Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vacay - Day 4 – August 26th, 2014

View of Hollywood sign from Studio 19
Simi Valley had a much slower pace than L.A.  It still had people living on top of one another and sprawled out within the confines of a valley, but it was still a much more comfortable atmosphere than we experienced yesterday. 

New York Facade and Subway entrance
There were two main places in mind for today: Paramount Studio and Studio City for a taping of The Odd Couple that was scheduled for opening this fall on CBS.  But before those were scheduled to happen, we had to fuel up – with food.  The car tank was still looking pretty amazing despite all our stop and go travels up and down the west coast.
Our hostess suggested a place called the Firehouse Café.  There is a little café in my hometown called Mugshots and it was run as a business by police officers.  So, a placed called Firehouse Café – quite obviously – was themed, too.  It had photos of firemen, especially the retired ones or those who passed on in the line of duty, and framed articles about the heroic efforts of firemen putting out the wildfires that California would suffer during the long dry months of the summer season. 

The breakfast there was large portions and only cost $17.10.  And as soon as it was done, we returned to the friend’s house to shower and pack up for our day out.

First stop, back to L.A. for a tour of Paramount Studios.  This was the cheapest tour offered at $53 a person.  Warner’s tour was a dollar more a person and Universal was more an amusement park attraction plus a tour and cost almost as much as going to Disney Land. 
Cafe in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
We arrived early and were parked across the street.  This was good because we were able to get a good photo of the gate where executives and actors would come and go.  We went along a side path parallel to the gate to get signed in with security and brought out to a waiting area, al fresco.  Momentarily we were walked down to the gift shop where we picked up some water and used the restrooms.  Then we waited on the rest of our group.  There was a young lady who was our guide who stopped by our table as we waited and talked with us a bit to find out where we were from.  She was a native of L.A. – born and raised – so learning we were from Michigan brought on a lively discussion about the rigors of living in a sub-tundra.  She never experienced such colds that plummeted below zero before and couldn't imagine surviving that way for months.  When she went to Arizona where her parents moved, she had described the 40-degree cold nights as insufferable.  Poor thing.
Good Luck Gate
Anyway, we first stopped at a podium with famous people photographed for their shows that Paramount owned.  Next was a prop warehouse where items from the newest Star Trek movies, Transformers, and Bad Grandpa were housed.  I regret not having taken a photo of anything there, but my battery on my phone was running low and I was hoping for other photo opportunities.  Our tour continued on a extended golf cart next and we were told about Studio 19 being haunted by the little girl from Poltergeist.  Even though Poltergeist wasn't filmed in that studio, she was a fan of Happy Days and that was where it was filmed. Apparently Scott Baio was reported to have felt someone leap on his back for a piggy back ride during a taping of Charles in Charge. We moved on to a place where Lucille Ball and Ricky Ricardo once had dressing rooms on the set – and how Lucy had the door of his dressing room cemented in because of all the women who would visit.  There was a daycare nearby and a small stretch of greenery where parts of The Brady Bunch were taped for the outside of the school.

I loved watching Cheers and was surprised by one story where the actors would exchange the fake alcoholic drinks for the real thing and challenge each other.  Once such challenge resulted in them running around the studio naked, finding some wet cement and embedding their hands and footprints with their signatures.   Apparently, Woody Harrelson couldn't remember it happening, but the hand and footprints matched his size.

Susan Sarandon and I have the same sized hands
We went to the New York portion of the set where the last Indiana Jones movie had a scene shot.  That excited me since I am a big fan of those movies and Harrison Ford.  Our tour guide had a tablet that she played certain scenes on from YouTube.  There was taping recently done there because the fake subway entrance had a marker on it.  The streets are full-sized and there were a lot of car commercials shot there as well – especially the ones with the giant hamsters.

We were a quiet group and had very few questions, so the tour moved on quickly.  Our tour guide didn't seem too thrilled with that.  I think she would have preferred we were more engaging.  There was a parking lot that was specially designed to be filled with water and surrounded with blue screen for “ocean” scenes.  The opening to their theater was converted to a hotel lobby for another Harrison Ford movie – Clear and Present Danger or one of the other Jack Ryan films he did.  And there was a gate that you touched for good luck.  We all touched it.  I only hope it brings me the luck I desire.

The tour ended and we had a lot of time before were needed to be in Studio City for our studio audience experience.  We decided to find the Chinese Theater.  It was crowded.  The walkways and parkways were overloaded with tourists from every corner of the world.  I found so many handprints and footprints that amazed me.  Susan Sarandon and I have the same sized hands.  Shirley Temple was such a small child when she placed her prints into cement.  The top cast of Harry Potter and Star Trek the original series had a block of their own.  The Harry Potter cast even placed their wands into the cement.  John Wayne had tiny feet for the impression of such a large man. 

To the side of the Chinese Theater, there is an entrance to another mall where there was musical stairs to walk up and down.  It was interesting, but only half of the stairs were working.

On our way back to the car, we walked along some of the Walk of Fame.  I was disappointed I couldn't find Robin Williams hand/foot prints or Hollywood star, but I saw so many others.  It was lunchtime and we needed to move on. 

A note to be aware of: there is no parking on the side streets on Tuesdays between noon and 3pm.  Even though it may look like there is plenty of parking spots and the large print on the signs say you can park from this time to this time, look for the fine print for the exclusions. 

Traffic was getting insane as everyone was on Wilshire Drive looking for someplace to be, probably for lunch.  We nearly got hit at an intersection by someone flying through while we were driving safely and within reason for speed.  I finally did a little research and found someplace closer to our next place to be over in Studio City.  It took us through some steep foothills to get there, but the traffic calmed down and we found ourselves in another place of slower pace and a calmer atmosphere.  It was called The Counter and it was a place of custom built hamburgers.  There were organic options, vegetarian options, and antibiotic and hormone free beef available on the menu.  I had that with spinach, tomato, Swiss cheese, and pickles with a basil pesto sauce and grilled vegetables.  It was delicious!  I don’t think I ever had a better burger in my life. 

The CBS studio was just down the road from The Counter and we arrived at the right time as a good portion of the audience seating was already filled.  It took the better part of an hour and a half for the seating to be filled.  Our MC was Mark Sweet, who we discovered was from Detroit originally.  It was his job to keep the studio audience engaged, let us know the setup of the scene we were about to see, and explain terminology of the business such as tag, reset, etc.  It was exciting to be there, seeing the actors I have only seen on a static screen moving back and forth in front of me as alive and real as I was.  Seeing this side of filming was also an eye-opener.  The seated audience was up by the lighting for the stage and there were screens in front of us that we could see more of the action on that appeared just as we would see it on our television screens back home.  We were limited in how many could go to the restroom at a time, especially since whenever one woman stood up to go, at least twenty more tried to join them.  Honestly, I could hold it like a camel.  Or maybe I don’t have a sympathetic bladder like other women. 

To get us started, our MC had a dancing contest.  There was a pregnant woman - who was two weeks from her due date - that decided to show off her belly dancing and a young Asian man from Hawaii who would do pretty much anything Mark asked of him, including removing his shirt and his theoretical pants.  The scenes started and we were entertained by the actors and bloopers.  It was slow at first, but soon the actors relaxed with this new audience and were interacting with us.  We were given sandwiches, water, and candy during the taping – which was wonderful as we were there for five hours.  The bloopers were getting more and more fun to see.  Thomas Lennon was a huge goof and would do things to set off the crew as well as the audience.  Matthew Perry wasn’t far behind and tormented us for not laughing at him tossing a half-eaten meatball David Foley put into his hand.  We honestly didn’t see it as the camera panned after David Foley and we missed the action of the tossed meatball.  The audience consisted of people from Ireland, Britain, New Zealand, Brazil, and other parts of the world I can’t recall any longer.   One man from New Zealand entertained us and the crew with a rousing song from his country. 

I could go on and on about the bloopers, retakes, observations, but I think I’ll save it for the book.  Needless to say, it was the best night of my vacation and I would love to do it again.  But, it was time to go, and we had to find someplace still open to eat.

Pizza sounded good and easy and there was a place with high marks on the internet called Reno’s Pizzeria nearby.  It ended up being the best pizza I can remember having.  The restaurant was pretty bare of people at 9:30pm and the owners appeared to be Sicilian.  It reminded me of the pizza described in Eat, Pray, Love when the author was in Italy.  Pizza there was around $30 with the drinks.

Stop by next week for our last day in California.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vacay - Day 3, August 25th, 2014

Waking up hungry and early seemed to be the rule here in California.  This time, however, we had a good plan set into place for breakfast.  On our way to Diana’s the day before, we passed a place called Norm’s that boasted steak and eggs for a really good deal.  We looked up the address in Costa Mesa and went there first thing.  While steak and eggs sounded good, we still had our usual; coffee, two eggs over easy, hashbrowns, bacon and whole wheat toast.  It was still all under $20 and much larger portions.   

After breakfast, we returned to the hotel to pack up, shower, and prepare for the next part of our vacation.  We were heading north to spend some time in the Los Angeles, Venice Beach and Hollywood area before arriving in Simi Valley where my boyfriend’s friend lived and where we will be staying the next couple of nights.  First on our list of things to do was visit the big donut. 

It was actually Randy’s Donuts’ big donut.  As we were still in the plane approaching LAX, my boyfriend – who had the window seat – noticed the giant donut as we flew over it.  We are both huge Marvel fans, so getting a selfie in front of the giant donut Tony Stark was sitting in during a scene in Iron Man 2 was on our list.  It was a lot of fun.  Too bad we were so full from Norm’s that we didn't same Randy’s Donuts.  It said on the side of the building that they were the best donuts in America.  Funny thing is, the scene from Iron Man indicated there was an area to dine inside, but it was actually just a walk up restaurant.  Might as well been a food truck.  In fact, there were a lot of walk-up food places and food trucks in L.A.  Probably because there was limitations on available parking. 

Next on the list was Venice Beach.  I was forewarned that there were a lot of characters there, and they were right.  As soon as we got a couple of shops in along the sidewalk, there was a medical marijuana “hospital”.  A man in bright green scrubs with pot leaves all over it was standing outside.  It advertised $40 for the evaluation (and later along the shops it would be $30).  We must have passed three or four of those. 
We stopped at a shop to get a shirt as a   It was a very hot day, despite being close to the ocean and feeling the breezes coming off the water.  We were both sunburned at the end of the day.  

I came across Zoltar. Any “Big” fans out there?  As I was having my photo taken in front of it, a couple stopped by to comment.  The man had large, almost crazed eyes, as he insisted he wasn't on drugs and Zoltar would talk to him as he walked by.  I smiled politely and nodded.  We tried taking the photo again and the woman with him – who had a particular style what pronounced her stomach butt – insisted I needed to smile several times.  I really wasn't keen on getting advice from a woman wearing a tube top and short shorts that were at least two sizes too small for her, hence the stomach butt crack that was showing.  Plumber’s crack in the front can be as nauseating as from the rear.  We eventually removed our shoes and socks and walked along the long expanse of sand toward the ocean to walk along the shoreline.  A few waves came up on us suddenly, soaking our shorts.  We went along for some time to a little finger of land jutting out and I found some shells that were interesting and kept them.
We also came across what at first appeared to be another shell, but I noticed it was a by-the-wind sailor.  It was a jellyfish I was reading about before I came on this journey.  Apparently, the little sea creatures were being washed up on the western shorelines due to a shift in the wind whereas normally they would float along driven by the wind and living a very long, prosperous life.  My boyfriend nearly stepped on it until I warned him it was a jellyfish.  He asked if it would sting and since I knew it fed just like any other jellyfish from the article, I insisted it would.  We went through the hot sand toward the skate park where we sat, cooled our feet and put our shoes and socks back on.
We sat in the shade of the park for a while to watch the skateboarders and people mingling about.  I noticed a peculiar thing – people wear the oddest things here.  There was a teenage girl wearing a long sleeve denim jacket with short shorts on, and flip-flops, but wearing one sock.  Then you would have several women wearing barely-there bikinis, followed by girls wearing bikini bottoms, but hoodies over the tops.  Men would be in short denim shorts with long, curly hair and no tops, but bronzed and squeezed enough that they looked like topless women from behind.  Then, there was Muscle Beach.  There were a range of men and boys from young to quite old; fat to trim to scrawny.  The sounds of weights being dropped and grunts almost beat out the din from the waves of people suddenly crowding the walkway.  I didn't recall it being that busy when we first arrived.  I was getting hungry and crabby about how people around here simply continued walking straight at you instead of moving aside.  It was pretty unnerving to not have anyone show you the courtesy of nodding and moving aside as you performed the same courtesy so you don’t run straight into each other.  I was getting pretty tired of dodging mindless, sightless drones. 
souvenir and again to get a cold drink for me.

Pinwheel sculpture in the open mall before the Farmer's Market
The Farmer’s Market was something that was supposedly a place to see and eat, so we put in the address to the GPS and were on our way.  We ended up parking about a block out of the way, went through another outdoor mall into the Farmer’s Market.  There were a lot of unique foods there, but we went with Chinese.  It was $21, but good sized portions.  We wandered around afterwards and found some delicious chocolate turtles to get and snacked on those as we finished wandering and headed back to the car.  It wasn't what we were expecting at all.  Overcrowded, open air Farmer’s Market with permanent stalls.  The most interesting thing I saw was the organic produce section – also where we got the chocolate truffles – that had so much more in variety than we see in Michigan.

Since it was almost 2pm, we still had a great deal of time to spare before we wanted to head up to Simi Valley.  His friend didn't get home until after 6:15 and we didn't want to just walk in after a long day of work.  So, we went with another of my friend, Diana’s, suggestions – Santa Monica Pier. 

Stairs at the end of the pier
We parked right on the pier itself.  There was an amusement park next to the parking area – and quite frankly, I was amazed there were spots to park in.  There were a lot of people on the pier.  As soon as we got out of the parking area into the main thoroughfare, there was a Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant – first one I ever saw up close.  I drove past a few, but never stood in front of one.  There was also a kiosk indicating this was the end of Route 66.  My boyfriend’s dad drove Route 66 on his motorcycle so he got a photo of that and sent it to his dad's Facebook.  Along the thoroughfare there were pier performers.  One guy was calling people in to make a semicircle around him.  We joined in.  I feared this would be one of those deals where he would bring in people from the audience to be part of his act.  After watching him break dance for a while, that was exactly what happened.  As we were leaving – I certainly didn't want to become part of the show – my boyfriend was grabbed by the performer from behind.  Don’t worry, he escaped – but barely.  At the end of the pier was a restaurant. 

View at the end of the pier
People were fishing at the end of the pier.  There was several tiers of stairs to walk up and down from the top half of the restaurant to below deck.  We could see the barnacles encrusted along the pylons beneath the pier.  There was also a section telling the entire history of the pier.  I was amazed to discover I was walking on history – 105 years old!

After an hour we were ready to see something else, so Rodeo Drive was next.  There was metered parking at a park – with real grass - uphill from the main section of Rodeo Drive.  We were stuck behind a woman in a Lamborghini, showing it off for all the men on the sidewalk.  The muscle car had a throaty purr that was near deafening.  The walk down was interesting.  After taking a selfie by the sign, I noticed the shops would have people standing in the doorways, but as we got closer, those people disappeared.  It was as though they judged us as unworthy of being greeted nor even seeing them as we walked by. 
We found a side street that took us into a quiet area with a pyramid like glass roof of a little atrium of some sort on a lower level.  There were shops in there too and a lot of women covered up from head to toe like a Bedouin going into those shops.  One was a beauty salon.  The went around that corridor, walked down a bit further and crossed the street to head up another side street with cobbled stones. 

Sitting area of atrium
A lot of people were in the beginning of this street taking photos of themselves with the street going up in the background.  I haven’t the foggiest if this was significant, but apparently a lot of other people did.  I’m not as Rodeo Drive savvy as they were.  It was a nice little place.  Tiffany’s was up there; complete with an outdoor café setup around it with a small wrought iron fence.  Next to Tiffany’s there was an art gallery.  We went inside and were treated to seeing the work of Salvador Dali, complete with early sketches.  There was even original bronze statues by Dali on display.  My boyfriend, the art major, was excited with the find.  While we were in there, a man greeted us and explained the exhibits and generously to let us know of other art exhibits in the area to look into.  One of them was the Getty Center.  When we had seen all the displays – and maybe some that wasn't part of the exhibit on accident – we left and continued on our way.  The road curved around and descended into steps with a fountain at the bottom.  Again, people were taking photos of themselves by the fountain.  Must have been a famous one I wasn't knowledgeable about.  As we continued on, we passed a salon where they were giving out samples of a product line called Adore.  One of the ladies asked if I wanted to come in for a free sample for the eyes.  I suspected it was a pitch – I was right – but getting Rodeo Drive treatment wasn't to be passed up.  Apparently, there is a deal once a year where they pull people in from the street and let them try out their eye treatments that they give to the stars during the Emmy’s.  The deal is that the products that normally sell for $600 are going for $199.  While I loved the instant results - and that she evened up my eyes so I didn't look like a stroke patient - there was no way I was going to spend $200 there.  I said no a couple of times before I was allowed to leave and we returned to the car.

By that time it was a good idea to start toward Simi Valley.  It was already rush hour which adds on time to an hour long drive.  We figured we could get something to eat when we got to Simi Valley and his friend would give us a nice place to go.  We got in as she was having her dinner.  We dragged our things to the room she provided us.  The bathroom was shown to us and she gave us an idea of her schedule for the next couple of days then told us Don Cuco’s would be a good place to have a nice dinner.  We dressed up a bit for this occasion.  The restaurant was dimly lit with loud Hispanic music.  A lot of families were there including one table with at least two newborns with them.  We both got dishes that comprised of three different meats and a variety of veggies, rice, and refried beans.  We were stuffed before we got halfway through our plates.  Probably didn't help we ate quite a few freshly made chips with salsa while we waited.  I also had a couple glasses of wine and he had several beers.  We still had a bottle of wine waiting for us when we got back.  We opened that and shared it with his friend when we returned.  She was watching the Emmy’s and we chatted while we all finished off that bottle of wine. 

Another day came to an end with us falling asleep, exhausted from our fun-filled, long days.  Visit here next week for Day 4 and….

Happy Reading!
I dedicate this post to Walter Burl Owsiany, Jr. who rode the great and scenic Route 66 and was present in his younger son's thoughts when we visited Santa Monica Pier - the final stop of Route 66.  Walt was a storyteller all his own and he made an impression on me in the brief time I had known him that encourages me to keep living life and telling my story.  Walt passed away on 09-07-14.  His memorial will be on 09-14-14 from 1-4 EST.  I invite my readers to spend this time honoring him.  If you have a motorcycle, go out and rev its motor at 2:30pm EST for a "rumble salute".  Or fondly recall those you know who love the open road in a moment of silence. 
Walt, you will be missed.
Peritus sed numquam obliteratus

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Vacay - Day 2, August 24th, 2014

Day 2 started earlier than anticipated and cloudy.  Since we didn’t get to sleep until almost 11pm Pacific Standard time, you would think we would wake up around 8-9am.  Nope, 7am.  And, we were starving.  So we got around and did a search of breakfast places.  IHOP was well-known to us, so we opted to go that route.  It was way more expensive with smaller portions than we anticipated.  IHOP soon hit our “Do not try again” list - at least in California.  We actually liked IHOP where we live - it was one of the places we went on our first date.

Afterwards, we had some time to waste while we waited for the time to meet up with my friend, Diana Murdock.  We were planning on meeting her and going out for lunch around 1pm.  There was a strip mall called Irvine Spectrum nearby, so we decided to walk around there.  Most of the shops were pretty cookie cutter – Nordstrums, Hot Topic, etc. – but there were some unique places we haven’t been to before, like Dave & Busters.  Oh, we have one around us –not very close, though - so neither one of us had ever been to one.  It didn’t open until 11am, so we had to waste time before we could waste time there.  We walked around and became quite thirsty.  It was a dry heat around 88 degrees Fahrenheit; the sun was bright and baking us from overhead in the open pathways of the mall.  We looked in at a few places and discovered none of them had air conditioning – what an odd thing to discover in the valley desert of California.  We finally decided to stop at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf place to get a caramel ice blended drink and frozen tea with fruit.  It helped me cool off, at least.  As we were enjoying our drinks, the place started to get crowded.  It was after eleven at this time, so we hunted down Dave & Buster’s again.

It was open and already filling with kids.  We purchased a card and put on some tokens and played a few games.  There was a neat flight simulator game we both enjoyed, but the tokens ran out, the kids crowded in and we took our leave.  It was past to noon at that point and we decided to put in her address into the GPS to get going. 

Driving along Huntington Beach, looking toward the Pier with Ruby's
We caught her off guard by arriving sooner than she anticipated, but the gate was open and there she stood in all her pastel pink glory, waving her arms and having the biggest grin on her face as she directed us in and closed the gate behind us.  We had a brief tour of the house after she finished with her bean sprouts.  I had thought her brother was there, but later discovered there was a strangely placed mirror that showed me a funny angle of my boyfriend so it looked like he was in the other room instead of behind me.  Having never met her brother before, I had no idea what he would look like.  I only could tell it appeared there was someone else in the house with us that disappeared on me after we passed the mirror.  I was thinking I had a ghostly encounter until we returned and discovered the mirror placement and my misinterpretation.

We loaded into the red Jeep she was borrowing from her brother after releasing it from its tarp and getting all its quirky mechanics figured out.  It was a great ride with the wind in your hair, chatting away serenely with a woman I never met in life before, but had felt a very strong bond with from the start.  She drove us to Huntington Beach, describing along the way routes her son would take on his bike and his first impressions of the city life after have lived in rural Idaho.  Parking became a slight disadvantage when we arrived – it was lunch time and the beach, which didn’t make for a good combination when you were interested in eating lunch on the beach.  We had a little bit of a hike, but nothing major.  Then there was a wait at Ruby’s.  The time flew by as Diana and I chatted on and on.  We had a ton to catch up on.  My boyfriend enjoyed the view of the water at the end of the pier while we waited for our table to be called and managed to see a pair of dolphins in the water.  Diana and I were so immersed in our conversation he had no chance to interrupt and let us know what we were missing.  At this point in the conversation we were discussing our writing.  I’m working on a short story for a mermaid anthology that she introduced me to, she recently finished writing a fairy tale for another anthology and I told her what I was hoping to do with this blog.

Our table was called and we ordered.  I got the shrimp tacos, she the veggie tacos, and my boyfriend got the breaded shrimp and fries.  I think I drank three glasses of water.  You work up a thirst with all that talking. 

Afterwards, we went across the street where there were street sales going on at the shops.  I found a couple of necklaces for my girls ($6.99/each) and a couple of sunglasses (2 for $16). I had lost my white pair in the Kalamazoo River while kayaking with my boyfriend, so I was pleased to find another pair I liked.  There will be some photos in the next post with me wearing them.  Diana found a backpack for her son.  Only my boyfriend didn’t find what he was looking for in sunglasses.  Most of those kiosk style vendors had all the same variety of sunglasses we had already seen at Irvine Spectrum.  There may have been a few pairs that were different, but they just weren’t what he was looking.  (Since we got home, his favorite pair broke.  Wish we had put extra effort into finding what he liked.)

We returned to Diana’s place and talked about metaphysical things.  Strange happenings, the mirror phenomena, experiences with spiritual people in the area, our path and if we’re still working on our spiritual paths.  She lives in a busy place and keeps busy, and I have been busy with new things in my life; therefore, neither of us were happy with our current state of progress.  It’s a push, sometimes, to focus on oneself.  To be immersed, even for 17 seconds, in one thought can seem to be the most impossible thing in a world that expects you to be able to do at least five different things at once in that time frame.  I think getting back into writing will give me more focus in that area.  Just what I am doing now helps me to slow down and take a look at myself and my life.  Getting my thoughts together and stringing them into coherent sentences to write this blog post has given me more focus.  Then the added focus for the writing and reading assignments for my class at Western Michigan University has pushed me further along my course.  I don’t know how you can’t find a bit of cathartic release in writing down mundane thoughts and finding golden nuggets of self-discovery within them.  But, I’ll save that for another blog post.

Diana’s son needed to be picked up, so we called it and packed ourselves back into the car to head back toward our hotel room.  I’m sad to say, we forgot to get a photo of each other together.  It wasn’t that we were pressed for time or over-involved with anything in particular, but we were using the time to acquaint ourselves again with each other and filling in each other on the details of our life that we completely spaced the common practice.

Back at the hotel, we went for a refreshing swim in the pool to cool off again and decide on our next adventure for the remainder of the day.  We decided seeing a sunset on the beach would be the best thing to wrap up this day and my boyfriend did some research online to discover some places around Laguna Beach that were highly recommended.  We put in an art museum address into the GPS in order to find the beach setting that was getting such great reviews and headed out. 
 We arrived with an hour to spare before the big event, so we took the time to walk along the pathways provided, skirting other tourists, enjoying the landscaping and artistic flares everywhere.  Laguna Beach, like most of that part of California, was full of art museums, enclaves, exhibits and learning opportunities.  The winding cement path took us down toward the beach where you can see how the water cut into the rocks lining the beach.  I hunted around for “treasures” – starfish and sea anemones or urchins that would wash into the tide pools – but didn't find any.  The likelihood of finding them in an evening tide would be rare and a far greater treasure, but it would be more likely to find as the morning tide went out and left these sea creatures behind.  Several photo shoots were occurring around us.  A bride and groom and their bridal party were getting themselves shot with the crashing waves coming up behind them.  A pregnant woman and her husband were getting their photos done not far from the bridal party.  Several amateur photo shoots were happening between daughters and mothers, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, etc.  I wasn't to be without my photos and caught a few with my boyfriend as well.

The beach was shrinking away to a small strip of wet sand, so we returned up the winding and steep pathway to follow it along the cliffs of Laguna Beach where we found a nice overhang with a bench provided.  Only a cement balustrade and iron railing kept you safe from the long fall below.  The bench was hard stone, large enough to fit many people wishing to enjoy the view and curved to mimic the curvature of the overhang.  There were many people crowding the area as we all watched the sun begin its descent into the flowing waters of the Pacific.  Palm trees provided a silhouette against the sky along the shoreline in the distance and clouds continually kept us alert to whether we will see the final plunge or not.  Cooling breezes came off the ocean along with briny scents and the melodic sounds of the waters below; moving with synchronicity with the moon’s pull. 

 People were getting photo opportunities with the descending sun behind them.  Several people were walking their dogs along the path.  Some stopped to greet a couple with their lazy dog rolling around on the walkway.  It was great fun to watch a poodle try to engage the lazy pooch in some play.  It managed to get to its feet and watch the poodle carry on with some bemused chuffs and rumbles.

 Then the sun descended and all the people started speaking in hushed tones and the focus became more on the event than anything else around them.  Only the children seemed to not notice the grandness of the sun slipping into the cooling waters of the Pacific Ocean in a brilliant display of gold.  The rippling water reflected the gold, and the rocks glowed as if they were made of the precious metal, too.  Twilight descended upon us and the remnants of the sunset still glowed in the clouds as we worked our way out of the crowd, back toward the car.  It was time to find dinner.

 As richly as we have been eating lately, we wanted a light dinner and opted on Olive Garden for some salad and breadsticks.  The drive progressed into darkness rapidly and we found ourselves driving through several art openings and passing art centers as we climbed into the nearby mountains.  We were descending from the mountains again as we arrived to our destination.  It was crowded in the vestibule, but the bar was open and we decided to eat there.  We had a couple of cocktails and some wine and appetizers before the salad came.  Breaded mozzarella, fried zucchini, and calamari were a rich beginning to our dinner of flavorful salad.

 Afterwards we returned to the hotel room and fell asleep almost instantly.

 Happy reading!