Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Emerging from the Dream State

The La Jolla Coast
A few days after the VocabularySpellingCity team returned from San Diego, Bob asked me if I knew of a cure for a "California hangover." Without giving it an ounce of thought, I replied, "There is no cure. I've had one since November of 2000. Get used to it." As you know from my last blog post, California Dreaming, I LOVE California. It truly is my "dream state." It's taken me a couple of weeks before I could even write about my trip, because I really hated to leave it. No, I never considered abandoning my family. In fact, this was the first business trip that I missed my family from the second I walked off the airplane. I just wanted them with me to share in the amazing experience. My original plan was to have them fly out and join me for a week of vacation following the convention, but $800+ per person airfares sidelined that plan.
Welcome to the Google Celebration!

Keep in mind, this was a business trip, so I really had very little time (MUCH less time than I would have liked) to explore. Somehow, between the booth set-up, break-down, expo hall hours, client lunches and dinners, social engagements, commitments, and random work-related tasks (Yes, I actually had to proofread a press release on my cell phone at the Google celebration while standing amid a throng of party-goers), I managed to work in a few hours of fun, soul-refreshing quality California time. 

In addition to all of the things I already loved about California, I discovered a few more things that fueled my passion for the Golden State. Here are just a few of them:

69 and sunny at 11 am
Perfect Weather
I'm pretty sure I mentioned California weather in my previous post, or at least how the California sky is the most incredibly vivid blue I've ever seen, but San Diego's weather was absolute perfection. On previous trips, I've spent most of my time up the coast in Orange County. While this area is absolutely gorgeous, the summer sky tends to be overcast until early afternoon. This is not the case in San Diego. Yes, I often awoke to the "June gloom," but by the time I headed to convention center at 9 a.m., the sky was blue and the sun was shining. Temperatures ranged from the low 60s to low 70s, with very little humidity. I was able to catch about an hour's worth of sun and relaxation by the hotel pool one afternoon and not once did I feel like I was laying in a sauna. Warm sun, cool breeze - it just doesn't get any better. Locals told me that San Diego's weather is like that year-round. How quickly can I put my house on the market?

Perfect Swells
Leucadia Surf Shop
I am not a surfer. I have never been a surfer. I would love to become a surfer if my lack of coordination and fear of sharp-toothed ocean predators ever allows me to. Being married to a surfer, I can appreciate the beauty and perfection of line upon line of clean swells moving toward the shore. You see plenty of them driving south from Carlsbad along the San Diego County coastline. Though I've never actually experienced the exhilaration of riding a wave, I gazed upon the Pacific that Sunday with a sense of awe and desire to join the hundreds of other surfers out there - Great White sharks or not! ;) The woman who sat next to me on the flight back was from Carlsbad. She told me that she has friends in their 50s and 60s who surf every morning before work. Maybe it's not too late for me after all!

Beautiful Foliage
It seems that most everywhere you go in Southern California, there are beautiful flowers. Not just in perfectly manicured residential lawns, I'm talking on the side of the freeway! I assume that the perfect weather has something to do with it. I saw many flowering plants and trees that I would love to have in my own yard at home (OK, I'd probably kill them). I also saw a lot of agave plants, which are so beautiful. I'm thinking that since they are similar to aloe, they might have a shot in the South Florida climate. If they flourish, I could even make my own tequila (which brings me to the next thing I love about Southern California...)

Awesome Mexican Food
This close to the border, how could the Mexican food NOT be amazing? ;) I had delicious lobster tacos at Rockin' Baja Coastal Cantina.They were made with fried langostino lobster tails (actually prawns).  The margaritas weren't bad either! Mary Jane's at the Hard Rock also made some of the best veggie tacos I've ever eaten. Even the Broken Yolk Cafe featured breakfast items with a "Mexican" flare. Their California Breakfast Burrito was one of the best breakfasts I've ever eaten. (And, let's face it, how could you NOT love a restaurant whose slogan is "We've got huevos!"?) What did all of these meals have in common (along with a few other meals, like a B.A.L.T., that I had in California)?...

California Breakfast Burrito
Haas Avocados. Although I am from Florida, I am a bit of a California avocado snob. I do not care for the spongy texture of a Florida avocado, but a Haas avocado? I can't get enough of it! You will find avocado (or guacamole) on just about every menu in Southern California. I ate it every chance I got. Now, even my soon-to-be-16-year-old has fallen in love with this superfood! I always keep a few in my fridge now, but I won't be making the sweet avocado popsicles that I recently saw in a magazine. Yuck!

La Jolla
La Jolla sunset
The last time my family visited California, my sister-in-law Karen (who is from San Diego) took our kids to Sea World so Rob and I could have a quiet dinner. She suggested La Jolla. Aside from seeing the seals at Children's Beach, I don't remember much about that visit to La Jolla. This trip was different. Maybe it was because it was such a big part of what little free time that I had, but I fell in love with this coastal town! Breathtaking beaches, free (yes, FREE...in California) beach parking, seals that share the beach with people, incredible sunsets, and friendly people (from a teenage girl who gave us directions to the Children's Beach, to a 20-something spearfisherman who took the time to answer my questions about what kind of fish he was going for, to a 60-something boogie boarder, EVERYONE was friendly!). I decided that I could definitely live in La Jolla, so when I came home, I jumped on Realtor.com and got a big reality check. A 1,300 square foot apartment near the beach goes for...wait for it...$750,000 (yes, that's FOUR zeros!). Of course the house with the amazing views that caught my eye was a cool $17 million and change. There was actually a link on Realtor.com that read "Click here to find out how much house you can afford in La Jolla." I clicked it and it laughed at me! ;)

Dog Friendliness
Harry & Me
In San Diego, I learned that California is a very dog-friendly state. It seems like people take their dogs everywhere! I saw (and of course had to pet) so many Golden Retrievers, it made me miss my sweet Makani all the more. I know that he would love it out there. The cutest dog I met in San Diego was a precious English Golden named Harry. I actually chased him (and his owner) down the street and asked to pet him. Being a Golden "dad," of course the guy (and Harry!) obliged. :) I even had one dog owner who was walking his three pups on La Jolla Beach wish me "Aloha!"

Hotel Del Coronado
Driving up to the Hotel Del Coronado
I had read about the Hotel Del Coronado and seen television programs about it (mostly about the   ghosts who haunt the hotel), but in my previous trips to California, I had never visited Coronado or the Hotel Del. I kind of understand why spirits might choose to spend eternity there. Everything about this sprawling hotel by the sea is grand. The architecture, the meticulously-maintained rich,  dark wood interior of the lobby, the perfectly manicured and landscaped grounds, the old-fashioned cage elevator complete with uniformed bellhop...it was like stepping into another era. There were also some very cool shops that are open to the public (lucky for us!), including one called "The Blue Octopus!" As cool as I think it would be to stay at "The Del," my dream vacation would include a few days in one of the cottages that lie along the perimeter of the hotel grounds, facing the ocean. Known as Beach Village at the Del, these cottages may be reserved for $2,200 PER NIGHT! A five-night stay would set one back $15,000! Guess I won't be staying there any time soon, but a girl can dream, right? 

Beach view from The Del
The Hotel Del Coronado was the last stop on our trip before heading off to the airport. *SIGH* Our jaunt to Coronado really pressed us for time; then the TSA decided to not only body scan me, but also to search my backpack and my purse before I boarded the airplane. Seriously, in what universe do I look suspicious? Much to my dismay, they chose not to detain me. (Just kidding!). A 30 minute delay in taking of from San Diego nearly made us miss our connection in 98 degree Detroit (with a scheduled 36 minute layover!). (Why did we connect through one of the northernmost states in the U.S. while flying between two of the southernmost states? I have no answer for that.) But after a long day of flying, I had emerged from the dream state and fell back into my life in the steam state. 

South Florida may not have cloudless blue skies and an average annual temperature of 68 degrees. Conditions may be perfect for surfing only a few days a year. Avocados may be a little on the spongy side. BUT...the ocean may be enjoyed wetsuit-free most of the year; there are plenty of seashells along the beach and under the waves here; the state doesn't tax the living daylights out of it's residents; sunrises over the ocean (and from my balcony) are just gorgeous; and most importantly, the people I love most in the world are right here!