We had so many adventures on our vacation to California that I don’t quite know how to start.
Our flight was uneventful, non-turbulent, and the kids handled everything quite well. We decided to drive up the coast route from LAX to Nana’s house. I hadn’t been that way in many years, and it immediately plunged me into a fit of nostalgia. I lived for my first 8 years not too far from LAX, in lovely Westchester. (Check out the cool art deco movie theater in that link: I remember it clearly from when it was still a theater. And the Hughes Airport mentioned there was at the bottom of the hill below our house.) The homes there are typically small, one-story, stucco bungalows, often sherbert shades of pink or lime green. As we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway, I was assailed by memories and we immediately began lusting after Mexican food.
As we drove through Malibu, munching on our quesadillas and tacos, I began to notice the details that make So Cal distinctive for me. Gorgeous native trees like sycamores and evergreen oaks mix with tropical transplants like bouganvillea, oleander, and eucalyptus. Valleys, and hillsides facing the ocean, are green even through the rainless summers, but the rest of the terrain is almost desert — we call winter the “green season” and the rest of the year the “brown season.” There is a lively mix of architecture, from the ubiquitous, fake-Spanish stucco/tile roof mini-malls, to avant-garde modern (see the Getty Center later). And of course, 40 bazillion cars. Everything from beat-up old pickups, to classic T-birds, and then, where my parents live, monstrous Hummers and Escalades.
We spent Sunday quietly with Nana and Grandpa Dave, and then on Monday we went to what I consider one of the weirdest things in L.A.: the La Brea Tar Pits. Right in the middle of the West Side, there is a pit of tar, separated from a major thoroughfare by just a fence.
(Those are sculptures of mammoths.) During the last ice age, mammals, birds, and even one human became trapped in the tar–rain water floats on top of the tar making it appear like any other lake. Methane bubbles up through the tar, adding to the lovely odor. The kids loved the adjacent museum, with its mammoths, saber-tooth cats, and dire wolves. They pretended to be condors:
When we lived in the area, my parents both worked right next door to the tar pits. So the next stop down memory lane was the big fountain in front of the building. I remember playing in it many times as a girl.
We planned our trip so the big outings alternated days with staying home. On home days we went to the nearby park about….52 times. The kids loved it there. Aside from the usual slides, swings, etc. they also dug in the sand, flew a kite with Papa, and assaulted the airspace with bubbles.
Since the fiasco of last year’s beach trip, the kids were afraid to get close to the water. It was too cold that morning to get very wet anyway, and it’s not a safe swimming beach, but we wanted to work on overcoming that fear. Here’s Papa and Grandpa Walt contemplating some glassy green rollers with SillyBilly: