Browsing Tag

California

Behind-the-wheel test
Moving to LA, My LA story, Posts

Getting my Californian Licence—part two (behind-the-wheel)

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Getting my Californian Driver's Licence

I hope you haven’t been holding your breath waiting for “Getting my Californian Driving Licence—part 2 (behind-the-wheel)”.

Yes, they call it “behind-the-wheel” here and it’s the practical part of the licence process—the part that has “fail me” written all over it and the part I was putting off the most mainly because of the horror stories I’d heard. You know? Anything that can go wrong will go wrong?

About six months ago I embarked on the getting-my-licence journey thinking it would give my sitcom (actually Blog) a comedy boost. Sadly there is little to no comedic value in this post.  It’s not original and it’s just one of those stupid things in life there’s just no getting around.

One Sunday night a few weeks ago—while it was still school holidays—my husband got out his iPad and announced it was time to get my licence.  Where did that come from?

The overwhelming advice was don’t sit your licence in Hollywood, they’ll fail you.  OK.  It was suggested I go into the “Valley” to Winnetka.  The only available appointment in the foreseeable future was the very next day.

“I can’t do it tomorrow,” I said rather adamantly.

“Why not?”.

“Because,” knowing full well that’s a ridiculous response. “I need to drive around and get to know the area first. And we’ve got dentist appointments in the morning, how am I going to do two things in one day?” Useless … not getting any more convincing.

So, after checking around at alternative appointments and realising I’ve got no excuse, we made the appointment. I can do this.

I rounded up all my paperwork ready for the test. Because I was driving on a Learner’s Permit Mr H had to come with me.

(Only a year ago you could show your Australian licence and they’d give you a temporary licence provided you past the written test. Now you’re given a Learner’s Permit valid for one year).

Because you’re on a Learner’s Permit it technically requires a licenced driver to accompany you.  Given part of their checklist is you must be accompanied by a Licenced Driver, we weren’t about to test the DMV and have me front up alone only to be rejected.

Preparation for behind-the-wheel test

Next we collected up the rest of the paperwork I needed:

  • My Learner’s Permit
  • My Registration Papers (that are supposed to be kept in the car anyway)
  • Proof of insurance (that’s also supposed to be kept in the car)
  • i94 & Passport.

(Side-bar: While I needed my i94 and Passport they didn’t ask for my son’s when he got his licence at 16. It may have something to do with the fact that it’s a brand new licence but not sure at this stage. He passed his test and is now driving so all must be OK).

And look up my hand signals. (That’s right, for some antiquated reason you need to know hand signals for left, right and stop).

OK, check, check, check.

We rocked up to the Winnetka DMV.  You’re asked to park in the carpark, check in and then drive up to the testing area when “instructed to do so”.

Like every other DMV in LA it’s packed. I don’t know why this is. There’s always a queue out the front and there are always hordes of people inside.  And it’s always always always chaotic. This DMV is not unlike the Hollywood DMV I described in Part one of this story.

I had to go inside past the outside queue (and funny looks) and then past another inside queue that was marked for appointments and head over to the far side (not dissimilar to the far queue) where there was a separate queue for driver’s licence appointments.

I’m glad Mr H asked as it wasn’t obvious when we arrived and there are so many people around, you feel like you need to start queuing outside before you make your way in. Without deliberately offending my host country it feels like I’m walking into a government department in the Philippines.

We were early but unfortunately they were checking us in in appointment time order so that wasn’t much use to us. And, they were running late.

We checked the paperwork list on the desk matched the paperwork we’d brought in with us.  All good.  Oh, except the insurance papers.  They were expired.  We’d been automatically renewed but we mustn’t have printed out the renewal and now we’re standing there looking at expired insurance.

Ok, we can log in and show that our insurance was actually current.  But now we’re at the mercy of DMV—and whether the people behind the counters are sticklers for the rules or reasonable.  You never want to be at the mercy of the DMV so who knows how this will play out.

We started playing out the different scenarios.

“Oh, is it expired? I didn’t realise. I can look it up online to prove it’s not.” Possible.

“Would you be able to print our proof of insurance out for us?” Doubtful.

“We’ve just realised the paperwork is out of date but here it is online to prove it’s current.” Yep, always go with the truth.

There was a nice girl at the desk so we’ll take our chances.

Oh wait, the nice girl goes on break. The one that takes over seems a bit grumpy. Great.

We wait some more. I’ve got Mr H there, slightly dodgy paperwork and a car to sit the test in so I’m just at the mercy of the chick behind the counter as to whether she accepts the insurance certificate and then that of the driving tester.

They call our timeslot and as if it’s meant to be the nice girl comes back. “No problems.” she says as she takes my learner’s permit and registration and hands me back my proof of insurance and asks me to sit down and wait for my name to be called.

I’ll spare you the muzak on hold music and the obligatory … 30 minutes later to give the idea of the length of time this is taking …

(Ok I didn’t but I could have).

I’m up! My name is called and Mr H and I go to my car. I’m driving, he’s in the passenger seat. I was asked to put my paperwork on the right dashboard so I did.

It’s taking a bloody long time to drive to what is essentially a drive-through minus the bottleshop or Maccas ordering window. There’s a hold up in front of us. Two lots of people get out of their cars. Oops. As we’re creeping forward a clearly nervous 16-year-old hits the people in front of her, who are just in front of us. They exchange paperwork we chuckle at the irony and wonder if she’s automatically failed or given a lifeline. There’s a security guard there facilitating the exchange but none of the testers so maybe she’s good to go.

(She was good to go but came back some five minutes later failing anyway).

Time to run through my hand signals one more time.

Taking the behind-the-wheel test: we’re on

I’m up. The tester takes my paperwork and Mr H is free to get out of the car. Then she starts asking me questions.

  • Where’s your foot brake? Put your foot on it (and she checks my brake lights)
  • Right indicator (oops I’ve done the windscreen wipers, try again, got it).
  • Left indicator
  • Checks my tyres
  • Asks me to do my handsignals and say what they are.

Next she hops in the car and asks some more things saying point don’t touch.

  • Emergency or foot brake (parking brake)
  • Horn
  • Emergency flasher
  • Headlights
  • Defroster (rear & front demist)
  • Headlights.

We’re off. I had nightmares for two years about exiting the driveway and turning too close and running over the gutter but all good. I turned right into a street, stopped at a traffic light and turned right again. She asked me to pull over then reverse. Then she asked me to pull out again. The silence in the car is killing me. I hate awkward silence. I turned left into a street and left into another one. I was near the DMV I could feel it in my bones I was home and hosed.

Keep going straight. What??? Aren’t I done? Left. Right. Left. Left. We were getting further away. Was she willing me to make more mistakes? This is becoming a competition now. I wasn’t going to fail after all this. I passed mini test after mini test she was giving me. I had to turn left into a street but the cars were banked up past the turning lane left so I dutifully waited behind the cars. (You know when you’ve got your licence you just cross the wrong side of the road so you can join the turning lane so you catch the lights?) Two cars overtook me and I laughed awkwardly. She was impressed I could tell. I could sense we were heading back.

“Left,” she said. There was a pedestrian crossing yet I was free to go. I had heard that the pedestrian had to fully cross the road before you could go. What do I do? Do I go? Wait? I’m going to fail on my way back to the DMV. I went but turned wide when the pedestrian was crossing on the other side of the traffic. I’ve failed. Keep calm she would’ve asked you to pull over by now.

I pulled into the DMV. As far as I could see I was perfect: I stopped ahead of the lanes, I used my mirrors all the time (as in checked them remembering when I was 18 and sat my test in Melbourne and passed on the first go) and I didn’t speed.  That damn pedestrian.

“You can have 15 errors,” she started. Great. No way, I couldn’t have failed.

“You made 11 errors.” I passed. Yay me. Wait, what 11 errors?

“You must take care not to turn too wide,” she said. Oh yeah, I’m lucky I made the right call there I’ll take that one.  “Awkward giggle, oh yes I know where I did that,” I said out loud.

“You must always look both ways.” But I did, I did. I looked in my mirrors I looked everywhere.

I nodded as if to agree. Who cares? I passed.

“Go inside, give them this and you can collect your licence.” No congratulations? No well done?

“Ok. Thanks.”

I went to the desk and said to the girl (a different girl at a different desk). “I passed. Just.”

“Oh,” she said looking at my paperwork.  Then, looking at the girl next to her she said, “She got you-know-who guess how many errors she made. She passed.”

“14,” says the girl next to her.

“11,” she laughs back at her.

“Oh you’re good girl,” said the girl looking up at me then and the girl next to her and continues serving the person at her desk.

“She’s tough that one.  Let’s put it like this.  I’ll get in the car with you any time.”

Only then did I breathe a sigh of relief.

I’m a licenced Californian driver. I had to sit a written test then (endure) a behind-the-wheel test and I live to tell the tale. Not only that I passed.  With the toughest tester in Winnetka.

Could you pass a behind-the-wheel test if you had to resit it today? How did you go? I’m just glad this little obstacle is done and dusted.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: For more information on applying for your California Driver’s Licence head here.

Differences between America & Australia, My LA story, Posts

Returning things (taking stuff back)

The difference between Americans & Australians

I’m starting a new series of differences between Australians & Americans prompted by today’s shopping experience. I’m not talking spelling or speaking but reactions and situations. Join in if you’ve got a story to tell.

Returns Bloomingdale’s style

I bought some candles for a friend whose birthday is coming up. I ordered them online (of course) and opted to pick them up in store because I wouldn’t receive them in time for her birthday dinner.

Cut to the chase I got the candles home and my daughter was snooping in the bag (she is obsessed with candles AND snooping!).

“Ew,” she screamed. “This candle has been lit.”

And sure enough it had. No sign of real lighting action but that wick was not white (or clear) it was black.

So I headed straight back to Bloomingdale’s the next morning so they didn’t suspect me of being the mysterious candle-lighter.

“Oh my god,” said the checkout chick (who is actually a bloke but then I couldn’t use the term ”checkout chick”), “that’s terrible. Ew. Let’s get you another one shall we?”

So off we went looking for the same product—but one that hadn’t been lit. Each time he passed someone who worked at the store he’d call out, “Hey Larry—or whatever their name was—look this poor lady got sent a candle that had been … (gasp) lit.”

“No way,” they’d reply in shock.  “That’s terrible.”

It took us a while to find the same product but he looked up the stock and knew there were some somewhere. So off he went digging out the back to try to find more. And he did. And he sent me away a happy—albeit still shell-shocked—customer.

 

Returns Australia style

Let’s imagine how this might play out in Australia…

Me: “Hi, I bought these candles online and picked them up here yesterday but one of the candles seems to have been lit.”

Checkout chick (CC): “Oh,” glaring at me sizing me up to see if I hadn’t in fact lit the candle myself. “Do you have the receipt.”

Me: “Yes,” showing her the receipt.

CC: “And when did you say you bought them? Where from?

Me: Politely answer the question.

CC: “I’ll have to speak to someone about this, wait one minute please,” while walking up and whispering to her colleague both looking at me making me feel guilty like I deliberately lit that candle and took it back wanting a new one.

“OK, mam, this is an unusual situation. We won’t give you your money back we can only exchange and since the candle has already been lit then we can only exchange it for exactly the same product.”

Me: “Well that’s good because I want the candle, I got it home and found that it had been lit and it’s a gift and I really want to give them a brand new one, not one that’s been lit by someone else.

“Do you have anymore in stock? I couldn’t find them anywhere.”

CC: “I’m not sure you’ll have to look around and see if you can find another one.”

Me: “I’ve had a look around but can’t seem to see any. I only bought them online yesterday there should be more here somewhere shouldn’t there?”

CC: “You’ll have to wait while I serve this customer and maybe I can check stock for you. Or you might go back online and see if you can find some more.”

You get the picture? I love shopping here and not being treated guilty before being proved innocent. Plus the prices are better and it’s so convenient online!

 

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

A normal end to the school year–with a twist of 90210

Like everyone in my neck of the woods, with school finishing in the middle of the year rather than the end, it’s busy, busy, busy. There are fairs, thank-you breakfasts, end-of-year events and of course big assignments and exams to study for.

Last weekend we had the Annual Fair, which was moved from the school grounds to a private party on Santa Monica Pier. Each school we’ve been to (with the kids) has had a Fair/Fiesta/Fete of some kind. They’ve all been good but last year we (I) was so shell-shocked laughing at the fact that my kids are having their fair on the Santa Monica Pier.

I never expected to be ever going back to LA let alone living here let alone having a private party on the blessed (pronounced bless-ed in place of a swear-word) Pier. This year we’re so LA that we’ve taken it all in our stride. Somewhat.

Cut back to my son’s school in Australia and the boys had to rock up to the Fiesta in full school uniform. While I can hear most of you that aren’t used to this thinking “WTF?” I can assure you it comes in very handy for three things:

  • Finding your son in a crowd
  • The girls finding a potential boyfriend in the crowd
  • Keeping the boys out of trouble—and if they choose to get into trouble they’re easily identified!

His Fair was fantastic. I love the excuse to hang out with my friends (may or may not sneak in a bottle of wine) and see the kids having a great time in the safety and security of the school grounds. Equally I love the scantily clothed girls hunting in packs checking out the talent—so easy to spot those strapping boys in their school uniforms. Such is the joy of single-sex schools and the lengths they’ll go to for the opportunity to meet someone of the opposite sex (yes, I am exaggerating).

My favourite thing about the Fair would have to be the silent auction. A lot of work would go into each class donating goods & services and we’d package them all up into enticing hampers. I would spend a considerable amount of time weighing up those hampers—what was in them, whether I was getting a bargain and whether or not I could use any of the contents as Christmas pressies. I was (not surprisingly) attracted by the alcohol hampers and scored many a bargain. At the end of the day I’d walk out with us all juggling a number of hampers trying to avoid doing more trips than we needed to.

I do love a 90210 silent auction though. On offer were things like Ellen tickets, tickets to the LA Kings, LA Lakers & Clippers, tickets to the American Idol final, Teen Choice Awards, lunch with Halle Berry and the opportunity to hang out with her on set and have lunch, and meet Steven Spielberg. By far the most popular prize was the chance for 12 kids to play basketball with legendary Clippers basketballer Chris Paul.  There were so many, many more amazing prizes it was hard for me to decide where to concentrate my focus.

I did very well this year. Instead of going home juggling several hampers I went home with an envelope with gift certificates and a Bass Guitar. Did I happen to mention that the guitar was Duff McKagan’s from Guns n Roses? No? Yes, as a matter of fact it’s true.

Proud owner of Duff McKagan's bass #myreality #itstartedinla #gunsnroses

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

My gift certificates were for four tickets to see Rod Stewart in Vegas (as well as a photo opp & Meet & Greet—which seems really silly seeing as I’ve already met him and didn’t have to pay for the privilege but at least this way I get to take a few guilt-free selfies). That wasn’t all, four tickets to see Britney Spears and two night’s accommodation including F&B credit and Spa credit. Score. Yep, quite the haul indeed.

I say that we’re taking Fairs on Santa Monica Pier in our stride, we are, somewhat.  But we do have to stop and pinch ourselves and shrug our shoulders and think how on earth did we land here?  Seriously, the chance to bid on amazing experiences and events that simply aren’t available to everyone—especially for most people who live outside our bubble is not something we should ever take for granted.

“That” moment for us the other night was seeing the one and only Sandra Bullock just hanging out like a normal person (yep, new bestie material). For my son that moment was when he was on the Rollercoaster with her. Only in LA could you be riding a rollercoaster on Santa Monica Pier with Sandra Bullock. Hashtag Living the Dream.

The Californian High School Swim Season

I have to say I love how swimming is done here in the US. While I love, love, love the atmosphere, school spirit and passion that goes into swimming at my kids’ schools in Australia (especially the private boys schools) I’m forced to reflect that it’s somewhat elite. And in a strange way, it’s College level here.

Back home in Australia my son had to qualify to be in the swim team where they would compete in one bigger-than-Ben-Hur event. There are a lot of fast swimmers in my son’s school—most of whom qualify to compete at state level—and his times may or may not earn him a place on the team.

Here in the US my son had a swim meet each week, a tri-comp where three schools competed in individual events and relays. The events were broken up into girls and boys, Junior Varsity and Varsity. Everyone got to participate and compete on his or her level. They got to win, lose and get disqualified. They also got the opportunity to qualify for the CIF (which is basically all the private and public schools in California) for a mega meet to finish off the league season.

My son made it to CIF and his relay team made it to the finals.  I got a kick out of lots of things–nothing more than eavesdropping all day on other parents’ conversations–but the main one was them playing the national anthem before the finals.  The Amercians’ reverence and patriotism is certainly one to be admired.

Hats off & hands on your heart for the National Anthem

Hats off & hands on your heart for the National Anthem

 

The atmosphere and venue are second to none in Australia, the competition fierce but we’ll take swimming US High School style where regular, seasonal competition for your school is available.

Having said that I do wish the meets were bigger and had more of the ra-ra style cheerleaders that I expected to find when we moved here. I guess that proves you can’t have it all.

Exams v Assignments

Assignments are big in Australia, exams not so much. That’s what makes it harder the older you get when you actually have to start sitting exams and you’re not used to it.

Cut back here to the US and generally all grades (in our “College Prep” school) from 6-12 sit exams. But this year there’s been a little shift, a gentle shift but a shift nonetheless.

That’s right shock horror a couple of the departments opted for a major assignment rather than an exam. I’m on the fence about this. I thought that our American experience would have them so used to exams if and when the time came to head back to the HSC (Higher School Certificate—which it is in NSW) they’d be experts and it wouldn’t be so daunting.

Alas my son in 9th Grade (a “Freshman”) has an exam for every subject except for English and my daughter in 7th Grade (she’s a “Middle Schooler” so she doesn’t have a fancy title) seems to be in the grade that they keep changing the rules for, she’s missing English and History. Last year she was supposed to start exams but they opted for only a couple of the subjects having exams. In the middle of the year she was also supposed to start exams but they opted for only exams at the end of the year. Wonder if this is the start of a trend?

So you see the end of our school year isn’t that much different to yours but it does have a 90210 twist. And that 90210 twist is what makes life that little bit exciting here.  It’s what makes the mundane bearable and the move worth it. I’m sure when we’re home in a few years we’ll look back on this time and not believe it was us.

Enjoy the rest of the week!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS  If you’re reading this because you followed a link from Facebook why not subscribe?  Then you won’t miss a single post and you can always come back to read my posts later.  Check out the right-hand column, pop in your email address and you’re done.

Moving to LA, Posts

Getting my Californian Licence–part one (written test)

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Getting my Californian Driver's Licence

Californian law states that you must get a new driver’s licence within 10 days of getting here. Oops.

Mr H got his straight away but I chose the path of maximum procrastination.  There was a time where I thought I wouldn’t even get one.

But it’s time: Getting my Californian Licence–part one (the written test).

You can sign up for an appointment online but when I finally went to do this I came across this question: “are you new or transferring your licence from another State?” Well, no, I’m from overseas. Is Australia another state of America?

So I procrastinated and didn’t continue my search for an appointment. Then I heard all sorts of stories about how bad it can be to get your actual licence—Australians must sit the “behind-the-wheel” test as well as the written one—so that meant more procrastinating.

Then I thought I’d do it with a friend and that would encourage me to get it. We procrastinated together.  Still no licence.

Then there was the time Bruno Mars ran into me in his white Bentley convertible just down the road from my place (ok it wasn’t really Bruno Mars but he reminded me of him and he was the loveliest guy so) and I panicked.  Thankfully we resolved the situation on the spot but now I was becoming unhinged. If I don’t have a Californian licence I can be “cited” and have my ve-he-cle impounded and we don’t want that.  Maybe I should think about getting my licence.

My next kick-in-the-butt was getting my licence before my nearly 15-yeear-old could get his permit.  Time is running out.  I’ve finally run out of excuses and we’re finally doing this.

Step 1: Getting an appointment

Mr H (sick of my procrastination) filled in the online appointment request, got me a time and I started studying. How hard can it be? There are apps and online tests you can take to prepare you for the test. I used the app and it put me off because of questions like:

“A traffic light is red, but a peace officer is signaling you to continue driven. What should you do?”

Letter-for-letter-word-for-word.

Well first of all you can tell me if you’ve got a speech impediment and then you can tell me what the fluck a peace officer is.

(No, it wasn’t a typo, apparently a peace officer is a gentle term for police officer—the fuzz—cops. Why don’t you just say that?)

Studying for my California driver's licence tomorrow. I don't know what or who's a peace officer? #itstartedinla #myreality

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

Then there was this one:

“A green arrow showing a red light means…”

It’s a red arrow.  Isn’t it?  No.  Is it just me or is it questionable how they phrase these questions?

I think I need an American lesson before I take this test. Thank god for those practice tests.

The app looks like this and is available on the App store–I highly recommend it!

Here's what the app looks like that I found so helpful--minus the typos and stuff of course!

Here’s what the app looks like that I found so helpful–minus the typos and stuff of course!

Step 2: Going to the DMV

Like all public services (I use the term service loosely) there’s a queue a mile long to get in. These places make me feel like I’m in a third-world country. There are people going everywhere, no one is exactly sure where to go and what to do and it’s very, very low-tech. There are the usual side conversations—people who have struck up conversations with each other in the queue. Normal America is far from the picture Hollywood gives you. In fact, I want my money back.

In a Hollywood backstreet with a view of the Hollywood sign the DMV brings together people of all walks of life. There, as if to provide entertainment, are two homeless drunks swigging on their wine (at 9:30AM–well they are homeless drunks and it is 5:00 somewhere in the world), poking fun at each other and surprisingly keeping to themselves. Whatever it was they were doing kept themselves amused for the longest time.

 

After spending 15 minutes in the long queue that snaked out the door and around the corner I texted Mr H to tell him his iPad ran out of battery so no more practising while I wait. Thank god I did because apparently there’s a separate queue inside for appointments. Nobody told me that. I even sent the girl behind me in the queue to check if there are separate lines. All they said was move back, move back, we need the room in the doorway, please move back.

After the false start I found one of the last remaining English forms and filled it in while I waited and was served.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” said the lady pushing in behind me. “I have a question.”

“I’m sorry maam you’ll have to wait at the end of the line.”

“I just have a question.”

“I’m sorry maam,” said my lady while the question-asking lady got abused by the lady next to my lady serving the (gigantic) queue without appointments.

“She’s so stressed,” my lady says to me.

“It’s busy in here,” I said (I wanted to say it’s a shitfight in here but not sure that would’ve gone down too well). “Is it always like this?”

“Always,” she sighed.

“Oh my god you poor darlings,” I blurted out.

She smiled, sensed my sympathy and immediately felt better. I meant it. I was bracing myself to make sure she found my appointment slot, I had the right ID, filled in the form properly and could move to the next step because the last thing I wanted to do was come back any sooner than I needed to. No wonder discussion groups say stay clear of the DMV—it’s a nightmare.

The thing that continues to astound me is the patience of the Americans. They push to ask questions and find out what’s going on but they wait in line and do as they’re told. The scene at that DMV was one you can imagine on a news bulletin—people going everywhere and one lone madman gets filled with rage, can’t handle it anymore, gets out his gun and starts shooting. (There’s a metal detector & bag check at the Social Security & Tax offices but not one here). But they all do what they told don’t answer back and sit and wait. That’s why Americans are in shock when a madman does come out shooting. I know that much now at least. Still you never know, so I sit down and stare at that screen waiting for my number to be called to tell me where to go.

Because I’m getting older now I survey the windows, check out where people are being called to and sus out where I might be directed.  I need to get this right.

Step 3: It’s my turn

That wait wasn’t so bad—especially after you’ve spoken to the people next to you. So very American. The lady was really very nice (they’re not usually known for being nice or helpful). She entered my details into the computer, got someone to cross-check them, took my work permit (which was apparently a better from of ID than my Australian passport or driver’s licence). They only took cash or debit card so for once in my life I had cash—thank god says this credit card queen. Anyway, at $33 it’s not the $100-and-something in Australia. Oh, and they took my right thumb print too.

“Would you like your test in English?”

“Yes please, unless you have one in Australian.”

No … oops, sorry. Nice but still no sense of humour.

Step 4: Photo time

“Head over to counter 22 Miss and good luck.”

Great, but I didn’t realise I was getting my photo taken. Cool, I get ID for my next trip out of Burbank where they reject my Australian driver’s licence as a form of ID.

Place your right thumb on the scanner then stand and get your picture taken.

Snap.

Done.  I like that step.

Step 5: Test time

You get three chances (I didn’t know that until a friend told me on my way in) so it’s pretty hard to fail. Damn Mr H scaring me into thinking I’d fail. Still I was glad because some of those questions are so dodgy and the likelihood of me coming back if I failed was pretty slim so we had to do this.

I must one of the first to do the test on a touch-screen computer because most people I know still had to circle paper-based forms. How novel.  Once I went through the questions I went back to the desk to tell them if I passed or failed.  Do you trust me?  How do you know if I didn’t pass?  Well I wasn’t about to test that, I passed!

They printed an extra bit of paper gave everything back and told me to schedule my “behind-the-wheel” test.

“Do I get my photo?” I asked.  “No that’s it.”

Bugger, I thought I got a nice card with my photo on it saying learner’s permit.  Nope I have to wait for my actual licence for that.

Step one done. Behind-the-wheel test to go #cadriverslicence #myreality #itstartedinla

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

Yes my friends, I have my permit. I have until this time next year to sit my “behind-the-wheel” test. Don’t’ think Mr H will let me wait that long somehow. Yep, time to face my fears and have a Nike moment.

xx It Started in LA xx

yummy
Posts, Reviews, Visiting LA

B Candy Newport Beach

Ice-cream anyone? On a recent roadtrip back to LA from San Diego (via the Orange County beach suburbs) we got that ice-cream craving you get when it’s hot and you see water.  (OK, you can get an ice-cream craving any time of the day and night).

We found the most enticing “candy” shop with lots of parking.  Bullseye!

You know the saying “like a kid in a candy shop?”   Well that candy shop was B Candy.  A feast for the eyes and the cravings it’s the perfect destination for all things lollies.  And candy.  And chocolate.  And–of course–ice cream.

But we were here for the ice-cream.  I had that “Only in America” moment when I saw the chocolate-covered potato chips and caramel ice cream:  Get out of town.  Gross.

Chocolate covered potato chips and caramel ice cream. Heaven.

Chocolate covered potato chips and caramel ice cream. Heaven.

 

I love that in America you get to sample first.  Dare you.  You’re on.

Oh. My. God.  The result is the saltiness from the chips, the crunch and the oozing caramel and hit of chocolate.  Nothing short of a taste sensation.  No friends, the reason there’s no photo of me devouring this ice-cream sensation is that there simply wasn’t an opportunity.  I still dream of that to this day and can’t wait to go back and have more.  Next time I’ll bring a tub back.  Can you do that?

I had a lovely chat with the owner, Brandy and all-in-all this is such a warm, lovely environment.  So much so that I decided to share it with you.

Pop in and pay them a visit and tell them I sent you.  But save me some of the ice-cream.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  Like what you read? Want to stay in touch with me? It’s easy, really.  Just subscribe to my Blog and each time I post it will be delivered straight to your Inbox.  It’s as easy as that.  And while you’re at it, share me with your mates.

Driving Yosemite
Posts, Travelog

Yosemite: a natural wonder of the world in my books

I’ve climbed the Great Wall of China, I’ve seen the Great Barrier Reef, I’m desperate to do Macchu Picchu and Victoria Falls and I’ve flown over the Grand Canyon.

And now I can say I’ve soaked up all that Yosemite National Park had to give me and in my book it is one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

Majestic, spectacular, mind-blowing, stunning, breathtaking phenomenal … it left us speechless and in awe.

I’ve said it a few times now: I never wanted to live in the US, I certainly wanted to travel the US more extensively than I had but it wasn’t far enough up my bucket list to imagine that I’d get to see the amazing things I’m having the opportunity to do.  So forgive me if I indulge for a few more minutes as to how lucky I am to get the chance to visit Yosemite and to experience it not only with my family but with our close friends visiting from Australia.

No, this post isn’t about you reading about me gloating at having been to and admired Yosemite but about sharing it with you–more importantly how to conquer Yosemite yourself.

Many of my fabulous new LA friends haven’t been to Yosemite and I hope I can encourage them all to visit as it’s so well worth it.

When to go?

Well the materials say Yosemite is good to enjoy in every season and I’m sure it is.  Winter is the quietest month and summer its busiest.  For now I can only give you first-hand experience for summer.

Where to stay?

When I did my research the resounding advice was to stay in the Park.  The downside apparently was you had to bring everything in because there are no shops in the park.  That makes sense from Australian logic but when we got there we found supplies at a couple of the shops inside the park, enough I’m thinking to get you through.  Also, there are restaurants in the park so even if you’re camping you can book at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly known as the Ahawanee) for example for dinner and drinks.

Book early (full stop AND exclamation mark)

If you’re planning to go in summer and want to stay in Yosemite try to book between 6-12 months in advance.  There are first-come-first-serve campsites but you’ll have to join the queue early to guarantee yourself a spot.

I tried to book around five months in advance for two families and found no room at the Inn.  There was a last-minute cancellation for a very basic cottage but decided against it.  Instead we rented an RV (caravan truth be told) that was delivered and set-up at our campsite for us and managed to book a spot at nearby Oakhurst.  It’s about an hour/hour and a half drive but it’s a pretty one and we didn’t find it much of a hassle.  It also puts you at the main entrance (South Entrance) that’s open all year round.

RV

There were nine in an RV

Getting there

Here’s a link to help with driving directions.  Our entire trip started in LA direct to Yosemite (about a five-hour drive) then a couple of days later continued to Vegas via Mammoth and Death Valley (which was spectacular).

This drive on the way out (through Tioga Road–Highway 120 East entrance) is closed through winter because of its high elevation and snow.  We saw the last snow on the ground  on our way out that’ll give you an idea of how much snow there must be in winter.  It is a spectacular vision and different again from Glacier Point and the Valley floor.

To us, this drive out this far gate made us feel even more in awe of Yosemite and its changing face–the park just keeps on giving.  (NOTE: If you’re going to do this drive it gets cold so bring a hoodie/jumper/sweats or whatever it takes in whatever version of English you speak).

East Gate

The East Gate provides a different aspect of Yosemite well worth the drive

 

Other places to stay

We loved Bass Lake.  It’s around a 1.5 hour-drive to Yosemite Valley but it doesn’t feel like it.  There are some gorgeous houses and a decent-looking resort there.  We had the added bonus of hiring a boat and going donuting and wakeboarding (& champagning of course) which the kids just loved.

Bass Lake

Nearby Bass Lake was a pleasant surprise and a welcome find

 

Fish Camp is only a few kms from the South Entrance and while small had a number of accommodation options.  I wish I’d have known about this when I was booking.  I can’t tell you whether we would have secured accommodation here when Yosemite was booked out but I would have at least tried had I known about it.

Likewise Oakhurst (where we ended up) had heaps of accommodation offers and while hysterical ending up where we did I did look at the Best Western green with envy.  Again, I didn’t really know to look here for other options–yes, quite ill-informed going in I agree but you live and learn.

A note re booking early.  I was really peeved to find out that a couple having a drink at a table next to us at the Ahawanee only booked their room the night before and when we enquired there was one room free.  How could this be?  Hopefully it was due to last-minute cancellations and a lot of luck on their part.  The hotel couldn’t give me an explanation–they naturally danced around that question!

 What to see?

What isn’t there to see?  We’re not big hikers so doing all the trails and hikes was not for us.  That doesn’t mean to say it’s not for you.  We spent a whole day driving (and walking & eating) around Yosemite then the second morning driving through the South Entrance to the East Entrance to Mammoth and onto Death Valley.  (I can’t recommend this highly enough).

What did we see and did we think it was enough time?

  • Glacier’s Peak
Glacier Point

Glacier Point Selfie #155 | It Started in LA

 

  • Tunnel view on your way down to Yosemite Valley (takes your breath away). You know you’ve come to it because you literally drive through a long tunnel and when you come out: kapow.  Simply stunning it takes your breath away.
Tunnel view

Exit from a tunnel only to be knocked out by the most incredible view–kapow

 

  • Yosemite Valley covering some waterfalls, Half Dome and El Capitan.
Yosemite

Yosemite Valley: simply breathtaking | It Started in LA

 

I felt like it was enough (as in I didn’t feel like we missed out on anything not that we were bored).  As I said at the start I felt in awe, soaked it all in and the kids even managed time to play in the icy cold (and extremely pure) creeks.  I didn’t feel rushed and I felt like I got a sense of the place.

One of the best decisions we made was to valet park at the Ahwanee Hotel and have a drink and lunch there.  It was poles apart from our RV at the Trailer Park and the hotel is just gorgeous.  I managed to take a peak at the cabins and while lovely they were pretty basic so I’m not sure whether you need to spend the big bucks to stay here.

Ahawanee Hotel

Even if you don’t stay at the Ahawanee Hotel you can still eat or drink here

 

But then again I have nothing to compare it to (except the RV of course) but will let you know if I go back and try to stay at one of the hotels or lodgings.

Here’s a link to a great article I found on spending a day at Yosemite.  (It pretty much gives a little more detail of what I just said.)

My verdict

It was busy but it didn’t feel like it was over-crowded or compromised with lots of activity.  We got parks at each vantage point, managed a table for lunch and wandered around freely.

Others might not agree with me though.  When we got out of the car I was so excited and started saying to our group (who, OK, were not in close, close proximity to me), “Oh my god, this is amazing,” or words to that effect.  He (apparently) said something like it was until I spoilt his recording of the serenity.  Had I have known he said that I would have charged him money for my voiceover (or had him delete me if he didn’t cough up–either that or put him in touch with my agent and lawyer).  I didn’t realise we were in a museum or library.  Some people take life waaay too seriously.

The only time we felt it was overwhelmingly busy was when we were due to leave–there was a bit of a traffic jam.  We parked the car and sat by a creek near Curry Village to let the traffic subside.  It didn’t take long and we drove out of the park back to the Trailer Park.

Curry Creek

The Crystal clear waters at Curry Creek, Yosemite

 

The drive didn’t seem to take long at all and remember we had two cars and five kids so I reckon that’s saying something.

I would go again in a heartbeat.  Next time I’ll try to stay at a hotel in the park.  I’ve also added a trip to Mammoth on my list and I’d like to check out Lake Tahoe further north.

Do what you can but just do it.  Especially if you live in California you have no excuse not to visit Yosemite–a natural wonder right on your door step.  And if you don’t–what a great excuse to come to California.  But just remember:

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

 

Beverly Hilton
My LA story, Posts, Visiting LA

A night to remember: the Beverly Hilton

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Beverly Hills Hotels

 

 

 

 

Shhh …. I’m having an affair.  I know, so LA right?  It feels so good.  It feels so right.  It’s like an addiction–just one more night, one more time.  Then I’ll stop.  I promise.  Maybe if I’m careful I won’t get caught.  I think I’m in love …

 

Stay at the Beverly Hilton to relive vintage Californian retro chic.  Centrally located, driving towards Beverly Hills from LAX along Santa Monica Boulevard and there it is–for all to see. The Beverly Hilton stands out as if to say “look at me” and damn it so people should.  With Beverly Hills at its front doorstep, a centrally located pool (complete with beautiful people adorning it) a huge white wall for after-dark movie screenings all you need to do is close your eyes and you’ve stepped back in time.  And what a time that was.

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

I’m loving discovering these Beverly Hills hotels for you.  Each one so far has had its own look and feel, there truly is something on offer for everyone.  I’m in love with the Beverly Hilton.

The Beverly Hilton ticks quite a few boxes as it’s a large hotel so it’s able to cater for different needs.

You think of Beverly Hills and you think Oscars, Golden Globes, celebrities and of course the Beverly Hilton.  The Beverly Hilton is one of the most iconic Beverly Hills landmarks with its ode to all things vintage and 1950s. It hasn’t changed a bit.  And it’s a good thing.

Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton each year

Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton each year

 

(OK, it has been refurbished and they’ve kept the hotel looking spic and span but they haven’t tried to recreate its essence: it’s staying very true to itself. Thank god for that!)

The first time I visited and as I walked through the lobby of the hotel I was in another world.  Sure, you say it’s just another hotel but it’s the era, the events that have happened in the hotel–the same feeling you get as if you’re in the middle of a Mad Men set or on a Pam Am flight bound for Europe.

I’m looking around taking in the sights, smells and ambiance.  Sneaking in the back via the carpark,  I walked through the first floor and hear sounds of a woman talking; I smell smoke.  I gaze down casually to find a blonde lady in her bathers smoking a cigarette surrounded by friends.  It’s so 1950s LA.  Careful not to stare for too long I take a step back and casually take a photo–not of anyone in particular but it was a gorgeous day and the pool is glistening in the sun.

Beverly Hilton Pool

Looking down at the Beverly Hilton pool it’s not hidden away somewhere: it’s on show for everyone to see

 

This pool is the largest heated hotel pool in LA.  Infamously Angelina Jolie jumped in fully clothes the night she won her second Golden Globe for the movie Gina.  (If you were paying attention this was the subject of one of my Fact or Fiction posts.)

I’m early for my appointment so I walk through the lobby having a look around.  In a matter of minutes two people ask me if I need help–clearly I look lost and they’re very attentive.  I politely decline.

Actually this isn’t my first rip to the hotel. the last time I was here it was the night of the Golden Globes, one of guests to the many after-parties.  There were monitors and signs pointing guests in the right direction: Weinstein; Warner-Bros/InStyle; Fox; NBC; E!  I was overwhelmed then but now I’m trying to picture where it all fit.  It looks nothing like it did that night.

Golden Globes

All signs point to an After-Party. Golden Globes Style | 2014

 

Immediately after the last guests go home the hotel is back to its normal self ready for another “normal” day.  And here I am.  My first visit on a normal day.

Rooms

There’s a lot to offer in terms of choice: right from a standard room to a suite to the Penthouse Collection, the Royal “wing” (or group of suites), the Presidential Suite and the Cabanas.

Previously guests have been practically every American president, and is often referred to as the “White House of the West”.  Royal families have stayed here (yes more than one) and their entourages, movie stars, pop stars, business people and everyday run-of-the-mill people like me.

There are two towers: the Wilshire Tower and The Oasis.  My favourite is the Cabana rooms.  Tucked away nicely out the back these rooms back onto the pool.

Cabana rooms

View from ground floor Cabana room

 

On our staycation we scored a ground-floor room that opened up onto the pool.  Glorious.  It was as if we were in Palm Springs-minus the drive.  I felt like I was in a cross between a drive-in and a Californian motel on Route 66 (not that I know what that looks like but it’s a look I’m going with).  The cabanas have a motel feel with a hotel vibe.

Poolside

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

 

Suite 100 Collection: an ode to Audrey Hepburn & the 1960s

At $1914 a night* not a detail has been skipped in the planning of this suite.  I walked in and felt like I was in Darren & Samantha’s living room (you know? from Bewitched.  Right.  Probably a little more Audrey Hepburn then their lounge but I was definitely transported back in time).

It was the attention to detail that tickled my fancy most.  You could order–via a phone of the time–room service from the room service menu in 1960 at 1960’s prices.  A lot of relics had been pulled from the archives so the menu is as it was in the 60s and the drink coasters and “merchandise”.

Suite100 Hilton

This old B&W TV actually works!

 

And in the bathroom there is a Givenchy Bar”–full-size Givenchy perfumes and toiletries (word is Audrey’s favourite).

Dining Choices

I have to say there aren’t a lot of dining choices in the hotel so mix it up by going out to dine.  Hey, this is a good thing.  LA has plenty of great restaurants so get out there!  The breakfast buffet is pretty good and the Trader Vic’s menu was right up our alley (it was just a shame it wasn’t available at lunch when we wanted to test drive it).

Spa

I’ve fallen down in the Spa review department as I didn’t try out any of the treatments on offer despite there being some great Memorial Day specials.  One I’m dying to check out (see how well it works) is the Red Carpet Ready Facial.

We had an amazing night at the Beverly Hilton.  The service at the pool was fantastic and at lunch at Circa 55 we weren’t rushed through.  It was busy and the vibe was good.

 

Stay at the Beverly Hilton if you:

  • want to step back in time to the glorious 1950s
  • want a hotel that has a great vibe and soul
  • want to be conveniently located in Beverly Hills
  • have time to hang by the pool to see and be seen
  • don’t have time to go to Palm Springs but want to feel like you’re there.

I’m going to end as I have with my last two Beverly Hills Hotel reviews.  I made the mistake of not appreciating LA for what it was when I first came to visit some 20 years ago (“been there, done that, never coming back”.) I know better now. Do your research before you hit LA.  LA is not a modern City with all the glitz and glamour.  Many say it hasn’t changed much at all.  If you look closely it has.  And it hasn’t.  What its done is clung onto its essence: mid century vintage, crisp and cool.  Once you understand that’s what LA is all about you’ll love it.  I count my lucky stars I got to come back to LA–not just come back but live it.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  Which one is your favourite to date?  Any others you want me to review?  Let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

* Price for suite effective the year of 2014, check back with the Hilton to see what they’re doing once this initiative is finished.

earthquake
Fact or Fiction, Posts

Fact or Fiction: LA’s last big earthquake was 10 years ago

Have you missed Fact or Fiction? Or noticed that the latest piece about Harry Styles has been going for two weeks?  Thanks to the Spring break we decided to carry it over.  Plus it was such a hot topic!

Before we reveal whether Harry Styles bought just up the road let me introduce you to the latest votable statement.

I wrote about the scare we had a few weeks ago when we had an earthquake that lasted some thirty seconds.  Then when we were away for Spring Break there was another earthquake, this time a bit stronger and a little more damage.  Lucky for us it was further South so didn’t really affect us.  There’s a lot of earthquake talk at the moment so it’s a bit freaky.  So, given all the talk about earthquakes, here is this week’s Fact or Fiction:

LA’s last big earthquake was ten years ago.

 

And now … the moment you’ve all been waiting for:

Has Harry Styles bought just up the road from us?

Yes he has!  A bit exciting.  75% of you went for it and said it was fact and only 25% of you are doubting Thomases thinking it was fiction.  I must confess since watching the One Direction movie I’ve had visions of giving him a home-cooked meal every Sunday night (roast beef & Yorkshire puddings of course).  Let’s see if that comes true!

Here are just some of the news stories about the recent purchase:

http://realestalker.blogspot.com/2014/03/british-boy-bander-harry-styles-buys.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/harry-styles-buys-los-angeles-3243634

Stay tuned for more local gossip.  Have a great weekend!

xx It Started in LA xx

Earthquake image taken from Price of Oil.org.  Thank you :-).

BHH
Fact or Fiction, Posts

Fact or Fiction: Beverly Hills was named after the Beverly Hills Hotel

I’ve got an appointment to check out my much-visited Beverly Hills Hotel next week so in that vein here’s this week’s Fact or Fiction.

 

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

I met Robbie Williams at our local Starbucks.

Clearly everyone is starting to get the hang of this game and is starting to get the picture that we’re being exposed to some crazy scenarios. Yesterday my daughter and I were on our way home from a doctors appointment and we witnessed a very “possessed” pap clearly with his eye on his prize.  It’s everywhere here you just have to know what you’re looking for and be out and about to see it.  (Actually I think it was the same pap who told me I looked like “someone” the other week at my favourite restaurant.)

I digress … again …

66.67% of you thought that I had met Robbie (my wildcard) at our local Starbucks and 33.33% of you thought it was made up.

Well… only 33% of you were right.  Sadly I didn’t meet Robbie at our local Starbucks.  I don’t think he lives in LA anymore.  Bugger because he only lived up he road and apparently was often spotted at my local Starbucks so there was a chance I could’ve very easily bumped into him.

In fact, what spurred this Fact or Fiction on was a very vivid dream I had where I was coerced (by Robbie himself) into ‘fessing up that he was my wildcard celebrity shag.  I woke up in a cold sweat.

Enough dreaming, happy weekend & happy voting!

xx It Started In LA xx

 

Furla handbags
Posts, Soapbox

Six months in: the darker side

I posted on my personal Facebook page last night that I’m feeling quite homesick.  No one could more shocked about this news than me.  It was here on this very blog that I shared my delight at reaching the six-month mark in LA with friends, fun and great experiences under our belts.  We were–are–living in the surreal world that is Beverly Hills/Hollywood and we live to tell the tale.

Only earlier that day we were having lunch at my favourite Cabana Cafe in the Beverly Hills Hotel where I missed seeing Harry Styles by a matter of minutes.  (We were already seated waiting for our friend who saw him leaving as he was coming in.  He even snapped a pic for his 11-year-old daughter.)

So why so glum?  I’m not really sure.  I miss my friends mainly.  It’s great to make new friends but it’s the good friends you leave behind that you are sad about–especially when they’re not here to share “the dream” with you.

Truth be told I think the whole “money” thing is wearing thin too.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re very comfortable and we’ve done well, we have a great little life in our corner of the world, we always try to make the most of every situation we’re put in and I don’t like to whinge about first-world (especially BH) problems.

So why’s the money thing getting me down? I think it’s because it’s hard to fight.  Just because our family doesn’t believe in designer handbags until our kids are at least 18 doesn’t mean everyone else shares our philosophy.  And not to say everyone needs to share our philosophy.  I value very much the concept that everyone is different because it makes the world go around and makes for a much more interesting place to be.  But seriously why do kids under 18 (or even 25 for that matter) have to have designer hand bags?  Will it make the world a better place and more importantly will it make the kids better people?

I say this also because my daughter and I were out shopping last weekend for a new dress for her to wear to a birthday party and to dinner when we go to Vegas next week.  She desperately needed some shoes and I said if we find a cute bag for a reasonable price I’d buy her one.  We got some cute shoes but no go on the bag.  It wasn’t a biggie because she’s only into bags sometimes and she knew she’d had enough bought for her that day and (for once!) was satisfied with her purchases.

So why am I going on about handbags?  Well because as we walked through the designer handbag section on our way to shoes at Bloomingdale’s we were looking at the new Furla handbags.  They were so cute and, with 30% off, this sweet little blue bag had Miss 11’s name on it.  We both looked at it longingly.  She wanted it.  I wanted her to have it.  But it was not going to happen and we both knew it.  I was cross with myself for considering its purchase and pleased with her at the same time for knowing she couldn’t even ask for it.  We mourned the bag’s departure never to come home with us.  We were doing what mothers and daughters should do: bond over a designer handbag.

But that’s where it ended.  Not in Beverly Hills it seems where my daughter can count on more than one hand girls she knows with designer hand bags.  Some her age, others older but none of them are over 18, or over 25.  I’m not here to judge.  Nor do I have a right to judge.  I suppose when you grow up with it you think nothing of it.

But as a family still “fresh off the boat” from Australia who comes from a(nother) corner of the world where girls don’t have designer handbags I feel sad.  I feel sad that I think my Miss 11 should wait until she has a designer handbag.  I feel sad that girls around her don’t have to wait.  And I feel sad for the girls around her because I wonder what they are going to want for their 18th birthday or 21st birthday (remembering they’ll most likely get cars for their 16th birthday).  And I feel sad because I actually contemplated buying her the handbag.  That’s not us; that’s not what we do.

They say you are influenced by nature AND nurture and there is no conclusive evidence that one outweighs the other.  One of our mottos before we came over was not to change and not to take life too seriously when we got here; to stay true to ourselves.  Easier said than done.  But we must stay true to ourselves because people will like us for who we are not what we have.  We have a lot to offer and I hope that’s what people are seeing and not the absence of a designer handbag, shoes or clothes.

Only in LA.  Watch this space …

xx It Started In LA xx

Style notes: If you’re not like me and wish to buy your Miss 11 a Furla handbag here’s the link (or of course you might like one for yourself):  Furla Candy Bag.

I’m pretty sure Bloomingdale’s ships worldwide.

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

Beverly Hills
Posts

A retrospective: six months in LA

Well I’ve made it.  We’ve made it.  I’ve been in LA six months and live to tell the tale.  Time has flown by (although not the first six weeks).  Sometimes I feel like we’ve been here forever and others I still feel like I’m finding my way around (not just geographically but socially).

I gave us 12 months to settle in given it’s not an Expat assignment and the kids are older so the school networks wouldn’t work the same.  Turns out I was wrong.

The school community especially have welcomed us with open arms.

Settling in can still be a roller coaster but when I consider all the things we’ve done in the last six months, it’s incredible.

So far we’ve:

  • Had seven lots of friends visit: either on-site at BH HQ or in LA
  • Met dozens of new friends
  • Been on the set of hit show, “Scandal”
  • Lent our foley talent to the show “Revenge”
  • Been to the Warner Bros/InStyle mag after-party of the Golden Globes
  • Spent an amazing 24 hours in Palm Springs
  • Been in the middle of several pap scenes at our favourite restaurants
  • Seen Josh Jackson & Diane Kruger escape through the kitchen of same favourite West Hollywood restaurant to avoid the paps
  • (I’ve) seen Joan Collins, Bette Middler, Gene Simmons, Jermaine Jackson Rod Stewart & too many to mention at the Golden Globes
  • Been to our first Lakers’ game at the Staples Centre
  • Been to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  • Cruised up the Californian Coast from LA to San Francisco crossing off a major bucket-list item
  • Been thrust into the heart of Hollywood and Beverly Hills (and live to tell the tale)
  • (Nathan’s) been to his first Oscars event at the Beverly Hills Hotel
  • Grown amazingly from the experience.

Oh, and I forgot the big one: started a Blog.  Sounds surreal doesn’t it?  I heart LA.

Have a great week.

xx It All Started in LA xx

RKOBH
Posts, Soapbox

Parties 90210 style

I started watching “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” the other day.  Seriously?  I don’t know what to think.  Apart from being hooked I don’t why on earth these kids would subject themselves to “starring” in this show.  I’m sure they think they’re so much better than everyone else and that people want to be them.  (No one is denying they’d like just a little bit of their money).  It’s really sad.  For me it always comes back to, “what do their parents think?”  Are they so far removed from the real world that they think the same way (after all the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?).

So it got me thinking about my kids growing up in Beverly Hills. Thankfully, we’re not in the flats so our worlds are vastly different and (it feels like) the only real thing we share is a postcode.  Having said that the kids have friends that live there and they seem normal too.

I’ve mentioned that my kids go to an exclusive private school and there are a large number of uber wealthy families there.  The school is a lovely nurturing community that has welcomed us with open arms, both as a family and for the kids.  Not for one minute does this warm welcome feel put on in any way either.  So, to me my reality doesn’t fit with the premise of the Show.

In the episode I watched they were planning a party (one that hardly anyone attended I might add!).  When planning their list they named people from outside their clique “groupers” (pronounced by them groopers–as in “groupies”) yet they were planning to invite them.  I guess they need the groupers as much as the groupers need them? (Groupers are bottom feeders in fish terms lowest on the list, when translated to #RKOBH speak means those who want to get invited to the “cool” parties .  I thought things like that finished in high school, no wonder these girls don’t have jobs.

Recently my son went to a birthday party at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  It was on Saturday night and the hosts had cordoned off an area for the party guests.

It was a pretty swank affair for Year 8 kids (same in Australia; Yr 9 in UK)–actually it’d be a pretty swank affair for me I have to say.

The party gave everyone lots to talk about and the girls had to decide what to wear: to get really dressed up or play it down a little and just look “nice”.  The party girl wore a designer frock and from all accounts the girls went all out to look glam.  I would’ve loved to have hosted that Red Carpet event for this blog now I think of it.

Luckily for my son “what to wear” wasn’t a big deal for him.  The big deal for us what what on earth do you buy a girl who has everything?  We decided on Pink (by Victoria’s Secret) Body lotion & matching scent plus threw in a packet of Tim Tams with instructions on how to eat them.

Maybe they’re a bit young but I’m sure none of the people at that party were thinking of whether they were an “it” crowd or “groupers” or whether their friends are uber wealthy, slightly wealthy or just rich (or heaven forbid normal!).  Sure, there’s some jockeying of positions and the size of people’s houses get talked about and where they holiday in the summer but I hope these kids don’t make it to future series of “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills”.

Maybe I’m already localised but I’m hoping these kids ham it up for the cameras.  I’m sure they do.  It’s just like none of my friends are anything like the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”.  I think they’re more like Brandon & Brenda, Dylan, Kelly, Donna & Steve.

xx It Started in LA xx

Postscript: I saved this article to draft and went to lunch at my favourite Cabana Cafe at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  Who should walk in but the two “stars” Morgan & Dorothy.  Get out of town.  Too funny.  Only in LA!

KK
Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction: Kim Kardashian

Fact or Fiction???

updated February 6, 2014 LA time

Kim Kardashian lived just up the road from us (and a few doors down from a friend of mine). She moved out just as we moved in.

No cheating locals …

Answer on next Fact or Fiction post.

xx It Started In LA xx

%d bloggers like this: