California Dreamin’

Hello, Better Lifers! Well, I’ve been globe-trotting again. This time, it was out to southern California for a bit of a vacation. The 3,000 mile flight from Miami to Los Angeles is the longest flight to date for my Beau, and I’m pleased to announce it went well on both the outbound and the return. Each trip, we seem to stretch further, and I’m interested to see if he’s up for an overseas jaunt at some point. I keep telling him, “it’s just another movie!” in terms of additional flight time. :)

But I digress. We had a wonderful trip and enjoyed seeing new and different places. Our whirlwind itinerary included Los Angeles, Ventura, Ojai, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Long Beach, Venice Beach and Malibu. In addition to enjoying the expansion of our horizons, traveling always gives us renewed appreciation for the beautiful island we call home.

One odd little tidbit . . . I found myself noticing American flags flying proudly as we drove around California. Frequently, my kneejerk reaction was, “Oh look! An American flag!” After a second’s delay, I would realize my surprise was unwarranted since I was, in fact, back in America. I just hadn’t realized how accustomed to NOT being in the States I’ve become!

Our journey began by turning over Angel and the house to a friend’s good keeping. We hopped the charter flight from the island to a small airport in south Florida. From there, we took a car service to Miami. Lo and behold, for a variety of reasons which entertained me, the car service sent a stretch limo to pick up just me and my beau! It was a delightful way to start the trip – and the best way to travel in Miami rush hour!

Kicking back en route to MIA airport.

After a long travel day – and a three hour time change – we reached our California destination in the wee hours of the morn. After a quick sleep, we set off to explore.

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing the Pacific Ocean. It was the first time for my beau, and I’d only seen it briefly years ago.

Beau’s first view of the Pacific Ocean.

As with our ocean at home, and all of them across the world, the vast expanse of water was magnificent. However – and I’m so sorry to sound like a beach snob here – I couldn’t help noticing the striking differences between this beach and home.

At home yesterday – soft, white, clean sand.

Ventura – dark, coarse, dirty sand with litter.

Having traveled so far, I wanted to put my toes in the Pacific. It was c-c-c-cold!

At home yesterday – crystal clear water.

Ventura wading.

Non-Sequitor: Angel helping me take comparative photos yesterday.

Water and sand comparisons aside, it was fun to see a different type of beach. To me, used to flat scrubby islands, the hills and mountains right alongside the ocean was quite striking.

A hazy day but the mountains still loom in the distance.

Another difference I noticed was that this particular beach was full of smooth stones, but I didn’t see any seashells. In contrast, our Bahamian beaches are replete with shells and rough coral, but few ocean stones. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for the distinction, but we simply enjoyed picking up the stones!

Smooth ocean stones.

And no matter the water source or location, we enjoy being in its very presence.

Beau gazing at the Pacific, something we did for long stretches of time.

As most avid travelers find, we learn so much through identifying our differences but also the many similarities that unite us throughout the world. For instance, it seems that every geographic location battles natural disasters in one form or another. For us, of course, it is the annual threat of hurricanes every June through October. (Here we go again!) For California, it’s earthquakes and tsunamis!

Sign posted at the beach.

It was fun to travel to different areas of California and experience the unique vibe at each. We enjoyed the carnival-like atmosphere at Santa Monica’s pier.

Santa Monica Pier.

Although I’m certainly spoiled by my sunsets at home, it was a pretty afternoon in Santa Monica as the sun lowered itself onto the sea.

Santa Monica Beach.

For sunset in Santa Monica, we left the beach and joined friends at a rooftop bar at one of the “in” spots along the main strip. It was a pretty view and fun to do. However, I was reminded how much I like my own life and how thankful I am to know myself and be happy in my own skin. We were in a young, hip, trendy bar full of beautiful people in the coolest styles. In contrast, I was in my kick-around tourist clothes, with a sweater to ward off the chill. I felt so old, frumpy, unhip and unattractive!

Luckily, I knew enough to be aware that it was the environment having this effect on me, so I didn’t let it get to me. I was also glad to be paired with someone who still wanted to hold my hand in the midst of models and who was equally cold and ready to go somewhere where they actually served domestic beer! I remembered having those feelings of mild discomfort and like I didn’t fit in during my City years – even when I was younger and in more stylish clothes with money to burn. It wasn’t me then (though I was glad for the experience of that scene) and it isn’t me now!

Just because I’m a sap!

Nonetheless, when it came time to explore the ritzier areas of Beverly Hills the next day, I confess I did have fun putting on heels and dressing the part a bit more to wander the shops. But I kept my flip flops readily available in the car!

This beautiful area lives up to its reputation.

Even the police station is beautiful! (We kept thinking of Eddie Murphy and Beverly Hills Cop!)

Rodeo Drive, baby! Straight out of Pretty Woman, one of my favorite movies. This was a beautiful, fascinating area and lots of fun to see. I was there on a Sunday morning, so most shops were closed. Not able to afford most anything there anyway, I was glad not to be tempted. I know I recently posted about not being much of a shopper, but Rodeo Drive was impressive and made me feel like a girly girl who just wanted to shop!

Yes, those are sparkly stones in the street sign!

It was also fun to cruise the chaos of Hollywood, Walk of Fame and see the Hollywood sign perched hillside in the distance.

Just the street sign – the big white Hollywood sign was too distant, especially with haze (smog?!) and from a moving car!

Another day took us to Long Beach. We attempted to tour the Queen Mary but a tattoo festival had the place so packed that we couldn’t get in! Too bad, but the ship was impressive even at a distance.

For a sense of scale, that’s a Carnival cruise ship next to the Queen Mary.

After a morning in Long Beach, we headed to Venice Beach. Images of roller-skaters, bicyclists, body-builders and volleyball players danced in my head. After we eventually found parking in this super-crowded area, we strolled toward the beach and saw some of those visions along the beach and pathway.

Venice Beach.

We turned from the beach back toward the main drag of shops, intending to stop for a beer and take in the sights.

Walking toward the main drag.

However, the chaos and crazy that awaited us was a definite surprise! This stretch of pedestrian road was elbow-to-elbow full of people. There were more tattoos, piercings, braids, general uncleanliness and people sleeping all over the place than I’ve ever seen in one place! Lots of wild-eyed folks and rambling mutterers. Not to mention the “Green Doctors” and shops advertising medical marijuana “assessments” for $40. A whole world of crazy.

All along the strip, artisans displayed their wares for sale. Lots of incense, henna tattoos, drug-themed art and more. Quite a few of the sellers did not want to be memorialized on camera. Gee, I wonder why. Perhaps my favorite display to convey this sentiment was the artist who posted a painted wooden sign stating, “NO F**KEN PICTURES” (spelled out, of course). Along with this were other painted signs of swearing this or that.

We decided to forego the beer – or putting anything in our mouths from this vicinity – and headed back to the car. Along the way, we walked around a man pushing his baby in a stroller who was yelling at another man for backing up his car too close to the stroller. After walking away, the man apparently changed his mind and started to come back to the scene of the crime. All the while yelling about putting his baby in danger, the enraged father figure then pushed her back into the parking lot where he nearly came to blows. Good protection, Dad. We were outta there!

After taking a hot shower and recharging in our Beverly Hills hotel – teehee! – we were ready to go again the next day. We still enjoyed a few more chuckles and head shakes after seeing the PR spin that the hotel guide put on its description of Venice Beach. Beware! We were glad to have seen it, but I doubt we’ll be back!

The next day, we hit Pacific Highway 1 and headed toward Malibu. What a fun drive along the coast! Of course, most of the ginormous homes that appear in my celebrity magazines are well-hidden from view, but it was fun to just be in the area.

We also enjoyed a stroll through the Paul Getty Museum with its amazing works of art.

Pool and beautiful landscaping at the Paul Getty Museum.

Another pretty garden at the Paul Getty Museum.

We topped off the day with a late lunch at the Beach Cafe in Malibu. We stumbled upon it, and it was the perfect beach scene with great food.

I’m still full, just looking at the sign!

Our trip drew to a close, and we returned home. It was a whirlwind of different sights and sounds and tastes. I definitely felt like a tourist in my own country since I had limited first-hand knowledge of California, but we enjoyed the trip thoroughly. To all the California Better Lifers, thanks for sharing your state with me!

As always, I am glad to be back home now. And, after eating our way through every spot we visited, we are happily returning to a fare of fish, veggies and fruit!

2 Responses to California Dreamin’

  • Sarah says:

    Great pictures! Looks like ya'll had a blast! Love the hands pic!

  • Dawn says:

    Thanks so much! "Island Busy" has kicked in again and vacation already feels like a world away. Definitely not complaining – love being home! Glad you enjoyed the post and pics, and thanks for commenting – and supporting my sappiness. 🙂

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