Hong Kong to LA Like Smooth Operators
Getting through a Hong Kong summer is a test of endurance – endless days and weeks of rain and oppressive humidity will wreak havoc on anybody’s emotional stability. So, in mid-July, Ashley and I waved the proverbial white flag, running off to the sunny beaches of Southern California to attend her cousin’s wedding. Our itinerary would take us to Los Angeles first – the wedding would be in Anaheim – with a quick detour to San Diego, then a two-day drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, and then wrapping up our short holiday with a few days in the Bay Area. Clearly our plans required a lot of driving, so we rented a small compact from Alamo Rent a Car for the duration of our trip. It required me to make the rental with my international license – North American licenses weren’t accepted as part of the deal – but we were able to pick up our car in Los Angeles and drop it off in San Francisco without paying any extra mileage or drop-off fees.
Venice Beach and Santa Monica
On our first night in town, we stayed in Venice Beach, crashing at a hotel by the water – AIR Venice on the Beach – saving the long-ish drive to Anaheim for the next afternoon. Taking a step back for a moment, Los Angeles was never a high priority travel destination for the both of us. We’d been there separately a few times before with family and friends, and traveling to North America in general – the long flights, the jet lag, the driving, etc. – was something we generally avoided, except for reasons of family. Having said that, a family wedding is a pretty good reason to make the journey, and the holiday came at a convenient time for us. I already mentioned the notorious Hong Kong summer gloom, it actually rained every day there while we were away, but I’d also just finished with my Master’s program, and I figured I deserved a little rest and relaxation before starting my job search in earnest.
We spent our first morning walking along Venice Beach and, after our free hotel parking ran out, the Santa Monica Pier. The weather was beautiful and perfect, sunny and cool at the same time – a combination we get maybe two or three weeks max in Hong Kong. Joggers and rollerbladers in neon outfits zipped past us on the paved track along the beach, while, in the distance, the day’s first surfers were coming back in from the waves. We grabbed breakfast at Huckleberry Cafe in Santa Monica – I got the Organic Fried Chicken Sandwich and Ashley got the Country Breakfast – and both were excellent. I got a sweet corn muffin to go, and it may have been the best muffin I’ve ever had.
Freeway to Orange County
Just before lunch, we decided to head on over to Anaheim, wary of the notorious LA traffic. The tea ceremony was scheduled for that afternoon, and we didn’t know how long it would take for us to get from one side of town to the other. After about an hour-and-a-half of navigating the city’s massive freeways, squinting at highway signs and frantically changing lanes, we finally emerged onto the suburban streets of Orange County, and I relaxed my grip ever so slightly on the steering wheel.
The wedding, and wedding-related activities – tea ceremony, rehearsal dinner, bridal shower, wedding ceremony, reception – took up much of the next few days, but we managed to fit in a few side trips before and/or after events. I’ll cover those side trips – and the rest of the LA/San Diego leg – next, before moving on to our drive up the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. Lastly, I really have to give a shout out to Ayres Hotel Orange, our accommodations while we were in Anaheim. Their breakfast spread was truly unbelievable – heaps of eggs, sausages, crispy bacon, pancakes, and fruit – and I fully admit to losing it a bit and overeating each morning.