Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A girl gets on a plane.

Sometimes, a girl needs to get on a plane and just go somewhere. As Lenny Kravitz so aptly whines sings: I want to get away, I want to fly away. Oh, not that my life is something from which I need to escape. Not anymore, far from it. That daily grind, though. The day in and day out of work and responsibilities and commuting and doing all the things a girl must do... What I'm saying is that a) there needs to be regular rewards to having done the things one must do as a contributing member of society and b) if one is to not burn out, one needs some rest and relaxation. So, I found myself musing on ugly airport carpet and then boarding a westbound jet, heading into the sunset for a few days with a one of my best friends and some adventures on deck.


Flight uneventful, I touched down and was collected, carted home, and sent to bed, because there were Plans (capital P) for the next day and I try not to let my internal clock get all jacked up. Breakfast and easing into the day and an errand or two later, we found our way to Crystal Cove State Park. Honest to God, I am always spellbound by the Pacific Ocean. Her beauty is more majestic than her surly sister on the east coast, her waters more blue than grey and her waves more graceful than angry.

Making our way through the scrubby beach foliage and down a winding path, there is just nothing that prepares me for this sight.

The waves mesmerize me. I could just sit there and stare out at them for hours, spraying up over the rocks and rolling, foamy, onto the sand.

It's like a painted backdrop, so lovely.

There are a thousand treasures and works of art to seek out. The layers of rock.

The artwork left behind by the surf.

I poked and walked and investigated. I tried my luck on a rock I thought was out of reach of the incoming tide. (I was wrong. There is only one foot in this photo, because I snapped it as I was jumping, shrieking, out of the in-rushing ocean. I wasn't quick enough. That foot got wet.)

You can try to tell me the Pacific isn't a breathtaking beauty, but you'll never convince me.



Sunkissed and windblown, it was time to move on toward the evening's destination.


I am a huge fan of small plates and appetizers for dinner because it means I can make multiple choices. (Libras approve this method of ordering dinner!) At The Rooftop Lounge in Laguna, there were Caprese Skewers.

And Bacon-Wrapped Dates. (And a vodka gimlet.)

And some (not pictured) breads with various dips and spreads, (also not pictured) a grilled flatbread panini with pesto, prosciutto, salami, provolone, and roasted peppers, and a pomegranate martini.

But let's talk about the view.

Seriously.

Nope, seriously.

And there was G! I got to hug G, who drove a billion miles through batcrap crazy traffic to hang out with us over the Pacific Ocean with tasty treats, and for serious, she is even more awesome in person.


The next day held magic I can't get in the Sunshine State.

This next photo is appropriate, because I feel like I maybe ought to warn you. (I'll wait while you go get a snack.)

Yes, I flew alllll the way across this country to do more Disney. They have things like...

...and...

...and...

...on which I laughed so hard.

We paused for dinner (more small plates!) at Downtown Disney.

Corn Arepas (seared corn cakes topped with pulled pork, avocado, mojo sauce, cilantro, shaved red onion).

Tuna Tartare "Tacos" (with avocado, shaved radish, soy vinaigrette, micro cilantro).

And a Harvest Moon.

What's a Harvest Moon, you ask?

Then back into the park to walk around a bit, digest, enjoy the park lit up for the nighttime, and get some seats to view World of Color.

World of Color is amazing. Photos do not do it justice. (Not that I didn't try.) (I'll spare you and just post the one.) *However* while we were waiting for the show to start, California decided to provide a special "thrill."

We were just sitting there on the pavement, minding our own business. Daniel was to my right. This nice Asian couple was sharing popcorn to my left. And I felt this rumble under my, well, seat. I thought they must be rolling some heavy piece of equipment down the walkway, causing the vibration to come up through the ground upon which I sat, but as I leaned forward to see what it was, I saw nothing but the legs of people walking past. And then that little brain bulb started to glow. The man sitting next to me looked at me and I looked at him and he asked, hesitatingly, "Is that...an earthquake?" I replied "I don't know...I am from Florida and we don't get earthquakes!" So I turned to my right to ask my gracious host who is admitting nothing and grinning like the ever-loving Cheshire Cat (we *are* at Disney after all). And then I felt the ground go from vibrating to rolling to shaking...and I knew. Did you know you can actually *hear* the plates of the earth doing their little shimmy? I don't know what I expected but the whole thing was a bit surreal. Daniel's app informed us that the epicenter was about a mile away from where we were sitting and about two miles beneath the surface of the earth. I survived. I didn't run screaming, Home Alone style, from the state. And now I get to say dorky things like "I feel the earth move under my feet...errr...seat." Daniel claims I loved it. I claim he's out of his mind. And that's all I have to say about that.

Saturday morning, we piled into Daniel's car and drove for a little over four hours. I don't mind car trips (especially when I don't have to drive). We chattered about some things, cracked wise about some other things, and saw a lotta this.

Final destination:

That house up there? Look carefully. Way up on the top of the mountain in the center of the photo. That's Hearst Castle. And it isn't a house. It's practically a small city. You get on a bus near where I took that (very zoomed in) image and ride for fifteen minutes up a crazy windy road to the top of a mountain. I'm not sure any photo can actually do justice to the enormity of this building.

I won't prattle off the history (you can look that up if you're curious) or the guided tour (if you're *that* curious, visit there yourself!), but I will tell you that Hearst Castle was built by William Randolph Hearst with the help of Julia Morgan, between 1919 and 1947. Remarkably, long before our current architectural advances for quake-proofing buildings, Julia Morgan came up with a system that has allowed Hearst Castle to withstand more than one earthquake and there hasn't ever been major structural damage. That impresses me. We took one of the tours. This is the living room.

(You'll see lots of amazing artifacts and artwork, and they are *not* replicas. They are the real deal. William Hearst saw things he liked and plunked down the cash and the answer was never "no, you can't have this sixteenth century tapestry.") Hearst would give these big parties and everyone wanted to receive an invitation, because anyone from movie stars to former Presidents might be there. And as the guests would arrive, they would gather in this living room.

This is still the same room. To give you some perspective, I am pretty sure you could park my entire house in this room three times, easily, just on the floor, more if you stacked it like Lego. Think I'm kidding? That's all. one. room.

We moved on through his dining room...

...his game room (don't step on the carpets! an alarm goes off and everyone will look at you!) (I didn't but someone in the group did)...
 
...and his movie theater. His parties were legendary long before Barney Stinson laid claim to being legendary.

There's the outdoor pool.

And the indoor pool. With the real gold accents.

Three guest houses. You know, in case you partied a little too vigorously and needed to crash for the night. He was so cute. He called them "the cottages." THEY ARE ALL BIGGER THAN MY HOUSE.

The man didn't miss a single detail.

Too bad the view leaves something to be desired. Pffft. Who wants an unobstructed view of the ocean?

Or those darn mountains.


There was the "private" vodka tasting. Which, for me, means like the smallest sips ever, because I'm delicate like that. The two on the left are American corn vodkas. The two on the right are (oh, gosh, I hope I get this right) Polish, and the Belvedere is made from rye and the Chopin is made from potatoes. I liked the Prairie and the Chopin. They were smooooooth.


On Sunday, we went to church (at a LCMS church that has an actual traditional service, which, I cannot even tell you, my soul was soaking up the beauty of things like the Proper Preface and Divine Service Setting Three like a weary traveler from the far side of a huge desert at a natural spring) and then met Courtney at Haven for brunch. Good food and excellent company is what vacation is meant for. For real. Crispy Pork Belly with two soft poached eggs, serrano pepper emulsion, vanilla gastrique, corn bread. I don't even like cornbread (too dry and crumbly) but this was heaven, heaven I tell you! It was so not dry, it practically melted in my mouth.

Moscow Mule.

The one and only "beer" I like. I mean, it tastes like fizzy raspberries. I don't even think it qualifies. I also don't care.

And some kind of bread-pudding-y dessert that threatened to make me explode because I was *stuffed*.

And we just sat there, in the sunshine and the breeze, talking about a thousand things and laughing til we wiped away tears and Courtney is one of those awesome sorts of people that you meet and feel as if you've known for decades. I can't think of a better way to wind down vacation.

Vacation was good. It was really, really good. My life is rich with a thousand blessings. Adventures and people on both coasts who are excited to see me and the technology that permits me to stop actual moments in time so that I can meander back down Memory Lane whenever I want and be grateful for this life I lead and the people in it.

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