AUCKLAND TO LA
Late take off. Some moron has got stuck in the security queues. Obviously not a business class someone. Would I like champagne? Do I look like a moron?
No, I look like someone who doesn't know how to dress for business class. What people wear in business class is tracksuits and horrible pilled jumpers and Crocs. All of which I might wear in the garden but not with with gold jewellery. There is a bit of gold on board. The two women in the plastic clogs are from Los Angeles. One has been visiting New Zealand at least once a year for 30 years. She has a crib near Invercargill, of all places.
There are two enormously long black guys who are part of Jay-Z's entourage. One is wearing a hoodie and matching bottoms in black, hot pink and silver - and lots of gold. He sleeps all the way to LA, hoodie up.
Watch The Devil Wears Prada(not in business class she doesn't) and read a Vanity Fair story about LA. In LA everyone is Size Zero. Getting anxious about this so drink a lot more champagne and eat everything offered.
The beds lie flat and have little reading lights and your own duvet. It is nice, but odd at first, like travelling in a cocoon. Which I soon figure out is the ultimate luxury: Nobody can try to talk to you so you can, if you want to, read or watch movies, or drink (this is not advised) all the way around the world and back again.
What do people do in LA? Eat, as it turns out. Nobody except movie stars is a Size Zero. They are all fat because the food - who would have thought? - in LA is fantastic and even places like the Ivy, where I didn't eat, and Providence, where I ate nine amazing courses, look like nothing much from the outside. The Ivy looks like a hippy shack. This is very LA. It is laidback and casual; a sort of reaction to the madness of celebrity, which is the reason for its existence, perhaps.
I ate lump crab at Lobster overlooking Santa Monica beach after travelling up the Pacific Coast highway to the Getty Villa, the ultimate rich man's folly. Favourite artefact: The Gravestone of Helena, Rome AD150-200. 'To Helena, foster daughter; incomparable and praiseworthy soul.' It is probably the headstone of a dog.
How appropriate that it ended up in LA where dogs are people too. On West 3rd - which feels like Ponsonby before it got stuck up - is Chateau Mar Mutt(e), for dog grooming. At the end of West 3rd is the Farmer's Market where you can buy a pizza better than Frank Sinatra's mama used to make, according to Frank Sinatra, or health food for mutts. This is not as nutty as American Girl Place in The Grove shopping centre at the end of the market where girls stand in line waiting at the Doll Hair Studio. Style of the month is "triple nifty knots' for $20. Here, in PC LA, a wheelchair for a disabled dolly is $30.
Having a coffee (they cannot make coffee even when the beans are organic, carbon neutral, free trade, etc) outside, In The Traffic, I hear a tosser say: "After New York and London I'm so over cigarette smoke.'
At the Sofitel, on the smoking floor (who would have thought you could still smoke in LA?) a sign warns: "This area contains chemicals including tobacco smoke known to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm.' The smoker's floor is the best floor: French doors open on to large balconies. The Hollywood Hills are so close you feel you could touch them.
At the Sofitel is the Stone Rose Lounge which serves meatloaf and mash and where the celebs are kept "behind the red glass bookcase'. Not on the night I ate there. But I did see the Kaballah centre Madonna goes to when she's in town, although presumably she hasn't eaten meatloaf before a visit.
I ate some of the best food I've ever had in LA and on the last day I was taken to Sprinkles which is home to the latest food fad: Cupcakes. Sprinkles is famous because Barbra Streisand sent some to Oprah (isn't it cruel to send cakes to people with weight problems?) and Oprah raved on air.
And so here we are, having the ultimate LA experience: Standing in line because a couple of celebs said something was the next big thing. I had to go to the airport after that so I ate two enormous cupcakes outside on a bench at LAX. They cost US$3.25 ($4.20) each. And, because this is LA, you can get a "doggie cupcake' for US$2.50. They were ... cupcakes.
LA TO HEATHROW
Would I like a glass of champagne to wash those cupcake crumbs from around my mouth? How kind. I seem to have spilt the champagne down the side of my business class bed. "Oh, dear,' said the steward, "I hope it doesn't fuse the electronics.' No one seemed too fussed. That's what I like about Air New Zealand. Pass the time watching inexperienced business class travellers (they'll let anyone on these days) get frights when they lean back and accidentally push the tray table button. I think this is very funny until it happens to me. Maybe somebody fused the electronics.
Heathrow Express to Paddington Station is the best in modern travel: Fast, efficient, feature-less people moving. Then wonderful, bustling Paddington Station. Then the cab to the Langham with the cabby who told me more than anyone could ever want to know about The Knowledge. It is good, if wearying, to get a cliche out of the way early.
Speaking of cliches, London is full of them, in the sense that Shakespeare is too, including the Queen, St Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. Of which more elsewhere.
HEATHROW TO HONG KONG
Very annoying the way they let businessmen in business class. Yap, yap, yap, two of them go, all the way to Hong Kong, all one-up-manship about who's got the biggest deal. Have to drink a lot of champagne to cope.
The Club Lounge at Langham Place, Mongkok, has a wonderful massage chair in the window where you can sit and watch the city below. This must look quite bonkers from behind: It shakes and shudders and you squeal. I was going to go in search of the best egg custard tarts in Hong Kong but I ended up just shaking in the massage chair and stuffing my face with the Langham's excellent ones.
I met a New Zealand woman in the club lounge who claimed that, while attempting to teach Dover Samuels at primary school, she stuck a compass in his bottom. I call that a story worth going around the world to hear.
You need to be feeling robust for Hong Kong; I wasn't. Which, actually, was a rather nice state in which to experience it: sitting back and observing the mad crowd instead of battling the crush. I did the Ladies' Market and haggled half-heartedly for fake Tiffany & Co baubles. I sat in my bath and watched the city, or sat on my cushioned window ledge and watched the city. I got lost in Central in a tropical downpour. I watched a man in a tiny park, surrounded by high, high-rise buildings, sing to caged song birds.
I went to Langham Place, all 15 floors of it and got vertigo contemplating the escalators with their elevation of 83m. You can take a photograph of your family to a shop in the mall and they will immortalise you and yours as plastic cartoon characters. Delivery in a week.
For amazing contemporary Chinese art, take the Mid-Levels Escalator, a half-mile of moving stairways, and hop off at Hollywood Rd.
HONG KONG TO AUCKLAND
You know you're on your way home on the national carrier when the darling steward doesn't ask, he just proffers the glass and says: "There ya go. A glass of shampoo for ya.'