LA – notably Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks and Studio City

So here I am in Santa Monica, one of my favourite places in the USA.109 It is like one huge beautiful garden with houses plonked in it: the gardens across LA are, for the most part, maintained and beautified by hundreds of teams of Mexican men who have a very efficient way of working. 014 028 027

On the Thursday I arrived, and after I had discovered where my missing passports were (mine and Alfie’s) I took myself off to Peet’s coffee on Montana Avenue which is my favourite coffee place in LA.

I sat at Bob’s073 table outside and pretty soon we found ourselves deep in conversation. When he knew I was promoting my book he suggested I should take myself down to the main library and ask if I could do a talk. I duly did this, but I was told that although she is interested in my books, talks get booked up months in advance.

026 In fact, because I had so much to do before setting off on my grand adventure with Alfie, I didn’t have time to organise anything in advance for this trip. I have had to realise you cannot do it all – so this trip is about being with my lovely Alfie-dog, ensuring that he is healthy, well and exercised; making my way from one place to another and making contacts that may well lead to me flying back to the USA to follow-up potential work.

I have lost count of the number of times people have told me to ‘keep safe’. I do feel safe here and very lucky that I can do this trip.

Alfie and I enjoyed an evening walk along the beach and onto Santa Monica pier, before walking along to Pico and following it all the way to 18th Street.

On Friday morning I awoke with my alarm at 4 a.m. and drove with Alfie back down to Albertson’s supermarket to arrive when it opened at 5 a.m. Doing a small shop after collecting our documents, we arrived back at 6.15 a.m. and went straight back to bed: I was delighted that I had avoided the dreadful traffic coming into Santa Monica and that our passports were once again safe.042 040


Looking up ‘good places to walk dogs’, I took Alfie to a park in the Palisades and met a woman going to a CODA meeting and ended up joining in the meeting with several lovely women. When I realised that I have a co-dependent personality (putting myself out for people, to my detriment) I attended several CODA meetings in the UK, so it was both interesting and inspiring to randomly happen upon this meeting in the park…

Alfie is a different dog here in LA and very obviously so very happy to be playing on grass. The park, though officially an ‘on-leash’ park, was full of lovely people playing with their dogs off-leash. As usual, I talked to them about Alfie and the fact that he is a border collie – Welsh, in fact, a Powys collie with a half-ruff and tricolour.

David and Susan, friends from Santa Monica whom I met in France over 30 years ago, generously took me to a lovely Japanese restaurant in Brentwood. We had delicious Sushi and warm soya beans you squeeze out of the pod into your mouth – lovely!

There is a farmer’s market015 just near to Akiko’s and so Alfie and I went off to see. As far as I could see it wasn’t that inspiring and there was a lot of overpriced stuff, so we got in the car and took ourselves off to Peet’s for a nice coffee and carrot cake, followed by a walk in the Canyon and another visit to the gorgeous Self-realization Centre.

025 031 032 036 038The Sacred Fire group had a fire at Alan Kerner’s house which is perched on a hill and has lovely views over Santa Monica. There, I met women I had met in New York and Mexico – really enjoyable. The pot-luck supper was delicious – Alfie particularly enjoyed the chicken.

Overnight, we had an hour change so the meeting at Starbucks in Beverly Hills took a while to get off the ground which, actually, worked in my favour because I met an English couple and their 3 dogs: 2 poodles and a red setter.

When they realised I was English they spontaneously invited me  insisted actually – to stay in the little cottage at the back of their house in Sherman Oaks – an offer I was happy to take up, moving in on Wednesday.

After a girlie coffee-fest, we made our way to Donna’s daughter’s fashionable and interesting house in Beverly Hills. Apparently, Al Pacino’s girlfriend lives in the street (bland house, grey garage).

The parrot is Donna’s – she has had him for 16 years and he is a right character!!


046 050 059 064 048 051 055 058 061 072 067 065The next day, Alfie and I visited the Getty Villa in Malibu and enjoyed walking around the gardens and a coffee on the terrace (well, I enjoyed the coffee – Alfie enjoyed lying down in the shade as, yet again, the sun was shining and it felt like a hot English summer’s day.


In Akiko’s Air BnB house there is a woman with the strangest dog who shuffles around like an old man – she lost her driving licence and had to fly back to New York in order to renew it, leaving me and Akiko to look after this poor anti-social dog. She left at 4 a.m. and the dog howled and barked non-stop until 8 a.m. and then again the following night. It was a relief when his mistress came back, for all concerned!!

‘Episodes’ is a brilliant comedy series with Matt LeBlanc, Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan. 088 043 044It is set in LA and points out the idiosyncracies of LA living and the falseness of some of the inhabitants. In several episodes, Tamsin and a lovely American actress, Kathleen Rose Perkins, go for power walks in one of the canyons around Santa Monica. It is one I recognised from previous trips to LA.

So Alfie and I duly set off (in some trepidation because rattle snakes have been seen) to climb to the top of the hill. It was warm, and a challenge, but felt good when we got to the top and could see the view both sides. There had been a few, rare, drops of rain in the morning and the air felt fresh.

Arriving back at Akiko’s I met up with Christine, a neighbour I had met in her garden, to go for a walk around the local streets with our dogs. The jasmine is very pungent at the moment – I love it!

I met Bob to go to ‘Rosti’ – a really nice restaurant on Montana in Santa Monica. We enjoyed great food and very nice conversation – in fact it was 11 p.m. when we finally left our outside table.077

The following day, after a coffee with Bob at Peet’s I went to Beverly Hills to have lunch with Debra

– a woman in her 70s who looks younger and has had a lot of work done, which is par for the course here! She and I met on the Queen Mary 2. We both enjoyed a lovely fresh young kale salad with salmon.

I gave my book to her as LA is indeed a place where there are lots of disappointed and broken hearts. Debra runs a dating agency where rich men pay to meet attractive women.

028 036 030In the evening – another sunny evening with no clouds – I climbed the hills of Malibu in my car to meet a friend of a friend who is staying in someone’s house while they are away. The views, and the house, were amazing… Alfie enjoyed walking around, though I was afraid he would fall off the precipice as the houses at the top of the hill are built on slopes that veer precipitously towards the sea.

034When the sun went down the frogs came out. There are 2 ponds in the front garden of the house and initially I thought the sounds were of birds – they were incredibly noisy!

Wednesday I got up early to finish my packing as I moved over to 084 083 081 085 086 087 091Sherman Oaks in the house belonging to the English couple I met in Beverly Hills. First, I went to Peet’s for my morning coffee with Bob who was horrified at Donald Trump’s rant that ‘bad things will happen’ if he doesn’t get the GOP presidential nomination.

Protests have shaken up his campaign rallies throughout the country and the Republicans continue to panic about him getting the nomination.  After Peet’s, Alfie and I went back to the Self-Realization Centre for another walk around their gardens.

The drive to Sherman Oaks from the Palisades was awful – typical slow LA traffic, so I took twice as long as I expected. When I arrived, I went for a great walk with the English woman and her 3 dogs followed by a Cesar salad in a dog-friendly restaurant. As we walked back home, the smells of the gardens were delightful.

Alfie is sleeping – on his little bed we are carrying around – on a raised bed and seems very comfortable. We awoke to another very sunny day so my hostess and I walked around the neighbourhood with our dogs and just as she was saying ‘That is where David Caruso lives’ the garage started to retract, and there he was, standing there! Conversations about our dogs ensued and then we walked on – an LA moment. 042

Alfie and I walked to the ‘Goodwill’ thrift store (our equivalent of a ‘charity shop’) and I found some bargains as well as a lovely lady called Cindi who came for a coffee with me. It turned out – such a coincidence – that she had written the 299th episode of my favourite show: NCIS! We chatted about the cast and she confirmed how nice they are.

The next day Alfie and I had another walk with the English woman in whose little house-in-the-garden I am staying (there is a reason why I am giving no names here – see next blog) and the other 3 dogs – with whom, for the most part, he is getting on with, although because he is a very Alpha male herder he does tend to bark at them if he feels they are getting out of line.

092I found Peet’s cafe in Sherman Oaks and enjoyed their house coffee (which they change every day) as well as the moist carrot cake. As I was sitting there I met a woman who really needs to read my book – as she discovered when she told me her tale of woe and her worries about her son.

Later on, I met another young American woman to whom I had offered a free psychological coaching session. When I meet these people, I realise that I could do great work in LA – I just need to ‘break in’ to this society, which is not an easy thing to do.001

Saturday morning I was told about a great cafe called ‘Aroma’ situated in Studio City – which is down the road from Sherman Oaks. Alfie and I have enjoyed several coffees there, and have met some lovely people – like the couple of young people who work in the entertainment field whose picture I took, and Joe who is 81 and has already invited me to his Christmas party, Barry – an attractive fine artist, and Shaena who is a food and travel writer and a thoroughly nice woman.002

There are some really lovely walks around here – up and down the Canyons – and it was there that I met a young British photographer, Dawn, who is doing well in LA .

I ended up visiting her in her quirky lovely house within a Canyon and enjoying salmon with a very tasty miso paste, sweet potatoes and red carrots, before meeting her lodger – a very talented Irish journalist here to cover the American elections, and give her a healing reflexology treatment.

004 008 009 013 012 011 010There comes a moment in every long trip where the balance goes from ‘Goodness, I have so much time left, what was I thinking?, how am I going to keep going?’ to ‘Goodness, I have passed the half-way mark and there is so much I want to do….’ That point arrived today. Sitting down with the book in which I write names, phone numbers, good ideas and tips etc (Essential to carry an A5 pad on your person for the whole of your trip to keep all useful info together)

I drew out a calendar until I hand the car back in New York and realised that this Thursday it will be 6 weeks until I have to do that, meaning I will have completed 8 weeks of my 14 week romp around the USA – I don’t actually get the Queen Mary 2 back from New York to Southampton until 17 May. I have had so many tips of what to see and do on the West Coast on my journey to Portland, Oregon, that I have no idea how long it will take – time to organise!!094

What I love the most about being in LA – and no doubt the rest of California, is the whiff of citrus trees that hits your nostrils at delightful intervals. The scent is divine and the trees both fruit and have flowers at the same time.

I am loving the lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit trees that I keep encountering, as well as all of the other vegetation and the beautiful flowers. The roses here are healthy and strong. The neighbourhoods I have visited have very individual houses, trees and plants so you can spend hours walking around delighting in the gardens.

My time at Sherman Oaks is drawing to a close: time to vacate the cottage so my English host can have his man-cave back (though why he hadn’t worked out that insisting I stayed there meant he wouldn’t have access to his huge television I do not know…)  – I shall be camping near Ojai next. But before that I shall be attending a networking breakfast with lots of LA Brits. That is going to be interesting….


And the final image is of a garden that looked very English country garden!!093