For top speed mode the driver must, while at rest, toggle a special top speed key to the left of the driver’s seat. A checklist then establishes whether the car and its driver are ready to attempt to reach 407 km/h (253 mph). If so, the rear spoiler retracts, the front air diffusers shut, and normal 12.5 cm (4.9 in) ground clearance drops to 6.5 cm (2.6 in).

Kenley says it sounds a lot like a Batmobile.

For dinner, we indoctrinated the Youngs into the cult of the In-N-Out Burger. Looks like they will make good followers when they are in town.

Friday night, we braved rush hour and three interstates as we drove across town to the Griffith Observatory and telescope. Kenley had been wanting to go ever since we moved to Los Angeles (he can recite whole episodes of “The Universe,” via the History Channel, by heart), but I hadn’t been too eager to visit. We saw a well-done — if a bit overly dramatic (Hollywood-esque?) — show in the planetarium about the universe and our place in it.

But it turns out that the observatory’s main attraction is a spectacular view of the Hollywood sign and the vast city of Los Angeles below. What on ground level is merely traffic congestion and sprawling development appears from above after the sun sets as a stunning canopy of twinkling lights.

The Griffith has been added as a must-stop on all visitors’ itineraries.

We should have gone to the Griffith Observatory on the last night of the Youngs’ trip, because it was nearly impossible to top the experience.

Saturday morning, we saw 40,000-year-old bones at the La Brea Tar Pits, which are interesting, but not nearly as dramatic. Still, it’s fascinating to think about what the county of 11 million people must have been like during the Ice Age, when large mammoths and saber-toothed cats roamed what is now Wilshire Boulevard and got trapped in the tar.

After the museum, we met Kenley’s friend and former Fling drummer Ronnie for lunch at Toast on Third Street, which is lined by several outdoor cafes where celebrities and the paparazzi who follow them are known to dine.

I am ashamed to admit it, but while on Hollywood Boulevard I bought a map of the stars’ homes for $7. Hey, it’s cheaper than one of those tours. As we drove through Beverly Hills, I pointed out the Greystone Mansion, which is owned by the city of Beverly Hills and has been used in two of Kenley’s favorite movies — “Ghostbusters” and “The Big Lebowski” — and more recently, “The Social Network.”

The home where “The Osbournes” reality show was filmed is down the street. Christina Aguilera bought the 8,900-square-foot house in 2008 for $11 million and reportedly recently put it on the market for $13.5 million.

Tom and Katie (TomKat) also live in the neighborhood.

Not too far down Sunset Boulevard, we passed The Beverly Hills Hotel.

A little farther down the street is the home that Michael Jackson was renting when he was found unresponsive on June 25, 2009.

Saturday night, we took Mrs. Young, a former French teacher, to Saint Amour, a restaurant in downtown Culver City, which somehow affects the perfect French mix of charm and arrogance.

Sunday, like many days in early summer, started off cool and overcast, but turned into a gorgeous, sunny and warm afternoon. We started our day with some fresh seafood at the Reel Fish Inn, a seafood shack along the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s about as close as we’ve found so far to Lowcountry seafood.

And if anything is going to compete with the views from the Griffith, it’s Malibu and the vistas of the mountains meeting the ocean along the PCH. The Youngs found the views from the Pepperdine University campus just as impressive as my parents did.

We walked the Santa Monica Pier and later the anything-goes boardwalk at Venice Beach, which were both crowded on a beautiful weekend day.

We ended the trip with dinner at The Lobster, which overlooks the pier and its brightly lit Ferris wheel.

Our next guest is my friend Audrey Roach, who lives in Seattle but has never been to Los Angeles.


3 thoughts on “Learning to fly

  1. You’re such a good tour guide and have reported so many neat things to do, your guest list will continue to grow! I really enjoyed this last posting. I’m looking forward to your mom and dad going to Seabrook this weekend with Marty and me and experiencing the Spoleto production of The Gospel at Colonus–hope it meets our expectations! We’ll send a report. Enjoy your weekend. Wannelle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s