Another glorious day in Southern California, kicked off by an early-morning swim on the rooftop pool and a dip in the hot tub as the sun rose over the Santa Ynez Mountains in the distance.
Despite Helle’s constant pleas to dine al fresco, pleas to which I normally succumbed — she’s a Dane, after all, you can’t blame her for wanting to be in the sun 24/7 while she’s still got it — I won this breakfast debate and got my wish to eat at the NY Times-recommended Tupelo Junction Cafe. The Times may have disappointed me many of times in the past, including three glaring grammatical errors in one single issue’s headlines a few weeks back and a highly inaccurate story on CouchSurfing that I pitched them oh three years prior, but it did not let me down this time.
A pumpkin oatmeal waffle with caramelized bananas and candied walnuts later, and I was ready to head to the pier for a bit, and give Helle her 10 minutes of beach time, before hitting the road again for the final destination: Los Angeles!
We were on somewhat of a tight schedule, as we had to meet the VIP concierge, this little French guy Cedric who quite resembled Project Runway‘s Christian, hair and all, at 1:30, but per the norm, we were a good half an hour late. We checked into our suite at the InterContinental Century City, and immediately inhaled the fruit and cheese left for us. Helle walked into the room holding raisins on a vine and said, “why do you think they would give us old grapes?” I totally didn’t get the joke and thought they had just shriveled in the sun. I mean, come on, have you ever been served raisins on a vine before?
The InterContinental was quite nice, particularly if you’re a business traveler, but I was more interested in the fact that the Fox lot was literally in our backyard and that Cedric accidentally let it slip that they often host the contestants of American Idol and other reality shows. I spent the remainder of our stay keeping my eyes peeled for David Cook and Brooke White. No such luck unfortunately.
After our tour of the facilities with Cedric, we only had a couple hours before we had to be back for cocktails with the GM, so they arranged a car—a Mercedes, if you will—to take us to Rodeo Drive, which did not bother me one bit, as I had about reached my driving capacity in recent days.
I was surprised at how vacated Rodeo was. Granted, it was 3pm on a Wednesday, but where were LC and Audrina? Posh and Katie? Heck, I would have been satisfied with Nicole and Paris. (Are they even friends these days? I can’t keep up!)
Confession: This was my first jaunt to LA. I know, I know, I claim to be a travel writer, I’ve visited 50-something countries and 43 U.S. states, and I haven’t even been to one of America’s most popular cities. So doing the whole tourist thing and taking embarrassingly cheesy photos was fine by me. I had never had much of a desire to visit LA, despite it being home to the lovely China (photo to come) and an obsession by pal Lemon, but it never really held much appeal to me before. I was pleasantly surprised to love it. That said, I could never live there: Traffic stressed me out to no end, and I don’t like having to plan my days around not being on the road between 3 and 8pm.
Shopping on Rodeo Drive also opened my eyes to something else: how dumb (some) Americans can be. We were in Gap, probably our fifth in just as many days (odd really, as I normally purchase maybe one thing from the franchise each calendar year; this season, I think I own the entire line), and the sales associate—a flaming gay guy with an accent, I must add—asked Helle where she was from. “Denmark,” he responded, in an almost questioning tone. “That’s nice…isn’t that in Belgium?” And it would only get worse in coming days.
After Helle finally had luck at the Levi’s store and sampled her first cupcake (they have Crumbs in Beverly Hills? Who knew?), and I peed in Barneys (hey, if you can’t afford to buy anything there, you can at least use the facilities, no?), we called our driver(!) and hurried home to shower before our cocktails with some hotel VIPs.
It was really great seeing China again after more than a year since our last meet-up in Manhattan. And I admire her for ditching her normal adversity to anything scenester and joining us at Ketchup, because well, it definitely was an experience. I wouldn’t say I’d necessarily recommend it—the food was decent enough, service not so much—but it was the ambiance that really appealed to me. Still, if you’re a teenybopper or middle-aged woman throwing an all-girls night (as those seemed to be the other demographics the restaurant attracted), maybe you’ll find it appealing.