Samstag, 16. April 2011

First Impressions of L.A.

An airport hotel obviously isn't the best starting point to describe the vibe of a city, since they look pretty much the same everywhere. And i must say i was rather underwhelmed when i checked into room 1059 of the Radisson LAX Airport on the corner of Century & Sepulveda Boulevard in LA. But after a 12-hour-flight, and another 1.5 hours spent in customs, immigration & baggage claim, it's quite comforting to know that your hotel is only a few minutes away.

Of course you don't expect great views of an airport hotel room, and it's probably a good thing that the windows can't be opened, otherwise people might as well just jump out of them - and I sure had the blues when I arrived. Seemingly the first trainee at the hotel (I later found out two Swedish girls had been arriving the day before), I couldn't help but feeling lonely. Yes, the Radisson is probably a 4* facility, but it looks like it has seen better days. It's obviously been built in the 1980's (?) and looks kind of dated. But after being awake for 24 hours nonstop, that didn't bother me for very long as i feel asleep around 8pm.

Things started to look brighter the next day. I met my first fellow yoginis, Meini from Bavaria & Luciana from ... where the heck is she from? She's half-Brazilian, half-Italian, has a Spanish husband and lives in London (go figure). Anyway, the three of us got a little road map, and set out to explore the LAX area by foot. It didn't take long to spot the 1st Burger joint (the IN N OUT BURGER, a Californian franchise that is known for "sustainable" - yet pretty tasty - burgers and paying fair wages to their employees) and the next STARBUCKS outlet was just across the road. But more important, PANERA BREAD and TRADER JOE'S, 2 places that my girlfriend Kati had already been raving about back home, were also within eyesight, sitting right next to each other! :-)

After stocking up my food supplies (i didn't expect the RADISSON to provide great things for us) Meini & I decided to go to Downtown LA in the late afternoon. I had read that it's the commercial, cultural center & transportation hub of the city but pretty dead at nighttime (the nightlife happens elswhere, mainly in Venice or Hollywood). However, with Meini & me still being struck by jetlag, it seemed just like the right thing to do.

We took the "LAX Flyaway" shuttle bus downtown, had a burrito at El Pueblo de Los Angeles (a little pedestrian village where the city was founded) and looked at AMTRAK'S Union Station & City Hall. The area really seemed deserted, it was hard to believe we were actually in Los Angeles/California, the 2nd biggest city in the United States... this seemed a bit spooky, so we decided to head back to the hotel around 9 pm.

After spending some time at the hotel pool, welcoming my roomate Stephen (he's a great guy from Northern Virginia, close to Washington D.C.) and relocating to room 844 on Friday, i decided it was about time to see the Pacific Ocean on Saturday. I expected most trainees to arrive that day, and the lobby to turn into a beehive, so i thought it was a good day to get away from it all. I accidentally ran into the remaining Austrians in the lobby (there's 5 of us in total: Eva & me from Bikram Yoga Schottenring, Nora & Julia from Bikram Yoga College Lugner City, and Nelly from Linz who hasn't got a home studio, but a dedicated home practice) and we decided to take the trolley bus to Manhattan Beach together.

Manhattan Beach, according to LONELY PLANET, is one of those "all-American beachtowns" in the South Bay, along with Hermosa & Redondo Beach to the south. If i had had been blindfolded in Vienna & deported here, i would have still instantly recognized this place as California - it has that distinct "SoCal" vibe, nice shops & bars, and it was buzzing with weekend visitors. Homes come all the way down to the gorgeous white beach, which is the prime attraction here and paralleled by the South Bay Bicycle Trail. I decided to rent a bike and ride the trail up to Marina del Rey & Venice Beach, took my first dip into the Pacific, watched surfers, skateboarders & beach volleyball players go about their business, got a little tan for a start, and - to finish things off - had a drink in a bar full of handsome Californian Dudes & Chicks. And i even got a discount for the bike because I had to ride it back without a saddle all the way from Rockweiler State Beach... ;-)

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