Browsing Category

Visiting LA

Posts, Reviews, Travelog, Visiting LA

Perfect homesickness cure: visit the Australian Outback

I’ve spent a bit of time talking about our recent bouts of homesickness.  Thankfully I can report that we’re all cured for a while and we’re moving onwards and upwards.

Why? We went home!  We heard the ads on the radio, we heard the talk around town and we thought, “why not?”, we need a bit of Koalafornication at the San Diego Zoo.  (Although a bit of David Duchovny Californication might have done the trick too).

It’s such an easy drive from LA straight down the 405 to San Diego there’s no excuse not to go–regardless of whether you’re visiting LA or live in LA.  It should be about a two-hour drive but nearly died when the GPS told us it would be a lot more.  My precision timing had us to the zoo just after 10:00 which I figured would be early enough to get a park, get our tickets and avoid the long queues for the Pandas.  Instead it had us coming in at closer to 11:00.  Sigh. Why are we always late? (Actually I’m partly to blame because I insisted on being Superwoman and baking fresh Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday).

It turns out the GPS wanted us off the 405 to avoid traffic.  We went with our gut, stayed on the 405 and we were there just after 10:00.  Success.  (Note: we could’ve been lucky, if you’re stuck in traffic on the 405 it can add hours to your trip so it might pay you to detour).

The carpark was filling fast and there were queues at every ticket window.  Either this zoo is really popular or we’ve come at the wrong time.  Or both?  I’m pleased to report the queue moved quickly, just enough time to take a family selfie, look around and we were in.  Once we were inside we didn’t feel like the zoo was so super busy that there were people everywhere so it was nice.  All good.  Straight for the Pandas.

SkySafari

Enjoying the SkySafari very much thankyou!

 

It’s so good having older kids who can read a map, less for me to do. We opted against the bus (as it seems this is where most of the entrants wanted to go) and decided to do the SkySafari. Bit of a queue but it moved quickly and it would get us to the Polar Bears and Pandas so we could walk downhill in time to have lunch at the Sydney Grill.

San Diegans love their Pandas

The San Diegans go ga-ga over their very own Pandas, why not? What’s not to love?

 

I heard a story that the San Diegans love their Pandas.  The town goes into “Pandamonium” when one of the Pandas does something and when one gives birth it’s like the future King (or Queen) of England is born.  And why not?  Pandas look like they should be cuddly and fluffy and because we’re not going to go near them let us believe that.  They are so cute.  Besides it’s good to see a town get behind their very own.

(Tip: Even if there is a queue for the Pandas there are things to see on the “journey” so don’t be put off by it).

The highlight of our morning wasn’t the Pandas though–it was the Polar Bears.  How fun are they?  They are show-offs, stirrers and just big kids who love to have a good time.  Check this:

 

You've been mooned

Want a good shot of me? How about this?

 

After lunch we headed to the impressive Koala Exhibit.  Thoughts of Austen Tayshus’s Australiana came straight to mind: “How much can a Koala Bear?”  Loved the fact that the hosts on the buses had to spell out, “Did you know the Koala is not a Bear?” on their way past the exhibit and I wonder a) how they came to be known as a Koala Bear (or a Koala Be even–you know who you are Phillippa Jones!) and b) how Americans are still surprised by that fact.

But as good as it was the Australian Outback wasn’t the highlight of our afternoon.  No, the Tortoises were.  Yep.  The Tortoises.  All the way from the Galapagas.  The over 100 years old and still going strong.  It was feeding time and one of the tortoises (let’s call him Piggy) ate a whole head of lettuce then started playing tug-o-war with his mate’s dinner.  Not nice for the mate (not mate as in partner but mate as in friend) but fun to watch.  Love surprises like that.

Tortoises at dinner time

Share nicely “Piggy” (Piggy not in the middle, Piggy just managed to take that whole lettuce minus one leaf from his poor hungry mate!)

 

Top Billing: the star of the zoo is

But who gets top billing of the day?  This Magpie deserves top billing as the star attraction.  Say “hi” and he’ll say “hi” back.  No word of a lie– click on the links and watch these!

Magpie

More Magpie

And as if that surprise wasn’t enough we were getting a drink and they were letting some birds go in an afternoon ritual where they get to stretch their wings and go for a fly.  Thanks for the special show, we really were special guests.

Birds

Along the way I heard a boy say to his Dad, “Can you find someone to carry me?”  Couldn’t agree more.  That’s what the buses and SkySafari is for though so we had to do one more trip on the SkySafari–this time back down the hill.

You’re either a regular zoo goer or you’re not.  I fall into “you’re not” category and loved every minute of it spending the day with the family at the San Diego Zoo.  It’ll be one of the days I’ll treasure in our Californian adventure.

Typically when you’re young, keen parents you take the little kids then you may or may not remember to bring them back when they’re older.  It’s great when they’re older and you go and appreciate different things.  Stop thinking about it and do it–you can’t possibly regret it.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  It Started in LA & family were guests of the San Diego Zoo.  Thanks so much for hosting us. We had such a fun time and would love to do it again.  It’s a good idea to buy tickets before you go and here’s a link I prepared especially for you.

PPS: I’ll leave you with this image of Mother Duck heading out with her little ducks.  Gorgeous.  Surprised, however, by the number of people who thought that meant they could go up to the little ducks and pat them.  Lucky the zoo had it all under control with one of the keepers keeping a closing eye on them to make sure that didn’t happen.  Good job (as the Americans like to say and that I’m trying to avoid using quite as much as I do).

Ducks

Mother Duck went out one day, over the hill and far away

PPSS: More pics on my Twitter and Instagram pages, plus there’s a small album on my Facebook Blog page.

Posts, Travelog, Visiting LA

Oh yeah: Vegas baby!

I never expected to actually visit Las Vegas.  Not necessarily because I didn’t want to or that it wasn’t on my bucketlist but that it wasn’t high enough on my bucket list for me to get there.

Moving to LA certainly changed that.  When you live in LA you have no excuse (or reason) not to visit Vegas.  Especially if your goal is to experience as much as you can of America.

I didn’t know how to tackle Vegas.  Mr H has been there a few times for work and to see the Rugby World Sevens but it’s not exactly the type of place I expected to go for a family holiday.  Until a friend suggested we join her and another friend for a long weekend.  With our families.  Off we go, no need to ask me twice!

What to do in Las Vegas

The thing about Vegas (that I didn’t expect) was how American it was yet totally un-American all at the same time.  Let me explain.  It’s so over the top with all the different resorts Vegas is definitely one of those #onlyinAmerica places.  It’s crazy!

But at the same time as being American it is so un-American in that everyone walks around with an alcoholic drink in their hand.  It is legal to carry & drink alcohol on the Strip.  So everyone does it.  It brings new meaning to the term “traveller”.  And shops are making a killing from it.  The rule seems to be: When-in-Vegas-you-must-buy-the-biggest-cocktail-you-can-and-bring-it-with-you-everywhere-you-go. Preferably in a huge Eiffel Tower-shaped see-through “glass” or another over-sized container.  Either that or a beer.

I love a drink I’ve never made a secret of that but I have to say I wasn’t about to carry a huge daiquiri around with me.  Especially with the kids.  (Each to their own though).

Everyone can and does smoke.  And Nevada is a gun-loving state so it’s easy to go one block off the Strip and get yourself a rifle (remember the Aussie swimmers who got themselves in hot water for posing with guns in a shop outside Vegas?).  (I guess the gun thing is actually quite American but you don’t see gun shops off Rodeo Drive–only the gun safes in Costco!).

How Vegas has managed to capture the conference market, families, entertainers, casino owners, luxury brands and yogans (American bogans) all in one is beyond incredible.  Vegas has managed to do what few places can’t–attract everyone.  It’s lifestyles of the rich and famous meets bozo the hobo trailer trash yogan.  With everyone in between.  Fabulous.

We were in the lifts coming down from my friend’s 59th floor suite and in hops Mr-&-Mrs-to-be Yogan saying, “We’ve just got engaged!!” He must have splurged his life savings to get that room (it was the lift for all the suites) and they were going all out.

Aria

Upmarket shopping heaven

The Harley Davidson Cafe

There’s literally something for everyone

 Driving from LA

The drive from LA to Las Vegas is easy and scenic.  It should only take about four hours but beware if there’s traffic that could double to eight and you’re stuck with no way to veer off course.

It’s wonderful for an Australian living on the West Coast to witness the change in landscape from the Canyons of LA to the vast desert of Nevada then be greeted by the uniqueness of the Strip that is Vegas.  The desert was something else–it was greener than I expected.  There were many Joshua Trees to make it interesting but there were also many green bushes.  What made our day though was seeing the tumbleweeds dancing amongst the bushes and Joshua Trees.  Picture perfect postcards straight from the movies.  The only thing missing was Roadrunner (they are real you know).

Don’t know what a Joshua Tree is?  Save you the Google, here’s the Wikipedia link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_brevifolia

Desert

The scenic drive from Vegas back to LA

While on the road the main thing that caught my attention were the groups of people clearly roadtripping.  It’s hard not to generalise but there were lots of groups of boys (you know? around 21 or so clearly going to have a good time) but also lots of families.  It wasn’t what I expected to see.  There was something about the way everyone was driving that suggested (like us) there was excitement in the car at the thought that in the next couple of hours they’d be in Vegas.

Arriving in Vegas

Get off the freeway as soon as you’re entering Vegas so you drive down the Strip.  It was such an exciting feeling pooping that roof down and feasting on all the sights and sounds Vegas has to offer.  We toured up and back to get our bearings and to soak in the atmosphere (also a great way to quickly check it out without needing to soak your feet in the bath for hours).

Check out my Vegas tip later in the post about cruising the Strip in style.

Vegas as a family

Vegas is doable as a family but you have to know what you want to do and plan a little.  For example when we arrived we went for a little wander and I wanted a pre-dinner drink and to give the kids a snack.  5:00 wasn’t a good time to get an outside table because they were keeping these for diners only yet the tables for drinks only was in the bar space which isn’t the best place for the kids.  Not a great start but we were off and running.  Thankfully mine are older now.

There’s lots to see.  And do.  Walking around and exploring the casinos is enough to fill your day.  Beware, wear comfortable shoes, there’s a lot of walking to do.  Do, however, think about what you’ll be doing and what you’ll be checking out.  You might feel comfy in those white runners, socks and shorts but you might not feel (or make it to a best-dressed list) the same when you walk into Dior looking for your next outfit (or trying to look like you can afford said outfit).

Nine things to do in Vegas (with the family):

  1. Take a helicopter out to the Grand Canyon.
  2. Book a suite–or score an upgrade.  Do your research as there are great deals out there.  Carefully check room sizes.
  3. Book a limo to take you around & cruise the Strip in style.
  4. Book a Show.  Or more than one Show.  There are literally tons to choose from.  And great acts with so much variety.  There are seven Cirque du Soleil shows alone.  Plus Britney Spears is playing at the moment.
  5. Trip around the world.  Start in Venice (the Venetian), head to Paris (Paris), Rome (Caesar’s Palace) & New York (New York New York).  If you’re feeling up to it visit Egypt too (Luxor).
  6. Go shopping.  Window shopping if you can’t afford the many designer shops on offer or outlet shopping if you wanna be but can’t be.  Don’t forget to visit the Ferrari dealer at the Wynn.  Our taxi driver tells us it sells more Ferraris than any other dealer in the US.
  7. Book restaurants ahead of time.  There are many walk-ins in Vegas being the tourist town but the waits (especially for outside tables) can be atrocious.  It’s easy to book beforehand so make your life easier by doing so.
  8. Detour to the Outlet shops, there are heaps to choose from and slightly less tax than in LA.
  9. Splurge a little: YOLO!

 So what did the kids think of Vegas?

They thought it was good.  They liked the different “countries” and things to do but they hated walking through the casinos to get there and the smell of smoke which was everywhere.  It’s funny how not so long ago cigarette smoke was in the air in restaurants and indoor places yet take it away and you get used to clean air.  Each casino is different though.  They enjoyed the shows and being exposed to all Vegas has to offer but they’re a bit straighty-180 so couldn’t cope with it for too long.  A long weekend is enough.

Last bit of advice: get in early to make good use of your first day (and beat the traffic) and save checking out nearby casinos til last.  That way you can venture out on your full days, still look around on your last day and hopefully get away ahead of the traffic.  No point ruining the moment by sitting in traffic on your way back to LA.

Most of all have fun!  There’s plenty to be had.

xx It Started in LA xx

If you’re planning a trip to Vegas check out my Pinterest page with links to shows, “resorts” and restaurants.
http://www.pinterest.com/itstartedinla/viva-las-vegas/

For more info on the World Seven’s go to:
http://www.usasevens.com/las-vegas/

updated with info on free shows around town June 26, 2014 11:10am LA time.

Palm Springs
Posts, Travelog, Visiting LA

Palm Springs Heaven

If you’re visiting LA and have a couple of days up your sleeve, seriously consider a trip to Palm Springs, a couple of hours out of LA.

The view of a golf course from the mountain I hiked on.

The view of a golf course from the mountain I hiked on.

How gorgeous and stylish can a desert be?  Really?  Well Palm Springs proves it can be.  It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  It has its own look and feel: a cross between 1950’s/1960’s vintage glamour and a classic movie set.  Those coffee-table books you see depicting that quintessential California style brings images of Palm Springs to the forefront of your mind don’t just pick out the best of the best–it’s all like that.

A weekend feels like a week and the feng shui–with the mountains surrounding you, protecting you–brings a sense of tranquility and well-being to the place.  Why aren’t all the rehab clinics here?

Add to that its history as a place where Hollywood’s A-listers came to play and you’ve got yourself a magical recipe of gastronomical proportions.

OK, it probably helps that I was invited by a friend who has the most divine house.  OOzing Palm Springs style I was not only cast as a leading lady in a vintage movie (or Slim Aarons coffee table book) but I was treated to one of the most gorgeous weekend experiences ever.  From sightseeing to shopping, lunches and dinners to hiking and a foot massage thrown in in-between she knew how to host so her guests felt like royalty.

At least I’ve known Palm Springs the luxe destination.  When I return it’ll still be amazing but it makes a difference where you stay.  So, I’m going to save my pennies and stay in one of the many hotels that also look like they’re out of a Hollywood movie.  Maybe by then they’ll be hosting me! Share my blog and let’s see where I can stay!

Check out my Pinterest board for all things Palm Springs & some of the hotel suggestions I’m going to consider for my next visit.

The view from the mountain I hiked on.

The view from the mountain I hiked on.

The view from the mountain I hiked on.

The view from the mountain I hiked on.

Part of the hike trail.

Part of the hike trail.

The country club in Palm Springs.

Escena in Palm Springs.

xx It Started in LA xxx

 

Updated Jan 24, 2014 @ 8:42 (LA time)

%d bloggers like this: