Top Ten Reasons I Love LA ~ Memories of Life in Los Angeles

After returning to London from a quick trip to Los Angeles, I contemplated why I give L.A. such a hard time. As a former Los Angelena, I admit to considering California in general and L.A. in particular a sun-soaked drive-thru paradise, lacking a soul. I’ve even said LaLa land is style over substance over-flowing with pretty-but-vacant people. In fairness to me, it’s not totally untrue that swarms of self-absorbed, botox-loving, globally unaware people do flood the tree-lined, perfectly manicured streets. Yet there’s more to the city of Angels; I’ve met many of my dearest friends in Los Angeles, truly amazing individuals. Plus I lived there for eight years, how bad could it be?

Here are ten things I miss about LA-living:

1. Amazingly fresh, delicious and diverse food choices; I especially miss-crave LA’s authentic Mexican food.

2. The Mondrian, Firefly, Bar Marmont at the Chateau, and all the latest I’m-too-cool trendy places.

3. Freeways going everywhere, 12-lanes of stop-and-go on the 10, 405, 110, 5, 101, and 134 to name a few.

4. Driving north on the 405 FWY and just after Mulholland descending into “the Valley” of San Fernando in the evening when the lights of Sherman Oaks twinkle invitingly; I have no time for snobs who dismiss Valley-life.

5. Super-supermarkets like Gelson’s, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods teeming with lush and organic choices.

6. The variety of niche areas like downtown (DTLA), Hollywood, Bel Air, Silverlake, and beach cities from Malibu and Santa Monica to Marina del Rey and Huntington.

7. Road trips to San Diego, Orange County (the OC), Palm Springs, Big Bear, Vegas-baby, Mammoth, and Tijuana (TJ).

8. Walk? Not a chance. Valet parking EVERYWHERE.

9. The grand Boulevards: Sunset, Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Melrose.

10. Yes, sunny again; oh how I miss the sun.

Time to say it, sing it with me, “I love…LA!”

another sunny day...I love LA!

another sunny day…I love LA!

Sweet Arizona ~ 12 reasons to visit AZ

A few weeks ago, while visiting friends in Arizona, I was reminded of the beauty and variety of attractions that lure travelers to the American southwest.

Personally, I jump transatlantically from LHR to one of the international ports of EWR-PHL-JFK every few months, so it seldom occurs to me to write about, well, America. For one thing, traveling to the U.S. isn’t exciting or exotic, it’s home.

For another, I am not inspired by “NYLA,” the top two destinations for foreign tourists visiting the USA, otherwise known as New York and Los Angeles. Here’s why. I’m a former Los Angeleno. Although I consider California in general and L.A. in particular a sun-soaked, drive-thru paradise, the town lacks soul. Style over substance, LaLa land is brimming with pretty-but-vacant people.

As for the east coast rival, New York City does have unique, adrenaline fueled attitude but to borrow a British phrase, NYC is exceedingly “up its own arse.” New Yorkers, who refer to their locale simply as “the City,” insist the five borough conglomerate is the best metropolis on the planet, designating anyone and anything originating in or associated with NYC, ipso facto, awesome. New York is one of many amazing world-cities, but I say, if you don’t have a passport or indeed have never left “the City,” you don’t get a vote in the global best-city-contest.

Essentially, if you visit America from one of the 196-or-so other countries in the world, forget NY and LA. Whilst you deliberate on the remaining 48-state options, here are 12 reasons to consider a holiday in Arizona.

  1. The Grand Canyon. An awe-inspiring wonder of the natural world, 30 million tourist sail through the Grand Canyon National Park each year.
  2. A photographer’s paradise. Gawk at the Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Sunset Crater, Red Rock formations, Hoover Dam or dramatic canyons and rapids of the Colorado River.
  3. Large cities. If you crave urban life, shopping or fine dining, then stop in Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa, Scottsdale or Tempe.
  4. Smaller towns. Whether your inclination is Native American culture, exploring remnants of the old wild west or a new-age adventure chasing energy Vortexes, choose to stay in Sedona, Flagstaff, Tombstone, Prescott or Yuma.
  5. Lake Havasu. “Arizona’s Playground” is also home to England’s famous London Bridge which was shipped stone-by-stone and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City.
  6. Water-sports in the desert. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are the two largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S.
  7. Winter-sports. Play like a snowbird and ski the Arizona Snowbowl.
  8. Spectator sports. Avid fans and amateur enthusiasts can cheer for the home team because Arizona’s resident professionals include baseball (Diamondbacks), basketball (Suns and WNBA Mercury), hockey (Coyotes) and football teams (Cardinals).
  9. The great outdoors. Nature aficionados can appreciate fishing, hiking, biking and boating, an abundance of National Parks and recreational areas and hundreds of luxury golf courses.
  10. Historic Route 66. Drive baby, drive; part of the original iconic road runs from Seligman to Kingman, Arizona. 
  11. Four Corners Monument. In Navajo country, stand in four states at once at the quadripoint of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
  12. Day-trip south of the border. Bring your passport and say “hola” to Mexico, just seven miles from Yuma.

“Arizona has more parks and national monuments than any other state, more mountains than Switzerland, and more golf courses than Scotland.” Conveniently, British Airways offers direct flights from Heathrow to Phoenix Sky Harbor.