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Our Round the World Home Exchange travel adventure – Los Angeles (Stop 1)

Los Angeles


Week 1

Life at home was all good. We were hanging out with friends, going out for dinner, avoiding drowning in the near apocalyptic rainstorms.

Then suddenly, we’re embarking on several month trip round the world in home exchanges, where we will not only be wearing the same clothes for the best part of a year as we circumnavigate the globe, but also sleeping in strangers beds, exploring the mystery jars residing in their fridges, being flummoxed by their kitchen set up and trying not to seem too weird to their neighbours.

Culture shock

First stop was LA where we were hosted by a lovely family of home exchangers from the South Bay area. Every time we’ve been to LA before has been on the way back from somewhere exotic, so we’ve tended to be grateful for the small luxuries like toilet paper. This time the contrast to home seemed huge. Why so bright? Why does the high street have 6 lanes of traffic? How are people able to talk and smile at the same time, irrespective of what they are saying?

Getting past security

We’re smart enough to know that when you are asked what’s your main reason for arriving in the country not to say ‘to join 1000 other like minded people at the World Domination Summit’. But what do we say when asked what we do for a living? The answer varies based on how tired we are, how much we want to convince someone we do have a job and how disinterested the asker seems to be. We’d hit all three with this guy. A simple ‘when do you fly home’ enquiry had us producing our 4 page itinerary. I couldn’t work out if he was impressed or considered us a security risk.

Meeting up with the Home Exchange team at an iconic Hermosa Beach bar


An evening of magic

We spent just under a week in LA, much of it on freeways. We’ve had some novel experiences, not least travelling via stretch limo (with interior neon lighting) to an evening at the ‘Magic Castle’. A private members club, this place is a legendary to people who like magic. One of our party had decided to play a little fast and loose with the strict dress code, sporting a woollen jacket with collar. In the dimmed entrance hall the hostess was quick to point out, in a manner which managed to capture haughtiness and condescension, that this garment wasn’t a jacket, it was in fact a cardigan. A spare blazer quickly materialised from the cloakroom; perhaps it was the first trick.

A couple of the acts were clever and funny, conjuring some pretty impressive tricks and plenty of laughs. For the main act-picture an eye-liner and skin-tight trousers wearing performer with a disturbing stare. numerous silk scarves and bemused doves disappeared into clouds of dry ice- I can only imagine these items are relatively easy to hide. Not sure where the poodle came from though. This David Copperfield looky-likey was very good, but there was no hint that he was being remotely tongue in cheek. Unless you are good enough to magic yourself back to the 1980s, for that sort of show to really work I suspect there needs to be.

Pancakes, pinot and over-stuffed ducks

We’ve met friends in ‘The Hills’ territory in Laguna Beach, drank wine in the sun in Santa Monica and dined in the ‘Cheesecake Factory’ (I know there are better restaurants but who can resist that name?) This week was notable in California as the consumption of foie gras was banned. This gave rise to a considerable amount of ridicule for those of you familiar with my ‘Iceland incident’. I haven’t eaten meat since 1996. Apart from that one occasion. In my defence, when you email a restaurant and ask if their taster menu can accommodate a non-meat eater you don’t necessarily expect tortured duck to turn up in your pate jar. If only I hadn’t been so impressed I actually asked for the recipe. Oh dear.

Mountain Lion Warning

Had we known what was ahead we might not have taken these ‘joke’ shots


A near-lion experience

It doesn’t take long for any city to start to feel a little oppressive to us so we headed out to a regional park one warm afternoon for a dusty hike. We were experimenting with our video camera (not like that!) so were surprised every time we looked up to see a rabbit or deer observing us from the bushes; and of course the mountain lion footprint on the path in front of us. According to the helpful car park notice the last sighting had been 5 days before. Back at our host family home in Redondo Beach Chris did a little googling and sure enough found evidence that it was in fact lion, and not, as our other working theory considered a deer with a gammy foot.

Famous connections

In LA, as you might expect, a lot of people you talk to are somehow involved in music, or videos or films. A friend of our host family appeared at breakfast one morning and casually mentioned that he’d been to Bournemouth when he was supporting The Monkeys on tour. Pretty cool. Next time he showed up it turned out he’s been visiting a family member who is married to the only author Chris has ever read all of the books of. Of course Chris’s reaction to this revelation was similar to that of any super-fan; ‘excuse me, I have to go to the toilet’. Damn our British reserve.

smoked ribs

The best smoked ribs, yum!


Celebrating independence just how the British would- with food and beer

We celebrated our first ever US Independence Day only to discover that the American Pie movies are not at all exaggerated. Blimey. I felt like a fully paid up member of the ‘Victorian society for how ladies should behave in public’. It was time to join the grown ups….with some trepidation we walked into the house of people we’d never met, through the garden of other people we’d never met, on the invitation of someone we didn’t really know very well, to attend a 4th July BBQ. We had a lovely time. We were made to feel so at home, and from Chris’ perspective the smoked BBQ ribs were a definite plus. Americans do welcoming and small talk very well although navigating our way round differences in language even when the words are largely the same is one of the things that keeps us on our toes.

Check out our Pinterest board for more pictures and links from our time in LA – http://pinterest.com/loveplaywork/round-the-world-in-home-exchanges-los-angeles

Next stop….

Portland, Oregon. A largely unsolicited win from LA has been in the delivery of two fancy new bags courtesy of Ogio. This isn’t an obligational plug- these bags are fantastic. After having cheap, crappy cases for years these things are a revelation of pockets, compartments and convenient handles. Plus nothing looks cooler than us in our matching World Domination t-shirts and matching luggage.


Have you been on a trip where you have tried to cram in too much?


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3 Responses to “Our Round the World Home Exchange travel adventure – Los Angeles (Stop 1)”

  1. Hi, I came to Redondo Beach to house and cat sit for my son and his family while they were in Europe. I got here on the 1st and will be leaving today. I absolutely love this area of CA and LA in particular. It would have been ‘cool’ to have met you while here as well! I spent the 4th as you did, with neighbors I didn’t know, but who invited me because they know my son. The husband grilled fish. That’s the first time in my 60+ years that I have had fish for the 4th. It was delicious.

    I’ve been to Portland. I’m sure you will enjoy it as well.

    • Chis
    • Reply
    • That’s real shame we did not get to meet you, if only there was a site where you could easily connect people with similar interests in a certain area. As I read your 4th of July grilled fish, it has inspired us to have fish tonight on the BBQ! Thanks for the comment!

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply
  2. My ‘big trips’ were usually with two kids in tow. We paced ourselves, like the old wagon trains, only as fast (as much) as the slowest (youngest) could do. I still travel and keep an eye on energy level (now it’s mine, going down as the age goes up!) and one travel mantra is “I’ll do that next time.” Well, I’ve got so many “next times” that I really will need to live to 120 to fit them all in along with all the “yet to do, places to go” on my bucket list!

    Re bags: I now have two sets, those for flights (which are most compact) and those for car trips! It took me quite a few bags to get the flight ones that suit me. Also have a travel friendly wardrobe-easy to fold small, quick dry, light weight coordinated for layering. I haven’t often traveled to places where I need heavy warm things!

    I love reading and seeing what you are doing.
    Chis recently posted..Visual Aids


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