Tuesday, June 10, 2014

West Coast Best Coast?

Remember when I set a New Year's Resolution to write a post twice per month? Yeah, I guess we can all agree that was a big ol' load of bull-honky. Oh well, what would a new year's resolution be if it not broken? I'm simply keeping with tradition.

But, fear not, I'm back. And I want to tell you about this amazing place I discovered called CALIFORNIA. It's on this bizarro place called the "West Coast," where the people are beautiful and the live TV shows come on at earlier times.

What is this heaven in which we find ourselves?!
That's what I kept repeating last weekend as I took in the beauty that is Southern California -- Montecito and Santa Barbara, specifically.

I knew California was pretty and beachy and blonde, but no one told me how lovely it is this time of year -- and every time of year, I learned. There is a lack of humidity and the seemingly nonexistent presence of mosquitos. THOSE ARE GAME CHANGERS, my friends.
This is where I live now. In California. On a beach rock. 
Why don't I live there? Why don't we all live there? WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? I thought I was an East Coast girl down to the bone, but this past weekend got me questioning everything I knew to be true.

My friend from college, Jenn, was getting married at her family's home in Montecito. My desire to see this wonderfully funny and smart friend of mine marry another wonderful person, coupled with my interest in a mini-vacay to CA, led me to cash in some miles and book a flight.

Actually, it led me to say "Mom, here are my credit card number and frequent flyer number. Do what you do, please." She is a whiz at booking mileage flights. In fact, she and my dad just landed in Ireland after a perfectly-booked business class flight.

My friend Emily was flying from Charlotte so we quickly decided to be travel buddies, a decision we later learned would be a stellar one due to the fact that we both travel like old ladies punctual, risk-averse adventurers.

Rather than give you a play-by-play of the whole glorious weekend, here are the basics. Consider it your own personal guide to attending a wedding in Southern California. You're welcome.

Getting There

Emily and I both flew in to LAX (her from Charlotte, me from DC --or whatever seemingly super faraway town Dulles Airport is in). My original flight got cancelled and rescheduled for two hours later (argh, DULLES!) so Emily arrived far earlier than I did. She was in charge of the rental car.

Neither of us had rented a car before but it seemed like a very grown-up thing to do so we were pretty proud. We don't really care that much about cars so we opted for whatever small, basic automatic car was available.

To Hertz, that equated to a black Chevy Sonic.

Hey, here's your first travel tip: If you have the option of renting a Chevy Sonic....see what else is available.

I'm used to some budget small cars, but that car was like driving a toy. Accelerating to merge into LA freeways was a bit daunting. I apologize to all the other cars wondering why the girls in the Chevy Sonic were going 15 on the on-ramp. Thank you for just honking at us instead of killing us. That was greatly appreciated.

Toy car aside, we made it safely to Montecito in (apparently) record time because we somehow avoided the notorious L.A. Friday traffic.

Staying There

Not only did we have our first rental car experience, but it was our first Airbnb experience! Here's your second tip: If you're planning a trip and considering sleeping in other people's homes when they aren't there, just do it. But you should make sure you have their permission first. Otherwise it's breaking and entering (and sleeping).

Now, a fact I did know about California is that it is crazy expensive so Emily and I had to do some research on where we would stay. Enter the aforementioned Airbnb. We found a "casita" in the perfect location for all the wedding festivities.

It was adorable, comfortable, and so easy. The host met us as we drove up and everything was all ready, including two fresh blueberry muffins and orange juice for the morning. My favorite part of the fun, cozy studio turned out to be the outdoor shower. You see, I usually shower indoors. This outdoors thing was new to me. Yes, the neighbors overlooked our shower and could potentially see us, but the blinds seem to be permanently drawn and also, who really cares? I don't know these people. The outdoor shower was sublime.

Eating There

Here's something else I learned: Every time is mealtime if there are restaurants. Seriously, I can't think of a time we weren't planning a meal. Why limit yourself to the normal hours of meals? Just finished your last meal 2 hours ago? Well, this restaurant looks good, might as well eat another.

Cheers to Cali at Los Arroyos. 
When we arrived, it was around 3:30 p.m. and neither of us had eaten lunch so we walked to Los Arroyos for some guacamole, salads, and sangria/margaritas. It was delicious. We then realized that, if we were to make the "welcome drinks" with the wedding party, we'd need to eat dinner around 7 so, on our way back from "lunch," we made a reservation for dinner at Lucky's, at place at which we heard we may even see celebrities.

So, still full from Mexican food, we dragged ourselves to Lucky's and lo and behold if we didn't see a celebrity! Geez, California, quit being so perfect and delivering on all your promises! We were convinced we wouldn't see anyone famous because famous people go to eat dinner later than 7 p.m. on a Friday night, right? APPARENTLY NOT. 

Halfway through our meal, I heard a voice I recognized, which was funny because I don't know anyone here. I looked up and who do I see but a tall blonde lady wearing a mini backpack. It was JANE LYNCH, y'all. She was about three feet from us, talking and laughing with the owner and hostess. I immediately stared at my shrimp chopped salad and said, "EMILY. Be cool. Be cool. It's Jane Lynch." And you know what? We were cool. That is, if you consider "cool" to be ceasing conversation, staring at your chopped salad, and watching her behind you in a mirror (which is what Emily stealthily did.)

I'd say the best meal we had over the weekend was during our venture out to Santa Barbara. Thanks to the time change, we woke up at 5 a.m. every morning which gave us plenty of time for exploring. We decided to head over to Santa Barbara Saturday morning and wander around. We went to see the Old Mission (which was lovely but not open yet) and then ventured out to find a fun, local breakfast spot. Thanks to our good friend, the internet, we came across Scarlett Begonia.

Oh...my...word. It was amazing. We ordered multiple courses, which apparently California girls don't normally do for breakfast because they seemed pretty impressed. I highly recommend you not only go to Scarlett Begonia, but you get the peaches and arugula, soft scrambled eggs, and gluten-free poppyseed currant muffin. And then when you think you can't enjoy the food any more, they bring you complimentary homemade toffee. Just do it. I don't have any pictures because I was too busy eating.

Dancing There

As much as we enjoyed touring Montecito, the true highlight was obviously the wedding. After all, it was the reason for the season! Jenn and Ryan got married at Jenn's family home, outside under an arbor Ryan built himself. I know. Just stop. It's too perfect.

It was a gorgeous setting and an evening that truly reflected a spectacular couple. From the family-style seating--which allowed us to meet some great people--to the rockin' band and dance floor, it was a fantastic celebration. Apparently it gets quite chilly in the evening in California, so they had throw blankets (in the wedding colors, naturally) for us to snuggle up in. And by "snuggle up" I mean, wrap around ourselves while we continue with our killer dance moves. The flowers, the food, the cake, the setting---and most importantly, the people---can not be adequately described, so I'll just rely on the photos. Congratulations to the happy couple --it was an honor to get to share in the special day.
The setting.
The lovely couple. 

The beautiful dinner.

The wonderful people. 

Leaving There

After a night of celebration, it was suddenly the morning of our last day. Time flies when you're dancing the night away and eating lots of food. Following a fun brunch with the happy couple (and some pretty intense lawn games), Emily and I decided to hit the road.
Day-after brunch and lawn games, including incredibly-terrifying giant Jenga. 
As I mentioned, we are very punctual and only had six hours to make the two hour drive to L.A. for our red-eye flights back home. (We're truly a special breed of traveler.) Since we had a pretty solid cushion in our timeline, we opted to take the more scenic Pacific Coast Highway (or the PCH as I, and everyone else in the world, like to call it). I had never driven the PCH before and was excited to take in its famed views.

It did not disappoint.

We stopped at Geoffrey's Malibu, my mom's favorite, for a cocktail. OK, so I had a cocktail. Em
was about to start her shift at the wheel so she got a latte. Sipping a Cava cocktail while overlooking the ocean is not a horrible way to spend an afternoon. We did notice that it took the valet quite a while to retrieve the Chevy Sonic. We're pretty sure he parked it a few lots over, lest it poison the Range Rovers, Teslas, and Ferraris that made it into the front lot.

We then made an additional stop at at local park in Malibu to walk around a bit and see the view which was--to the surprise of no one--stunning.
Oh hi, Malibu. You look nice. 
We made it to the rental car lot with lots of time to spare. In fact, we got to the airport with FOUR hours to spare. Ironically, we qualified for TSA pre-check. Because, that's when you want to go through security faster---when you have four hours to spare. That larger window of time would've been fine if the terminal at LAX had anything besides a Burger King, a Starbucks, and a fish restaurant. Seriously, LAX? You telling me Reese Witherspoon puts up with that crap? Thankfully there was a Hudson News where I could cheer myself up with Mentos and a Vanity Fair. I also purchased a $10 yogurt parfait for dinner. The only consolation was that I just imagined it was the same overpriced yogurt parfait George Clooney buys when he's passing through.

Me and my partner-in-crime rule-following, Emily. 
It's times like that when it is nice to have a travel buddy. And since I was connecting through Charlotte, Em and I were on the same flight. Thanks to the newlyweds, we also had our soft and cozy throw blankets to keep us warm in the terminal while waiting for our red-eye flight to board.

Then just like that, we were off. Asleep on a plane, traveling forward in time, back to the east coast homes we know and love.

As much as I loved the heaven that is Southern California, it felt good to land in DC (well, Charlotte and then DC). I love to travel, but I also love that feeling of returning home.

Is West Coast the best coast? I'm not sure I agree with that. I'd argue for coast equality. But it was great to get away for a weekend, catch up with wonderful friends (I'm looking at you, Jane Lynch), and take in the beauty of the Pacific Coast.

In the words of California's favorite politician, "I'll be back."

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