We had planned to have breakfast by the pool again this morning (I was looking forward to more fantastic Jasmine tea) but we decided we didn’t have time, so J grabbed us bagels from the cafe on level 3 of our hotel (Mandarin Oriental).
We got our bags sorted and packed, and checked out and drove the rental car to Las Vegas airport. Finding the rental car lot can be a bit tricky, but if you follow the signs (few and far between) you will get there, even though I felt like we had gone around in a big loop and ended up back where we started.
The lot itself is a multi-story car park with each rental company having a level for their cars, just drive up the ramp to the required level and park where directed. Gather bags, get receipt off attendant and head downstairs. On the ground floor is all the companies desks, and also pokie machines!
Shuttle buses run to the airport, jump on one and sit back and enjoy the short ride. The buses seem to be well managed with stops being cordoned off when the bus is full and passengers directed to the next bus.
When we got to the American Airlines counter the lady asked us if the flight to LA was our only flight and when we said no, we were going onto Melbourne she said she could check our luggage all the way through. Yay!
We hadn’t expected this and planned our afternoon in LA around having luggage and had rented a car. This was still the better option but it was so good to not have to wait for luggage, then carry it onto buses and in and out of cars.
We cleared security (with the guy checking passports and tickets telling us they get snow in Vegas every five years or so) and got the monorail to the departure area.
With getting to the airport, dropping the car, getting the bus, checking-in, clearing security (including body scan) and getting the monorail the whole process is quite long. But with most things like this in the States if you leave enough time and are prepared it all goes smoothly.
We were in Business class for the short hop to LA which meant we got complimentary snacks and drinks.
On landing we got the yellow Hertz bus to the lot to pick up the rental car. On the way to LA we had realised we had packed the GPS in the suitcases, oops. I wasn’t keen to navigate LA without one so asked the girl at the lot if we could a car with one as the car we had booked didn’t have one. She tried to upsell us to a Mercedes C class for an extra $100 but we declined. She then offered us a small Mercedes SUV for an extra $30. Done.
However, the GPS wasn’t working in the SUV so she ended up putting us in the C class. J was very happy!
Our destination was Santa Monica which isn’t far from the airport but being a Sunday and a long weekend it was very hard to get a park. We eventually found a car park that had free spaces, it was right next to the pier which was convenient.
Our lunch destination was Bar Pintxo, recently awarded best Spanish restaurant in Los Angeles. I couldn’t have told you the name of Bar Pintxo before this day but we knew where it was.
We wanted to have lunch here as it holds good memories for us. On our previous holiday to the States in 2009 we had also flown in from Vegas on our last day, but had organised to do a limo tour of LA. Without going into details, it was a disaster. We ended up getting the driver to drop us in Santa Monica after only one stop and we ended up outside of Bar Pintxo.
I know we had the lunch special and I remember a very good pumpkin soup and also that the waitress was absolutely lovely, which was much appreciated after a bad morning. It was the start of turning a sh*t morning into a lovely afternoon and neither of us have forgotten it.
We sat ourselves at a high table outside, which was great for people watching.
Note the Sushi Roku on the corner, we had eaten in the Vegas branch the night before.
I had a much needed glass of Spanish sparkling while J had a beer.
We started with the chorizo con tomate (chorizo, cherry tomato). A small but tasty bite.
J ordered the tostada de boquerones y anchoas (marinated sardines and anchovies, basque vinaigrette, grilled bread). I had one without the fish on it.
I love paté so had to order the paté de buey y pata negra (beef liver & ibérico pate).
My favourite of the day was the sobrasada con tronchón (soft pork chorizo, melted tronchón cheese, market honey).
Of course, you can’t have a Spanish meal without patatas bravas (crispy potatoes, spicy tomato sauce, aioli, chives).
These crispy potatoes with a rich tomato sauce were declared the best version of this dish we have had.
And for something a little lighter and fresher we had melón con jamón y aceite de hierbabuena (seasonal melon, serrano ham, manchego, mint infused olive oil). My only complaint was the ratio of melon to ham was too much.
And to finish there was the albóndigas de cordero rellenas de uvas (lamb meatballs filled with pickled grapes, heirloom spinach, pumpkin seeds). I had forgotten about the grapes so I got a nice surprise when I bit into these.
Mmmmmm, that seems to be a lot of food, but it was all very good, and it was very relaxing sitting outside enjoying the warm weather and the people watching. Plus I do recall it being quite late in the day so it had been a while since the bagel in our Vegas hotel room!
After lunch we wandered past a couple of day spas to check out prices and availability. Most were quite expensive but then we found The Massage Company of Santa Monica where we could get a 75 minute massage for US$69. That is extremely good value and were able to make appointments for 20 minutes after we walked in the door.
We went for a quick walk up and down the Santa Monica mall (very busy) and then it was massage time.
J went for a combination of Swedish and deep tissue while I had a straight Swedish massage.
The girl who did my massage was excellent. It was a very good massage and with it being a long day and a few wines at lunch I may have nodded off a couple of times!
The Massage Company is a no frills place but it is very good value and the quality of the massage I received was on par, if not better, than some top of the line day spas I have visited.
It was then a short walk back to the car, and back to Hertz to drop it off and get the bus back to LAX.
I couldn’t believe how quiet LAX was. There was a family of four in front of us for security and that was it, there was no-one else around.
Now, we all know how seriously security is taken in the States and that making jokes about bombs etc is a big no-no (fair enough). And I would never joke about anything along those lines. But it appears it is OK for those working the security line to have a joke (and not fill the passenger in on it).
I went through the body scan before J. There is a security guard on either side and when I walked out of the booth this massive male security guard stood in my way. I couldn’t move past him or around him. I wasn’t sure why he was holding me up as he never spoke to me. J came through and as I was standing in the way he couldn’t move on either.
The female security came over to see what the problem was. The male guard nodded at me and said the person who checks the body scans said I needed a frontal pat down. The femal guard said no, she said she was fine (they both had earpieces in to communicate with this third person). Basically the male guard was trying to have a joke, using me as his subject. I wasn’t very impressed by this as if passengers make any fuss or anything you practically get jumped on. His joke backfired anyway as the female guard was on the ball and wasn’t having a bar of it. I was finally allowed to pass and get my stuff.
Another thing that amazes me when leaving the States is there is no immigration processing. Once you get through the security ordeal it it straight to the gate, lounge or duty free shop (not that there is much of those either). For a country that is paranoid about people overstaying their welcome and becoming illegal aliens (love that term) you think they would want an official record of when you actually left. But they don’t. Weird.
After clearing security, but not immigration, we headed to the Oneworld lounge where we spent the hours before our flight.