(Subtitle: Half of those hours spent in a car!)
The first Puzzoni Flying Vacation is in the books, and we learned a lot from it. Much of what I expected was true with regard to what I would not like about LA, namely the traffic and smog, but I can't deny that the scenery is nice in a lot of places.
Diana's bother Joe went with us, which was absolutely awesome because we very much needed a coach for traveling with baby. Simon's cousins are three months and almost two years older, so Joe is all-pro.
We got off to a rough start. We had to leave a bit before 6 a.m. to get our flight, but since we expected to be in our hotel before noon, we thought there would be plenty of time for rest before the wedding. Simon started to really chill out once the plane got moving. We got a few hundred feet down the runway, when the pilot aborted the take-off. As it turns out, a bad switch that detects the position of the air brake handle thought that the handle was up, and that triggered an alarm. It took the repair folk awhile to fix it, and we had to refuel, so we were delayed a little over an hour. Fortunately, the real flight was smooth, and Simon spent most of it sleeping. He even slept through the decompression and landing (where we bounced).
The delay screwed up all of our timing, however, and instead of going from Burbank to Thousand Oaks, where our hotel was, we had to go directly to LAX to pickup Diana's dad. If we were on time, he would have gone out solo to pick him up. Because LA traffic sucks so much, we didn't get to the hotel until almost 4. At this point, Simon had generally been a real trooper all day, and handled the inconsistent sleep pretty well, but he was flirting with a meltdown. Even though the wedding was the whole point of being there (and so Simon could see more of his grandpa), I made the executive decision to stay at the hotel with him, and Diana went to the wedding with Joe and her dad. I had take-out from the Chili's across the parking lot.
Simon did wind down a bit, but he wasn't really falling asleep in the portable crib, in part because of the TV. I tried to put some blankets around it to so it wasn't a light show, but I eventually just turned it off and tried to occupy my time on the laptop. I watched a movie I had on it too. I was bored out of my mind, but I was really happy to spent a little private time with him. He is pretty much the most adorable thing when he's sleeping. Taking him to the wedding would have been a mistake.
Saturday involved a big party on the beach in Malibu, instead of a traditional reception. Mike and Alejandra (cousin and now-cousin-in-law) I guess staked out a place really early there. This is why we stayed where we did, because of the proximity to the big party. Others got a hotel closer to Pasadena, where the wedding was. What never really occurred to us was to do one night near the church, and one night near Malibu. Sigh. That would have made more sense.
The drive down the PCH was just beautiful, almost in a martian kind of way. These parts of SoCal are so brown, with a strange mix of desert and ocean. I also couldn't help but feel like it was totally familiar, probably because all of LA has been used as locations in eight seasons of 24. (For example, we drove through some oil fields that I'm pretty sure have been on the show more than once.) The ocean on the West Coast is so different from anywhere else, mostly because it's so cold. From LA up to the Oregon coast, it's all so cold! It's not like the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, or, my favorite, Hawaii. It was cool and lovely though there in Malibu. Simon seemed to like the warm sand, and even the cool wet sand didn't bother him. He did shriek a bit when a wave came in though.
Simon was a lot more fussy. He was teaching us the lesson that scheduled things don't mix very well with a baby. We spent almost two hours at the beach with him strapped to my chest, met some interesting people from Alejandra's family, then bailed. Simon got a second wind back at the hotel, so we decided to try out this floaty thing Diana got, and took him to the pool.
Simon's visits to the apartment pool did not go very well. He likes super warm water. He was a little apprehensive about the pool, but with the hot air and warm water, he got used to it pretty quickly. The floaty with a seat in the middle is designed for a 9-month-old, but he's nearly that size. He wasn't sure at first what to do with it all, but eventually we got some smiles out of him.
After pool time, we took a much needed family nap. As evening came, it was clear that we'd have to get take-out again, which was OK. Joe and Dad went out to have dinner with some of the other family members, and we didn't get to see them again in the evening, which was a bummer. I was really hoping Simon could spend more time with him.
The Sunday travel went pretty smoothly, though the TSA folk at the tiny Bob Hope Airport (Burbank) are exceptionally inept. First they ignore me waving at them to indicate the stroller had to be manually inspected. Yes, these are people who are trained to look for disruptions and danger at the security checkpoint, and they can't see me jumping up and down. When this fossil of a woman finally acknowledges me, she says to try putting it through the other X-ray machine. They're the same kinds of machines. Idiot.
For whatever reason, the flight back involved more harsh pressure changes. Simon was already fidgety and unhappy most of the flight, but he was all kinds of uncomfortable for the last half-hour, grabbing his ears as the cabin pressure changed. Poor little guy. I tried to feed him, so he'd at least keep swallowing, but between him having constipation and teething issues, he was just miserable.
The drive home was easy enough, and Simon passed out as soon as we got to the car. Joe has a strong ability to make him laugh, so he had some nice giggles in the airport.
All things considered, it was a pretty successful test in terms of air travel. We traveled reasonably light, I thought (Diana is the packing czar), but see where there are opportunities to go lighter. A smaller and more practical stroller is probably at the top of the list. We also learned that building in time to do nothing has to be found. The schedule in this case was too tight to make everything work. On the next one, we'll have most of the mid-day to be flexible, and tons of help at all times, so I think Simon will be much better off. And for longer trips, like the one we've not yet booked for Orlando, the plans will be almost entirely fluid anyway.
As for LA, truth be told, I didn't like it for the sheer volume of people and cars. I do want to visit Disneyland someday, but I won't go out of my way to spend time in the area. The San Francisco, Las Vegas and Portland areas are higher on the list, as is Hawaii with a number of non-Oahu direct flights from Seattle available.