This week’s ‘Meet a Member’ is Christina Withers, who lives currently, not so glamorously, out of a bag, looking after friends’ homes and crashing on the odd sofa, mainly in West LA. She’s trying out the idea of being a full time Angelino and experiencing all LA has to offer.
You don’t permanently live in Los Angeles – So how did you end up joining Brits in LA?
I was introduced through a friend of a friend who was trying to provide me with networking opportunities for volunteering, travel ideas and places to stay so I could make the most of my planned six month visit.
So you are now visiting Los Angeles. What is your impression of LA now you have spent more time here?
I visited twice on business in the past fifteen years, once for a conference and the other accompanying a British actress I was working for. I’m a big sun, beach, ocean and great outdoors lover, and having travelled extensively, I felt drawn to California to see the spectacular natural landscape. I knew it was very dramatic in parts with fabulous flora and fauna. I never expected to spend so much time in LA and to love it so much; I assumed it was the gateway into California, but certainly not where I would want to spend most of my time. I think unless you are in the entertainment industry, LA is a best-kept secret and really has so much to offer in quality of life, things to do, opportunities, etc.
Do you think you could ever see yourself moving to LA permanently?
I would love to, but as with anything worth doing it is not that easy. I have very much enjoyed being here as a visitor, and who knows? An opportunity may come up for me down the track as I have met some very interesting, informative and helpful people, a lot of which has had to do with Brits in LA.
Do you have any hidden gems (special places in town) you want to share with us?
Apart from the wonderful beaches, my favorite place is Griffith Observatory, both day and night, inside and out. It is a most fascinating and interesting place as well as extremely beautiful, informative, with fabulous views and it’s free! Venice has found a special place in my heart as it has something for everybody. You can only appreciate this if you spend time there, as things are definitely not what they first appear. Driving on PCH is very beautiful and the view from Temescal Canyon to the ocean is breathtaking. It’s one of the many beautiful canyons around. Angelinos are very spoilt for great views, and in fact one of the best is from Grand View Blvd in Mar Vista. You are up so high that you see the ocean in one direction and the Hollywood sign and the hills in the other. Kayaking the LA river was pretty cool, and yes, LA does have a river (think Thunder Road in ‘Grease’ the movie, that is the LA river!). The amount of live music going on in LA is incredible, and but for the BIG popular events, I have found out that you can buy tickets on entry – unlike London where you have to plan weeks ahead. Cocktails in the garden at Chateau Marmont is fun for a spot of people watching, and Hollywood Forever Cinema at the Cemetery is entertaining for a summer’s eve. It seems cigarette smoking is frowned upon but other California smoking activity doesn’t seem to be a problem! My other tip is driving along Sunset Boulevard (not at peak time) – what a great street. Finally, for a touch of European culture, there’s lunch at Monsieur Marcel’s at the Farmers Market. It’s run by a new friend and never fails to please whilst enjoying this iconic historic LA location.
Why would you recommend other overseas readers joining Brits in LA?
Apart from the breakfasts at Cecconi’s and the pub quiz at the Pikey, I have found it an invaluable source of information, advice, contacts, opportunities and friends. It is also not just Brits too!!
We hear you have had an exciting few years. Care to tell us more about it?
Well, I’m in my third year of travelling (I’m having a mid-life crisis after hitting 40, but in a good way). I left my career with a high-end property developer in Mayfair, London after seven years, put my belongings in storage and rented out my apartment. I then headed off backpacking around Africa in a 22 tonne truck for seven months with 24 other people. This was followed by a few months in Naples, Italy, trying to learn the lingo (and had my own Eat, Pray, Love experience). I then returned to Blighty to replenish funds for a few months, and for some reason felt compelled and called to come to California. Apart from a six week break due to visa requirements when I visited parts of South and Central America (bringing my countries visited to 74) I have been based in LA ever since. I have travelled to some parts of this beautiful state already, but have a big list of places I still need to visit before my current visa expires in April. I also popped over to Nevada to the iconic Burning Man event. Wow! is all I can say, and it should be on everyone’s bucket list. I also was lucky enough to volunteer at an event in Britweek last year, and spent approximately five months helping at a homeless centre in Venice. This experience truly put life and the opportunities available to us into perspective. I will be heading back to London for the summer to again replenish funds. The rest of the year is up in the air a bit but I will definitely be returning to LA for pleasure, see friends and who knows? If I’m lucky I may even work. One thing for sure this great city and its people have made a lasting positive impression on me.
Lots of our members join our group Brits in LA seeking out words of wisdom. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
From a member who is now a friend: If you are looking to stay longer, get yourself a bank account and credit card. There is no harm in building up a credit history, which will help you no end if you are looking to rent an apartment or lease a car at some point in the future, as well as making life a lot easier to manage your finances. I found this very easy to do with only a minimal deposit.
Find Christina at Facebook.com/christinalwithers