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west hollywood

LA Restaurants, Posts

The Church Key

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.

The Church Key… Just ✋. 😍 #canthandlethecute #thechurchkey #latergram #bestdonutsever @thechurchkeyla

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The bar. Love it @thechurchkeyla #thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #aussiebloggerinla #aussiebloggerinla #Itstartedinla

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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!).

Last one I promise! I want one of these drinks carts @thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #Itstartedinla #aussiebloggerinla #thechurchkeyla

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The menu is a sharing one—my preference to get a little taste of everything and not forced to pick just one thing. We sampled:

AGED CHEDDAR FONDUE—Asparagus, Artichokes & Carrots / Pretzel Twist

AHI TUNA TARTARE—Apricot / Greek Yogurt / Pistachios / Serrano Chili / Pappadam

BRUSSELS SPROUT “CAESAR SALAD”—Tomato Raisins / Sunflower Seeds / Parmesan Cheese

RICOTTA GNUDI—Corn Espuma / Parmesan / Brown Butter / Chives (my personal fave)

 

JIDORI CHICKEN “TIKKA MASALA”—Dehydrated Mango / Cilantro Raita / Basmati Rice

And next time I’m going to try (just don’t know what I’m going to swap for):

ENGLISH PEA “HUMMUS”—Vadouvan / Cherry Tomatoes / Grilled Paneer / Garlic Chips / Nigella Naan

OSOSKY’S POTATO PIEROGIES–Peach Butter / Aged Gouda / Crème Fraîche / Chives & the

CRISPY PORK BELLY—Gochujang Glaze / Cashew Butter / Radish / Pea Shoots / Cilantro / Sesame

RIGATONI PASTA—Fennel Sausage / ”Red Sauce” / New Olive Oil / Parmesan Espuma

TAPIOCA CRUSTED TAI SNAPPER–Broccoli Rabe / Sushi Rice Cake / White Soy Vinaigrette

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

 

Be sure to make it to the toilets as there are a few photo opps!

I lied. A couple more for the blog. Link in bio 🍷😍🍸#thechurchkeyla #lafoodie #ladining #livingthedream #myreality #weho #aussieexpat

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So next time you’re in LA eat somewhere nice! Here’s the website for more info & to make a booking.

I look forward to the thank-yous in the comments ;-).

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: For more LA Dining suggestions visit my Pinterest page.

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

 

LA Restaurants, Posts, Visiting LA

What to do in LA: in a day, weekend, week or month

We had friends in town over the weekend (yes again!) and the whole family loved being out and about showing them “our LA”.

Like me when I first came to LA many people who holiday here are a little nonchalant about it.  LA is where most of us fly into as a gateway to US and with its theme parks and Hollywood it’s on the “must-however-reluctantly-do” bucket list.  As a tourist you come in, may or may not rent a car, do the tourist stuff then go again.  If you stay at Disneyland or Hollywood it’s hard to get a sense of what LA is really all about.  When I first came to LA we stayed in Westwood on Wilshire Boulevard.  It was central but without a car it was useless and definitely impossible to get a vibe read on LA.

I hopped on that plane, looked at my boyfriend at the time (who actually was Mr H!) and said in all seriousness, “Been there, done that, never coming back.”

Never say never.

On Sunday my friend’s 16-year-old daughter announces, “I love LA”.  Sure, what’s not to love?  We’re sitting in the uber trendy Urth Cafe (in the stifling heat might I add–only in LA are you complaining about a heat wave in mid September), had a great dinner the night before at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants, mixed it up with the groovy people in Venice and hung out with the trendy beach crowd in Malibu.

Oh, and at dinner we saw Joel Madden, Rebel Wilson, Emmy Rossini and Andrew Dice Clay.  All walked in and out separately.  We even witnessed a couple of back-door exits.  How very Hollywood.

The gorgeous Emmy Rossum

The gorgeous Emmy Rossum

 

It’s true of any city but especially in LA it’s pretty bloody cool to do it with someone who knows their way around.

Each time people come we (obviously) tailor their visit and do the things that interest them.  So, I got to thinking about the different agendas and thought I’d share them with you.

Here is LA in a day, a weekend, a week or a month.

LA in a Day

God no, don’t do it to yourself.  There is too much to do in LA to limit your time to a day but if you absolutely have to, here goes.

Shopping

Get in, check into your hotel then get the flock out and about.  If it’s shopping you’re after head to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, The Grove or Century City Mall–depending on where you’re staying.  They are all close to the action and you’ll use your time wisely.  Plus there are good eating options so you can stay safely in the one spot.

For more in shopping in LA check out my post on that very subject.

Bring your purchases home, freshen up and get ready for drinks and dinner.  Don’t waste your time at American chain restaurants, plan in advance (ie book before you get here) and dine at a nice LA restaurant.  If you’re after ideas check out my Pinterest board on LA Dining.  It needn’t be over-the-top expensive but it can be a good experience.

For drinks try Cecconi’s on Melrose.  It has a 4-7 menu where from 4:00 to 7:00 they serve nibbles that cost between $4 and $7 each; match it with drinks, take in the ambiance and you’ve got a great afternoon unwinding.

 

Sightseeing close to LAX

I’ve decided to update this post as I had a friend that I used to work with come into town wanting to know what to do with his 24 hours in LA.  The “brief” was he wanted to stay close to LAX and be able to walk around.

There are very few areas where you can walk around LA and even when you can walk you don’t.  It’s also hard when you’re lugging luggage around to get around town.  Anyway, here are two approaches as to what to do in LA in a day.

Venice/Santa Monica

Whatever you do don’t make the mistake my mate made and stay on the Boardwalk at Venice and get in late at night.  And expect to feel safe.  Venice is as grungy as it is groovy and as scary as it is a place to be seen.  You want to stay in neighbouring Santa Monica and explore Venice by day.

Start with brunch in either Santa Monica or Venice.  I’d opt for brunch at Gjelina on Abbot-Kinney in Venice.  It’s great people watching, has good food and most importantly (for Australians) good coffee.

 

Now it’s time to walk off that yummy food and check out Venice.  I’d do a spot of shopping in Abbot-Kinney then head over to check out the canals.  It’s not Venice Venice but it’s serene and not something you’d expect to see in LA.

Great. Done. Tick.  Now for what Venice is renowned for: the Boardwalk and Muscle Beach.  You’ve got to do it.  My daughter hates it and my son is used to it.  There’s a lot happening, it smells of weed but it is interesting.  Epitomising LA, it’s like a show put on for the benefit of the tourists.  Except these people are entertaining you for the sport it.

There’s always something crazy that happens.  One time we were there we saw a woman chase her (I guess) sometime boyfriend all the way down the boardwalk hitting him one minute and yelling at him the next.  She would chase him a few metres down the boardwalk, hit him then yell at him to leave her alone.  The repeat it.  She even went to the policemen begging them to get him to leave her alone all the while yelling so everyone around her could hear her.  In this case I had to feel sorry for the guy who really was trying to stay away from her. Ahhh Venice …

Walk towards Santa Monica and watch the boardwalk change.  Here you can soak in the pier, take some pics, see the end of Route 66 and grab a churro (if you haven’t already).

If you’ve got a bit of shopping to do, head inland and check out Third Street Promenade.

After all that walking and shopping you’re probably ready for a drink or a bite to eat.  There are lots of places to eat in Santa Monica, ever-changing and too many to mention here.  That’s where my Pinterest board comes in handy.  Check it out.

When I’ve got friends here I like to go to Shutters–on the boardwalk and always open to take you.   If it’s dinner you’re after I love Chinois on Main Street.  You’ll need to book and don’t forget they eat early in LA so if you’re going at 5:30 or 6:00 thinking you’re beating the rush think again–that is rush time.

Santa Monica Beach. The gorgeous Shutters. #santamonica #la #itstartedinla

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If you’re like my friend, and you’ve got a 10:00(ish) flight then it’s time to scoot back, pick up your bags and head to the airport.  There’s so much more to do but after that you should have a better feel for LA and, unlike me when I first came to visit, will actually like it.

WeHo/Beverly Hills

If West Hollywood is more your thing I highly recommend it–there are heaps of cool hotels, bars, restaurants and uber cool shopping.

Start your day with brunch at Urth Caffe.  Like I said before, it’s a good place to people watch and, if you’re lucky, spot a celeb or two.  For more people watching, window shopping and real shopping keep heading down Melrose and watch it change landscape and vibe as you travel down–from upmarket to designer funk to grunge.

If you’re a Kardashian fan stop in at Dash at 8420 Melrose Ave. And for uber cool and a little taste of LA stop in at Fred Segal at 8100 Melrose Ave (be sure to look out for the paparazzi stalking the carpark).  There are lots of boutiques inside and be sure to check out Ron Robinson–just love it.

If you’re into shopping, head into Hollywood and pre-book yourself a tour of the Paramount lot.  I love the Paramount lot.  It’s one of the oldest in Hollywood and also one of the few major studios actually in Hollywood.  Personal tours run all day.

 

I’ve already suggested drinks at Cecconi’s and I reckon it’s a must do.  By now it might be time to head back to the hotel, grab your bags and hot-foot it to the airport.

If you want to create your own itinerary you should check out my Pinterest board: 24 Hours in LA for more inspiration.

LA in a weekend

It really depends where your priorities lie.  My advice to you is to mix it up as much as you can: a spot of shopping, out at a funky restaurant, a stroll in West Hollywood and take in a Studio tour.

If you’ve got a car cruise down Rodeo Drive–mainly to check out the Bugatti Veyron.  I prefer Beverly Drive (parallel) or Robertson and Melrose (but that’s also to avoid the tourists!).  Also be sure to cruise Mulholland.

If you have kids (frankly even if you don’t) and you’re only here for the weekend I’d go to Universal Studios.  It has the backlot tour plus rides and is a lot of fun.  If you go when the park opens you can be out of there mid afternoon and still have time to do other stuff.  We’ve got an annual pass, have been so many times we’ve run out of fingers and toes to count but still love it.

Here was our most recent three-day weekend with our friends:

  • Century City Mall
  • Beverly Hills cruise around
  • Drinks at home & dinner at our “local” in Beverly Glen, its position means you could see locals like Gene Simmons, Jon Voight, Mark Wahlberg, Eddie Murphy, Harry Hamlin & Lisa Rimma or Paris Hilton going about their normal lives
  • Gjelina at Venice for brunch
  • Malibu
  • West Hollywood for dinner
  • Boys to Universal Studios
  • Girls to Melrose and Hollywood to get our shop on
  • Bel Air & Beverly Hills cruise around ogling the houses.

Bearing in mind they’d done LA before so it was great not to “have” to do all the tourist stuff.  We’d also never done the boys one way girls the other thing but it meant each of us got to do something we enjoyed and made for the whole LA experience.

LA in a week

That’s more like it: you can hang out, take it down to a cruise speed instead of full throttle.

Check out my must-do things in LA, that’ll give you a great variety of things to see and do.  Here’s seven things for seven days.

  1. Shop.  LA is shopping.  It’s pretty hard to come to LA and resist shopping.  So don’t.  And because you’re here for a week you can head out to the outlets or one of the Malls where you can knock yourself out with the choices available to you.
  2. Tour Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills.  Snoop/ gork/spy/have a sticky/check it out–say it how you like but if there’s one thing that many of my guests have in common (especially the girlies) and that’s checking out all the houses.  There are some beauties.  And if you really want a good snoop buy one of the Star Maps sold around the place.  There’s a fat chance you’ll see anyone but it’s fun to see where they live/lived.  Disclaimer: it’s pretty hard to see inside any if not all of the houses.
  3. Do something cultural.  There are actually plenty of cultural activities here in LA.  One of the favourite places is to head is to the Getty.  We’ve also got a great museums and galleries.  We’re not all just about beaches and shopping you know.
  4. Head down to Orange County.  Try Newport Beach, Laguna or Huntington Beach.  If you’re staying at Disneyland it’s not far to venture out for a while for a change of scenery.  If you’re heading to Newport Beach be sure to grab an ice-cream from B Candy.  Try the chocolate-covered potato chips and caramel ice-cream.  Heaven.
  5. Brave Disneyland.  It depends on what sort of person you are but the first time we went we were dreading it but embraced it for all it is and had fun.  You can do it in one day but to make it more enjoyable–rather than a race around the world so to speak–take two or even three days.
  6. Spend a day in Santa Monica and Venice Beach.  And I don’t just mean the boardwalks and pier.  Venture up Main Street Santa Monica or the Third Street Promenade.  Better still head up to the Montana Avenue area.
    Venice Beach is a great spot.  For far too long we thought of Venice as the boardwalk and muscle beach.  Head to Abbot-Kinney and grab brunch, have a shop and soak in the atmosphere.
  7. Head downtown.  And I don’t just mean to the Staples Centre to see the Kings or Clippers/Lakers.  In recent times LA has worked hard to lift the image of Downtown.  There are great walking tours, groovy bars and cool things to do–none of which I have done.  So, having told you to head downtown I’m going to too.

These are on top of the other suggestions so don’t forget Universal Studios or a Studio Tour–Paramount runs great tours in small groups.

When you’re eating out for a week you’re going to want some healthy options.  Sushi in LA is great (once you know where to go) so take advantage of it.  Also check out Lemonade and Urth Cafe for great food and healthy options.  Four Seasons Beverly Hills also has healthy options at its Cabana Restaurant and Culina Restaurant.

If you’re looking for fast food you know California is renowned for In-N-Out Burger.  Ask for the Carb-free version if you’re like many other LA-ers and watching your weight.  Frankly if I’m going to have a burger splurge I like it the traditional way ;-).  When you’re here for a week you’ve got time to try it.

LA in a month

OK, now we’re talking.  I’m guessing if you’re spending a month in LA you’re here as a backpacker or maybe you’re here to sus out whether you can make the move to Hollywood and get discovered.  Either way you’re going to want to hang out.

My top five places to hang out:

  1. Venice Beach–anywhere on Abbot-Kinney
  2. Malibu–because you can
  3. Santa Monica–anywhere
  4. Joan’s on Third or a well-situated Starbucks–you never know who’s going in and out or having a coffee.
  5. West Hollywood (WeHo)–because you can.

One of my favourite sights is hunky spunky boys jogging along Sunset in WeHo (in the stifling heat) with no tops on.  Think they’re looking for someone to discover them.  In the meantime it’s a great perve.

When my friends were here for a few weeks (just short of a month) here was our bucket list.  We got most of them done.

  • Hollywood
  • Walk of Fame
  • Malibu
  • Venice
  • Santa Monica boardwalk & pier
  • Robertson
  • Dash (on melrose)
  • Vintage shops & markets
  • West Hollywood
  • Topanga Mall
  • La Brea Tar Pits
  • Griffith Observatory
  • The Getty

We never spend much time in Hollywood or the Walk of Fame.  Some people are really into it but it’s hot and crowded and hassly.  Get in, get some pics and get out again–there’s much more to LA than that!

Hope that helps.  We’ve managed to turnaround all of our LA doubters into LA lovers.  I hope you will love LA too by the time you leave.  There’s really not much to hate after all!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: Let me know how you go, what you enjoyed and could have given a miss.  Would love to hear from you.

updated September 12, 2015 @ 5:00 LA time with more to do in LA in one day

Celebrity, Posts

Summer Holidays, Camp and the annual health check

Our first American summer is here and it is whizzing past right before our eyes.    The thought of 11/12 weeks off in the middle of the year can be daunting but given we arrived here in August and only had a couple of weeks before the kids had to start a new school we were ready for it.  Plus, we had friends & family lined up to stay so we knew it would be a busy summer.  But, some seven weeks in–half-way through–it’s becoming ridiculous and needs to slow down before we blink and miss it.

What happened to being bored and having “nothing to do”?  What happened to catching up on my Blog and getting time to enhance it and work on new and fun things?  What happened to regretting not taking advantage of the one trillion camps there are on offer?

This one time at Band Camp

When we first arrived and the kids started at their new school there was a lot of talk about Camp and a lot of emphasis on “sleep-away” Camp.  It was my daughter’s dream to go to Camp.  (Didn’t we all dream of going away to camp as we grew up watching American movies when all the kids got to go to Camp? OK I did).

band camp

This one time … at Band Camp | Summer Holidays | It Started in LA | www.itstartedinla

 

As the year went on it became clearer that we’d have friends come to visit so going off to Camp wouldn’t be a thing in the kids immediate future.  Neither were really perturbed and given we haven’t grown up with a Camp culture–to us summer holidays are all about the beach and going away as a family–we weren’t either.

But in hindsight I feel like I’ve let the team down.  Not my team but this Blog.  I mean who comes to live in LA with two camp-aged kids and doesn’t research them, how much they are, who goes, for how long and what really goes on (are they really like the movies?).

So I had a little look on the website at one camp my daughter wanted to go on.  Ironically for a cool $8,550 each I could send both my kids back to Australia and New Zealand (not the Camp the kids wanted to go on) to do all the things we do during our summer holidays while I stay here and … well I’m not sure what I’d do … refurb my Blog?

Sounds great if both parents work but I don’t really need to take advantage of Camp. Ironically, when you look at the promotional video it shows Sydney and Manly at their spectacular best and doesn’t necessarily show that it’s winter there.  And, I know as well as you do (my Aussie readers) that it’s been a cold and miserable winter.  Imagine surf lessons on Manly Beach when it’s blowing a gale and bucketing down?

Having said that the girls (and boys) that go away to traditional sleepaway camp here in the US love it.  And if I’d bothered to research it earlier then I would see that they have a special wakeboarding program that my son would love as he misses it so much.  Maybe next year …?

Seeing LA from my friends’ eyes

We had “mom & friends” camp (ie staying home) with one of my closest friends here at the start of summer.  They were in the US for five weeks and did the most amazing things.  To say it was a trip of a lifetime was an understatement.

Apart from having them around to see what life is like for us (and share our experiences first hand) for an extended period it was great to see LA and the US from their perspective.

So, here are five things I noticed they noticed about being in the US.

  1. The service is so good it’s going to be hard to go back to apathy.
  2. Everyone is just so nice and friendly (and noticeably so) and it’s actually really nice and not sickly terrible.  (But tipping–and thinking about it–sucks)
  3. There is so much to do and see here you need more than a couple of years to get through your bucket list (which, keeps on growing–that’s my addition). And, there is so much to do that no wonder many Americans don’t feel the need to discover what the rest of the world has to offer.
  4. Hollywood and Beverly Hills are like one big movie set.  Not as in everything looks so familiar (even though it does) but that it seems bigger and more schmick than it is in real life.  The Hollywood Walk of Fame for example the stars seem so much more shiny and new not that there are people everywhere with not much room between each star and someone’s spilt ice-cream on Michael Jackson.  Oh, and that Rodeo Drive isn’t actually that long.
    (Celebs don’t really shop on Rodeo Drive that much unless they’re looking for publicity which is exactly what we caught when we were there–a guy from the Hunger Games walking up and down with an unknown hat-wearing girl as paps and adoring fans chased him.)

    Celeb spotting

    Doing a little celeb spotting: Luka from the Hunger Games (so they say)

  5. That we’re very lucky with the quality of food in Australia. My friend couldn’t get over the fact that a wedge salad was served in some of the best restaurants in the US and it’s essentially a wedge of iceberg lettuce!  It’s true and if you’re lucky it’s served with a fancy ranch dressing.

And, by way of a PS you can dine at my favourite West Hollywood restaurant and see paps and big-time celebs: Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock AND Keanu Reeves in fact.  And, there may or may not have been an exchange between my girlfriend & Keanu at the bar that didn’t include her introducing us.  Sigh).

Keanu's Star

I finally get introduced to Keanu–but I have to make do with his Star

 

Like me they imagined their overseas “trip-of-a-lifetime-holiday” to be exploring Europe but we put a spanner in those works.  If ever I had a choice I’d choose Europe over America because I thought it had more to offer.  While I still love Europe I have (and they do) a great appreciation for all the US has to offer.

The Annual Health Check

With summer comes the annual health check in preparation for the kids starting the new school year.  Each year the kids start a new school year we’re required to take them to the pediatrician (kids here go to a pede Dr not a GP) and get the royal once-over.  For our school this check-up must be between April and August so if you’ve been getting a check-up on their birthday which falls in March then you have go back and go through the whole process all over again.

The kids could not see the point in this check up at all–especially that it was interrupting their precious holiday time .  I haven’t got the bill yet (I’m wondering if I should be scared) but I think the concept of the health check is a good thing.

They take the kids’ height and weight, assess their hearing and eye sight, check on their immunisations, do a glucose and cholesterol test, take their blood pressure and have a good look at their file to see how they’re tracking (and have been tracking) throughout their little lives.  (Actually maybe I need to be very scared about that bill!)

Actually it’s more than civilised here–a medical assistant or nurse takes your vitals, runs many of the tests, does the admin to double-check vaccinations then the doctor steps in and reviews everything, gives them a physical check-up and lets you know how they’re “performing”.

I think we need more of that in Australia.  It seems to me to be a great preventative approach to keeping track of the kids’ wellness.  For some reason our school has a strict policy on doing these tests (others not so apparently) but for whatever reason my kids are being kept track of while we’re here in the US.

Usual programming will re-commence in ratings season

Given we’re out of ratings season here in the US and all the new shows and highly anticipated next seasons are starting back in September I’ve been a bit quiet too.  I promise to post more regularly once school is back.

In the meantime I’m researching holiday ideas and destinations for you so check in on those.  Coming up I’ll post on Yosemite, continue my review on Beverly Hills Hotels, extend the review area and talk about Disneyland, Universal Studios and shopping in LA.

Disneyland

After putting off a trip to Disneyland for ten months we took the plunge–and we even enjoyed it

Enjoy your summer but if you’re not on holidays know that you’ll be on holidays very soon.  Be sure to keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram as I still manage to post there regularly.

xx It Started in LA xx

Four Seasons LA/BH
Celebrity, LA Restaurants, Posts, Visiting LA

Four Seasons in LA? Well of course.

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Beverly Hills Hotels

 

 

 

Are there four seasons in Beverly Hills?  But of course.  The Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills to be precise.

Stay at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills for five-star treatment without pretension. If you don’t know LA you might think the location is not for you but actually you’re right in the middle of great shopping, amazing restaurants and have my two favourite areas, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills at your doorstop. With 100 of the 285 rooms being suites there’s a room for everyone but don’t be fooled the standard rooms are roomy and well kitted out.

It Started in LA rating: 5 ticks √√√√√

How a hotel makes you feel is so important: it can make or break a stay don’t you think?  Absolutely I say.  Let’s face it if you’re not Kim or Kanye or JLo you still want to be treated like you are.  You’re important.  You’re special.

Well it’s no secret yours truly believes in that premise: I want to be treated like I’m a VIP (and understand to most people I’m not damnit).  When I visited the Four Seasons at Beverly Hills I felt like the red carpet had been rolled out for me and so here I am telling you all about it.

Unlike the Beverly Hills Hotel where I walk in and immediately take on a strut (with swag) you don’t feel the need to do that here.  It’s comfortable and unassuming.

I didn’t realise the Four Seasons is reputed to be the number one hotel in LA for the entertainment industry.  (Hmmm truth be told had I known this I probably would’ve been in a bit sooner so I’m telling you now).  Apparently it’s the venue for the majority of Hollywood’s press film events.  You get that sense when you see a mini version of the Marilyn Monroe statue as you pull into valet.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn statue as you enter Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills

 

Guests are anyone from pop stars (there was a very well-known one staying there the day I visited) to celebrities to agents.  (In the leisure category it’s popular with us Aussies so it must be good.)

This was my first visit to the Four Seasons.  As I said had I known what it was known for I probably would’ve visited sooner.  It makes sense that one of the families from school (who ran one of the top Studios) nominated the hotel as their favourite staycation location.  I immediately popped it on my list but it’s taken until now for me to get there.  Better late than never I say.

The first thing that hits you is the impressive display (and aroma) of flowers.  Not just a centrepiece in the lobby but throughout the hotel and gardens.

Lillies

Those lillies are stunning and positively fragrant–not even Pepe le Pew could upset you

 

Beverly Hills-renowned florist Eric Buterbaugh’s inspiring displays made me feel like I was back in the flower markets in Shanghai: so many flowers.  And that smell of perfectly scented lillies was powerful enough that not even Pepe le Pew the skunk could spoil it.

Flowers

Flowers anyone? Simply stunning

 

The flowers are no accident.  The property’s owners (it’s managed by the Four Seasons), the Cohen family, were in the flower business so their passion is reflected in the hotel’s design and mood.

The next thing I notice is that, despite its five-star rating and smartly dressed staff (rather than the preferred dress-down approach of many local hotels) it’s not stuffy or snooty.  On the contrary it’s welcoming and unpretentious.

What are the rooms like?

OK.  I love them.  The standard room is really spacious, not at all claustrophobic.  Nice touches are the floral theme (in the most tasteful way) through the bedheads and carpet (some of the nicest carpet let alone hotel carpet I’ve ever seen).  A vase with fresh orchids in the bathroom showed that nothing escapes the detail put into the rooms.  Toiletries used are Bvlgari which also makes for a nice touch.

There are many different categories of Suites catering for the breadth of guests the hotel attracts.

Adjoining rooms

There are about 20 adjoining rooms ranging in category from suites to standard rooms offering different combinations of sleeping arrangements.  If you’re anything like me the most frustrating thing about booking via an online travel company is finding or securing adjoining rooms.  I get that they’re limited and cannot guarantee but help us out guys and give us a guide as to what’s available.  If you fall into this category call or get in touch with hotel direct and make the booking.  Less headaches and a better chance of getting what you want.

Naturally suites can also provide the option you’re looking for too.  The Executive suite has a pull-out couch in the main room and the Luxury Suite offers two full bathrooms (and a wrap-around balcony).  If you happen to have a huge family the Presidential Suites, Royal and Luxury Suites are all big enough to cater for larger numbers.

Four Seasons

Rooms at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills feature lush carpet and beautiful flower motifs

 

So LA

If you’re looking for that LA feel the Four Seasons Beverly Hills has nailed it.  There’s no mistaking it caters for entertainment clients and is in touch with what LA is about.

The pool is stunning with obligatory cabanas (for Beverly Hills anyway) and plenty of room for sunbathers.

Four Seasons Pool

The pool at the Four Seasons is quintessentially LA with that vintage look and feel (love the green & white)

 

 I work out

It wouldn’t be an LA hotel without great workout facilities and the Four Season’s is outdoors.  That’s right, Muscle Beach comes to the Four Seasons.  Check it, it might even encourage me to work out!

Being LA you can line up a personal trainer to make sure you’re not slacking off while you’re away from home.

Gym

The outdoor gym at the Four Seasons is temperature controlled giving the best of both worlds

 

If all that doesn’t scream: “So LA!” then the dining options will.  LA has sooo many fantastic places to eat.  Here in LA people go to the hotel restaurants to eat.  If it’s good.  (I don’t know why we don’t go to them much in Australia, you certainly do in Asia).  So you better make sure your restaurant is good–or offers something unique–to bring the people in.

Dining Options

The Four Seasons Beverly Hills has its own little secret known as the Cabana Restaurant, tucked up behind the pool and open to the public.

Culina

Culina at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills

 

I just love that the menu is broken down into four categories: indulgence, antioxidant, energy boosters and comfort food.  How LA is that?!

Don’t believe me? Check out the lunch menu here.  Did you click through and notice the smoothies?  Antioxidant (Goji Berry, Cranberry, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Papaya) and Jet Lag (Orange Blossom Honey, Nonfat Plain Yogurt, Orange Juice, Banana, Strawberries, Bee Pollen).  Can’t get more LA than that.

I’m so impressed that the Four Seasons knows and understands its clientele and market.  It attracts a younger clientele (think celebs people).  You can’t be offering burgers, burgers or burgers to a dieting Kim Kardashian (not that I’m saying she comes here.  And not that I’m saying she doesn’t).  But if that up-and-coming Blogger Gwen John goes to visit as much as she wants to be good and go and antioxidant menu there’s a good chance she’s going for comfort.  So you’ve still got to offer it.  Right?  Right.

I was treated to breakfast at Culina–its destination restaurant aimed at keeping guests in and Los Angelenos coming.  Word is the Sunday brunch is to die for so we’re checking into that one ASAP.  Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (which is June here and not September–you’re welcome) are big ones so book early.

I was so impressed by the breakfast that I’m going to blog about that separately.  Watch this space.  Really quickly though there are healthy options and your traditional fry up options and lots in-between.  OK I had the sinless Eggs Benedict which was to die for.  If eating healthy was this good and this easy yours truly might be a skinny fashion model rather than a Blogger.  The other highlight for me was the freshly squeezed juice bar.  You can order one from the menu (I had the Antioxidant Booster–it was Monday morning 🙂 ) or you can create your own.

PS:

If you’re an LA local you’ll be pleased to know there’s a fully kosher kitchen. So LA.

Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel if:

  • you want five-star Beverly Hills luxury without the snootiness or pretension
  • you want to feel part of the “younger Hollywood” crowd
  • you’re looking for healthy yet yummy dining options that are so un-American yet proudly Los Angeleno
  • you want to be centrally located between West Hollywood, Third Street, Melrose Avenue and Beverly Hills (never mind Rodeo Drive, you’re right near the boutiques on Robertson)
  • you’re prepared to embrace the LA thing and drive everywhere (there are cars to drive you within a two-mile radius of the hotel).

 

I said it for my last review and I’ll say it again.  I made the mistake of not appreciating LA for what it was when I first came to visit some 20 years ago (I think the words were “been there, done that, never coming back”.) I know better now. Do your research before you hit LA.  And I don’t mean which theme parks you might visit.  Understand what LA is all about and it will be your friend, expect something it’s not and you may as well give it a miss. Thankfully I’ve grown up now, made that rather naive mistake and fate took me back here. I count my lucky stars everyday.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: Again I’d recommend you compare prices online but try booking through the hotel direct.  Rack rates are becoming a thing of the past (I have absolutely no proof of this except through my own booking experience) and hotels offer competitive online rates.  Sometimes it’s so much easier to get exactly what you want when you book direct.

All pictures with thanks to Four Seasons Beverly Hills.

To find out more about Beverly Hills Hotels visit my Pinterest board.  I’m pinning to it faster than I can blog!

Paps
Celebrity, Posts

Living the dream on Golden Globes weekend

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!

JJ

Joshua Jackson

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!

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