Every traveler has that one trip that they never truly come back from. That one significant location that grabs a hold of your heart, somehow, and abruptly unpacks itself in a corner of your mind with distinct refusal to leave. It doesn’t necessarily happen to be the most beautiful place you’ve seen, or the most exciting journey you’ve embarked on.. but the impact is undeniable.
- The view
California holds 1st place as most popular of the United States for various reasons. Being such an outdoorsy, free-spirited wanderer, I had always felt drawn to experience California for myself as I am highly intrigued by the many natural features this land has to offer such as Yosemite, the Redwood Forest, oceans surrounded by mountains, and the general hiking scene. For many others, however, the hype and fame of Hollywood, the intriguing “LA lifestyle”, and undoubtedly the beach scene is just enough to draw them in. And why wouldn’t it? While I am not personally too attracted to crowded cities, nor am I ever up-to-date on what’s happening in the Holly-world (I probably wouldn’t recognize a face of fame if I saw one, unless it was Leo, of course), I ended up in these places anyway.. and the experiences were most definitely incomparable.
I flew into LAX and stayed with friends in Moorpark, a city just shy of an hour outside of Los Angeles. This is where they began to show me “a day in the life” for the next seven days. By day, we took trips to various destinations, and by night we dined at rather upscale restaurants followed by a few drinks out on the town.
- The beaches
Santa Monica Beach and the Venice Boardwalk were definitely a highlight. Having been born & raised in Florida and surrounded by some of “America’s Best Beaches”, I’ll have to admit that visiting the beach was not at the very top of my list, but having heard great things about the California beaches it was certainly on my list somewhere.
This beach was unlike any I have ever been to before. The horizon was made up of chilly yet refreshing waters accompanied by the faint but distinct view of mountains in the distance. Adjacent to this beautiful scenery is a paved path that runs for a few miles, populated by bicyclists, skaters, and pedestrians. To emphasize the seemingly more active lifestyle of these Californians, the beach even features an outdoor gym! Apparently Cali does it right when it comes to killing two birds with one stone. So in regards to the good ole “GTL”, I’d say this place eliminates the need for tanning beds.
The Venice Boardwalk was abundant in everything from outdoor restaurants and gift shops, to artists, musicians, and street performers of various kinds. Containing such a copious list of things to do, spending a day here was an experience much greater than your average day at the beach.
- The Food
Being your typical foodie, I’d have to admit that the Cali dining experiences are right up there near the top of my list of things I miss most about California. We dined out for nearly every meal and I can’t say there was ever a dish I was disappointed with. If I had to put a name to my top two favorite food experiences while out there (aside from In-N-Out Burger, of course) …
- Paul Martin’s American Grill for THE best fish tacos I have ever consumed, hands down.
- Mediterraneo.. for everything! Seriously. The food, the atmosphere, and not to mention the hospitality. For fine dining, this place is a MUST try.
- The Adventures
As I had mentioned before, I am a diehard adventurer. Adventure is in my blood. I crave it daily. I’ll seek it out anywhere I go, and in all that I do. While I have gotten pretty good at making an adventure out of the everyday life in my hometown (because what else can ya do to stay sane in the same place for 23 years), I’ll always jump at the opportunity to roam and explore totally unfamiliar turf. Overly abundant in National Parks to wander, mountains to climb, oceans to drift in, and cities to get lost in … California is like an adventurists playground, full of free-spirited wanders like myself. It’s no real question as to how or why this place took such a strong grasp of my heart in less than a week.
I look back on this awesome first Cali visit as a “preview” of opportunity. I have not even begun to crack the surface of exploration of the California landscape, which has left me just yearning for more. With that being said.. I am officially set to return in July, as I will be accompanying a friend on a road trip from Florida, stopping at various points of interest along the way. Stay tuned, and see you soon, California!
What do you love most about California?