Seems like this year’s vacation was uneventful in terms of activities (I’ll describe how it was eventful in terms of calamities in the next post). We didn’t take any big side trips or go to any big venues. But it was generally relaxing and filled with family.
One particular highlight of the trip for Anthropapa and I was the food. There was lots of (too much) food. We ate many meals of Mexican food, because it is so, so good in California. We had sushi twice, and excellent Greek food with my dad. A big highlight was a somewhat fancy dinner with my dad and stepmom. They took us to the Saddle Peak Lodge, a landmark and highly regarded restaurant in Malibu Canyon. Their specialty is game, so I went all out and had the chef’s trio: elk, squab, and buffalo. The buffalo tasted pretty much like beef, the squab was tasty though I felt a bit disturbed at the tiny little bird body on the plate (though roasting whole chickens and turkeys never bothers me), but the elk was outstanding. I think I ate my meat allowance for the month! Especially after the huge burger we had at In-N-Out, home of amazing fresh burgers and fries, and Bible verses on the underside of the cups (I kid you not!)
We went to Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu:
A huge flock of pelicans flew back and forth over our heads, but not over the water. I wonder what they were looking for?
We made castles and dug holes all the way to China:
And some lucky seagulls were very grateful that Grandpa packed us some bags of stale bread:
Another day we went over to the Chumash Indian Museum near Nana’s house, and took a walk along the nature trail. I miss the flora and fauna of California sometimes. It’s very familiar to me, and has its own beauty. We saw a lone mule deer on the other side of the narrow canyon, lots of wild cucumber vines, and the big treat was exploring the reproductions of Chumash huts. Napoleona and I sat around the fire ring inside one, pretending to roast some venison the menfold had hunted. It sure was tasty.
We decided to be touristy and go to the Venice boardwalk, but once we got on the road we realized we were having a rare day of rain and wind.
So, thanks to my superior Navigatrix skills, we quickly averted our course to the LA County Museum of Art. Amazingly, we found out that you can sign up your kids for a free membership, and then they can bring one adult in with them for free! Woohoo, free art!
The best part of that day was not the art exhibits, nor the expensive (but yummy) lunch in the museum cafe, but rather the wonderful kids’ gallery. We found this huge room with a variety of art and craft areas. We stayed there for a long, long time:
I was feeling rather icky with a cold that day, so Anthropapa and SillyBilly graciously went to get the car while I waited out front with Napoleona. Right on Wilshire Boulevard in front of the museum is a large installation by Chris Burden called “Urban Light.” (Beautiful photos of it at night can be seen here.)
Napoleona didn’t quite know what to make of it at first–can we touch it? After a while she started running around happily in there.
Napoleona also insisted on taking a picture of me while we waited. Well, I held the camera while she checked the viewfinder and pressed the button. Somehow, it came out OK! (Full disclosure: I edited out a big hunk of hair that had blown into my face. I just couldn’t help myself.)
We did end up going to Venice Beach another day. I had gone to the boardwalk several times while I was in college. Evidently that is the niche they are marketing to: college kids or tourists who might want to buy tacky tshirts or cheap jewelry. I remember it being more interesting and somehow cooler: the odd Goth-like people selling those alarmingly tall Dr. Seuss hats, and the hippie stores selling incense and swirly skirts (well, that one was still there, but it seems much more expensive now. And there are still lots of homeless people there, people clearly addled by too many drugs, and people that are simply funky and weird. Plus weight lifters, roller bladers, and other odd denizens. Never a dull moment, though we didn’t see any of the street performers there…they probably come on the weekends.
We also had a wonderful two nights in a hotel, while Nana watched the kids. This allowed us to stay up way too late watching TV, get up late in the morning and have a bagel and coffee, and generally just be grownups together. We saw Sex and the City on opening night, which was fun and overly estrogen-filled. Or rather, the audience was. One woman in front of us actually kept clapping with delight over the whole thing. And Anthropapa was a willing partner in this–he wasn’t dragged to it by any means! We used to rent the TV episodes sometimes. Living in New York, we know how unreal the whole “I’m a newspaper columnist and yet I own my own apartment in Manhattan and can afford $400 shoes” thing is, but it’s still kind of fun to watch.
I’ll leave you with a photo I took from the highway close to where I grew up, showing the beautiful chaparral terrain. Those coast live oaks can get so large that their branches sweep the ground in a huge sphere all around the trunk, and they live for hundreds of years. In my hometown, any oak tree over 2 inches in diameter is protected and you have to get a permit to remove it! A lot of California looks like this, all the way up north of San Francisco and east toward the Sierras. Notice that the hills were already substantially golden: the rainy season extends only through the winter and early spring, so by the end of May the hot, dry season is already here. It’s a Mediterranean climate–I’ve always thought it too hot and dry, but during this trip I realized that it’s feels like home in many ways. I never really noticed how beautiful it is there, until I moved so far away.