My downtime today as I get ready to leave for San Francisco where I will meet with a dear friend and also indulge in some sight seeing so I decided to take the time to do the post I have mentioning about my sad stay at the Marriott and how the Sheraton was everything I wanted the Marriott to be but was not. I am a Marriott rewards member and so the loyalty obviously to them and booking stays at their properties. I have had exceptionally good experiences at every Marriott property I stayed in thus far so, needless to say, that is what I recommended to my friends when we decided to book our stay in LAX. The pictures and the facilities mentioned on the website for the Marriott on Sepulveda sounded great. It was close to the airport even though it did not offer shuttle and was an extended stay property which was good since we would get a little kitchenette with a fridge and microwave and coffee maker. Breakfast included, free wifi and a car rental desk on the premises were also mentioned. Well, get there late night and while the reception staff was nice to us even at that hour, the room we got was not the best. Opted for room on the first floor and closer to the office (the original reservation would be a room at the very end of the property which us 3 women did not want to take on) then wished we had not. The room was really small, especially after pulling out the sofa bed to accommodate all 3 of us sleeping, there really was no place to move. In fact, this was supposed to be a handicap friendly room but unsure how anybody with a handicap could maneuver around when three non-handicapped people are having trouble. The bathroom was huge - they could have really used that space instead to broaden the room itself. And yes, to be handicap friendly, it did not have a tub or stall but that resulted in the whole bathroom filling up with water every time we showered and we had to resort to using towels on the floor to soak up all that wetness. Again, not safe for a handicapped individual. And of course, the person upstairs was a nightmare - clearly did not sleep very much because their walking round was the last thing we heard trying to sleep and the first thing we heard before we even woke up in the morning. Plus, finding a spider crawling on the bed did not help. Breakfast in the morning was an eye opener - very below average selection of options, not at all organized, and certainly had nobody keeping track of who was eating. Did not know if half the people eating there were hotel guests or outsiders. The so called car rental on the premises did not exist - the Hertz that should have been there and would have allowed me to score some points because of the Marriott tie-up with the company was not really on the premises. In fact, they were also closed for the 4th. The staff at the hotel organized for some random third party car rental company for us. And the whole time that I had called and asked at the hotel I was assured I did not need to book in advance and I could just walk-up to the reception to request for a car. The rooms did not look anything close to the pictures online and certainly did not warrant the price point they were sold at. A review of the site on the Marriott website has yet to garner a response. I am unsure if this is a property that belongs to them or was recently taken over and not refurbished but I was terribly disappointed and definitely unhappy about having brought my friends here. The part that really tipped us over - we asked for a cab for our ride to the airport when we checked out and were told this was a company they used all the time. Along comes a yellow cab - late, filthy and discourteous. No apologies were given for driving in so late. The car had bags of trash in the front seat and the driver was trying to keep the windows open until we insisted the air conditioning be turned on. And he listened to and watched some program in his native language while trying to get us to the airport on time! Let's move on to the Sheraton now. Had an airport shuttle that brought me to the hotel in minutes. The room actually looked like the image online. No kitchenette but there was a coffee machine and restaurants in the lobby. Well planned and furnished room. Water in the room was complimentary which was not the case at the Marriott. They had a car rental on the premises where I was able to pick up and drop off a car every day for the 3 days I stayed there. And I was able to take the shuttle back over to the airport as well. I am going to have to do some serious background work before I plan to check into a Marriott again.
Anther studio and the Getty
I wasn't terribly impressed with the Warner Brothers studio tour, and I had no other plans for today other than to visit the Getty museum that I had heard and read about so much so I decided to add another studio tour to my itinerary just like that. Off it was to Paramount studios tour for some more Hollywood history. I gave myself ample time tipis time round given my experience just about making it to the studio tour yesterday. These tours are also walking and driving tours with one guide to about 7 visitors. I felt this tour was more interesting just because elf how long Paramount has been around and all the Hollywood history attached to it. There seemed to be more anecdotes and stories to every nook and corner. About the same cost and length for the tour as WB but I feel I just enjoyed this one more overall...maybe I am more of a history buff than I am willing to admit. Once done here I made way for the Getty museum and simply was not prepared (do you see a theme here? unprepared!) for the views, the architecture, the art OMG! If you are an art enthusiast, simply give yourself a day for this place, period. You have to park at the deck and there's a train that takes you up to the museum. The views are gorgeous, especially on a clear sky day as you can see real far out. I made a dash for the restaurant and some lunch soon as I got there, and glad I did, because the food is amazing. They have internationally themed aisles and daily specials. And if you get a spot outdoors or by the floor to ceiling wall then grab it - the vistas are breath-taking. I ended up sitting here and just taking in the views for a while. Once in the museum itself, it took me a good 3 hours to be done and that was not sufficient, I assure you. That was jus t me speeding around so I could make it back before rush hour traffic, and also find time to cargo my phone, which would guide me on my way back to the hotel before I hit rush hour traffic. The museum also has a great sit-out garden area which I think is fantastic if you have time to spend there or are with a group and wanna hang out for a bit. And watch out for the gift shop - you an run a seriously high bill there if you plan on buying gifts for all and sundry.
From a studio to a zoo
Of course, no touristy trip to LAX is complete without a studio tour and sucker that I am to strike out tourist attractions from my list, I went head and got my ticket last night for a Warner Brothers studio tour that I could get onto in the morning. I highly recommend getting there a good 45 minutes before your scheduled tour. I made it in just about enough time despite giving myself an hour to drive from the hotel by the airport to the parking location, which, as luck would have it, only when I am running out of time, was full and I had to head into the deck and then get into the building all of which took some time. And then there were long queues at the registration desk but luckily they gave priority to the upcoming tour and I managed to get on to my tour as arranged. They take you around in large golf carts with a guide to a group of about ten visitors. We got to see a few sets and learn a few terms before heading to some of the sound stages and also checking out the Batman exhibit they have which really was the highlight for me. The tour is a good two hours+ and they do stop for a refresh break in between but when you get back there is a Starbucks and a gelato place at the welcome area where the gift shop is located so that's a pit stop if you care for one. I really had no plan for what to do next but pulled out Google maps and saw the zoo was pretty close. And so that's where I scooted off to next - the LA Zoo. It was, yes, I know, hot as a broiler over out in the open that afternoon but seeing how much I love to make poor life choices, I went ahead and walked round the gargantuan zoo and tanned myself even more in the process. Nothing extraordinary if you've been to a few other zoos, and it really was too hot for some of these animals to even be out at that time. Thoroughly drained of what was left of my energy for the day, I drove back on to the hotel for dinner and a much deserved sleepy time.
Day 3 of LA Lovin'
Last day in LAX with my girls so decided to treat ourselves to a decent breakfast after 2 days of eating the sad breakfast buffet at the hotel. So glad we chanced upon Coco's right there on Sepulveda and cherished a good morning feast. Similar to IHOP as far as food goes but they did have a great variety of pies greeting us at the entrance. We did plan on getting a slice to share but breakfast was so good we didn't have much tummy real estate to fit in more sugar. A ride to the airport for our farewells and I got the shuttle to my hotel for the next 3 days that I'd be staying on in LAX. This one was a Sheraton Four Points by the airport and it was everything I thought the Marriott would be but was not. You will positively read a post about that later. Reconnected with some old friends from m y days growing up in Oman and met them in the evening for a long walk down memory lane - hadn't seen them in more than 15 years or so. Always a pleasure to meet up with old friends that have moved away. That's one of the best parts of travel! I've got grand plans for the days I am here on my own so let's see how much I am able to accomplish.
Day 2 of LA Lovin'
Considering how terribly unorganized we were yesterday, late start et all, and the fact that we did not get much done, we decided today would be our one day of cramming in everything possible. So that's what we did. Our early start included a Hollywood tour of stars' homes and local attractions that was all morning long. The good part - it was nice to be driven around and given an overview of the place. Bad part - it was boiling hot, we were in an open air bus, and we were unprepared. Tan lines by evening told us how unprepared we were! We hit up Santa Monica Blvd after for a walk to the pier and through the promenade. We had to get back to the hotel and squeeze a nap in, along with some recaps of the football world cup, before we could head on back out again. Its amazing how much energy the hot sun can suck out of ya! Our evening shenanigans included getting our drink on at this place in Venice Beach which had some lovely views of the area, great music, and recommended for people watching. Wish we could have gotten more accomplished during this time but really underestimated how big everything is in LA and how much time you need to do justice to a first trip.