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 · Laguna Beach

Week 6 – Pumpkins, Mexicans and Trump

Pumpkin time

Pumpkin time, otherwise known as Halloween, is big business here in America. Pumpkin soup. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin latte. If you can or drink it, chances are someone is serving it pumpkin-style around about now! Halloween is so much bigger here, it is like Christmas, in fact I think it is bigger.

I arrived a month ago and preparations were in full swing then! So to get into the pumpkin spirit I decided to try a pumpkin spiced latte today, see photo below. Well, apart from being extraordinarily sweet, it was kind of nice, in a weird sort of way! I won’t be here for the actual day, which is a shame as I think it would be crazy/fun/scary/bemusing.

Pumpkin spiced latte
Pumpkin with my yog(h)urt

Buy the best you can be

California is the home of the body beautiful. There is every kind of treatment here to make you thinner, improve your skin tone, give you shinier hair and permanently tattoo on your makeup. An interesting place I saw today was a flotation tank lounge. I laughed as it reminds of the episode of Ab-Fab when Edina buys one and gets locked in!

There are many women here in Orange County with bad plastic surgery, huge hair and bulging purses, looking for something to spend it on. So I guess flotation spas probably do pretty well!

The Float Lounge
The Float Lounge

El dilema Mexicano

The Mexican dilemma. You can’t go anywhere at the moment without someone talking about Mexicans in America. It seems to me that America has a somewhat conflicted relationship with the Mexican people living here.

Donald Trump brought the whole issue to a head when he called for a wall to be built along the Mexican/American border. Hispanics in America are an increasingly important voter block, and how they vote matters. One of the things about California I love is the Mexican influence. The food here is great, I went to a great place called ‘La Sirena Grill’ today, and had the best veggie burrito. The business seems to run entirely by Mexicans which was good to see.

However, I then turn a corner and see some wealthy white woman tearing a strip off some Mexican workmen, shrieking at them in an entirely patronising manner. It would be hard to argue that there a significant percentage of white Americans would be perfectly happy if American Mexicans carried on being their gardeners, their waiters and their builders. It is so apparent when you look around how Mexicans seem to be treated like second class citizens here, it really is quite shocking. I can only hope the politics of fear that Mr T. spouts out on a daily basis are rejected by the majority of Americans and that the politics of acceptance and inclusion win out. That goes for the rights of women and the LGBT community too!

La Sirena Grill
La Sirena Grill
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 · Laguna Beach

Week 3 – Life in the O.C.

After a ten-day mammoth road trip (quite literally as I went to Mammoth Lakes!), I arrived back in my second home, the O.C. Which stands for Orange County, California, in case you didn’t know. I think in the 90s there was a TV show called the O.C. so lots of people know it from that.

I am staying with my best friend Liz, who lives here in Laguna Beach. We went to school together and worked out this week that we have known each other for thirty years! Guess that’s why we can live together for a number of weeks and still get on.

Life here in late summer is starting to flown around me. Gone are the days of thinking, hmmm, I should be doing something! Getting into beach life is pretty easy. Especially when you take a look at some of the beach photos below.

B

The American drag show

One of the fun things I always do when here is indulge is some American drag. Which is quite different to UK drag. In the UK, most drag acts sing live. Here, noone does. Which actually I prefer. TBH lots of drag acts can’t sing that well, whereas as all the drag acts here mime, it means you get to see a wonderful performance, usually with some great dance moves and some spot-on lip-syncing.

I’ve made a video below of some of the great acts we’ve seen!

California · Laguna Beach · Travelling

Week 1 – Encinitas & West Street Beach

Beachlife. Spent today in a great hippy town called Encinitas. Lots of veggie restaurants, meditation and beautiful gardens. Ended the day back in Laguna Beach on my favourite beach, West Street Beach, with my favourite person, Liz 🙂

Elizabeth Hurst, supermodel

West Street Beach, Laguna Beach

Meditation Gardens, Encinitas

West Street Beach, Laguna Beach
Cacti overlooking the sea
Encintas
Pink flowers, Encinitas

 

 

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…