Travel and Leisure

La La Land: The City Of Stars

“City of stars, are you shining just for me? City of stars, there’s so much that I can’t see. Who knows? Is this the start of something wonderful and new?”

It was in November 2019, around the Thanksgiving break, that we took a trip to Los Angeles. We had visited San Franscisco quite a few times already, but it would be my first time in LA. For my husband, who had already visited the city during one of his conferences, was equally excited for his second visit.

We stayed in Intercontinental, located in Downtown LA. When we checked in, it was the day before Thanksgiving and drizzling. While we were tired from our trip, the beautiful city lights captured our attention. The rain-soaked city was bathed in neon lights, giving a certain cinematic vibe, as expected from the city which is home to Hollywood.

We took to bed early and woke up refreshed the next morning. It was the day of Thanksgiving and hence many stores were closed. That did not bother us, as we were interested in exploring the city, and not too much into shopping. For our lunch, we visited the Original Pantry café, if my readers are ever in LA, I highly recommend checking this place out. They are an old joint, known for being open 24/7, and serving delicious meals at all hours. Our lunch menu included Thanksgiving classics such as roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and beans, bread, cranberry sauce and the staple pumpkin pie. Once full, we set out exploring. The busy streets were deserted, as it was the Thanksgiving holiday, and we spent the day in various parks, admiring the beautiful skyline. Gazing at the LA skyline, we were reminded of our favourite Chicago, it seems that all big cities, be it Chicago, Mumbai or LA, have certain features of the skyline that are quite similar.

The next day, we set out for Hollywood Boulevard! Catching a view of the illustrious Hollywood hill and walking on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! We both posed for some pictures and had a fun time. Many cabs were offering to take us on a tour of actors’ houses, which we found to be quite amusing. We politely turned them down. This made me wonder how obsessed we can be with celebrities sometimes, after all they are also regular human beings and deserve some peace and privacy in their houses.

Next on the list was Santa Monica beach! This famous beach has featured in many Hollywood movies and is a LA tourist staple. We reached in the early evening and found the Pacific Ocean to be quite aggressive!! Maybe the ocean was in a playful mood. We did not venture into the water, instead admired the mighty ocean from a distance. Every beach I’ve ever visited has filled me with immense joy. As we enjoyed the sunset, we quietly pondered about all the sunsets we’ve seen on different beaches. Every sunset is a promise that a new day is around the corner, where new opportunities await us, and we face new challenges in the pursuit of our dreams.

At this point, we were quite hungry. Our lunch was a super healthy pizza in one of the cafes on Hollywood Boulevard. So we decided, it was time for early dinner. Here, we were in for a sweet, rather delicious surprise. We discovered this amazing little diner, based on the theme for Forrest Gump. This restaurant had an unique way in which you could call waiters. There was a card on each table, with a red coloured side saying “Stop, Forrest Stop”, and the backside of the same card, being blue coloured said “Run, Forrest Run”! So when you set the card to the red part, the waiters would stop at your table, and obviously, when set to the blue part, waiters would walk (not run literally!) past your table. This was really amusing, and the food at the diner was incredible. As we enjoyed our dinner, we gazed outside at the beach as evening fell upon the city outside. It was our last night in the city, as we were returning the next day by train.

There was some special reason as to why we chose to return by train. A month back, we had taken the Amtrak from Portland to San Francisco, and had a delightful experience. We had booked what is described as a “Superliner Roomette’, which consists of two seats during the day transforming into upper and lower-level beds at night. We wanted to repeat the experience and book a slightly booker Bedroom this time. That’s exactly what we did. The Bedroom had twice the space of a Roomette, a sofa and chair which transformed into beds at night, and also its own sink, washroom and shower facilities. Complimentary meals were also included in the booking.

Both me and my husband enjoy traveling by the train. Of course, often we are running short on time, and especially now, traveling with an infant, booking a flight does seem to be the more convenient option. But we both feel, traveling by train really lets you enjoy every moment of the journey itself. And probably an apt reminder of the fact that life is all about enjoying the journeys as much as possible, and not just rush to the destination.

Thus, it’s no surprise that we were looking forward to our return journey quite as much as the trip itself.

We boarded our train in the morning and were quite impressed by the arrangements. There was a spacious seat, which doubled up as an upper-level bed, there was also a private washroom, shower facilities and a sink. The support staff in the train were polite and helpful as well. They came in asking about when we would like to have lunch, and we confirmed our timings. We freshened up, and then it was time to enjoy the view. The train passes by the Pacific coast, so we got beautiful views of the ocean.

At lunch time, we made our way to the dining car, and Amtrak has an unique system where they encourage you to share a table with some co-passengers. My husband and I shared the table with an older American couple, and the delicious food was accompanied by delightful conversations. I felt deep admiration for this system, truly our world today has become dominated by technology where people are on their phone whole day. In such a culture, encouraging conversations between strangers traveling together on the train really is a wonderful initiative.

We woke up next morning to breathtaking views of Mount Shasta. Our train, it seemed was passing through a winter wonderland. Pristine snow covered the trees outside, and it was a sight for sore eyes indeed. The last time we saw so much snow was in Chicago, the winters are famous for heavy snowfall. But in Hillsboro, we missed the snow. We excitedly clicked pictures and videos of the view outside.

Finally, after a long but happy journey, we reached our destination, Portland Union station.

When I look back on this trip, I can just close my eyes, and visualize the Hollywood walk of fame, Santa Monica beach, the Forrest Gump themed diner and of course, the astounding beauty of Mt. Shasta. We hope to take our baby boy to LA someday soon, ideally when he turns a little older, so he will be able to appreciate the city and its innate charm.

Till then, the fond memories of the “City of stars” remain alive in my mind.

Arijita Mukherjee Chakraborty

Arijita Mukherjee Chakraborty is an author with a passion for writing. She grew up immersed in books and has a particular love for authors like Satyajit Ray, Jhumpa Lahiri, J.K. Rowling, and Paulo Coelho. Arijita holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Illinois at Chicago and previously worked at Intel Corporation. She returned to Kolkata in 2020 to be closer to family and now runs an edtech startup mentoring students in STEM. Writing serves as a therapeutic outlet for her thoughts and emotions, showcasing her unique perspective, shaped by her academic background and life experiences.

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