Two weeks ago, Roy (the husband) and I traveled to LA for a weeklong trip that was both work and play. It was a big deal to go back to Los Angeles (I lived there for a few years while in graduate school) but I’ve already talked about why it was a big deal to go back and how I felt once I did go back, so I’m not going to get into that again. The reason for going to LA (officially) was for a national writing conference, which took up half of our time. Unofficially it was a chance for me to go back to a place I once called home and for my husband and I to have a little vacation (it’s been a little more than a year since we’ve done any serious traveling, almost two where the traveling wasn’t family visit related). From all accounts, I think we had a fabulous time! 🙂
Our trip could have gotten off to a shaky start. We only had an hour’s sleep because there was a lot of “right before” craziness that came up. I swear it is always like this, even when we’re practically completely packed days in advance. But we both slept on the plane and I slept in the car, which certainly helped. Plus, Roy got his coffee fix and I was pleasantly surprised at the rental place. Roy decided to “splurge” and rent a small SUV without telling me (we always get economy/compact cars) and then the place upgraded us for free and we ended up with a minivan! I love minivans, as in when people think of their dream cars, I have always pictured a minivan since I was eight. Which I am pretty sure is just further proof I was born to be the soccer mom to 6+ little ones. 😛
Our first day in LA, we didn’t actually stick around in LA; we went to San Diego. One of my biggest “wish I had” things about my time in LA was going to the San Diego Zoo. I love animals. Seriously, I wanted to be a veterinarian to wild animals like lions and tigers for the longest time as a kid. I am still obsessed with animals today. Just how much? I tracked down a crazy wildlife book collection a few years back and just this last Christmas, my husband got me this:
One of my favorite Christmas presents, btw. So anyway, it was off to the zoo for us. I loved it, and so did Roy. We spent all day there! I am trying to think of my favorite part and it was probably the tour at the very beginning of the day. We walked around (and got lost a few times) and saw everything there was to see. (My favorite part is always the big cats.) The San Diego Zoo is most definitely the second best zoo I have ever been to. The Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo remains in first place, which I was not expecting (I was sure San Diego would bump Omaha down) but both zoos are incredible and must-sees for any animal lover.
Then, even though we were utterly exhausted, we had dinner on the water. The place (Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern) was so amazing. I had the Salmon Rissoto Tower and it was so unique. They had so many great options and I was on the fence, but was so happy that I got this. Roy was equally impressed with his meal. And being on the water, it was just so romantic and the perfect end to the perfect day.
On our second day in LA it was both conference stuff and vaca stuff. I reconnected with my undergraduate fiction mentor who was also there for the conference. We had breakfast and reconnecting with her warmed my heart. She was the single-most significant influence I had as an undergrad in terms of my writing. Plus, she’s just a really great person. When I remember her I think of joy. So we had breakfast and then I registered for the conference and by the time that was over it was 1:00. That meant it was time to book it to my big surprise for Roy.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I visited the Huntington, which is this amazing library/museum/botanical gardens. Seriously, I think it was my favorite place that I visited when I lived out there (and that includes going to Disneyland 😛 ). The library is… just wow. The rare books, original and first-print editions they have… seriously I drool, as would any other book nerd. We didn’t get to see the art museums, (they have two) so that will be next time. We did walk around several of the gardens however and took lots of pictures. It’s just so beautiful out there. I think my favorite was the rose garden, but really it’s hard to say.
After that I took Roy on a tour of all of the places I lived in West Hollywood/Beverly Hills (only three, but still). He has been hearing about my stories about each place for years so I think he enjoyed finally being able to see them in person. That night I met up with a close friend from graduate school and we had our own little dinner adventure. It was great catching up and I had this dished called “Spicy Hangover Soup” which was fantastic. It really was spicy, which is all that matters to me! 🙂
Then it was three days of conference stuff. We still had fun at night though. On Thursday I took Roy to the Beverly Center and we ate at the best Chinese place in all of California (California Wok). I also tried the Coffee Bean to confirm once and for all that I am not a fan. The next night we went to Pasadena and had a romantic dinner at this fabulous Italian place. Then Roy wanted to go to this tea and boba place which is not my thing. But they were so good, I actually got (and thoroughly enjoyed) this rose-flavored tea drink. Then Saturday night it was dinner with a lot of friends I went to grad school with (eight years ago – yikes!).
On Sunday we started early by taking a friend to the airport (which is actually code for me mooching more of her time, because I miss her) and then had breakfast at this wonderful crepes place downtown. Then we did a walking tour of downtown, which was really, really interesting. We also stumbled upon a crime show pilot being shot and Roy got really excited about it. (I lived there, so I was just like “whatever” haha, which Roy later said was a snooty reaction. And then I said whatever to that. 😛 ) I am happy that Roy got to have a TV filming/celebrity (though in this case, no celebrity) encounter, because that is SO LA.
We skipped lunch to go back to the hotel to decompress and I desperately wanted to shower. Then we were off to meet one of my mentors in grad school, and we ate and caught up more than we were able to do at the conference. I loved seeing her and catching up. (Funny story, we thankfully ran into each other the last day of the conference. While we had made plans to get together, I messaged her several times with no response. I figured she got busy and didn’t have time for me. Apparently, she thought the exact same thing and had sent me a message. We even showed each other our phones and we had both sent stuff. Not sure if it was the universe conspiring or Facebook messenger being evil, but luckily we ran into each other. We both thought the other was blowing us off haha.)
That night I went down to Long Beach to show Roy the last place I lived before I moved and to see a friend and visit at a local coffee house/wine bar/writing space which was awesome. (It’s called the Brass Lamp.) Then I took Roy to dinner at the Mercedes Grill which had been a biannual tradition with my first mentor in grad school and her former and current students. We walked down to the beach and just enjoyed a beautiful night (and witnessed a couple – we think two guys, but aren’t sure because it was dark – get engaged on the beach). It was so romantic!
On our last day, we were both pretty chill, which is new for us (okay new for me, Roy is always chill and wishes I could be more chill, whereas I often wish he would be less chill). We went to the La Brea Tar Pits (I still don’t know how I never went there when I lived in LA; I didn’t live that far away, and I’m also a huge dinosaur/extinct mammal nerd, like as bad as I am with animals – that bad). It was perfect. We didn’t have enough time to do an excavator’s tour (next time), but we did get to check out all of the tar pits and the museum. For me, I like to go at a leisurely pace, read everything and let it soak in (Roy is often sitting somewhere reading, or watching me because he gets through any museum in half the time I do) so it was nice not to be rushed. Then we went back to my favorite Chinese place (which is less than two miles away, which means I used to live less than two miles away from the pits, how did I not go there before) and finally drove to my old grad school and I showed Roy around campus. It was by far the most emotional for me, and so much has changed (they’ve really expanded) but other things like the quad is the same and talk about memory overload. We swung by my last residence (in Inglewood) on the way to drop off the rental car (which we both still miss, me for the van and Roy for the backup camera and other tech features).
We had a minor airport hiccup, but it’s fine. Roy treated me to a chair massage, which was amazing and really hit the spot. And that was that. Our LA adventure was over. (The flight back was much smoother and shorter than the flight there, which I was grateful for – I don’t like flying in general.)
I think this might be our best stateside vacation/visit ever. I feel like usually when we go somewhere or even visit one of our families it’s such a cluster, semi-stressful, packed-in trip. Some of this is me (I’ll admit it) and a lot of it is just the way it is. Whether it is going somewhere like San Francisco and we have a list of things we want to see (Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge etc.) but not enough time to see them all, or whether it’s visiting family, but trying to fit in all of our family and friends and favorite local places to visit in just a few days, there is just this manic energy (I feel it, and I’m sure when Roy feels it, he thinks it’s coming from me 😛 ), but not this trip. This trip was just kind of laidback. We did so much, and the conference was SO MUCH and more than half of our trip, and we saw so many people. But it was never like “Crap, where do we fit this in?” It was never stressful or anxiety-inducing. We didn’t do everything I wanted to, but even during our trip I just waved it off. It was fine. Next time, then. Even though there is no next time in sight at this point.
Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s because of what LA is to me. Maybe I’m mellowing out as time goes on. Maybe it’s simply an accumulation of trips that has afforded me this attitude. Perhaps it was a fluke and next time I’ll be just as manic about seeing people, places and things as I have been in the past. But I hope this last statement isn’t true. I have to say, I enjoyed such a chill visit. And I am still shocked at everyone and everything we did see and do while we were there… relaxed. Maybe there is something to this zen thing after all? 😛
When we got back home, Roy mentioned how it was only $44 per person to fly there this upcoming weekend.
“Let’s do it!” I cried, half-serious, so not like me. Roy shot me a look sharper than daggers.