After Holiday Break: Trip Report: LA and LV

We were away from home for a week, from Saturday the 23rd to Friday the 29th. Here’s a summary.

On Saturday the 23rd of December we drove from home in Oakland to Brea CA, in Orange County, for a pre-Christmas dinner. 410 miles. After which we drove from Brea to Santa Monica-adjacent , another 45 miles, to stay over at my partner’s son Michael’s townhouse, and got to bed about 1:30am.

Sunday the 24th, Christmas Eve, was more relaxing. We sat around in the morning making reservations, with advice from Michael’s wife Honey and some of the cousins at the dinner the previous evening, for dinner and a show in Las Vegas. Then the four of us sought out tamales for lunch, based on an LA Times’ directory of the best ones to be found in LA, and arrived at a place in West Hollywood that was closed that day. So we went to a Salvadoran place in Culver City, Gloria’s Cafe, ( on Venice Blvd (which has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, says its site, but which is one of Michael and Honey’s standard haunts). I liked the pupusas (, a flatbread griddle cake a bit like a quesadilla with various filling options.

That evening, we went to Saddle Peak Lodge (, long one of our favorite restaurants during the years we lived in SoCal, in the Malibu Hills, a place that specializes in game, in a multi-level lodge-like building decorated with bookcases (full of cheap library discards) and gaming trophies. Its menu for the night was limited, alas, but we still had a great dinner. The elk is the best.

Then home to open presents on Christmas Eve. I got clothes.

Christmas Day was almost incidental; our day was spent the way all the people who don’t celebrate Christmas Day spend the day. Honey, a pediatric ICU nurse at UCLA, had to work, and left early in the morning. So we and Michael had rusks and eggs for breakfast. Later for lunch, we drove to Nate & Al’s ( a popular deli in the heart of Beverly Hills. You arrive, place your name. We were advised it would be half an hour for a table. So we walked around the area, up and down the streets in the heart of the Beverly Hills shopping district, past all those high-end shops. (I actually tried to track down the shop that Julia Roberts visited in PRETTY WOMAN, and discovered where it was, but that it’s no longer in business.)

That evening we went to a hotpot place in the Century City mall — a place that has transformed itself many times over the decades, a place I used to go to to see movies, and visit the Brentano’s bookstore there. Hai Di Lao. The mall as it was in those days is completely unrecognizable.

We delayed our trip to Las Vegas by a day because my partner made a connection with his work friends from the place he worked in LA, and planned dinner for Tuesday evening. We all met at Water Grill, in Santa Monica (, a long evening from 7:30 to 11pm, just as the parking valet was closing.

That day, Tuesday, we did a hike at Will Rogers Park, up to Inspiration Point and back. Thin overcast sky, not a good day for photographs.

On Wednesday the 27th we drove from Santa Monica-adjacent to Las Vegas, via Route 14, Highway 138, and I15. Lunch in Barstow. About 290 miles. We were there for two nights. We hadn’t been there for 20 years. In one way it’s always the same — glitzy, crowded, noisy — and in others it’s gotten worse — more crowded, noisier — or maybe my tolerance for such has diminished.

We’d made a reservation at a high-end French restaurant, Bouchon (, inside the Venetian Hotel and Casino. We were late because we got lost inside the maze of shops along the “canals” with no directions to be found about how to find the restaurant. Our mistake: we should have entered the main hotel lobby. From there directions were clear. The food was fine, though not exceptional. My “Boeuf Bourguignon” was deconstructed, compared to other versions I’ve had (or made at home, once); a single piece of meat, covered with a sweet glaze, surrounded on the plate by chunks of carrots and mushrooms. Meh; I liked the stewed version.

Thursday we were in Vegas all day. The only plan was for a show, by Cirque du Soleil, called Mystère (Wikipedia) — the company’s longest running show, 30 years. I had never seen a Cirque du Soleil show before, and was suitably dazzled.

We began the day with breakfast at Cafe Americano in the Paris, standard breakfast fare. Then we walked the streets. Through the shops at Bellagio. Next door at Cosmopolitan. The buffet there had been recommended, so we checked it out — it’s at the extreme end of the casino/shops complex, as far away from the street as it’s possible to be — and had a waiting line of 3 hours. We didn’t stay. We crossed over to MGM Grand, then back down the boulevard, ending in a hotel adjacent to our own before finding a place for lunch with no waiting line — a Guy Fieri place (we were desperate). Then we relaxed in the room until time for the show. (I managed to start editing Paul Di Filippo’s December reviews, though not post them. I finished that part up today.)

After the show we went to a Bobby Flay restaurant, Amalfi, in Caesars Palace — Fresh fish, squid ink fettuccine.

The on Friday the 29th, after a better breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi (, we checked out and drove home. Long drive: you have to head back southwest to Barstow, then cut across to Bakersfield, before turning north to the Bay Area. Some 560 miles.

Adding up the distances (from Google Maps), I drove some 1300 miles over 7 days. Mostly in three big chunks — Saturday, Wednesday, Friday.

I’ll clean up the links later, and add some closing thoughts, later.

This entry was posted in Personal history. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.