Free internet in hotel lobby so must keep this short. First impression of LA: clouds are pretty, lots of lights (from the air); people here have $$$$$$ (from the ground).
Photos: 1) Strange behaviour on top of a swing set 2) Fun graffiti 3) Surf's up, dude! If you get into trouble, there's a H-O-T and very friendly lifeguard on duty 4) Canals in Venice, CA 5) Flexing my muscles (buried under wool sweater) at Muscle Beach, CA
Finally got to hotel after waiting for shuttle that doesn't actually exist, necessitating $30 cab ride to hotel in the end. I'm angry with the idiots in reservations for this place, but the hotel is quite nice and the kind fellow at the front desk last night must have felt sorry for me because he upgraded me to a suite of his own volition. I just finished gorging myself on free breakfast and am headed upstairs to get ready to explore Venice Beach for the day. My pockets are full of free food from breakfast.
.... Ok, I'm officially checked out of the hotel now so I'd better update and post this before they kick me out of the lobby.
Venice Beach so far: awesome!! Walked all around this morning from my hotel in Marina Del Rey to the canal area, then north through the canals (which are kind of green and scummy, but still really neat with some cool houses) to Muscle Beach, north a ways along Ocean Front Walk to a random spot, then I walked along the beach a bit and got my jeans wet in the freezing Pacific Ocean :) There are surfers out today so it can't be that cold. Truthfully, if I'd had more time and my bathing suit handy, I would have gone for a swim even though I don't really like swimming in the ocean. Walking south from my beach spot, I stopped to talk to a very cute (and friendly) lifeguard who is local and was happy to answer all my questions. I got his photo too but you might have to wait for it until I can find a way to upload. Stopped to watch some nice waves smashing beautifully over some rocks, then over to Muscle Beach to say I'd taken my baby pipes there at last. Doh! I just realized I didn't take a photo of myself. Alas, another reason to come back then. A few guys were grunting and heaving heavy stuff around, but my eye was caught by some guy way up at the top of a swingset who seemed to be looking to take a nap way up there. No idea.... but I have photos.
Walk south along Ocean Front Walk from Muscle Beach, checking out the crazy shops and gorgeous houses ($$$$$$$$$$$), walk up the big dune at Venice Beach and stop to soak up a few rays. I keep forgetting it's February! Sorry, I know you probably hate me for that comment. This is a great introduction to California for me. Stop to use sketchy public bathroom (oi!), walk out on Venice Pier. To the north, one can see Santa Monica Pier with the amusement park on it, to the south lots more beach with awesome houses and distant smoke stacks. Somewhere off to the west, about 30 miles out to sea, is Catalina Island, but it wasn't visible today. Trek back to hotel for quick shower and packing before they kick me out.
Now I'm going to write a few postcards and grab some lunch before I head out on foot to explore more of the area and find some stamps. My flight to Auckland via Sydney leaves in about 8 hours, I think....