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The Adventures Of The Griswalds

Now in Los Angeles

January 07, 2009

We got up at about 9am this morning and finished packing our bags, before going downstairs to check out of the hotel. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Brown's, a very civilised hotel indeed!

We were planning on getting the Heathrow Express from Paddington Station but, since we managed to get the five of us and all of our luggage into one taxi, we took the taxi all the way to Heathrow. It really is quite amazing just how much one London taxi can carry.

We got to Heathrow with plenty of time to spare and check-in was very quick. What was not so quick was the infuriatingly slow process of getting the VAT refunds processed. We knew from past experience that this was unlikely to be a speedy process but even armed with this knowledge, it was still very frustrating. We finally got the money back and headed for immigration.

Virgin Atlantic has a private elevator and security point, which enabled us to bypass a lot of the queue through Immigration and make up for some of the time we lost standing in line for the VAT refund. Once we got through Immigration we headed for the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, surely the best airline lounge in the world. We had a great meal, played a bit of snooker, and just relaxed, waiting for the boarding announcement.

The walk to gate 34 was, as is so often the case at Heathrow, longer than expected. Still, we got to the gate in plenty of time, boarded the plane, and relaxed with a drink before take-off.

We got airborne at about 3:30pm and had a good flight. We ate still more food, slept, watched movies, ate some more, and slept some more, before landing in LA just about 10 hours later. Our passage through US Immigration was (unlike our last visit) uneventful. We collected our bags and headed out to pick up our rental car.

Getting the rental car should have been a quick process. The car was pre-booked and ready to go. We were staggered by the sheer size of the vehicle, a Lincoln Navigator, whose dimensions might shame many houseboat owners! This six-seater monster was simultaneously enormous and unable to comfortably hold our luggage (but we did manage to squeeze it in at some cost to passenger comfort!). The seating for the passengers was excessive but luggage space was pitiful. We decided that we would live with this but we drove it less than 100 metres in the Hertz car park before deciding it was possibly the worst car we'd ever driven! Driving it was akin to piloting an oil tanker (but less precise). After much pleading with the Hertz office at LAX to give us "anything not made in America" we ended up with a Volvo XC90 instead. The Volvo is not in the same league as the BMW X5 that we'd had for the past five weeks but it was a vast improvement over the Navigator. Anyone who is still wondering why the US automotive industry is in deep trouble need just drive the big black Navigator parked in bay 164 of the Hertz depot at LAX!

With our luggage now transferred to the XC90 we headed out to the 405 freeway for the trip to Hazel's house, in Glendale. We arrived at about 9pm and unpacked, had a cup of tea with Hazel, and headed to bed (since it was about 5am London time by that stage).

We have no definite plans for tomorrow but we'll probably not venture too far. Perhaps we'll do a little shopping.