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City Spotlight: Los Angeles

21 Mar

Honestly, I don’t know why this wasn’t the first city I tackled.  I mean, I lived here for FOUR YEARS.

The thing about LA, though, is that it’s huge and sprawling.

 LA From Griffith Park

LA From Griffith Park

The sheer size and variety make it a really difficult place to talk about in a single blog post because there is so much of it. And each part has so many wonderful things to talk about.  So, I confine myself to West LA (which is Beverley Hills, Westwood, Brentwood, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Culver City, Century City… this list goes on).

As a woman who has always loved things like clothes and shoes and handbags, West LA has amazing, amazing things. The shopping is incredible.  Of course, as a woman who lived here as a university student, I did a lot of window shopping and drooling over things at the Century City Mall, where I was lucky enough to work for a year or so. But there’s also the Beverley Center, 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, the rest of Santa Monica and Venice Beach,  the Grove(which has an American Girl store that I still get excited about as a childless twenty-something) and LA Farmers Market, and, obviously if you have the big bucks, Rodeo Drive.

Bev Hills

Eating is also a huge thing in LA.  There’s dineLA, which offers set menus for reduced prices at lovely restaurants all over the city and is the only way to eat well as a poverty stricken undergrad.  People are OBSESSED with food porn, though. I can’t remember the last time I ate in LA without witnessing someone either in my group or at a nearby table taking pictures of their food.  Things that stand out about food in LA for me: Mexican food (otherwise known as “food” in California), sushi, cupcakes, and the all important brunch.  If you’re visiting LA and don’t go to Sprinkles for a cupcake, by the way, you’ve made a huge life mistake.


I know you’re all thinking at this point, THE BEACH, LEIGH, THE BEACH. Okay, okay, I’ll give it to you. The beaches are incredible.  Go to literally any of them and realize that it’s not only beautiful, but a film or tv show you’ve seen has also been shot there.  Santa Monica is my personal favorite. I mean, look at it.

Santa Monica with your favorite bloggers

Santa Monica with your favorite bloggers

The city is full of everything you could ever want to see.  If you like drinking, there are SO MANY GOOD BARS.  There are play houses and huge, old movie theaters and ballet companies and sunshine and museums…

If only the traffic were always like this

If only the traffic were always like this

Have you been to LA?  Dreaming of going?  What do you love (or think you’ll love) about the city?


City [Island] Spotlight: Orkney Islands

10 Nov

I was lucky enough to spend some time recently in the lovely Orkney Islands about a week ago.  If you have any interest in the outdoors, it is definitely a place you should visit.  Orkney is a place where the sea and sky are so big (and so far north) you can just make out the curvature of the Earth in a way I’ve never seen before.

A pleasant walk along the sea cliffs at Marwick Head.

A lovely walk along the sea cliffs at Marwick Head and the Kitchener Memorial

Orkney has some of the oldest permanent human settlements in the world. (They’re from the Neolithic era- some 5,000 years old!)

Skara Brae- the best preserved Neolithic settlement in Western Europe

Skara Brae- the best preserved Neolithic settlement in Western Europe

The stones above are actually the walls of houses.  Pretty impressive for the Stone Age! Orkney also has an impressive array of standing stones (like the famous Stone Henge in Wiltshire, England), some of which pop out of farm fields and literally have fences around them to keep the sheep from leaning up against them.  In addition, there are  Neolithic tombs; one of which looks like a random grass hill (also in the middle of a field)-Maeshowe- and the other of which requires entry on your belly on a skateboard-like apparatus because the entrance is so low-Tomb of the Eagles.

Unnecessary sign near Tomb of the Eagles

Sign at cliff edge near Tomb of the Eagles

There is far more to do on this small set of islands than can be done in 4 days, but I highly recommend making the long trek north; it’s well worth it.

A reminder for those of you who are not familiar with Scottish weather- bring a waterproof jacket with a hood!! Orkney is SUPER windy and when it’s raining, an umbrella is no match for the high speed gusts.  We were told that you can always spot a tourist because they are the only people crazy enough to be carrying an umbrella.

Judgmental Cow

Judgmental Cow

This highly amusing, judgmental-looking cow we ran into near Marwick Head completes this Island Spotlight (because what would a City Spotlight section without a funny animal).

Have you ever been to Orkney? What was your experience?

City Spotlight: San Diego, California

12 Oct

From I’m clearly not this talented

While I was home, I got to explore the city of San Diego with Matthew. When I got back to the UK, the experience of going somewhere unfamiliar and wishing I knew it a little better inspired me to do a [hopefully] monthly series of posts focusing on cities I’ve visited and loved.  I hope I shine a light on a new place you one day get to visit!

Although I grew up in California, I hadn’t been to San Diego since I was 5, so it felt like a whole new place to [nearly] grown up Leigh.  It’s a lovely city with a very laid back vibe, which was unexpected based on the stress of my drive and experiences living in LA!  San Diego has a large military presence, which gave me the most patriotic feeling I had had in a very long time.  I highly recommend the Embarcadero, where the USS Midway is docked as a floating maritime museum, complete with aircraft from various US conflicts.  The Embarcadero has oceanside views (see the following photo) and an assortment of characters from active duty military, to British tourists (ahem), to locals walking their dogs.  Nearby is Seaport Village, a cute assortment of shops and small restaurants also on the water.



The Gaslamp Quarter, near the San Diego Convention Center, simply comes alive at night.  The area is filled with small shops and wonderful restaurants and bars that attract people of all ages.

Nearby is the lovely Balboa Park.  If you have kids (or not!), these are wonderful places to be.  Balboa Park has museums and performing arts, not to mention the famous San Diego Zoo.  While Matthew and I didn’t get to spend much time in the park itself, we did get to go to the zoo!  Although it was wicked hot, the highlight of being in San Diego for me was getting to watch the baby panda nurse in the middle of the day, a rare occurrence- pandas usually only allow their cubs to eat at night.  I didn’t get any blog-worthy photos of it, so instead I leave you with pleased and displeased alpacas, creatures I will forever find highly amusing.    

Sarcastic Alpaca at SD Zoo

Sarcastic Alpaca at SD Zoo

Get yourself to San Diego- a Californian gem. (Maybe just wait until the government reopens…)