There are a couple of tried-and-tested ways to get under the skin of a place when you have relatively limited time available. Our favoured approach is to do all the stuff we do at home as much as possible: except do it in the unfamiliar/exotic location.
A good starting point is the morning run/jog/walk (albeit without dog). Nothing is more enticing than a morning exercise outing in a new place. It allows for a few extra hours of sightseeing, usually along with glimpses of the locals at play. For example, mass public park exercises in China, gentle strolls around a central reservation in India (avoiding the cow) and tai chi in Paris were all interesting experiences. But oddly in body-conscious Beverly Hills, I hardly saw anyone out jogging. Perhaps they were all working out indoors or in the local country club to avoid messing up the streets.
Establishing a morning espresso regime at a local cafe is also vital. I was extremely happy to be greeted as a regular after just two days at the Caffe del Arte in BH, and it made a delightful (albeit all too short-lived) routine start to the day.
Reading the local rag is also good. Not just The Carmel Pine Cone referred to last week, but also the bigger dailies such as The LA Times provide fascinating insights into American culture. I still haven’t recovered from reading the lengthy mini-biographies of happy couples plus their families in the wedding announcement section of the NY Times. An added incentive to work hard at school if you know your academic results will be announced to the nation alongside your nuptials.
Then there is the assault on the local K Mart. I avoid supermarkets like the plague back home but on holiday they are a source of entertainment and inspiration for the whole family. Luckily we Kempners are are still alive to report in today on our purchase and consumption of raw cookie dough in a bizarre fantastical emulation of American snacking practices.
And last but certainly not least, there’s the visit to a local place of worship. I have to admit that regular weekly attendance at synagogue does not necessarily feature high on the list for all family members, but even the least regular attendee is easily persuadable to try out local services when abroad.
I was particularly keen to experience religion California-style, and liked the irony of seeking spiritual sustenance in this most superficially superficial of environments. A quick Google on Friday morning led us all in the evening to the wonderful Temple Emmanuel just down the road for our first experience of a rock service complete with band, bass guitar and drums included. Prayers projected onto a large screen obviated the need for holding onto prayer books and allowed all to dance, clap, whatever, unimpeded. All us Kempners embraced the ruach with enthusiasm. Yes, all.
It was brilliant. We left spiritually renewed and humming a whole load of new tunes. Thank you to Temple Emmanuel for the warm welcome and for giving us a different perspective on Beverly Hills.
Only four days, but I feel we got something of the spirit of the place.