Tag Archives: LA

Travelogue USA 2: LA – Hollywood

LOS ANGELES – HOLLYWOOD
10-12 October 2016

Having purchased the LA GO Card in advance of our trip made excursion choices a little easier since it made sense that things covered by the card became go-to decisions. The card is purchased online and allows unlimited access to the included activities for the number of days you opt for. We’d opted for 3 days, thinking that we’d do all the Santa Monica stuff on Sunday when we returned from Malibu and then have  2 days to do all the Hollywood options.

Sunday didn’t quite go as planned thanks to Rosenthals last rounds being later than advertised, meaning we only got back to Santa Monica in time for dinner and missed out on the bicycle hire from Perry’s for a sunset flit along the promenade as well as the access to the theme park on the Pier, which now held no interest. No mind, we’d still had the Celebrity Home Tour, which at $50 a head was a good use of a day on the card anyway.

Now we were able to use the Hop On Hop Off bus tour as our transfer from Santa Monica to our Hollywood hotel, which was a double win both saving money on an Uber and combining sightseeing with our transportation.

It was also easy enough since the bus stop is on the corner of Broadway (our road) and Ocean Avenue (2 blocks down from our hotel), leaving at a very reasonable 9.30. That gave plenty of time to lie in, partake in the complimentary hotel pastries and commit the view of the coastline to memory while getting our tickets at the Pier.

The stops through Santa Monica are a bit thin, including arb sights like the hotel where Jane Fonda recorded some of her fitness videos, Marilyn Monroe’s house and the house where Shirley Temple was born. There was also a property claimed to be The Governator’s home… but based on yesterday’s Celebrity tour, Arnie  owns half of California so probably not such a big deal to see one of so many.

On completing the yellow line, we were delighted to find the red line bus already waiting at the crossover stop. We hopped off and then hopped on, much as the name implied we would.

The red line took us through Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive and we could see that the traffic was thickening noticeably.  It’s debatable whether this was a product of location or just because it was by now midmorning and the city was becoming lively.

Even though we’d come quite a distance, it was still easy to get our bearings as we crisscrossed key arterial roads like Wiltshire and Sunset boulevards, names that we recognised from a lifetime of movies. Wiltshire was also apparently the testbed for LA’s car culture so had the first left turn lane, the first traffic lights and has a generous allocation for parking to service its buildings and businesses. A bit of a yawn of a claim to fame as compared with its highbrow neighbours.

The bus dropped us at Pantages Theatre, a relic of the golden age of Hollywood, at its prestigious address on the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

We got ourselves a map and headed off on the trek to our hotel (probably more fairly defined as a motel), on Sunset Boulevard a few blocks down.

Taking little more than 15 minutes and with no resistance from our wonderful new featherlight trolley cases  (replacements, thanks to my beautiful black leather case from China being broken on the last trip), we were still a sweaty mess when we arrived at Dunes Inn Sunset. I asked the reception fellow if it’s always this hot in LA; he looked confused and said it was a bit chilly. It was easily 30 degrees! Suppose that’s what you get from a local who enjoys 325 days of sunshine and as little as 15 inches a year.

By now it was midday and we had lots to do, so we dumped our things in our room and hightailed straight out the see what we could see.

Being based on Sunset Boulevard made navigating very simple – what isn’t on Sunset itself is on Hollywood Boulevard, parallel and one road up.

We had pre-booked online for the 2pm Redline behind-the-scenes Hollywood walking tour (included in our GO card), which gave us some time to grab a quick lunch (fried chicken at Popeyes) and have a nose about for ourselves.

The tour was a great decision. With the tour company operating from a small lock-up-and-go stand in the courtyard in front of Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, it was all action from the moment we met our tour guide, Michael, who is a native born-and-raised LA resident, which he says is as rare as an unicorn.

The tour started with viewing inside Grauman’s Theatre and a history of its namesake and his considerable contribution to making Hollywood and the film industry the profitable business it is today. If Michael is to be believed then Syd Grauman may be the among the most genius marketers that ever lived. He apparently coined the term “movie stars” which took actors from being paupers plying their trade for passion alone to create opportunities so lucrative that relatively soon thereafter Elizabeth Taylor was the first to command a $1 million paycheck, for her role as Cleopatra. The original Egyptian dogs from the epic movie are displayed in the Theatre as a testament to breaking through boundaries.

Grauman also built the Chinese Theatre found further up Hollywood Boulevard, which he made famous with having a very select few stars immortalise themselves with hand- and footprints in the concrete leading up from the pavement to the entrance. We stood next to John Wayne’s slab and, while a tall fella of considerable stature, his feet were tiny! No more than a UK size 6 or 7 at most!

We also went into the Dolby Theatre and saw the magnificent staircase where the stars ascend to attend the Oscars. Undraped, the venue is no more than a mall (with upmarket retailers) but clearly it has its day in the sun for the Awards each year, when the shops are contractually obligated to close so that they can be the invisible substance behind miles and miles of red velvet draping.

Done with the tour, we hopped back onto a HOHO bus, taking the Red Route so we could visit the Guitar Centre. Like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, it has handprints adorning its entrance, but this time with notable musicians rather than actors. We enjoyed putting our hands into the impressions of some of our heroes: ACDC, The Cure and our fondly-known-as Jeff Leppard.

Back on the bus, we were happy to take in the rest of the less important (to us) sites from the comfort of the upper deck, with the audio tour guide filling our heads with random arbitraries about Whisky a Go Go, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive that were forgotten almost as soon as imparted.

We disembarked at Pink’s Hotdogs, a classic diner on the corner of La Brea and Melrose that has been a Hollywood stalwart since the 30’s. We had a chili cheese hotdog and a chili cheese nachos hotdog to share, which came with a few surprises; hotdog chili is like a blend of mince and refried beans, and there were no actual nacho chips on the nacho hotdog, just the runny custard-coloured nacho cheese. Still, both delicious.

We celebrated by walking back up to Hollywood Boulevard to get a free chocolate sample from Ghirardelli’s (our HOHO bus map had told us we’d get the sample, but not that it would be an amazing salted caramel in dark chocolate. I don’t even like dark chocolate, but this was crazy creamy and like a bitesize Caramello Bear for grown-ups).

Last item on the agenda was a nightcap at the Pig n Whistle, next to the Egyptian Theatre where our walking tour had started. The pub has been a part of Hollywood for so long it hosted Judy Garland’s 18th birthday, along with her pals Shirley Temple and Clark Gable in the intimate party. Far be it for us to miss out on such an iconic part of the better part of a century’s history.

En route we were fortunate enough to happen upon the premiere for The Accountant in full swing at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. We caught a glimpse of John Lithgow as was chauffeured up in an enormous black SUV, manned on all corners by equally enormous twitchy bodyguards with earpieces. Onlookers went dilly as he got out the car, shouting out his name (they were, not he was) as the press lightbulbs flashed madly, and screeching with delight as he cast a glance in their direction, with the resultant effect a sort of vocal Mexican Wave.

Poor JK Simmons had to follow that act; hopefully he hadn’t heard the John Lithgow uproar from his SUV so was still delighted with the (notably less) warm welcome.

Our timing had been so spectacular that if we’d been any earlier we probably wouldn’t have stood around, not knowing what to expect and if we’d been minutes later, we’d have missed everything.

We marvelled at our good fortune as we made our way down the Walk of Fame, as one does, continuing to the Pig n Whistle as intended, names of all sorts of famous people passing under our feet, immortalised on their gold-lettered pink marble stars embedded on the pavement.

Lucky for us, it was quite quiet, so we could get in a couple of rounds and tear ourselves away.

Unable to face too many more steps on a 20+ thousand step day, we found a Metro station and covered the 3 stops in no time, to flake on the bed in our hotel room, reeling from the pace of the past few days.

Day 2 in Hollywood was planned as a double-bill of studio visits. Our HOHO ticket also transported us to Universal Studios so we got up early to (walk the K and a half to) catch the first bus from Hollywood Boulevard just after 9am.

It was a good call because the park was relatively quiet when we got there and we were among the first group for the popular Studio Tour.

The tour is delivered quite theatrically, co-hosted by a tour guide and  (a recorded) Jimmy Fallon, with cameo appearances from some big names like Ellen de Generes and The Rock. The trolley bus moves through the lot while the guide talks through points of interest and what’s been used by whom for which movies when. There are also some experiential elements, like participating in a subway tunnel collapse, a flash flood and a car chase from Fast & Furious, complete with holograms of the cast.

Leaving the tour, we were grateful to have been in the first batch. The queue for the next group was already snaking through a long winding queueing system.

With little direction of our own, we wandered neatly straight into a Special Effects Show. It was equal parts education, exhibition and entertainment – and a very worthwhile way to spend a half hour. Not every day you see someone set on fire on purpose (and extinguished unharmed), another person chopped in the arm (with a trick knife, so unharmed despite all the “blood”) or anyone whizzing around the ceiling (as the volunteer was, illustrating the suspension ropes).

Not particularly fussy about rollercoasters and whatnot, we left the rest of the plan to fate, going on the rides with the shortest queues.

We got very lucky! The Transformers 3D experience was exceptional and we were rocked and rolled around as the Transformers fought each other over and around us as all sorts of shrapnel flew into our faces as we squeaked and flinched because it was so realistic. Then we ended up at a somehow completely queueless The Mummy ride; a forwards, backwards and sideways quite traditional rollercoaster… but in the dark with all sorts of creepy-crawlies. Exhilarating!

The afternoon had us at a 2pm Warner Bros studio tour, which was next stop on the HOHO bus Blue Line so we jumped on the 13h15 bus and were soon at our next Hollywood experience, being given all sorts of insider tips, unprompted, by a very sociable security guard as he did a thorough check of our bags (which, to be honest, seemed unnecessarily thorough for the sole purpose of allowing him to finish his monologue!)

Our timing was perfect and 10 minutes after arrival we were ushered into an auditorium for a short intro film and the assigned to Remsen, our guide for the day, and moved along to our cart that would transport us around the lot.

It was very exciting as we drove through the enormous studio buildings and Remsen filled us in on what used to and still is being filmed where. He was very knowledgeable on films old and new, so had something to say about almost every square inch we passed! … which has much to do with how the studio tries to make use of every inch of real estate where possible.

It was amazing to see how a patch of grass no bigger than that around our swimming pool was the same location used for “Phoebe & Rachel go jogging” and “Phoebe learns to ride a bike” and “Sheldon goes to the Renaissance Fair dressed as Spock” and another half the size for “Sheldon & Leonard fly kites” and “Ross plays rugby”. And Hennessy Street, which is a road lined with shell sets (facades with only a little room behind them where windows can be dressed) on the left side and practical sets (with whole rooms within) on the right has been the set for everything from Annie  (the classic and the 2009 remake) to Batman  (3 of the movies). It really is all about filming perspective and set dressing!

We drove past the live set of “Shameless” a few times, where we spotted Fiona outside Patsy’s Pies, the diner where she works. How exciting!!

Remsen took us into the set where “Mom” is filmed and explained how the whole process worked. The set consists of a dissected restaurant, kitchen, lounge and apartment entrance courtyard, which was no surprise since we’ve seen the show and already had a vague of how studio audiences work from what we’ve seen on TV… but what did surprise us was that these actors have a 5 day work week like everyone else.

I suppose we assumed the actors swan in and capture their scenes and then swan out again.  Not so. There are readings, rehearsals and recordings that alone can sometimes take a full day  just to get the footage that makes up the 21 minutes we see. Then there’s post-production and editing and whatnot which take the few weeks between shooting and airing. If anything, knowing this will now make us a bit more empathetic when there are season breaks on our favourite shows.

We also visited the Conan O’Brien set. A different format entirely, being a “live” show (we found out that it’s recorded as a single take but aired a few hours later), we were able to sit in the audience seats as Remsen ran us through the intricacies of how the stage and set work to play the space onto camera for optimal perspective.

We also popped into the props storage facility (an enormous warehouse with anything and everything you can imagine) and I got to sit at the White House desk that’s been used in several shows and movies, like West Wing and one of my favourites, The Fixer.  Which is probably what the props team call Lady Gaga after she borrowed the table for a music video and gouged the leather surface with her heels so badly that she had to spend a fortune replacing it!

Christian was delighted to be up close to all of the Batmobiles in the Batman storage area. And our up-close-and-personal experience with costumes and props from a host of superheroes, including Batman, Superman, Supergirl, Wonderwoman, Suicide Squad etc etc.

The tour was really excellent and completely different to the theatrical Universal one in the morning. It ended at a building with interactive displays where you could sit on the couch on the Central Perk set from “Friends”, as well as pose for pics on sets with trick effects that for example had 2D painting on the back drop that gave false perspective when captured on camera in our photos.

We were then supposed to make our way to CBS Studios for the taping of “Last Man Standing”, but it was a bit late. The tour had been the better part of 3 hours, and we were supposed to already be at the other studio which was miles away. It really didn’t smart as much as it would have had the Warner Bros tour not been so amazing.  We were sated on the production front – and frankly not as up for the experience now knowing it could take anywhere from several hours to all night to complete!

Our decision was vindicated when the golf cart deposited us back at the entrance and the HOHO bus was waiting for us. Literally waiting for us. The friendly old driver who had brought us to the studio from Universal had been pulling off when he saw our cart behind his bus. Recognising us, he stopped the bus and waited for us!

By the time we arrived back in Hollywood, we were starving so decided to head down La Brea to see if we could find the Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles that the security guard at Warner Bros had recommended to us.

We walked and walked and didn’t find it so turned down Sunset Boulevard instead and were rewarded with a magnificent burrito at Chipotle.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we’d done more than 25km walking for the day! Good incentive to rest up for the following day’s trip to Vegas for The Big Experience.

Travelogue USA 1: LA – Santa Monica

LOS ANGELES – SANTA MONICA
08-10 October 2016

The holiday got off to a 5-star start. We’d recently been upgraded to Gold status on Emirates Skywards AND we’d traded our frequent flyer miles to upgrade our outbound flight to Business Class.

The Emirates Lounge at ORT is brilliant.  We literally would have, given a choice, ordered the buffet’s exact menu – and struggled to restrain ourselves to a taste of rare roast beef (with rich brown gravy), chicken curry, Scottish salmon, mini chicken and mushroom potpies… and couldn’t even face starting with the dessert selection.

Our flight was equally lavish and, being on the massive A-380, we got the 2 middle seats. They have a retractable divider which when combined with our comfy side-by-side chairs that could be expanded to a full horizontal, left us with a “living room” only marginally smaller than our microscopic hotel room in Copenhagen!

With 16 hours on the plane, there was plenty of time to sleep (perfectly in our comfy chair-beds), watch TV (Emirates has whole boxsets of series), lounge in the bar and create our own tapas tour from the cosmopolitan selection of wines and champagne, with generous selection of bar snacks and light meals.

While fun at the time, our tapas did little to prepare us for the magnificent 3 course lunch (ordered a la carte) that was served towards the end of the flight.

We were in pretty good shape when we exited LAX into the blue-sky humid Los Angeles afternoon. We’d been well rested and fed – and the combination of headstart on cattle-class with visa waiver thanks to UK passports meant we’d been processed quite quickly.

As an added bonus, our Business Class experience came with a driver service to take us to our hotel and we were soon bundled into an enormous gas-guzzler by the suited driver who was waiting to meet us at Arrivals.

LA traffic is ridiculous.  For a mid-afternoon on a Saturday, the highway was as congested as ours in rush hour on a weekday! In both directions!

It took a good half hour for us to wind the relatively short journey to our hotel in Santa Monica. It wasn’t a very picturesque drive either, with high walls on either side of the highway obscuring anything there might have been to see. The only things visible were the hills in the backdrop, but were noticeably remiss of the Hollywood sign so didn’t capture our interest either.

The Carmel By the Sea is exactly that. Right on the doorstep of the Pacific Ocean. Prime location indeed! On the corner of Broadway and 2nd Street (as in 2nd road in from the beach), it was a hop, skip and jump to all the action on Santa Monica Pier and the famous (well, to us anyway, thanks to the Yellowcard song) Ocean Avenue.

Check in was blitzquick, thanks to the conveniences afforded by online booking and we were pleased enough with our room even though it had less than no view, facing onto the Central courtyard where all the generators are housed. What did it matter though? We had the whole of Santa Monica to explore!

We headed straight out after changing into holiday mode: shorts and slops.

We’d made few plans for the afternoon, based on concern for our state on arrival from the 30 hour journey. We were fighting fit though, so committed to the pencilled plan to walk the length of the promenade to Venice Beach, just short of 2 miles down.

It was a great idea. The beach experience is idyllic: thick belt of golden sand with wide (separate) walking and bicycle paths on the city side and large open public entertainment facilities like playgrounds, skateboard bowls and gym equipment built in for people to enjoy. And so many were! Muscle Beach – a permanent outdoor gym set up in the 30s and famed for being the birthplace of the California bodybuilding boom in the late 80s, where Arnie and Co worked out – had a generous collection of people of all sizes exercising in the afternoon sunshine. What a great idea to promote wellness!

It’s an easy walk to Venice Beach and you can feel the change as the relaxed atmosphere and elegant waterfront properties of Santa Monica gives way to Venice’s artistically tatty, brightly-painted and muralled restaurants, shops and bars with the bustling walkway lined with buskers so as you move the soundtrack blends from bongo drums to blues to reggae to rock… with more than a few evangelists vying for airtime in between.

There is also a startling number of homeless people camped on the edge of the beach, settled in with dome tents and a scattering of worldly possessions. And more than a few begging veterans, mostly looking for a slice of pizza or a cheeseburger. The depravity is in stark contrast to the picture-perfect view just behind them with the silhouetted palm trees framing the sand and sea beyond.

Thirsty from the walk and pleased to have gotten a pic of the famous Venice sign draped across Windward Road, we popped into Danny’s for a beer and were lucky enough to be rewarded with great timing – Bud Draft $3 during “the game” (it seemed rude to ask which one that might be since the waitress was so enthusiastic that we’d responded to their offer).

We then walked on to Venice’s Muscle Beach equivalent. Quite different, it was a fenced-off outdoor gym that charges $10 for a workout pass. There were a few very impressively ripped chaps working out (shirtless, obviously) in the yard and clearly playing for the crowds by doing show-off tricks on the equipment, like handstands on the pull-up bars, and then feigning indignation that people were taking photos.

We had a beautiful sunset to keep us company on the return journey, along with the silhouettes of the beach volleyball enthusiasts taking advantage of the cooler dusk.

And it was quite cool; fitting seeing as, as hard as it was to believe, it is Autumn in beach paradise. So we decided to meander back to the hotel to get a jumper (me) and shoes (Chris) so we could make our way to 3rd, a pedestrian street known for bars and eateries (and shops, by day).

Always practical, our meander took us past the plan for the morning – the Starline Tours office, from where we would be catching the Celebrity Home Tours bus. Fortuitously, another of the landmarks on our list – the sign marking The End of Route 66 – was right outside the booth, so it was a double win.

We celebrated with a beer at The Lobster, strategically placed to the left of the Santa Monica Pier welcome sign.

Stopping for a jersey was Kryptonite. Chris sitting down on the bed was enough to zzzz him; me sitting next to him “to wake him” finished me off.

Out for the count. 3rd Street would have to remain a mystery.

Probably not the worst thing in the world, we woke at 5am, in time to open presents  (it was Christian’s birthday, the motivation for our trip), SSS&S before  “pastries and beverages” were served by the hotel (in lieu of continental breakfast) at 6.30 and then spend some internet time planning our route for the day.

We were the first at the tour office at 8.30 and were told that since we were using the GO Card pass, we were on standby for the Malibu Celebrity Home Tour, with paying customers given preference. We were told to return in half an hour to see if we could be accommodated.

We used the time to try find a convenience store to buy a local SIM card, which proved more challenging than we’d anticipated and our half hour wandering around Santa Monica just entrenched our inkling that it has an enormous fitness culture, having never seen such a high concentration of yoga studios per capita anywhere in the world!

Returning to the Pier (SIMless), we were delighted to be confirmed as included in the tour and were soon in the red topless 10 seater van, ready to go celeb-spotting.

Our guide started with a rundown of Santa Monica’s accolades: the 7th most popular beach in the world (omitting according to whom it had achieved this listing), inventing beach volleyball, the Pier and its amusement park (both established 1909) being the birthplace of Popeye and Santa Monica Boulevard marking the end of the Route 66. He also pointed out that Will Rogers Beach is where lots of Baywatch was filmed.

The drive took us along the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, where the guide pointed out this person’s and that person’s house… but to be honest, it became a bit tedious – and the stars weren’t all sitting on their balconies or washing their cars in their driveway waiting to wave to us, as I’d somewhat delusionally imagined they would be.

The Malibu Beach road had the highest concentration of homes / beach houses but it wasn’t as I’d imagined either.  While the houses are presumably palatial, the road view is quite modest with houses built up to the pavements, tightly side-by-side and devoid of any front gardens. The driver stopped so we could visit the Malibu Beach itself, which is just a very narrow strip of sand, where the water must lap right up to under the houses (all on stilts with decks facing the ocean) in high tide, eating away all of the beach. We had a gawk into (what we were told is) Matthew Perry’s house, but came up dry, so settled for a photo and moved on.

We parted ways with the tour in Malibu Colony to again seek SIM card. Again unsuccessful, we retreated to Subway for a meatball sub (and a 42 ounce cup of Coke!) and to use the wifi to call an Uber to start our Malibu wine route, the core activity on the birthday agenda.

We struggled to get a driver, first attempting a new app called Lyft – fail! -and then being rejected by a driver from Uber and were starting to wonder if the plan was even going to be possible when a driver called Christopher responded.

A Malibu local, Christopher, packed us into the the back of his Mini and drove us to Malibu Wines, giving us a generous amount of overshare about his life and thoughts along the way.

Malibu Wines was a lovely setting to wile away a few hours. Lots of tables of merry-makers enjoying BYO picnics and clinking glasses of Saddlebrook and Semler wines to the soundtrack of the live musicman belting out (butchered) versions of crowd-pleasers like La Bamba and Sweet Caroline.

We made our bottle of pinot noir last an impressive amount of time, restrained mostly by the price tag since everything on the menu was north of $30! (Which is probably not very much for the locals, but burns when converted from ZAR at almost 15:1!)

Again we called an Uber to take us to the next stop on our wine route, which we decided to be SIP, a wine shop rather than vineyard so we could enjoy a wider selection. It wasn’t very far up the Mulholand Highway we were already on and was a hive of activity with bikers pouring out of the General Store next door, which took “general” to the next level, selling everything from booze to convenience store stuff, clothes and an impressive takeaway menu of everything greasy conceivable. Everything including the decor had a price sticker on it.

The SIP shop itself was very quiet and we took our bottle of Malibu Rocky Oaks wine into the garden as solitary patrons. Of course, true to form, the next patron to arrive was a girl from Pretoria! She’d come to LA as an aspirant actress seeking fame and fortune but, seeing as she’d been here 15 years and we didn’t recognise her, apparently that had not (yet) happened.

When it came time to leave, we had a nasty surprise. Christian was out of data and neither of my phones had roaming so we asked if we could join the wifi to call an Uber.  SIP didn’t have wifi and the general store’s wifi was apparently only to support the security system so we were all out of luck! The general store manager offered to let us use the phone… but who were we going to call?!

Luckily, our Uber driver from earlier, Christopher, had given me his card so we called him and he came to fetch us. The reunion was that of old friends: we were so relieved to see him and not to have to spend the rest of our holiday at the general store and he seemed very pleased to see us and listen to us regale the stories of the afternoon’s adventures.

He drove us to Rosenthals on the Pacific Coast Highway, the last stop on our wine route and we said our bittersweet final farewells.

Rosenthals had claimed to serve last round at 5.30 and we’d snuck in with 10 minutes to spare… only to find it not such a strict deadline after all and the place was still doing a roaring trade, with live music and festive patrons.

We secured a bottle of Surfrider Grenache Blanc and a table in the garden, far enough from 1-man band to hear ourselves, but close enough to enjoy the people-watching. The entertainer even played “Wonderwall” as a tribute to Christian’s birthday, on my request.

It was much easier to summon an Uber from Rosenthals since it had wifi and was closer to Santa Monica so there were more drivers in the area. Our driver had the Clinton/Trump debate blaring and barely even noticed we were there. A surreal immersion into US politics indeed.

Back at base camp, we followed the plan and went to the King’s Head English Pub for dinner – cod ‘n chips paired with a Guinness – as per Christian’s birthday wish. They did a fine offering, with lovely crispy batter and delicious thick cut chips that soaked in the vinegar.

As we were finishing our dinner, who should pop his head around the corner? My brother, Anthony!

He was in town for a conference of some sort and we’d told him where we would be, in case he could extract himself from the event. He had managed and it was great to have a beer and a catch-up!

After our long day and with his impending early morning, we weren’t in a position to make a long night of it, but a great end to a great day nonetheless.