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Archive for September, 2015

If you’d asked me 10 years ago if I wanted to got to Los Angeles or what I thought of Los Angeles I wouldn’t have had much to say. I’d never been there and after 9/11, I’d pretty much written off the US as a holiday destination.

Then in 2006 came the offer of a whirlwind work trip to Los Angeles. Just a couple of days in Beverly Hills for, of all things, to celebrate the hit soapie The Bold and the Beautiful. Even the man processing my visa application at the US consulate in Perth thought that was pretty funny.

It was a quick trip and at times a lonely one, being the only Aussie on a foreign press junket where English was not the first language of choice. I extended the trip a couple of days (long story) and managed to fit in a movie junket and a visit to the LA Times Festival of Books. Anytime I saw little kids I got homesick; my son was only two at the time – he didn’t want to talk to me when I got back.

But I got a taste for LA. The crooked palm trees. Starbucks. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Bagels and boiled eggs. Even filter coffee with half and half. People were friendly. Waiters were friendly. Food serves were enormous and servers always wanted to load me up with take away.

I started of at the Elan in West Hollywood, before moving to the Avalon in Beverly Hills for a few days to attend the Bold junket, including a night at a club to watch Ronn Moss perform. It was all a bit surreal.

No one walks in LA, so the hotel staff kept reminding me, but I managed to clock up some ks on foot. Cabs were expensive. I think it cost me $50 to get from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica. Cabs also work in districts and I was surprised you couldn’t walk on to the street to hail one (that’s a New York thing).

I became determined to return with the family and we managed to save up for a family holiday in 2009, clocking up a near 30 hour economy long haul flight from Perth to Brisbane (or was it Sydney) and on to LA and then finally, JFK in New York.

I’ll save New York for another post; we were so sad to leave the Big Apple we nearly cried, even though LA was still to come.

Pictured above are some of the places we’ve come to love in LA. First, the Farmers Market at the corner of Third and Fairfax. It has been a mandatory stop on each visit, whether for a coffee at Short Order (apparently now closed) or some Mexican from Loteria. It was literally the first place we went to after picking up our hire car in March 2012.

Next, Venice Beach. That place can be a whole lot of crazy. But there are some great restaurants and hidden patisseries tucked away, not to mention the canals. We loved the fact the staff at the Starbucks near our hotel in 2012 knew our orders by heart within about a day.

And last but not least the Pacific Wheel at Santa Monica Pier, beautiful by day or night. I just love Santa Monica. I’ve never been on the wheel or attractions (see previous post about  fear of heights and add rides to that) but we have eaten at Bubba Gump and had coffee along Third Street Promenade. So many cool places to eat and shop around there.

A lot of people say they hate LA; it’s polluted, there are to many homeless, it’s dirty. They hate LAX, they hate the queues at LAX, they hate the security at LAX.

So much of this is in the eye of the beholder. I love to see the Downtown skyline. I am always amazed by the 16 lane freeways, the traffic snaking down Santa Monica Boulevard. The streets and boulevards that seem to run from coast to airport and across the entire city (on my first trip I tried to walk from one address on Wiltshire to another not realising they were MILES apart -this was pre Google maps).

Work has fortunately taken me back to LA four winters in a row; one year it was freezing and we had to buy coats before a function but every other year, the weather has been crisp but beautiful. One day I hope to experience the heat of an LA summer holiday and get to really indulge in a hotel swimming pool.

In other circumstances, in another lifetime, maybe I’d have lived and worked in LA. Sadly it’s a city that’s become unaffordable for many; read why here in LA Magazine, absolutely my favourite monthly magazine (I’ve been subscribing for maybe three years now through Zinio, having become quite the fan when I found an edition in my hotel room back in 2012).

So for now, I thank Los Angeles for the food, the fun times, the memories…and the photos, of which I will post more in coming weeks.

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How can you not love Paris? It’s a city I’d return to in a heartbeat although I must admit the recent terrorist incidents have made me wonder just how keen I’d be to return at the moment. Not to mention a lack of actual funds or time off.

I first visited Paris in 1989 with a couple of friends who were living in London. We picked a busy weekend (sporting event? soccer I think?) and when we arrived (I think we flew?) hotels were scarce. With my high school French we managed to find a hotel with three sagging beds with dodgy chenille bedspreads. We couldn’t risk not taking the room because there was a trail of tourists with the same idea following us.

Well, that could have been my first visit, or my second; I managed to visit Paris three times across a four or five week period during my first big European adventure in 1989. I had intended to visit with one of my best theatre friends but when I arrived in London she was broke.

So I ended up doing a Contiki tour that took me to Paris, Florence, Venice, Switzerland, Austria, and Amsterdam. We stayed in budget hotels, backpackers and even some chalets in the woods somewhere along the line.

The third trip was with my now less-broke friend, and I am pretty sure we flew. I have no idea where we stayed. We bought interesting brocade jackets and tunics. We went to Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen which I seem to recall had thoroughly appalling toilets.

Visit two was with my husband in 1998, en route to a wedding in Scotland. It was May and unseasonably hot. We picked a hotel that ended up being not far from Sacre Coeur but somewhat too close to the Sexodrome.

Our last visit, in 2007, was as a family en route to a wedding in Amsterdam. We arrived via Eurostar and spent a couple of days in Paris before heading to Disneyland Paris. We then returned for a final few days before taking a Thalys train to Amsterdam.

For the first few days we stayed at the Hotel Valadon. By the looks of the website it has had a serious makeover since then. We chose it due to the proximity of the Rue Cler markets which I had read about in a Rick Steves guidebook. I think that was the start of my habit of basing hotel locations on their proximity to restaurants and markets.

On our return we stayed at Residence Les Gobelins, the website for which doesn’t seem to be working at present but Gobelins seems to indicate it is still open. It was a budget hotel, close to the Rue Mouffetard markets and restaurants, and we had a family room with three beds. The breakfasts were simple – croissants and baguettes with coffee.

I remember painstakingly researching all of these hotels over and over – this was probably the early days of TripAdvisor from memory – and perhaps emailing inquiries to half a dozen about rates and room set ups…

In all of these visits I have never made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower, given my fear of heights seems to get worse, not better with age. I think I made it to level two on my second visit. Last time, the family went to the top while I ate a baguette by myself on the first level.

It’s my aim to brush up on my now very rusty French and visit Paris and New York for my 50th. Watch this space (for a few more years!).

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Back in the days when I still used a camera that took film, the first thing I did after going on a holiday or to a party was race out to a chemist or photo lab to get the film processed.

Remember when one-hour photo services popped up? Remember the delight at poring over the photos with friends, and the annoyance at getting finger prints all over prints accidentally ordered as glossy instead of matte finish?

These days we have instant gratification on our iPhones and smart devices. Photos can be instantly viewed and instantly shared on social media. The days of printing photos and painstakingly putting them into albums, for most of us, is a distant memory.

But what happens to all the dozens, hundreds, even thousands of digital images that weren’t able to be shared or worthy of sharing at the time? Or ones taken before we started to really embracing social media? Or had the data and ability to easily upload images?

I’ve recently started trying to locate all my holiday photos to unite them on one portable hard drive. Most of them are backed up on my PC. Some are backed up to our NAS. Others are on DVD-ROMS. Anything taken pre-2007, or on an old phone, who knows.

Having had a digital camera of some sort of other since the late 1990s, there are probably thousands of photos unaccounted for on old hard disks…and very few have been printed due to the cost of printing/ink back then (my poor children also have incomplete baby books thanks to digital cameras!)

Over the next few weeks I hope to upload assorted travel photos, partly to keep my family holiday memories alive, and partly to inspire anyone else planning a holiday to somewhere distant and exciting.

The photo below is a street somewhere in Amsterdam. I’ve been to Amsterdam three times, in 1989, 1998 and 2007 but hadn’t really thought much about the city again until last year after the characters in the teen weepie The Fault in Our Stars went there.

Somewhere in Amsterdam, 2007

Somewhere in Amsterdam, 2007

Then it crossed my mind after the shooting last month on an Amsterdam to Paris train (we’ve done the reverse trip from Paris to Amsterdam).

We were in Amsterdam for a friend’s wedding and a group of us stayed in a bed and breakfast called Mae’s B & B. We had the top floor attic, accessed up a very steep and narrow staircase. We had great breakfasts every morning and a couple of nights, had delicious Indonesian take away from a restaurant down the road.

The city was easy to get around by foot or by bike, although that was not a mode of transport open to us with a pram.  One of the things I remember about Amsterdam and Oldenzaal, which we visited in 1998, was that people often left their curtains wide open, giving passers a glimpse at how they live.

Certainly a place I’d like to get back to one day…

Houses, Amsterdam

Houses, Amsterdam

Amsterdam canal by night

Amsterdam canal by night

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