Happy new year! Now for a tale in three acts…
Act 1: Malibu, California
Randi and I spent Christmas itself with her family, who – despite being newbies to the whole ‘Christmas’ thing – indulged me in all of the traditions I claimed were important. So after watching The Muppet Christmas Carol the night before, Christmas Day was a riot of wrapping paper, lots of chocolate, my family’s annual Christmas quiz via Skype, playing board games (Would I Lie To You was particularly good) and – of course – watching Doctor Who. The walks on the beach, dreidel shaped Hanukkah stockings and latkes were less traditional but also wonderful. (Although you would be surprised at how quickly Cadbury Dairy Milk will melt in the Californian sunshine. Still delicious.)
As you can see, we also did quite a bit of hiking (the perfect prelude to In-N-Out burgers), plus a day trip to Yorba Linda – where Randi grew up – to see her family’s friends, gawp at swimming pools in back gardens (in retrospect, my childhood was terribly impoverished) and, naturally, visit the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Or rather, we tried to, but in a typically tricky Nixonian manoeuvre, most of it was closed for restoration. So instead we saw Nixon’s helicopter, his childhood home and a gift shop where you can buy Ann Romney’s memoir In This Together (“when Mitt and Ann Romney met in their late teens, a great American love story began”).
Act 2: Vegas, Nevada
I thought I would hate Vegas. I don’t enjoy gambling, prostitution isn’t cool, and I have no need for an urgent wedding chapel. But I could hardly pass through Nevada without stopping here, and – if you think of it as a night in an adult Disneyland – it’s actually pretty fun. Randi’s uncle very kindly drove us all the way down the strip so we could see everything, and then we wandered in and out of the most spectacular sights: the fountains outside the Bellagio, the gondola rides through the Venetian, the line to check-in at Planet Hollywood…
We were staying at Planet Hollywood because I still wanted to do something properly Vegasy, and the choice which seemed most appealing was to see Britney Spears in her residency show. And you know what? She was great. She sang and danced and changed outfits a lot and at one point descended from the ceiling dressed as an angel – I mean, quite frankly, if you don’t enjoy Piece of Me then I don’t think there is a Britney Spears concert out there for you. But judging from the two women behind us, she was on safe ground with this crowd. And I’m not excluding myself from Britney-mania: we even tweeted our way to the jumbotron.
(Side-note: it is actually fascinating to contrast the sound of pop music from the early 2000s with today. It was obviously most exciting to hear Oops I Did It Again and Stronger and Lucky – I mean, that last one was a staple of the mix-tape cassette from many a family drive growing up. But now it’s all bass and beats and Work Bitch, which – as it happens – also sounds like the soundtrack to a dystopian Republican fantasy. I’ve grown slightly obsessed with the lyrics ever since. Did you know that Britney places a ‘party in France’ alongside Lamborghinis and mansions as markers of extravagant success? What if you just happen to live there already?)
Act 3: Zion National Park, Utah
Together with Randi’s mum and brother Alex, we pressed on to our final destination for a different kind of spectacle altogether. Zion National Park, in Utah, is really quite stunningly beautiful. The whole thing is a great canyon bordered by huge cliffs of a deep red colour, and any walk or hike will yield amazing views, even if – in December – you occasionally slip on ice along the way. For some Utah history we also visited the famous ghost town of Grafton, which we had all to ourselves when we were there, and was suitably eerie.
After so much adventuring, Randi and I cheated on New Year a little by celebrating our countdown to 2016 in GMT (the London fireworks were lovely!) rather than waiting for midnight to work its way to the Pacific. I think we can be forgiven.
Nigel Christine Hurley, Heather Nichole Fox, Macey Ann, Randi Lawrence, Jane Biddlecombe, Helen Hudspith, Sue Buxton, Stephanie Francesca Pereira liked this post.