DTour Part 4: In & Around Hotel Maya in Long Beach
After a jaunt around San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon I flew to Long Beach, which is just south of Los Angeles in southern California. And I arrived after sunset at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Maya to a warm welcome from literally everyone working at the hotel – I felt so well looked after. I love the architecture of the hotel and it’s situated right on the waterfront. I marvelled at the view from my balcony, with lights illuminating the sand and glittering reflections in the water of lights from the small yacht marina. Their outdoor restaurant, Fuego, is illuminated by huge fire pits and I settled in with a decent number of cocktails, calamari and cheese-chicken fondue combination. Delicious.
The next morning I woke up at around 6am (remnants of jet lag from the 8-hour time difference) and strolled over half-asleep to draw back the curtain out of habit to check the weather. (This British habit of mine really isn’t necessary here, as California has around 320 days of sunshine a year – which I just find mind-boggling). I was seriously not prepared for the view before my eyes. Although I presumed the hotel faced west, as it is on the west coast of America, it somehow faces east and I had opportunely drawn the curtains only a few minutes shy of sunrise. And look at it! It was a good sign.
I was offered a couple of different choices for how I’d like to spend the day. I had initially been very keen to go whale-watching, but as I accidentally saw some last week in Cape Town I decided to go for option no.2: a trip into Los Angeles and a tour of the stars’ homes in Hollywood, which I’ve already blogged about here – I was fascinated by that whole world.
Back at Long Beach in the evening, the hotel staff had kindly booked me a table at Sir Winston’s, a very well-to-do restaurant on the historic Queen Mary cruise ship. It was built in the 1930s but it honestly looks identical to the Titanic. To get to the restaurant you have to go through various lobbies and outer decks of the ship, and it felt spookily haunted, as if there were an iceberg ahead which no one yet knew about… although that may just be the darkness playing tricks on me. Either way, it is an absolutely enormous ship and I can’t quite fathom how they managed to build it all those years ago. It now lives permanently in Long Beach and is currently home to the Princess Diana exhibition that’s currently touring various cities.
Dinner was exceptionally tasty, although the idea of travelling half-way around the world to be presented with an English menu and colonial-era cocktails (a Singapore Sling, Top Deck, etc.) did strike me as somewhat ironic. In my mind it would be a perfect meet-the-parents restaurant, not an everyday restaurant, as the service was exceptional but somewhat over-the-top for a normal Thursday evening.
I had been delivered at the Queen Mary by golf buggy but I chose to take the short walk back to the hotel to help digest the very rich meal I had been treated to. Some evenings I’ve dined with other people from the hotels and on other occasions they’v booked me a table for one. It’s an odd sensation, going to a smart restaurant by oneself. The Maître D’ always makes a kind remark about some unlucky man who’s missing out, or about wishing he could join me for dinner himself, which is sweet, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m sitting at a table for one. It’s very odd but has become considerably less uncomfortable as I gain experience in solo-dining. Occupying yourself with your phone screams of “I’ve been stood up” or “I feel lonely”, so that won’t do. The perfect solution for me, I’ve discovered, is to take a paper notebook and write. It’s actually one of the most productive moments of my day, and is sufficiently engrossing that I lose interest in what other people might think of a young girl dining alone in a very smart restaurant.
Luckily I have plenty to write about so am not about to run out of material, and I also have an excuse to write: this blog and other websites that I occasionally write for. Other than dining along, the fact that I’m alone hasn’t really bothered me. Ideally I would have someone here with me, but the DTour prize is for one person only, so here I am travelling alone. And at least I have now experienced it and know first-hand what it’s like to travel alone as a woman. I mentioned in another blog post that the Americans I’ve met have been phenomenally friendly, so I’ve no shortage of people to talk to.
In Long Beach the next morning I managed to fit in a paddle boarding lesson before breakfast and before checking out of the hotel, which was a lovely gentle way to wake up. The water was as still as a pond and the sun was warming up the day as the teacher and I headed out into the deserted bay with absolutely no one to disturb us, aside from one particularly beautiful sea lion who sat proudly and possessively on the end of a pontoon.
So out we paddled (me maintaining my balance the entire time, I’m pleased to say) and it’s a very docile sport, which literally anyone can do as the board is so stable and there’s very little that can go wrong. I deliberately tested how fast I could paddle and built up as much speed as possible, and I was still nowhere near falling in. A good sport to wake you up gently without immediately tiring you out for the rest of the day.
Sadly the time came to leave the gorgeous Hotel Maya and I hadn’t even had time to collapse by the pool or to bury my toes into the sand, but it was a lovely haven, removed from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, without feeling too isolated or sleepy.
And now for something quite opposite: the bright lights and 24/7 noise of Las Vegas!
[I am travelling around North America as a DTourist on behalf of DoubleTree by Hilton. You can find out more about how I won this incredible opportunity here]