American Adventure – Part Ten: Los Angeles Days Four and Five and coming home

Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach

My fourth day in the City of Angels was something a bit different as it was the birthday of one of my hosts, so to start the day we headed out to Manhattan Beach for breakfast at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House and my first real experience of a proper ‘American breakfast’.

Being one who normally goes for something simple like a bowl of cereal, I chose one of the menu’s more modest sounding options of scrambled egg and bacon with two pancakes and, I should have guessed, my plate arrived stuffed with enough food to feed a small army. While my general experience hints that large portions often leads to lower quality that certainly wasn’t the case here as it was all delicious, including the large mug of hot chocolate, and should you be in the Manhattan Beach area at breakfast time (or anytime really), then Uncle Bill’s is well worth a look, especially if you can get an outside table like we did as you get a (partial) beach view to go with the food.

On the way back from Manhattan Beach we went past LAX and just peeking up over a rise along the road was a very recognisable blue tail fin, so we headed up and around a side road to get a great view of Air Force One, which had flown in that morning, so the military plane we had seen the previous day had indeed been carrying “the Beast”, certainly an unexpected extra to my trip.

Surfers at Malibu
Surfers at Malibu

For the afternoon Nick and I left Shannon to put the finishing touches to her birthday party which was coming up the following evening, and we headed out in the car to check out Santa Monica and Malibu beaches.

As someone who lives five minutes walk from the beach, visits to beaches can be a mixed bag as, unless there is something particularly special on offer they often feel much like driving around at home, these beaches however certainly had something different.

While it was an overcast day some areas of the beaches were still busy as many surf breaks lined the coast as waves broke on the many small headlands. Between each of these headlands the road snaked at the bottom of a cliff, often behind a row of yet more beach front houses.

The further away from the city we got the sparser the buildings on the land side of the road became and we entered a strange area of beaches lined with houses but then comparatively open land on the other side, with more spectacular houses lining the hills just back from the road.

The beaches in this area looked like they would have been great to visit on a sunny day, though I also got the impression they probably get very busy when the sun is out, it was just this day’s ‘June Gloom’ that was keeping people away.

After the beaches we headed into Santa Monica itself, another of the many towns that make up the vast sprawl of LA. Unlike many of the others though it seems this one has managed to maintain something of a semblance of being a separate community, albeit one mostly consisting of very high-end residences along with a very nice central shopping street where I found a Hot Topic and picked up a couple of t-shirts including a CM Punk one and a Loki one – take me to the fanciest shopping mall and I’ll still find the pro-wrestling and comic stuff…

For dinner we headed out to meet a few more relatives who had flown in the weekend’s celebrations at the In-N-Out Burger in the shadow of LAX. While appearing from the outside like any other fast food restaurant, I have to say it lived up to my expectations from the recommendations I’d had as the food tasted far fresher than I’ve ever encountered at McDonald’s or Burger King and with their unique menu certainly added something extra to the standard fast food model – and sitting outside with 747s and similar landing across the roads certainly added a different element to the meal.

With more relatives arriving my last full day in Los Angeles was mostly one large celebration in honour of Shannon’s birthday and it started out with another huge breakfast back in Manhattan Beach, though this time at a different place that didn’t quite have the same amount of character as Uncle Bill’s.

Manhattan Beach Pier
Manhattan Beach Pier

After breakfast we headed for a walk down the seafront where people were playing volleyball as signs warned against swimming near the pier where waves were breaking with quite some force on the shore.

We followed this with a quick visit to another comic book store, The Comic Bug, which once again featured friendly and knowledgeable staff as well as having its own gaming area at the back, something I generally see as a good sign in comic book stores, even though I don’t play anymore and I picked up a copy of the hardback edition of Hit Girl (the follow-up to Kick-Ass) to complete my set of Mark Millar’s fine, ultraviolent series.

The remains of the cake
The remains of the cake

The rest of the day was taken up with the party and assorted preparations which I won’t bore you with other than to say it was a great bash and featured the most amazing birthday cake I’ve even seen or tasted before things continued into the small hours which meant Sunday involved simply packing and heading to LAX for my flight home.

After such a great time the trip back was always going to be a sad affair, but thankfully Virgin Atlantic once again managed to make things easier for me with a double seat to myself and some more great movies and TV shows on offer on board, before traversing the outskirts of London and making it back to the little rock int he English Channel a few hours early.

It’s somewhat clichéd to say a trip to the other side of the world, even a largely touristy one like this, is a life changing experience, but I think this one probably has been for me on at least some level, with great thanks to my hosts Nick and Shannon in LA and Ashley in San Francisco, and I have to admit, two weeks on from my return home, I’m already beginning to plan my next adventure…

Read about my third day in LA, featuring Space Shuttles, Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper, here.

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