This is an entirely different experience from the last time we were here. Two weeks ago, it was family emergency, stress filled, unexpected expenses and trying to economize. This trip is family reunion, planned for months, paid for in advance, and glorious! DH knows I hate LA, so he planned something nice for me. It's called the Portofino hotel in Redondo Beach. Oh GLORY! It's all colonial blue and butter yellow and white - airy, quiet, down-filled and SOOO relaxing!
Our room has a view of the marina. There are yachts out there that cost more than our house. Sea lions meander through. I can hardly wait to see one clamber onboard somone's dinghy and refuse to move. Whatcha gonna do with a 300 pound critter taking a nap on your deck when you're ready to up anchor and sail away? Shoo it off? Yeah. Right. You say, "shoo," and it roars, "Arrr! Arrr arrr!(For sea lions, it's always Talk Like a Pirate Day) Arrr! Arrr!!" (This translates variously as, "Bite me." "F*ck off." or "It's my boat now." .) And it moves not one fraction of an inch. Maybe it farts. You get close enough to give it a shove, and you discover that the lion part of sea lion is appropriate. They have big nasty teeth and they don't mind using them. You CAN'T use any weapons because this is SouthernCalifornia, and the PETA people would have a runaway. You can't even poke it with a broom for crying out loud. And don't, whatever you do, try luring it away with fish. Seal Lions are very intelligent. It will learn that if it climbs up on your dinghy, it gets free fish. You will find sea lions on your dinghy constantly. They will bring their friends and have raucous parties. They will shove one another and fight and all pile on till your dinghy sinks beneath their weight. You will simply have to put away your dinghy when you are not actually using it. (Dave, I can hear that naughty snicker from here.)
Redondo beach is so laid back the entire community is virtually horizontal. People don't walk here - they saunter. Even the sparrows seem less fidgety. Sales clerks are relaxed. Sometimes you have to hunt them down to give them money for things. Clothing shopping is out for me,however. I am a fifty-six year old amazon, 6 ft tall and 190 pounds of mature, gravity impaired curves. The boutiques I have stepped into have sizes clear up to 10. And the clothes are cute. I have not been cute since I was six. The locals are tan, gorgeous, almost otherworldly - like Elves on bicycles, carrying surfboards. (I saw this. Swear to gosh the young woman had pointy ears. Long blonde hair floating in the breeze, surfboard under one arm, other hand on the bike's handlebars, bikini clad butt pert on the bicycle seat, and rhinestones on her toenails.)
The family reunion was out in Temecula - out in the stinking desert. There is less desert every time we go out there, though. Vineyards are taking over. And every winery has its inn and wedding site. Be it a gazebo on the back lawn, or a special chapel with floor-to-ceiling windows and airconditioning, with adjoining reception hall that will seat up to 1000, every winery is on the wedding bus. It's certainly changing the local economy.
We were the last to leave the party, and DH's sis called from further up the freeway to say that there was a multi-car pile-up blocking the I-5 freeway, and we should take another route back. The one she suggested was incredibly scenic! It took us up the hills west of lake Elsinore, on two-lane roads where they film sports car commercials with repeated hairpin turns. At the crest of the pass, we were 2,668 feet above the freeway, the lake, the urban sprawl, and the stinking desert (which looked quite lovely in the late afternoon light if you could look down on it from several thousand feet above the heat and dust and insects.)
Then we descended through the Clevland National forest. A dry, oak forest. I am used to dry pine forest, and wet pine forest, but this dry oak forest was new and fascinating to me. DH was driving a strange, twisty, narrow old road with the sun in his eyes. MIL was longing to be home. I felt rather guilty about how much I was enjoying myself. I didn't know that Southern California had scenery! I thought it was all city and freeways. And as we made our way down to San Juan Capistrano, we passed the site for the Southern California Rennaisance Faire. Omigawd,omigawd,omigawd! We couldn't stop, it was wayy too late, and I'll never get there again. But at least I saw the sign. Now I have to re-read all my Mercedes Lackey books to re-visualize the settings.
The next day (Sunday) we went to one of the smaller swapmeets. It covered acres! There was everything under the sun. My mind boggled. My senses soon were overloaded. There was new stuff and used stuff and stuff that was only slightly stolen. There was fresh produce from familiar old carrots and potatoes to cactus leaves to stuff I had never seen before and would have no idea how to prepare or consume. There were food vendors from every continent, and the smells wafting across the area were mouthwatering and appalling in turns. I heard every major language group, was run into by people of all sizes and colors, (and quite startled a nice Asian gentleman who thought I was a mannequin) fondled fabrics and furs and flimsy blouses with sequins carefully applied in the most judicious places. (And laughed myself silly when the nice lady selling them suggested I try packing my 36D's into one of her wisps of fancy.) There was junk and jewelry and brand-new toilets (?) and live birds ."You don't want to buy those," my BIL told me. "They could carry chirpies. It's a canarial disease." We walked up one aisle and down the next for three hours and still didn't cover it all. I bought 3 pairs of black nylon anklets with ruffly cuffs for $2. (Add beads. Fashion bling!) I bought a lovely old Noritake cup and saucer for $3. I found a ceramic turtle for my MIL and used the magic words, "Will you take . . ." with my patented Oregon sunshine smile to get it for half price. A resounding success if you ask me.
Then after a family birthday party, we finished the day at the Redondo Beach pier, watching the sailboats and the sealions. As the sun sank into the golden air-pollution, a school of dolphins appeared. It was so cool! I have never seen wild dolphins before! And there was a baby with them. With the late afternoon light gilding their sleek curves and arcs, it was like some nature movie without the sound-track. I was ecstatic!
We slept in the next day, then made our leisurely way to the airport and found that the 9/11 fears had kept many people away. We even got into first class for the flight back. We got home before sunset, and the crapweasles had missed the newspaper in only one place, so it was the perfect end to a perfect trip. Wish you could have been with us!