What better way to end my college career with a quick family trip out to California? I’ve only been dreaming and talking and obsessing about California since 2005, and it was finally time to fulfill my Lords of Dogtown wannabe dreams. My family, my boyfriend and I all set out on a four day adventure through southern California, originally for my cousin’s fabulous wedding aboard a yacht in the Newport harbor. But while we’re out there… We may as well see the sights in true tourist form.
We arrived at LAX around 2 am Florida time, hit a complete blockage on the 405 southbound with the only thing close by to eat being Burger King… Delirious and irritable was an understatement, but knowing that we would wake up to the beautiful California sun made it all worth it.
And just as promised, the weather was sunny and 75 with a perfect breeze and a chance of being an absolute incredible day. We drove down to Laguna Beach and took a walk through Heisler Park overlooking Main Beach and Laguna Hills lingering in the background. We found a picturesque restaurant, Las Brisas, at the top of Heisler Park where the fresh seafood was in plenty and the margaritas were a-flowing.
Afterwards, we cleaned up a bit and climbed aboard a beautiful yacht to attend my cousin’s wedding. The ceremony took place onboard as the sun was setting over the Newport harbor. Talk about picture perfect. We were in good company with family and friends and danced the night away with all the classic wedding hits of 30 years ago.
The next morning, we rented a few bikes and rode five miles up to Huntington Beach to see what all the fuss was about, and I wish I could say I wasn’t warned… But I was. It was a full on tourist trap. Beautiful day, great weather, even better people, but it just wasn’t what I pictured in my head. Although we did see a giant whale right off the end of the pier and ate at the classic Ruby’s diner, I much preferred spending my time in Newport. After riding around for the majority of the day, we called it quits just in time for dinner at Jack Shrimp, a restaurant I can only describe as a total Californian-tree hugging spin on Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. It was not lacking in kale, if you don’t understand.
After two beautiful days in the Newport area, we headed out towards Santa Monica, making a pitstop at the Hollywood sign and the famous Hollywood Blvd. The sign was much cooler than anticipated and definitely well worth the motion sickness of the winding roads up to the trail. We hiked a bit up the trail to get the perfect view and take the tackiest pictures, and then hopped back in the car to stop by Hollywood Blvd, which was not nearly as impressive.
As my 15 year old brother put it while walking through the streets glancing down at the “famous” celebrities’ stars on the street, “There’s a million different smells going on right now.” In other words, there were far too many people in too little of a place for a family that really enjoys just being outdoors. Cool to see, glad we did it, wouldn’t do it again.
A scenic drive through Rodeo Drive and a few glances at Beverly Hills later, we arrived in Santa Monica at the beautiful JW Marriot Resort, steps away from the beach. We rented bikes (again) and rode around the famous Santa Monica pier all the way down to Muscle Beach in what seemed to be 50 mph winds with sand kicking up in our faces. Nothing would deter me from walking around Venice Beach, so that I, too, could feel like a “Lord of Dogtown.”
Venice may have smelled like urine and a combination of illegal substances, but there definitely was a distinct feel to the beach town. There was a pride in its own little version of culture and community, and I liked it a lot. Amongst the weirdos, wackos and wall art, I could feel the acceptance of whoever I may be. May be a little deep for just a stroll through Muscle Beach, but I definitely enjoyed people watching, even if I had to breathe in through my mouth… My boyfriend and I met up with his friend from Australia, who just started her three month adventure through the United States, and we caught up over drinks at a small bar overlooking the streets.
After biking back to Santa Monica, against the wind, Sam and I felt it necessary to grab a last drink before dinner and found a great bar right at the front of the pier, Big Dean’s. It had a great beer selection with an awesome astroturf lounging area in the back where locals and tourists mixed amongst each other while sprawled out on blankets as the sun set.
Of course, we had to make our way on to the Santa Monica pier for some good old fashioned rollercoaster fun. I actually convinced Sam to ride the roller coaster with us, which may have been the biggest feat thus far in our relationship, since he is drastically afraid of heights, and even more of roller coasters. Even though it was a super slow roller coaster, it was pretty cool to be up that high and see the sun setting over the mountains in the background.
Dinner consisted of the best wine and seafood pasta I’ve had in a long time at The Lobster right off the pier, and after being the only people left in the restaurant, we made our way back to the hotel for a nightcap and then off to bed. The idea of leaving the next day saddened me. California was just too perfect for words.
On the morning we were supposed to leave town, we ate breakfast at a restaurant in Venice and then drove around the canals that gave Venice its namesake from Italy. Then we started the long journey back home. Starting with a four hour delay at the airport, but I was more than okay with it because that meant I had four more hours to prolong saying goodbye to Sam, as he was flying home to Sydney after three months in the U.S.
In three months, he truly did become a part of the family. It’s safe to say my mom was holding back tears to say goodbye to him, but I know my family will visit us in Sydney later on this year. All in all, it was a fantastic family trip out the West Coast, and I definitely can’t wait to get back out there and explore.
Next US adventure in the works: Gut out an old VW van and drive around the West. Who’s in?