Spring break: A California Interlude

Well, yes, it’s almost the end of May and I’m finally reflecting on Spring Break ’17, which seems out-of-whack, but seeing as we had our ONLY snow day of the year on Friday (seriously!), maybe it’s not that out of order?

Spring Break came and went, back in March, and after several false starts to visit California in 2016, we finally made it back to our old stomping grounds this year.  I couldn’t believe that almost 2 years had passed since we packed up and moved, leaving behind 10 plus years of happy memories.  That was my longest ‘home’ as an adult, and in some ways it seemed that we hadn’t even left, because we picked up seamlessly with friends, and yet there were definite changes – in us, in neighborhoods – and we couldn’t help but note the passage of time.

Seeing as I was on break, I spent a little longer than Michael, starting in northern CA and visiting friends around the San Francisco area, and then heading south.  If money were no object, I am quite certain that I’d claim that area as home – after all, what’s not to like about it?  It was a little grey when I was there, but still beautiful.  I wish I could say that I totally took advantage of being there and went and saw and did XYZ, but, really, I visited a friend who lives in San Anselmo (and met her 1-year old daughter who is adorable!), we walked and talked and walked and talked some more.  And then I spent time in the city with another friend who had come up from Monterey, and we talked and drank wine and talked and drank some more wine.  Plus, I spent some time in the Ferry Building, which is always a gastronomical and visual treat, and I got in a nice long walk around the Presidio (of which I have no photos!).  While that all sounds mundane, it was just what I needed – lots of good visiting with friends.  Plus plenty of excellent coffee!  Before I hit the road south to the LA area, I enjoyed a moment at Tartine, eating a scone (heavenly!) and coffee.  Perhaps what I loved most about that brief experience was the variety of people lined up to get their coffee – families, hipsters, construction workers (!).  I think that this is what I miss most about California, the variety of people that I’d bump into at different junctures during my day or week.  Such contact is probably even more prevalent in NYC, but even in LA, while we drove plenty and found ourselves in our car bubble, there just seemed to be more variety in the day-to-day experiences that we had.

Fueled by a scone and latte, I headed south – it was a bit of a meandering drive as I wanted to see some of the coastline, but then I turned left, veering east and cutting across farmland around Santa Cruz.  It reminded me of the time that I spent in Monterey – what feels like years and years ago, a different lifetime!  And then, the long drive south on I-5 (or “the 5”), which, for the first time that I can recall, was actually a beautiful drive thanks to all of the rain.  Rather than the usual brownish grey, windswept hills that just look sad and tired, I was treated to rolling green hills that made me think that I had made a wrong turn.  The drive south to LA continually surprised me – it was familiar territory, yet I’d never seen it so lush!

The southern CA leg of the trip followed a pattern similar to that of my brief stint in San Francisco – see friends, eat/drink, talk, talk, talk, see other friends, eat/drink, talk, talk… We felt the time-crunch, that the days we allotted for the trip, which had seemed plentiful when we made our initial plans, were far too short as we wanted to see EVERYONE and to have a meaningful moment to connect with them.  On the whole, I think that we were lucky – we went to many of our old favorite watering holes and ate as much Mexican food as we could possibly handle at La Cabañita, Lotería (OMG – the chilaquiles, I’d do almost anything for some right now!), and Amigos.  While there are better Mexican restaurants in the LA area, certainly ones with more fame or reclaim, these were some of our familiar stomping grounds.  At both La Cabañita and Amigos, people greeted like the prodigal son who had returned.  It sounds silly, perhaps, but it did make us feel nostalgic!  In addition to the Mexican food tour, we also had coffee every morning at Intelligentsia in Pasadena (such a luxury!), and ate our fill of pizza from Pizza of Venice which, fortunately, hadn’t changed at all.  We enjoyed one night that took us a bit out of our way, heading into LA to Pizzeria Mozza.  While chowing down on bone marrow, grilled squid salad, and a fennel-carmelized onion pizza, I had that same sensation as at Tartine – the restaurant was jam-packed with a variety of people all ages.  Obviously we need to get out more in Denver!  (Or something! Although, I just saw my cousin who moved from Boulder/Denver to NYC and he confirmed that this area is WHITE)

Before Michael arrived, I stayed with friends, but once he came into town, we moved to an airbnb in Pasadena, in the heart of Bungalow Heaven.  It was nice to stay close to where we used to live – for some reason, I hated the thought of staying in a hotel as we visited our old stomping grounds.  I wish that I had a photo – the place was quite simple and made me want to return home and get rid of EVERYTHING (which I haven’t done).  We were able to wander around the streets of Pasadena.  It’s so funny – living in a place, maybe you don’t notice the details, or scenes and sights are so familiar that you become somewhat “immune” to the slant of a roof, the contrast of colors, even the sunsets…

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Along the Arroyo
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Coffee!
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“The rock” at LACMA

While we spent most of our time eating and visiting, we did swing by LACMA , and, in addition the streetlamp sculpture and the giant rock and other ‘typical’ works that populate the museum complex, we lucked out and saw a Picasso/Rivera exhibit (which, sadly, just ended).  I’ve never claimed that LACMA was my *favorite* museum, but I’ll admit that it was nice to return – it’s a fun area and a great place to walk around.  The Picasso/Rivera exhibit was definitely well-worth our time – we both preferred the Rivera’s, but the comparison, contrast and juxtaposition of their works and relationship was an interesting lens through which to view the artists.  We also spent a quick morning in Malibu – way too short, but totally worth it to go to the water, take a walk, watch the surfers and just look at and listen to the ocean.  The mountains in Colorado are amazing and I’ll never tire of looking at them and exploring them by skiing and hiking, however, the ocean has a mysterious quality and, despite even swimming in the ocean, there is something terrifying about it, which gives me a thrilling sense.

I know that I’ve repeated this here, but the highlight of the trip was seeing familiar places and also connecting with people.  It was, as they say, good for my soul.  We’ve missed much of our life in California, and, I’ll be honest here, I’ve found it harder to settle into life in Colorado than I expected.  We’re getting there, and I certainly don’t regret the move, but it’s challenged me in so many ways – which, again, I didn’t expect.  So, yeah, the trip to California was somewhat nostalgia-tinged, but it was also a wonderful time – full of memories that we revisited and plenty that we created too.  So, we left feeling a bit torn, a foot – or emotions – in different parts of the country, but it was *so* good too.  Plus, we left knowing that we’ll return.  Sooner, hopefully, than later!

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