I was off my blogging schedule this week but I’ve got a good excuse. I realized that even in our over-connected world, there comes a time and place to just unplug. And while Las Vegas may not be that place, California is. Note-this excludes Instagram. I can’t help my love for Instagram.
I’ve determined you cannot visit California and remain in a bad mood. Even if you worked all day, took a late flight, trekked miles from the airport to find your rental car place and then hit the only traffic worse than the Kennedy when Obama is in town, the sunshine and palm trees will get you soon enough. Trust me. Arnold isn’t lying about that one.
I opted to tack on a mini-vacation to Manhattan Beach after my work trip to Vegas all week and boy am I glad I did. After all, nothing soothes the neon sunburn and detoxes the lavish meals like ocean water and juice cleanses. Did I mention I arrived on an unseasonably warm weekend of 80 degrees in March!?
When I was younger I used to tell my family I was going to move to California when I grew up. I believe I even went so far as to draft an essay about my future life for an 8th grade time capsule. In it, I outlined plans for a mansion on the beach, pet dolphins who roamed free in our designated portion of the ocean, two kids, twins of course, and all made possible by my Doctor husband so my days could be spent ‘playing’ with more dolphins as a marine biologist. I stumbled upon the essay in my parent’s basement a few months ago and got a good laugh reading through the precise details of my west coast life as well as my naivety as to the job responsibilities of marine biologists.
It wasn’t until I visited this past weekend that I realized that my essay wasn’t so far off after all. Now it may not be my life, but take a rapid downhill stroll towards the Manhattan Beach Strand and you’ll see my childhood vision in all it’s glory. Gorgeous mansions line the beach, stacked on top of one-another like Legos (the new expensive ones not those cheap ones we grew up with) with sweeping views of both the pacific and the surrounding hills. Backyards are the focal point of the homes making an al fresco super fan like me just overjoyed at the idea of hosting a dinner party and serving roast with a side of sunset and crashing waves. Those that can’t secure the $5 million for a beachfront lot settle for a few steps up a steep hill and a strategically-placed balcony allowing them ridiculous re-sale value for their ‘ocean view’.
And the dolphins? Oh they are there too. It’s not uncommon to spot schools of dolphins along the beach, sometimes even playing with the surfers. And since no one can tell me otherwise at this precise moment, I’m only left to assume they make a few families very happy.
As for my visit, I started it at Whole Foods Friday where I lunched outside with the local soccer moms and did a little shopping in nearby El Segunda before heading down to the beach. Years of navigational training from my father as well as a lot of work trips have given me the confidence to go out and explore. It’s amazing what you can discover and who you will meet when you just venture out of your comfort zone. Then again, smart phones help too. So after finding a parking spot along Highland in Manhattan Beach, I made my way down the steep incline towards the sand below.
I walked the beach for a while, envious of the locals who had nothing better to do than to wait for their friends to show up for a late-afternoon volleyball match or surf. Then I realized i had nothing better to do either. I breathed deeply. California, Awesome.
I made my way back up to the shops on Highland and stumbled on a cute little bakeshop called Cake. I tried to walk past it and determined it was physically impossible for me to do so. This travel skill I received from my mother. One PB&J cookie, an almond chocolate chip bar and a pretzel knot later, I thought I had made my daily contribution to local business. But apparently I was just beginning.
I soon came across on another mall, and a Trader Joe’s. There were girl scouts out front and the next thing I know I’m heading back to the hotel with bakeshop cookies, girl scout cookies, and more snacks than anyone could possibly eat over the next 24 hours. What can I say, my Dad taught me to find the local hot spots and my mom to individually support their efforts.
Saturday started with an early-morning run along the Strand. I have a race coming up and so it was really nice to get a long run in outside, especially knowing that the snow was still on the ground back home. This time I at least had my boyfriend in tow to confirm additions to my mental photo album of people who look like their dogs. We determined that labradors top the list in Manhattan Beach followed closely by golden retrievers. And it figures since everyone is so ridiculously good looking and fit in this town. We stopped briefly at the Manhattan Beach Pier so I could snap a few photos. Another perk of today’s smart phones and downfall of having me as a running partner.
I spent the remainder of the day outside, catching up on some reading at the pool and determining the difference between Whole Foods and local Bristol Farms free samples. I also attempted to avoid another girl scout transaction before heading back to the beach that afternoon. Man those girls are cute.
That evening, we headed back to the beach for one last round, this time stopping for a cocktail at the Manhattan Beach Post where we were informed over Manhattan Avenues (appropriate) and Pushing Daisies that the chef had trained at Charlie Trotters. Small world. And while the wait was too long for us to eat there, we enjoyed a late dinner and a few beers at nearby Simmzy’s Pub.
It may not be the life I have currently, but several Californians are calling something pretty similar everyday life here in SoCal. As for me, I’m just happy to have a mid-winter visit to absorb some vitamin D, breathe in some ocean air, reflect and be grateful. And maybe to visit often enough that someday one of those homeowners invites me over for some beachfront al fresco dining. I’ll bring the cookies.