This is L.A.

The perfectly sculpted physiques. The busy, always-on-the-phone people who power walk their way down the boardwalk. The polite smilers who have enough friends, thank you very much...

... are all conspicuously absent. This is L.A.? Are you sure?

We moved down to sunny southern California at the start of November and we are staying in a really quaint little beachy suburb called Hermosa Beach. For anyone who's been to Sydney I'd liken it to a small Manly. There's a lovely boardwalk along the wide, volleyball-crazy beach; a pedestrianised avenue teeming with bars and restaurants that bisects it and leads up to a small shopping district; a bunch of pretty houses; and a curious stretch of bark-covered path a few blocks inland that delights runners and dog-walkers alike (local legend is that it was to be a railway but the tyre companies bought the land to prevent this from happening). So on our first day we took a stroll along the boardwalk and pier and down the avenue (all of us), walked along a little ledge (okay, all of us again), and took in the views in our new sunnies (little Miss):









Hermosa Beach is officially home to a mere 20,000 people, and while there are definite signs that it can cater for its fair share of tourists in peak season, it seems more of a place that downtowners use as a holiday retreat (I've only spotted two hotels so far). Indeed, we only knew about it because a Californian friend who currently lives in the neighbouring suburb recommended it to us. And these people (okay, so I've not chatted to all 20,000 of them just yet -  though it's not completely outwith my capabilities to do so as you, my friends, well know) are really rather nice. And nicely, rather real. Our new neighbours say hello when we walk past. The girl in the nail place wanted to talk to me about San Francisco. The joggers have real body shapes. The cyclists wave at neighbours as they go by. This is a family town. A community town. I saw a dad and daughter out for a jog the other day, and they practically high-fived a cyclist going the opposite way. I've chatted in parks to a neo-natal nurse, a behavioural therapist, some stay-at-home mums and the Saturday-park-day dads who aren't overjoyed at having to commute for an hour each way to work but who say it's worth it for their families to live here. And they all find the tale of our trip super interesting, and are more than happy to engage with me in conversation, even knowing that I'm a fly-through acquaintance whom they'll most likely never see again. And the conversations are the same - the mums here aren't asking about how to get their kids in with a talent agent or auditioning for commercials; they want to know what to feed the little darlings who refuse to eat anything but toast for days on end, or when to transition toddlers from a cot to a bed, or where the best place is to take their tantrum-prone bundles of joy to see Santa. But even beyond parents: the shopkeepers and restaurant staff aren't wannabe actors furiously practising lines or checking their phones when customers aren't looking; they're just regular people who are nice to November tourists and enjoy the pace of life this suburb seems to bring. This suburb of L.A. Yes, really.

Anyway, back to some photos. On day two we took a walk up to the neighbouring suburb, Manhattan Beach (up the practically continuous boardwalk, so you hardly feel like you've crossed a border). Manhattan Beach seems a little bigger and a bit more upmarket than Hermosa Beach but is otherwise very similar. This shot is taken from the boardwalk looking back towards Manhattan Pier.


After retracing our steps a little and enjoying a tasty lunch at The Strand House restaurant at the base of the pier we took a casual wander back to Hermosa Beach via a park.



By the time we got back to Hermosa Beach the sun was just about to take its leave, so we stopped awhile and caught our first southern California sunset. PS Yes those are swings on the beach. Neat idea, eh?


And so I too shall take my leave at this point, dear reader. You'll have noticed that our first few days in L.A. were very low key - that's because behind the scenes things were not quite as serene! A friend recently told me I rarely mention the trials of travelling with young children - this is somewhat deliberate as I don't believe it makes for terribly interesting reading, but in the spirit of ensuring the internet does not just paint the glittery side of life, let me assure you these first few days were replete with a) lazy mornings having soothed a teething, nervous-about-her-new-surroundings little 1-year-old at least twice each night; b) busy shopping runs so we could swiftly install baby gates as our place here is on two levels; c) miniature sulks at cafes when Master H learned they didn't have apple juice (no amount of well-meaning waiters offering guava, peach, watermelon or just plain old orange would convince him to try something else) and d) frustration on my part when Mr H and I couldn't unpack all of our stuff (suitcases, food we'd driven down from SF etc.) in anything more than 5-minute chunks because our little lovelies were so uncertain of their new environs / about to fall down the stairs (pre-gates purchase) / tearfully bereft of apple juice that, in a panacea that fortunately worked for all of the above, they just (each) needed an I've-got-a-parent-all-to-myself cuddle. And so we all had to stop and reset. Och, bless their wee cotton socks.

Coming up: a few days later we were (finally!) all unpacked, stairs secured, down to being woken up just once a night (much more manageable) and so we ventured out beyond our beachy bubble...


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