So my little family is just back from a few blissful weeks in the States. We spent most of our time in New York, but spent a couple of nights in LA on the way over, and another night on the way back, in a bid to ease the travel for all of us. And I cannot recommend highly enough doing this if you are travelling with little ones. I'm still delighted at how well it worked, and how much fun we had.
We stayed in Santa Monica on our way over, basing ourselves at the Shore Hotel. H1 and I have stayed there before and just love it – the hotel is beautiful, the staff are smiley and friendly, and it's right by the beach. Upon check-in, they gave us a stuffed starfish toy and a bucket and spade for Amelie, which is one of the cutest things I've ever experienced in a hotel. The bucket and spade is now one of her very favourite toys (she likes to turn it upside down and use it as a drum).
Santa Monica is a pretty great spot for kids and adults alike. I was really keen to see more of downtown and central LA this time, in particular Silver Lake, Griffith Park and LACMA, but with such a short time and Amelie along for the ride it just didn't make sense. What we did in our time in Santa Monica – swimming in the pool, exploring the beach, the pier, the farmer's market, and bussing down to Venice to spend some time around Abbot Kinney and explore the beautiful, faded old architecture and the sleek, contemporary new architecture that sits alongside it (and is no less beautiful, in my opinion) – kept all of us happy and entertained. It may change as she gets older, but for now we're finding that any compromise in our lifestyle is really minimal, and what compromise there is just doesn't matter all that much for us. We do things for the baby, then we do things for ourselves, and the balance just works. Taza has written about how in her family, each person chooses something they want to do when travelling, and when they're doing that thing there is no complaining, because another person's choice is coming up. I love this. Amelie is obviously too young to choose what she wants to do, but I see this working so well for us in our future, as it's already what we're doing now (we may choose for her, but we choose honestly!)
On our way back, we spent a night at the Marina del Rey hotel, in Marina del Rey (fancy that!). This is the perfect place to be if you need to be close to the airport, without actually staying in an airport hotel. We were feeling pretty jaded by the time we landed back in LA, and had that end-of-holiday feeling where you just can't wait to be home. The service cross-country had been typically terrible (I have never had good service on an American airline – how do they get away with it?!) and after getting stuck in a stuffy, hot lift for about 15 minutes, and our driver not turning up to collect us, we were all rather grumpy by the time we checked in. None of this was the hotel's fault, but they cheered us right up by upgrading our room, giving us room service credit, free breakfast, and a super-late checkout of 6pm the next day. Anyone who's tried to work travel around a baby's naptime can appreciate how amazing that last perk in particular was!
There's nothing to do in Marina del Rey, but for such a short amount of time that really doesn't matter. We swam in the hotel pool, went for a walk around the marina, and relaxed outside while Amelie crawled around. It was wonderfully relaxing and such a perfect way to break up the flights home. The hotel itself is beautiful, and having a suite with a deck overlooking the water meant we were totally content to stay put and just relax. Having a stopover on the way back also helped reduce our jet lag down to almost nothing. It was brilliant, and I'm definitely planning on having stopovers both outbound and inbound next time we travel any great distance. It may be my number one travel tip, actually, especially when travelling with children.
Thanks LA – you're pretty great. Can't wait until next time. x