Sunday, September 25, 2011

Return to Reality

Well, here I am back at home, with a heavy suitcase and a bit of a tan, and already planning my next adventure. I know that I have been remiss with my posting whilst I was away but there was life to be lived, food to be eaten, mountains to be climbed and dear reader, I apologise that I did not keep you up to date with what was happening. So here in a long picture post I will describe for you the rest of my wonderful California sojourn.

Palos Verdes
As you can already tell from our previous adventures we love to be beside the seaside so a trip to Palos Verdes one morning was absolute heaven. Another day by the shore soaking up some sun and playing with pups in the sand.

Vegas Baby!
Ben and I headed out to Las Vegas for a family friend's birthday and stayed for three nights at the Flamingo Hotel. We had a great time in the pool, running through the city when it was deserted in the mornings, and playing blackjack.
We went out to the Shelby Museum which I definitely recommend for any fellow car enthusiasts. Ben and I had a great morning oohing and aahing over new and old beauties alike. We were also very fortunate as we got to meet Mr. Shelby himself while touring the factory floor! Dad was very jealous. 

My new car - an absolute classic!

Ben's new car
 Views and thrills were also to be had above the strip on the afternoon the whole group headed up the top of the Stratosphere Hotel tower to partake in the heart stopping adrenalin pumping rides located on the top floor. It was so much fun! Cue much giggling and screaming from me. The view of the mountains and the strip as the sun goes down is also phenomenal. Although most people come to Nevada to see Las Vegas there are so many naturally astounding sights out there as well and watching the mountains being painted by the sun as it descended for the evening was just as thrilling as the rides.
Mike, me and Ben hanging out high above the strip

Told you we were high above it all!
 Another one of my favourite things about Las Vegas is the collection of brilliant restaurants within blocks of each other. On our last night Ben and I headed to Andre's a gorgeous French restaurant located within the Monte Carlo Hotel. Everything was perfect; the menu, the décor, the company, the wine. It is certainly an evening that will be long remembered. The perfect end to the evening - crème brulee! Silken custard topped with crunchy caramelised sugar and berries that burst with freshness in your mouth, it all added up to heaven in a ramekin.
Happy chickpea.
And a few days later, after a few more hikes in the mountains, a few more trips to WholeFoods (I already miss you!) and of course daily adventures, I boarded a plane and flew through the night back to my other home.
Thank you my Ben, Jazmin, and LD for an amazing holiday and I can't wait to be with you all again very soon.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Update on Paradise

I am well aware that I occupy a privileged position amongst those who come to Los Angeles every year, however even before I met Ben I fell in love with the city of angels. I found something here in the excitement, the dreams, the symbol of the city itself that enchanted me. As I am lucky enough to explore more and more of Los Angeles and its surrounds I grow further infatuated with this corner of California.
Over the past couple of days my wonderful tour guide and I have spent time exploring different neighbourhoods and I have come to the conclusion that those who don't at least enjoy their time here, just aren't seeing the right things about Los Angeles.

Sunday called for a stroll around the Beverly Hills Farmer's Market before a lingering brunch and exploration of the city on foot when I went for a run.
Beverly Hills City Hall and Library, so peaceful (especially this long weekend)

Fresh summer berries at the markets. Oh yes, they came home with us.
Oh no they haven't lasted very long...
Ben spotted this as we drove through one of the wealthy neighbourhoods.
Brunch at John O'Groats. The table was glass over a funky old door - loved it!
Also coffee was perfect.

Ben's theory is that the middle is the best anyway, so why waste energy (and tummy
space) on the outsides? After trying it with my strawberry buckwheat pancakes I must agree!
Spotted during my run. I love running in Beverly Hills.

All that's missing now are my seven dwarves...
Monday was Ben's first day off so we took the morning nice and slowly and headed into Hollywood to take the pups to the park. It was a warm morning and we were all glad to be out enjoying the sunshine and the views offered from the hill top park.
A vineyard in the mountains.

The beautiful Jazmin (aka Mama/Razzo/Razzle Dazzle/Princess Jazmin)

Hidden treasures in LA.
Monday night was the perfect evening for a night hike through the hills. We enjoyed stunning views of the city, the valley and the mountain chains that wind down their way along the coast and inland. It was such a treasure to share such a beautiful night and so many breathtaking sights with Ben and the pups. Every curve of the road, every elevation gained earnt us more vistas of the sparkling city below.
There is more than one reason that they call this 'tinsel town', you just need to know where to look.

Today has been another day of epic euphoria. Ben took me on my first ever motorcycle ride! (Safety first of course people). I absolutely fell in love with it and I can't wait to go again.
Ben took me on a beautiful ride through the Hollywood Hills, Topanga Canyon, Santa Monica Mountains, and through Malibu. The end of summer has baked these hills into a palate of dusty gold, violent maroon and bronze, and vibrant green. Being on a bike is really the best way to explore the hills; feeling each curve, taking in the scents of the day, feeling the currents change from dry and warm in the canyons to cool and briny by the coast. My senses went wild during our ride and I can't imagine another way of making that trip. I felt freedom.
Freedom landed us at the shore and Ben and I spent some quality time on the sand; my California man napping in the sun while I read a fabulous John Muir book about the California Mountains (fitting I feel).
Tonight Ben and I are cooking up some dinner and cracking a bottle of wine. Yes, just another perfect end to another perfect day in paradise...
Surfer feet
Just remember, paradise is wherever you are, whomever you are with. Just look for that little thread that leads you back to the happiness that is innate within all of us. You can find heaven at home...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Malibu, We Love You!

On the edge of one of the busiest cities in the world lies twenty eight miles of beautiful coastline; bound on one side by coastal mountains and on the other by the Pacific Ocean, Malibu is a network of gorgeous beaches, and where I find peace of mind.

For the past three days the surf in Malibu has been absolutely brilliant; an end of summer swell that has woven its siren song through the hearts of all local surfers and had them arriving in droves to celebrate each and every set.

While Ben has grabbed his new board and embraced the swell with a smile and a wave back to me on the beach I have been taking advantage of the beautiful shoreline to get back into some running. There is nothing better in the world to regulate your breathing to than the wash of the waves crashing on the beach.

I have many reasons to love Malibu. Firstly, it is where Ben and I enjoyed our first official date and walking the sand takes me back to that beautiful afternoon every time. Secondly, when I watch the sunset or enjoy a midday stroll on this shore I feel open to whatever is happening in my life, I can feel the parts of me that are being created, and the other parts that are falling away.

Sometimes it feels a little uncomfortable, it is in my very nature to resist change, however I know that this discomfort is required as the price for learning more about myself and becoming the person that I want to be, the woman that I want to share with the world, she whom I truly am.

I feel ready when I am in Malibu, strong, free, like it is where I am meant to be. Where I am meant to find the beginning of the journey as the person I am now after years of finding out who that really is.
The journey never ends, this I know for sure, but now I know where I start.
Now to find my Ben amongst the waves...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back From the Wilds

I have found paradise. Others may search high and low looking for perfection, but I believe that they have probably never been to Yosemite.

Yosemite Falls. We took an afternoon dip here on our last day.
Arriving in Yosemite National Park after a drive through the golden plains and dusty mustard velvet hills of the Sierra Nevada was like entering a primeval den of emerald trees, alabaster mountains and blue, blue sky. I have never seen anything that compares to Yosemite, this place is magical. Once you drive through the front gate and begin the winding climb up into the mountains you leave everything you have known, all your worries in the present and concerns for the future behind.
Half dome. Ben and I are planning on tackling this next time...
If you let the forest, mountains and icy water come to you and their timeless quiet sink into you, there are unexpected gifts to be found in this still wild frontier.
Ben and I covered in Yosemite forest debris and loving it!
We camped in a beautifully deserted spot. Nested in the forest sheltered by large rock formations and neighbours with a musical stream. At night we would leave behind the friendly glow of our campfire for a litte while and venture into the forest, winding among the shadows of the trees, watching the stars whose glow was uninterrupted by any light. Those celestial bodies were more than I have ever seen before. There were stars beyond stars. They seemed closer somehow, here among the glades where the pines reach up to try and brush the sky. Standing by the stream at night was surreal; feeling and hearing the rushing of so much life without seeing anything at all.
Our home for the past two days.
We were so fortunate that forest also came to us. We spotted so many beautiful deer, bluejays, squirrels and chipmonks, and as Ben was negotiating the four wheel drive track in a very un-four wheel drive vehicle, this beauty and her cub appeared before us.
We were both astounded by the size of this lovely creature, and so grateful we got to see her
and her cub (who disappeared before the camera came out)
Our second day in Yosemite was just as wonderful, we took some long walks in the summer sunshine and found a beautiful river to have a dip in to cool off and welcome the afternoon.
Cool water from the snow melt was welcome in the heat of the day.
Happy by the river.
The scent of Yosemite shifts throughout the day, just as the light moves gently across the peaks and valleys. The morning air is sharp with pine and smoked with leftover campfire; the middle of the day is perfumed and dense but so clean that you can't get enough of it's exquisite ambrosia; the afternoon brings wafts of the heat of the day radiating off the rocks as the evening settles in bringing with it newly lit fires and the moist dew of the midnight hours.
L.D. and Jazmin, the best camping and country dogs ever!
And so our three days in the wild passed and we are now back at home. But I know that I will carry the peace and quiet of Yosemite inside me waiting until we next return.