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Must-do things in LA
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Ten must-do things in LA

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).

Paps

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.

Poolside

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

Get yourselves organised and pre-book a concert at either the Greek Theatre or the Hollywood Bowl.  Both venues are an LA institution.  (See my post on the Hollywood Bowl).

 6.   Have brunch at the Getty Centre

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

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.”

Happy summer.  I heart LA.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Easter
Differences between America & Australia

Easter in Oz v US: big chocolate eggs v little plastic ones filled with candy

I posted a status update on my Facebook page about a very special moment in time at dinner the other night: “that” conversation.  No, not the one about sex, the one about Santa and the Easter Bunny.  We pretended the kids didn’t know the “truth” while they “lived the lie” knowing that once we have “the chat” and come clean Christmas and Easter would never be the same again.

We couldn’t believe we were having the conversation–the kids telling us stories of times were we’d been so obvious and the time my mum said (practically as soon as the kids went to bed), “So should we put the presents out now?”

To which I (apparently) replied, “No, they won’t be asleep yet”.

I think it explains my daughter’s meltdowns over the last few Christmases when we had confirmed for her the dreaded truth but she couldn’t let us know we had.  She was acting up because what she wanted to be real was turning out to be a big fib after all.

It was such a gorgeous conversation but it was also melancholy that we were entering a new phase in our family life: the kids were indeed getting older.  Still, as one friend put it, “It doesn’t mean it can’t still be magical.” True enough.

Passover

This Facebook post turned into a comparison of traditions around Easter.  For many people here in 90210 they don’t celebrate Easter rather Passover–the freeing of the Jews from Egypt.  Over eight days they can’t eat bread or cereal (basically anything that can rise or has risen).  They start with a feast on the first night at sundown and the following night there is also a feast.  And I’m not quite sure what goes on the remaining six days.

Easter in OZ v US

But those who celebrate Easter should do so in roughly the same way here in the US as in Australia right?  Apparently not.  Firstly, apart from Lindt chocolate bunnies there are hardly any chocolate Easter Eggs. That turned out to not necessarily be the case.  I put my heart and soul into researching this topic and found some larger eggs but by and large the eggs here are small.

The eggs are either “candy” or plastic.  The plastic eggs are filled with candy and coins and scattered around the yard for the morning Easter Egg hunt.  There are lots of Easter-themed candies and marshmallows and a few little eggs.  Naturally being America all the chocolate companies put out Easter specials so you get Reece’s peanut butter eggs and Snickers eggs and even Kit Kat bunny ears.  Sadly for my family NO Red Tulip Bunnies.

Family favourite: Red Tulip Bunny

Family favourite: Red Tulip Bunny

Even in China after the first year we managed to find chocolate eggs.  (The first year we were there I arrived just before Easter weekend.  I had smuggled loads and loads of Easter Eggs in my hand-carry and cases to make up for the fact that it was our first Easter away.  My daughter confirmed during our chat that that was THE best Easter EVER!).

Lucky for us we had a Marks & Spencer’s which eventually started carrying Easter Eggs but before that we were forced to the international hotels for their Easter eggs for guests and expats alike.

Hot Cross Buns

The thing that surprised me the most was the absence of our beloved Hot Cross Buns.  I think it’s something you just take for granted.

Missing in Action: Hot Cross Buns

Missing in Action: Hot Cross Buns

Not unlike Christmas decorations once Valentine’s Day is done out come the Hot Cross Buns (actually someone reminded me pretty much on Boxing Day they come out!).  There’s nothing better than the first batch of Hot Cross Buns but then by Easter you’re kind of over them.  Right now, from where I’m sitting having had none this year I’m craving them–so much so that I’m attempting to make them.  In fact, through Facebook a number of us Aussies living in America are collectively craving them.  Imagine, fresh from the oven, butter melting over them (tons of butter!) and a cup of (real) coffee or tea.  Look what I’m doing to myself.

Easter morning traditions

In Australia and across Britain we hunt eggs Easter morning then eat ourselves silly on chocolate and Hot Cross Buns.

Here in America eating is more central to Easter.  Like Christmas and Thanksgiving there’s a “set menu”.  A new branch of Ralph’s (supermarket chain) opened (an opening we’ve been hanging out for) and I wondered why they had stocked so much ham.  It was like Christmas in Australia.  Turns out everyone has ham for Easter; it’s the thing.  I could fully do that one.

It got me thinking that apart from Hot Cross Buns there’s no “set menu” in Australia.  As we’re usually on a long weekend we’re often away.  It’s also often the last chance we get at being at the beach so we probably just have a Barbie (BBQ), feast on seafood and generally be out on the boat or on the Beach (or a bit of both).

Like at home Easter varies from house to house but these seem to be the main differences:

  • Chocolate eggs v plastic eggs filled with candy and coins (perhaps greenbacks in 90210?!)
  • Hot Cross Buns and anything goes v Ham as part of a shared meal and lots of variations on eggs, such as deviled eggs
  • Longest weekend of the year v Friday off if you’re lucky or in some states no days off.

Who better to sum up a typical Easter feast than Martha Stewart so I’ve linked her suggestions for you to have a sticky beak (click on Martha Stewart highlighted–Blog reading for Dummies).  And if you click through you’ll see one of the desert suggestions is our very own Pav.  There you go!

I love learning about the differences in our cultures, especially that we all basically came from the Brits many years ago at different times through different reasons and from different classes yet we’re so uniquely different.

Back to the long weekend

In Australia we love a good long weekend so the Easter four-day long weekend is like hitting the jackpot in Vegas.  You can imagine my surprise then when I discovered it wasn’t really a long weekend here in the US.    It’s not until you move or travel overseas that you realise how lucky we are to have a four-day long weekend.

Many countries obviously don’t celebrate Easter.  When we lived in China I remember thinking how surreal it was that Good Friday–traditionally a day where NOTHING is open at home–was business-as-usual.  Again, you’d expect a more religious Nation like America to have time off for Easter off.  No long weekend here.  Some schools get Friday off (not all) and many offices (like Mr H’s) are business-as-usual on Friday, let alone Monday.

So enjoy your long weekend (if you’re lucky enough to get one).  My kids want to take a day off for “religious reasons” good luck with that kids.

Happy Easter everyone & Happy long weekend Australia & the UK. Bastards ;).

xx It Started in LA xx

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