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LA to Arizona by road (is there any other way?)

I know you’re dying to find out how our Thanksgiving weekend went.  Well I’m very pleased to report it was great.  It was better than great.  The plan to avoid the traffic worked a treat.  We left on Thursday morning, stayed the night in Palm Desert with gorgeous friends then headed out early on Friday Arizona-bound.

We love Arizona and can’t wait to head back for more—specifically getting our kicks on Route 66.  What started as a weekend to Sedona ended in a trip to visit friends in Chandler in Phoenix, Arizona.  The irony wasn’t lost on me: Thanksgiving weekend and a lot to give thanks for in the form of gorgeous friends we met as expats when we lived in Shanghai.

Like lots of expat stories no sooner had we met and decided we quite liked each other than they were planning their exit strategy back to the US.  Of course we never wanted to live in the US so the reality for us was wondering whether we’d actually see them again.

It’s always a late night when we hang out with them—we could keep talking all night—and I love that it’s not what they usually do but they Australianise themselves and we have lots of fun.

Public-school suburb

As we drove into Chandler my daughter started to get really excited.  “Oh my god mum,” she said in that very dramatic tween way.  “We’re in public school America.  Can we live here.”

To her Chandler is like it is on TV or the movies: nice neighbourhoods, clean wide roads (that’s tarred—or black-topped—rather than concrete roads with lots of cracks and potholes like LA in case you’re wondering) and you can picture the yellow school buses stopping at the stop outside the street picking kids up to take them to the local elementary, middle or high school.  My picture is more Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, hers is definitely Disney Channel.

We passed Chick-Fill-A, Olive Garden, Walmart, Target Superstore amongst the big, clean malls with lots of parking.  She was in heaven.  (We’ve never been to Walmart, perhaps not surprisingly there aren’t many around 90210).

Then when we arrived at our friends’ house it was like we took her to the Disneyland castle with all-you-can eat ice-cream with cherries on top.  The epitome of an “American house” it had a grand entry, a formal living room and a beautiful staircase leading upstairs to big bedrooms with ensuites complete with Bath & Body Works foaming soap (appropriately scented for Fall and Thanksgiving). And downstairs a huge kitchen with the sink overlooking the resort-like backyard and a central island bench designed to gather around and serve the largest of feasts.  You could almost see the Brady’s fossicking in the double fridge making sandwiches with mayonnaise and pastrami (or is it baloney?) and Alice telling them to head outside because dinner would be ready soon.

Yep, it’s no surprise Chandler has a sign as you enter that says “All-American City”.


Chandler: All-American City | Photo credit: Paper Turtle (pic links through to Blog)


We may be blessed to be living the dream in 90210 but Chandler is nirvana, utopia.  It’s not Wisteria Lane or the Stepford Wives, it’s the Brady Bunch meets Ferris Bueller.

Twenty-four hours in Chandler with our gorgeous all-American friends in their all-American friends in their all-American town and I want to rush out and apply for a green card.  If you doubted the American dream and discarded it as a myth you haven’t been to Chandler.


Don’t forget about the California Coastal Highway drive, LA to Vegas or LA to Palm Springs but if you’ve got a little longer try LA—Palm Springs—Scottsdale—Flagstaff—Sedona—Winslow—Grand Canyon—Vegas and back to LA.

Fabulous roadtrip suggestion

Fabulous roadtrip suggestion


This is little roadtrip has overtaken my Route 66 entry on last week’s bucket list because it covers Route 66 and adds an extra dimension.  Arizona gets pretty bloody hot during the summer so plan your trip well but if you like the desert (I’m fascinated by it) then this looks like it will be a beauty.  (I promise to write about it once I’ve done it).

Meanwhile I can write about Palm Springs to Chandler.  I took about 550 photos because I just wanted to capture the desert landscape it all seemed so beautiful.  Like many things though you can’t really capture the vastness and the green bushes with the postcard-perfect cacti and commanding and majestic mountains.  It’s an easy drive and although it’s only really four hours it can get a little dull for the driver.  The Americans have these interstates so well-planned that the direct route approach does little for the driver.  The upside of course is you’re at your next destination in no time and it’s great to stretch your legs and soak in the desert ambiance.

Like us Aussies the yanks love a good roadtrip.  One of the most frustrating things in Australia can be the lack of anything at roadside rest-stops.  Well in America it’s like the roadstop are the attraction.  It can be hard to get a park, there are queues for the toilets, people hanging around and dogs, dogs everywhere.

Giving Thanks

Even though no one else in the world really celebrates Thanksgiving we all know about it.  Thank you Hollywood.  What surprises me is that many Americans are surprised no one else celebrates it.  (OK Google disputes me on this one but, well, we don’t in Australia so don’t let truth get in the way of a good story).

Hang on… why do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

OK, I thought the story went like this: the Pilgrims came, took over, planted crops and celebrated with a feast to give thanks.  My friend the UK Desperate Housewife gives a nice summary of why we have Turkey Day (its new-age name).  And that’s pretty much how most people see it.  To the extent I just found out that they’re trying to stop calling Thanksgiving Thanksgiving because of the small fact that the pilgrims came in and all but took over from the poor Indians.  (I don’t think they should be called American Indians because they were here first).

But with a little help from Google the real reason for Thanksgiving is to celebrate the Harvest.  So, are the websites changing history or did I have it wrong?  And if Thanksgiving is to celebrate the Harvest then why are some powers that be in my wacky host country trying to stop us calling the Holiday Thanksgiving?  It’s getting some traction too because many people are calling it Turkey Day.  For what it’s worth my two cents worth is let it go, it’s been Thanksgiving for this long and it’s worked so focus on something that might actually matter.

I’ll admit it the sight of Americans holding hands while their turkey gets cold and they reflect on all the things they have to be thankful for made me feel a little squirm-in-my-seat uncomfortable.  But celebrating it with my friends last weekend that was the last thing I thought about.  No now all I can think is how lovely it is to reflect and be thankful for all we have.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was homesick and wishing I had more than two friends and yet here I am telling you about an action-packed weekend filled with different friends who have opened their homes to us.

Three things to include in your “giving thanks” speech

Now that I’m embracing this giving thanks caper here’s three things you need to include in your giving thanks speech—in case you’re ever invited to Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Good place to start: spouse, kids, brothers & sisters, nieces & nephews, parents.
  • They’re there, good idea to acknowledge them.
  • The moment. Fairly politically correct to acknowledge that yes it’s good to have a roof over your head, food on the table and clothes on your back (and in your wardrobe).

It’s been raining all week here in LA and the sun is just coming out for a while.  It never rains here so it’s all people talk about.  People cancel meetings, hair dressing appointments and don’t know how to drive on the roads.  It’s more than hysterical.

Stay dry!

Xx It Started in LA xx


Happy Thanksgiving!

“Gobble, gobble.”  That’s what the (very helpful and friendly) lady at the Post Office said to me last Friday as I posted a package for a friend.  Thankfully I heard her say it to a couple of customers before me so I wasn’t as taken aback as when I first heard it–I think I would have (rudely) laughed in her face.  This is my second Thanksgiving in America but the first time I’ve heard that.

“Gobble. Gobble.”  I feel like I’m doing a cameo for Sesame Street.

As everyone firms up plans for Thanksgiving the supermarkets are filled with cans of pumpkin and turkeys.  Signs saying “It’s baking season” with pre-prepared pie crusts, pie fillings, creams and marshmallows are lined up in prominent positions.  At upmarket supermarket Gelsons they even have thanksgiving-inspired cakes—turkeys, corn-on-the-cobs and pumpkins.  Yes, I’m serious.


This turkey is a cake in drag–and he/she (?) is sitting on a pumpkin | It Started in LA


Told you.

Thanksgiving is America’s only four-day weekend so it’s their longest holiday in the year.  Yep, it’s big: bigger than Christmas and Easter.  So it’s no surprise that Thanksgiving is the most popular time of the year to travel and most chaotic for airports and the roads.  Last year we stayed home but this year we’re braving the roads and doing a quick roadtrip.

My thought was to head up to Sedona in Arizona.  This was one of our friend’s favourite places when he travelled on a Harley down Route 66.  It works well because one of our friends lives in Chandler, Arizona and we’ve been wanting to visit them for sometime.  So I got on Google maps trying to research our drive.  And the strangest thing happened …

Do you know there is no Route 66 marked on Google Maps?  Is it just me?  I can see Route 60, route 95 and Route 93 but no Route 66.  OK I know the whole story with Route 66 (I’ve watched Cars) is that it became obsolete because of the interstates and “progress” but hey Google Maps wouldn’t you mark it so those who want to do a little pilgrimage can?  Isn’t that, like, a no-brainer?  I realise there are parts of Route 66 that are near impossible to find now but get with the program Google.  This is 2014, the Internet is not a new concept—make it easy for us to find.

So, I bought Lonely Planet’s USA Best Trips: 7 Amazing Road Trips (Sampler edition for Kindle) and it didn’t even mention the “mother road”.  Hang on?  Isn’t Route 66 supposed to be legendary?  Bucket lists around the world are built on cruising Route 66 aren’t they?

I finally got around to buying Lonely Planet’s USA.  There are a couple of pages on it and it sounds like a lot of work & planning is required to successfully complete this roadtrip.  But love a good challenge … it’s just not going to be on the busiest weekend of the year.

Instead, we’re going to spend Thanksgiving with friends in Palm Springs then head up just outside Phoenix Arizona to spend a night with our friends from Shanghai in Chandler.  Can’t wait!

Pretty Little Liars

On Friday night the kids and I had dinner with some good friends we met here from Australia who are moving to Greece.  We went to their hotel (the Mondrian) to check out the scene and have dessert.  There was a private function on in the Skybar so we sat in the lobby/bar area to order food and drinks.

A few groovy people were walking into the private party.  We all agreed there’d be some good people watching to be had and we were in the prime position.

We were right.  Ashley Benson (Hanna) and Tyler Blackburn (Caleb) from Pretty Little Liars walked in.  The girls took a look did a retake then got very excited.  Then Shay Mitchell (Emily) came in and the girls thought things were looking up (my son wasn’t sharing their love!).  Not long after Troian Bellisario (Spencer) and Brendan Robertson (Lucas) walked in. Chad Lowe (Byron) walked past and said hi and they also saw Lesley Fera (Veronica).  Bonanza!

One of the girls and I went to the toilet and there was a chalkboard.  They had written on it something about the PLL cast and she got so so excited.  Obviously she ran out to tell everyone so there was an immediate party in the toilets.  Photo opportunity!

A big burly security guard seemed to follow the girls into toilets but surely he wouldn’t.  He lingered for a while and I just knew he had a problem.  Eventually he came up to us addressing my girlfriend and said, “The girls can’t act like that.”

“I’m sorry … what?”

“The girls can’t act like that squealing and giggling.  If they continue we’ll have to ask you to go back to your room.”

“I’m sorry … what?”

Very unlike me I shut my mouth.  If I wasn’t with my friend I would have let rip.  I told the girls to keep it cool but given they were guests in the hotel we had every right to be there and it’s not like they tried to crash the party (like we had been planning).

That was the first time I’d felt like because he didn’t know who we were (ie. we weren’t celebrities) we were second-rate citizens.  Not a great way to treat one of your guests who is occupying one of your suites Mondrian Hotel.  Shame on you.

Bucket lists

All this talk of bucket lists got me thinking about mine.  I talk about my bucket list all the time but I’ve realised I don’t actually physically have one.  Do you?  Sure, like many others I’ve got a Pinterest board that says “Bucket List” but it’s totally random.  So, I thought I’d put some work and energy into creating one.  For now it’s USA-centric with a sprinkling of destinations I’ve had on my list before our move to LA.  I also imagine it’s an ever-changing list but here’s take one.

  1. Machu Picchu, Peru
    Ever since I climbed the Great Wall of China I’ve been drawn to the Natural Wonders of the World and Machu Picchu is on top of my bucket list by a long shot.  Now I just have to find time in the holiday calendar to lock it in.
  1. Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park—two of five amazing National Parks
    It’s a case of careful what you say out loud with Utah being high on my bucket list of USA.  We were wine tasting in the Napa at the start of the year and a comment was made about drinking in Utah (being a Mormon state and all).  I didn’t realise it had such incredibly beautiful landscape that I’m totally drawn to.
  1. Miami, Florida.
    Pink Flamingoes & Pink Champagne sounds more like a line from Hotel California but it screams Miami to me.  Except for the fact that Mr H has his own Don Johnson suit and the theme for his 40th was Miami Vice I had no real desire to head to Miami.  But lately it’s been sneaking its way into top of mind and I think I’m sold.  The home of art deco, great food, art and architecture Miami has made its way to my top 5.
  1. Route 66 in Arizona
    After seeing photos from a friend that recently rode a Harley down Route 66 I’m hooked.  Like a cross between a trip down memory lane and something out of the movies the scenery looks spectacular and it’s a part of pop culture I want to get on board.
  1. Boston
    Everyone I know that’s been to Boston falls in love with it.  I’m completely drawn to the charm of Boston and can’t wait to check it out.  I just can’t decide between visiting a friend for Christmas or going in the summer.

    While I’m in the ‘hood I’m pretty keen to drive around and see Cape Cod (I’ve already been and loved it) and Martha’s Vineyard.  I think this part of America is worth exploring.

  1. New York
    When I first went to New York I hated it.  Then I went back for work and loved it.  Now the kids are keen to for a White Christmas.  Apparently there’s nothing like New York in the winter and especially around Christmas.  I’d love to make their dreams come true.  Just have to get around braving the cold first.
  1. Seattle
    I’m not really sure what the attraction is (apart from visiting a really good friend who lives there) but I’ve always been attracted to Seattle—a trip up the Space Needle and a visit of the Boeing Factory and it’s high on our list.
  1. Washington DC
    The nation’s capital.  I loved Washington DC when I first went and I’d love to take the kids—one of those must-do destinations.
  1. Niagara Falls
    I’ve temporarily forgotten about Niagara Falls which is precisely why I decided it was time to get this bucket list down on paper.  Another natural wonder I think it’s a must-see.

10.  Alaska
I’d love to visit Alaska the problem is I don’t know how to tackle it.  There are many options to cruise to Alaska but given cruising isn’t our thing.  Either way I need to work out how to get us to see it.

11.  Chicago
My dream is to do a mother-son weekend in Chicago and do a Ferris Bueller tour of the city.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Now I just have to convince my teenage son as somehow he doesn’t think it would be fun as I do.

12.  Texas
No real reason, just to see the big hair, big cars and guns!

13.  New Orleans
I’m torn as to whether I really want to do New Orleans—I think I want to, I used to think I wanted to but it’s not high enough on the list that I’ll make it here.  Also not the sort of place to go with kids—much more fun if I could leave them at home.  Let’s see how we go getting here but it’s on the list nonetheless.

14.  Southern States
I’ve been to Atlanta but I wouldn’t mind exploring some other Southern cities/states like Savannah and South Carolina.  There’s something quite intriguing about the South.

15.  Carribean
I thought I wanted to go here desperately but most of the resorts do nothing for me.  My re-thinking is if I’m going to do the Carribean I should sail around.  Just need to get hold of some of my fellow 90210ers bank accounts to do it the way I’d like to do it.

My further-afield bucket list

16.  Angkor Wat, Cambodia
We had a glorious trip planned here before we were due to leave Shanghai but we cancelled it instead going back to Wales to be with my Dad.  We were lucky we got to say good bye to him but the trip home ended up being a sad, sad time for me and we haven’t made it back to Angkor Wat yet.

17.  Africa on Safari & Victoria Falls
Continuing my affinity with the natural wonders of the world I can think of no better holiday than glamping on Safari.  Victoria Falls has captivated us so this is high on our list.

18.  Greece
Our Australian friends from LA are moving to Greece next month and we’re dying to go and visit them.  It’s fortunate I’m yet to hit Greece because it’s always best to visit a place when locals can show you around.

19.  Champagne
I think this is pretty self-explanatory!

20.  Northern Lights (from Sweden)
One of those natural phenomena’s that need to be seen to be believed.

21.  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

22.  Marrakech, Morocco
The colours, food and markets … love to visit Morocco.

23.  Dead Sea and Egypt
This is on my daughter’s wishlist but I agree.  And, I’ve always wanted to cruise the Nile and see the Pyramids in Egypt.

24.  India
I’d live there given half a chance.  Mr H on the other hand doesn’t want a bar of it.  I’d still like to visit and see the Tag Mahal for myself.

25.  Ayer’s Rock/Uluru
It’s not really at the bottom of the list but realistically it’ll take a while for us to see this natural wonder in our own backyard, a sad indictment that when it’s in your own backyard you never really get around to seeing it.


Phew!  That took a while but I’m so happy to have it.  Now I look forward to taking some of these holidays.

What’s on your bucket list?  Love some extra inspiration from you.  Share with me on Facebook or here in the comments section.

Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble Gobble.

xx It Started in LA xx

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