Los Angeles: Jetting into hipster heaven on new direct flights
Claire McCormack takes the new Aer Lingus service from Dublin to LA, and feels like a rock star before she even arrives.
It was my first time to step onto a plane and turn left.
Business class, wow, an entirely different travel experience. As I settled into my very own luxury booth, on the Aer Lingus inaugural flight direct to LAX Airport, I thought, that's it, I'm ruined, how will I ever go back to economy again?
My personal pod, equipped with superb lounge facilities - including a seat that stretched out into a massaging bed, Wi-Fi in the sky and a world of touchscreen entertainment, made me feel like a rock-star jetting across the Atlantic to perform the next leg of my sold-out global tour.
As I popped my books, iPad and phone into the spacious compartments around me, the air crew spoiled us with glasses of champagne and freshly squeezed orange juice. I tried so very hard to contain my excitement - I didn't want the posh business man sitting across from me to know I was a business class newbie. But if my cheesy ear-to-ear grin didn't give it away, what happened next surely made me look like a first-class imposter.
The seatbelt sign appeared, and the all-female flight crew advised us to sit down and prepare for take-off.
Then, I heard a thud. I reached for my phone but couldn't find it.
"Sugar, it must have fallen under my seat," I said to myself. As I rummaged around trying to locate it, I had visions that it had magnificently fallen through a crack and landed on the runway.
"Keep calm," I said to myself but eagle-eyed air hostess and cabin manager Niamh Dunne knew I was in a spot of bother. "I'm so silly, I've dropped my phone under my seat and can't reach it," I said.
She reassured me not to worry and to just pop up for a minute and she'd have a look. Needless to say, the entire business class section were staring at this point. I could feel the redness rush into my cheeks. And that's when it happened.
The swanky tycoon, who I was trying desperately to ignore, turned to me and asked aloud: "First time in business class?". "Eh, yes," I sheepishly replied with an awkward giggle. Only seconds had passed but it felt like an hour. I was holding up the entire plane. The embarrassment then multiplied when the helpful Ms Dunne had to call an engineer to come on board to lift up my seat in order to locate my phone.
"You can take the people out of economy but you can't take economy out of the people," muttered my 'hot-shot' neighbour under his breath. Moments later, the very friendly and accommodating engineer located my phone, I sat back down and I settled myself for our exciting 11-hour transatlantic flight to Tinsel Town.
The year-round service, which sees four flights per week to LAX, will be operated on the airline's fleet of long-haul Airbus 330 aircraft. It is the first of three new North American routes which Aer Lingus is launching this year. Direct flights from Dublin Airport to Newark (New Jersey) and Hartford (Connecticut) will begin in September.
But for all you first-class newcomers, in order to avoid a similarly mortifying ordeal, I advise you to put smaller belongings in your locker before take-off.
After an incredibly comfortable journey, we finally touched down in LA where passengers were greeted by local television and radio stations - it was like stepping onto a movie set.
As we drove along the highway into Downtown LA, home for the next 48 hours, in the distance, beyond the palm trees, I clapped eyes on the Hollywood sign - the 45-foot-tall landmark of American culture located on Mount Lee. I couldn't wait to get up there.
We stayed at the Los Angeles Athletic Club Hotel, 431, W 7th Street - a historic private club dating back to 1880, featuring a fully equipped basketball court, opulent swimming pool and historic handball courts where many Irish champions and world Olympians once played. Comic actor and film-maker Charlie Chaplin and American motion-picture and television producer Walt Disney were both members.
Downtown LA can best be described as a 'hipster's heaven,' full of edgy, artistic, creative districts. Areas such as Sunset Boulevard, synonymous with epic 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts, the 'shabby chic' Silver Lake district, once home to Walt Disney's first studio, the newly renovated Echo Park Lake, childhood home of Hollywood heavyweight Leonardo DiCaprio and the Dodger Stadium, offer some of the trendiest one-of-a-kind boutiques, quaint coffee houses and best restaurants on the Eastside. The area is essentially a gateway between Downtown and the Santa Monica playgrounds and beach retreats to the west. The 30,000 square-foot Grand Central Market, provides LA with a national calibre eating experience that showcases California's best ingredients, chefs and food entrepreneurs
Shant Apelian, of Discover LA Tourism Board, says "socialising and spending hours chatting with friends in the sun is what the LA living is all about". But remaining active and maintaining a youthful body and image are also part of Hollywood culture.
Believe it or not, the city of LA, with a population of four million people, is truly a hiker's paradise. Visitors are amazed by the natural beauty and breathtaking views of the vast urban sprawl they encounter on daytime adventures high up into the hills of Griffith Park - a place where age is no barrier.
Ascending the hills, on route to the Hollywood sign, I was blown away by the number of men and women in their 70s and 80s flying past our group. Stephen Spano, Griffith Park guide and "adventure god" said: "We have a very active lifestyle, and 80-year-olds are beating my butt up this mountain every day, some even do yoga at the top. I'm sure some of it is vanity but everyone really treasures all the areas of the city that are dedicated to public space."
Visitors will also discover familiar movie spots in Griffith Park. James Dean's Rebel Without a Cause, Back to the Future and Batman were all partly filmed there; but of course, the only place to see all your favourite stars is along the Hollywood walk of fame, with 25,000 stars over 15 blocks. It's a walk to remember.
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) operates a four times weekly year-round service direct from Dublin to Los Angeles. Lead-in fares including taxes and charges start from €479 each-way for travel during July and August.
Full US Customs and Border Protection Pre-clearance processing is completed at Dublin airport in one quick and easy procedure, meaning Aer Lingus guests clear US immigration and customs before departing. Ireland is the only European country to offer these state-of-the-art facilities. This enables a speedy exit on arrival from long haul flights and avoids often lengthy arrivals processing queues.
Discover Los Angeles. For more information, visit the official visitor information website of Los Angeles at discoverLosAngeles.com, join the more than one million people who follow L.A. Tourism’s Facebook page at facebook.com/LosAngelesFan, or follow @discoverLA on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.