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Home sweet home
Celebrity, Expat tales, My LA story, Posts

Home sweet home. Or is it?

I’m back from my amazing Aussie holiday that went by so (too) quickly.

I had so many ideas for my first Blog post back and like I often do have written some great lines in my head.

But alas now that I sit down to write all I can think of is how amazing our holiday was and how Australian life suits us so well.  Not so long ago I would have used the phrase, “… how we love Australian life so much better.”

Is Australia better?

And I probably would have gone into a spiel to say how weird America is.  (Shoot me down now American friends).  But I’ve grown up now and I can use mature, experienced Expat words—I call that experience rather than being politically correct because let’s face it that’s exactly what it sounds like I’m being (politically correct).  (Oh, and I don’t really think Americans … ahem America … are/is weird!).

It was interesting going back and even more interesting that we all just stepped back into our lives like we had never left.  My daughter spent the day at school–including an early start for tennis training at 7am and my son competed in a swim meet for his old school.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

While we were in Australia we caught up with a teacher from the kids’ school who has recently moved from LA to Sydney.  She’s a good 10 months behind me in time so she’s in the hard stages of change.  I’m sure a good portion of the time we’d rather be in each other’s shoes.  It got me thinking of the concept of home:

  1. You love home and never really looked to move anywhere else no matter how divine your new destination is.
  2. Because you love home all the familiar sights, sounds and smells of home play a big part in making you who you are. Everything else—especially when it’s actually so different but there’s absolutely no reason it should be (like Australian and the US)—is “weird”.

Weird is a matter of perspective

It’s not about which city is better or that the new city you’re in is “weird” it’s just that home is home.  And your newly adopted city isn’t (quite yet).  And, by the way, neither of us should get defensive when we say weird because it’s weird as in different-to-us-and-I-don’t-get-it not weird as in you’re-a-freak weird.  There’s a difference.

I have many friends that live in Australia that wouldn’t move out of their suburb let alone move overseas.  I also have many friends that have spent—and enjoyed—their time overseas they almost think Australia is too small for them.  I fall into neither of those categories.

You know before I left for this holiday I was talking about settling down here and how good it would be to buy a house.  I thought it would settle us.  Now I’m not so sure.

The day after we arrived I went to the supermarket for milk, bread, fruit & vegetables.  I remember when we lived in Shanghai and I’d go to the supermarket after a holiday it would drive me mental.  With a capital M.  It was difficult to navigate around and everything is in Chinese so it would remind me how hard something so easy could be.  Then I’d get accosted in the supermarket isles by sales agents wanting to direct me to their washing powder or their mop that I’d run for cover, race home and text my friends to say wine o’clock is starting early today.

carrefour

The newspaper and magazine section of my local Carrefour, Shanghai, China, 2009

 

Thankfully grocery shopping isn’t that hard in America.  I was safely minding my own business when I got to the checkout and started unpacking my shopping trolley.  A lady came behind me and blurts out, “Is there another aisle open?”  I looked at her.  She says, almost to herself, “Well you have to ask”.  I looked at her again, careful not to stare and show exactly what I was thinking.

I bit my tongue.  There are very few people that would say that in Australia—and the queues are often much longer.  I felt like saying to her, “chill love, by the time you’ve unloaded your trolley they’ll be ready to check you out.”  Honestly, seriously, by the time someone opens another checkout, they log in and she moves she’d be better off staying where she is.  But she doesn’t want—like—to wait.  I find that weird.  Someone who’s moved to Australia from the US might find it weird that we wait.  In silence.

I get that the service is better in the US.  I love that the service is better in the US.  When we checked through Coles Burwood last week in Australia (stocking up on our Aussie treats) my husband and I looked at each other and said, “It’s not quite Ralph’s service with a smile and a chat is it?”  But seriously … still weird.  Chillax chick.

 

Top five questions I was asked when we were home

Not that I’m one to dwell but was good to get a home fix.  Especially when we were so acclimated that we were on such a high point here in LA we didn’t really need to go back to Australia for a visit. So aside from my close friends and the “how are you going?” question there are lot of different things people wanted to know about life in LA.  Here are my favourite questions (and answers).

1.Who has been the best celebrity you’ve seen and what were they doing?

I initially answered with JLo but my friend wasn’t interested in her.  Bette Midler? Joan Collins?  Yes, much better responses.  I saw Bette at my favourite West Hollywood restaurant and Joan Collins having lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel by the way.  Joan Collins is forever classy.  (Still think my favourite spot to date is the very yummy Joshua Jackson aka Pacey from Dawson’s Creek).

2. Have you seen any celebrities? Do you go to school with any celebrities?  What are they like?

Ummm, yes.  Lots.  It helps that (yes) there are plenty at school but they’re just normal people doing normal things like attending school functions and back-to-school nights.  Except the Kardashians but I haven’t seen them around (even though Kim & Kanye used to live just up the road from us).

3. What are the people like?

It’s pretty much the same as being at home: there are people you like and people not so much.  Like at home there are people who are extremely egocentric and others who are very kind and considerate.

There is a paranoia that exists here more than at home and I have to say that I feel like we should be more paranoid at home and the Americans (especially around here) less so.

Then: have they all had lots of work done?

We noticed it when we first arrived then we just got used to it.  Then we noticed it more when we got back to Australia (the lack of work) and again since we’ve come home.  Funny.  So … yes.

4. How long do we need in Disneyland?

As little as you can.  Seriously.  The happiest place on earth is wonderful … until it all starts to go pear shaped and then you need to exit stage left IMMEDIATELY.  The problem is it’s very hard to judge when the right time is to leave so be prepared for pear-shaped.

5. Are you ever coming home?

Good question.

Three funny things I noticed being back in Australia

It’s interesting being away for some 15 months then coming back again.  It’s more interesting the things you notice that you didn’t before.

1. We talk funny.

At least we use very different phrasing (non Australians might in fact say “weird”).  We were on the Virgin Australia flight up to Hamilton Island and the hostie was taking drinks orders.  “Too easy” was her response.  I laughed out loud.  I hadn’t heard that in a long time.  What does that even mean to an outsider?  Only in Australia.

2. We don’t stop drinking.

That’s right, hard to believe?  The day we arrived we got to my girlfriend’s house where we were staying and settled in with a few bottles of wine.  We had friends stop in and go and stop in and go; it was so lovely and informal.  By about 6:00 in the early evening we were still going and no one even considered we’d be stopping.  Ah love an Australian drinking afternoon.  So informal and I didn’t even have to stop.  How good is it to be home?

3. We walk everywhere.

It was our last day and I had a couple of jobs to do: drop some stuff off to an artist friend, deposit some cheques and a last-minute dash to the supermarket.  What struck me when we were driving around was the number of people walking everywhere.  Not parking and walking but actually walking; like from point A to point B.  (I know LA readers, I know; breathe).

Admittedly I live in the inner suburbs of Sydney and that essentially means our houses are in walking distance of the nearest pub/bank/post office/coffee shop and other conveniences that it’s really easy to walk.

My kids went to the corner shop more times than we could count just because they could–one there actually is a corner shop and two because they had the freedom to go that they’d missed so much here in LA.  They even cycled to get their fish & chips for dinner.  Love, love, love the freedom and independence Australia allows them.

Walking is a sport here in LA not a pastime so there are barely any footpaths let alone people walking.  It’s funny what you notice when you’ve been away.

It is good to be home

Alas I’m home.  I’m re-adjusting to LA life and I do love it here.  I went to the doctor this morning to follow up on my yearly checkup.  Sit down Australians he actually took my pulse and listened to me take deep breaths.  He actually spent some time with me and cared to follow up my results.

I said that I could neither think Australia is too small for me or could see myself living anywhere but Australia.  I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given first as an “Expat brat” living in the Philippines and now as a “trailing spouse” (revolting term but can’t be bothered coming up with something sexy at the moment) in Shanghai and LA.

The first-world problem that arises out of the scenario from my perspective though is that I will always want the best of all worlds.  Sadly there’s no such thing as a perfect world so I’ll just have to pull my head in and be thankful I’m getting the chance to experience life from many different angles.

Enjoy your weekends,

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  Happy birthday to my gorgeous friend Kristen Long who was the reason for our return trip and thanks to all our friends (old & new) for making our trip ah-may-zing!

My reality
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

JLo, David Duchovny & Forrest Gump

I’ve been neglectful again because I had friends in town last week then a busy weekend catching up.  But showing friends around LA is the very reason this Blog started–to share my surreal life–so I can’t abandon ship on that.

It was a full-on “Only-in-LA” week so I thought I should share it with you.

It started on Saturday when friends landed in LA.  We went out to catch some lunch at Urth Caffe on Melrose and do a bit of people watching.  It never disappoints and it’s always busy.

One of my favourite phrases when I’m out is “Oh,” said with great drama and excitement, “he (or she) is someone.”  It’s true many people have that look about them.  And I probably “see” lots of people out but just don’t recognise them.  But as useless as I am at identifying people, the paparazzi never fail to impress me.  One of my favourite things I look out for–maybe more than celebrities–is the paparazzi trying to snap that pic that might pull them in a small fortune.

Hiding behind the bushes was a pap doing his best to stay in cognito whilst trying to pap a pic.  I looked and looked but couldn’t see who he had his eye on.  Wonder if he got the pic he needed.  Welcome to LA Andrew & Chris!

The next night we had dinner planned at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants.  With one pap out the front I felt like I’d let the side down; this would be a quiet night.  We sat down at our table straight away (unheard of) and it was really quiet at the bar.  Given the request was a bit of “Celeb Spotting” I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t delivered–or didn’t look like delivering.

“Oh, it’s such a shame,” I started saying.  “A couple of weeks ago Chris Noth–Mr Big–was here.”

“Oh, love him,” said my friend.

“I know, me too.  I’d love to see him.” No sooner had I said it but there at the bar was the man himself.  “Mr Big” sitting at one of the bar tables.  Sigh.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” I said, “it’s him.”

How cool we all thought immediately giving him the once over like he was there for the sole purpose of giving us someone to dissect.

“He looks good.”

“He needs a shave.”

“He’s grayer than I imagined.”

“He’s still hot.”

Just getting into the running commentary and he was saved only by JLo walking in.  Yes.  JLo.

“Don’t look now guys but JLo has just walked in.”

“That’s not JLo,” says MR H.

“Is it Beyonce?” asks our mate.

“Oh no, you’re right,” I say, “It’s not JLo.  Bummer.”

Until common sense prevailed and my girlfriend announces, “Of course it’s JLo.  Who else looks that flawless and perfect?

“We’re not in Glen Iris (Melbourne) or Lilyfield (Sydney), we’re in West Hollywood and you’ve seen her here before so you know she comes here!  How can it be anyone BUT JLo?”

Well yes, now that you put it like that.  Good point.

As she’s escorted to her table it becomes clear that she’s going to be seated in the booth DIRECTLY OPPOSITE US.  We only had one way to look and that was straight at her.  Poor us.  Our poor boys.  There goes any decent conversation for the rest of the night.  (Actually, you’re right.  Poor boys nothing).

And yes, there were a few more paps waiting outside when we left.  I wonder who tips them off.

Cut forward a couple of days and we managed to arrange to get out to Paramount to have a quick look at the sound studios at Mr H’s work.  Even if we don’t get to see anything I at least know my way around the lot and can conduct a mini tour of my own.

Well there we are in the “ADR” room (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) and I look up at the talent who’s on a break and recording some lines.  I look again.  And again.  And again because I can’t quite work it out.  It looks like David Duchovny.  With make up on.  I look again.  He catches me (again) but I don’t care because it’s not him but I need to know WHO it is.

Meanwhile right next to me I’m completely oblivious to my friends–one apparently having heart palpitations, the other apparently trying to get my attention so we can make eye contact and telepathically give each other the thumbs up.  We’re.  Standing.  In.  The.  Same.  Room.  As.  David.  Duchovny.

Nope.  I’m too busy checking out the David Duchovny look-a-like, looking at him up and down and trying to work out who he is and how remarkably he has some of his mannerisms as David Duchovny.

Again, we’re in Hollywood, David Duchovny has started shooting a new series Aquarius on the Paramount lot (that one of my friends is producing) and he has make-up on but it doesn’t occur to me that that guy IS David Duchovny.  I don’t deserve to live in LA.

Later as we’re driving a cart around the lot who should follow us but the man himself.  My friends were sitting at the back of the cart (looking out) and had no choice but to look straight at him.  Lucky them.  I wonder what he was thinking: “who are these people I keep bumping into”.  Or of course there’s always the fact he didn’t notice us at all.  Nah … not possible.

Welcome to LA Andy & Jess.

Forrest bench

Forrest Gump’s bench now sits at the Paramount lot | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

Shanghighs and Shanghlows

I could end the story there.  But I won’t.  I’ve joined in an Instagram project called #myreality where we’re posting a pic a day on various topics.  It’s been fun to be part of and gets me thinking about what pics I can post and also what pics I’ve already taken that I can share.  (You can see my pics on my Facebook page in an album I’ve created of the same name).  And if you’re not already following me on Instagram I’m @itstartedinla.

So it got me thinking I must be giving the wrong impression about #myreality.  Yes of course I see amazing things (straight from movie sets) daily and get to do lots of fun things I never dreamt of only 15 months ago.  But.  And there is a but.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about FOMO.  As settled as I am here in LA, I’m unsettled.  I like our house but it’s only supposed to be temporary.  I hate renting, I want to buy a nice house (not unlike the one I plan to build some day–one day–at home).

The kids and I have been chatting and if life is meant to be here for us for a while then we’re ready for it.  We’re prepared to embrace it and stay.  But Mr H doesn’t feel the same way.  I’m pretty sure he’s in denial.  He’s job is here, he’s happy here but he doesn’t want that lightbulb moment where he thinks he can lay down some roots here and settle for a while.

And so, life as an expat is about the highs and the lows.  There was a saying in Shanghai and it was exactly that: the Shanghighs and the Shanglows.  Some choose to dwell on the lows, we try to focus on the highs.  And I don’t really expect much (any) sympathy from you.  But when you read this in your house that you call your home think of me living in a sort of limbo land and count your lucky stars because with your life comes family, friends and security.

Fall

Not falling but “Fall”.  Because we always end on a positive note it’s starting to feel more like Fall here now: it’s getting a little cooler and the Halloween decorations are out.  Also, the air freshners and candles are scented for the “holidays” in a glorious combination of cinnamon, cloves and “apple pie”.  It reminds me of this time last year when we were newbies and were trying to navigate around town.  That smell reminds me of home and security and family. So I think we’re lucky the kids and I can picture ourselves staying here another few years and we can gently let go of the “smells of home” that lure us back.  I think we’ve come a long way.  As unsettling as that is it is somehow very settling.

And of course the start of Fall means Halloween, people have their decorations out and the “spirit” is out there.  It’s a fun time of the year.

Halloween

With Fall comes Halloween | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

 

Happy Fall–or in many of your cases happy Spring!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Teen Choice 2014
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

Teen Choice Awards 2014

One minute you’re organising a long weekend with your friends in Sydney the next minute you’re sitting in Row 13 at The Teen Choice Awards 2014.  In LA.  And not long after that you’re at the Post Party mixing it with the new breed of celebrity: the blogger or the YouTube video blogger.

I never got around to sharing our experience at the Teen Choice Awards last month so I thought I’d do a #tbt or #fbf depending on what timezone you’re in.

If you’ve been playing along at home (and you’re getting as acclimated as I am) then we all need to take stock and reflect on how crazy this is.  And it is crazy.

Seriously?  How did this get to be me?  And my kids?  What a spinout of epic proportions.  Yes indeed but it’s our spin out and I’m sharing it with you.

What are the Teen Choice Awards?

If you’ve had your head in the sand (or you have no teenage/tweens) it would be fair enough if you didn’t know what they are.  They are only one of the most popular award shows aimed at the very influential and lucrative teen market.

It would also be fair to say that I hardly recognised any of the names my kids and friend were “dying to see”.  One of the things that struck me most was the advent of the Internet celebrity.  Oh there’s hope for yours truly yet.

What to wear what to wear?

Before we went anywhere we had to sort out dress: what do you wear to the Teen Choice Awards?

Choosing a dress was made much easier because there’s a theme–beach wear.  Too easy.  I wore a Trina Turk dress (cover-up) and instead of thongs (yes flip flops–what a stupid name flip flops!) I donned my Jeffrey Campbell  boots (it was an awards show after all).

Did I just say the theme was summer beach wear?  It was hard to work that out once you got there.  While I expected to see girls using the beachwear theme as an excuse to expose themselves in skimpy bikinis but the contrary was true.  In fact, it looked more like a ball or a school dance then beachwear.

In place of thongs were stiletto heels and in place of shorts or cover-ups were dresses.  I have to say that if some of the girls wore their bikini they’d probably have been better off.

This is where I start to sound a little old but how do girls think it’s OK to wear dresses (or skirts) so short that you see their undies?  Or gaping tops showing that much cleavage that even the girls themselves are paranoid and self-conscious about how much they’re showing they feel the need to hold their hand to cover the cleavage they chose to show?  Oh, and where oh where are the mothers I ask you that let them go out looking like that?

Is it me? Am I just getting old?   Taste girls taste.

How do you get in to one of these events?

The traffic as we got near the venue was pretty chock-a-block.  Ah LA.  We got a bit of a bum steer with the signage pointing us to parking stations but thankfully we had semi-designated parking which we managed to get into (the first traffic person wouldn’t let us in).

Next the hard part–there are people going everywhere and security checks to clear.  We looked for different lines for different sections but found that no, we had to wait in the one long line like everyone else.  It was so hot and while the queues were moving it couldn’t move fast enough for us.

One woman marched ahead confidently announcing, “Excuse me, excuse me–we’re at the front, our tickets are in the front.”

Ummm … yes.  So are ours.  Can’t see a VIP entrance love.  (God knows we tried).   People are funny, especially in LA when you get a live one who thinks the world really does revolve around them.

 

We’re in we’re seated and the suspense is killing us

As most of my life here in 90210 it was a surreal experience being right in amongst it.  We were seated right behind Miss Abby Lee and the Dance Moms team (no tension there might I add), some “heros” of the kids–mostly YouTubers I had never heard of and familiar faces like Ariana Grande and the spunky stars from A Fault in our Stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.

Teen Choice 2014

Yes that’s me, I’m taking my kids to the Teen Choice Awards | It Started in LA

 

So you can imagine the kids and how over the moon they were.  It was worth it just to see the beaming smiles on their faces and the iPhones working overtime catching pic after pic to record the event.

We had to record some clapping and cheering before the show started and we were asked to jump up and dance when the live acts were performing.  And before we knew it the final awards were being announced and it was all over.

Lucky for us our tickets included tickets to the after party and we made a beeline for the door and first on the red carpet to see the stars do their bit before they disappeared.  The kids weren’t disappointed.  We walked through with Luke from Modern Family and when we got in the kids’ favourite YouTuber Bethany Moda was sitting there so the kids got to talk to her before the crowds got there.

We also found ourselves a table and so many giveaways so I had a base to sit while the kids went star stalking.  Lucky for me I bumped into a friend or we would’ve been sitting there quite bored and looking very conspicuous.

The food was laid on, activities, dancing. lollies, a photo booth and wine for the grown ups.  It was such an impressive party and so much fun.  Here’s me with Abby Lee as she had just been to Australia and was so excited about it she had to share it with me.  (OK not the best photo of me but I had to share it with you).

Me & Abby Lee

Abby Lee was so excited I was Australian she stopped to tell me she’d just come back from there | It Started in LA

Thanks for reliving the event with me.  So LA!

xx It Started in LA xx

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Svend Slipper
Celebrity, Fact or Fiction, My LA story, Posts

Fact or Fiction: Svend Sipper

I’m retiring my Fact or Fiction section, not because it’s not full of interesting material but because hardly anyone is voting.  Buzzfeed this aint!

So, here is the answer to the last Fact or Fiction post.

The Svend Sipper is named after its long-serving Pool Manager.

The answer is Fact.

Svend is somewhat of an institution at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

“Svend Petersen, the Danish-American pool manager at the hotel for forty-two years, became a Hotel Ambassador in 2002.  He had notably opened up the pool after hours for The Beatles and taught Faye Dunaway to swim a freestyle crawl for Mommie Dearest.  He was also known for warning Southern California newcomers in drastic and memorable language about the scorching sun.”

As my treat to you you can create one of my favourite drinks at home as I have the recipe.  Thanks so much Beverly Hills Hotel for sharing!

Svend’s Sipper

2 oz Ultimat Vodka
10 halfmoon cucumbers
2 oz coconut water
1 oz simple syrup
Top with club soda

You’re welcome.  Cheers!

xx It Started in LA xx

Celebrity, Posts

Summer Holidays, Camp and the annual health check

Our first American summer is here and it is whizzing past right before our eyes.    The thought of 11/12 weeks off in the middle of the year can be daunting but given we arrived here in August and only had a couple of weeks before the kids had to start a new school we were ready for it.  Plus, we had friends & family lined up to stay so we knew it would be a busy summer.  But, some seven weeks in–half-way through–it’s becoming ridiculous and needs to slow down before we blink and miss it.

What happened to being bored and having “nothing to do”?  What happened to catching up on my Blog and getting time to enhance it and work on new and fun things?  What happened to regretting not taking advantage of the one trillion camps there are on offer?

This one time at Band Camp

When we first arrived and the kids started at their new school there was a lot of talk about Camp and a lot of emphasis on “sleep-away” Camp.  It was my daughter’s dream to go to Camp.  (Didn’t we all dream of going away to camp as we grew up watching American movies when all the kids got to go to Camp? OK I did).

band camp

This one time … at Band Camp | Summer Holidays | It Started in LA | www.itstartedinla

 

As the year went on it became clearer that we’d have friends come to visit so going off to Camp wouldn’t be a thing in the kids immediate future.  Neither were really perturbed and given we haven’t grown up with a Camp culture–to us summer holidays are all about the beach and going away as a family–we weren’t either.

But in hindsight I feel like I’ve let the team down.  Not my team but this Blog.  I mean who comes to live in LA with two camp-aged kids and doesn’t research them, how much they are, who goes, for how long and what really goes on (are they really like the movies?).

So I had a little look on the website at one camp my daughter wanted to go on.  Ironically for a cool $8,550 each I could send both my kids back to Australia and New Zealand (not the Camp the kids wanted to go on) to do all the things we do during our summer holidays while I stay here and … well I’m not sure what I’d do … refurb my Blog?

Sounds great if both parents work but I don’t really need to take advantage of Camp. Ironically, when you look at the promotional video it shows Sydney and Manly at their spectacular best and doesn’t necessarily show that it’s winter there.  And, I know as well as you do (my Aussie readers) that it’s been a cold and miserable winter.  Imagine surf lessons on Manly Beach when it’s blowing a gale and bucketing down?

Having said that the girls (and boys) that go away to traditional sleepaway camp here in the US love it.  And if I’d bothered to research it earlier then I would see that they have a special wakeboarding program that my son would love as he misses it so much.  Maybe next year …?

Seeing LA from my friends’ eyes

We had “mom & friends” camp (ie staying home) with one of my closest friends here at the start of summer.  They were in the US for five weeks and did the most amazing things.  To say it was a trip of a lifetime was an understatement.

Apart from having them around to see what life is like for us (and share our experiences first hand) for an extended period it was great to see LA and the US from their perspective.

So, here are five things I noticed they noticed about being in the US.

  1. The service is so good it’s going to be hard to go back to apathy.
  2. Everyone is just so nice and friendly (and noticeably so) and it’s actually really nice and not sickly terrible.  (But tipping–and thinking about it–sucks)
  3. There is so much to do and see here you need more than a couple of years to get through your bucket list (which, keeps on growing–that’s my addition). And, there is so much to do that no wonder many Americans don’t feel the need to discover what the rest of the world has to offer.
  4. Hollywood and Beverly Hills are like one big movie set.  Not as in everything looks so familiar (even though it does) but that it seems bigger and more schmick than it is in real life.  The Hollywood Walk of Fame for example the stars seem so much more shiny and new not that there are people everywhere with not much room between each star and someone’s spilt ice-cream on Michael Jackson.  Oh, and that Rodeo Drive isn’t actually that long.
    (Celebs don’t really shop on Rodeo Drive that much unless they’re looking for publicity which is exactly what we caught when we were there–a guy from the Hunger Games walking up and down with an unknown hat-wearing girl as paps and adoring fans chased him.)

    Celeb spotting

    Doing a little celeb spotting: Luka from the Hunger Games (so they say)

  5. That we’re very lucky with the quality of food in Australia. My friend couldn’t get over the fact that a wedge salad was served in some of the best restaurants in the US and it’s essentially a wedge of iceberg lettuce!  It’s true and if you’re lucky it’s served with a fancy ranch dressing.

And, by way of a PS you can dine at my favourite West Hollywood restaurant and see paps and big-time celebs: Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock AND Keanu Reeves in fact.  And, there may or may not have been an exchange between my girlfriend & Keanu at the bar that didn’t include her introducing us.  Sigh).

Keanu's Star

I finally get introduced to Keanu–but I have to make do with his Star

 

Like me they imagined their overseas “trip-of-a-lifetime-holiday” to be exploring Europe but we put a spanner in those works.  If ever I had a choice I’d choose Europe over America because I thought it had more to offer.  While I still love Europe I have (and they do) a great appreciation for all the US has to offer.

The Annual Health Check

With summer comes the annual health check in preparation for the kids starting the new school year.  Each year the kids start a new school year we’re required to take them to the pediatrician (kids here go to a pede Dr not a GP) and get the royal once-over.  For our school this check-up must be between April and August so if you’ve been getting a check-up on their birthday which falls in March then you have go back and go through the whole process all over again.

The kids could not see the point in this check up at all–especially that it was interrupting their precious holiday time .  I haven’t got the bill yet (I’m wondering if I should be scared) but I think the concept of the health check is a good thing.

They take the kids’ height and weight, assess their hearing and eye sight, check on their immunisations, do a glucose and cholesterol test, take their blood pressure and have a good look at their file to see how they’re tracking (and have been tracking) throughout their little lives.  (Actually maybe I need to be very scared about that bill!)

Actually it’s more than civilised here–a medical assistant or nurse takes your vitals, runs many of the tests, does the admin to double-check vaccinations then the doctor steps in and reviews everything, gives them a physical check-up and lets you know how they’re “performing”.

I think we need more of that in Australia.  It seems to me to be a great preventative approach to keeping track of the kids’ wellness.  For some reason our school has a strict policy on doing these tests (others not so apparently) but for whatever reason my kids are being kept track of while we’re here in the US.

Usual programming will re-commence in ratings season

Given we’re out of ratings season here in the US and all the new shows and highly anticipated next seasons are starting back in September I’ve been a bit quiet too.  I promise to post more regularly once school is back.

In the meantime I’m researching holiday ideas and destinations for you so check in on those.  Coming up I’ll post on Yosemite, continue my review on Beverly Hills Hotels, extend the review area and talk about Disneyland, Universal Studios and shopping in LA.

Disneyland

After putting off a trip to Disneyland for ten months we took the plunge–and we even enjoyed it

Enjoy your summer but if you’re not on holidays know that you’ll be on holidays very soon.  Be sure to keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram as I still manage to post there regularly.

xx It Started in LA xx

Must-do things in LA
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts, Visiting LA

Ten must-do things in LA

It’s been another action-packed week.  On the weekend we dined at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants and who would walk in but Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock.  I was beside myself but also reasonably cool (remember I’m pretty much acclimated now).  But when I glanced over at their table another mate of theirs had joined–none other than Keanu Reeves.  Please.  Are you kidding me? Wow.  No wonder I love hanging out there.

But then that high was marred by an incident yesterday where a man had led police on a massive freeway chase and ended up dumping his car in the middle of North Hollywood resulting in a standoff.  There were SWAT teams, news crews and …. a number of nearby SCHOOLS  in lockdown.  Holy crap.  Several news outlets showed kids from one school in locked arms evacuating their to safety.

That school was the other school that my kids got accepted into.  That could’ve been my kids in lockdown yesterday and on the news evacuating their class instead of elatedly jumping out of there because they’d finished another “final” (exam).  I’m not sure I or Mr H could’ve handled that.

Thankfully we didn’t have to, the kids are (I believe) all OK and today is another day.  Just quietly there’s another bloody shooting in a US High School.  I know that as outsiders to the US living in California (where we aren’t allowed to carry concealed weapons) I’m not brought up to understand why guns continue to be a huge part of life here but really .. seriously?  It’s called change peoples.  And change is good.  It’s not always bad and scary.

Right … now on a brighter note.  And now that I’ve given you a frightening picture of the US I’m here to tell you it’s also a great place.  So, we’ve got our summer on and we’re raring to go.

LA is usually the first point of entry for tourists.  So, here’s my 10 must-do things while you’re in LA.

10 must-do things in LA

1.    Go shopping

Unless you’re from the US this may not apply to you.  OK, it probably will.  LA has some good shopping.

But, if you’re from Australia (or anywhere outside the US) you’re definitely going to want to take advantage of the cheaper prices for shoes (thinking Vans, Nikes and Converse) and clothes and hit the streets (or malls).  Lucky I’ve written the ultimate guide to shopping in LA.

It will also pay you to understand the different sales tax rates around the country because it will affect the final price of your goods (who wants to pay more sales tax than they should?).  Click here for the lowdown.  I have to warn you it’s already out of date but it gives you a reasonable guide.  Click here to check out current sales tax rates to find the current rates.

2.   Pap a pap

They’re not everywhere like I thought they might be.  They can actually be very discreet.  But they are around.  Look around you–not for celebrities but for the paps who make their living out of following them.  (Hint: don’t go looking for guys with lots of cameras with long lenses hanging off them & they’re not often in a pack like this).

Paps

I’ll give you the tip: they’re not here for me

3.  One night, two days just do it

Take it down a gear and splurge on a couple of days at one of Beverly Hill’s top hotels.  Lucky for you I’ve done a review of many of the top ones for your consideration.  You’re in LA, you want to lap up all LA has to offer: style, casual swag and of course hanging and being seen.

Given the Beverly Hills Hotel is currently being boycotted I’d try the Beverly Hilton or the Four Seasons Beverly Hills.  But hang around long enough to schmooze by the pool, that’s where the action is.

Poolside

Feels more like a cosy 1950s motel than a big hotel … and that’s the way I like it

4.   Eat at our fabulous restaurants

Stay away from tourist trail and hit some decent restaurants.  LA has some great places to eat and if you insist you can stay in the tourist areas–and even eat with the kids.  But please, please, please the US has a bad enough rap without you adding to it, the food doesn’t have to be bad.  Not if you don’t let it.

Here’s  a link to my pinterest page highlighting great LA Dining.  But don’t forget to book ahead of time–they book out pretty early.  Oh, and in general they eat early here–as early as 5:00/5:30 so beware.

5.   Take in the atmosphere at the Greek Theatre &/or Hollywood Bowl

Get yourselves organised and pre-book a concert at either the Greek Theatre or the Hollywood Bowl.  Both venues are an LA institution.  (See my post on the Hollywood Bowl).

 6.   Have brunch at the Getty Centre

Visit, eat, hang around.  It’s not only worth a visit but it’s also worth hanging around.  What a fabulous place to have brunch or for something different book a picnic hamper and picnic on the grounds. Sometimes they have free concerts on the grounds.  Check out the website to see what’s going on when you’re here.

7.   Go to see the Basketball/Baseball/Ice Hockey

It’s a great experience watching live sport in LA (especially if you’re from overseas).  LA loves its Kings, find out why.  If you’re a little late booking through official channels Stub Hub is a great place to go.

 8.   Take in Griffith Observatory (inside & out)

It sits majestically on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood overlooking LA just above the fabulously exclusive Los Feliz.

Donated by some rich guy (bequest in the 1919 will of Griffith J. Griffith) he also donated the land for Griffith Park (in 1896).  I read somewhere that it’s the largest public space in all of LA so for God’s sake, honour his wishes.

Don’t just look up from those dreadful stars (sorry) and wonder what it is, go up and check it out. You can hike, picnic and see the stars (the real ones; up in the sky). Whatever you choose to do, pay it a visit.

9.   Take in a Vintage Market (or two)

Have you forgotten you’re in Vintage land?  It’s pretty hard to forget.  There are heaps of markets, stores and areas where Vintage is King.  Here’s a pretty comprehensive look at some choices. Probably the easiest to get to is Melrose Trading Post in Fairfax High on a Sunday but if you’ve got a car I’d definitely venture out.  Oh, and La Brea is definitely well worth the look.  While you’re there check out one of my favourite places Nick Metropolis Collectible Furniture. You’re welcome.

Looksy Bus

Looksy Bus at the Melrose Trading Post, Fairfax High, LA

10.  Take a sidetrip to Palm Springs

Yes, you read right.  Palm Springs is where all Hollywood’s elite used to go to get away from it all.  An easy two-hour drive from LA Palm Springs is mid-century modern personified.  I get so excited just thinking about it.

The best way to describe Palm Springs is the perfect coffee table book picking out the best of the best.  Yes, it’s ALL good.  It’s like everyone in town got the memo, they pull off the Palm Springs look like pros.

You won’t be disappointed. Eat, shop and relax but allow yourself enough time to soak it in.  There are also great Vintage shops and Estate sales so it’s pretty hard to cram it into just a couple of days. But, whatever you do, try.

But wait … there’s more …?

I bet that you think there are a couple of places missing from my list: Universal Studios, Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Boardwalk–even one of my favourites cruising Mulholland Drive and how can you forget Malibu?

I’m not just gorgeous and fabulous I’m pretty smart.  I know you’re going to go against me and do one or a few of them anyway.  Don’t let me stop you but just don’t make your visit to LA be about those things.  You’re not giving LA justice if you don’t look outside the tourist box.  Oh, and if you’re keen to visit an LA beach wander up to Malibu or head down South to Manhattan Beach.  Very nice.

I made a Pinterest Board Called 24 Hours in LA with lots of different suggestions so click in there for more inspiration.  While you’re there check out “The Best of LA“.

There is so much good stuff to see and do in LA I’m scared I won’t get to it all during my time here.  How about we all make a pact to get out and about and enjoy all LA has to offer?

Like Ferris said, “Life moves pretty fast, if we don’t stop and look around once in a while we could miss it.”

Happy summer.  I heart LA.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Acclimating
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

Acclimating in LA

I love that word … acclimating.  We say climitising in Australia.  Don’t we? Or maybe we just call it settling in, “Have you settled in yet?  How’s the settling-in process going?”  Either way we don’t have a fancy word like acclimating.  (pronounced aclim-8-ing).

A few things have happened over recent weeks to make me think I am acclimating.

We’re planning our summer holidays.  One of my bestest buddies is coming over for five weeks and I can’t wait.  We’ve been busy planning trips to Yosemite, Vegas, hanging out in LA, trips to Malibu and spending the Fourth of July down in San Diego.  (Lucky I have really good housesitters).

While we were talking about San Diego I mentioned that some friends of ours will be down there at the same time who we just love.

“Are they American?” she asked.

“Yes, but they’re good ones!” I replied.  (All of my American friends–and readers–are the good ones!)

“Aha”, she was quick to say, “but you’ve been there nearly a year now, you’re used to it.”

Last week my daughter and I had two milestones: one was our first trip to Chipotle and the second was our first trip to mega craft shop Michael’s.

At Chipotle we were catching up on the news of the day (while Mr H was away and my son was busy training our calories off at waterpolo) when one of my favourite spunks–Joshua Jackson–walks in.  (This is our second encounter with Pacey from Dawson’s Creek).  I was a bit excited to see that we’d both chosen the same fast-food chain in which to dine on that particular evening and that he was so normal that he’d choose to grab a bite at Chipotle.  As you do.

I don’t usually take pics but as we were driving off my daughter snapped a couple of really bad pics of him for us to post to Instagram and Facebook.

One of my Aussie friends immediately wrote back that I’m so “acclimated” (said in my best American accent) because only a few months ago my daughter and I would’ve taken a selfie so we could snap him– up nice and close for us to see.  (True story. I did that very thing when I spotted fellow Prime-Time Soapie boy Ben McKenzie from The OC last year.  BTW: he’s about to star in upcoming new show Gotham).

Damn it.

Then last week as I sat in our last Parent Association meeting of the school year it felt nice and comfortable.  I arrived, spoke to a few people and sat down to listen to the meeting, discussing College Admissions and how well the Class of 2014 had done this year.  (Don’t you love it how they know before summer starts?)

There were wolf whistles in the audience, sighs, clapping and cheering and even a contrversial “key message” thrown in from one of the parents down the back (you know? the rhetorical question so in one fowl swoop a parent can share with the entire community how something bad happened to her and her daughter, ie the school effed up).  Cue: mumble, mumble, whisper, whisper until everyone looks front at again focused on the rest of the presentation.  Then more clapping and ra-ra-ing.

That’s right.  I didn’t blink an eye with all the ra-ra-ing and clapping and commotion of the meeting.  I actually caught myself and had a bit of a chuckle because I remember the first meeting scared the crap out of me.

My first time I was speechless.  It literally felt like I was in the audience of Dr Phil, or Oprah or Ellen and I wondered if this is what it was like every meeting.  Turns out they are.

It’s not so bad and it’s not so scary and it’s kinda fun.  Yes, fun.

I so want to be American.  I kind of like it.  It definitely wouldn’t work at home. How nice would it be to let it out and not be worried about everyone thinking you’re loser for showing some enthusiasm?  I kind of like that they do that … Now that I’m acclimated.

I’m not sure if I’ve shared with you before that I would live anywhere in the world except America.  I didn’t want the kids going to school here and I would rather move somewhere where where we could immerse ourselves in another culture rather than a Western one (yet I’d be prepared to live in the UK).  And of course here I am.

After the news sunk in though I started to wonder if a move to the US might give the kids amazing opportunities.  The night we were to make our final decision (should I stay or should I go?) the kids were watching Pitch Perfect on TV.  We were going to politely decline the offer and then I looked at the TV and thought about the opportunity America provides to be exactly who you are and to be recognised for who you are.  I looked at Mr H and said, “Why don’t we give our kids the opportunity?” Flourish in the arts, be in a movie, open up connections.  Do and be whatever and whoever they like.

The ra-ra scared me but I was secretly that person too. “Good for you, let’s do this, we can do this,” was always me.

(Ok, not so secretly.  My friends were quick to say I’d fit in really well because that’s my nature:  rally the troops, chief motivator and cheerleader.)

As Australians we need to stop knocking Americans. Why are so anti American?  Is it because we’re jealous?  Let’s ponder that a minute before you start throwing stuff at your monitor or device.

Do we want to be American? America?  OK, forget loud and white runners with shorts and long white socks.  Think land of opportunity, embracing Tall Poppies rather than cutting them down and generally encouraging everyone to be successful–and to hail them when they are.  To be able to express ourselves (naturally–without the beers or wine).

Nine things I’ve learnt after living in LA for nine months

Then this week I found this article in LA Weekly and I started wondering if it’s really going to take me five years to be truly acclimated.  Here I am thinking I’m well on my way to being acclimated.  Will we even be here in five years???

Just in case we’re not, here are my nine things I’ve learnt after living in LA for nine months:

  1. It’s OK to talk to random strangers in the street or supermarket (or anywhere for that matter).
  2. You start to make restaurant bookings during the week–or the week before–and that booking is either at 6:00 or 9:00.  (I think I’m pretty special when I get 8:30)
  3. You don’t go anywhere unless there’s Valet parking (or at a pinch guaranteed parking).
  4. You cannot survive without an Amazon Prime account.
  5. Don’t take the 405 North after 2:00 unless you want to hang out in traffic with the rest of LA.  I’m pretty sure it’s the same for the 405 South but I can’t vouch for that as I’ve never sat in it.  Don’t take the chance on a Friday afternoon though, then I know it’s busy.
  6. You don’t actually stop at four-way stop signs (when there’s no one there or you were there first).  Unless you choose to stop for a long time then you let everyone go ahead of you.  “After you, and you, I’m stopped now, why don’t you go…?”
  7. When someone offers to check for other sizes or colours they actually do it.  And when they say there are none left, it’s probably true.  You don’t have to ask someone else (or call back) to make sure.
  8. When someone says excuse me (because they will be in your way for a millisecond) they actually mean it, it’s not a back-handed comment: “Excuuuuse me.”
  9. No one will actually RSVP to your event or function.  And if they do it will be the last minute.  What happens if something better turns up then what?  Oh we just won’t show up.

I think I’m doing pretty well after nine months.  Maybe I’ll be able to add to this list after twelve months, or two years.  Watch this space.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Four Seasons LA/BH
Celebrity, LA Restaurants, Posts, Visiting LA

Four Seasons in LA? Well of course.

 

 

 

Are there four seasons in Beverly Hills?  But of course.  The Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills to be precise.

Stay at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills for five-star treatment without pretension. If you don’t know LA you might think the location is not for you but actually you’re right in the middle of great shopping, amazing restaurants and have my two favourite areas, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills at your doorstop. With 100 of the 285 rooms being suites there’s a room for everyone but don’t be fooled the standard rooms are roomy and well kitted out.

It Started in LA rating: 5 ticks √√√√√

How a hotel makes you feel is so important: it can make or break a stay don’t you think?  Absolutely I say.  Let’s face it if you’re not Kim or Kanye or JLo you still want to be treated like you are.  You’re important.  You’re special.

Well it’s no secret yours truly believes in that premise: I want to be treated like I’m a VIP (and understand to most people I’m not damnit).  When I visited the Four Seasons at Beverly Hills I felt like the red carpet had been rolled out for me and so here I am telling you all about it.

Unlike the Beverly Hills Hotel where I walk in and immediately take on a strut (with swag) you don’t feel the need to do that here.  It’s comfortable and unassuming.

I didn’t realise the Four Seasons is reputed to be the number one hotel in LA for the entertainment industry.  (Hmmm truth be told had I known this I probably would’ve been in a bit sooner so I’m telling you now).  Apparently it’s the venue for the majority of Hollywood’s press film events.  You get that sense when you see a mini version of the Marilyn Monroe statue as you pull into valet.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn statue as you enter Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills

 

Guests are anyone from pop stars (there was a very well-known one staying there the day I visited) to celebrities to agents.  (In the leisure category it’s popular with us Aussies so it must be good.)

This was my first visit to the Four Seasons.  As I said had I known what it was known for I probably would’ve visited sooner.  It makes sense that one of the families from school (who ran one of the top Studios) nominated the hotel as their favourite staycation location.  I immediately popped it on my list but it’s taken until now for me to get there.  Better late than never I say.

The first thing that hits you is the impressive display (and aroma) of flowers.  Not just a centrepiece in the lobby but throughout the hotel and gardens.

Lillies

Those lillies are stunning and positively fragrant–not even Pepe le Pew could upset you

 

Beverly Hills-renowned florist Eric Buterbaugh’s inspiring displays made me feel like I was back in the flower markets in Shanghai: so many flowers.  And that smell of perfectly scented lillies was powerful enough that not even Pepe le Pew the skunk could spoil it.

Flowers

Flowers anyone? Simply stunning

 

The flowers are no accident.  The property’s owners (it’s managed by the Four Seasons), the Cohen family, were in the flower business so their passion is reflected in the hotel’s design and mood.

The next thing I notice is that, despite its five-star rating and smartly dressed staff (rather than the preferred dress-down approach of many local hotels) it’s not stuffy or snooty.  On the contrary it’s welcoming and unpretentious.

What are the rooms like?

OK.  I love them.  The standard room is really spacious, not at all claustrophobic.  Nice touches are the floral theme (in the most tasteful way) through the bedheads and carpet (some of the nicest carpet let alone hotel carpet I’ve ever seen).  A vase with fresh orchids in the bathroom showed that nothing escapes the detail put into the rooms.  Toiletries used are Bvlgari which also makes for a nice touch.

There are many different categories of Suites catering for the breadth of guests the hotel attracts.

Adjoining rooms

There are about 20 adjoining rooms ranging in category from suites to standard rooms offering different combinations of sleeping arrangements.  If you’re anything like me the most frustrating thing about booking via an online travel company is finding or securing adjoining rooms.  I get that they’re limited and cannot guarantee but help us out guys and give us a guide as to what’s available.  If you fall into this category call or get in touch with hotel direct and make the booking.  Less headaches and a better chance of getting what you want.

Naturally suites can also provide the option you’re looking for too.  The Executive suite has a pull-out couch in the main room and the Luxury Suite offers two full bathrooms (and a wrap-around balcony).  If you happen to have a huge family the Presidential Suites, Royal and Luxury Suites are all big enough to cater for larger numbers.

Four Seasons

Rooms at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills feature lush carpet and beautiful flower motifs

 

So LA

If you’re looking for that LA feel the Four Seasons Beverly Hills has nailed it.  There’s no mistaking it caters for entertainment clients and is in touch with what LA is about.

The pool is stunning with obligatory cabanas (for Beverly Hills anyway) and plenty of room for sunbathers.

Four Seasons Pool

The pool at the Four Seasons is quintessentially LA with that vintage look and feel (love the green & white)

 

 I work out

It wouldn’t be an LA hotel without great workout facilities and the Four Season’s is outdoors.  That’s right, Muscle Beach comes to the Four Seasons.  Check it, it might even encourage me to work out!

Being LA you can line up a personal trainer to make sure you’re not slacking off while you’re away from home.

Gym

The outdoor gym at the Four Seasons is temperature controlled giving the best of both worlds

 

If all that doesn’t scream: “So LA!” then the dining options will.  LA has sooo many fantastic places to eat.  Here in LA people go to the hotel restaurants to eat.  If it’s good.  (I don’t know why we don’t go to them much in Australia, you certainly do in Asia).  So you better make sure your restaurant is good–or offers something unique–to bring the people in.

Dining Options

The Four Seasons Beverly Hills has its own little secret known as the Cabana Restaurant, tucked up behind the pool and open to the public.

Culina

Culina at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills

 

I just love that the menu is broken down into four categories: indulgence, antioxidant, energy boosters and comfort food.  How LA is that?!

Don’t believe me? Check out the lunch menu here.  Did you click through and notice the smoothies?  Antioxidant (Goji Berry, Cranberry, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Papaya) and Jet Lag (Orange Blossom Honey, Nonfat Plain Yogurt, Orange Juice, Banana, Strawberries, Bee Pollen).  Can’t get more LA than that.

I’m so impressed that the Four Seasons knows and understands its clientele and market.  It attracts a younger clientele (think celebs people).  You can’t be offering burgers, burgers or burgers to a dieting Kim Kardashian (not that I’m saying she comes here.  And not that I’m saying she doesn’t).  But if that up-and-coming Blogger Gwen John goes to visit as much as she wants to be good and go and antioxidant menu there’s a good chance she’s going for comfort.  So you’ve still got to offer it.  Right?  Right.

I was treated to breakfast at Culina–its destination restaurant aimed at keeping guests in and Los Angelenos coming.  Word is the Sunday brunch is to die for so we’re checking into that one ASAP.  Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (which is June here and not September–you’re welcome) are big ones so book early.

I was so impressed by the breakfast that I’m going to blog about that separately.  Watch this space.  Really quickly though there are healthy options and your traditional fry up options and lots in-between.  OK I had the sinless Eggs Benedict which was to die for.  If eating healthy was this good and this easy yours truly might be a skinny fashion model rather than a Blogger.  The other highlight for me was the freshly squeezed juice bar.  You can order one from the menu (I had the Antioxidant Booster–it was Monday morning 🙂 ) or you can create your own.

PS:

If you’re an LA local you’ll be pleased to know there’s a fully kosher kitchen. So LA.

Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel if:

  • you want five-star Beverly Hills luxury without the snootiness or pretension
  • you want to feel part of the “younger Hollywood” crowd
  • you’re looking for healthy yet yummy dining options that are so un-American yet proudly Los Angeleno
  • you want to be centrally located between West Hollywood, Third Street, Melrose Avenue and Beverly Hills (never mind Rodeo Drive, you’re right near the boutiques on Robertson)
  • you’re prepared to embrace the LA thing and drive everywhere (there are cars to drive you within a two-mile radius of the hotel).

 

I said it for my last review and I’ll say it again.  I made the mistake of not appreciating LA for what it was when I first came to visit some 20 years ago (I think the words were “been there, done that, never coming back”.) I know better now. Do your research before you hit LA.  And I don’t mean which theme parks you might visit.  Understand what LA is all about and it will be your friend, expect something it’s not and you may as well give it a miss. Thankfully I’ve grown up now, made that rather naive mistake and fate took me back here. I count my lucky stars everyday.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: Again I’d recommend you compare prices online but try booking through the hotel direct.  Rack rates are becoming a thing of the past (I have absolutely no proof of this except through my own booking experience) and hotels offer competitive online rates.  Sometimes it’s so much easier to get exactly what you want when you book direct.

All pictures with thanks to Four Seasons Beverly Hills.

To find out more about Beverly Hills Hotels visit my Pinterest board.  I’m pinning to it faster than I can blog!

Paps
Celebrity, Posts

My brush with the Paparazzi

One of my goals in coming to LA was to see paparazzi in action, I’m intrigued by them and their business.  When I moved here I thought I’d see them everywhere, just lurking.  Contrary to popular opinion they’re not.  Much to my disgust.  We’d go to cool restaurants, I was shopping at the right supermarkets but it took me ages to see a pap in action.

You see, a lot of the time they’re hiding somewhere and you might not know they’re around.  We even had paps up the road from us when we first moved in and I didn’t see them.

But I’m more tuned in now.  The other week I was showing a guest around The Grove and we saw two guys working together trying to pap someone.  We watched them in action for a while but couldn’t see who they were following.  A big part of my problem is that I don’t recognise people unless they’re George. Or Leo. Or JLo.  Or Joan Collins!

I’ve had a few brushes with paps now.  All at my favourite restaurant in fact.  The first time was Golden Globes weekend which I wrote about.  It was so exciting; I was beside myself as the flashes went off all night.

On one of our subsequent visits to this same restaurant I hopped out of the car as usual and there were two paps waiting.  One of them came up to me saying like I looked like one of the past winners (or runners-up) on The Voice or American Idol.  I was this close to being papped (a bee’s dick!) for real.

Fast forward to last Saturday night and there were more paps here again–more than Golden Globes weekend for Joshua Jackson and Diane Kruger.  Inside JLo and Mary J Blige were having dinner.  I was seeing off a friend visiting from Australia and as we walked outside there they all were.  So I thought I’d pose for the cameras, take it all in and enjoy it.  I’ve got pics here on my Facebook page.  It was so fun I tried it five times.  I got to try out my pap reactions a number of different times:

  1. a look of surprise, oh are you here to see me?
  2. acknowledge, be cool, wave hello, keep walking
  3. a different angle
  4. the hand over the face, please don’t pap me look
  5. you really should pap me because I’m incredibly famous in Australia you know.  I’m on Neighbours.

You got to have a bit of fun don’t you?  In fact I should have offered JLo my services in entertaining them for her while she escaped.  I sort of did.  As she was leaving via a back door I shook her hand to thank her for all the paps I got to see in action–the most I’ve ever seen in one night.  Poor JLo didn’t know what hit her.

It turns out our driver helped with the deflection–to make out he was JLo’s driver and I was JLo for the second time that night.  There weren’t as many there when we left so there might’ve been a tip-off that she wasn’t coming out the front door.

The next night we were at our favourite local Deli having home-cooked roasts and Jon Voight was there having dinner.  It’s not the first time we’ve seen him there, he’s a bit of a regular.  But alas no paps for him.  I don’t suppose he sells mags.

It got me thinking: what gets pap out to catch “that” shot.  Rather who.  It has to be someone that magazine editors will buy because that’s how they make their money.  I’ve even seen paps at our local getting pics of Gene Simmons so what makes him more pap-worthy than the extremely talented Jon Voight?

I was hoping to get some insights from someone who works in the industry but sadly I don’t have anything to share.  If I find out more I’ll be sure to update and share it with you.

Meanwhile I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the paps and keep reporting back on what I see.  When Harry moves in down the road I dare say we’ll see a few around our street so that’ll be fun.  Wouldn’t it be great to go out with one for the day and document their day?  There’s an idea.  I’ll get to work on that for you dear readers!

Meanwhile … enjoy your week.  The weather here in LA is divine as Spring is in the air and feeling generally warmer.  Always puts a Spring in my step. LOL.

Keep smiling.

xx It Started in LA xx

1D's Harry Styles
Celebrity, Fact or Fiction, Posts

Fact or Fiction: Harry Styles bought a house down the road

Welcome back to Fact or Fiction.  I’m a bit late this week, a pupil-free day caused the delay with me being disorganised in not having the post ready ahead of time and the kiddly-winks cramping my style and forcing me to play mother for once. (Well, that and tennis & lunch took up a lot of my Friday which makes me a very happy chicky-babe!).

This week’s question centres around the ever-popular Harry Styles.  Word is he’s just bought a house in 90210.

http://www.eonline.com/news/522004/is-harry-styles-moving-to-america-one-direction-singer-buys-la-home

Question is: do you think it’s just down the road and literally around the corner from us?

Lodge your vote now:

 

Meanwhile, the answer to last week’s Fact or Fiction:

Beverly Hills was named after the Beverly Hills Hotel

was fact confirmed by the hotel’s in-house PR.  The hotel was built by bizzillionaire developer Burton Green, President of the Rodeo Land and Water Company.  According to the Hotel’s website,

“By 1914, Beverly Hills had attracted enough residents to incorporate as a city.

“Then, in 1920, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks built their county home, Pickfair, in the nearby hills. Beverly Hills soon became one of the world’s smartest addresses. More stars followed, including Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Buster Keaton, Rudolph, Valentino, Tom Mix, and Will Rogers, transforming the bean fields surrounding The Beverly Hills Hotel into prime real estate.”

66.67% of you thought it was Fiction meaning only 33.33% of you were right.

Here’s a link to the Beverly Hills Hotel’s website:

http://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/beverly-hills/the-beverly-hills-hotel/hotel-services/about/hotel-history

The hotel has the most amazing history.  My tour of the hotel got postponed to after Spring Break so I hope to bring you a story or two in the coming weeks.

Don’t forget to put your votes in.

Spring break starts for us so yay us!  Enjoy your weekend wherever you are in the world.

xx It Started In LA xx

Paps
Celebrity, Posts

Living the dream on Golden Globes weekend

I know the Golden Globes are in the distant past but this story felt right, a nice reminisce about why it’s so cool to be living in LA hot on the heels of the Oscars (I’m still a little hungover but I have to say I was more hungover after the Golden Globes!).

So, on Golden Globes weekend an old friend from school stopped by LA.  It was a real blast from the past as we hadn’t seen each other in more years than we both care to remember.  Thanks to Facebook though we weren’t total strangers.

She was up for a weekend of celeb-spotting and all things LA.  Because I was going to the Warner Bros/InStyle after party at the Golden Globes Sunday afternoon was dedicated to my hair & make-up.

Friday night dinner would be my favourite celeb-spotting restaurant in West Hollywood.  It’s hard enough to get a booking there so some things have to be my little secret–unless you come to visit then I’ll happily take you there.

Dinner didn’t disappoint.  Neither did the celeb spotting!  We hadn’t got out of the car and there were some tourists taking a photo with a celeb couple.  Jackpot!  Then on the way in we heard a guy on the phone.  Our ears twigged when we heard, “paparazzi”.  Double jackpot!  In nearly five months in LA (at that time) I hadn’t really seen any paps and I thought I’d see them everywhere I went.  Disappointed much!

JJ

Joshua Jackson

We walked in trying to spot said celeb couple.  The guy was hot.  It was none of than Joshua Jackson (Pacey from Dawson’s Creek) who’s grown into quite the stunner of a man!  We had no clue who his girlfriend was–nothing a quick Google couldn’t fix. (Diane Kruger if you’re as useless as me on celeb trivia).

We got to the bar and I laughed–it’s Paul Hogan, no bloody way!  Well it wasn’t him but some rocker dude who looked the spitting image of him.  He was at a table with nobody we could recognise except that they were aging rockers plus one familiar-looking actor donning a baseball cap.  (We never did find out who any of them were).

The atmosphere was fab, we had a great night and a great meal.  Then all of a sudden flashes went off like Marilyn Monroe had just walked in but we couldn’t work out who they were for.

As distracting as they were my girlfriend turned around and announced as calmly as possible, “OMG it’s Bette Midler.”  Sure enough in the corner booth is The Divine Miss M herself.  Score.

More flashes.  We didn’t know where to look, who to look at, let alone carry on a conversation.  Then there was birthday cake delivered to the table next to us so we joined in the happy birthday wishes and before that was over we caught the eye of the gorgeous Joshua Jackson once again.  Was he leaving?  Was he going back to the bar after dinner?  No, the valet had come inside to get his keys and bring his car to a secret exit.  Gold.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

More flashes.  Who are they trying to pap?  Then the birthday table leaves and it’s some guys from the Big Bang Theory–sitting next to us the whole time!

It was the most overwhelming night of people watching, living the moment, taking in the ambiance and trying to carry on conversations with the people at our table.  Because we haven’t seen each other for years and then we’re thrust in this situation where it’s difficult to engage in normal conversation.  Thank god everyone at the table (bar Mr H) was into it otherwise it could have been a very awkward way to start the weekend.

The whole weekend was more of the same.  It just goes to prove if you’re out and about at the right spots and you’re lucky enough the paparazzi really is everywhere and celebs are just trying to go about their own business being normal people.

I heart LA.

xx It Started In LA xx

PS:  It is my “thing” not to take pics of the celebs I see out & about, especially if it’s in an intimate restaurant.  I think it’s only fair to maintain their privacy.  Nor do I generally ask them to take a pic with me either.  Do I regret it?  Hell yeah–a lot but that’s just the way it’s going to have to be.  Until I’m famous myself and then it’s all bets are off!

RW
Celebrity, Fact or Fiction, Posts

Fact or Fiction: I met Robbie Williams at our local Starbucks

Robbie Williams

I’m very excited about this week’s Fact or Fiction :

I met Robbie Williams at our local Starbucks.

There’s a story to be told but you’ll have to wait until next week.  So get voting!

 

Meanwhile, the answer to last week’s:

Slash came to the kids’ school

is FACT! Slash did in fact come on a tour to our school.  In fact one of my friends took him on the tour.  I know lots of my friends back home who’d be jelly jelly (a bit like I was).  Actually, she then went on to not only see him in concert but see him backstage (and he of course recognised her!) but she managed to do a deal with him to hand over his jacket.  I know!  Only in LA can one of your friends have a much-treasured jacket of Slash’s!

Anyway, eighty per cent of you were on the money so well done.

Happy weekend & happy voting!

xx It Started In LA xx

Image taken from wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slash_(musician)

Paps
Celebrity, Posts

Which one’s Craig?

We’ve got a few more friends coming in to town so I called one of my favourite restaurants–our go-to when we have friends come to LA–to secure a couple of reservations.

The guy on the phone took my details, you know? When, what time etc.  Then he said, “Name?”

“Gwen,” I replied.

“Oh Gwen, how are you sweetheart?” I knew immediately who it was on the other end of the phone.  One of my first LA girlfriends had recommended I go to this popular restaurant and was instrumental in getting my 9:30 booking changed to the more civilised time of 8:00.  She’s a regular and knows Craig well.

From that time the Matre D’ acknowledged me telling everyone I was Renee’s friend.  Then I had moved on from being Renee’s friend to being “Gwen”. I was in.

So, you can imagine how chuffed I was that even on the phone I was recognised.  I’ve made it and to no less than one of the restaurants to be seen at in LA.  I posted it straight to Facebook and was happy our transition to LA was looking very good.  I’m doing my job well: give yourself a pat on the back Gwen.

Fast forward one week to yesterday.  I looked up the website to call to see if I could get a last-minute dinner booking for my hot date with my son.  I knew it was a long shot but it was worth the try.  I clicked through to an article in the New York Times on the birth of the restaurant and how Craig had gone from being Matre D’ at one of LA’s finest to running his own restaurant.

I knew that so of course I assumed the Matre D’ was “Craig”.  That’s a pretty fair assumption, right?  Exactly what I thought.

Well that’s not what the pic on said article showed.  No, it’s the guy who schmoozes around half working, half chatting up the guests.  Well it makes sense now I say it that way–and I know who the real Craig is doesn’t it?  Duh!  Really, how could I have been so amateur?!

One of my friends I’ve taken there recently described him as the classiest pimp in town–sitting at the booths with the gorgeous chicks and hot celebs, being one of the guests.  I suppose he has one of the best jobs in the world.  He lets his (very professional and gorgeous) Matre D’ do all the hard work while he does what he does best–keep the celebs (and me) happy!

Looking forward to dinner there tomorrow night.  I’ll be careful who I call Craig.

Only in LA.

xx It Started in LA xx

West Gate, Bel Air
Celebrity, Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction: Bel Air

Fact or Fiction?????

Welcome back to this week’s Fact or Fiction.  It’s good to see voting increased by more than 15% this week.  Get on board, it’s a bit of fun.

This week’s item drifts away from me being centre stage to an LA Trivia question.  And the statement is …

Bel Air is a suburb of LA with its own postcode.

 

Thanks to the people who responded to last week’s Fact or Fiction.  The answer to:

Rod Stewart’s son is in my kids’ swim team.

was: Fact.

66.67% thought it was Fiction
33.33% thought it was Fact.

I am unashamedly a Rod Stewart fan.  I remember when I was younger we were on holidays staying at my uncle’s house in Wales.  He used to get The Sun daily and one week it had a Rod Stewart spotlight–a series about him, his life, his loves, his career etc.  Well I was hooked from that minute on.

So, when we turned up at the end of last year to one of the kids’ swimming finals and I glance up at the bleachers and see Rod Stewart–complete with hair and pastels–I did little to stay cool.  I couldn’t take a photo, I wouldn’t go talk to him and I was a mess.  (So much for the motto of staying cool).  I couldn’t get my words out–I was standing a few metres away from the one and only Rod Stewart. Ahhhhhhhhh indeed!

His wife, BTW, is gorgeous.  We did talk to her.  That was surreal in its own way because (apart from being a former famous model herself) she was talking about the upcoming holidays and their plans like they were normal people.  Of course they were–are–but it was totally surreal.

I heart LA.  And that’s how this blog started with simple everyday, surreal stories like that.  I can’t wait for the swimming season to start.  I just hope he’s not in Vegas for most of it!

Answer to this week’s post will come next week as usual.  Happy Friday Australia (and Asia).  UK and Europe you’re somewhere in between so happy weekend eve!

I’ll keep the link up to his Vegas concerts (and others for that matter) in case you want to fly over and see Rod Stewart live in Vegas.  I’m certainly going to try to get there.

http://www.rodstewart.com/events/

xx It Started in LA xx

 

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