I am here! I am alive! A little tired, a LOT tanner- but back home and back to work and ready to spill all the details about an absolutely amazing (almost) week I just spent out in California! Re-acclimating myself to New England’s humidity, time zones and my usual work schedule has been a little rough- especially since I’m still very much in “Vacation Mode” and will probably remain so through this weekend until I start doing laundry, grocery shopping, running errands, etc.
I had mentioned my trip in my past couple of posts leading up to my departure, but for anyone who needs a refresher- my longtime friend Troy, who moved out to California at the beginning of 2020 (pre-pandemic) invited me out for a few days of sunshine, sight-seeing and swimming- and was gracious enough to host me at his absolutely stunning and swanky apartment in Orange County.
I got into town last Thursday afternoon and was greeted at the airport by Troy with balloons and a prompt stop at In-N-Out Burger (as is tradition) before we headed to Old Towne for an afternoon of thrift shopping at places like the Orange Circle Antique Mall and Country Roads Antiques. From there, we made a short trek to the Irvine Spectrum Center for more “up to date” shopping and so I could get my fill of palm trees and the first of many gorgeous West Coast sunsets- after which it was time for a soak in the hot tub and an early bedtime given we had a full itinerary for the following days.
We kicked off Friday morning in Santa Monica (my personal paradise) with breakfast at Dogtown Coffee– which I plan on doing a more in-depth and full write-up about shortly!- before we headed down to the famous pier and boardwalk for an early afternoon of rollercoasters, Ferris wheels, carnival snacks and checking out the end of Route 66. Given that we were within short driving/walking distances to so many things, Troy then brought me to Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills before *I* took him somewhere he’d never been before but I knew he’d appreciate given his love of space and science- Griffith Observatory.
We saw so much cool stuff there, including the nearby Hollywood Sign- filming locations from ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ (making this my second James Dean pilgrimage within a year!), a functioning Tesla Coil and a very cool show within the planetarium. The entire place is so unbelievably beautiful- and we could have stayed there all night.
On Saturday, Troy and I headed down through San Bernardino and into the desert to locate the church from ‘Kill Bill’- which was sort of intimidating once we came across it in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by stray dogs and abandoned buildings/businesses. It was obvious that whoever was inhabiting it didn’t take kindly to visitors- so we snapped a few photos before we bailed to our next destination- Switzer Falls. This 2+ hour hike was well worth the steep inclines and ruined shoes- because the waterfall(s) are really, really pretty.
And Troy only had to rescue me a couple of times! Other than that- I kept up just fine!
After surviving in the wilderness on granola bars and yogurt-covered raisins- we wrapped up Saturday night in downtown Santa Ana with a fantastic dinner at Wursthaus while a crowd of people were salsa dancing outside for a community-wide event.
Sunday was all about nature, as well- although it involved significantly less hiking. Troy and I headed to Laguna Beach (and specifically Woods Cove) for a few hours of swimming and sunbathing. The water was perfect and the waves were big- and I easily could have swam around all day without hesitation. It was so refreshing! We did eventually head into downtown Laguna Beach, though- specifically to get lunch at GG’s Bistro and do some shopping at Hobie’s Surf Shop before we headed to the Top of The World for the best panoramic view in town.
We headed back home shortly after, though- since we knew we had to get up on Monday morning for a very special reason…
To close out my last complete day in town earlier this week, Troy brought me to Disneyland for a full day (and night!) of rides, attractions, fireworks and Mickey Mouse-shaped snacks. We went on everything we had aimed to do- including the ‘Rise of the Resistance’ Star Wars ride which was by far one of the COOLEST things I’ve ever experienced- and Thunder Mountain a good 6 times in a row near the end of the day.
Troy even surprised me with a set of Minnie ears (he got some too!) for photos outside the entrance of the park. It was the best. day. ever.
And finally, with my flight back home heading out late Tuesday afternoon/evening- Troy and I spent the day doing laundry, packing up, and grabbing lunch at Watson’s Soda Fountain & Café before it was time for me to head to the airport.
Overall, I had one of the best vacations- and I cannot stress just how thankful I am for Troy for putting together days and days of amazing adventures. He’s one of my best friends of all time- and I can’t wait to see him again.
I head back to the West Coast (well, specifically Las Vegas) in August- and I’m hoping he’ll be able to make it there, too.
And I’m sure I’ll share even more photos from my trip when I write up my summary of the month of June next week!