Lauren at Hollywood sign

Is there a light at the end of this incredibly long Covid-19 tunnel? We really hope so. As we eagerly wait for the green light to travel again, we talk to one person who has already had a taste of that long-awaited first trip.

These last 12 months we’ve really missed having you, our customers, onboard. We’ve missed being part of your travel memories, and we’ve really missed being able to travel ourselves. Like many of our flying team, cabin crew Lauren Silvester has been grounded for a whole year. But that changed earlier this week with her first taste of international travel since this all began. Her first flight back at work after all that time was a short but sweet trip to Los Angeles. We caught up with her to find out how it felt to get back in the sky and what it’s like, right now, on the ground, in the City of Angels.

Lauren Silvester

What was the flight you were on?
It was my first flight back from being on furlough since last year, and I couldn’t be more excited to be back! It was the VS23 from Heathrow to Los Angeles

Why do you love LA?
LA is one of my favourite destinations for so many reasons, a few being you are spoilt for choice! You can spend the day on the beach or up in the Hollywood hills hiking! There is something for everyone! Not to mention the fantastic weather and beautiful sunsets!

Was it a passenger flight or cargo? How many passengers? Who is allowed to fly at the moment?
With the USA and UK still being closed to international travel, only citizens and residents can enter the USA at the moment, so we had a very light passenger load of 35 (plus a full cargo load)! It was great to ease me back in!

How long did you spend in LA?
24 hours and 24 hours only!

How have you kept yourself busy in furlough?

Lauren with her sister Kayla and their Waffle Tram in the Surrey village of Pirbright

Lauren with her sister Kayla and their Waffle Tram in the Surrey village of Pirbright. Find out more on their Instagram page @thetramgram

With me being on furlough and my sister being made redundant from a hospitality background, we came together and started a waffle & coffee tram! It’s a 1920s style vintage passenger tram which my dad converted into ‘The Waffle Station’! We now serve our local village daily with coffee and waffles!

What training do you have to do before you could fly again, and how was that different to previous training?
I did my SEP (safety and emergency procedures) training in February, which was organised so well with all the restrictions around at the time! All the exams were able to be done from home, which took a lot of pressure off, and we had a lovely small group to do the practical side of things at our training centre!

How did you find being out and about in LA?
It felt great being back in LA! It certainly felt like things were slowly returning to normal with people going about their lives in the west coast sunshine!

Where and when did you have to wear a mask, and did it spoil the trip in any way?
There was no difference in LA with wearing a mask. It was the same as being home! So whenever inside a shop or restaurant, your mask had to be on, but not wearing a mask was allowed whenever outside in the fresh air. This didn’t spoil the trip in any way, as I think we are all pretty used to wearing a mask now!

What was open and closed?
All shops and restaurants are open, so it was great to stock up on all the shopping I needed and was a nice treat to be able to enjoy eating inside a restaurant as we aren’t able to do this in the UK yet!

How was eating out?
Eating out felt great! I had certainly missed eating out in LA! It’s one of my favourite places for dinner, with there being so many different cuisines and vibes! Everywhere was busy, and the atmosphere was buzzing and felt alive!

Tell us a secret little place you’ve discovered in your trips there?

Urth Cafe brunch

Brunch LA style from the Urth Cafe

Hiking up to the Hollywood sign

One of the must do items for any visitor to LA is a hike up to the Hollywood sign. But what is it and how do you get there?

Originally built as an estate agent’s sign in 1923, the famous landmarks aim was to draw attention to a new housing development called Hollywoodland; a town built to house the rapidly growing film industry which had moved to LA in 1915 after a Chicago film company relocated to take advantage of LA’s better weather. You’ll pass through the original gate on the walk up to the sign. It was never designed to stay for long, and it wasn’t until much later that it came to symbolise Tinseltown and the movie industry. The sign has run into disrepair several times over the years, before being rejuvenated and restored. The current letters were installed in 1978 and are 14 metres tall.

Hollywood view

Getting to the starting point of the hike takes a bit of planning but you can find out all you need to know at the Hollywood Sign website. A number of tour companies will take you there, but you can also park in the streets below the sign. There are plenty of parking restrictions, however – and you may have to start, as we did, several kilometres from the beginning of the trail. But don’t worry, the walk takes you through beautiful leafy streets where you can admire some outstanding LA houses that wouldn’t be out of place on Grand Designs. It also gives you the opportunity to admire the sign from afar before beginning the climb.

The Hollywood Hills

The Hollywood Hills are home to a number of different hikes: we blogged about some of them here. The hike to the Hollywood sign is quite challenging, but the less fit can always stop before the final steep climb and still get really nice views. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset every day and it’s best to set off early before the sun gets too high. One essential is to stay hydrated. It can get very hot on the walk so make sure you take plenty of water. Plenty of rest stops are available for enjoying the beauty of the canyon and the glorious views across the city. There’s also a fantastic array of animal and plant life to spot on the way with 40 species of mammals, 200 species of birds and 50 species of butterflies calling the park home.

At the end awaits a close-up look at the world famous Hollywood sign. You’ve seen it so many times in magazines and on screens, and here you are standing behind it, looking out over the whole of LA. A truly magical moment and you’ll come away with some great memories and photos, not to mention a better understanding of the geography of LA and the surrounding areas. You’ll definitely have done your steps for the day (we recorded 15,000), earning a proper LA lunch and guilt-free afternoon by the pool in the process.