Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Imagine That

   Yesterday I wrote about the first part of my recent travel adventures.  Visiting with my sister Laura and her husband Doug was a relatively minor blip on the "out of your comfort zone" radar. The day after I got back into town from visiting at Laura's, I took off for places south with my brother Matthew. This second trip was more than a blip on that comfort zone radar and yet I enjoyed every moment of it. Imagine that.

    My siblings and I were raised about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley.  During the 1970's my entire family relocated to northern California, though not as a group.  Some of us went away to college, and some (including our parents) moved north because they wanted to leave the smog and congestion of SoCal.  Matthew is doing book research and when he tossed out the idea of the two of us going to Santa Monica for a few days, I got very excited.  There are both cultural and environmental attractions that I have always heard about but never had the chance to visit.  I was out of SoCal by the time I was 19 and have seldom returned and then only for a specific reason.  Matt knows this area and going with him would give me a guide to the sights and a guide for maneuvering on unknown freeways.  I jumped on board the plan.

     Over the next few days, I hope to write several posts featuring this adventure.  Today I want to toss out some general impressions.  I feel compelled to add this caveat:  my comments are in no way meant to offend; they are simply my observations.  I add that caveat because, despite the pockets of pretty found in SoCal, I strongly prefer what my senses experience in Northern California.  Frankly, I was taken with what I saw as the lack of color and interest in the SoCal landscape.  Again, this doesn't mean there weren't pockets of pretty but I saw largely concrete gray on the roads and in the sky.  The terrain is primarily flat and dull.  True, the San Gabriel mountains are visible from Pasadena (in fact, they are right in front of you) but even the mountains are granite gray with tinges of brown and flecks of dark green.  Rolling back into Sonoma County on the way back, I appreciated our hills that are mostly green with golden brown highlights.  I focused on the oak and eucalyptus trees and was delighted to feast my eyes on a few puffy white clouds sailing in the  clear blue skies.  Refreshing is the word that comes to mind.

   The SoCal beaches were, at first glance, literally thrilling for me to behold.  I was stoked at the broad span of sand and water, the sweet grassy park like area adjacent to the sand.  I soaked in lovely tropical breeze ruffling the air and practiced breathing.  But, what I noticed after a bit, was that the broad expanse was beautiful but not as interesting to me as the more rocky, more sand dune sparkled beaches of home.  Again, not a slam to SoCal; just a personal preference.  The So Cal beaches were also all about people bathing in the sun and actually swimming in the water!  That is not a common sight on Nor Cal beaches.  Most people in their right minds do not venture into the water off Sonoma or Mendocino Counties unless they are wearing a wet suit.  Just different.

   The beach areas did bring the familiar ocean scent which tops my list of favorite fragrances.  I love the sound of the ocean waves too and, yes, you could hear that lovely rhythm.  Traveling on the freeways and in the congested traffic had the same traffic sounds and smells you will encounter in traffic anywhere.  Can't fault SoCal for that!

    The pockets of pretty were feasts.  I had to stop and look carefully at flowers everywhere.  They were bright and abundant in the coastal and upscale areas we visited.  Flowers were not so obvious in the hard scrabble parts of town but I suppose that is the same in many large cities. We visited the Getty Museum in Malibu and the Huntington Library in San Marino and both of these fabulous cultural banks provided us with  luscious eye candy.   Our bike rides along the beaches were difficult to sustain as I was constantly distracted by the beautiful blues of the sea and the very inviting scenes of coastal living.


     In addition to pockets of pretty to see, Matt and I enjoyed wonderfully tasty yet simple dining.  Matt knows good food and he was instrumental in selecting restaurants that included well made food, and an ambiance conducive to relaxing conversation while enjoying our meals.  One night we happened to end up in nosier sort of place but the food was outstanding.  We also ended up engaging fellow diners in conversation and that was fun!

   I have so many impressions and will continue this series tomorrow.  What I know is that, even though I must slip out of my comfort zone to do it, travel seems to be agreeing with me more and more as I get older.  I am especially drawn now to places that shake, rattle, and roll with energy.  I can't get enough of being in the dynamic world.  I want to take in all the sights and I want to ask all the people who they are and why they are there. Travel makes me know that I am alive.

     I SO MUCH appreciated Matt's patience on this trip because he was constantly having to wait while I snapped yet another photo or chatted it up with yet another stranger.  He never seemed to mind and would simply appear to enjoy the solitary moments to absorb what was in front of him.  His planning and attention to detail made all the difference in the world.  We both agreed from the get go that this was going to be an adventure and that surely we would encounter unsettling moments but we would be flexible.  We both knew that we need down time, time with nothing on the agenda other than to read or nap.   We built "no stress" time into the days and that paid off.  In short, Matthew was a great travel companion and I hope he lets me go with him on future excursions.


  1. I haven't visited NoCal in a long time, but when I moved from SoCal, I was so amazed at what a beautiful world there was out there! haha. There are things about SoCal that can't be beat, but I will never go back except to visit family or go to Disneyland :) Glad you and your brother had fun!!

  2. So glad you had a good time. Due to financial and scheduling issues, I've been stuck in the most major of ruts here in my little corner of New York for quite some time now. I'm afraid that by the time I can afford the time and money to travel, I will have forgotten how to do it. ;)