California

Weeks 16 & 17 – a Californian Christmas and New Year

I flew back into LAX from Auckland on Thursday 22 December, arriving approximately 10 hours earlier than when I took off. LAX is quite the assault on the senses/worst airport ever/full of the rudest people known to mankind. Luckily my friend Liz was ready and waiting to whisk me off to the relative calm of Orange County.

It’s been great being back in Laguna Beach, particularly at Christmas time. People really make an effort to decorate their homes and it’s great walking around at night seeing the lights.

However, adjusting from the height of southern hemisphere summer daylight to the depths of northern hemisphere short days has been quite tricky! I went from the sun setting at 9.45pm to the sun setting at 4.30pm in the space of 24 hours. I immediately felt the need to hibernate.

Christmas Day

A Laguna Beach Christmas Day was sort of like a British Christmas day, in that we opened presents in the morning, played Christmas songs and went for a walk. And ate too much. Main difference was it was nice and sunny and we walked on a lovely sandy beach. But pretty similar. Christmas in the US kind of ends on the 25th, which is a shame I think, as they do not have Boxing Day, everyone goes straight back to work. I tried to explain Boxing Day to an American friend and failed miserably. What is it??

 

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California · Travelling · USA

Week 5 – Bears and vegans and chickens, oh my!

My second to last week in the USA – for now. I have seen lots of different sides to California, from the hippy lefty liberal dropout side, to the extraordinary wealthy side, as well as the great outdoors!

A trip to Ojai – vegans, hippies and wine

Ojai is a small community near to Ventura, California. It is up in the mountains and has become a magnet for vegans, hippes, dropouts and wine drinkers. My kind of place.

I visited a great wine tasting place called ‘Casa Barranca‘. My friend Liz and I tried lots of whites, roses and reds, and learnt lots about vegan and organic wines too. Did you know what kind of weird things winemakers use to filter wine? Fish swim bladder anyone? Hmm, tasty. Photo below explains more about vegan wine if you are interested. The wine we tasted was all vegan and organic and very tasty too!

Hip vegan

We visited a great cafe called ‘Hip Vegan‘ and had some lovely tempeh, Vietnamese coffee with coconut cream and a great lentil dahl. Plus another place called ‘The Farmer and the Cook‘ in Meiners Oaks, where we has a cacao, almond milk and banana smoothie 🙂

Stayed in a great place called ‘The Hummingbird Inn‘, recommended if you’re ever out that way! Though the pool is so icy you may never feel your toes again!

The Hummingbird Inn, Ojai

What is vegan wine?

Wine tasting in Ojai

Malibu – money, money, money, it’s a rich man’s (and woman’s) world

The Malibu coastline
Malibu summons up images of wealth, sunshine and beautiful beaches. And ‘Baywatch’. Having experienced it, that’s pretty close to the reality of the place. Minus ‘Baywatch’. Having driven the coast road along what makes up about twenty miles of Malibu, I can confirm there’s a lot of money there! Huge homes with private beaches hug the cliffs, with big gates to keep the riff-raff like me out. Not all of it is private though. A trip to ‘Paradise Cove‘ will put you back a mere $40 to park…!

I half expected to bump into Gwyneth Paltrow or Kim Kardashian. I’m sure they must live there, it’s their kind of place. Afterwards I decided Liz and I needed to look more glam, hence the fetching facemasks haha!

The Hanibal Lecter style facemasks

The Great Outdoors – bears and snakes and chickens, oh my!

There are lots of things that want to kill you in California. Huge killer bears. Venomous snakes. Massive vicious chickens. Never go to ‘Chicken Headquarters’, it’s where the worst ones live :-0

Chicken HQ

Bear country, Ojai style

Snakes alive!

I also encountered my first wild snake this week! Firstly I nearly trod on it, then I nearly picked it up thinking it was an old piece of rope! Well, imagine my surprise when I saw two eyes staring intently at me! Well, after a stare off, which the snake won, I ran off to recover, and returned the scene about ten minutes later to find no trace of the snake. It was no doubt some killer snake variety and I was probably inches from death. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Over and out 😉

California · Laguna Beach · Travelling

Week 4 – California love

I’ve been away for four weeks now, and the relax button has well and truly been pressed. Took me a while to get into the travelling mode, but I’m there now. It has made me realise how in my everyday life I am always looking for something to do, somewhere to be, whereas now I just wake up and think, what will I do today? Nothing? Ok then.

California love

So I admit it. I’m having an affair. It’s been going on for years, but I finally have to tell you. I am in love with California. What’s that you say? You knew already!

It’s not just because my bestie lives here. Though that helps. I just love the lifestyle, the weather, the people (particularly my new pal Jody!), the beaches, the mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the food, the wine, the sunsets….shall I go on?

I am here for two more weeks then I come back again for Christmas 🙂

Here are a few photos from my last week in the golden state.

Well I can’t see it, can you?
Pumpkins, big & small – Halloween is coming!
Laguna art walk
Laguna sunset
Sunset on West Street beach, Laguna Beach
On the beach with Liz!
Sunset on Thalia Street beach, Laguna Beach
‘Enjoying’ my mud pack…
Liz & I covered in mud

 

MacDonald sculpture garden, Laguna Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California · Uncategorized

Week 1 – London to Laguna Beach

It was quite a momentous day for me to start my trip. Sunday 11 September. Not necessarily because it was the day I left the UK, but because it was the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11.

9/11

At Heathrow, the news channel in the lounge was showing live coverage of families remembering their lost loved ones at Ground Zero. Whenever you think of that awful day, you can’t help but remember where you were when you first heard about what was happening. I went to Ground Zero in 2013 and it’s a very emotional and sombering experience. If you ever get the chance, I recommended you visit the site too.

In Heisler Park, in Laguna Beach, the community have created their own 9/11 memorial – two girders from one of the towers that fell, welded together. I visited the memorial yesterday and there was a simple tribute left there, with a simple but powerful message – ‘Never Forget’.

I have been to Laguna Beach many times in my life, and it feels like home from home. As you can see from the photos below, it’s a beautiful and quirky place!

Liz & Sarah looking across to Laguna Beach from Heisler Park

Heisler Park, Laguna Beach

Tsunami evacuation route! Hopefully I won’t need to obey it…

The safe (and only) way to cross the road in Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach lifeguard tower

A very tired Ben on the first morning:-(

Smile 🙂 You’re amazing. This was a sign I saw in Laguna Beach

Jetlag

Jetlag is a killer. A little tip though – melatonin. I don’t think you can buy it in the UK, but you can in the US, and it is a godsend! It helps you stay sleep when you body actually wants to wake you up at 4am!

I am still adjusting to life away from home, both physically and mentally. But as I sit here, looking out at the sun setting across the horizon of the Pacific Ocean, I am optimistic this is the beginning of a fantastic experience for me…