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Only in LA: The day a famous actor knocked on our door to introduce himself as our new neighbour | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

The day a famous actor moved in next door

Moving to The Valley

I’m not living in 90210 anymore, instead I’m a “Valley Girl”.  There is a whole backstory (and a half) that goes along with the move but for now let me tell you this: I didn’t want to move; I wanted to keep my 90210 postcode.  Who wouldn’t?

Apart from loving the area, having friends close; we were surrounded by “celebrities” new and old, famous and infamous.  I knew there were many celebrities in the Valley too but most likely not in my street or little neighbourhood.

That’s where I was wrong.

Yep, my life is not scripted or made more dramatic for the Blog, my life is just very LA.  The day a ‘famous’ actor moved in next door.

When your neighbour turns out to be “so so famous”

The day we moved in our neighbours put up a For Sale sign.  Nice welcome.  Thank God they did because they weren’t very nice and not at all friendly.

Fast forward six or so weeks (the house sold within 10 days of being on the market) and the house was abuzz with renovation.  That afternoon I got a knock at the door.

(The shitty thing about moving down into the suburbs of The Valley is that it’s too easy to walk up and down the streets so we get every man and his dog wanting to sell us their wares and convert us to ‘see the light”.)

So that afternoon I get a knock on my door.  And it’s not someone in black pants and a white shirt or someone selling LA Times subscriptions.

At my door is a rather groovily dressed guy in hipster pants, a T-Shirt, and a red baseball cap.

“Hi.  My name is Glenn and I’ve just moved in next door.”

1.  Glenn is not his real name so you can forget about switching over to Google ‘Celebrities with the name Glenn’.

2.  He had the most delightful British accent—music to my ears.

He continues, “I’m so sorry about the noise, I’m renovating my house and I asked the guys to start at 7am but I heard they started at 6am.”

“No problems,” I replied.  “We’re up anyway and we didn’t even notice the noise.”

Did I mention he had a plant in hand, handing it over as a “peace offering”?

What beautiful manners was my first reaction.  It’s not often I’ve seen anyone here with such consideration for the neighbours let alone coming in with a thoughtful gift.  Ah! That’s because he’s not from these parts.

It was a short encounter, he handed over the gift, we exchanged pleasantries and I got on with my afternoon.  Actually, truth be told, I wasn’t very warm—I should have invited him in but I was so fearful of our dog weeing all over him that I barely had the door open wide enough for him to feel the least bit welcome.  And why is it that whenever I get a random knock at the door I’m looking like shite?

Celebrity next door?

That night as everyone was coming home we talked about how exciting it was to have a non-American neighbour (sorry American friends) who was thoughtful and youthful.  (I’ve guessed his age as mid to late 20s).  We haven’t had a great trot with neighbours so I didn’t want to get too carried away.  For now I reserve my judgement, on a scale of 1 to 10, as 7.0—hopeful.

My daughter asked me what the neighbour did.

“I don’t know, we didn’t get that far,” I said.  “I assume he’s an actor.”

My daughter laughed at me.  “Mum, you just assume everyone in LA is an actor.  Or at least in Entertainment. They don’t have to be you know; you’re so weird.”

She was right of course.  He didn’t look like an actor, he was totally unassuming and he was incredibly nice and polite.

So we started talking about the assumptions you make when you live in a certain place.

“What would you assume he did if we were in Sydney?” my daughter asked. “Well most people in Sydney work traditional hours.  I guess he would be in IT (working from home).”

In Wales it’s easy as many people work shift work. In China … well I don’t think that would happen as everyone goes to an office–maybe work in hospitality but by that time of day they would already be at work.

So I saw Glenn a number of times as he set about renovating his house to move in.

He moved in and there was music coming from his backyard and a bit of life in what is otherwise a quiet neighbourhood.  it was good.  A week later, as he kids had friends over with the music going, there was a little gathering going on next door.

My son’s British friend noted, “your new neighbours are lit.”

“Yeah right”, I said, “He’s British.”  We laughed and thought nothing more of it.

Than we noticed our dream car—Audi R8—outside the front of our house.

He must totally be an actor.

Living next door to a celebrity

Another week goes by and one night my daughter sees “someone” coming and going from our neighbour’s house. She yells from her room.

“Mum, there’s a famous guy next door.  Is he visiting or is our neighbour famous?”

“I’m not sure honey, let’s see.”

By some stroke of a miracle the “famous guy” comes back down his drive.

“Oh honey, that’s Glenn.  That’s our neighbour.”

Squeals of delight and excitement ensue with a shrill only a 13 year-old can pull off.  In one Snapchat her entire friend network knows the news.

More screams.

“Oh my God, I’m pretty sure I just read he recently moved in with his girlfriend. And <screams> you know who it is? It’s Hannah Montana (clearly NOT a real person but I’m not going to divulge her real name and you get the idea that we’re actually talking about someone with HIGH name recognition amongst the tweens and teens).

More squeals … and lots of Googling.

“Oh my God, oh my God, I’m living next door to HANNAH MONTANA.”

And so, my fear of moving away from the celebrity action couldn’t be further from the truth.  Instead I have a bona fide ‘it’ couple living right next door to me.

Ah LA you never cease to amaze.

xx It Started in LA xx

Los Angelinos love to talk routes | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Differences between America & Australia, My LA story, Posts

Los Angelinos love to talk routes

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

Los Angelinos love to talk “routes”

Routes.  Better known to us Aussies as which way to go.

We call them “roots” they call them “rowtes” (row as in argument not what you do in a boat).  However you say it Los Angelinos love to talk about it.  It starts every conversation when you meet up somewhere, and it will be the last conversation you will have when you part ways.

“Which way are you going…?”

“Which way did you come…?”

“Did you take the 405…?”

“Which way should we go, the 101 is busy at this time of day, is it quicker to use the side streets?”

Even recently, when an Australian friend was talking about which way her friends were going on the way from the airport to her place, she said this:

“From LAX they took the 105 to the 10 to the 101….”  Only at the end did she say “they went via Downtown.”

The sad part about that is not that she just didn’t say, “yeah, they went via Downtown,” it’s that I actually could picture the “route” (said with an American pronunciation if you will) they took.

One time when I hadn’t been here too long and went off to Disneyland for the first time my friend said, “Let me send you the best way to get down there.”

405S
105E
605S
91E
5S
Disneyland exit.

“Don’t I just plug it in my GPS and follow?”

Which way you go is a sport in LA.

And now it’s fuelled by apps like Waze (pronounced ways) that will tell you the “fastest” way to get to a given destination.

Waze has fuelled the discussion even more making it an extreme sport.

“Did you check Waze?”

“What does your Waze say?”

And Waze has a lot to answer for in the back streets of LA.  I’m too lazy and selfish to suck up my phone’s battery to use Waze.  My GPS will be just fine.  But I have to confess I’m getting suckered into the “Which route …?” discussion too.

Gotta love LA.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

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.

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

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

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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

 

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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

Differences between America & Australia, Expat tales, My LA story, Posts

A postcard from Sydney

G’day LA.

A Postcard from Sydney.  I’m still recovering from my trip to Sydney which was a whirlwind.  There’s never enough time to do what you need to do.

One of my highlights was getting back into the early morning rises for swimming training.  (If you’ve been following along he’s on a quest to qualify for the CIF–Californian Interscholastic Federation–made up of private and public schools across California and his coach suggested it was not OK to take two weeks off swimming in the middle of the season). I was so happy to wake early and even more happy that his old school took him in to train with them without question, in face welcome him with open arms. There is nothing more glorious than the site of nearly 100 boys swimming sets when even the sun hasn’t bothered to get up yet.

An hour later we’re on our way to the American Embassy applying for new Visas for another couple of years in LA.

Why would you want to leave Australia I was often asked?  What a great question.  It made me think (and appreciate) …

10 things I love about living in Sydney

1.   Our Beach House (& the unspoilt beaches in general)

Ah yes, our beach house.  Who needs holidays were you have to spend hours on end researching the ins and outs of new destinations when your home away from home is on the white sands of Jervis Bay with uninterrupted views, crystal clear water and unspoiled beaches? It’s the simple things.

It doesn't get much more spectacular than this

It doesn’t get much more spectacular than this

2.   Boats & Water sports

One of our favourite things to do is to head down to “The Shire” to spend a day with our gorgeous friends wallowing away the day.  The kids get to do all things watersports: wake boarding, tubing & biscuiting, Jetskiing, swimming and paddling around and we get to top up our Champagne glass and feed the adventurers when they’re hungry.  Good old-fashioned fun all day.

Doesn't get much more fun than this for the kids--and the grown-ups

Doesn’t get much more fun than this for the kids–and the grown-ups

And we can repeat it all again at the Beach House all summer long.

Ahhh the things we took for granted.

3.   Saturday Sport

Yep, seriously.  I never really whinged about Saturday sport: I loved getting up to watch my kids play and participate week after week for their school.  I also loved meeting and catching up with other parents.  So long as we have a coffee in hand (and a good BBQ complete with egg & bacon rolls) Saturday sport is a gift we give our kids.  And everyone knows where they stand: ‘no show’ means immediate detention and if you can’t commit then you’re presence isn’t required at the school.  That’s what you sign up for and besides, there’s nothing more important than teamwork, representing your school and good sportsmanship.

4.   Australian private school and the attitude to educating kids

When the Principal at my kids school here in LA said in reference to changing the girls uniform because they were sick of the short skirts–and they were short:

(I’m paraphrasing) “our job is not to be bogged down disciplining your kids it’s to educate”.  Wait one cotton-picking moment.  Screech those brakes.  Absolutely not.

Together the school and the parents must set boundaries for the kids and show them that if those boundaries are tested then there are consequences for those actions.  And those consequences aren’t changing a uniform because some girls don’t know how short is too short.  Those girls can learn a lesson–the hard way.

That’s how it is in Australian private schools and it doesn’t seem to be how it is in LA’s private schools.  I really miss that.

5.  Picnics in the park or by the beach–with wine (shock, horror)

As we were driving to friends house on our last night in Sydney we drove past the local park on a beautiful sunny Sydney afternoon.  There were groups of mums & kids sitting in circles on picnic blankets; kids playing happily (not without incident though!) and mums with a well-deserved glass of wine in hand.  After all it was Thursday and nearly the weekend.

Many of my best friendships solidified from “Friday arvo park days” or Champagne arvos.  And the best bit: you could walk home and no one has a mess to clean up.

6.  Pubs

Or is it Australia’s drinking culture I miss most? I’m not sure. Every afternoon pubs are crowded with people catching up for a drink or two after work.  Here in LA it can happen but it’s more like grabbing an early dinner then doing a runner once it’s finished.

7.  Everything revolves around a drink

Case in point.  I had exactly 50 minutes to catch up with a very dear girlfriend.  I dropped in to her house and she opened her fridge and there was no wine.

“It’s OK water’s fine,” I said.

“Wait, what time do you have to leave?  Right we’ve got enough time to go to The Three Weeds, have a drink and be back in time.”

With that we both walked out the door.  And guess what? We did it.  And we loved it.  And that’s something I sorely miss about my Aussie mates and Australia.

Back to point 6–there are pubs everywhere it doesn’t take you long to get to your nearest one to catch up over one or two “sherbets”.

8.  Public Transport

Yes! It might be shite because it never runs on time but you know it’s there if you need it (and you need it to head into the city because the cost to park is highway robbery).

But what I love best about the public transport system is the fact that my kids can catch the bus or train to and from school.  Not only does it give them a social outlet but it gives them freedom and a sense of responsibility.  And it means I’m not driving to and from their school two or three times a day or trying to schedule carpool.

9.  Corner shops and everything at arm’s length

You’ve already been to the supermarket but you forgot to buy milk.  I miss being able to send the kids to the corner shop to pick up the milk or bread, or even get me coffee.

The first thing the kids want to do is get on the bikes and ride to the fish & chips shop and get fish & chips for dinner.  Because they can.  All I have to do is handover the wallet.

10.  Bogans

Seriously.  Where would we be without bogans?  Where would we be without the newest breed of bogans of the cashed-up variety?  I’ve forgotten all about bogans living in LA, there really is no other breed quite like them.  Bless Bogans.  For those of you who don’t know what a bogan is… well that’s a whole other post!

Bona fide bogans: Kath & Kim (Image taken from The Daily Life)

Bona fide bogans: Kath & Kim (Image taken from The Daily Life)

What are 10 things you miss about your home city?  Or what are 10 things you don’t miss!  Would love you to share.

xx It Started in LA xx

My reality
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

JLo, David Duchovny & Forrest Gump

I’ve been neglectful again because I had friends in town last week then a busy weekend catching up.  But showing friends around LA is the very reason this Blog started–to share my surreal life–so I can’t abandon ship on that.

It was a full-on “Only-in-LA” week so I thought I should share it with you.

It started on Saturday when friends landed in LA.  We went out to catch some lunch at Urth Caffe on Melrose and do a bit of people watching.  It never disappoints and it’s always busy.

One of my favourite phrases when I’m out is “Oh,” said with great drama and excitement, “he (or she) is someone.”  It’s true many people have that look about them.  And I probably “see” lots of people out but just don’t recognise them.  But as useless as I am at identifying people, the paparazzi never fail to impress me.  One of my favourite things I look out for–maybe more than celebrities–is the paparazzi trying to snap that pic that might pull them in a small fortune.

Hiding behind the bushes was a pap doing his best to stay in cognito whilst trying to pap a pic.  I looked and looked but couldn’t see who he had his eye on.  Wonder if he got the pic he needed.  Welcome to LA Andrew & Chris!

The next night we had dinner planned at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants.  With one pap out the front I felt like I’d let the side down; this would be a quiet night.  We sat down at our table straight away (unheard of) and it was really quiet at the bar.  Given the request was a bit of “Celeb Spotting” I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t delivered–or didn’t look like delivering.

“Oh, it’s such a shame,” I started saying.  “A couple of weeks ago Chris Noth–Mr Big–was here.”

“Oh, love him,” said my friend.

“I know, me too.  I’d love to see him.” No sooner had I said it but there at the bar was the man himself.  “Mr Big” sitting at one of the bar tables.  Sigh.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” I said, “it’s him.”

How cool we all thought immediately giving him the once over like he was there for the sole purpose of giving us someone to dissect.

“He looks good.”

“He needs a shave.”

“He’s grayer than I imagined.”

“He’s still hot.”

Just getting into the running commentary and he was saved only by JLo walking in.  Yes.  JLo.

“Don’t look now guys but JLo has just walked in.”

“That’s not JLo,” says MR H.

“Is it Beyonce?” asks our mate.

“Oh no, you’re right,” I say, “It’s not JLo.  Bummer.”

Until common sense prevailed and my girlfriend announces, “Of course it’s JLo.  Who else looks that flawless and perfect?

“We’re not in Glen Iris (Melbourne) or Lilyfield (Sydney), we’re in West Hollywood and you’ve seen her here before so you know she comes here!  How can it be anyone BUT JLo?”

Well yes, now that you put it like that.  Good point.

As she’s escorted to her table it becomes clear that she’s going to be seated in the booth DIRECTLY OPPOSITE US.  We only had one way to look and that was straight at her.  Poor us.  Our poor boys.  There goes any decent conversation for the rest of the night.  (Actually, you’re right.  Poor boys nothing).

And yes, there were a few more paps waiting outside when we left.  I wonder who tips them off.

Cut forward a couple of days and we managed to arrange to get out to Paramount to have a quick look at the sound studios at Mr H’s work.  Even if we don’t get to see anything I at least know my way around the lot and can conduct a mini tour of my own.

Well there we are in the “ADR” room (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) and I look up at the talent who’s on a break and recording some lines.  I look again.  And again.  And again because I can’t quite work it out.  It looks like David Duchovny.  With make up on.  I look again.  He catches me (again) but I don’t care because it’s not him but I need to know WHO it is.

Meanwhile right next to me I’m completely oblivious to my friends–one apparently having heart palpitations, the other apparently trying to get my attention so we can make eye contact and telepathically give each other the thumbs up.  We’re.  Standing.  In.  The.  Same.  Room.  As.  David.  Duchovny.

Nope.  I’m too busy checking out the David Duchovny look-a-like, looking at him up and down and trying to work out who he is and how remarkably he has some of his mannerisms as David Duchovny.

Again, we’re in Hollywood, David Duchovny has started shooting a new series Aquarius on the Paramount lot (that one of my friends is producing) and he has make-up on but it doesn’t occur to me that that guy IS David Duchovny.  I don’t deserve to live in LA.

Later as we’re driving a cart around the lot who should follow us but the man himself.  My friends were sitting at the back of the cart (looking out) and had no choice but to look straight at him.  Lucky them.  I wonder what he was thinking: “who are these people I keep bumping into”.  Or of course there’s always the fact he didn’t notice us at all.  Nah … not possible.

Welcome to LA Andy & Jess.

Forrest bench

Forrest Gump’s bench now sits at the Paramount lot | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

Shanghighs and Shanghlows

I could end the story there.  But I won’t.  I’ve joined in an Instagram project called #myreality where we’re posting a pic a day on various topics.  It’s been fun to be part of and gets me thinking about what pics I can post and also what pics I’ve already taken that I can share.  (You can see my pics on my Facebook page in an album I’ve created of the same name).  And if you’re not already following me on Instagram I’m @itstartedinla.

So it got me thinking I must be giving the wrong impression about #myreality.  Yes of course I see amazing things (straight from movie sets) daily and get to do lots of fun things I never dreamt of only 15 months ago.  But.  And there is a but.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about FOMO.  As settled as I am here in LA, I’m unsettled.  I like our house but it’s only supposed to be temporary.  I hate renting, I want to buy a nice house (not unlike the one I plan to build some day–one day–at home).

The kids and I have been chatting and if life is meant to be here for us for a while then we’re ready for it.  We’re prepared to embrace it and stay.  But Mr H doesn’t feel the same way.  I’m pretty sure he’s in denial.  He’s job is here, he’s happy here but he doesn’t want that lightbulb moment where he thinks he can lay down some roots here and settle for a while.

And so, life as an expat is about the highs and the lows.  There was a saying in Shanghai and it was exactly that: the Shanghighs and the Shanglows.  Some choose to dwell on the lows, we try to focus on the highs.  And I don’t really expect much (any) sympathy from you.  But when you read this in your house that you call your home think of me living in a sort of limbo land and count your lucky stars because with your life comes family, friends and security.

Fall

Not falling but “Fall”.  Because we always end on a positive note it’s starting to feel more like Fall here now: it’s getting a little cooler and the Halloween decorations are out.  Also, the air freshners and candles are scented for the “holidays” in a glorious combination of cinnamon, cloves and “apple pie”.  It reminds me of this time last year when we were newbies and were trying to navigate around town.  That smell reminds me of home and security and family. So I think we’re lucky the kids and I can picture ourselves staying here another few years and we can gently let go of the “smells of home” that lure us back.  I think we’ve come a long way.  As unsettling as that is it is somehow very settling.

And of course the start of Fall means Halloween, people have their decorations out and the “spirit” is out there.  It’s a fun time of the year.

Halloween

With Fall comes Halloween | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

 

Happy Fall–or in many of your cases happy Spring!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

90210
My LA story, Posts

So 90210: Handbags, pocket money and schmoozing

Another week and another visitor to show off our LA to last week.  This time it was my niece coming over from Wales.  My dad was from Wales and left home when he was young to travel the world.  While we go back often to visit it’s not often we get to spend quality time with relatives apart from immediate family.

Ironically at the time my daughter was doing a history assignment on family so she got her nose out of joint that she hadn’t met any of Mr H’s extended family and only saw mine on holidays to the Philippines and Wales–and have since met more here in LA.

While her friends were having family gatherings and weddings she hadn’t experienced that because we have never lived in the same city as family. (OK technically that’s not true–Mr H’s brother and family lived in Sydney at the same time as us so the kids have a special bond with them as a consequence but that was some four + years ago now and with us both living out of Australia I can’t see us living in the same city again for quite some time.)  That’s the tough part about being an Expat.  The plus is that you establish close friendships stronger than any family bond and we’ve always had families take us under their wings (which we just love).

There were a few themes I noticed last week–especially as I see LA through the eyes of a first-timer–but I thought I’d use this week’s post to fess up to something I blogged about at the start of my new venture.

That post was about young girls here and their designer handbags.  Specifically it was about us getting swept up in 90210 and wanting my daughter to have a fabulous Furla handbag.

At the time I was annoyed that the PE bag of choice was a Michael Kors tote and naturally when you see someone with something you like you want it too.  But even with my fetish for handbags I couldn’t see how a Michael Kors PE bag would in any way be acceptable in my house.  (Thankfully I think the bag du jour has changed once again proving my point that I can’t afford to get caught up in many of the trends out here).

As I re-read the post I don’t think I even articulated myself all that well.  I think I was trying so hard to cover up what I was really trying to say that that’s exactly what I did!

Some of my gorgeous friends’ daughters do have designer handbags and to me that’s OK.  It’s OK because they don’t get everything they want and they are uber fashion conscious and spend time creating their own individual looks and it works for them.  They also don’t flaunt it.  It’s normal to them and they don’t judge my daughter for not having … a designer handbag for example.  It’s also OK because they can afford it.  To them buying a designer handbag is like me buying my daughter a Sportsgirl bag or even a Country Road bag.

What’s not OK are girls who make others who don’t sport the latest designer handbag feel bad or out of it.  Actually I don’t think many do but there’s a difference in my daughter’s behaviour (and what she wants) depending on who she’s been hanging out with so I’d love to know what is said and why she acts like that only after hanging with certain girls.  As I’ve said to her lets limit the amount of hanging out time with those girls–if nothing else but for my nerves and my alcohol intake.

So here’s the confession.  My daughter is now the proud owner of a spunky Marc Jacobs bag.  She was over the moon to be given one as a gift from a few of her friends recently.  Good for her.  She loves it and cherishes it.  It’s so special, especially because it’s come from friends.

She has also saved up for her very own matching Michael Kors wallet & tote bag.  And no, she won’t be using it as her PE bag.  She has counted every penny and watched as her favourite “camo” (that’s camouflage print to us untrained) gear went on sale.  She was able to use Christmas and birthday money as well as the very generous gift cards she got from her recent party to get it with her own money.

MK Camo

The much-yearned-for Michael Kors camo bag

Pocket money

OK She didn’t actually have to work for it but she did get to experience the importance of saving up for something you really want.

Since I wrote about pocket money at the beginning of the year we’ve also been thinking seriously about that.  The kids have been OK with doing some jobs but they’ve been doing a great job at budgeting their money and spending it wisely.  So much so that we’re pretty much eliminating gift giving in our house in exchange for money giving.

The main downfall is that it’s completely impersonal and a real downer on a celebration day.  But, money giving is helping our kids appreciate the value of money and make choices about what they really want–as opposed to asking for everything then being disappointed with the “little” they get.

My son did the same sort of thing with his money–saved it up and got a racing car set he really wanted.  Like my daughter he counted his “pennies” until he hit the magic number and got exactly what he wanted.

The only other downside to this experiment is that neither of them can have a bank account here with a linked debit card until they’re 15 or 16. Once they get that then they’ll truly be able to transact without fear of losing their cash and track their savings and spending.

Back to handbags

You see one of the things I hadn’t fully thought through was the problem is similar back home.  And it’s even more true in Expatland where Cashed-up bogans rule supreme.

In Australia there are girls with designer handbags, wallets or designer clothes. Or the latest Mac. Or holiday house. Or boat. Or iWhatever.  There are some girls who get what they want, and others who don’t.

In Expatland it’s probably even worse. I bought my daughter a designer wallet (fake of course–which brings up more ethical debate truth be told) and thought nothing of it.

When we lived in China things were so ridiculously cheap and we didn’t have mundane bills to worry about like rent, utilities or school fees that the discretionary spending was abnormally high.  I didn’t have a blog then but I spent a lot of time analysing how much the kids had and how no one wanted for anything that we were raising a generation of spoilt children living in a surreal world.  I spent a lot of time then making sure we weren’t buying the kids too many material possessions so they would think that was the norm and OK.  (No wonder my kids think I’m a hard-ass.)

The moral of the story?

The moral of the story is and always will be each to their own: their own beliefs, values and judgments.  This blog contains the world according to Gwen John and it doesn’t have to be the world according to you.

Am I being hypocritical that now my daughter, too, owns a designer handbag?  That’s for you to decide and me to justify.

What I love is that, sure, it’s got the Michael Kors element about it but it’s my daughter to a T–she loves everything camo.  In my mind she’s not compromising who she is for the sake of buying herself a designer bag.

I go back to my mum’s advice when she visited a couple of months ago when she questioned me and my steadfastness.

She cautioned me at being stubborn to resist the change (you always want what you can’t have).  She agreed we have to be true to ourselves and our values but we also had to be mindful we’re bringing kids up in a different place to where we grew up.  She reminded me that the same thing happened to me when we moved back to Melbourne after spending a few years in Queensland.  It’s OK to be pliable and blend a little so long as you remember who you are and what you believe in.  And I think we are and we do.

LA through different eyes

My niece was gobsmacked at LA–not just the six-lane freeways but the uber wealth in not one but dozens of different neighbourhoods (Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Los Feliz, Malibu, Larchmont, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Hollywood Hills .. need I go on?)  She was also surprised to see so many homeless people and the terrible state of some of the roads.  She laughed at dinner the other night as she reflected that everyone in the restaurant carefully checks out everyone else to see if they are “someone” or if they know them.  (She said I was being checked out–love it!).

Perhaps one (or two) of her biggest surprises though were the canyons.  Like most people she saw LA as being Beverly Hills (the flats), Santa Monica and the beaches and Anaheim.  She had no idea of the beauty of the surrounding canyons.  Coupled with that spotting deer crossing the road just two doors down from our house spun her out.

That’s what I love about LA: the surprise factor.  There’s so much more to LA than you might think.  Whichever way you look at it though, it’s worth getting to know better.

xx It Started in LA xx

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My LA story, Posts

Our first US summer has come to an end

That’s right, sadly our first US summer has come to an end.  I know many people that would be jumping for joy at the thought of their kids back to school and out of their hair.  Not yours truly.

I love the lack of routine school brings: sleeping in, not having to worry about getting home in time for school pick-up–or even being at school to pick up; no car pool queues and no worrying about what to pack for lunch.

But alas like all good things in life they must come to an end.  And there is always an upside:  I’ve missed you!  I’ve missed my Blogs and have so much to tell you it feels like I haven’t caught up with my best friend for ages.  (Which is true too).

Where do I start? Let me start by telling you that summer was great.  We had one of our good friends come at the start of summer and that meant showing them around the LA we know and love and a couple of roadtrips.  It was with them we conquered Yosemite and then drove to Vegas via Mammoth and Death Valley.  It seems like a lifetime ago.

The day after they left my mum and brother came and five days after they left my in-laws came.  In between we had a great visit from fellow Blogger UK Desperate Housewife of USA.  And that my friends is summer done and dusted.  We estimate five or so days with just ourselves for the whole nearly three months.  No wonder I’ve neglected you and I am exhausted!

There were so many highlights it actually feels like a bragfest if I go through them all with you.  But what that makes me realise, once again, is how bloody lucky we are to be living here doing the sorts of things we’re doing.

Which brings me to how this Blog was born.  You know when you read someone famous talk about the struggle to make it big and you sit back and think, “wow, did you what? Good for you. How did you manage to achieve that?” And it’s hard to imagine them as everyday normal people.

OK, not that I’m saying I’m all over the mags and hugely successful by any stretch but I wonder if I’ve conveyed to you that just over 12 months ago I was a normal, happy person getting up at 5am many mornings a week to take my son swimming then go for a run myself before I had to go back home to help my daughter get ready to take her to the bus to start her day.  Then work or go to the gym, grocery shop, manage the soccer and waterpolo teams and be ready for the kids to come home and do their afternoon activities, dinner etc. Blissfully happy as you can only be when you live in Australia unaware (fundamentally) that there are normal people living similar lives to me in Beverly Hills 90210.

Until my hubby got a call about moving there.

So of course we are constantly pinching ourselves and wanting to share a glimpse into how life can suddenly change for an unsuspecting Aussie family like us.  I’ve had nothing but great support for my blog but I do wonder if people realise that we weren’t “destined” for this life nor were we looking for it per se; it just happened.  Apart from the usual teenage stuff neither of our goals were to make it big in Hollywood–or make a go of it here.  Such is the wonder of life sometimes.  That’s what makes our story so cool.

So … apart from a few travel stories over the coming weeks I’ll share with you tidbits from our summer (told in the spirit of this Blog) in LA including :

  • Heading to our first Bar Mitzvah–90210 style
  • Mr H & I at the Creative Emmys
  • The kids and I at the Teen Choice Awards
  • Brushes with fame out and about in LA.

What’s on this week?

With the kids reluctantly packed up to school for another year and having the house to ourselves again it’s obviously time to focus on It Started in LA.  Aside from that I have a mountain (and I mean mountain) of ironing.

(I don’t mind ironing because I have a system: I record my favourite shows–and with M-Go or Netflix I don’t even need that–and I watch them while I iron.  It passes the time nicely and I have a great excuse for watching TV.  High on my list, if you’re interested, are Orange is the New Black and Scandalwhich we saw being shot when we first arrived in LA and had no idea how big it or the stars were.  I’ve since added Sons of Anarchywhich is tough because it’s up to season bazillion), Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad so it’s just as well I have a mountain of ironing.  Wait, did I mention Mad Men and House Of Cards? No? You get the picture).

Plus I want to get out and meet more people to start my new series, “Profiles” and trying to get on set to get a taste for that aspect of LA life. And of course I need to start planning our next holiday.  Busy huh?

Birthday parties 90210 style

In the meantime I’m party planner for my daughter’s up-and-coming 12th birthday party.  It’s been an eternity (according to her) since she’s had a party and she’s picked this year and turning 12 to have one.

Sigh for me.  And Mr H.  I’m sure it would be the same in Australia but pin the tail on the donkey, bringing in a clown or even an at-home dance party don’t seem to cut it anymore.

What do you do for a girl who is practically last in her class to have a party and everyone else has pulled out the big-gun ideas?  With a lot of tossing up and negotiation we decided on a screening of the movie The Giver (a book my daughter and her class studied last year that I also read and loved) at Mr H’s state-of-the-art “Viewing Rooms” at his sound stage on one of the studio lots.

Sounds flash huh?  I thought so but there was a little skeptical worry that everyone has access to such an amazing opportunity that it wouldn’t be special.  Lucky she realised that living here does not necessarily mean everyone has access to it and we’re on.  We’re all on board and I have to deliver a party that’s 2040 with a twist of 90210 and a Hollywood chaser.

Three key differences between parties 90210 style and 2040 style:

  1. The key difference that’s highly evident is that there are no lolly bags.  That could be a good thing I hear you say except they are replaced with a more upmarket version and called a “party favour”.  Party favours can be anything from a gift card to your favourite store (with the 2040 present budget) to a kit filled with fabulous goodies also equal to or greater than the 2040 present budget (or maybe I was just a little on the scroogey side?).
  2. We’ve upped the anti.  That’s not to say it’s not happening at home but I don’t think it’s happening across the board.  While all very gorgeous some of the parties my daughter has been to include lunching at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, High Tea at Le Montage, a private nails party at a nail salon, dinner and pool parties with ice-cream vans and all the bells and whistles required to keep some 20 girls amused for a few hours.
  3. Catering.  There is no sign of party pies and sausage rolls nor of fairy bread and for that I think we should all have a minute’s silence.  No sign of lolly bags either but we’re changing that with a “candy station” to get us through the movie.

From my son’s perspective there were hardly any parties this year giving way for more intimate affairs with a couple of mates over.  Except one girl who had a massive party at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel–booked out for Saturday night.  That one was quite the affair!

I’ve changed my thinking a little from when we first came.  While I’m not changing who we are or what we believe in I am accommodating things 90210 style.  A wise person (my mum) told me over the holidays that I shouldn’t make the kids stand out as being totally different to everyone else just because I want to stick to how we do things at home.  Her view was that (especially as you get into the teenage years) it’s good to be a bit under the radar and kids don’t particularly like to stand out as being especially different.  That’s not unlike what one of my school friends told me (reminded me of) when she came to visit earlier this year either.  So I’ve wiggled.

I think it’s good advice and I’ll continue to monitor how it means we navigate life 90210 style.

Enjoy the start of Spring Southern Hemispherers while we adjust to Autum (sorry Fall) here.  Thankfully LA’s weather doesn’t really change very much so the forecast is for sunshine and sunshine followed by sunshine.

xx It Started in LA xx

My LA story, Posts

An LA institution: The Hollywood Bowl

In my Blog post Ten Must-do things in LA I said you must go to the Hollywood Bowl or the Greek Theatre.  I have to confess it was something I’d been told rather than something I’d done.  Before you judge I had always planned to go but I could wait until I’d done it to post my top ten or you wouldn’t get a fabulous list of things to do when you come to LA besides shop.

Anyway, now I’m here to tell you I’ve lost my virginity and can honestly say first hand the Hollywood Bowl is an LA institution and you absolutely need to see a show here; if it’s not on your list add it.

There is so much to share I don’t know where to start.  First of all I have to proclaim that God the Americans do things well.  Where in Australia can you rock up to a first-class venue complete with top notch catering (indeed I outdid myself making a cherry tomato salad and roast tomato & goat’s cheese tart along with cheese, olives and “Australian” water crackers bought at Bristol Farms, Weho)?  And of course top-notch wine?  No, you’d have to buy their over-priced food and bad wine and suck it up.  Hashtag highly civilised.

OK, next observation the wine bar as you walk/drive in looks amazing.  Obviously I didn’t need to check it out as we had brought our own (did I mention absolutely fabulous food & wine?) but I felt I should share and let you know it looked pretty cool.  And there are some pretty cool places to picnic too (I’m sensing LA loves its picnics…)

Hang on … I’m still soaking everything in.  It’s too much–visual and atmospheric overload.

Why does everything in LA have to be so bloody amazing?  Like it’s one giant big iconic movie set?  When you drive into the Bowl, it announces itself to you, it’s pretty majestic itself sitting up on the hill looking down on the rest of LA–it’s pretty cool.  Pay it the respect it deserves.  (The history of its architecture is also pretty cool so if you’re interested here’s a link).

Of course it’s LA so the next cool thing is valet parking, an absolute necessity when you have your gourmet pre-packed picnic and wine right?  Right.

Speaking of highly civilised we were in a box.  Now when you think box back home you think an air-conditioned suite at the very top of the venue looking down at everyone because they’re more connected to the show/game than you.  Well not here.  Boxes are at the front (where you can see-duh!) and are literally spaces for four–two in front and two in the back and the seats are rather comfy deck chairs.  The two seats in front turn around and helpers are on hand to set up a table for you.  Voila!  Roll out the placemats and linen napkins and serve up the gourmet catering.

The first hour and a half or so (depending on when you get there) is dedicated to food and wine.  Then before the show starts someone takes away your tables, you turn your chairs around and you’re ready to watch the show.  Wine in hand.

HB

Our box at the Hollywood Bowl

Outdoor venue

Have you heard it never rains in LA?  Well very rarely and it’s exacerbated by the fact that we’re in a drought at the moment.  Only in LA can you have a full-on outdoor venue with absolutely no shelter (except for the performers).  It would never work in Australia where even the Myer Music Bowl has undercover seating (and you must bring wet weather gear just in case).  I love the way everything in LA is outdoors and planned for its perfect weather.

It’s been pretty humid over the last few days (typically LA’s heat is dry) and the weather looked a little dodgy.  But it’s LA so it never rains here.  Right?

My girlfriend said, “It better not rain,” only to be heckled by her husband who exclaimed, “It hasn’t rained at the Hollywood Bowl since 1967”.  (Actually he said 1961 but seeing as Hair was based in 1967 I thought it would sound better).  It never rains in LA and even when it does it’s a drop at best and lasts precisely 1.79 minutes.  Of course we’ll be fine.

Hair

We’ve packed up, filled our wine glasses and we’re treated to an amazing performance of Hair.

When we came in there were cast members everywhere in costume setting the scene for us reliving the 60s saying: peace, love, make not war.  I thought it was a bit in your face but when I went with it I got it.  You just needed a few minutes from the real-life rush to get there and switch it down a few gears.

Hair

Make love not war | Hair | It Started in LA | www.itstartedinla

 

I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t that.  A full-blown musical performance–the actual stage production/extravaganza.  I’d heard it was the LA Philharmonic Orchestra so I guess I was picturing the orchestra and some singers doing a bit of a tribute to Hair.

So imagine my surprise when it’s starring Kristen Bell, Sarah Hyland, Beverly D’Angelo, Hunter Parish (big spunk from Weeds), two chicks from Glee and many many more.  You (hehe–us) Los Angelenos are so spoilt.  Seriously?  An A-list cast?  Does it get any better than that?  So for three shows they’ve put together a stellar cast, visual effects to make you think you’re tripping and a full-blown production for 17,000 Hollywood Bowl goers. Wow.  Hail LA.

Sarah Hyland

Sarah Hyland gives a great performance (who knew she could sing?)

 

We got right into it, the actors interacted with the audience and it was fun and catchy.  The first half flew by then intermission and it was time for dessert.  Fabulous.  Catch a friend, a trip to the toilets (no queues–yay) and time for the second half.

And then it rained.  “That’s not rain,” I said.  “LA does not know how to do rain.  Those drips will be gone in a minute.”  Apparently not.  Full-blown, long-lasting rain.  People were leaving in droves.  I love the way the cast included the rain in their performance and in character, “Don’t go, stay with us, we’ll pass out some ponchos and we can all stop the war together.”  (OK, or words to that affect).  But people still left.  I thought that was a bit rude I mean really?  It’s only water.  Can’t you wait to see if it will pass?  (It was actually teaming down).

For about 10-15 minutes (possibly more) the cast sung and danced to entertain the soaked audience.  But the audience (yours truly included) were so focused on the rain it was hard to focus on the show.  When was the last time it rained at the Hollywood Bowl?  Has it ever rained during a performance? Are those ponchos coming? Why is everyone leaving? Where are we up to? What’s happening? It really isn’t stopping is it? Is it getting stronger?  Did I mention it never rains in LA let alone the Hollywood Bowl?

Then, with ponchos passed around everyone seemed to settle to get back in touch with the show.  The cast did their best ad-libbing and we, the audience, loved it.

“Rain be gone with you, leave us alone” … “I’m not going out there and getting wet”.  We cheered and wolf-whistled and the show went on.

We did it.  I did it.  Despite many people leaving 100 times the people stayed.  And we were treated to a fabulous performance by a great cast who proved they were more than just big names and decent actors who could memorise the script.  The ad-libbing made it, we lapped it up and then as quickly as the night started it was all but over.

I lost my virginity in the rain.  History-making stuff.  New York may have Broadway but LA has the Hollywood Bowl.  Just another reason why I heart LA.

Oh, and if you’re still not sure what to do when you book your night out at the Bowl–because you will–here’s a newcomers guide prepared a little earlier for your convenience.  Just makes me want to do it all over again.  Maybe without the record-breaking rain.

And in case you didn’t get the message: do yourself a favour and get to the Hollywood Bowl and you too will fall in love with LA.  What’s not to love?

xx It Started in LA xx

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

Posts

Brangelina, Dance moms & the Princess

I don’t know where to start. I’ve had a massively LA weekend.

I spent the last half of last week preparing for a “casual” barbie (BBQ/grill) on Saturday night as Mr H invited his team over.  This week one year ago we hopped on a plane for our “look-see” trip to see if we could get the kids into a school at the 11th hour (when applications had been closed for months & there was “no room at the Inn” in 99.98% of LA’s private schools) and find somewhere to live. So it also marks Mr H’s one-year anniversary in Hollywood.  Wow how time flies.

It’s so interesting talking to people that have grown up in LA and worked in “the business” their whole lives.  I’ve made my pitches so hoping that I’ll get to go on more Sets and go to some fun events over the next year (all solely for Blog research of course!).

What does Brangelina have to do with me hosting a casual barbie that I spent 2.5 days prepping for I hear you ask?  I’m so glad you asked.  You see last night I had some of their wine.  That’s right, I drank from Brad’s cup (metaphorically speaking of course).  I’m either going to be waaay ahead of the news or way behind but here goes.  At their “summer residence” in Provence (which also happens to be a “wine estate”) Brad & Ange teamed up with one of the regions finest winemakers to come out with a cheeky Rosé–Chateau Miraval–and it’s really quite nice.  Let me give you the tip it didn’t last long at this gathering.  Here’s a bit of a story from the LA Times if you’re interested and here’s a review from Decanter magazine.

Chateau Miraval

A rose amongst the beers: Chateau Miraval by Brad Pitt & his partner

 

The Princess

But that wasn’t the highlight of the night (I know, you’re shocked aren’t you?) No, the highlight for the night was getting my princess back (that would be princess the adjective/verb not Princess the noun).

Having some 30 people at our place on the weekend made me call out for help in the way of back-up in the back-office (ie. the kitchen).  One of my gorgeous friends arranged for a friend of her housekeeper’s to come and help me.  It came as a complete surprise to me (because this never happens) but I was so super organised I didn’t need her to come as early as I’d booked her.  I told her to just hang and gave her the rundown on the night (when guests are due, when we plan to serve food, dessert etc).  With that I went to get my make-up and shoes on.  I came back into the kitchen to find her cleaning it–I mean really cleaning it.  She moved everything and wiped underneath and put it all back, cleaned the splashback (backsplash–how funny we use the same word but backwards).  The bottom line? she cleaned places that haven’t been cleaned for a while!  It was all I could do to get down on my knees in front of her and hail her for being the Saviour of my world.

You’ll recall one of my first Blog posts was asking the question whether or not I do the very LA thing of getting a housekeeper.  My final decision was not to because it seemed like my postcode jacked the prices up and because I had time I’d rather keep that money to get my nails or my hair done or have a massage.

Well nine months on and it ain’t working.  You might be surprised to hear but this Blog takes up a lot of my time and after tennis, running the kids around for waterpolo training three nights a week and dance once a week there is not enough time for me to clean the house the way it should be cleaned.

Enter Bertha, saviour of my world.  She will now be coming every week to save me from the dust and grime and get my house in pristine shape.  And she’s not trying to rip me off. Can’t wait!

Very LA

There are a few more things I’ve learnt this weekend about living in LA since my post “Nine things I’ve learnt about living in LA for nine months“.  The first is the whole RSVP thing.  Apparently the trend here is not to RSVP.  Who knows? a better offer might come along and they’ll be stuck trying to back out of the previous commitment in favour of the better party (but later invite).  (This isn’t true for the gathering we had BTW, everybody was very un-LA for our barbie),

The second is the concept of “eat and run”.  We know this to be true of restaurants.  Totally the opposite of what we do in Australia–linger over the meals and when you’re done order another bottle of wine and sit and chat without food getting in the way.

But apparently it’s also true when you invite people over.  We served skewered prawns (of course) and chicken ala Filipino street food and I think many people thought that was the extent of the meal.  Time was getting on but we didn’t realise people were “wrapping up” and getting ready to hit the road.  We hadn’t served mains or dessert yet.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a criticism, it’s simply one of those lost in translation moments.  And it was the people at our party–those leaving–that pointed it out to me.  “Welcome to LA baby,” was the comment, “this is what we do”.  Too funny.

So, I was left with 30 steaks, I lost count of the number of sausages, we still didn’t finish the prawn & chicken skewers and we had four huuuge salads.  And that’s before I put the desserts out of mini cheesecakes, chocolate mousses in mason jars (don’t you just love mason jars?) and one perfect (if I do say so myself) Pavlova.  We’ve got food coming out of our everythings.  What am I going to do with it all–where’s Oz Harvest when you need it?

Thankfully not everyone left but there was another mass exodus after mains (entree in the US) and before dessert.

Pav

An Australian favourite: Palova

Chokky mouse

Mini Chocolate mousses in Mason jars–genius!

 

Back to the eat-&-run-thing though I sort of get it.  Many of our guests drove for up to an hour to come to our barbie.  That’s a long way to come and drink one or two drinks for the night because they have to drive home.

Dance Moms

Sunday saw me change gears as my 11-year-old daughter had her dance recital–her first LA gig.  The beauty of living in LA is your dance teacher is someone who’s not only a professional but has danced at a really high level.  The concert was incredible, the dancers … well, watch this space … and my daughter had me beaming with pride.  The other great thing about it was that the teachers danced a number.  What a treat to see professional dancers doing what they love but also sharing their talent with future generations.  Yes, I cried a number of times through the afternoon, thanks for asking.

Nothing like Dance Moms right? Not at all but I couldn’t shake the vision and voices in my head of Abby Lee and those mothers.  The reason I’m bringing it up though is because I was blown away by the wolf-whistling and woohoo-ing by the audience.  Oh they were getting into it–clapping along with songs, whistling, singing out.  I was back on Oprah, or Dr Phil, or my PA (Parent Association) meeting.  No meekly sitting back watching passively, no the audience was right into it.  Love it, I think it’s contagious.

This week we’re in “finals” mode then by the end of next week we’ll be on summer holidays.  Two months of fun. Yippee!

Have a great week and be thankful if you’re not in “finals” mode!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: See if you can work out the very Hollywood meaning of the pic–I joked about being very Hollywood offering Coke in the bathroom of our party and lots of people didn’t get it.  Maybe they were fibbing?!
Tongue in cheek only; a bit of fun!

Liebster award
Expat tales, Posts

What do LA, Libya & Liebster have in common?

Life here in LA is getting so busy.  It’s the kids last week of school before “finals” then one of our besties arrives for a holiday next week.  Next week.  Ahhhhh!

Last week I was talking about how well I was acclimating and this week I have to be careful that I’m talking (well writing) like an Aussie because I’m finding myself and the kids talking in hybrid Ausmerican.  I’m not sure if it’s so we’ll be more easily understood or whether we’re picking up on words and phrases but I’m definitely not talking like I usually do.  Best I fix that up!

What do LA, Libya & Liebster have in common?

Is your first question what/who/where is Liebster?  Good question!  Liebster is an award for new bloggers.

Liebster award

My very-own Liebster Award

 

That’s my way of saying yours truly has been nominated for the Liebster Award.  I (and many others) have tried to find out how it all started and who organises it (surely it’s a great way to make money right?!) but its origins are unclear.

What is clear is its intent: recognition for the hard slog that blogging is.  I am so happy to be nominated that I could be singled out (ok, one of 10 but you know what I mean?) by a fellow blogger and given recognition for my baby.

So …. what do Libya, LA & (the) Liebster (award) have in common? Well I was nominated by a fabulous fellow blogger I came across one day, Diary of an Expat.  She lives in Libya, I live in LA and we’ve both been nominated for the award.  In fact, she nominated me!

Bloggers are recognised by their peers and nominated to receive the award.  Part of that nomination is to nominate other bloggers with the same privilege.

As much as the origin of the award are unclear the rules are also slightly different depending on who’s passed on the award.  A bit like Chinese whispers as the nominations go from one Blogger to the next the message changes slightly. Here’s a Blogger who took the time to try to research the origin of the award if you’re interested.

Liebster Award

 

For example I’m not sure when it changed from five questions and nominate five people to 10 as in my nomination.  I also read some people were part of a group of 11 people nominated to answer 11 questions.  The number of followers has also shrunk and it’s unclear if it’s subscribers to your Blog or Facebook followers or even Instagram and Twitter.  But the spirit is there and we follow the rules as we see fit.

So … here are the 10 questions I was asked to answer:

1. What is the difference between a traveller, an expat and a tourist?

I guess the difference between a traveller and a tourist is that a traveller takes the time to hang out in a place and try to get inside it and get a feel for it.  A tourist takes lots of photos and is ticking off a list.  Mainly.  You can’t say a tourist isn’t enjoying it or not trying to get to know a place better.  I’d say it depends on the person and the trip.

The difference between an Expat and a tourist/traveller is much clearer.  The privilege of being an Expat and living in someone else’s “place” is you get to experience their life as they see it.  And the best bit is you’re forced to put down some roots and go through the hard yards of meeting people and forming friendships.

You can’t also just leave and move on when you’ve had enough so you have to take the good with the bad.

2. Which one(s) are you?

I’m a pretty good tourist.  And a traveller depending on where we are.  For example we visited this town in China called Stone Drum Town in Lijiang, China.  They had their regular market day and we wandered through the market interacting with the locals and watching them do what they do day to day.  We enjoyed the moment and truly interacted (as best we could).  Same with climbing the Great Wall of China, we really bonded with that experience.

Other times, however, we’re like OK, got the pic let’s move on!

And of course now we’re expats again.

There are also different types of Expats.  I was a different Expat living in Shanghai doing “ladies-who-lunch” activities with other Expats. I had all week to be driven all over town for different things and no house to clean or often no dinner to cook.  Here in LA I’m doing stuff with the locals (if you can call them that because LA is a melting pot).  Thankfully some of my friends are the rare beast that is the “LA native” so I get to experience the full gamut that is the melting pot.

3. What did you learn “on the road” that you could never have found in books?

Experience.  Noone can tell you how to make friends or what friends will be best for you.  You have to navigate your way through based on your gut.  It’s also hard to communicate a vibe, you have to feel it and experience it for yourself.

4. What stereotype(s) did you find out was NOT true?

That America is super modern and has all the bells & whistles, you know? like in the movies.  I don’t think it could be further from the truth.  Lots of things here are quite antiquated like the banking system.  And if you think there’s going to be (free) wifi everywhere you go … think again!

5. The one memory/experience abroad that will stay with you forever?

It’s a toss up.  Bonding with our Ayi in China, she was our live-in maid and we adored her.  She didn’t really speak English and we didn’t really speak Chinese but we forged an incredible relationship, she is such a gorgeous soul.

I’m pretty sure going to the Golden Globes (after-party hosted by Warner Bros and InStyle Magazine) is up there at the very top of the list too.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be at an event like that and it was nothing short of memorable.

6. The most beautiful place you’ve ever been?

Wow, this one is a tough one.  I don’t think one such place exists.  So many places are beautiful for so many reasons and it depends what attracts you.  Generally we are attracted by beaches.  One of the most beautiful beaches in the world is in Jervis Bay (where we have a beach house).  It is totally under-rated and we love it that way.  We call it Magic Beach, after the Allison Lester book of the same title.

Magic Beach

One of the most beautiful places in the world

 

We loved Palawan in the Philippines for the same reason and are dying to get back again.

We also loved the Great Wall of China, the rolling valleys and castles of Wales and the old town of Lijiang is spectacularly beautiful. There’s lots of different beauty in China.

The Grand Canyon was amazing and I can’t wait to get to Yosemite because from what I’ve seen that is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Paris and Copenhagen rate amongst the most beautiful cities I’ve visited.

7. What does Exotic mean for you, could you paint us a picture?

Can I phone a friend?!  I don’t know.  The first thing that comes to mind is: beaches followed by palm trees, pineapples, cocktails, sun and sunsets.

8. If you could give three pieces of advice to future travellers/expats?

1.  Do it, experience it, live it.  Experience is a gift, you may not be able to wear it to flash it to others but you don’t have to pack it or store it either.  And those experiences will live with you forever and mould you into who you are. It is indeed a gift and a privilege.

2.  Research.  You may want to go with the flow but it’s always a good idea to know what’s in store for you before you go.

3.  Pack light.  Don’t get bogged down trying to carry too much with you.  What you don’t have you can usually buy and what you don’t need you can do without.

9. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Home … Maybe!

10. When do you stop travelling?

Never.

My nominations for the Liebster award

In the spirit of bending the rules, I’d like to nominate three Blogs. And those Blogs are:

Living Life at 56: Because I love reading your work and want to encourage you to write more and often.

A Little Birdie Made Me: Because I don’t believe you’ve been nominated before (technically you have more than 200 followers but what’s in a number?) and I enjoy reading your Blog especially because it’s different to those I usually read.

ukdesperatehousewifeusa: I enjoy reading your blog: it’s short, it’s sharp and informative.  You probably don’t qualify because I’m so envious of all your likes but in the spirit of nominating Blogs I enjoy I nominate you.

How do I discover new Blogs that deserve recognition?

Why haven’t I nominated more? Because the ones I seem to stumble across have thousands of followers.  Which leads me to a little soapbox moment that there are probably lots of new blogs out there that haven’t found their way to me and are finding it as hard as I do to find new followers and be noticed by others.

Which is why this nomination (and award) is so significant and so special that a) someone found me and b) that they thought highly enough of my Blog to nominate me.

Ten questions

So here are my questions to you:

1)   Why did you start your Blog?

2)   How do you attract new followers?

3)   How much time do you spend on your Blog and other activities that go into promoting it?

4)   Why do you Blog?

5)  If a friend came up to you and said they wanted to start a Blog what would you say to them?

6)   If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?

7)   Why?  Or why not?

8)   What’s your favourite part of the day and why?

9)   Are you a scruncher or a folder?

10)  Finish this sentence: The best thing about my life is …

I look forward to hearing your responses so I hope you play along.  Thanks again to Diary of an Expat for your nomination, it is indeed an honour just to be nominated ;-).

xx It Started in LA xx

Acclimating
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

Acclimating in LA

I love that word … acclimating.  We say climitising in Australia.  Don’t we? Or maybe we just call it settling in, “Have you settled in yet?  How’s the settling-in process going?”  Either way we don’t have a fancy word like acclimating.  (pronounced aclim-8-ing).

A few things have happened over recent weeks to make me think I am acclimating.

We’re planning our summer holidays.  One of my bestest buddies is coming over for five weeks and I can’t wait.  We’ve been busy planning trips to Yosemite, Vegas, hanging out in LA, trips to Malibu and spending the Fourth of July down in San Diego.  (Lucky I have really good housesitters).

While we were talking about San Diego I mentioned that some friends of ours will be down there at the same time who we just love.

“Are they American?” she asked.

“Yes, but they’re good ones!” I replied.  (All of my American friends–and readers–are the good ones!)

“Aha”, she was quick to say, “but you’ve been there nearly a year now, you’re used to it.”

Last week my daughter and I had two milestones: one was our first trip to Chipotle and the second was our first trip to mega craft shop Michael’s.

At Chipotle we were catching up on the news of the day (while Mr H was away and my son was busy training our calories off at waterpolo) when one of my favourite spunks–Joshua Jackson–walks in.  (This is our second encounter with Pacey from Dawson’s Creek).  I was a bit excited to see that we’d both chosen the same fast-food chain in which to dine on that particular evening and that he was so normal that he’d choose to grab a bite at Chipotle.  As you do.

I don’t usually take pics but as we were driving off my daughter snapped a couple of really bad pics of him for us to post to Instagram and Facebook.

One of my Aussie friends immediately wrote back that I’m so “acclimated” (said in my best American accent) because only a few months ago my daughter and I would’ve taken a selfie so we could snap him– up nice and close for us to see.  (True story. I did that very thing when I spotted fellow Prime-Time Soapie boy Ben McKenzie from The OC last year.  BTW: he’s about to star in upcoming new show Gotham).

Damn it.

Then last week as I sat in our last Parent Association meeting of the school year it felt nice and comfortable.  I arrived, spoke to a few people and sat down to listen to the meeting, discussing College Admissions and how well the Class of 2014 had done this year.  (Don’t you love it how they know before summer starts?)

There were wolf whistles in the audience, sighs, clapping and cheering and even a contrversial “key message” thrown in from one of the parents down the back (you know? the rhetorical question so in one fowl swoop a parent can share with the entire community how something bad happened to her and her daughter, ie the school effed up).  Cue: mumble, mumble, whisper, whisper until everyone looks front at again focused on the rest of the presentation.  Then more clapping and ra-ra-ing.

That’s right.  I didn’t blink an eye with all the ra-ra-ing and clapping and commotion of the meeting.  I actually caught myself and had a bit of a chuckle because I remember the first meeting scared the crap out of me.

My first time I was speechless.  It literally felt like I was in the audience of Dr Phil, or Oprah or Ellen and I wondered if this is what it was like every meeting.  Turns out they are.

It’s not so bad and it’s not so scary and it’s kinda fun.  Yes, fun.

I so want to be American.  I kind of like it.  It definitely wouldn’t work at home. How nice would it be to let it out and not be worried about everyone thinking you’re loser for showing some enthusiasm?  I kind of like that they do that … Now that I’m acclimated.

I’m not sure if I’ve shared with you before that I would live anywhere in the world except America.  I didn’t want the kids going to school here and I would rather move somewhere where where we could immerse ourselves in another culture rather than a Western one (yet I’d be prepared to live in the UK).  And of course here I am.

After the news sunk in though I started to wonder if a move to the US might give the kids amazing opportunities.  The night we were to make our final decision (should I stay or should I go?) the kids were watching Pitch Perfect on TV.  We were going to politely decline the offer and then I looked at the TV and thought about the opportunity America provides to be exactly who you are and to be recognised for who you are.  I looked at Mr H and said, “Why don’t we give our kids the opportunity?” Flourish in the arts, be in a movie, open up connections.  Do and be whatever and whoever they like.

The ra-ra scared me but I was secretly that person too. “Good for you, let’s do this, we can do this,” was always me.

(Ok, not so secretly.  My friends were quick to say I’d fit in really well because that’s my nature:  rally the troops, chief motivator and cheerleader.)

As Australians we need to stop knocking Americans. Why are so anti American?  Is it because we’re jealous?  Let’s ponder that a minute before you start throwing stuff at your monitor or device.

Do we want to be American? America?  OK, forget loud and white runners with shorts and long white socks.  Think land of opportunity, embracing Tall Poppies rather than cutting them down and generally encouraging everyone to be successful–and to hail them when they are.  To be able to express ourselves (naturally–without the beers or wine).

Nine things I’ve learnt after living in LA for nine months

Then this week I found this article in LA Weekly and I started wondering if it’s really going to take me five years to be truly acclimated.  Here I am thinking I’m well on my way to being acclimated.  Will we even be here in five years???

Just in case we’re not, here are my nine things I’ve learnt after living in LA for nine months:

  1. It’s OK to talk to random strangers in the street or supermarket (or anywhere for that matter).
  2. You start to make restaurant bookings during the week–or the week before–and that booking is either at 6:00 or 9:00.  (I think I’m pretty special when I get 8:30)
  3. You don’t go anywhere unless there’s Valet parking (or at a pinch guaranteed parking).
  4. You cannot survive without an Amazon Prime account.
  5. Don’t take the 405 North after 2:00 unless you want to hang out in traffic with the rest of LA.  I’m pretty sure it’s the same for the 405 South but I can’t vouch for that as I’ve never sat in it.  Don’t take the chance on a Friday afternoon though, then I know it’s busy.
  6. You don’t actually stop at four-way stop signs (when there’s no one there or you were there first).  Unless you choose to stop for a long time then you let everyone go ahead of you.  “After you, and you, I’m stopped now, why don’t you go…?”
  7. When someone offers to check for other sizes or colours they actually do it.  And when they say there are none left, it’s probably true.  You don’t have to ask someone else (or call back) to make sure.
  8. When someone says excuse me (because they will be in your way for a millisecond) they actually mean it, it’s not a back-handed comment: “Excuuuuse me.”
  9. No one will actually RSVP to your event or function.  And if they do it will be the last minute.  What happens if something better turns up then what?  Oh we just won’t show up.

I think I’m doing pretty well after nine months.  Maybe I’ll be able to add to this list after twelve months, or two years.  Watch this space.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Keep Clear
My LA story, Posts

Driving in LA: take your life into your own hands

One of my friends, a fellow Blogger, recently posted about the frustrations of driving in Sydney.  What a great book this would make.  Imagine a book on driving in many different cities in the world.  In the Philippines it would be the art of turning two lanes into five.  In Shanghai it would be the art of making your own lanes–two wide-ish lanes can make three.  In Melbourne it would be the art of speeding up the minute the car in front of you indicates to change into your lane.  Obviously so said car can’t get in front of you.

Ahh the idiosyncrasies of navigating the roads in different cities.

Short of publishing a book I thought I’d contribute to her blog post by sharing my pain of driving in LA.  Without further adieu here are my top three pet peeves about driving/drivers in LA.

And, as a bonus prize I give you three things you should know before getting behind the wheel in LA.  And it’s not they drive on the wrong side of the road.

Peeve #1: KEEP CLEAR

For God’s sake.  It’s universal: in Australia, the UK, America they use the words “Keep Clear”.  No translation issues here.  So why the F%#@* can’t LA drivers understand??? Renowned worldwide for its traffic congestion, LA drivers are concerned about one thing and one thing only: themselves.

Keep Clear

Keep Clear is a foreign concept for Los Angelenos drivers

Listen up people: if you didn’t block the Keep Clear area I wouldn’t have to push my way in and block the whole road.  Try it sometime.  I’m pretty sure it won’t kill you.

Peeve #2: INDICATE

Living Life at 56 mentions it’s a Sydney phenomenon but I can assure you LA cars don’t come with indicators (or blinkers as the case may be–did I just use an American word ahead of an Australian one?).

Well they can’t.  Possibly.  Turn left, right, change lanes, four-way stop, change from the carpool lane across four lanes to the exit a freeway in 10 metres and there’s no sign of an indicator.

No, cars in LA most definitely don’t come with indicators.  We don’t need them here.

Peeve #3: STAY IN YOUR BLOODY LANE

Oh yeah, this one’s a beauty.  I live up in the hills around Mulholland Drive.  It’s not a very wide road and neither are the lanes.  It’s windy and the drops are …. well …. steep and unforgiving.

Why then are drivers incapable of keeping in their own lane?  I’ll often be coming the other way to find a car well and truly hogging my side of the road as if he’s coming in for a cuddle.  I can’t just jump on top of you it’s a crash or it’s off the canyon.  And I’m not going over.

Let’s make it easy for everyone: keep on your own side.

Now that I’ve shared that with you it’s time for me to take some good advice.

Keep Calm

Keep Calm & Drink Cocktails

 

Driving in LA can lead you to drink.

Three things you should know about driving in LA

 

  1. The more expensive your car the bigger hoon you are.  There are no bogans in LA.  No.  It’s great, everyone’s hip and groovy or trendy or stylish.  But when you have an expensive car you turn into a bogan.  Automatically.
  2. Overtaking is always allowed: suburban streets, winding your way around Mulholland Drive, can’t see the on-coming traffic.  Don’t worry about it.  Overtaking is encouraged.  At all times.
  3. There is no such thing as a speed limit.  Technically as long as you’re the same speed as the traffic you’re OK.  So technically speed limits don’t count for much.  It’s not until you get someone in the car from out of town or you start driving back in a country where speed limits are enforced that you realise you actually drive quite fast here.

So now when you come to LA you can drive as the locals do.  I remember the first time I got on the freeway I thought I was going to be blown away by the g-force of the cars passing me by, leaving me for dead.  I was doing 100kmph or thereabouts.  Try changing lanes, it can be scary.  It doesn’t take long before you’ve got the hang of it and your speed is edging upwards of 70/80 mph.  No wonder the freeway accidents are big.

It’s pretty tough to get around without a car.  Acquaint yourself with driving LA style and you’ll be fine.  Good luck!

xx It Started in LA xx

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