It began with a typically high-carb, high-sugar American breakfast, and ends with a flight to New York.
Time zone wobbles out of the way, I’m back at LAX airport and waiting in the Admiral’s Lounge (how I do love free, fast WiFi) for an American Airlines flight across another continent.
But let’s go back to this morning.
It’s surprisingly chilly in LA at the time of year, but luckily the sun was out for what turned into an awesome day at two of LA’s most iconic beaches.
Santa Monica is as famous for its colourful pier and amusement park, as well as being the traditional end-point of the cross-country Route 66. Even on a Tuesday morning it was bustling with people out enjoying the sunshine.
A few miles down the beachfront cycle path is Venice beach, the gritty tattooed black sheep to the all-American Santa Monica. And what better way to squeeze both into a morning than a Segway?
These space-age perambulators don’t come cheap ($79 for two hours’ rental), but they are few and far between in South Africa, and when in Rome, right?
Although it looks like pure magic that you can stand upright and whizz along, they are surprisingly easy to use, and after just a few minutes’ tuition in the shop I was let loose on the paths of Santa Monica.
The wind doesn’t quite whistle through your hair on these puppies, but you can certainly sneak up on a few suntanned rollerbladers if you like.
This stretch of beachfront is a lovely little snapshot of LA too… there are glamorous women walking dogs, beachgoers with deck chairs, dreadlocked hippies flogging some truly awful street art, and a big crowd of skater-types making use of the long concrete walkway and dedicated skate-park. If anyone has seen the skater-documentary ‘Lords of Dogtown’, this is where much of it is set.
Venice Beach is also home to the famous ‘Muscle Beach’ outdoor gymnasium, where ripped ogres come to pump iron. Like half of LA, it seems, they’re covered liberally in tattoos. Not unlike the large Mexican I bumped into, who also happened to be wearing an electronic ankle tag.
But despite the rough edges, the whole experience is awash in West Coast friendliness. Street artists happily let you take their photograph, buskers attract an audience and don’t badger for tips, and cyclists politely ring bells to warn errant Segway riders to keep clear.
Straight from the beach, it was time for a visit to one of the highlights of this round-the-world trip: LAX’s Encounter restaurant.
Suspended beneath a tripod of concrete legs, and shaped like a UFO coming in to land, Encounter has been around since the '60s and remains one of LA’s iconic restaurants. It’s outside of the terminal, so you have to go through passport control to get there, but is worth the hassle if you already have a visa, or are staying in LA.
The décor is somewhere between The Jetsons and The Flintstones, with a touch of '70s in the lava lamps and leather banquettes. Perhaps no surprise Richard Branson threw a party here after one of the Austin Powers movies.
The food is more upmarket than you’d expect too, with modern Californian cuisine in the likes of tuna tartare, roast duckling, good steaks and chunky hamburgers. At reasonable prices too; around $25 for a main course.
More than anything, the view of LAX is awesome, with massive picture windows offering panoramic views of the airport and distant (and snowcapped, today) San Gabriel Mountains. As airport hangouts go it’s one of the best I’ve seen worldwide, and definitely worth a visit if you have a few hours to kill before a flight.
Right now I’m in terminal 4 of LAX, waiting for an American Airlines flight.
Terminals are (largely) dedicated to particular airlines here, and T4 is pretty good. The Tom Bradley International Terminal down the track is starting to show its age, but there’s a massive new terminal under construction so in a year or two international travelers will be looked after a little better. Watch this space.
Right, off I go. Another six hours and five time zones to tick off.
Highlight: Not falling off my Segway
Soundtrack: A cacophony of buskers, playing everything from Coldplay to Gladys Knight.
Lowlights: LA is the definition of urban sprawl, so getting around takes times, especially by bus.