Friday, February 10, 2012

OK...what we REALLY did on our winter vacation...

This is it...not just what we did, but some random thoughts, observations, and opinions - not in any particular order...but I will put down our itinerary down here first - it may help you to piece things together a bit...

Friday - flew from Evansville, IN to LAX: stayed in the Ayers Hotel, Hawthorne, CA (compliments of my sister Marla and brother in law Lloyd)

Saturday - drove through the South Bay area (very nostalgic for me, from my jr/sr high school days), down to Seal Beach, and had lunch on Main Street at Charro Chicken. Walked Main while we waited for Marla and her son Caleb to arrive. More walking along Main down to the beach (where we were parked) and met up with friends, hung out on the beach, Mark did some body surfing (and got kicked out of the water by the Seal Beach Lifeguards - he was in a restricted area because of a surf contest going on...LOL). It was an AMAZING day, near 80 and just wonderful. Lloyd and their daughter Christiana joined us too, then we headed back to M&L's house to hang out a bit, and get cleaned up for dinner at Sizzler's (an old favorite). It was great! Then the LONG drive in bumper to bumper traffic to Carpinteria, CA - near Santa Barbara.

Sunday - INCREDIBLE drive up some of my favorite CA coastline, through the Santa Barbara foothills into the Santa Ynez Valley to spend the day with our long time wonderful friends, Kim and Matt van der Linden. They live in Santa Ynez, and Kim was gracious to pack up a WONDERFUL picnic lunch, which we took into the wine country to eat at the Stolpman Vineyards. Kim pours for Stolpman on the weekends, and teaches pre-school during the week; Matt works for the City of Solvang; we NEVER run out of things to talk about, but are so comfortable with them that it just amazes me that we don't live closer! After the picnic, we ventured back into civilization to do a little wine tasting (good stuff, but too many tannins for my taste buds!). She did send me home with a bottle of wine and a bag of wine corks, which I plan to make into some crafty door wreath or wall hanging. :)  That evening we went for Japanese food in Santa Barbara with Matt, Kim and their son Carl, then we headed back to the hotel in Carpinteria.

Monday - lounged around a little in the morning, before heading to Ventura beaches to do a little photography. Pulled off at one spot off Hwy 101, decided it wasn't a good place for our picture, but then saw a pod of dolphins swimming along the shore. AWESOME. Ended up in Ventura (Mark's jr/sr high hang out) and took some photos with the tripod, and then a spontaneous stop to visit a renewed friendship from high school via Facebook, Kathy Donofrio. Then the MUCH ANTICIPATED time with Auntie June in Newbury Park!! Great time of visiting with her at her home, then lunch at Chili's, and an AMAZING dinner of lamb chops and the fixin's with her and my cousin Chet. SO good to see them both! We had to pull ourselves away and head back to the South Bay area, where we stayed near Torrance Beach the last 2 nights. Thankfully, we didn't have any traffic on the way there this time...it was late enough on a Monday night that we missed it all!!

Tuesday - slow morning up...nice to lay around and rest after the go-go-go of the past several days. It was rainy and cooler, so our plans of walking the Redondo Beach Pier and getting fried clams sorta got nixed. Instead we headed back towards Seal Beach, drove into Long Beach, and spent some time walking around one of my most favorite areas, Naples. The roads are really small, the houses close together, but waterfront on canals. When I lived in Seal Beach I used to walk from Seal Beach to this area (a few miles) and then enjoy the water, the fountain, just the peacefulness of it all. The entire walk would be lovely, some of the best areas to walk in my recollection...from the jetty of Seal Beach, to the Long Beach Marina (where the opening shots from Gilligan's Island were filmed), along the marina's docks and shops, over the bridges into Belmont Shores...and of course, the Naples area. We didn't get to walk all of that this time, we drove it, but our time walking in Naples was a sweet, relaxing reminder of the many years I lived there. I can say that it was one area that seemed the same! After our walk, we drove through Seal Beach, and into Los Alamitos, and had lunch at Marie Calender's, a favorite spot from long ago. At the end of our lunch, a dear friend of mine, Denise Lester, and one of her sons joined us for a visit. We could have talked ALL afternoon!! It was so good to see her!! Then we headed back to the hotel and packed (and re-packed) our bags, preparing to head out the next morning. We knew we were going to have a late dinner at The Chart House with Marla and Lloyd, and another GREAT friend Donna Wilson, and with our early morning departure - wanted to be all set to go. Well, dinner was WONDERFUL - I had macadamia crusted mahi - it was SO good!! And Donna and I split a Mud Pie that was a foot tall  - it was delicious - and even sharing it we couldn't finish it! It was the perfect end to the perfect trip.

A special thank you to my hubby Mark (whom I love SO much!) for even thinking of taking this trip. It was a great way to celebrate our 28th Anniversary, and especially fun to have spent that day IN Seal Beach, where we were married (on a Saturday too!!).

So...as promised, here are some interesting facts from the trip:

1. Traffic!! More cars than I remember ever - and one person said that in the time we have been away (around 25 years) the population had increased 2-3 times! CRAZY! All those people have cars. Really.

2. Everyone we met who heard that we USED to live in CA, wonders HOW IN THE WORLD WE LEFT (or rather WHY we did). They can't comprehend it. Well, we did. And we'd do it again in a heartbeat. (everyone that knew us when we got there understands, and many wish they could. others will stay no matter!)

3. CVS stores have cute little bags with the names of the city of their store. Not so lovely for some cities, but PERFECT for the beach towns - so I have bags from Manhattan Beach, Seal Beach, Redondo Beach,  Hermosa Beach and a cute little sailor bag! They are my souvenirs.

4. We stopped at Jack's Surf Shop and got gray hoodies for the grands...too cute!!

5. Many grape vineyards in Europe have been grafted on U.S. stock.

6. Verizon worked horribly along the coast. It worked fine inland, so I'm not sure what the issue was. It still works GREAT here!!

7. Lloyd recorded a cd in his home studio, and I brought a copy of it home, but I haven't listened to it yet. He said that it surprised him how "hard" it was...and I'm a bit afraid of what he calls "hard" (Funny side note; when he and Marla started getting to know each other, he was playing with a band in clubs in the area. I was a little concerned that Marla was "interested" in this musician...we ALL know how THEY are...hehe. I had no idea that he was a graduate of USC, with a Doctorate in Pharmacology. LOL. The fact it was from USC was another concern all together...hehe - Mark's favorite team is anyone playing against USC....hehe)

8. We watched more movies in the hotel than I think we have ever watched at any given time, and we weren't in our rooms for very long each night!

9. We saw more cars in our first evenings' drive from the airport car lot to our hotel, than we'll see here in a month...or maybe a year!!

10. In addition to our bags, we bought beach towels, snacks, water, flip flops and Dogger shoes. We also brought back lemons that I picked from Aunt June's lemon tree (they are weird looking, like 2 or 3 merged together...can't wait to cut them open!).

11. We found out that Aunt June's pastor was Mark's youth minister when he first started going to church! His name is Doug Posey. Sadly, the church offices were closed, and we didn't get to see him...Mark also went to school with Doug's wife, Wendy - and Aunt June lives on Wendy Drive!!

12. The first day we were on the beach, we could see all the way to Catalina Island to the west, and to the mountains past Saddleback to the east!! It was super clear, the clearest that Marla remembers. But there was still smog on other days.

13. Gas was between $3.86 - $3.96 while we were there, but when we got home it was only $3.26!! YAY for Kentucky!!

14. I had a piece of pie at Marie Calender's - it was a flavor of pie that i never had before! Caramel Apple Cream Cheese...with a graham cracker crust. OH YUM!! I could eat a whole pie of it now....

OK - well, my brain is fried...we'll think of more things and I'll add them as I think of them....and will post pics later in the week...so come back often!

Goodnight, y'all!!

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Thanks so much for reading today! I hope that you'll come back soon!
~marina