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There was all too little time to complete all the things I needed to do to be ready to leave. I worked hard on my book to get it closer to publication and my lovely designer, Anne, came round for our final meeting to talk about the design. It’s all looking so good under her expert eye. I’m so excited to think that the printed books will be on their way when I get home.

My Techie Peter very kindly came round to sort out still more technical problems on my laptop so that I could carry on normally while I'm away.

And it was a great pleasure to welcome Heather Beggs to my home a few days before I left.

Heather is from Alaska, a Rotarian, chorister, French Horn player, tramper and that’s just in her spare time. She’d just resigned as the Director of the Museum in Homer, Alaska and was hoping to find work in Wellington. She WOOFed in Marlborough, toured bits of the south island, walked the Tongariro crossing, crossed Cook Strait with friends in a small yacht. She made the most of every moment. And we made friends and I’m very glad that she and my home can keep each other company.

And so, early in the morning on 8 May, Eric very kindly drove me to the airport and I was on my way to stay with an old schoolfriend until 11 May. What adventures awaited, I wondered …

My only experiences of Los Angeles had been fairly bad – not to put too fine a point on it.

In 1979, when we’d emigrated with four children under 7, we’d all enjoyed Disneyland down in Orange County, to be sure. But we’d found the airport officials surly and unhelpful. We didn’t enjoy the area around Anaheim where our hotel was located. We certainly hadn’t really seen much to make us feel like coming back.

But over the years I had, indeed, come back many times, mostly in transit. LAX had never endeared itself to me.

However, in June 2009 I’d reconnected with Julia Foulkes-Roberts (Swanson) when I’d attended the Sherborne School reunion that year.

I learned that Julia was now living and working in Los Angeles. To cut a long story short, she asked if I’d like to stopover. I admitted that I disliked LA with a passion. She said that in that case, I must definitely come so that she could show me a Los Angeles I could love. And here I was.

For me, this was Ground Hog Day. I’d left my home in New Zealand at 7.00 a.m., on Saturday and here I was, halfway across the world and it was 6.30 a.m., on the same Saturday morning in Los Angeles. With only a short nap on the plane, I was faced with ‘doing’ Saturday all over again!

Julia met me at 7.30 which was excellent timing as it took almost exactly that long to wait for my bags.

I have to say that the airport officials had undergone a transformation since I’d passed through previously. Every official I met smiled at me. Even the customs man smiled and chatted with me. It was delightful.

Julia has her own law firm – in Beverly Hills, CA - 90210 no less. She’s a plaintiff attorney and has developed a niche market, specializing in cases for clients suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning coupled with the deadly effects of poisoning from mould. More and more people are suffering in this way and she receives as many as 4-5 calls for her help every day.

Over the course of the long weekend, we had some fascinating discussions about her cases (no names of course). Julia has spent a lot of time over the past few years, attending medical/legal conferences and is now extremely knowledgeable about the effects on the body and brain of the conditions that her clients are experiencing. This has made her an expert in her field and it’s not surprising that she’s so sought after.

Julia had decided to start the morning by driving me along the coast and around a little of Hollywood. I was amazed at how different this part of Los Angeles was from the LA of my memories.

We started our tour at Marina del Rey beach where Julia had owned her first apartment. Now, this was more like it.

Here, behind Julia, you can see Santa Monica in the distance. The beach goes on forever and there were heaps of volleyball nets at frequent intervals. The other things that were in abundance, even at that early hour, were surfers.

From here, we drove up the coast, passing Venice Beach, to Santa Monica itself.

At this point we thought it would be a good idea for me to have a short rest, so we returned to Julia’s apartment for a coffee.

Julia’s apartment is in Hollywood although her office is in Beverly Hills where appearances, especially for lawyers, are apparently ‘everything’. It had been no surprise, therefore, that she’d met me at the airport in her enormous shiny white Mercedes. And so we reached her apartment at Hollywood Tower, no less, where her car was driven away to be parked by an attendant.

I thought I must be on a movie set. It was a far cry from when we’d known each other as sweaty little girls in gym slips.

Her apartment is lovely and the balcony just outside her apartment window overlooks the Hollywood Hills with the familiar sign (in the background).

She suggested that I might like to stretch out on the balcony and rest. The sun was blazing down from a cloudless sky and I didn’t need a second invitation after the long flight. So I enjoyed the rest and the sun, while Julia caught up with some work in her home office.

Soon it was time to sightsee and, as it was lunchtime, we grabbed a couple of delicious salads at Whole Foods, the organic natural foods supermarket chain.

From here we drove to Hollywood Forever, a magnificent cemetery right in the middle of the city (sort of City in the country or country in the City as Julia likes to say!) The cemetery is full now but famous names shine out from the tombstones and, overlooking a lovely lake, is the mausoleum of Douglas Fairbanks Jnr.

Adjacent to this building, Julia told me, there’s an outdoor movie shown every Saturday evening and Shakespeare plays take place on Sunday evenings every weekend. At least a thousand people come and sit on the grass to watch. The lake was alive with swans and geese – and even some goslings.

Some of the other sights were remarkable too. The hearse was a Rolls Royce but then, of course, what else could it possibly have been in this environment?

We talked so much that the afternoon disappeared on us and we drove gently back to the apartment passing many more landmarks like the Magic Castle where famous magicians perform, countless impressive buildings housing the Church of Scientology, and lovely wide avenues with beautiful floral displays.

Julia also drove me through the UCLA campus where she does a lot of research in the law library. The campus is absolutely enormous.

At this point, exercise was called for to we walked up into the Hollywood Hills, close to the Hollywood sign, and looked over the top into Burbank and The Valley. The climb was steep but the view was lovely.

We walked slowly down again in time for drinks on one of the two balconies at her apartment, an evening ritual. Here we were joined by Julia’s neighbour, Simon and his partner, Chris (who arrived too late for the photo) It was a wonderful way to end an enormously busy and enjoyable day. Julia had plans for dinner but at this point I declared myself defeated and retired to bed.

Sunday dawned sunny but cloudy and the wind made it a little colder. We found so much to talk about that we didn’t actually leave the apartment until noon. Julia drove us to Malibu where we tried unsuccessfully to visit the Ghetti Villa. She hadn’t realised that booking was essential. We’d picked up lovely salads again, so we sat on the beach at Malibu and watched the Pelicans diving for fish, and admired Adamson House, home of Rhoda Adamson, situated right on the beach.

Adamson House was built in 1930 for Rhoda Rindge Adamson and her husband, Merritt Huntley Adamson, the family who started the famous Malibu Tile Company. Construction began in 1929 and the Adamsons lived in it year-round from 1937.

Merritt Adamson was descended from pioneers who came west to Oregon. As a young man, he took charge of the family sheep ranch in Arizona after his father died. There he became a ‘blood brother’ of the Havasupai tribe and was nicknamed ‘Great Chief White Smoke’. He graduated from USC Law School, passed the bar and became Superintendent of the Malibu Ranch. He met and married Rhoda Rindge in 1915. He died in 1949, whereupon Rhoda took over the stock farm, the family investments, and the Adamson House. She died in 1962.

In 1968, the State purchased the property. In 1971 the President of Pepperdine University moved in as part of an effort to maintain the house until it could be restored and shown to the public as an historic unit. The house was finally opened as a museum in 1983.

It has beautiful gardens. Good humus was transported from nearby canyons when the house itself was nearing completion. Garden beds, 10 feet deep were graded and planted with many exotic and native plants. Rhoda Adamson planted several rose and victory gardens in her area, including her prize roses.

Leaving the beach, we drove up Malibu Canyon Road, and looked back down at the beach area from the canyon where we could see Adamson House, as well as downtown LA in the distance.

It was a circuitous drive into the Woodland Hills in the Canyon. Here we found the lovely home of Dena, another English attorney, who’d invited us to dinner, along with a couple of her friends, Cindy and Leisha.

But first, we went for a bushwalk in the hills above her house with her sons and also Sammy, her dog. This was very reminiscent of walks on the farm, back in Pauatahanui, New Zealand.

Back at Dena’s home, it was easy to relax in her peaceful surroundings and the conversations were spirited and noisy as we enjoyed a beautiful dinner.

Of course, we were late home and it was no surprise to me when I woke on Monday morning to find that Julia had already left for work. Left to my own devices, I caught up with emails and spent some more time enjoying the balcony before Julia returned and – off we went again. Julia took me for a tour of Beverly Hills. Of course, we drove down Sunset Strip among other very beautiful roads with avenues of trees and very exotic houses, finally arriving at Canon Drive where Julia’s office is beside the white building in the distance.

Upstairs, it was great to meet the rest of Julia’s team and to see her dealing with a few urgent matters at her desk.

This evening we had drinks on her office balcony instead of her apartment balcony and this was another enjoyable experience, relaxing as we took in the views. Views from the balcony stretch over Beverly Hills, and downtown LA is very visible, without any of the accompanying noise.

We chatted for so long over our drinks that it was dark by the time we strolled to dinner at a lovely restaurant close by.

This meant that, although the sights of the shopping area of Beverly Hills were captivating, my camera couldn’t catch some of the breathtaking shop fronts, nor the attractive architecture.

Home to bed, late again, and again Julia did a disappearing act early the next morning, having kindly promised to come back to pick me up and take me to the airport.

To my surprise, she rang to say that she’d decided that it was her firm and she could do what she liked, so she’d decided to pick me up a couple of hours early and take me on a tour of downtown LA, on to Long Beach and back to the airport.

This was a lovely extra treat. She’d already shown me so much and now there would be even more to experience.

We drove through downtown and passed the Disney Concert Hall which is managed by none other than Placido Domingo, one of my all-time favourite tenors.

Everywhere there were tall buildings, surprisingly attractive in most cases.

Then it was down the motorway to Long Beach where the Queen Mary is docked. We just managed a quick stroll on her decks – she’s enormous – before it was time to head for the airport. What timing! We arrived exactly at check-in time.

Julia had treated me to a feast of sights, sounds, and experiences and had made sure that every single moment of my four days with her had completely transformed my old memories of LA, and been replaced with very special memories of Julia’s Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, USA - 8-11 May 2010

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