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My LA story, Posts, Travelog

LA to Arizona by road (is there any other way?)

I know you’re dying to find out how our Thanksgiving weekend went.  Well I’m very pleased to report it was great.  It was better than great.  The plan to avoid the traffic worked a treat.  We left on Thursday morning, stayed the night in Palm Desert with gorgeous friends then headed out early on Friday Arizona-bound.

We love Arizona and can’t wait to head back for more—specifically getting our kicks on Route 66.  What started as a weekend to Sedona ended in a trip to visit friends in Chandler in Phoenix, Arizona.  The irony wasn’t lost on me: Thanksgiving weekend and a lot to give thanks for in the form of gorgeous friends we met as expats when we lived in Shanghai.

Like lots of expat stories no sooner had we met and decided we quite liked each other than they were planning their exit strategy back to the US.  Of course we never wanted to live in the US so the reality for us was wondering whether we’d actually see them again.

It’s always a late night when we hang out with them—we could keep talking all night—and I love that it’s not what they usually do but they Australianise themselves and we have lots of fun.

Public-school suburb

As we drove into Chandler my daughter started to get really excited.  “Oh my god mum,” she said in that very dramatic tween way.  “We’re in public school America.  Can we live here.”

To her Chandler is like it is on TV or the movies: nice neighbourhoods, clean wide roads (that’s tarred—or black-topped—rather than concrete roads with lots of cracks and potholes like LA in case you’re wondering) and you can picture the yellow school buses stopping at the stop outside the street picking kids up to take them to the local elementary, middle or high school.  My picture is more Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, hers is definitely Disney Channel.

We passed Chick-Fill-A, Olive Garden, Walmart, Target Superstore amongst the big, clean malls with lots of parking.  She was in heaven.  (We’ve never been to Walmart, perhaps not surprisingly there aren’t many around 90210).

Then when we arrived at our friends’ house it was like we took her to the Disneyland castle with all-you-can eat ice-cream with cherries on top.  The epitome of an “American house” it had a grand entry, a formal living room and a beautiful staircase leading upstairs to big bedrooms with ensuites complete with Bath & Body Works foaming soap (appropriately scented for Fall and Thanksgiving). And downstairs a huge kitchen with the sink overlooking the resort-like backyard and a central island bench designed to gather around and serve the largest of feasts.  You could almost see the Brady’s fossicking in the double fridge making sandwiches with mayonnaise and pastrami (or is it baloney?) and Alice telling them to head outside because dinner would be ready soon.

Yep, it’s no surprise Chandler has a sign as you enter that says “All-American City”.


Chandler: All-American City | Photo credit: Paper Turtle (pic links through to Blog)


We may be blessed to be living the dream in 90210 but Chandler is nirvana, utopia.  It’s not Wisteria Lane or the Stepford Wives, it’s the Brady Bunch meets Ferris Bueller.

Twenty-four hours in Chandler with our gorgeous all-American friends in their all-American friends in their all-American town and I want to rush out and apply for a green card.  If you doubted the American dream and discarded it as a myth you haven’t been to Chandler.


Don’t forget about the California Coastal Highway drive, LA to Vegas or LA to Palm Springs but if you’ve got a little longer try LA—Palm Springs—Scottsdale—Flagstaff—Sedona—Winslow—Grand Canyon—Vegas and back to LA.

Fabulous roadtrip suggestion

Fabulous roadtrip suggestion


This is little roadtrip has overtaken my Route 66 entry on last week’s bucket list because it covers Route 66 and adds an extra dimension.  Arizona gets pretty bloody hot during the summer so plan your trip well but if you like the desert (I’m fascinated by it) then this looks like it will be a beauty.  (I promise to write about it once I’ve done it).

Meanwhile I can write about Palm Springs to Chandler.  I took about 550 photos because I just wanted to capture the desert landscape it all seemed so beautiful.  Like many things though you can’t really capture the vastness and the green bushes with the postcard-perfect cacti and commanding and majestic mountains.  It’s an easy drive and although it’s only really four hours it can get a little dull for the driver.  The Americans have these interstates so well-planned that the direct route approach does little for the driver.  The upside of course is you’re at your next destination in no time and it’s great to stretch your legs and soak in the desert ambiance.

Like us Aussies the yanks love a good roadtrip.  One of the most frustrating things in Australia can be the lack of anything at roadside rest-stops.  Well in America it’s like the roadstop are the attraction.  It can be hard to get a park, there are queues for the toilets, people hanging around and dogs, dogs everywhere.

Giving Thanks

Even though no one else in the world really celebrates Thanksgiving we all know about it.  Thank you Hollywood.  What surprises me is that many Americans are surprised no one else celebrates it.  (OK Google disputes me on this one but, well, we don’t in Australia so don’t let truth get in the way of a good story).

Hang on… why do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

OK, I thought the story went like this: the Pilgrims came, took over, planted crops and celebrated with a feast to give thanks.  My friend the UK Desperate Housewife gives a nice summary of why we have Turkey Day (its new-age name).  And that’s pretty much how most people see it.  To the extent I just found out that they’re trying to stop calling Thanksgiving Thanksgiving because of the small fact that the pilgrims came in and all but took over from the poor Indians.  (I don’t think they should be called American Indians because they were here first).

But with a little help from Google the real reason for Thanksgiving is to celebrate the Harvest.  So, are the websites changing history or did I have it wrong?  And if Thanksgiving is to celebrate the Harvest then why are some powers that be in my wacky host country trying to stop us calling the Holiday Thanksgiving?  It’s getting some traction too because many people are calling it Turkey Day.  For what it’s worth my two cents worth is let it go, it’s been Thanksgiving for this long and it’s worked so focus on something that might actually matter.

I’ll admit it the sight of Americans holding hands while their turkey gets cold and they reflect on all the things they have to be thankful for made me feel a little squirm-in-my-seat uncomfortable.  But celebrating it with my friends last weekend that was the last thing I thought about.  No now all I can think is how lovely it is to reflect and be thankful for all we have.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was homesick and wishing I had more than two friends and yet here I am telling you about an action-packed weekend filled with different friends who have opened their homes to us.

Three things to include in your “giving thanks” speech

Now that I’m embracing this giving thanks caper here’s three things you need to include in your giving thanks speech—in case you’re ever invited to Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Good place to start: spouse, kids, brothers & sisters, nieces & nephews, parents.
  • They’re there, good idea to acknowledge them.
  • The moment. Fairly politically correct to acknowledge that yes it’s good to have a roof over your head, food on the table and clothes on your back (and in your wardrobe).

It’s been raining all week here in LA and the sun is just coming out for a while.  It never rains here so it’s all people talk about.  People cancel meetings, hair dressing appointments and don’t know how to drive on the roads.  It’s more than hysterical.

Stay dry!

Xx It Started in LA xx

LA Restaurants, Posts, Visiting LA

Shopping in LA

Did you say Shopping in LA? Let’s face it, if you’re in LA you’re going to want to shop.  The shopping here is pretty amazing and you can pretty much spend your whole time shopping if you’re that way inclined.

Strip shopping is great along Melrose Avenue (West Hollywood), Third Street (WeHo), Robertson (Beverly Hills) and of course there’s always Rodeo Drive.  Westfield has come to America and revolutionised Mall shopping and with most of the malls outdoor you don’t have to sacrifice sun time–and don’t worry it “never rains in LA”.

So here it is a run-down of your shopping options.  Whether you want to get it done quickly or randomly browse and enjoy all LA shopping has to offer, this post is for you.

LA: The Grove & the Farmer’s Market

Seen as a must-visit shopping destination in LA the Grove certainly gets busy.  It’s easy to get to by Uber, taxi or car.  If you drive be sure to check out for validations around the various stores.  And if you want to get into the LA thing there’s Valet parking at The Grove.  Do watch it though as validation is different for the Grove and the Farmer’s Market so watch where you park depending on what you’re after.  (I usually park at the Farmer’s Market–if I’m lucky enough–especially if I’m going to pick up some fresh produce for dinner.  I also found out that Nordstrom validates for The Grove parking so that’s a bonus).

Farmer's Market

LA’s idea of sightseeing: a shopping mall

Not only is it pretty but there are great places to eat and (of course) shop.  There’s a massive H&M and you have to let curiosity get the better of you by visiting American Girl.  For a complete shop/store listing click here.

Century City

After a multi-million dollar facelift and expansion Century City is making itself a must-do destination while shopping in LA.  A Westfield Mall, it follows the recipe of destination shopping in Australia like Chatswood and Sydney City.

So convenient to Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and the westside there are great restaurants, good shops and very popular (you never know who you might spot).

Speaking of restaurants it has Shake Shack and our ultimate favourite from our Shanghai days, Din Tai Fung [shriek].

It has Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s AND Nordstrom’s, a HUGE Apple Store, Tesla (in case you want to buy a car) and high-end brands.  It also has the usuals like Victoria’s Secret and Zara.  More exciting for us Aussies is the Cotton On sighting as well as Typo.  For a complete store listing click here.

And if that’s not enough Century City is very dog friendly.

Doggie Treats

Doggie treats | Century City

Santa Monica

If you’re staying in Santa Monica you really don’t want to drive up to LA to shop.  And you don’t need to because there’s great shopping right where you are.

Check out Third Street Promenade–the famous pedestrian-only shopping strip with great brands and a great vibe.  (I have to say I never shop down here because when you’re in Beverly Hills you don’t need to but it’s great shopping none-the-less).

Montana Avenue has upmarket boutiques and coffee shops but still offers a laid-back beach feel.  If you’re in Santa Monica it’s well worth meandering along–you never know who you might spot.

And, for something a little more hip check out Main Street.

Like all people in Santa Monica, you’ll never have to leave :-).

Camarillo Premium Outlets

At 45 minutes from Beverly Hills it’s a bit of a drive to Camarillo but I can tell you you won’t be disappointed.  As far as outlet malls go this one is a beauty with some great brands and a decent place to shop.  There’s everything from Kate Spade, Converse and Cotton On to BCBG Max Azria and Armani and Tori Burch.

Click here for a link to the store guide and map and have fun!

Outlets: Citadel

Citadel outlets are just south of Downtown on the I5 and really convenient if you’re staying in Orange County (Disneyland or the beaches–there’s an Express Shuttle from select Anaheim Hotels) or LA.

The first time we went here we had a field day (and so does everyone else we bring).  First stop for the Aussies Converse, Vans and Nike then you can branch out to H&M, American Eagle, Guess, Michael Kors, Banana Republic and Billabong.  There are heaps of other shops too.  If you’re out for bargains and have a big shopping list be prepared to take up most of your day.

It’s not bad people watching too just quietly–you get a better cross-section of LA than you do in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood.

Topanga Mall

LA doesn’t do mega malls like we have at home in Australia but Topanga is the exception to the rule.  It’s not handy if you’re staying at the Beach but if you’re staying in Beverly Hills it’s pretty easy to get to.  This mall is it has it all: Forever 21, Brandy Melville (not in very many Malls), Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neimen-Marcus, Henri Bendall, Bath & Body Works, Wet Seal–the list goes on.  It’s a one-stop shop.  Beware though you’ll need the day–there’s a lot to get through if you’re a thorough shopper, you might need to take advantage of its late-night trading.

Beverly Centre

I haven’t been a big fan of the Beverly Centre but I’m getting used to it.  Like all the other malls it has good brands to choose from including New York’s Henri Bendel.   It’s convenient and close to Melrose, Third Avenue and Beverly Connection across the road has Target and Nordstrom Rack if you don’t have time to hit the outlets but are looking for a bargain or two.

Melrose Avenue

I just love Melrose Avenue.  The best thing about it is keeps changing.  It starts from being designer boutique paradise to vintage shopping paradise to grungier hipster shopping.  There’s a lot to look at, great street art and great photo opps.  Here’s a great site that details what’s on offer on Melrose.  And while you’re there don’t forget to cover off Melrose Place.  You might like to lunch at the Fig & Olive it’s great food & wine (and great olives and olive oil).

Check out my photo gallery on Facebook.


Robertson is another great street for people watching and high-end boutique shopping.  Celebs and those in the know prefer to shop here than Rodeo Drive because it’s slightly less conspicuous.  Having said that it’s where The Ivy is and there are tour buses that travel along this strip hoping to spot a celeb (I wonder if they ever do?!  One time my son & I were coming out of The Ivy a tour bus came past and we waved to them, probably not the celebs they expected to see!)

Third Street

Another great strip with groovy boutiques and great places to eat including the uber-popular star-spotting eatery Joan’s On Third.


Petticoat anyone?


Beverly Hills

You might notice I didn’t mention Rodeo Drive.  It’s more of a sightseeing destination than a shopping destination–unless of course you have come with your Black Amex and are ready to do some damage.  By all means head on down there and check it out.  But if you’re that way try Beverly, just one street over.  It has great shops and a little more kind to your credit card.

Universal Studios City Walk

If you’re really short on time there are actually a few good stops at Universal Studios City Walk.  Of note are Abercrombie & Fitch and a huge Billabong shop.  And there are a number of different restaurants to choose from if you’re exhausted from your long day there.

Getting around LA

It’s pretty hard to get around LA in anything other than a car.  If you’re going to brave driving in LA drive fast and be decisive.  Other than that here’s a post on driving in LA.

Have you heard of Uber?  We love it and use it here all the time.  Here’s a link to sign up (with a promo code for up to $30 off your first ride).  Give it a go, you won’t regret it.

Happy Shopping!

xx It Started in LA xx

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