Our Family Holiday Vacation in Not-so-Sunny LA and the Rat Palace: a Comedy of Errors

One of our sons lives in Los Angeles, so we decided to gather the extended family there in a rented vacation house for the Christmas holidays. We thought it would be nice, for a change, to have Christmas in a warm and sunny environment. We selected an old-school Hollywood glamour property, said to have previously been used as a gathering place for The Rat Pack. Little did we know, the weather was quite the opposite of sunny, and the house was currently inhabited by the four-legged version of the Rat Pack.

The 10 days we were in L.A., was the coldest and rainiest 10 days they had experienced in quite some time. It rained at least a few hours every single day and absolutely poured most of the day for more than half of the days we were there. The temps were also quite low, with highs in the low 50’s (F).

At first look, the house seemed great. It was big (5 bedrooms, 5 baths), and decorated in a fun, old Hollywood glamour fashion. In addition to a big Master Bedroom Suite, the house had several fireplaces, a bar, a billiards room, a large meeting room, and a giant kitchen. The outdoor space was also lovely, with a hot tub, swimming pool, and putting green.

The house seemed like a dream come true. However, as we settled in, so did the rain, and reality began to emerge and turned the dream into a bit of a comic nightmare. First of all, although the kitchen did, indeed have two refrigerators, only one worked. Although there were four ovens, only one kind of worked. Two ovens didn’t work at all, and the fourth one performed the “self-cleaning” function only — we discovered the latter lovely feature when I tried to bake a pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner.

In one of the bathrooms, the roof conveniently leaked immediately above the toilet, giving a couple of ladies a chilly surprise in the middle of the night. Another bathroom flooded with rainwater. In the third bedroom we quickly discovered why the bed was pulled into the middle of the room; the roof leaked near the wall on two sides. And then there were the visitors — the morning after our first night there, my husband was up early, sitting in the family room. He thought he saw a cat run by, which was strange because we knew of no pets on the premises. A few minutes later, he heard rummaging around in the kitchen and went to investigate. As he entered, a large rat ran into the pantry area.

After calling the owner, who called an exterminator, and after moving all our non-refrigerated groceries into the warm refrigerator, and unpacking and getting set up, we ventured outside for a walk in the rain. Near the house, we discovered a neighborhood that had gone all out in their holiday decorating. Although there is more than one street, and they have different names, they re-name their neighborhood “Candy Cane Lane” for the holidays. Residents. selected a variety of themes, including Pokemon, The Polar Express, Narnia, and Nintendo for their decorations. We were glad to be walking because the streets were clogged with slow-moving cars full of families taking in the lights — it wouldn’t be L.A. without a traffic jam! Even though it was chilly and rainy, we still had a good time stretching our legs and taking in the festivities. We were grateful to find a food truck selling churros and hot chocolate.

In the evening, we decided a fire in the fireplace might be nice, given the cold and damp. Even though the flue was definitely open, when we started the fire, it filled the house with smoke. The fire master, who shall remain unnamed, blamed it on the wet firewood — another “benefit” of the rain.

The next morning, and a few mornings thereafter, we discovered “gifts” in the kitchen. The good news was that the rat population was dwindling. The bad news was that it was very traumatizing before my coffee.

On the positive side, we did really enjoy the hot tub. Even though it was chilly and drizzling, the hot tub was cozy. We also watched some movies, played some video games, and just enjoyed each other’s company. We managed to cook some delicious holiday meals in spite of the grossly deficient appliances and utensils; it challenged the cooks in the group! We also went to Universal Studios and Disneyland (both in the pouring rain), but I will tell you about those trips separately. A day or two after we departed, 3 of our group tested positive for COVID-19; the rest of us escaped. For sure, this is a family Christmas none of us will forget!

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