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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.

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

Posts

My BMW is messing with me

It’s Friday and it’s my favourite day of the week: it starts with tennis, turns into lunch and ends with drinks. What could be better?  Friday just keeps on giving because then you’ve got the rest of the weekend of more of the same (except the tennis bit).  Yay!

This Friday started with a hitch.  First up tennis and I’m on time (just).  I have to hang two things on the clothesline then I’m in the car on the way.  Here’s where the hitch comes in.

I opened the car, popped my bag, phone (that I usually always carry separately) and tennis racket on the front passenger seat and (must’ve) shut the door.  I popped my things on the line and went to get into the driver seat.

Locked.

I went around to the passenger side.

Locked.

How on earth is it locked when I opened it to get my things in there?  And how is it locked when I didn’t lock it?  (OMG I just said earth and not an expletive–what’s happening to me?)

The answer, my friends, is that (unbeknownst to me–clearly) BMW must have this nifty security function where it’s smart enough to think, “oh wait, my owner has left her keys in the car.  I should lock the doors for her so no one steals me.  I’m so helpful. Smiley face.”

Nice one clever BMW but perhaps before you get all smart and start thinking like a husband you should send me the memo telling me you’re going to do that so I don’t close the door with my keys and phone in the car.

I’ve spent the day trying to work out where it went wrong this morning.  My friends and coach at tennis (once I got to tennis) looked at me (rightly so) with confused looks going, “you know, cars don’t just lock themselves, what did YOU do?”

The answer my friends is that BMW X5s apparently DO lock themselves, there’s no gremlins there and I’m not going bonkers.

But, because it all started in LA and I live in lalaland I just called BMW Assist and after answering a few tricky questions voila! the car door is automatically open.  Like a Hollywood movie there’s a happy ending and off to tennis I drive.

xx It Started in LA xx

NOTE: I’m sure other countries have remote open but really, seriously, isn’t that such an LA thing to look up to the sky and say, please open my car … and it does?

NOTE2: I’m not sponsored by BMW but if it–or Range Rover or Audi–would like to sponsor me for a new 7-seater SUV I’d be happy to blog about it.

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