9th July – Santa Monica/Venice/Culver City, Los Angeles, California, USA

Coffee at coffee bean with Joe and Cholo has become a morning ritual. The trainee at the service counter is nervous and has trouble understanding my accent accidentally adding super sweet vanilla syrup to my latte, my teeth are on edge. I munch a toasted bagel with whipped cream cheese. Dad jumps in an Uber to Roger Dunn’s and mum and I walk down to 3rd street promenade for a wander. We pop in and out of the shops including Bloomingdales and the Barney’s department store. We walk to Main to meet Simon and Dad for a slice of pizza in the restaurant next to the Doves salon. A couple of Pinot Noirs later and mum and I are in an Uber heading to Venice Beach to take in the sights of muscle beach, the skate park and the bustling beachside market. It’s fun showing mum all the places that I’ve been hanging out on my two and a half months here. We stroll along Venice beach until Simon calls to say he’s finished work.

He collects us and we go cake shopping at the Vanilla Bake shop, famous for their beautifully decorated celebration cakes and cupcakes. We purchase a big chocolate and vanilla cake, it’s tall and iced in white frosting decorated on top with crisscrossed milk chocolate piped icing. I run next door to whole foods to buy a selection of fresh berries to accompany.

A quick shower and change and we’re off for a BBQ at Danny and Aubrey’s. Their home is lovely, warm and inviting. Cagney and Lacey, the affectionate chihuahuas, welcome us and lap up the strokes, hugs and belly tickles lavished upon them by each of us in turn. We join the party with Sonia Dove, her husband and his mum. The wine flows, the laughter increases in volume and the food is cooked. Danny has lovingly prepared homemade chicken and Gorgonzola burgers that are divine. An evening of stories, banter and fun ensues and we leave having had a wonderful night.

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