LA for a Weekend!
So I recently went to LA for the weekend. A bit extra? yes maybe, but so much fun.
I am very lucky to have a lovely friend who works for Virgin Atlantic and I went to Los Angeles with her for a 2 night stay. We flew from Heathrow which is really handy as I live about 10 minutes away and usually when I fly I have to leave from Gatwick which is much further!
I started my trip with food and drinks in the No1 Lounge in Terminal 3 at Heathrow, which I had free entry to via my Barclays Travel Plus insurance Dragon Pass. I have access to 3 different lounges with my Dragon Pass at Terminal 3 but chose No1 Lounge as there were more amenities/food/drink. I had a battered fish finger wrap and lots of prosecco! There is also a spa (charges apply) and I thought very hard about having a massage but I haven't had the all clear from my consultant yet regarding my neck treatment so thought best not to - but next time I am so getting a pre-flight massage!
The food choice is not huge but they have breakfast choices available before 12pm, and then 4 choices after 12pm - Veggie Chilli, Thai Green Curry, Goat Cheese Salad and Fish Finger Wrap. There is also a help yourself salad bar with salad, nuts and fresh fruit available. All food and drinks are included in entry fee (£34 if booked online, £40 on the door), alcoholic drinks available at the bar, water, soft and hot drinks are self serve.
There is plenty of seating, both table/chairs and comfy chairs with small tables more suitable for lounging. There is also a cinema room, I did pop in to check this out but the film looked to be an older war film so not to my taste but seating looked very comfortable and there were people in there watching.
I would definitely use this lounge even if I didn't have the Dragon Pass with my travel insurance and I highly recommend it if you do not live for the hustle and bustle of departures and queuing for food and drinks in the main hall! There are screens to check for your flight/gate number so you can stay updated.
When I got to the gate for boarding I had been upgraded to Premium which was lovely and much appreciated, especially on such a long flight (around 10 hours). I was also front of row so there was just so much room!
There was plenty of food and drinks on board which was all very nice, there was a choice of 3 mains and there was only one that I would eat which had run out so the crew member offered me something else and it was really delicious (chicken with a mushroom sauce with mash and veg. I had red wine with dinner which was really very nice, and after dinner we were offered either brandy or Amarula - I went for the Amarula which is a bit like Baileys so very nice.
The entertainment choices were great - lots of new releases available. I watched A Star Is Born which I have been waiting to come on to Sky for ages so Virgin really came through with this one! I also watched Mary Queen of Scots which was quite good, followed by a nice comfortable 3 hour sleep. I woke up feeling rested and we were served an afternoon tea with some delicious mini cakes which looked too good to eat but I did anyway!! The lemon eclair was just amazing! Also because it was Premium cabin we had glasses, crockery and metal utensils which is really nice, much nicer than all the plastic.
About half an hour before descent I put on a Hyaluronic Sheet Mask from Primark Beauty, which is a lovely mask, as my skin was feeling a little dehydrated and felt much fresher afterwards.
Surprisingly customs was incredibly quick - in fact the customs hall was empty when we arrived! This has never happened to me before when travelling to America and was most welcome after the long flight. Luggage also came through quickly and we were soon on our way to the hotel.
We stayed at the Hilton in Glendale, which is a nice hotel, has a pool, gym, bar, restaurant and shop.
I haven't been to Glendale before but it is definitely somewhere I would stay again, it is well located especially if you have hired a car. There are bars, restaurants and shopping within a 15 minute walk and you can walk to the Hollywood Hills - if you like walking it is about 8-9 miles. If you prefer not to walk it is around 20 mins in the car/taxi (depending on traffic which can be notoriously bad in LA).
Our first night (Friday) we checked in to hotel got sorted and got ready for drinks and food. We took a walk to a bar called Eden on Brand which was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel. There is a nice vibe in this bar, which has a large downstairs area where you can either sit at a table or at the large bar. Upstairs is more seating, another bar and is a bit of a roof terrace. The upstairs was packed as they had a string quartet playing so we sat downstairs at the bar. The drinks (Blackberry Margarita's) were delicious and the food was pretty good too, we shared calamari and skinny fries. The only think I will say is that the bar staff member was quite rude and not friendly or approachable at all. That aside we enjoyed our evening here and would return.
Cocktails were $15 each which is around £11/£12 so around same as London prices but a little more than prices locally to me, but they definitely don't scrimp on the alcohol, they were nice and strong! We then took a nice stroll back to the hotel and were happy to get to bed ready for a busy day Saturday.
Day 1 (Saturday) we were up at a reasonable 7.30am and decided to go horse riding in the Hollywood Hills. We got an Uber and it was around $32 for the 20 or so minute ride to Sunset Ranch, where you can either pre-book or you can just turn up and ride. The rides are hourly and although when we arrived we were advised we would need to wait around half an hour, the party that was supposed to be there didn't turn up so we could go straight away which was brilliant! The 1 hour ride is $50, but as my friend is Virgin crew she got us a 10% discount so we paid $40 each. My horse - Picasso - was a gorgeous white horse with very unusual clear blue eyes, Carly had Muddy a big brown horse who to be our lead horse. The path up to the trail was extremely steep and although I used to ride every weekend as a young teenager I was thinking this was a bit nerve wracking! Then our guide advised us that the horses would walk pretty close to the edge of the cliff/ravine and not to worry as this is where they felt most comfortable. But at this stage you can't see the trail so don't have any idea quite how frightening that will be!
So off we go, the horses are lovely, gentle and know exactly what they are doing so start to set you at ease.......and then you get up to the trail. And they walk RIGHT ON THE EDGE!!! I fully admit I was crapping myself, the drop is mighty steep and one wrong step and you will be rolling down with a tonne of horse! But all credit to the guide and horses they are amazing and I relaxed about 10 minutes into the ride and let Picasso do his thing. The morning was quite overcast and so the temperature was perfect to enjoy the ride fully without baking!
The views over Los Angeles were amazing and this is such a great and unforgettable way to see them. You do pass the Hollywood sign but it is quite a way off. The guide was very knowledgeable about the area and the films and tv shows that have filmed on the trail we were on so that was interesting.
Carly's horse Muddy was the slowest horse on the ranch! They have him on a diet and he only goes out on one ride a day as he is over weight.....he was literally going so slow he was only just moving, we were in hysterics as he was lead horse but Picasso had it head on Muddys butt nearly the whole time as he didn't want to go so slow. And poor Muddy kept stopping to eat the grass and bushes which he wasn't allowed to do! Our guide took some great pictures for us and I managed to get a couple of videos of how close we were to the edge.
After our ride we decided to hike up to the Hollywood Sign, and the ranch allowed us to hike from and back to the ranch as we had been out on a ride. The sign was around a mile from the ranch - which doesn't sound far at all. BUT! it is ALL UP HILL....and not just a slight slope. no! most of it was at an incredibly steep incline and was such hard hard work. I'm not gonna lie, there was more than one occasion where I wanted to give up and go back down. I didn't however, and I am so glad I persevered as it was so so worth the effort.
The views were amazing and we got some great pictures, and I just felt such accomplishment from doing something that I found so hard, I literally didn't think I was going to be able to do it but I stopped about every 5-10 mins to rest my burning legs for a minute or two and then was off again and that definitely helped. Unfortunately there were some completely selfish people up there that just sat in front of everyone and proceeded to have a picnic and get themselves in to everyone's holiday memory pictures, a bit frustrating but its a public place so not much we could say really.
I am pleased to say that the trek back down was easy in comparison to the climb up! It had started to warm up and the clouds had blown away by then so it was perfect timing really as I can imagine how uncomfortable that hike up would be with the sun beating down on your head! We headed back to the ranch to use their driveway back to the public roads, then it was in to an Uber back to Glendale where we went for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.
Why have I never been to a Cheesecake Factory before? I have been to America seven times and have never been! Well it is now one of my favourite places to eat! The menu is just crazy and about 20 pages long, so it's a bit hard to decide what to eat, and the portions are pretty big, but this is America and is to be expected. I had Avocado Eggrolls to start which were delicious but very filling, and then Battered Fish Tacos for main - these came with rice and beans which I just couldn't eat as I was so full but I did try them and they were very tasty. Carly had Ahi Tuna Tartare which was really nice and then a Grande Burrito, which frankly would have fed about 6 people and also came with a side of beans!
Carly made a heroic effort but only managed about a quarter of the burrito but they gave us a box to take it away. Unfortunately when we got back to the hotel we realised there was no fridge in our room! After lunch we could barely move so took a slow walk back to the hotel for a nap before going out in the evening.
One thing that I noticed about Glendale shopping area is that it is so clean and really quite nice, with a fountain and tram - not sure where the tram goes, I didn't have time to find out this visit but I am planning on going back one day so I will find out then!
After a (2.5 hour!!) power nap?! we got ourselves dolled up and went out out! Carly recommended Pump in West Hollywood, owned by Lisa Vanderpump of RHOBH. So another Uber ride at around $30 which was pretty good as its about 20-25 mins away, and we were there. It is a great bar with fab cocktail menu, they also do food but we were still full from lunch so just went straight for the Pump-tini cocktail - vodka based and pink with a sugared rim, what more could a girl want?!
Carly managed to nab a table with a fire pit which was lovely, although our table wasn't on the terrace the fire pit was still very nice (although towards the end of the night it went out and when we mentioned it to a member of staff he said yeah the gas has run out). Again the cocktails were $15 each so this seems to be a regular price in the LA area. They were well worth this price as they were pretty potent!
I would go back to Pump again and definitely recommend it to you all. I think this would be amazing to go with all mine and Carlys girlfriends we would have a great time, the atmosphere is great and there is even a lovely flower wall outside which is perfect for photo's! The only downside to the bar is the lack of toilets/restrooms. There are only a couple and they are unisex which I wasn't totally comfortable with, and there were always queues, other than that it was all good.
Our last day (Sunday) we had set aside for shopping as we had to leave around 6pm for the airport. We were up pretty early and went for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we went for the buffet option - choice of hot food including scrambled eggs, sausages, potatoes, veg, toast, bagels waffles and cold foods including cereals, fruit, yoghurt, cheese, meats and pastries, plus hot and cold drinks.
The buffet was $21 per person and was good value if you think about a cooked breakfast at £17 plus drink. The food was good and plenty of variety for me. The staff we found to be quite rude which was a big let down.
After breakfast we made a quick stop to Walgreens across the road from the hotel where is purchased some makeup and some bits for my daughter Gracie that she had asked for, some Emergen-C sachets that are brilliant that I usually buy from Amazon. From here we walked down to Glendale Galleria which is around 15-20 mins walk, straight down one road which is great as it meant we couldn't take a wrong turn!
The Galleria is a huge mall with so so many great shops. I would like to spend another day looking around more but I was pretty tired and knew what I wanted to get and where I wanted to go so I stuck to those things, but as I knew we would be leaving in the early evening and I needed to be packed and ready to go I didn't stray from my list and get lost in the shopping! I got everything I needed then made my way back to the hotel and ordered some room service (burger and fries which was amazing) packed up my stuff jamming all my new purchases in! and had a nap before leaving for the airport.
LAX is fairly easy to navigate and the check-in staff were really helpful, security was a bit of a nightmare but made it through eventually. Made my way to the gate to await my seat allocation. Unfortunately no upgrade for me on the return flight as the last premium seat was broken so couldn't sit there, but I was given a window seat in a row of three and middle seat empty. There was still plenty of leg room even in economy, not sure if this is because it was a Dreamliner or if this is just typical of Virgin Atlantic economy. I could easily fit my hand luggage case in the foot well and prop my feet up which was pretty comfortable.
The menu was again very nice with three choices of main, I went for the Spanish Sausage with peppers and mash. It was really very nice, along with the red wine again. Later in the flight we were served breakfast which was a cheese croissant, yoghurt and breakfast bar which was again all very nice, we were offered tea, coffee and hot chocolate but I didn't want anything else as I was full. I watched Bohemian Rhapsody which was brilliant and I had been waiting for this to show on Sky as well! I watched A Star is Born again as I loved it so much the first time round, and then I watched TV series The Cry which was very good. I managed an hour sleep but could have done with a bit more. The crew again were so friendly and accommodating and really look after you.
I had been seated at the front of Economy so getting off the plane was quick and easy, but then it is about a 10-15 minute walk to customs hall so if you are not great with walking that is something to think about. I took a nice quick walk to wake myself up a bit, and getting through passport control was quick and easy with the machine. Baggage was though quickly again and from plane to outside terminal waiting for hubby to pick me up took around 25 minutes which is amazing time really.
I had such a brilliant brilliant weekend, had so many laughs and made some amazing memories with my friend. Yes LA for a weekend is extra but it's so so worth it and I would go back in a heartbeat! I seriously want to start planning my next trip but the hubby might not be so keen on that!
Thank you for reading this one I know it's long but I hope you have enjoyed it!
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