Browsing Tag

featured

Differences between America & Australia, Posts

Do Australians celebrate Halloween?

I often get asked the question: do Australians celebrate Halloween?

It’s a well-known fact that Halloween is an “American” thing.  I wrote about it last year and how I was embracing Halloween now that we’re in America.  In fact, we started embracing it when our gorgeous American friends “introduced” us to their favourite “holiday” while we were in Shanghai.

We were invited to a Halloween party at their house and the kids could go Trick or Treating in their compound.  I’ve talked about this a few times now but the story never gets old (to me!) Thinking we all needed to dress up Mr H and I rushed out to the Fabric Markets and got Fred & Wilma costumes made.  We were so impressed that we pulled it off in such a short time only to walk in and find that none of the other parents had dressed up.  Yep, leave it to the Australians to make their mark.

Fred & Wilma Flinstone

Don’t we make a great Fred & Wilma?! It Started in LA

 

The Americans do Halloween well.  And, if for no other reason, Halloween is fantastic because, along with Thanksgiving (to an extent), it keeps the Christmas stuff out of the shops until it’s over.  It’s so festive to drive around and see the houses go all out and decorate as they do.

In Australia …

Australians don’t “do” Halloween.  It’s true, that’s changing but it depends where you live as to what they do.  The area I live in in Sydney’s inner west actually has quite a bit of trick or treating going on which is fun.

I listen to Australian breakfast radio via the Nova app.  They were talking about who does Halloween and who doesn’t.  While the spirit of Halloween is definitely growing, it can still be spasmodic.

The thing in Australia is we can be quite guilty of anti-American sentiment.  So there are many Australians who refuse to embrace Halloween traditions America-style because, well, it’s American.

What’s the difference then?

Because Americans embrace Halloween they research the right areas to go and visit.  I talked about how people flock to many streets well reputed to have great Halloween decorations and trick or treating (think Claire on Modern Family).  It must cost them a fortune in “candy”.

So Americans generally gather together, eat, then when it gets dark will spend the better part of the early evening trick or treating.

Australians, if they go out, will come home from school, get dressed then go out before it goes dark.  The tendency is to stay in your own neighbourhood—or your friends—but not make an entire (spooky) night of it.

This year there will be lots of Halloween parties around town because it’s Saturday.  My daughter is going to one but sadly it’s kids only and we come to the sad realisation that our kids are growing up and don’t need us around as much anymore.

I’ll leave you on this note found a friend’s Facebook site and posted to my page:

 

I don’t know about you but when I think of Halloween I think of the fabulous Thriller by Michael Jackson.  They’ve been playing it on the radio so I thought I’d share it with you.

Happy Halloween!

xx It Started in LA xx

Celebrity, My LA story

The Kevin Bacon Game

Do you know the Kevin Bacon Game? It’s basically where you can put any actor within six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

Well … I just found out at a dinner that I can put myself within two degrees of separation of Kevin Bacon.

We went to a “rigged” school event/dinner party at a friend’s house on Saturday night.  I say rigged because it was an Auction item at last year’s end-of-year Fair and we had to buy tickets to join.  But our hosts gave us the “heads-up” to get together a fun group of like-minded people.

At dinner we played the game, two truths and a lie.  As the name suggests we had to give three facts about ourselves, one of which was a lie.

As one of the facts one of our hosts said she walked down the aisle alongside Kevin Bacon.  Truth!  Wow, she was a bridesmaid alongside Kevin Bacon.  So, she’s linked to Kevin Bacon and everyone else at that dinner table are now two degrees of to the very same.  And now, as one of my loyal readers, you are three degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.  See how easy this game is?  How much fun it is.

Uber

You know we love Uber here in LA.  I don’t know what the sticking point is getting it over the line in Australia but we are regular users–and lovers–of Uber.

In the last couple of weeks though we’ve hit a couple of snags.  Firstly I had a little incident a few weeks ago which clearly caused one of the drivers to rate us badly.  We thought we checked everything off with him to make sure we were all good.  He said we were but between late Friday night and early Sunday morning there became a problem.

Now every time we’ve tried to book an Uber X the drivers cancel us.  Now the simple job of getting an Uber is not so simple.

Then last weekend we came across some other unfamiliar Uber Ts&Cs.  One of our friends decided it was time to go home so ordered their Uber.  I managed to convince them to stay but the time I’d done that the Uber had arrived.  So out I go and chat to the driver and apologise and ask him if it’s OK with him to cancel.

“Sure,” he says, “no problems.  Do me a favour though and press cancel the job.  That will look better for me.”

“Will that affect his rating?” I cleverly ask.

“No, not at all,” was the reply.

“Well not a problem,” I replied while pressing cancel.  “Thanks so much,” I said.

About half an hour later my mate yells out to me, “Gwen, you owe me $10 Uber just charged me to cancel.”

And it was off, I was straight on the phone to Mr Uber driver and argued with him that perhaps he should have told me when he “innocently” asked me to cancel the trip as it will help him.

After going around in circles I told him I had a party to get back to but he wouldn’t hear the end of it from me.

Then a couple of hours later the same thing happened to us.  We got the call to say our Uber had arrived, we said our goodbyes then as we were walking out the door we saw the Uber driver driving off.  It was late so we weren’t lurking–we have been longer waiting to be picked up to go out as I finish getting ready or walk down our steep poorly paved drive.  We got charged a $5 no-show fee.

What the Uber?  We love you but it’s also possible for a love affair to go sour.  I’m putting you on notice.

Top 13 celebrity encounters in LA so far

All the talk of the last two years in LA, and my two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon has prompted me to list my top 10 celebrity encounters to date.  It’s still bizarre to me that one move as a result of one job offer puts me in LA writing a blog about some of my surreal experiences–experiences would just reply, “Get of out town” to a mere 25 months ago.

  1. Going to my kids’ first swim meet and seeing Rod Stewart sitting on the Bleachers. Then realising his son goes to our school.  After only a few weeks in LA…
  2. Saying about the son of a big-time pop star, “I would have picked him up and taken them [out], next time please feel free to ask me,” without thinking about what it means.  To me, they’re just normal people and we’re doing normal things.
  3. Looking up from my mobile phone at the Golden Globes after-party and realising I was following Rhianna.   Into a VIP section.  And being able to be there.
  4. Seeing J Lo and Mary J Blige out for dinner at one of my favourite WeHo restaurants.
  5. Seeing dozens of paparazzi waiting outside for JLo on that same night.  And posing for them.
  6. Having friends from Australia with us and apologising for the “dud” celeb-spotting night when JLo walks in. And gets sat across from us.  Then seeing the look on the face of the Maître D when he realised he’d sat her across from me!
  7. Sitting in front of Sandra Bullock at a school PA (Parents Association) meeting.
  8. Coming head-to-head with Beyonce and Jay Z on New Year’s Day night in a narrow LA street. Jay Z politely reversed up the hill to let us through.
  9. Sitting in a classroom with Warren Beatty.
  10. Telling Taylor Swift how I thought she was a fabulous role model for girls everywhere at the Golden Globes.
  11. Seeing Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves AND Hugh Grant eating together at my favourite hip WeHo restaurant.
  12. Seeing David Duchovny standing outside a sound stage at Mr H’s Studios. Then thinking it was a look-alike.
  13. Seeing Duff McKagan recently all rock-starred up (ie like he’s just finished filming a music video) rather than “conservativing-up” his look.

I’ve had to stop at 13 otherwise it will just end up being a list of all my celebrity encounters!  What’s worse is now my standards are much higher–how quickly you get acclimated (sorry climatised)!  I’m going to redo this in 6-12 months’ time and see if it changes.

Enjoy your week, go the Wallabies to beat the All-Blacks in a nail-biting but “good-for-rugby” World Cup Final.

xx It Started in LA xx

First Six Months in LA
Moving to LA, Posts

The first six months in LA

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Moving to LA

Two years on: the first six months are the hardest

We’re in the thick of the first semester and it’s getting harder to work out what’s for dinner each night and we’re struggling to get up in the morning.  Isn’t that a sure sign the novelty’s worn off and you’re in normality?

It’s a lot easier this time around than two years ago–our first six months in LA–though.

It’s nearing the end of October and it’s still so warm.  Despite this everyone here seems to be very excited about “Fall”.  I’m not exactly sure why.  It could be the cooler weather (well that’s not happening), the smells of Fall like cinnamon and fires (that’s not happening either) or the prospect of a little rain (nope, still not happening).

I’ve started noticing people on the East Coast dressing up and the Coats starting to come on and the magazines are filled with darker colours.  But here in LA the only thing that’s not playing the game is the weather.

I don’t get the Fall love.  It feels more like Spring to me (apart from the leaves falling from the trees).  It’s still warm and probably has more to do with the fact that I’m intrinsically trained to think that September and October are the Spring months.  I don’t know, maybe it’s a wavelength thing.

When we first arrived we didn’t want the weather to cool down as we’d just come out of an Australian winter (yes it’s mild but still winter) and the prospect of back-to-back winters was not something I was looking forward to—no matter how mild they were.

The first six months

It’s time to continue with my series on looking back at our first couple of years here.  I left you having found a place to live and the kids accepted at a private school here in LA.  All was going well until reality set in.

It’s so true of moving anywhere that the first six months are the hardest.  But you’d think a girl from Sydney moving to LA—California—with a few moves under her belt would not have such a tough time.  Right?  Wrong.

Let me tell you the first six months are the pits.  The honest-to-goodness pits.  Then they can be exhilaratingly good: everything is new, life is an adventure and things as simple as grocery shopping can be a challenge.  I was used to that in China but not America—land of the ultra big supermarket.  But when I had to buy bullet chilies for example, I had to go to an Asian grocer because they don’t sell them at the normal supermarket.  That’s right, all the chilies are Mexican.

So then the challenges become nightmares.  The glass half full starts to look more empty.

Even things like paying bills I have to think twice.  No more BPay or Direct Debit.  I’ve caught myself a couple of times saying, “how do I pay you?” to which the response is generally always, “Well I take a check,” yes not a cheque.  That means I’ll have to go to the Post Office and buy stamps.  Such a foreign concept for me.

Anyway, It’s true the most important thing to do is to find a school and somewhere to live.  But once you’ve moved in, done a bit of sightseeing and getting around … then what?

So I started going to visit different areas checking them out, taking photos and posting lots of “cool” stuff on Instagram.  But there’s only so much of that you can do.  On your own.  We all go through it.  And we all get over it.

I remember hearing about some women in Shanghai living far out in the “suburbs” feeling lonely and depressed.  If I felt lonely and depressed and I live in the middle of Beverly Hills—with a car to drive myself around and a working internet connection—it’s a wonder they survived their long weekdays.

That’s why you can’t write this post at the time.  No, you need the benefit of “I live to tell the tale” behind you and a bit of perspective.

LA Private School

I remember the first time I went to school to the Orientation, the Welcome BBQ and even to pick up the kids in carpool I was feeling very intimidated.  I imagined everyone being rich and groovy and famous.  If not then they’d look like something out of Housewives of Beverly Hills.  I thought I’d be the beached whale—helpless out of water and a little larger than my LA counterparts.

Last weekend–two years on–I volunteered to help at the school’s Open House and if I wasn’t comfortable with my place at school by then, I am now.  Granted they’re not in yet but there were some interesting looking people.  Why do we always doubt ourselves in a new environment?  Why can’t we—I—back myself and be confident I would fit in?

Scattered amongst some rather good-looking people were fat people, skinny people, daggy people and just plain weird people.  I actually started to think that I fit into LA life better than some of these people.  How’s that for a turnaround?  And, I wonder if the family that came in matching-coloured tops—five of them—and daggy footwear will get in?

Google

It’s true as a family moving into 90210 and finding ourselves at a school with well-known identities we’ve done our fair share of Googling.  What did we do without it?

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before my daughter is friends with the son of arguably one of the most famous people in the world, certainly one of the most successful.  She’s recently told us that her friend is obsessed with Mr H’s company and thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world.  And, in an interesting turn of events he was telling her how he’s been Googling Mr H.  Wow, Mr H being Googled by said famous offspring.  How funny.  It’s all about perspective.

What else do you need to know when moving to LA?

Back to those first few months.  The most frustrating thing would have to be …

Credit rating, credit rating, credit rating

… it affects everything.  Literally everything.

When Mr H tried to connect up to our Direct TV “cable” service there were specials on at the time.  Ready to go ahead he found out that our price would be higher than the advertised special price.  Because we had no credit rating.

Same thing when we went to open our Electricity account.  We needed a giant deposit because we had no credit rating.  Aren’t they supposed to help people with no credit?  Isn’t that discrimination?

Everywhere we turned it came down to credit.

Luckily, with a Citibank account in Australia we were able to open up an account in the US.  And, once Mr H said he’d get his salary paid into the account we could open a credit card.

To this date I don’t really have any accounts in my name—something I should seriously try to do.

We were also lucky we could get a car—actually two.  That was thanks to BMW recognising that Executives tend to move around so if they’ve previously owned a BMW in another country they’ll take a look at you.  Thank you BMW!

Two years later on the whole credit thing

Two years later and I’m still tossing up whether or not to buy a house here.  The good news is we can get a mortgage, the bad news is we need a sizeable deposit.  And they still look at your bloody credit rating. The rate they give you actually depends on your credit rating–the better your credit the sweeter the deal.  The lower your credit rating, the higher the interest rate. Wow, way to go America, nothing like being supportive and helping those trying to get ahead in life.  Keep the poor downtroden and the rich richer.  OMG. Granted ours is better now but the fact that we’ve only had a credit rating for two years tends to go against you.  Go figure.

 

I’m off to keep Googling.  Who knows? Maybe my daughter’s friend will start Googling me and subscribing to this Blog.  That’d be cool—so long as he tells Chuck Lorre he loves it.

Enjoy the rest of your week. Happy Fall!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Moving to LA, My LA story, Posts

Finding somewhere to live in LA

Finding somewhere to live in LA

I started this little trip down memory lane a few months ago, reminiscing about all the things we needed to do to see if living in LA would work out for us.

When I last left you we were on a plane bound for LA with appointments at two schools and time set aside with a relocation agent to try to find somewhere to live in LA.

Qantas A380 SYD-LA

One the plane ready to interview with LA schools & find somewhere to live. Wish us luck | It Started in LA

 

Our first step was getting through our interviews at the two schools we chose. Once we had a better idea whether or not we’d get in then we could start narrowing our search for somewhere to live.

Ten private schools to consider in LA

I realise I didn’t name the schools in my last post. And, if you’re coming to LA and looking for private schools you’re going to need a few names to start with. Here were some of the names on our list to help give you a start.

  1. Harvard-Westlake
  2. Brentwood School
  3. Oakwood
  4. Buckley
  5. Campbell Hall
  6. Polytechnic
  7. Crossroads
  8. Wildwood
  9. Chadwick School
  10. Windward School

This is by no way definitive—do your research and check the area they’re in first. Unless you’re a good commuter you don’t want to work on one side of LA, living on the other and having your kids at school in the opposite direction to both.

For single sex schools you might also consider:

  1. Loyola HS (Yrs 9-12)
  2. Marymount HS (yrs 9-12)
  3. Crespi HS (Yrs 9-12)
  4. Marlborough
  5. Archer School for Girls

Eight areas to consider when finding somewhere to live in LA

You’re getting the message there are lots of different areas to live in LA and, not unlike anywhere else in the world, it dictates the type of lifestyle you’ll have when you move. If you’re relocating for work then you know where your office is. We knew MR H’s office was going to be in Hollywood. I knew I wanted to be close to the action and I didn’t want him to have a long commute—we wanted to replicate our Sydney experience as closely as we could because that works for us.

I opened Google Maps and started to look at different areas that could work for us. Here are some of our choices and/or suggestions.

1.   Santa Monica

We heard Santa Monica was a bit tricky to get into and out of but being relatively self-contained, and by the beach, it would be a great lifestyle choice for us. The bonus was that the public schools were good so the extra rent could be saved in free public schooling.

Pros: Beachside, up to 20 degrees (F) cooler than in town and with everything at your fingertips you rarely need to leave.

Cons: Much smaller houses and high rent gives you less bang for buck. The traffic getting into and out of Santa Monica could also be a downer if you’re not used to it.

2.   Hollywood Hills

When you think of Hollywood Hills you think mansion after mansion of sprawling celebrity estates. But there are some nice neighbourhoods that don’t have to break your budget and I like the feel of the area, plus it’s convenient for all of us.

Pros: Great areas, good choice of houses, retro style.

Cons: nothing really—just have to find the house.

3.   Pacific Palisades

It’s a lovely area but you can’t get much further away from Hollywood. For some reason our Relocation agent kept pushing us towards the Palisades. We’ve since found out there’s a great Charter School there and many people try to get their kids in here as an alternative to Private School but we weren’t told that at the time.  Anyway, for us the commute is the deal breaker.

Pros: Great neighbourhood and community

Cons: A long commute to Hollywood for Mr H and I felt like I’d be isolated away from the shopping and restaurant districts of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

4.   The Valley

Movies have been made on the area–remember Valley Girls? We were advised to consider the valley because of its more affordable houses, and if you go out further enough you get good schools and McMansions—bigger houses and better bang for buck.

After two and a half years of living in Beverly Hills we bought a house in the Valley (Sherman Oaks).  It’s nice and close to school, it’s not far from our old house, it’s close to the freeways to get around town and we can walk to shops and restaurants.  We feel like it has given us a new lease on life in LA.  It’s great for us and it’s great for the kids.

Pros: Bigger houses, lots of pools.

Cons: 50,000,000 degrees hotter in summer.

5.   Beverly Hills &/or West Hollywood

I didn’t really think we were going to consider Beverly Hills because it’s well … Beverly Hills. But like the Hollywood Hills Beverly Hills isn’t all mansions, there are some more affordable areas.

South of Santa Monica is still Beverly Hills and it borders West Hollywood. This is definitely the area I would have loved to live in.

Pros: Proximity to shopping and restaurants.

Cons: There is absolutely nothing wrong with Beverly Hills as long as you can find the house.  West Hollywood too for that matter.

6.   Pasadena

Pasadena comes highly recommended by a great many people for its culture, great schools and lifestyle. We didn’t consider it though as it was a commute for all of us.

Pros: Lots of people love it and a good school district.

Cons: The commute–unless you’re working in the area.

7.   Brentwood or Westwood

Brentwood was nice and close to Santa Monica making it convenient to the beach yet still convenient enough for Mr H and work.

Pros: Great location with close proximity to beaches and still easy access to West Hollywood and Beverly Hills restaurants.

Cons: Not much good stock in our price range.

8.   South Bay

Many people come to SoCal (Southern California) for the lifestyle. So it’s no surprise that people are attracted to the South Bay area encompassing Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.

Pros: Good schools, beautiful shops and township, community feeling

Cons: Quite the commute!

9.  Hancock Park

Bordering Melrose and West Hollywood Hancock Park is a beautiful leafy suburb in the middle of concrete-paradise LA.  It has great schools nearby and lots of the private schools have buses to and from each day.

Pros: Convenient to Hollywood and Downtown, great community neighbourhood.

Cons: It’s pretty hard to find good houses available for rent–but do put it on your list if it’s convenient for you.

Plus two other neighbourhoods I’d add to my list:

10.  Silver Lake & Los Feliz

Silver Lake is on the other side of the 101 off Sunset.  It’s hip & happening, funky, groovy and an eclectic group of people.  I’m not sure there are many private schools in the area but if I were a young family this is where I’d want to be.

11.  Culver City

Culver City has come a long way even from when we moved here: new restaurants and shops and it’s close to the Studios, especially Sony Pictures.

Plus, many other studios and entertainment businesses are setting up shop there.

 

Map of LA according to LAist

LA Stereotypes according to LAist

 

Our journey two years ago finding somewhere to live in LA

We spent a lot of time covering different areas of LA looking for something semi-decent in our price range. We wanted a spare room and a pool and didn’t think it was a huge ask. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. In a horrible wake-up call it felt like we were struggling Uni students on a measly budget. Every house we went into was depressing—wardrobe doors that wouldn’t open or close let alone you wouldn’t want to put your clothes in, small and dirty kitchens, rundown houses with filthy carpet and—if there was a pool—grimy and couldn’t be less inviting if they tried. I felt like I was visiting Neil, Vivienne, Mike & Neil from The Young Ones.

Not one house we visited in the first couple of days would be one we’d be happy to visit let alone call home. It was back to the drawing board—we’d need to up our budget and/or forgo the guest room.

It was easier to find a house to suit our needs in Shanghai—a city where the majority of people couldn’t speak English—than it was in Los Angeles, one of America’s largest and most prestigious cities.

To say our relocation agent was useless was an understatement. She seemed surprised that we didn’t like any of the houses she showed us so we took things into our own hands. We started trawling the rental websites looking for places, increasing our budget and seeing where the sweet spot would be for us to find something vaguely decent. I thought getting into a school would be the problem, not finding a house.

We found a few places in West Hollywood and I decided this would be a perfect area for us—close the action like we were in Australia, not far from Mr H’s work and it wouldn’t be too bad getting the kids to a nearby bus stop for school commuting.

Everytime we sent our relocation agent a place we wanted to check out in West Hollywood she’d ignore it. I’d ask her when I saw her next how she’s going securing us an appointment she’d defensively say, “it takes time to get an appointment, please bear with me.”

Then Mr H said, about one particular place that looked really quite promising, “that was one of the first places we sent you,” she finally started saying something about West Hollywood being a questionable place to live.

She was alluding to the fact that—shock horror—there were a lot of gay people that lived in the area. We reminded her that we lived in inner city Sydney and we’ve always had lovely gay neighbours and we were very comfortable with this. Despite writing her a brief on our family and our tastes, she couldn’t relate to us because her picture of us had us in a family-oriented neighbourhood with conservative values.

After brushing us off to a Real-Estate agent to continue house hunting we hit the ground running with a full schedule of houses to visit. The Agent would give us a list of houses, we’d check the maps and drive past the house, then provide a short list of the ones we liked that we wanted to see inside.

That’s when we thought we were going to end up living in either the Hollywood Hills or Beverly Hills—great proximity to Hollywood and not bad for the kids for school.

After a week of solid searching and being totally despondent we settled on two houses—one in Beverly Hills off Mulholland Drive and the other in the Hollywood Hills. I was overruled and we put an application in for the house in the Hollywood Hills. It had a pool that was swimable and whatever made them happy I was happy enough to go with.

In our application we explained that we don’t have a credit history in America but we have a good one at home in Australia and that we’re being moved to LA by Mr H’s new company. For whatever it was worth they would back us if necessary. We also said we were pretty keen to stay longer than 12 months as it wouldn’t make sense for us to get settled only to have to move again.

Our application was rejected—apparently someone else had put an application in at the same time and were offering more money.

To me this didn’t make sense for two reasons—one we weren’t told anyone else was interested in the house let alone let looking let alone miraculously putting in an application at precisely the same time as us. Secondly, if there are two people putting an application on a property wouldn’t you go back and create an auction situation and try to get the best possible deal for the house? Exactly. So clearly our lack of credit history meant that we lost out on this house.

That meant it was Plan B and the Beverly Hills house I was keen on. It didn’t have a pool but it was the sort of style we were used to in Australia and a house we wouldn’t be ashamed to have the rich and famous over to visit.

When we were visiting the house we actually got a call from one of the schools saying we were accepted. What a relief, now we just have to find the house and our job here in LA was done for now.

We put an application in for the Beverly Hills house and it was accepted. The owner—a movie producer and composer came to LA from Austria a number of years ago only to find himself in the same position so he was sympathetic to us. We’ll never know whether we’d struggle to find another house but we were so thankful the search was over.

Plus, we later realised that the school was an incredible ten-minute commute away so we couldn’t be luckier.

It was the most stressful week and enough to put us off making the move to LA quite frankly. I actually don’t know why we persevered. Yeah, I actually do, it was the allure of Hollywood and the wonder of what life would have in store for this ordinary but happy Australian family about to move to Hollywood.

Now, two years on, I wish we’d chosen a bigger house and held off to get the pool we so desperately wanted. It’s one thing to get a house close to your needs in Australia but it would have been smarter to get a house different to what you’re used to so you get a different experience.  And, as a growing family we could have grown into that “big American house.”

If only we were a bit more realistic and weren’t looking at the opportunity through rose-coloured glasses.

Did you make your move in a hurry? Did you find finding a house easy? Hard? Did you know where you wanted to live? Did you have anyone to help you? Would love it if you’d share your stories.

xx It Started in LA xx

Updated October, 2016

My LA story, Posts

Los Angelinos love to … Hike!

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Los Angelinos love to ...

The first (or last!) in a series of what Los Angelinos love to do. And the very top of the list is that people in LA are obsessed with hiking. Yep, Los Angelinos love to … hike!

At first I didn’t really get what all the fuss is about but now I’m starting to get the picture.

Thanks to Google, Pinterest and earnest Bloggers I found a few links to LA Hikes. I had pinned this article a while back and as a good “gunna” (aka going to but never do) person that’s where it stopped. Until now.

I don’t think you can hike alone and when fate hooked me up with a fellow Aussie at an ANZAC Day function we decided to check out LA’s hiking scene and see what all the fuss is about.  The goal is for us to do a different hike each week.

If you live in LA—or if you’re just visiting—I’m going to share my quick two-cent’s worth about each hike we’ve done as well as a link so you too can do the “LA thing”.

Hike 1/Week 1.  Runyon Canyon

Billed as the “Celebrity hike” I haven’t seen one in my two times (!) I’ve been. When you’ve come from Australia & your morning walk/run was around the Bay in Leichhardt/Five Dock/Haberfield hiking along a dirt track with the possibility of coming face to face with a rattlesnake takes a bit of getting used to (yes, it’s a bit of a come down).

 

See that hill? I hiked that today yes I did! #greeceready #itstartedinla #myreality #runyoncanyon #4k20s #sola #hiking

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

 

Having said that it’s a decent hike and the fact that you’re essentially walking down the hill from Mulholland Drive down the Hollywood is still pretty cool.

Good for: dogs (there are heaps that go hiking too!)

Watch out for: parking police—parking can be hard but be read the signposts carefully.

Address:
(the bottom end) Runyon Canyon Park, 2000 North Fuller Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046

(the top end) the 7300-block of Mulholland Drive, Hollywood Hills

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.modernhiker.com/2007/08/16/hiking-runyon-canyon/

 

Hike 2/Week 2.  Tree People

The second week we ventured a little closer to my place and not far from Runyon Canyon.  Also a spot I discovered via the Celeb Spotting pages, Tree People is off Coldwater Canyon & Mulholland Drive. Like Runyon Canyon is from Mulholland to Hollywood, Tree People takes you down to the Valley into the Laurel Canyon area.

It’s a little greener than Runyon Canyon, and probably not quite as good on the people watching but it’s a pretty good hike nonetheless. Once you know which track to take!

Address:
Coldwater Canyon Park, 12601 Mulholland Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Parking can be tough, especially at busy times so beware.

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.modernhiker.com/2009/02/09/hiking-fryman-canyon/

 

Hike 3/Week 3.  Franklin Canyon

Once I discovered I could enter via Mulholland Drive (opposite Tree People) rather than drive all the way around into Beverly Hills then up again I was much happier. This is a gorgeous place to hike—easy to park (during the week), lots of options to hike and some great spots that make you feel you’re in the middle of the bush when you’re actually in the heart of Beverly Hills.

There is water in Beverly Hills

There is water in Beverly Hills

 

There are several hikes here and we only did one of them so I’m looking forward to coming back to do more.

Address: 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Also great for dogs.

Watch out for: Yogi-Bear like stop sign cameras. When it says there is a camera, they mean there’s a camera and you’ll get a ticket in the mail. They’re also serious about the sign that says you better be out of there beyond sunset—I know because I met a girl who had to front up with a “please explain” what she was doing there beyond this time (her answer: trying to leave!).

Smarter than your average bear! When the sign says they're "photo enforced" it means they're "photo enforced!"

Smarter than your average bear! When the sign says they’re “photo enforced” it means they’re “photo enforced!”

 

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/franklin-canyon-park-hastain-trail/

http://www.modernhiker.com/2012/10/12/hiking-franklin-canyon-reservoir-loop/

 

Hike 4/Week 4.  Caballero Canyon Trailhead Santa Monica Mountain Reserve

It might be week four but I wasn’t ready for this one. This was a beauty—or at least the trail we chose (a steep climb to the top) was bloody hard.

Hiking LA style #H2ED #myreality #itstartedinla #greeceready #la #90210 #bloodyhard

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

 

While we were troopers and did it (minus a little incident that we won’t talk about in this forum) there were a number of very fit people who do that trail quite a bit.

When we nearly got to the top we thought we should head back down again. We bumped into a couple of “old-timers” who warned us against going back down the steep trail again but continuing on and following the loop as it was a much more gently decent.

It was great advice but when they told us it was just ‘around the corner’ don’t believe them. That and “the bench” which would be our marker to descend down the gentle decline. Everyone we asked kept telling us we’d see the bench but that bench was a long time coming. Clearly they were walking a lot quicker than we were. (If you click on the link from the Blog below you’ll see plenty of pics of that infamous bench).

All in all a good hike.

Address: Reseda Boulevard, Tarzana (start is just near Braemar Country Club).

Tips: Take plenty of water to hydrate & be on the lookout for mountainbikers hooning down the track.

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/caballero-canyon-hike-tarzana/

So that’s four hikes so far.

This week’s hike: The Fire Trail on Mulholland Drive.  Keep coming back for a quick run-down and links to future hikes.

For more inspiration I’m also looking to cross a few of these off my list:

http://www.modernhiker.com/la-hiking/
http://www.modernhiker.com/la-hiking/5-best-l-a-hikes-for-beginners/
http://la.curbed.com/archives/2014/07/6_los_angeles_hikes_with_spectacular_endings.phphttp://www.hikespeak.com/los-angeles/

 

Happy Hiking—and be sure to have a cold drink (preferably a cold beer or glass of wine/cocktail) ready after you’ve done the hard yards!

 

xx It Started in LA xx

LA Restaurants, Posts, Visiting LA

What to do in LA: in a day, weekend, week or month

We had friends in town over the weekend (yes again!) and the whole family loved being out and about showing them “our LA”.

Like me when I first came to LA many people who holiday here are a little nonchalant about it.  LA is where most of us fly into as a gateway to US and with its theme parks and Hollywood it’s on the “must-however-reluctantly-do” bucket list.  As a tourist you come in, may or may not rent a car, do the tourist stuff then go again.  If you stay at Disneyland or Hollywood it’s hard to get a sense of what LA is really all about.  When I first came to LA we stayed in Westwood on Wilshire Boulevard.  It was central but without a car it was useless and definitely impossible to get a vibe read on LA.

I hopped on that plane, looked at my boyfriend at the time (who actually was Mr H!) and said in all seriousness, “Been there, done that, never coming back.”

Never say never.

On Sunday my friend’s 16-year-old daughter announces, “I love LA”.  Sure, what’s not to love?  We’re sitting in the uber trendy Urth Cafe (in the stifling heat might I add–only in LA are you complaining about a heat wave in mid September), had a great dinner the night before at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants, mixed it up with the groovy people in Venice and hung out with the trendy beach crowd in Malibu.

Oh, and at dinner we saw Joel Madden, Rebel Wilson, Emmy Rossini and Andrew Dice Clay.  All walked in and out separately.  We even witnessed a couple of back-door exits.  How very Hollywood.

The gorgeous Emmy Rossum

The gorgeous Emmy Rossum

 

It’s true of any city but especially in LA it’s pretty bloody cool to do it with someone who knows their way around.

Each time people come we (obviously) tailor their visit and do the things that interest them.  So, I got to thinking about the different agendas and thought I’d share them with you.

Here is LA in a day, a weekend, a week or a month.

LA in a Day

God no, don’t do it to yourself.  There is too much to do in LA to limit your time to a day but if you absolutely have to, here goes.

Shopping

Get in, check into your hotel then get the flock out and about.  If it’s shopping you’re after head to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, The Grove or Century City Mall–depending on where you’re staying.  They are all close to the action and you’ll use your time wisely.  Plus there are good eating options so you can stay safely in the one spot.

For more in shopping in LA check out my post on that very subject.

Bring your purchases home, freshen up and get ready for drinks and dinner.  Don’t waste your time at American chain restaurants, plan in advance (ie book before you get here) and dine at a nice LA restaurant.  If you’re after ideas check out my Pinterest board on LA Dining.  It needn’t be over-the-top expensive but it can be a good experience.

For drinks try Cecconi’s on Melrose.  It has a 4-7 menu where from 4:00 to 7:00 they serve nibbles that cost between $4 and $7 each; match it with drinks, take in the ambiance and you’ve got a great afternoon unwinding.

 

Sightseeing close to LAX

I’ve decided to update this post as I had a friend that I used to work with come into town wanting to know what to do with his 24 hours in LA.  The “brief” was he wanted to stay close to LAX and be able to walk around.

There are very few areas where you can walk around LA and even when you can walk you don’t.  It’s also hard when you’re lugging luggage around to get around town.  Anyway, here are two approaches as to what to do in LA in a day.

Venice/Santa Monica

Whatever you do don’t make the mistake my mate made and stay on the Boardwalk at Venice and get in late at night.  And expect to feel safe.  Venice is as grungy as it is groovy and as scary as it is a place to be seen.  You want to stay in neighbouring Santa Monica and explore Venice by day.

Start with brunch in either Santa Monica or Venice.  I’d opt for brunch at Gjelina on Abbot-Kinney in Venice.  It’s great people watching, has good food and most importantly (for Australians) good coffee.

 

Now it’s time to walk off that yummy food and check out Venice.  I’d do a spot of shopping in Abbot-Kinney then head over to check out the canals.  It’s not Venice Venice but it’s serene and not something you’d expect to see in LA.

Great. Done. Tick.  Now for what Venice is renowned for: the Boardwalk and Muscle Beach.  You’ve got to do it.  My daughter hates it and my son is used to it.  There’s a lot happening, it smells of weed but it is interesting.  Epitomising LA, it’s like a show put on for the benefit of the tourists.  Except these people are entertaining you for the sport it.

There’s always something crazy that happens.  One time we were there we saw a woman chase her (I guess) sometime boyfriend all the way down the boardwalk hitting him one minute and yelling at him the next.  She would chase him a few metres down the boardwalk, hit him then yell at him to leave her alone.  The repeat it.  She even went to the policemen begging them to get him to leave her alone all the while yelling so everyone around her could hear her.  In this case I had to feel sorry for the guy who really was trying to stay away from her. Ahhh Venice …

Walk towards Santa Monica and watch the boardwalk change.  Here you can soak in the pier, take some pics, see the end of Route 66 and grab a churro (if you haven’t already).

If you’ve got a bit of shopping to do, head inland and check out Third Street Promenade.

After all that walking and shopping you’re probably ready for a drink or a bite to eat.  There are lots of places to eat in Santa Monica, ever-changing and too many to mention here.  That’s where my Pinterest board comes in handy.  Check it out.

When I’ve got friends here I like to go to Shutters–on the boardwalk and always open to take you.   If it’s dinner you’re after I love Chinois on Main Street.  You’ll need to book and don’t forget they eat early in LA so if you’re going at 5:30 or 6:00 thinking you’re beating the rush think again–that is rush time.

Santa Monica Beach. The gorgeous Shutters. #santamonica #la #itstartedinla

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

 

If you’re like my friend, and you’ve got a 10:00(ish) flight then it’s time to scoot back, pick up your bags and head to the airport.  There’s so much more to do but after that you should have a better feel for LA and, unlike me when I first came to visit, will actually like it.

WeHo/Beverly Hills

If West Hollywood is more your thing I highly recommend it–there are heaps of cool hotels, bars, restaurants and uber cool shopping.

Start your day with brunch at Urth Caffe.  Like I said before, it’s a good place to people watch and, if you’re lucky, spot a celeb or two.  For more people watching, window shopping and real shopping keep heading down Melrose and watch it change landscape and vibe as you travel down–from upmarket to designer funk to grunge.

If you’re a Kardashian fan stop in at Dash at 8420 Melrose Ave. And for uber cool and a little taste of LA stop in at Fred Segal at 8100 Melrose Ave (be sure to look out for the paparazzi stalking the carpark).  There are lots of boutiques inside and be sure to check out Ron Robinson–just love it.

If you’re into shopping, head into Hollywood and pre-book yourself a tour of the Paramount lot.  I love the Paramount lot.  It’s one of the oldest in Hollywood and also one of the few major studios actually in Hollywood.  Personal tours run all day.

 

I’ve already suggested drinks at Cecconi’s and I reckon it’s a must do.  By now it might be time to head back to the hotel, grab your bags and hot-foot it to the airport.

If you want to create your own itinerary you should check out my Pinterest board: 24 Hours in LA for more inspiration.

LA in a weekend

It really depends where your priorities lie.  My advice to you is to mix it up as much as you can: a spot of shopping, out at a funky restaurant, a stroll in West Hollywood and take in a Studio tour.

If you’ve got a car cruise down Rodeo Drive–mainly to check out the Bugatti Veyron.  I prefer Beverly Drive (parallel) or Robertson and Melrose (but that’s also to avoid the tourists!).  Also be sure to cruise Mulholland.

If you have kids (frankly even if you don’t) and you’re only here for the weekend I’d go to Universal Studios.  It has the backlot tour plus rides and is a lot of fun.  If you go when the park opens you can be out of there mid afternoon and still have time to do other stuff.  We’ve got an annual pass, have been so many times we’ve run out of fingers and toes to count but still love it.

Here was our most recent three-day weekend with our friends:

  • Century City Mall
  • Beverly Hills cruise around
  • Drinks at home & dinner at our “local” in Beverly Glen, its position means you could see locals like Gene Simmons, Jon Voight, Mark Wahlberg, Eddie Murphy, Harry Hamlin & Lisa Rimma or Paris Hilton going about their normal lives
  • Gjelina at Venice for brunch
  • Malibu
  • West Hollywood for dinner
  • Boys to Universal Studios
  • Girls to Melrose and Hollywood to get our shop on
  • Bel Air & Beverly Hills cruise around ogling the houses.

Bearing in mind they’d done LA before so it was great not to “have” to do all the tourist stuff.  We’d also never done the boys one way girls the other thing but it meant each of us got to do something we enjoyed and made for the whole LA experience.

LA in a week

That’s more like it: you can hang out, take it down to a cruise speed instead of full throttle.

Check out my must-do things in LA, that’ll give you a great variety of things to see and do.  Here’s seven things for seven days.

  1. Shop.  LA is shopping.  It’s pretty hard to come to LA and resist shopping.  So don’t.  And because you’re here for a week you can head out to the outlets or one of the Malls where you can knock yourself out with the choices available to you.
  2. Tour Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills.  Snoop/ gork/spy/have a sticky/check it out–say it how you like but if there’s one thing that many of my guests have in common (especially the girlies) and that’s checking out all the houses.  There are some beauties.  And if you really want a good snoop buy one of the Star Maps sold around the place.  There’s a fat chance you’ll see anyone but it’s fun to see where they live/lived.  Disclaimer: it’s pretty hard to see inside any if not all of the houses.
  3. Do something cultural.  There are actually plenty of cultural activities here in LA.  One of the favourite places is to head is to the Getty.  We’ve also got a great museums and galleries.  We’re not all just about beaches and shopping you know.
  4. Head down to Orange County.  Try Newport Beach, Laguna or Huntington Beach.  If you’re staying at Disneyland it’s not far to venture out for a while for a change of scenery.  If you’re heading to Newport Beach be sure to grab an ice-cream from B Candy.  Try the chocolate-covered potato chips and caramel ice-cream.  Heaven.
  5. Brave Disneyland.  It depends on what sort of person you are but the first time we went we were dreading it but embraced it for all it is and had fun.  You can do it in one day but to make it more enjoyable–rather than a race around the world so to speak–take two or even three days.
  6. Spend a day in Santa Monica and Venice Beach.  And I don’t just mean the boardwalks and pier.  Venture up Main Street Santa Monica or the Third Street Promenade.  Better still head up to the Montana Avenue area.
    Venice Beach is a great spot.  For far too long we thought of Venice as the boardwalk and muscle beach.  Head to Abbot-Kinney and grab brunch, have a shop and soak in the atmosphere.
  7. Head downtown.  And I don’t just mean to the Staples Centre to see the Kings or Clippers/Lakers.  In recent times LA has worked hard to lift the image of Downtown.  There are great walking tours, groovy bars and cool things to do–none of which I have done.  So, having told you to head downtown I’m going to too.

These are on top of the other suggestions so don’t forget Universal Studios or a Studio Tour–Paramount runs great tours in small groups.

When you’re eating out for a week you’re going to want some healthy options.  Sushi in LA is great (once you know where to go) so take advantage of it.  Also check out Lemonade and Urth Cafe for great food and healthy options.  Four Seasons Beverly Hills also has healthy options at its Cabana Restaurant and Culina Restaurant.

If you’re looking for fast food you know California is renowned for In-N-Out Burger.  Ask for the Carb-free version if you’re like many other LA-ers and watching your weight.  Frankly if I’m going to have a burger splurge I like it the traditional way ;-).  When you’re here for a week you’ve got time to try it.

LA in a month

OK, now we’re talking.  I’m guessing if you’re spending a month in LA you’re here as a backpacker or maybe you’re here to sus out whether you can make the move to Hollywood and get discovered.  Either way you’re going to want to hang out.

My top five places to hang out:

  1. Venice Beach–anywhere on Abbot-Kinney
  2. Malibu–because you can
  3. Santa Monica–anywhere
  4. Joan’s on Third or a well-situated Starbucks–you never know who’s going in and out or having a coffee.
  5. West Hollywood (WeHo)–because you can.

One of my favourite sights is hunky spunky boys jogging along Sunset in WeHo (in the stifling heat) with no tops on.  Think they’re looking for someone to discover them.  In the meantime it’s a great perve.

When my friends were here for a few weeks (just short of a month) here was our bucket list.  We got most of them done.

  • Hollywood
  • Walk of Fame
  • Malibu
  • Venice
  • Santa Monica boardwalk & pier
  • Robertson
  • Dash (on melrose)
  • Vintage shops & markets
  • West Hollywood
  • Topanga Mall
  • La Brea Tar Pits
  • Griffith Observatory
  • The Getty

We never spend much time in Hollywood or the Walk of Fame.  Some people are really into it but it’s hot and crowded and hassly.  Get in, get some pics and get out again–there’s much more to LA than that!

Hope that helps.  We’ve managed to turnaround all of our LA doubters into LA lovers.  I hope you will love LA too by the time you leave.  There’s really not much to hate after all!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: Let me know how you go, what you enjoyed and could have given a miss.  Would love to hear from you.

updated September 12, 2015 @ 5:00 LA time with more to do in LA in one day

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

Fact or Fiction: Svend Sipper

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

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

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

The answer is Fact.

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

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

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

Svend’s Sipper

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

You’re welcome.  Cheers!

xx It Started in LA xx

%d bloggers like this: