I’m currently soaring over America on my way to Los Angeles, California, chasing the sunset at 10,000 feet. I keep looking out my window, wondering what state or landmark is thousands of feet below me.
One year ago, we were flying to northern California, to Napa and Yountville, where the memory brings to mind the scent of dark, rich, fruit fermenting in a vat, blending with fresh morning air dripping with new dew and a slight mist that kept me lingering by the fire.
HOTEL RECOMMENDATION: MARINA DEL REY
It was dark when we flew into John Wayne airport, gathered our bags and picked up the grey Mercedes for the drive to the Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey.
Our balcony overlooks the marina and boardwalk, and that night we relaxed in the large, velvet chairs of the lobby lounge, sipping on a couple of craft cocktails while enjoying the fire and terrace.
THE GETTY MUSEUM
The next morning we take the scenic route to the Getty Museum, driving by Brentwood with its gated exterior and high hedges. We arrived at the Getty just as it was opening and caught one of the first trams up the hillside.
We thought he saw Steven Spielberg walking up the path to the museum, and while we’re not sure, we’re going to claim him as a potential “star sighting.”
The Getty was majestic in its architecture and lush gardens; the art was nice too, particularly the special exhibit on Canterbury Cathedral.
LUNCH | THE HOTEL BEL-AIR
Lunch at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles was almost as lovely as the Getty.
Garden paths, flowers blooming everywhere, and a table on the terrace set the relaxed tone for light but decadent selections of bread and butter, crab cake, and champagne.
We didn’t see any celebrities, but we felt like two ourselves, which, really, is even better.
The rest of the day, we relied on GPS and our own inclinations to guide our sightseeing. We drove down Rodeo Drive because we happened to see the sign. Much shorter than I imagined it to be.
The GPS guided us through Hollywoodland to the infamous “Hollywood” sign, up the twisting road past quirky houses somehow anchored to the sides of the mountain, overlooking the smog of Los Angeles.
SANTA MONICA PIER
Having climbed as high as we could go, we took a few pictures, watched a lone coyote leisurely make its way down the hill before finding our own way back down, past Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and finally on, through dense traffic, to the Santa Monica Pier.
We walked the rough, thick boards to the end of the pier where a Rihanna wannabe was hoping to be discovered, and the lights of the Ferris wheel were beginning to shine.
DINNER | MALIBU BEACH INN
Having seen all of Los Angeles we cared to, we hit the road to Malibu for our sunset dinner reservations at the oceanfront restaurant inside the Malibu Beach Inn.
We were given a table at the far edge of the terrace, where the ocean was so close you could almost feel the drops of spray thrown upward from each breaking wave on the sand grey rocks.
The weather was cool, but blankets were folded over the backs of the chairs, with several fire pits just near enough to offer warmth without overwhelming. Although the food was good, the view surpassed anything the chefs could cook up.
We sat there for hours, gazing out across the darkening water, knowing and quietly dreading the moment when we would have to give up our perfect table and leave behind our perfect Malibu, California evening.
REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY & MUSEUM
The next morning, we decided we had seen enough of touristy Los Angeles. and opted to visit the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum about an hour’s drive north.
The museum was half-closed at the time, but we were able to see Air Force One, part of the Berlin Wall, and Reagan’s Memorial and grave.
It’s a quiet place, situated on top of a windy hill, overlooking a valley. We got a beer at the Reagan Pub and talked our favorite presidents over a Newcastle.
NEWPORT BEACH | RESORT AT PELICAN HILL
We returned the car to John Wayne airport and took a taxi to The Resort at Pelican Hill Newport Beach.
Nothing could have prepared us for the view of the Pacific as we crested a hill, the blue expanse almost frightening in its vastness reaching both towards us and into the horizon.
Our bungalow at Pelican Hill overlooked both the golf course and the ocean to the left. It was a spacious room, with a fireplace, pitched roof, wood-beamed ceiling, and tile floor opening out to a broad patio. At sunset, we walked to Andrea for wine and dinner on the terrace.
The following day began with an al fresco breakfast at the Coliseum Grill, overlooking the circular infinity Coliseum pool with its millions of tiny, glittering tile. Meanwhile, busy hummingbirds flitted back and forth.
We walked down the curving hill to the shoreline, even going so far as to stick our toes in the icy Pacific waters before shrieking, laughing, and quickly running away.
Having made lunch reservations at the Pelican Grill, we realized we weren’t going to make it in time given the long, uphill walk back up to the resort. A lady, overhearing our questions about a tram back to the resort, offered to give us a ride once she had collected her husband from Ruby’s Shake Shack.
On yet another terrace with an ocean-view, we sipped from frozen copper cups brimming with vodka and ginger beer, relieved we were spared the up-hill hike and sweat-drenched clothes.
There are sunsets, and then there are SUNSETS – the kind that if you saw a photograph or painting of it, you would think it was retouched. The colors faded into the lawn and onto us as if we somehow had managed to pin down a rainbow and step inside.
WHALE WATCHING | DANA POINT
Call me Ishmael.
Actually, don’t, because we didn’t see any whales on our excursion.
Even though no whales were sighted, we did have a great time watching the scores of playful dolphins and sleepy sea lions.
We set sail from Dana Point in Laguna Beach and the weather on the water was cool.
Aside from the multitude of dolphins, the most intriguing moment was sailing through a dense fog in our search for a whale.
Mystical—in such a dark, dense mist it’s easy to imagine how sailors thought the sea was filled with monsters.
I realized I could believe in almost anything as our boat cut through that cloud of fog. Half frozen, we took advantage of the open bar to help forget how cold we actually were. Until next time, Moby.
BREAKFAST ON THE BEACH
One of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had was at the Beachcomber, an actual shack sitting right on the beach. The beignets were so light, it was like sinking your teeth into a cumulus cloud accompanied by a side of homemade whipped cream. Move over Cafe Du Monde, it’s time for a new recipe. We probably set a record for beignets consumed.
Next came the Pimm’s Cups. We ordered 2, although 1 is more than plenty since they’re served in quart-sized mason jars. Everything was so good, I could eat there every day, most likely gain weight, and probably not even care.
DAYTRIPPING | SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Our day consisted of driving first south along the Pacific Coast Hwy, turning around at Oceanside, stopping off at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach California for a light bite and some drinks, then driving north up to Balboa Island.
We watched our final Pacific sunset sink behind Catalina Island, while we sipped one last cocktail at the circular lobby bar at Pelican Hill, dreaming of what we would do and where we would go if we suddenly found ourselves fantastically wealthy…
Now, here we are, back on the plane, leaving Los Angeles, and gliding our way back home.
I have a pile of work to do, but it can wait. What person on their death bed ever says, “I wish I would have worked more”?
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