Los Angeles

The NAMM show is the largest tradeshow for the music industry in the world. More than 1000 companies gather in Anaheim in the middle of january to present their newest developments. Some 50000 visitors come and see what they have to offer in the Anaheim Convention Center, right across Disneyland. The event is usually only for people who are in the music business, but we managed to get in as a group from a Music Technology education program. It's a 7 hour drive from San Francisco to LA (add 3 more hours if you encounter rush hour or a traffic jam somewhere).

With almost 20 people we set out for a short weekend trip to Los Angeles to visit the show. Organizing it was not easy because everyone had different schedules, but eventually all went well. I could stay at the house of the parents of one of my fellow students here, who's an LA native. A good deal, because he also knows the best places to go eat and drink. If anyone ever needs good coffee in Santa Monica, check out Funnel Mill where they freshly grind and brew the coffee of your choice in syphons - a technique that I never saw before, but produces great coffee. Or for a huge choice in local and international beers, Naja's Place on the marina boardwalk of Redondo Beach has a great choice. The last night we ended with delicious sushi at Sushi Mon on 3rd street in downtown LA.

We stayed near Sunset Boulevard in Santa Monica which is quite a distance from Anaheim. Though on the map it seems as just on the other side of the city, the city is actually one huge suburb. Housing, industry and offices are all mixed and there is no urban planning at all, with lots of concrete and not much green. To give an idea of scale, I've made a picture with 2 maps on exactly the same scale (using Mapquest because of their equirectangular map projection that maintains scale). Now imagine the districts of Antwerp, covering the complete province. That's greater LA.

It's immediately clear that taking a bus that stops at every corner is not an option to travel from one end of the city to another, a distance that is considered very normal. Because of the scale, and the fact that people live and work scattered among that area, there is not really a way to set up a public transport system that is cheap and efficient at the same time. Thus, several huge highways intersect the city to handle all the car traffic, which makes for continuous smog and traffic jams. Also, if you want to go out somewhere, you need to have a car. There is not really a city center. If you want a minimum of choice, then you need to be prepared to drive 25 km.

NAMM itself was very much worth the trouble, very noisy and busy, and very tiring. Walking past all companies trying to promote and sell their stuff is pretty interesting, but it's also fun for the celeb spotting - several famous artists also visit the show to look for new toys. When we eventually left Los Angeles, with bags full of promotional material, demo's and other stuff, the weather had turned against us. We left in a huge storm, had some dangerous driving conditions because the highways were flooded at some locations. But once over the hills to the north of LA, the sun kicked in and the view when driving on the hillside was stunning. Later we heard that some parts of Los Angeles had small tornadoes - which are not supposed to appear in California. The weather services blamed it on El NiƱo, and a few days later, back in Palo Alto, we would get our fair share of storms too.

Last but not least: if you ever visit, do yourself a favour and stop at an In'n'Out Burger. Infinitely better than McDonalds, this fastfood chain does not use any frozen products and makes everything fresh. Discovery of the month.