I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People complain about coming to the US and getting sick of eating hamburgers, hot dogs, salads with mayo all over them and fries, fries, fries. That’s not America’s fault people: it’s yours. You can’t use that excuse here in LA. The only excuse you have is ignorance—of not knowing where to go. But thanks to Google and blogs like mine you can find great restaurants to eat and with a bit of planning ahead of time you can check out some of LA’s great dining spots.
(Don’t forget to tip between 18-20% though—10% or rounding up the bill doesn’t cut it here! Blog post to follow).
Let’s start with the fabulously located The Church Key.
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It’s on W Sunset in West Hollywood right amongst some of the popular hotels.
Firstly you’ll thank me the minute you walk in as the décor is LA hip. You can enjoy cocktails at the bar and take advantage of the tapas/dim sum-style carts that wheel around specials with anything from tuna to mini shepherd’s pies and samosas to popcorn to deep-fried & breaded bacon!!! (I know sounds kinda too much but nothing in this place was terrible so I imagine it was anything but, still we weren’t game to try!).
It’s been another action-packed week. On the weekend we dined at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants and who would walk in but Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock. I was beside myself but also reasonably cool (remember I’m pretty much acclimated now). But when I glanced over at their table another mate of theirs had joined–none other than Keanu Reeves. Please. Are you kidding me? Wow. No wonder I love hanging out there.
But then that high was marred by an incident yesterday where a man had led police on a massive freeway chase and ended up dumping his car in the middle of North Hollywood resulting in a standoff. There were SWAT teams, news crews and …. a number of nearby SCHOOLS in lockdown. Holy crap. Several news outlets showed kids from one school in locked arms evacuating their to safety.
That school was the other school that my kids got accepted into. That could’ve been my kids in lockdown yesterday and on the news evacuating their class instead of elatedly jumping out of there because they’d finished another “final” (exam). I’m not sure I or Mr H could’ve handled that.
Thankfully we didn’t have to, the kids are (I believe) all OK and today is another day. Just quietly there’s another bloody shooting in a US High School. I know that as outsiders to the US living in California (where we aren’t allowed to carry concealed weapons) I’m not brought up to understand why guns continue to be a huge part of life here but really .. seriously? It’s called change peoples. And change is good. It’s not always bad and scary.
Right … now on a brighter note. And now that I’ve given you a frightening picture of the US I’m here to tell you it’s also a great place. So, we’ve got our summer on and we’re raring to go.
LA is usually the first point of entry for tourists. So, here’s my 10 must-do things while you’re in LA.
10 must-do things in LA
1. Go shopping
Unless you’re from the US this may not apply to you. OK, it probably will. LA has some good shopping.
But, if you’re from Australia (or anywhere outside the US) you’re definitely going to want to take advantage of the cheaper prices for shoes (thinking Vans, Nikes and Converse) and clothes and hit the streets (or malls). Lucky I’ve written the ultimate guide to shopping in LA.
It will also pay you to understand the different sales tax rates around the country because it will affect the final price of your goods (who wants to pay more sales tax than they should?). Click here for the lowdown. I have to warn you it’s already out of date but it gives you a reasonable guide. Click here to check out current sales tax rates to find the current rates.
2. Pap a pap
They’re not everywhere like I thought they might be. They can actually be very discreet. But they are around. Look around you–not for celebrities but for the paps who make their living out of following them. (Hint: don’t go looking for guys with lots of cameras with long lenses hanging off them & they’re not often in a pack like this).
I’ll give you the tip: they’re not here for me
3. One night, two days just do it
Take it down a gear and splurge on a couple of days at one of Beverly Hill’s top hotels. Lucky for you I’ve done a review of many of the top ones for your consideration. You’re in LA, you want to lap up all LA has to offer: style, casual swag and of course hanging and being seen.
Given the Beverly Hills Hotel is currently being boycotted I’d try the Beverly Hilton or the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. But hang around long enough to schmooze by the pool, that’s where the action is.
Feels more like a cosy 1950s motel than a big hotel … and that’s the way I like it
4. Eat at our fabulous restaurants
Stay away from tourist trail and hit some decent restaurants. LA has some great places to eat and if you insist you can stay in the tourist areas–and even eat with the kids. But please, please, please the US has a bad enough rap without you adding to it, the food doesn’t have to be bad. Not if you don’t let it.
Here’s a link to my pinterest page highlighting great LA Dining. But don’t forget to book ahead of time–they book out pretty early. Oh, and in general they eat early here–as early as 5:00/5:30 so beware.
5. Take in the atmosphere at the Greek Theatre &/or Hollywood Bowl
Visit, eat, hang around. It’s not only worth a visit but it’s also worth hanging around. What a fabulous place to have brunch or for something different book a picnic hamper and picnic on the grounds. Sometimes they have free concerts on the grounds. Check out the website to see what’s going on when you’re here.
7. Go to see the Basketball/Baseball/Ice Hockey
It’s a great experience watching live sport in LA (especially if you’re from overseas). LA loves its Kings, find out why. If you’re a little late booking through official channels Stub Hub is a great place to go.
8. Take in Griffith Observatory (inside & out)
It sits majestically on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood overlooking LA just above the fabulously exclusive Los Feliz.
Donated by some rich guy (bequest in the 1919 will of Griffith J. Griffith) he also donated the land for Griffith Park (in 1896). I read somewhere that it’s the largest public space in all of LA so for God’s sake, honour his wishes.
Don’t just look up from those dreadful stars (sorry) and wonder what it is, go up and check it out. You can hike, picnic and see the stars (the real ones; up in the sky). Whatever you choose to do, pay it a visit.
9. Take in a Vintage Market (or two)
Have you forgotten you’re in Vintage land? It’s pretty hard to forget. There are heaps of markets, stores and areas where Vintage is King. Here’s a pretty comprehensive look at some choices. Probably the easiest to get to is Melrose Trading Post in Fairfax High on a Sunday but if you’ve got a car I’d definitely venture out. Oh, and La Brea is definitely well worth the look. While you’re there check out one of my favourite places Nick Metropolis Collectible Furniture. You’re welcome.
Looksy Bus at the Melrose Trading Post, Fairfax High, LA
10. Take a sidetrip to Palm Springs
Yes, you read right. Palm Springs is where all Hollywood’s elite used to go to get away from it all. An easy two-hour drive from LA Palm Springs is mid-century modern personified. I get so excited just thinking about it.
The best way to describe Palm Springs is the perfect coffee table book picking out the best of the best. Yes, it’s ALL good. It’s like everyone in town got the memo, they pull off the Palm Springs look like pros.
You won’t be disappointed. Eat, shop and relax but allow yourself enough time to soak it in. There are also great Vintage shops and Estate sales so it’s pretty hard to cram it into just a couple of days. But, whatever you do, try.
But wait … there’s more …?
I bet that you think there are a couple of places missing from my list: Universal Studios, Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Boardwalk–even one of my favourites cruising Mulholland Drive and how can you forget Malibu?
I’m not just gorgeous and fabulous I’m pretty smart. I know you’re going to go against me and do one or a few of them anyway. Don’t let me stop you but just don’t make your visit to LA be about those things. You’re not giving LA justice if you don’t look outside the tourist box. Oh, and if you’re keen to visit an LA beach wander up to Malibu or head down South to Manhattan Beach. Very nice.
I made a Pinterest Board Called 24 Hours in LA with lots of different suggestions so click in there for more inspiration. While you’re there check out “The Best of LA“.
There is so much good stuff to see and do in LA I’m scared I won’t get to it all during my time here. How about we all make a pact to get out and about and enjoy all LA has to offer?
Like Ferris said, “Life moves pretty fast, if we don’t stop and look around once in a while we could miss it.”
One of my goals in coming to LA was to see paparazzi in action, I’m intrigued by them and their business. When I moved here I thought I’d see them everywhere, just lurking. Contrary to popular opinion they’re not. Much to my disgust. We’d go to cool restaurants, I was shopping at the right supermarkets but it took me ages to see a pap in action.
You see, a lot of the time they’re hiding somewhere and you might not know they’re around. We even had paps up the road from us when we first moved in and I didn’t see them.
But I’m more tuned in now. The other week I was showing a guest around The Grove and we saw two guys working together trying to pap someone. We watched them in action for a while but couldn’t see who they were following. A big part of my problem is that I don’t recognise people unless they’re George. Or Leo. Or JLo. Or Joan Collins!
I’ve had a few brushes with paps now. All at my favourite restaurant in fact. The first time was Golden Globes weekend which I wrote about. It was so exciting; I was beside myself as the flashes went off all night.
On one of our subsequent visits to this same restaurant I hopped out of the car as usual and there were two paps waiting. One of them came up to me saying like I looked like one of the past winners (or runners-up) on The Voice or American Idol. I was this close to being papped (a bee’s dick!) for real.
Fast forward to last Saturday night and there were more paps here again–more than Golden Globes weekend for Joshua Jackson and Diane Kruger. Inside JLo and Mary J Blige were having dinner. I was seeing off a friend visiting from Australia and as we walked outside there they all were. So I thought I’d pose for the cameras, take it all in and enjoy it. I’ve got pics here on my Facebook page. It was so fun I tried it five times. I got to try out my pap reactions a number of different times:
a look of surprise, oh are you here to see me?
acknowledge, be cool, wave hello, keep walking
a different angle
the hand over the face, please don’t pap me look
you really should pap me because I’m incredibly famous in Australia you know. I’m on Neighbours.
You got to have a bit of fun don’t you? In fact I should have offered JLo my services in entertaining them for her while she escaped. I sort of did. As she was leaving via a back door I shook her hand to thank her for all the paps I got to see in action–the most I’ve ever seen in one night. Poor JLo didn’t know what hit her.
It turns out our driver helped with the deflection–to make out he was JLo’s driver and I was JLo for the second time that night. There weren’t as many there when we left so there might’ve been a tip-off that she wasn’t coming out the front door.
The next night we were at our favourite local Deli having home-cooked roasts and Jon Voight was there having dinner. It’s not the first time we’ve seen him there, he’s a bit of a regular. But alas no paps for him. I don’t suppose he sells mags.
It got me thinking: what gets pap out to catch “that” shot. Rather who. It has to be someone that magazine editors will buy because that’s how they make their money. I’ve even seen paps at our local getting pics of Gene Simmons so what makes him more pap-worthy than the extremely talented Jon Voight?
I was hoping to get some insights from someone who works in the industry but sadly I don’t have anything to share. If I find out more I’ll be sure to update and share it with you.
Meanwhile I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the paps and keep reporting back on what I see. When Harry moves in down the road I dare say we’ll see a few around our street so that’ll be fun. Wouldn’t it be great to go out with one for the day and document their day? There’s an idea. I’ll get to work on that for you dear readers!
Meanwhile … enjoy your week. The weather here in LA is divine as Spring is in the air and feeling generally warmer. Always puts a Spring in my step. LOL.
I know the Golden Globes are in the distant past but this story felt right, a nice reminisce about why it’s so cool to be living in LA hot on the heels of the Oscars (I’m still a little hungover but I have to say I was more hungover after the Golden Globes!).
So, on Golden Globes weekend an old friend from school stopped by LA. It was a real blast from the past as we hadn’t seen each other in more years than we both care to remember. Thanks to Facebook though we weren’t total strangers.
She was up for a weekend of celeb-spotting and all things LA. Because I was going to the Warner Bros/InStyle after party at the Golden Globes Sunday afternoon was dedicated to my hair & make-up.
Friday night dinner would be my favourite celeb-spotting restaurant in West Hollywood. It’s hard enough to get a booking there so some things have to be my little secret–unless you come to visit then I’ll happily take you there.
Dinner didn’t disappoint. Neither did the celeb spotting! We hadn’t got out of the car and there were some tourists taking a photo with a celeb couple. Jackpot! Then on the way in we heard a guy on the phone. Our ears twigged when we heard, “paparazzi”. Double jackpot! In nearly five months in LA (at that time) I hadn’t really seen any paps and I thought I’d see them everywhere I went. Disappointed much!
We walked in trying to spot said celeb couple. The guy was hot. It was none of than Joshua Jackson (Pacey from Dawson’s Creek) who’s grown into quite the stunner of a man! We had no clue who his girlfriend was–nothing a quick Google couldn’t fix. (Diane Kruger if you’re as useless as me on celeb trivia).
We got to the bar and I laughed–it’s Paul Hogan, no bloody way! Well it wasn’t him but some rocker dude who looked the spitting image of him. He was at a table with nobody we could recognise except that they were aging rockers plus one familiar-looking actor donning a baseball cap. (We never did find out who any of them were).
The atmosphere was fab, we had a great night and a great meal. Then all of a sudden flashes went off like Marilyn Monroe had just walked in but we couldn’t work out who they were for.
As distracting as they were my girlfriend turned around and announced as calmly as possible, “OMG it’s Bette Midler.” Sure enough in the corner booth is The Divine Miss M herself. Score.
More flashes. We didn’t know where to look, who to look at, let alone carry on a conversation. Then there was birthday cake delivered to the table next to us so we joined in the happy birthday wishes and before that was over we caught the eye of the gorgeous Joshua Jackson once again. Was he leaving? Was he going back to the bar after dinner? No, the valet had come inside to get his keys and bring his car to a secret exit. Gold. It doesn’t get much better than this.
More flashes. Who are they trying to pap? Then the birthday table leaves and it’s some guys from the Big Bang Theory–sitting next to us the whole time!
It was the most overwhelming night of people watching, living the moment, taking in the ambiance and trying to carry on conversations with the people at our table. Because we haven’t seen each other for years and then we’re thrust in this situation where it’s difficult to engage in normal conversation. Thank god everyone at the table (bar Mr H) was into it otherwise it could have been a very awkward way to start the weekend.
The whole weekend was more of the same. It just goes to prove if you’re out and about at the right spots and you’re lucky enough the paparazzi really is everywhere and celebs are just trying to go about their own business being normal people.
I heart LA.
xx It Started In LA xx
PS: It is my “thing” not to take pics of the celebs I see out & about, especially if it’s in an intimate restaurant. I think it’s only fair to maintain their privacy. Nor do I generally ask them to take a pic with me either. Do I regret it? Hell yeah–a lot but that’s just the way it’s going to have to be. Until I’m famous myself and then it’s all bets are off!
We’ve got a few more friends coming in to town so I called one of my favourite restaurants–our go-to when we have friends come to LA–to secure a couple of reservations.
The guy on the phone took my details, you know? When, what time etc. Then he said, “Name?”
“Gwen,” I replied.
“Oh Gwen, how are you sweetheart?” I knew immediately who it was on the other end of the phone. One of my first LA girlfriends had recommended I go to this popular restaurant and was instrumental in getting my 9:30 booking changed to the more civilised time of 8:00. She’s a regular and knows Craig well.
From that time the Matre D’ acknowledged me telling everyone I was Renee’s friend. Then I had moved on from being Renee’s friend to being “Gwen”. I was in.
So, you can imagine how chuffed I was that even on the phone I was recognised. I’ve made it and to no less than one of the restaurants to be seen at in LA. I posted it straight to Facebook and was happy our transition to LA was looking very good. I’m doing my job well: give yourself a pat on the back Gwen.
Fast forward one week to yesterday. I looked up the website to call to see if I could get a last-minute dinner booking for my hot date with my son. I knew it was a long shot but it was worth the try. I clicked through to an article in the New York Times on the birth of the restaurant and how Craig had gone from being Matre D’ at one of LA’s finest to running his own restaurant.
I knew that so of course I assumed the Matre D’ was “Craig”. That’s a pretty fair assumption, right? Exactly what I thought.
Well that’s not what the pic on said article showed. No, it’s the guy who schmoozes around half working, half chatting up the guests. Well it makes sense now I say it that way–and I know who the real Craig is doesn’t it? Duh! Really, how could I have been so amateur?!
One of my friends I’ve taken there recently described him as the classiest pimp in town–sitting at the booths with the gorgeous chicks and hot celebs, being one of the guests. I suppose he has one of the best jobs in the world. He lets his (very professional and gorgeous) Matre D’ do all the hard work while he does what he does best–keep the celebs (and me) happy!
Looking forward to dinner there tomorrow night. I’ll be careful who I call Craig.