After Jackie and Will’s pomegranate, farm-inspired wedding came to a bittersweet end, old roommate Caleb and his friend Rachel told me they had one day left to soak in the Southern California sunshine before their flight. With 24 hours at our disposal in my former city, I played host.
It’s been one month since Jackie said “I Do” but it feels like yesterday when I took that first step inside the big tree, walked down the isle and took my place alongside the bridal party. One of my best friends, Jackie, was getting married and I was lucky enough to be one of her bridesmaids. Her venue? One of the coolest places I could ever imagine. She picked a pomegranate farm in a tiny town outside of Temecula, California as her and Will’s spot to say “I Do.”
I can’t say enough about this amazing woman, life-long friend, former college roommate and fellow road-tripping groupie, Jackie. Or her amazingly sweet, kind, funny husband Will. I’ve known them both for over 10 years, since Richmond VCU days.
The weekend was a confluence of food truck delights, pomegranate-infused drinks, old college memories, drunken dance parties, matching bridesmaid tattoos (fake, let me assure you) and bittersweet goodbyes to friends I hadn’t seen in 10 years and probably wouldn’t see for another 10. Overall, despite the lack of cell phone reception, the gravel ground that permanently tinged my peach bridesmaid dress, and the chilly weather, I had a blast. I crashed in the same bed with my old best friend, Caleb, stayed up dancing all night, even squeezed in a bachelorette-style girl’s day at Glen Ivy Spa to celebrate the bride-to-be.
Can’t wait for my own wedding. Wonder if I should go for a pineapple plantation or apple orchard…
I surfed, I dogged, I conquered. The tide was low and my Surfline app was translating that to good surf weather. So I gathered my brick of a Costco 8″ board and trekked to the famous, original Dog Beach. Where surfers surf, dogs can be dogs and man can play with their best friends. Turns out, I made friends with dogs and shoals.
Laguna Beach wasn’t all beaches, billionaires and babes. Somewhere in the back of a tiny, hole-in-the-wall dive bar called The Marine Room, I found a funky, blue grass band and a man who defied the Southern California norm and rocked the house. And when I say rocked, I mean the pulsating, still-ringing-in-my-head kind of rock. With a unique guitar twang, a token tambourine man and a Johnny Cash, freight train-like sound. Awe-struck and smitten, I randomly and spontaneously slid a beer bottle across the wooden table to Mr. Jones. Secretly hoping he would say thanks but knowing he’d probably only grab it and go, he did neither, actually. Instead, much to my dismay, Mr. Brad Jones turned around smiling and said hello back. I might have died and gone to heaven.
She was just as divine as I imagined. And her vine-covered, cottage-esque chateau was too. Tucked away in the California countryside, it was like something out of Southern Living magazine or Travel Channel or Dream Listings. My dream house. And my new boss’s house. Who knew a little leap of faith on an unexpected freelance gig would lead me to working with a famous designer in her own home studio? Am I dreaming? Don’t wake me up yet if I am. This is too good to be true.
It’s America’s most popular roadtrip for a reason. Many a honeymoon has been spent, a novel born and a virgin road trip consummated (*raises hands in excitement*) along the Pacific Coast Highway’s breathtaking, winding coastal route. Travel Channel says it’s ideal to drive the Pacific Coast Highway from North to South. But like the unconventional traveler I am, I did it from South to North. Survey says? Mind-blowing scenery, quirky stop-offs and that wind-in-your-hair serendipity of wondering what the next bend in the road will bring.
The closest thing to living my National Geographic dream was meeting one of their top designers today at a hole-in-the-wall bar in Venice Beach, CA. Although our chat only lasted only 45 min (and it took me 2 hours and 45 min to get here), it was absolutely 110% worth it. He said something I’ll never forget:
Never play your “Ace” card on the 1st hand. Wait for the right moment when you’ve got everything in you and nothing to lose. You say you want a big city, a solid career, National Geographic as your client, and the beach in your backyard? You have start somewhere. I did by moving to NYC; that’s what launched my career. I never thought I’d break in, but I started with one small commercial. 5 years later, NatGeo remembered that commercial and asked who the guy was behind it.
An amusement park in itself, Hollywood Boulevard is a spectacle of ALL sorts. From the Chinese Theatre to the Wax Museum to the Stars’ Footprints to the Dolby Theatre to the packed grungy sidewalks to postcard stands on ever corner, this star-studded, theatre-lined street should be a city all on its own. Yet despite the stereotyped reputation this Hollywood drag gets, it is quite possible to spend a pleasant day on Hollywood Boulevard and have a good time.
Hey, Hollywood! What’s your dream?
Bad news, guys. There actually is no lake in Silver Lake; it was built around what used to be a city reservoir, and now is an empty canyon. Yet despite the serious lack of water in my new found discovery, I immediately fell in love with this hipster neighborhood. It feels NOTHING like L.A., which appeals to me even more. After an hour of strolling through with personal tour guide and friend, Dennis, I found a confluence of Southern California charm, some of the best coffee shops (Cafecito Organico!) ever, boutiques galore (Mohawk!) and all the eateries (Poseidon’s Catch!) LA has to offer and to keep me consuming for days. Pro-tip for first-timers: Whether you come on two wheels or two feet, definitely check out this hidden gem.
If you know a bartender here at this bar, you’ll make the Honor Roll. After a long day of spontaneous road-tripping and neighborhood strolling around vast Los Angeles, friend Dennis and I need some libations to wash down the thirst of our sunny, sweaty day. Luckily, Dennis knew a watering hole, Public School in downtown Los Angeles and a trusty bartender named Jim. Jim treated us like “A” students. With unlimited play on a life-size Jenga time, a foot high Tic-Tac-Toe board, and a glossy finished shuffle board. With a FREE four-cheese pizza. AND with a few locally crafted suds. 4 hours later, Dennis and I walked out feeling like giddy school kids again.
To delicious, mouth-watering California wines, in general.
To the never-ending grape varieties and flavors that keep my tastebuds wanting more.
To the entrepreneurs who bring dreamy, far-off vineyards to urban reality.
To the architects who know just how to put an urban touch on a classic winery feel.
To roommates who have an inside scoop on watering hole and a guy who owns it.
I knew I picked a good roommate. Frank had the inside scoop on a delicious watering hole called BK Cellars. Turns out, his co-worker owned it. BK Urban Cellars Winery & Tasting Room, an urban winery 15 miles outside San Diego in Escondido with aluminum exposed pipes, a fabulous piano playing musician, flexible hours, better cheese board selections and a private tour by the owner himself.
My happy place on Sundays, the Leucadia Farmers Market. Full of sunny patches, fruit stands, coffee pop-ups, intoxicating breakfast foods and Southern California appeal. Parking is a kind of a hassle, but the earlier you get there the better. But if you park behind the elementary school on the side neighborhood streets, there’s usually spots open.
There’s tons of gluten-free options.
Healthy food vendors in abundance.
The aromas will tempt your senses at every booth. Come hungry and leave well fed.
If you bring kids, there’s a fenced-in playground area.
Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of the MorningStarRanch Green Drink too!
Sunday 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Paul Ecke Elementary School
185 Union Street,
Encinitas, CA 92024
Pacific Beach. The last place I thought I’d ever live in San Diego. And now: the first place I want to come home to. Never mind the bros, check out the view outside my window to Mission Bay. Yep, should have moved here sooner. Now onto drinking my bro’ beer.
What’s the best gift to give Mom on Mother’s Day? Not roses. Or chocolate. Orrrr a mani-pedi. Instead, surprise her with a morning hike at Torrey Pines, a rocky beach reception and plenty of selfies. Miss you Mom! Come back to the west coast soon! Psssttt… let’s stay in that AirBnB again. 🙂
Bucket list item complete: I traversed the rocky plain of Torrey Pines State Beach without falling, being attacked by seaweed, or getting pummeled by a wave. Am I San Diego-fied yet?
Any San Diego local will nonchalantly tell you there is more to this town than just sunshine, beaches and fish tacos. (although, sadly, those are my favorite things.) There’s hiking trails nobody’s heard of, secret back door cafes, juicy western-style burgers, beers hoppier than a bunny, architecture to make any designer jealous, iced coffee to send you out of this world, robust wines rivaling the likes of Napa, enough ahi tuna to sink a ship, avocado trees as far as the eye can see, and so much more. My mom just arrived at the airport from Washington, DC for a 6-day vacation. Yikes! She has no idea what she’s in for.
Photo by @SanDiegoMagazine
Though expensive, the trip was worth every penny of my $90 ticket, every animal sighting (GIRAFFES, my favorite!), every inch of the 4.5 mile course, and every bite of the surprisingly delicious turkey sandwich. And it even got me a free ticket to the Safari Park.
Ahh bring me that horizon!
The BIG day we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! My cousin got married to the woman of her dreams.