Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thankful for Thanksgiving

And thankful for a successful do-over. Our return to the Bay Area was free from delays, brushes with crime, disappointing catering, and any of the other minor troubles that befell us last time.

Instead we had a great time catching up with TLOML's lovely cousin and her equally lovely husband at the scene of the crime. We ate a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner, to which I only made a very small contribution (the gravy, to be precise). Given the fact we devoured cheesecake for breakfast on Black Friday, it was probably for the best that we were not encumbered with leftovers, too.

Later that day we had dim sum, during which P complained 'too steamy' at the arrival of every dish, and watched Cinderella on my phone whilst eating banana chips. Not quite the enriching experience we had hoped for her, but the grown ups had a great time.

Then we headed into the city. We stayed at The Fairmont, all bedecked with Christmas decorations, about which I have successfully trained P to say 'it's too early!' already. So I enjoyed hearing her saying that a lot. We also judged the hotel for making a pretend gingerbread house ('I don't think this is all really gingerbread, mummy, I think some of this is wood'). We wandered around Grace Cathedral, rode on a cable car, and visited the excellent Exploratorium.

We didn't get to see quite everyone we would have liked, but we had quality time with those we managed to catch. It was so fun to take P to see one of our favourite cities. And we ate and drank very well. I loved it all, but think my personal highlight may just have been the perfect Manhattan I drained in the Fairmont bar, while P chomped happily on chicken tenders.

And her highlight? 'Eating cheesecake for breakfast', apparently. A fitting verdict on a food-oriented trip, I suppose.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hosts with the mosts for the guests with the bests

Not sure the title quite works, but go with me here. I'm talking about the challenge of hosting house guests who  - as well as being dear, old friends - have previously welcomed us with impeccable hospitality.

I've visited these dear old friends, who also happen to be two of the best people I know, in various places (because they live abroad for work). On visiting them in Tallin, they planned boat trips to Helsinki, Medieval breakfasts involving brandy, incredible Estonia spa treatments, and walking tours of the charming old city. Staying with them in Dubai, they took me camping in the desert, on a dhow trip around the fjord-like Musandam peninsula, and we sailed around the Burj. And these are just the highlights.

So, no pressure then. What can sleepy little Hermosa offer, in return? The worst of it is, they've already visited once. So we've strolled the Strand, had ice cream from the Creamery, all that nice local stuff.

The best I could think of was trip to Downtown LA. We took in The Broad, in its gorgeous new space, with a fun collection of contemporary art which is happily not too big (is it bad that I think of that as a plus?). They loved it. Then we walked a couple of blocks - past the novelty of the world's most ridiculous tramway, Angel's Flight - to Grand Central Market for a juice and lunch at Eggslut. The walk back to the car took us through the civic center, and past the Walt Disney concert hall, which rounded out our downtown tour nicely.

...and hipster egg sandwiches 

It was a good halfday, but that was it. All my chips were down. What else did Hermosa have to offer?

I know. It seems obvious now.

So for the rest of their stay, we made the most of the final blast of summer sun, and our beloved guests whiled away their time very happily at the beach. Phew. Challenge met. And I think they'll be visiting again.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

It was the best of times, and the worst of times

We've been meaning to go up to San Francisco as a family since we moved back in 2014. Goodness knows why it took us so long: we were so looking forward to seeing friends in the Bay Area, and taking P to see the city. P was bursting with excitement, asking every day for about a week before we left 'are we going to San Francisco today?', and waking up at 6am on the day we left shouting 'Let's go to San Francisco RIGHT NOW!'.

The best bits were pretty great. Quality time with friends, and some fun stuff in the city: a killer lunch in the Ferry Building, a ride on a street car, and looking up at tall buildings with awe (P more so than us, I hasten to add). On driving into the city, P said 'Is this San Francisco? Where are all the rides?', at which point we realized she thought it was some kind of theme park. A drive down Lombard Street, and across the Golden Gate bridge, and that street car ride were positioned as 'rides', which seemed to do the trick.
 I suspect her highlight was the playground, but that's OK. We all had a good time.
But the worst bits, well, they were a bit of a downer. The house we were staying was burgled, so we spent an afternoon helping the police instead of hanging out with friends. Then our flight back was delayed by five hours, due to bad weather, meaning we got back really late and just feeling rather grumpy.

It was a curate's egg of a weekend - and we'd waited for so long for it. So I demanded a do-over. We are going to head back up for Thanksgiving. Fingers crossed crime and fog will give us a wide berth and we can have the wholly fun time we've promised ourselves. I just hope now P knows it's not Disneyland, she is as excited for the return trip.