Leaving Los Angeles

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.


I Heart New York

What’s not to love about New York, the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps?

View of Manhattan from Staten Island Ferry

View of Manhattan from Staten Island Ferry

Is it possible to miss a city you’ve only recently been acquainted with? I think so. And I’m already saving to go back.

For reasons unknown I never had any real desire to visit New York and after September 11, assumed I’d never get there.

Then sometime in the last year or so (maybe after the Sex and the City movie?), I was determined I’d get there for my 40th, if not the actual event, then sometime that year.

Yet even as I started planning the trip in February, the itinerary consisted of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

As fate would have it the original trip needed to be postponed and in re-booking the flights, it cost no extra to add New York – just an extra six hours of flying.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

People thought we were mad flying from Perth to New York non-stop with two kids in tow (as non-stop as you can get flying via Sydney and Los Angeles) but we made it, all 30-odd hours, and felt it was better to get the worst flights out of the way first.

New York is one of those cities that like Paris, instantly leaves its mark. We had to catch a Yellow Cab from the airport, despite some dude in a mini van insisting we’d never fit in one and should go with him.

Other things we had to do – eat bagels, visit Tiffany, hang out in Central Park, get dazzled in Times Square.

Times Square

Times Square

We didn’t make it across the Brooklyn Bridge or get to a Broadway show but we had a great meal and picked up bargain souvenirs in Chinatown.

I ate cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery and Crumbs Bakeshop. One night I ate cupcakes for dinner.

Magnolia Cupcakes

World famous cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery

We shopped at the world’s biggest department store, Macy’s and two of the three biggest toy stores – Toys R Us and FAO Schwarz

In short, we fell in love with New York and were sad to leave after six days – even though we had two weeks in California to look forward to.

In coming posts I will report on my search for the perfect cupcake (a search that continues no matter what city I am in) and upload photos of the food and places that made an impression…