Two years ago my dearest friend, her husband (also my dear friend, Nicky) and their 4 month old baby girl upped sticks and head off to start a new life in LA – extremely selfish I hear you cry, my thoughts exactly – how dare they leave London (leave me more to the point) and head off to a land where people don’t age (physically at least), the sun always seems to shine, frozen yogurt is on tap and celebrities & Scientologists gather in equal measure.
“I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.” Andy Warhol
At school both our families lived overseas so we spent many happy summers in America with her parents driving down to the Jersey Shore from NYC, where we would live out all our teenage angst to the dulcet tones of Green Day, Ben Folds Five, Third Eye Blind etc – my diaries of those summers make me smile and cringe in equal measure. So it is without question that when the move to LA came that I was plotting my first trip out there.
The trip came last July. When they initially moved I had my own newborn and we had just moved house while we were renovating. I bided my time and pitched the holiday to Brute only to be told he didn’t have enough holiday time and needed to train for his mammoth bike ride across the mountains of Europe. There was only one thing for it, go solo, with the kids…easy!
The strange thing was that whenever I told people in my over excitement, they seemed to give me a look of excitement mixed with confusion and possibly fear.
“You’re travelling to LA by yourself with a 3.5 yr old and 1.5 yr old”?
“Sure! I mean how hard can it be” I’m not the kind of person that gives myself too long to think about these things, I tend to go with the ‘it’ll be fine’ approach and then I find it generally is, I don’t research, ask too many questions or do anything that could put me off and on this occasion it was for the best…
Loaded into the cab we headed for Gatwick, smooth sailing so far. Exit cab, hmmm no trolleys, throw a child under each arm, leave luggage on the pavement and run a good 300 meters to the nearest trolley to find that you have to put £1in the damn thing to use it!! Obviously I have not one piece of shrapnel in my wallet other than the usual couple of 2p, 1p and a few random euro. Borrow £1 from some unsuspecting holiday maker, load up and start the roughly 100 mile walk to the check in desk one hand pushing a loaded up trolley and the other pushing a loaded up double buggy. Major crashes avoided, luggage dropped, security passed we made our way to the gate and I may have blacked things out but we got onto the plane.
I was ready for Rex to sit happily for a few hours watching movies and then calmly fall asleep and prepared to do a bit of pacing of the aisles until stella did the same. Incase you’re wondering, that’s not what happened. Instead I had made the fatal error of booking an outward bound flight at 2pm in the afternoon so both children had gone entirely feral being confined to a small space. I glanced across at my neighbour, praying that he would have mercy on me, he was a young musician with a bobbed haircut who was clearly leaving a loved one back in London as he said over and over on the phone before takeoff in a very delicate Australian accent how much he loved this person whilst my children screamed and bashed their feet on the windows and kicked the chairs in front of me and I swore intensely under my breath and attempted to pin them to their shared chair. The last hurrah was when I called the air hostess for an emergency large glass of wine which, after a second of it being placed down on my tray one of the children smacked their hand down on the table and the whole glass ended up on my neighbours lap without so much of a sip of it entering my mouth…I won’t go into detail, but he was the kindest stranger I have ever come across, no stress and offered me another wine – an angel in indie band clothing.
Feral for the first 5 hours, passed out for the last 6…I don’t need to say which half of the journey was preferable.
The most important thing is, we made it and from then on it was the most wonderful trip – we staggered out of LAX which must be the worst organised most stressful airport on the planet and into the arms of my dear friend, Koz – it was the evening in LA and we were smelly and tired and broken but we were also overexcited, Koz and I particularly so. We cracked open the wine immediately, put the kids to bed and next thing I know I woke up in my underwear on my bed, it was the next morning and my head was beating…testament to the fact that we shouldn’t be separated for long periods of time.
I’ve been to LA a couple of times before, but not as a mother, and it did not disappoint, particularly as they had based themselves in the gorgeous Santa Monica area of LA. They definitely have the weather on their side so we went to the beach almost daily (closest being a ten minute drive from the house), or to the many splash pads that they have around the city to help cool down from the mid summer heat.
Then when you’re suitably tired, hot and bothered there are frozen yogurt places almost everywhere you look and they are the best – for some ungodly reason we don’t seem to pay homage to the frozen yogurt like the Americans do. Everything is bigger in America and their idea of a selection of frozen yogurt toppings is a full on pick n mix sensation and though the connotation of frozen yogurt makes one think of health and wellness if you’re anything like me your toppings to yogurt ratio is going to weigh heavily in on the side of toppings!
One of my favourite things to discuss is food and one of my favourite things to do is eat so lets do more of that – my gosh does LA do food well – there is an abundance of farmers markets open on the weekends, from the fresh fruit and veg at Brentwood Farmers’ Market to the Smorgasbord in downtown LA there are endless options all super child friendly and a great thing to do and place to grab lunch.
Photography skills not up to much here – sign flagged by the bins – but you get the gist – this is the smorgasburg.
Let’s be real though this is a holiday so there needs to be some non child fun too, we learnt early that it does not pay to try and take 3 toddlers out to dinner even if it is early when you want to relax and have a drink…on night 3 we went down to the famous Gjelina on Abbot Kinney, I mean the food is major but my god did my two make a scene, made worse by the fact that darling little Zoe behaved like an angel the whole time while my two took in turns to see who could scream the loudest. Deciding that we probably needed to order quickly and get them fed and home the almost unbearably hipster waiter/struggling actor sauntered over and when asked if he could recommend some options “no, no its impossible for me to do that, you need to just go with what you feel” …I mean are you KIDDING ME – glances shot round the table between us as we bit our tongues in equal measure – could he not see the tension in my face, could he not see the desperate looks of the other diners, willing us to eat and get out as quickly as possible so they could enjoy their evenings in peace! When we eventually got our food, the madness was at an all time high with us taking it in turns to take Rex and Stella outside to blow off some steam. Needless to say we bailed with food in hand back to the safety of home.
BUT we had some fabulous meals without them too – Sitting outside on the rooftop at Margot in Culver City offering the best of Mediterranean coastal food. Yours Truly on Abbot Kinney in Venice, a girls night out in West Hollywood at E.P and L.P and obviously you can’t go to LA without a long boozy lunch at Nobu Malibu. There are so many great places, there is no real public transport though so you’re gonna have to flex that Uber account.
Nobu Malibu showing off
Sitting here after 100 days of Lockdown in London and reminiscing about being in LA this time last year is almost torture and I feel like I could really ramble on, but everyday was happiness, it really was. There was never pressure to do anything, but so many easy and fun things to do for us and the kids, cruising down to the beach and not just local ones, we also went down to Manhattan Beach to see some other dear friends that have moved back to LA from London which is beautiful. Or just sitting in the garden with the giant paddling pool (and a glass of cold rose). Going to the incredible Cayton children museum or even watching the LA philharmonic warm up at the Hollywood Bowl, well that is until you are ushered out due to slightly over excited small people who don’t adhere to rules or noise levels.
Not just any old cafe or Fire engine – its all part of the magic of the Cayton Childrens Museum.
When you think LA any honest human will wonder if they’ll spot a celeb – I mean i’m not afraid to say my eyes are peeled as soon as I got off the plane, will I see the Hadid sisters sauntering through the airport (ideally not, I’m not sure my mental state could handle that). Or god forbid Jen Anniston on her daily hike, I would likely drop dead on the spot. But you know who we did see and who rocked my world…Henry Winkler, I mean obviously it wasn’t the spot I thought I would get but hey who didn’t love Happy Days!!! Just wandering around the Brentwood Country Mart with his wife, daughter and grandchild – his wife, walked past Koz and I and said “you have your hands full!” but not in a snarky way, but a knowing way and It cemented our love for them.
So if you couldn’t tell already, the trip was the biggest of successes, it was just all happiness and sorry (not sorry) for sounding so gushy, but hey you have to tell it as it is. On our last full day, we booked in Koz’s baby sitters to look after the children and we went shopping…and had the most bizarre encounter, I can’t remember the name of the shop but it had lots of gorgeous over priced clothes and we were just mooching when this quite over zealous attendant came over to see if we needed anything, she then kept coming back to check we were ok (every Brits worst nightmare, right?) and upon realising we were both English she then out of nowhere said “R-I-P Princess Diana, I’m so sorry for your loss” to which we both sort of nodded and in our awkward British way muttered something like “yes it was very sad” she then proceeded to go off on a tangent about conspiracy theory’s surrounding her death as if it happened last week. Bear in mind this lady was no more than late 20’s (and was likely was on a come down from the night before) and when I say she went off on a tangent, I mean it, she went on and on and when she eventually stopped so we could shop, when we saw her again she would say again “I just wanted to say again, that I’m sorry for your loss & RIP Princess Diana” at which point we just grabbed some over priced clothes for the kids, paid and fled before bursting into hysterical laughter. No better way to leave La La Land hey.
The only thing missing from this trip was Brute, but that gives us even more reason to head back there when all this chaos is over and who knows maybe by the there might be a new president there…one can but hope!
There are too many special moments and memories so I made a little video compilation below instead, enjoy 🙂