What a whirlwind 3 weeks! Our time in Los Angeles at the start of our trip already seems like a distant memory. We are back in the sandpit and past the jet lag for the most part (I was quite enjoying the later wake up times last week but the Things were happy to remind me this weekend – after 2 late nights I might add – that they are over it). Massive post-holiday / re-entry blues are only really mitigated by the lure of the next trip (seriously think I may have an addiction!) which is less than 8 weeks away. Hurrah!
But back to the last 3 weeks…
The start of the trip!
We started off by flying to Los Angeles. It’s fair to say we were (I was) quite nervous about the flight. 16 hours in a plane isn’t all that appealing at the best of times let alone when you have 2 small Things to travel with. Mr Wanderlust had the good fortune of sitting in the front of the plane, I was glad to have had his help at each end of the flight as well as a little relief during it. But for the flight itself, it was pretty much me and the Things for most of the 16 hours. I’ll be writing a separate post all about our flying experiences including reviews of Qatar Airways and United Airlines who were the two carriers we used for this trip.
Arriving in Los Angeles was pretty surreal – the first time setting foot on US soil in 3.5 years (last time we only had 1 Thing in tow!) and of course we were all exhausted. Immigration (amazingly) had some really nice and helpful people which was a bit unexpected haha. We had several bags to pick up including a dog who we were a flight buddy for. I’ve written another post about that but in summary, it is remarkably easy to do (especially if flying to the USA).
From the airport we set off in our hire-car (a sexy minivan!) to West Hollywood to invade Mr Wanderlust’s sister (my best friend) and her family. We were suitably exhausted and spaced out by the time we got there but it didn’t dampen the excitement one bit! It was very weird but in a good way and we were so happy to be finally there after so much planning and waiting (and of course after such a long flight!)
The mundane things
I’m not going to write this series as an itinerary as I have before. The funny thing about a holiday like this when you are used to being a tourist is that there is so much less pressure to “do” things. This holiday was all about People and not Places and most people reading this probably don’t care all that much about the grocery shopping or the doctors appointment (thank goodness it was in Houston and I could go back to our old paediatrician!) or the lazy mornings by the pool. So here are the best bits (excluding Disneyland which deserves a post all of its own):
Things to do
Santa Monica beach
Our first day in Los Angeles and we had wanted something not requiring a schedule or anything too taxing. The beach was so perfect for all of us. You can never go wrong with sun, sand and sea when you have kids in tow (or even when you don’t). Santa Monica beach is a good beach with a cafe and easily accessible toilets. The waves (at least when we went) were pretty tame (not drag your kid away from you style as was the case at Dreamlands in Bali!). Not that you could have gone in the sea for long anyway – it was FREEZING! It felt so good to soak up some rays and play in the sand together.
Santa Monica and Santa Monica Pier
Staying pretty close to Santa Monica, it was inevitable that we would end up back in the area. It was a bit of fun to go to the Pier and run around a bit. After walking up and down (and avoiding letting the Things play in the arcades) we found ourselves in the amusement park which is filled with fairground activities.
There are a couple of payment options for spending time in Pacific Park. One is to pay a flat fee for unlimited rides and the other is to pay for rides. Once you pay for 3 Things and 2 adults that can mount up cost-wise and we didn’t want to stay for long so we opted for the latter. Of course that opened up a can of worms to try and find something that all 3 Things wanted to go on at the same time! We settled for one game (we all lost) and a little train ride.
Our idea to spend the afternoon with a wander around the shops was spent chasing disobedient children up and down the (thankfully pedestrianised) street and trying to convince them not to swim in the fountains…
Our family live really close to a lovely pedestrianised outdoor shopping centre in Los Angeles called The Grove. It is kid friendly with cute restaurants and a Farmers Market. We hung out here quite a few times and it was a great success because
- there are fountains which the Things loved to sit and watch
- every Thursday they have Kids Club where they put on a show for kids at 11am and 12noon
- there is a a gorgeous Trolley bus which drives from one end to the other
- as it was nearly Easter they had photo opportunities with the Easter bunny
Now obviously going on a “hike” as the Americans call it is always a gamble with small Things and this one was no exception. You need to go prepared with water and snacks and ideas for distraction. The alternative is you end up having to carry them all the way up and back (its quite hilly). I loved visiting Runyon Canyon, there were loads of (really annoyingly healthy looking) people walking around, lots of people with dogs and best of all, some really spectacular views.
Pool / Play Days
I know I said I wouldn’t write about this but I guess its something that I wouldn’t have thought to include in an itinerary before kids but now we have them (and after a fair few trial and error experiences on previous holidays), I would say planning time for relaxation is critical for everyone.
Amazing places to eat
America knows how to do food so I was happy to indulge my foodie tendencies. Of course eating out isn’t as easy as it was B.T. (Before Things) but we still did pretty well.
Our first meal out in Los Angeles did not disappoint at Mercado. Then again how can you go wrong with Mexican food and margaritas? Answer: YOU CAN’T.
Wow wow wow – girls night dinner with my bestie at AOC was absolutely amazing! Be sure to try the bacon wrapped dates (mmmmm…bacon) and the focaccia. Oh and the brussel sprouts (trust me on this one). To be fair though, everything was incredible and the atmosphere was really fun and relaxed.
Vegan Mexican food like Gracias Madre does wasn’t something really on my radar. Los Angeles is all over the vegan scene! I, on the other hand, get excited if I find free range eggs where we live haha. It was another really delicious place to go. There were six of us and it was good food to share or to order your own.
True Food Kitchen
A hit with everyone for lunch! True Food Kitchen offers salads and bowls for healthy minded adults and organic pizzas for ravenous Things!
Horse Thief BBQ
Horse Thief is owned by some friends of Houston friends (more about them later!). Having not eaten BBQ (in the American sense of the word) since we left Houston, I was keen to get a BBQ fix in. Luckily we found ourselves a few blocks from Grand Central Market where this place is located. The brisket sandwich was divine although I didn’t really need to eat the mandatory side dishes included in the price. The biggest bonus? It remains the only place where the Things have agreed to eat mac ‘n’ cheese.