Sunshine, spontaneity and surprises; family holiday recap

When it comes to vacations, my husband is a planner. Long before we’ve even packed our bags, he’s scoured the internet for information on things to do, places to eat, trails to hike and museums to visit. He laboriously prints out Google maps outlining the best routes to take from airport, to hotel, to attraction and back. He organizes it all by date and has a general sense of what we ought to do each day of our trip, weather-dependent, of course.

I LOVE that he’s so organized, because although I’m a planner and a list-maker in all other areas of my life, when I’m on holiday, I crave spontaneity and surprise (and sunshine, of course).

My favorite thing to do upon reaching our destination is plunk myself down (preferably with a glass of wine) and gorge on the travel brochures the hotel has thoughtfully left out for my reading pleasure. I happily bookmark and make notes until I’m told it’s time to think about heading to lunch or dinner or the pool. (Note, that while this strategy works well when traveling with a planner, using it when your travel mates are also ‘spontaneous’ sometimes results in visiting a museum on the one day during the week it’s closed; alas, I’ll have to see the Guggenheim on my next visit to NYC…)

We had a wonderful eight days visiting Southern California; Los Angelos, Santa Monica, San Diego and La Jolla. The weather was sunny and warm and we managed to squeeze in visits to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the Zoo itself, The Fleet Science Center and The Birch Aquarium.

We watched Born to be Free, an incredible IMAX film about orphaned elephants and orangutans and the two women who dedicated their lives to raising and returning these orphans to the wild.

We sea-kayaked at La Jolla (which, it turns out, I didn’t enjoy all that much; too many waves and a terrified child in the front of my kayak), beach-combed at Torrey Pines and hung out with relatives in Santa Monica (those are pelicans down below; my husband’s relatives are somewhat better looking ;)).

The week was full of surprises:

  • turns out that my brother-in-law is somewhat of a gourmet chef. His idea of a fun weekend is to spend the morning scouring the local farmer’s market for in-season delicacies and the afternoon conjuring up a dinner worthy of any 5-star restaurant. I was tutored in the fine art of pasta making and the proper way to season skirt steak.
  • my 12 year old son and nephew bonded over X-Box Kinect and fart jokes. They were inseparable for the entire weekend and talked about spending time together over the summer holidays (my son doesn’t typically make friends this easily; it was wonderful to see them connect so quickly)
  • on our flight home, I recognized Birute Galdikas (the orangutan researcher in the above-mentioned film) at the airport. She boarded our flight and we spoke to her enroute to our seats (my husband had met her before, as they are both professors at the same university)

and an equal measure of spontaneity:

  • while strolling through La Jolla after a dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, we wandered past a gallery displaying a large lithograph of The Lorax. Given my children’s love of Dr. Seuss, we decided to take a peek inside. Turns out we had stumbled upon a new Seuss exhibit that included not only well-known works, but also pieces that never appeared in his books. We spoke to the curator who told us that Seuss had lived in town for many, many years and that La Jolla, was in fact, ‘Who-ville’ and that Seuss and Gregory Peck had been buddies (known for complaining that they were the only gentlemen in La Jolla; several paintings depicted the local ladies as Seussian-like birds)

  • a much-protested, last-minute visit to a cave that resulted in us finding the most amazing, sandy beach, where the children spent a wonderful afternoon running from waves and burying themselves in the sand

  • desperate for something to read on the plane ride home (I finished The Hunger Games, 206 Bones and some detective book hubby handed me when I complained about being out of reading material), I grabbed the first thing I saw at the airport newstand; The Happiness Project. I haven’t been able to put it down and will definitely be blogging about it soon.

P.S. You’ll notice that this summary of our holiday is positive and upbeat. That’s not to say that there wasn’t lots of bickering and squabbling, a child vomiting in the back seat the entire 2 and 1/2 hours between LA and San Diego, much pre-teen sullenness at having to go to the zoo with his family, a soft, sagging bed that will take at least 2 massages to recover from, copious quantities of carbs consumed, an inaugural visit to Trader Joe’s limited to 15 minutes (!) and an un-inspiring hotel exercise room (internet photos lie).

There was, but I’m preferring to remember the fun, lest I boycott future family vacations!

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  1. Sounds like you had a fun trip! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that area… I was that sullen teenager once on almost that same trip. You should of brought your knitting for the plane ride. πŸ™‚ That’s what I always do and I love getting looks from people trying to figure it out or thinking that I am crazy.

    • Melanie, I did bring my knitting but surprisingly hadn’t the least urge to knit! I was totally in a reading mood. I love the comments strangers make when in knitting socks!

  2. My hubby is a planner too, he does the planning and I do the packing (I cringe to think what he would put in the suitcases for the kids if left to his own devices). As for our hotel bed, it was amazing. I am actually doing research to see what kind of bed it was and see if we can get it up here! Glad you had a fantastic trip!

    • Ha, ha! If my husband packed the kids’ suitcases we’d be short on socks and underwear, not to mention missing the toothbrushes and flip flops! They would be lots of books for them to read though!
      If you find any info about that amazing sounding bed, I’d love to hear it!

  3. Santa Barbara is only two hours’ from Santa Monica! Next time come up a little farther to an amazing city that even a teenager would love! Bummer you did not enjoy the sea kayaking, though kudos for trying it. The hubster and I LOVE kayaking though I also love warm water, so I usually hop into our double in summer. May you have sunshine at home!

    • I know, I know, I sooo wanted to visit you!
      I’ve visited SB before and absolutely loved it.
      We’re thinking sabbatical there in 2013/2014…

  4. AH! I am reading the Happiness Project, too, right now! Just a chapter or two away from finishing; it’s so interesting and so full of fantastic ideas!