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Posts, Visiting LA

Red, white & blue: Fourth of July

I’ve done it…We’ve done it!  We have now spent our first Fourth of July here as a family.  I’m glad it’s come around at the ten-month mark rather than early in our time here simply because we’re more acclimated and we’re in the groove of life here.  This way we get to appreciate the holiday rather than being freaked out–overwhelmed–by the sea of red, white & blue.

Australia Day in Sydney and Melbourne & the Fourth of July in LA are not dissimilar celebrations–it’s summer, many celebrations take part around the beach and there are fireworks. We spent our Fourth of July at a friends’ insistence in Mission Beach, San Diego and I’m so glad we followed her advice.  I really miss the kids having freedom to walk to the park, beach or corner shop without me having to accompany them.  Over the four days we were there they were able to do exactly that.  It was sooo liberating. But while the fourth of July is similar here as it is at home it’s also different: same, same different as we’d say in China.

It’s so same, same different in fact that it’s hard to articulate why. Firstly I would say that Americans seem more patriotic and they’re not afraid to be: they put it all out there: their American flags, dress in stars and stripes, paint their nails and even dress their homes.

Nails

You can never have enough red, white & blue

But we do too.  We’ve got our Australian flags, flag bathers and throw parties but maybe stop at decorating our nails and houses.

The impression I get is that the fourth of July revolves around community-based activities whereas our celebrations tend to revolve around parties with friends.  So even though we were “grilling” at a friends’ house we were also on the beach and interacting with others.

Two revellers being pulled along by their mate on the bike

Two revellers being pulled along by their mate on the bike

Many communities hold parades or fairs so everyone gathers in the same place.  I love that because the atmosphere is so electric.  And everyone is so bloody friendly.

A set-up the envy of many including the beachside "grill".

A set-up the envy of many including the beachside “grill”.

 

Not unlike us festivities start early–we saw a group doing shots at around 11am and still going around 2:30.  But they weren’t going in the late afternoon as they would’ve been doing at home. But starting early in America seems to also mean pacing yourself (a foreign concept for many of us Aussies).

The ability to practice the art of “pacing” lies in not always having a drink in your hand.  It also means hanging by the beach with the kids, going on a bike-ride up and down the boardwalk or chatting with fellow revellers.  Novel huh?  I quite liked it truth be told. Perhaps the biggest difference though is the LA element.  Once all the fireworks were done everyone went home.

To the Americans the fireworks were the grand finale and signals time to go home.  To Australians it signals the end of formal proceedings and time to start partying.  Which is usually, I have to say, when the trouble starts.  By our standards it’s an early night but here it’s the end of a fun day out.  And it ends in fun rather than drama or alcohol-fuelled incidents: we don’t have an off button (design flaw?).

Maybe as a new Ausmerican we can work out how to get somewhere in between…?

 Mission Beach for 4th of July

I’ve already blogged about our weekend away at Coronado Island when we first went to San Diego in April but I really wanted to talk about what a great spot Mission Beach is to holiday.

Three reasons to holiday in Mission Beach:

  1. Freedom to wander and walk (and bike) practically everywhere, such a nice change from the “get-in-your-car-for-everything” mentality of LA.  Also for our older kids we can give them the freedom to walk to the beach and the park on their own.
  2. Summer by the beach: totally unpretentious and lots of things to do (what more can you want for your summer holidays?)
  3. Watersports galore–jet skis, water skiing, wake boarding, paddle boarding, you name it it’s there.  If you feel like indulging yourself try the Hot-tub cruise boat.

Five places to eat in Mission Beach:

  1. The Mission–dubbed as the best breakfast place in SoCal and I have to say I strongly agree.  Great coffee too (psst no bookings, rock up early and put your name down with the masses but it all seems to move fairly quickly).  3795 Mission Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 488-9060
  2. Saska’s–local sushi joint (and grill all in one) and great service when you ask for Carson 3768 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 488-7311
  3. Arslan’s Gyros–amazing Greek food: fresh meat, great pita bread and dips and a great atmosphere (especially when you bring your whole group of 30 peeps and takeover the restaurant) 3861 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (619) 962-9925
  4. Better Buzz–another top breaky spot with Aussie-approved coffee, selling the very-LA acai bowl. Even with queues going out the door it’s worth the wait. 3745 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 488-0400
  5. The Ale House–we didn’t eat there but we had one of the Chefs come and cook our BBQ for us. I continue to salivate over the beef he cooked. Dee-vine.  Oh, and our friend is good mate’s with the owner who brought over the best fish, prawns & scallops from his Fish Shop–yummo (Pacific Beach Fish Shop1775 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 483-4746). 721 Grand Ave, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 581-2337

Five Seven things to do in Mission Beach:

  1. Hang by the beach … of course.
  2. Head around to Mission Bay and go crazy on water sports rental.  The Bay is perfect for recreational activities. I recommend the Hot Tub Cruises ;).
  3. Hire bikes or a segway. I need to tell you Segway riding is not as easy as it looks but it’s fun once you get the hang of it. I just wish they’d lower the riding age because the kids love it.
    Hire bikes from Cruiser King on Mission Blvd and we got our Segways from the Catamaran.
  4. Book a fire pit by the beach (complete with Adirondack Chairs and Tiki torches. Fabulous.  Now there’s no excuse not to roast marshmallows and make smores.
  5. Book a Hot-tub cruise (you know you want to)
  6. Relax and let the kids exhaust themselves on activity overload–a perfect recipe for a great night’s sleep so you can do it all over again.
  7. Visit one of the many nearby attractions like the San Diego Zoo.  As you know if you’ve been following along we loved our visit and I highly recommend it.)

We stayed at the conveniently located Catamaran Resort and Spa is in the Bay.  Having the pool is a great option (especially for pool-side cocktails) and the kids love the Arcade with complimentary gaming. I think we’ll be getting in early and booking our spot in Mission Beach for next year’s Fourth of July.  Can’t wait!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Update July 24, 2014 @ 4:00PM LA time

Posts, Reviews, Travelog, Visiting LA

Perfect homesickness cure: visit the Australian Outback

I’ve spent a bit of time talking about our recent bouts of homesickness.  Thankfully I can report that we’re all cured for a while and we’re moving onwards and upwards.

Why? We went home!  We heard the ads on the radio, we heard the talk around town and we thought, “why not?”, we need a bit of Koalafornication at the San Diego Zoo.  (Although a bit of David Duchovny Californication might have done the trick too).

It’s such an easy drive from LA straight down the 405 to San Diego there’s no excuse not to go–regardless of whether you’re visiting LA or live in LA.  It should be about a two-hour drive but nearly died when the GPS told us it would be a lot more.  My precision timing had us to the zoo just after 10:00 which I figured would be early enough to get a park, get our tickets and avoid the long queues for the Pandas.  Instead it had us coming in at closer to 11:00.  Sigh. Why are we always late? (Actually I’m partly to blame because I insisted on being Superwoman and baking fresh Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday).

It turns out the GPS wanted us off the 405 to avoid traffic.  We went with our gut, stayed on the 405 and we were there just after 10:00.  Success.  (Note: we could’ve been lucky, if you’re stuck in traffic on the 405 it can add hours to your trip so it might pay you to detour).

The carpark was filling fast and there were queues at every ticket window.  Either this zoo is really popular or we’ve come at the wrong time.  Or both?  I’m pleased to report the queue moved quickly, just enough time to take a family selfie, look around and we were in.  Once we were inside we didn’t feel like the zoo was so super busy that there were people everywhere so it was nice.  All good.  Straight for the Pandas.

SkySafari

Enjoying the SkySafari very much thankyou!

 

It’s so good having older kids who can read a map, less for me to do. We opted against the bus (as it seems this is where most of the entrants wanted to go) and decided to do the SkySafari. Bit of a queue but it moved quickly and it would get us to the Polar Bears and Pandas so we could walk downhill in time to have lunch at the Sydney Grill.

San Diegans love their Pandas

The San Diegans go ga-ga over their very own Pandas, why not? What’s not to love?

 

I heard a story that the San Diegans love their Pandas.  The town goes into “Pandamonium” when one of the Pandas does something and when one gives birth it’s like the future King (or Queen) of England is born.  And why not?  Pandas look like they should be cuddly and fluffy and because we’re not going to go near them let us believe that.  They are so cute.  Besides it’s good to see a town get behind their very own.

(Tip: Even if there is a queue for the Pandas there are things to see on the “journey” so don’t be put off by it).

The highlight of our morning wasn’t the Pandas though–it was the Polar Bears.  How fun are they?  They are show-offs, stirrers and just big kids who love to have a good time.  Check this:

 

You've been mooned

Want a good shot of me? How about this?

 

After lunch we headed to the impressive Koala Exhibit.  Thoughts of Austen Tayshus’s Australiana came straight to mind: “How much can a Koala Bear?”  Loved the fact that the hosts on the buses had to spell out, “Did you know the Koala is not a Bear?” on their way past the exhibit and I wonder a) how they came to be known as a Koala Bear (or a Koala Be even–you know who you are Phillippa Jones!) and b) how Americans are still surprised by that fact.

But as good as it was the Australian Outback wasn’t the highlight of our afternoon.  No, the Tortoises were.  Yep.  The Tortoises.  All the way from the Galapagas.  The over 100 years old and still going strong.  It was feeding time and one of the tortoises (let’s call him Piggy) ate a whole head of lettuce then started playing tug-o-war with his mate’s dinner.  Not nice for the mate (not mate as in partner but mate as in friend) but fun to watch.  Love surprises like that.

Tortoises at dinner time

Share nicely “Piggy” (Piggy not in the middle, Piggy just managed to take that whole lettuce minus one leaf from his poor hungry mate!)

 

Top Billing: the star of the zoo is

But who gets top billing of the day?  This Magpie deserves top billing as the star attraction.  Say “hi” and he’ll say “hi” back.  No word of a lie– click on the links and watch these!

Magpie

More Magpie

And as if that surprise wasn’t enough we were getting a drink and they were letting some birds go in an afternoon ritual where they get to stretch their wings and go for a fly.  Thanks for the special show, we really were special guests.

Birds

Along the way I heard a boy say to his Dad, “Can you find someone to carry me?”  Couldn’t agree more.  That’s what the buses and SkySafari is for though so we had to do one more trip on the SkySafari–this time back down the hill.

You’re either a regular zoo goer or you’re not.  I fall into “you’re not” category and loved every minute of it spending the day with the family at the San Diego Zoo.  It’ll be one of the days I’ll treasure in our Californian adventure.

Typically when you’re young, keen parents you take the little kids then you may or may not remember to bring them back when they’re older.  It’s great when they’re older and you go and appreciate different things.  Stop thinking about it and do it–you can’t possibly regret it.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  It Started in LA & family were guests of the San Diego Zoo.  Thanks so much for hosting us. We had such a fun time and would love to do it again.  It’s a good idea to buy tickets before you go and here’s a link I prepared especially for you.

PPS: I’ll leave you with this image of Mother Duck heading out with her little ducks.  Gorgeous.  Surprised, however, by the number of people who thought that meant they could go up to the little ducks and pat them.  Lucky the zoo had it all under control with one of the keepers keeping a closing eye on them to make sure that didn’t happen.  Good job (as the Americans like to say and that I’m trying to avoid using quite as much as I do).

Ducks

Mother Duck went out one day, over the hill and far away

PPSS: More pics on my Twitter and Instagram pages, plus there’s a small album on my Facebook Blog page.

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