Los Angeles, 2007

My husband-to-be (HTB) and I landed in Los Angeles airport and headed straight for Hollywood. I had flown through LA airport many times, but had never stopped to see the city itself, apart from Disneyland.

This time it would be different. We stayed in a hostel a few blocks from Hollywood Boulevard. The hostel overlooked the parking lot of the club of the moment, Opera, which Brittany Spears had been known to frequent.

Surrounding us were the Hollywood Hills and the famous Hollywood sign- from a very far distance- but still legible. We headed straight for the Boulevard to spot Marilyn Monroe and Keanu Reeves amongst the stars on the street.

At the Chinese Theatre, we found Eddie Murphy’s handprints out the front. I was awed by the Roosevelt Hotel, made famous by many movies I am sure, but by Charlie’s Angels 2 for me.

We saw the lovely old Captain Theatre, Capitol Records and the appropriately themed Egyptian Theatre. We had dinner in the Pig and Thistle– supposedly a haunt of celebrities. I had never heard of Fredrick’s of Hollywood, but the lingerie on display there was certainly show stopping, such as the colourful bra designed by Sharon Stone.

The next day we decided to walk down Melrose Ave and perhaps find Melrose Place. Yes, I know, walk- nobody walks in LA and we quickly discovered why. Melrose Ave is a very, very, very long road. And if that wasn’t enough of a clue, the school bus driver who laughed at us as he passed and called out that we were crazy definitely clued us in.

We passed Kermit the frog at the Jim Henson studio, funky boutiques and coffee shops along the way. I purchased a pair of warm gloves from Target- a reliable shop for a bargain the world over it would seem.

Giving up on Melrose Place, we got on a local bus past Beverly Hills to Santa Monica and the pier. The palm trees here are as numerous and the Spanish style villas.

My favourite thing about LA was the The Getty. The bus trip up the hill that wove through the gated houses of Bel Air was followed by a tram ride up to the museum. When we arrived at the top, the view of the city was breathtaking and we really felt like we were on top of the world.

We hit the museum courtyard at dusk and the orange hues of sunset made beautiful dappled light patterns on the white marble walls of the museum. I loved the marvellous Fran & Stark Sculpture Terrace and inside the museum I felt very lucky to see Irises by Van Gogh and that bridge painting by Monet.

Coming back down to earth, we window shopped Rodeo Dr by night, finding a red dress at Valentino that I could never afford. We also saw the famous Beverly Wiltshire Hotel (scene of Donna Martin’s disgrace on Beverly Hills 90210, or was it Brenda’s first time?) and took our picture with the big Christmas tree set up on the Spanish steps for the season.

We finished our Hollywood adventure where it began on Hollywood Boulevard with half price pitchers of Margarita’s at L’Scorpion. They sure can mix a top Mexican cocktail in California, and the multi coloured corn chips went together with them perfectly.

Related posts: USA, 1990

Kid at Heart

I am a kid at heart. I always enjoy a theme park, animals or a museum; and now that I have a daughter it is double the fun.

I will be taking three weeks off from blogging from the end of this week (heading off on a trip to Sri Lanka). So, in the meantime, I will leave you with some fun Sydney activities for kids and kids at heart to keep you all amused over the Easter break.

Royal Easter Show- who doesn’t love a show? The rides, the food and the show bags. The Sydney show this year is on 26 March to 8 April at Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park. It’s usually packed and can be quite expensive, but the free displays are pretty mind blowing and the wood chopping and other traditional show events (also free) are always entertaining. The kids will love the farmyard nursery, but I prefer the working dog demonstrations myself- how are they so clever?!

Taronga Zoo- a ferry trip to Taronga Zoo is a fun activity in itself. Although a little pricey to get in, a yearly pass may be worth the money if you plan to go more than once. Apart from the gondola ride and the free daily shows, there is also a kid’s area where farmyard animals and bush turkeys roam free through the park equipment and water play area. My favourite parts are seeing the elephants take their morning shower and the gorgeous views of the city.

Australian Museum- I went here late last year to see the Aztec exhibit. The display had a stamping activity (for kids) and iPad photo activity (for kids at heart). The rest of the museum was free, after paying for the feature exhibition, and is always free for children under 5. This includes a very scary dinosaur’s exhibition- they growl at you and I jumped ok?!- and a great little scientist area where kids can read, play and look through microscopes.

Royal Botanic Gardens- For a free and educational activity, a self-guided walk through the Sydney gardens is a great activity. They are iconic, waterside, beautiful and sometimes you will even find cockatoos feeding on the ground. There is also a Disney Fairy Trails app currently active where you can find and photograph cartoon fairies as you go- very cool.

Sydney Aquarium- not the cheapest, but great for a rainy day. The shark viewing tunnels are unique and the Great Barrier Reef display is very colourful. I love trying to spot the platypus and learning something new every time I visit. There is a touch pool for the little ones and dugongs, but no mermaids contrary to popular advertising- sorry to disappoint.

Museum of Sydney- with a very reasonable entry fee, this museum is at a historic location and not too large, making it easy to navigate. I recently went there to see the Towers of Tomorrow LEGO exhibition which was small but very functional with 4 large Lego troughs for kids to play in next to the awesome tall towers (like the replica Marina Bay Sands) that kids at heart will appreciate. The Lego exhibition is running until 12 July and look out for the Toys through Time display coming on 28 March- showing until 9 August.

Luna Park- for an alternative to the Easter Show (but probably just as expensive!), you can’t beat the location of Luna Park at Milson’s Point where you can gaze over the water at the Opera House, city and Harbour Bridge. The old English merry-go-round and dressed up characters such as Luna Bob are a favourite with kids of all ages. My personal pick is the mouse roller coaster where it feels like you are going to drop right over the edge into Sydney Harbour.

Australian Reptile Park- located one hour out of Sydney, this park has been around since 1948 and has an interesting history to go with it. I cringed at the funnel web milking demonstration, but the kids couldn’t get enough of it. The main attraction is Elvis the crocodile and the free range kangaroo area where an emu sneaked up on me. The dirt paths weave into the trees which lends to a nice bushwalk feel and there is a large play park for the little ones once they tire of the animals.

State Library- I went here last month to see the Lynley Dodd: A Retrospective exhibition. Lynley is the creator of the Hairy McClairy book series for children and the display was definitely designed with kids in mind- very interactive with TV, audio, drawing and book areas. The State Library itself is a beautiful old building with, funnily enough, lots of books. There is even a whole room filled with Don Quixote books. All exhibitions are free of charge and there is always some lovely photography on display.

The Beach- if the weather is good, the beach is the best free fun activity for kids and kids at heart. Water, sun, surf and sand castles provide hours of entertainment. I enjoy going to old favourites like Greenwich Baths and Boat Harbour on the South Coast; and discovering new beaches like Ettalong and Shoal Bay to the North. Just remember to pay attention to life guards and be sun safe.

Related posts: All things Disney, Happy Holidays,  All Creatures Great and Small

Malaysia, 2006

On the way back from Europe my husband-to-be (HTB) and I stopped in Malaysia and took a long distance taxi to the little fishing village of Lumut. From here, we caught a ferry to Pulau Pangkor.

We stayed at the Ombak Inn near the beach of Teluk Nipah, which was one of only 2 places you could stay on that side of the island at the time (the other place was called the Pink Chalet). We rented a hut to ourselves whose balcony was regularly looted by wild monkeys.

The wild birds were numerous and the mountains surrounding the town were rugged. The main street was short, but had a market for a little activity.

Most days were spent playing cards, reading and swimming at the beach. The water was a little warm for my liking, but was still nice.

There was only one restaurant nearby- TJ’s– which we ate at for most meals. We splurged one night on the best bucket of chilli’s crabs I have ever eaten.

We met an English girl called Sara who was travelling with a friend and took some drinks down to the beach swing for a fun evening of tale telling and drunkenness.

One night we all went to a nightclub on the other side of the island with some locals we had met at TJ’s. The club was more of an open air bar with stage musicians which was very strange and not what we expected at all.

After our whirlwind trip of Europe, an off the beaten track island with not much to see and do was exactly what we needed to return home refreshed.

Related posts: Switzerland and France, 2006, Europe, 2006, England, 2006, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 2004, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

Dreams vs Reality

A couple of weeks ago, it was I Want 2 Be Day for the Kids Cancer Project.

And it got me thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

At first I wanted to be a ballerina, then a nurse and pretty much whatever else my older girl cousin wanted to be.

Then I wanted to be a writer and spent hours writing and illustrating stories about birthday parties I went to and sequels for some of the characters from the books I read.

In high school it seemed like it was a bit early to be deciding what I wanted to be. I just knew that I liked Geography and Society and Culture, but what sort of job could you get with that?

I envied the people that knew they wanted to be doctors and lawyers and had a clear study path set out before them.

So, I took a year off, went travelling, came back, took another year off, and eventually decided to give this writing thing a go and study for a BA Communication (Journalism).

At university, I enjoyed public relations and editing and publishing and despaired at the reality that real journalism jobs were not well paid and hard to find.

So I worked for a print production company because they employed me, worked for an architectural visualisation firm because it sounded interesting and tried PR which I found I actually hated in practice.

I worked for various not-for-profits and charities and discovered there that I was good at event organising, but was it really what I wanted to be?

So I took some writing courses at the Australian Writer’s Centre and started writing a blog in my spare time. Isn’t it funny how life has turned a full circle and now I want to be a writer again?

I guess a dream is only a dream until you make it a reality.

Perhaps I lacked direction, focus and certainty about my dream before, but now I can see that it could become reality.

Maybe in the past I expected my dream to be clear and happen easily and quickly. Now I realise that dreams take time and effort and that’s what makes them a dream in the first place.

It’s a long term goal that if you didn’t really want to do, you wouldn’t have the drive to make a reality.

It’s that niggling thought in the back of your head, that won’t go away no matter how unrealistic it seems.

We live in a world where career changes are possible, going back to study is acceptable and changing your mind is allowed.

So, what did you want to be when you grew up? Perhaps it’s time to revisit that dream and take stock of your reality?

Related posts: Do you need trauma to have talent?, What is news?, What’s inspiring about your event?, Kicking goals, The Seven Year Itch, I first started writing

Switzerland and France, 2006

I wanted to go somewhere I had not been to yet in Europe, so my husband-to-be (HTB) and I travelled to Switzerland next. I had completed a loop of Europe on 1997, but had skipped the country as it was in the middle of the loop, and I thought it might be too expensive.

We stayed in a gorgeous high ceilinged apartment on Lake Geneva with my HTB’s friends Ben and Elodie and their young daughter.

Lake Geneva, where the River Seine ends, was definitely the focal point of the city. A walk around the lake revealed a clock made of flowers, an old ship, a beach, many fountains and statues. There was also a white rock used for sea level measurements and real swans swimming on the lake. My favourite part was the Jet d Eau and the rainbow that ran through it when the light hit it at the right angle.

We saw the United Nations Buildings, the Reformation Wall, Place Neuve (Grand Theatre) and Saint Peters Cathedral. We explored Parc des Bastions, Vielle (the old city) and Carouge.

A highlight was an authentic local lunch that we had at cute little Place du Bourge de Four. It really felt like this was where the people of the city hung out. I also enjoyed the area of Grottes with its Gaudi like buildings and lizard statue.

My HTB despaired that he couldn’t change a traveller’s cheque in a city of banks (and never travelled with them again), so I leant him the cash to buy an authentic Swiss army knife. On our last night, our hosts got a babysitter and took us to a fancy expensive restaurant.

Our brief foray into France was up Mt Saleve in a cable car for a view of Geneva and the snow-capped Mount Blanc.

On a day trip we went to the quaint little town of Gruyeres. I had never heard of the cheese before, although I had eaten fondue. This time we had the yummier racolette with potatoes and explored the castle from the baliff’s room to the fantastic art room. From one window we could see the mountains and the castle’s beautifully landscaped gardens; and from another you could see the town of Gruyere and hear cows with their bells ringing as they grazed.

Related posts: Europe, 2006, England, 2006

It’s a French thing

This month is the French Film Festival in Sydney.

I endeavor to attend at least one film at this festival each year. I like the way that French films weave a story beneath a story between many characters that are connected in surprising ways; and the fact that they don’t sugar coat an ending.

I am a fan of the beautiful Audrey Tautou, particularly in the comedy Priceless and The Spanish Apartment and the talented Alice Taglioni as seen in Cash and Paris- Manhattan. I also like the setting in France of places I may or may not have been.

This year I am looking forward to watching Barbeque, The Last Diamond and Sex, Love and Therapy.

Paris is also one of my favourite cities in the world and I have been known to become obsessed with all things French.

I went to a French restaurant last month, own a cliché miniature Eiffel Tower (hey- it was the only souvenir I could afford and fit in my back pack, and I love it- ok?) and dream- perhaps naively- of living in a French Château for a month or more.

I drink my tea out of my French mug set, enjoy a long French style lunch with French wine and one of my best friends is French (of course, that’s not the only reason we are friends Frenchie!).

I like the sound of the French language, polite French people (yes you can find some of these in Paris despite popular opinion) and am currently toting a Paris handbag purchased in the city itself.

I watch French cooking shows, enjoy French supermarkets and would love to go to the Cannes Film Festival one May.

I have the entire OPI French collection- La Collection De France, enjoy eating crème brulee and my current blog profile picture is of me in Paris.

I have Eiffel Tower earrings, like reading books set in France and have a box of a lady at the Paris opera house which was the inspiration for my wedding dress.

If I knew anything about home decorating, I’m sure my place would be fitted out and filled with all things French country.

I have seen the view from the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Champs Elysee and lunched in Place des Voges.

I have seen the magnificent gardens of Versailles, walked along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and tasted wine in Bordeaux.

But still I hunger for more.

I want to see the canals of Colmar or Annecy, stroll around a castle at Mont Saint- Michel or in the Loire Valley and sip Champagne in Champagne.

I want to see the French quarter in New Orleans, walk around Montreal in French Canada and drink from coconuts in Bora Bora in French Polynesia.

Who’s with me?

Related posts: Europe, 2003, France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, O-P-I don’t mind if I do, TV replays and Movie Marathons