We’re just recently back from our annual family vacation to LA and this time round our two, 20-something year old daughters felt like they couldn’t remember doing some of the typical Los Angeles tourist sights, so we had to set that straight! We’ve done Disneyland, Universal, San Diego, Palm Springs etc many times, but one thing we’d never actually done was hike to the Hollywood sign. We decided we would attempt this, as did loads of other people! We looked up the easiest route and headed towards Griffith Park Observatory (loved this scene in La La Land) where there were trails to follow. We got there probably just before 10am, while it was still cool, and we easily parked – thank goodness we went when we did! After we finished our hike (walk) it was getting very hot and VERY busy! I have to admit, we still haven’t actually made it to the sign, but we had some nice views of it and some good vantage points. Even though it was a wide path, it’s still uphill, hot and we didn’t have the best shoes for it.
After heading back to the nice air conditioned car, we headed to Hollywood to see Mann’s Chinese Theatre with all of the footprints and handprints and walk along Hollywood Blvd to see some of the stars on the Walk of Fame. So much going on here, they were even setting up a red carpet for an evening event honouring George Clooney. You can’t get much more LA than that!
Somewhere new for us, and unique to California that we visited, and an easy morning trip with grandparents, was visiting the San Fernando Mission. I hadn’t been here since I was about 8 years old when all schoolchildren of this age are studying California history. It was remarkably quiet from visitors, but they were set up for a family celebration which provided some people about. This is also where the famous comedian, Bob Hope is buried with his wife and other family members and there is a special, memorial garden dedicated to them. There are 21 missions up the California coast where Father Junipero Serra set up the churches to convert Native Americans to Christianity. As with most history, there are two different sides to the stories.
We also did some obligatory shopping in Pasadena and stopped for lunch at a great place called True Food Kitchen opened by Andrew Weil. This was someone our daughters had heard of for natural skincare and healthy living. To me, I found it a real authentic California restaurant with walls that slide open so the whole restaurant can be al fresco, but real people, not so much tourists or people hoping to celebrity spot – this is the type of California I love and miss.
And of course we needed to spend a day at the beach. My preferred beach was always winding my way through the hills of Brentwood, turning left down Temascal Canyon in the Pacific Palisades until the Pacific Ocean is in front of you. A very nice, quiet stretch of beach, but over here in the UK, everyone hears about Santa Monica and Venice beaches so that was where we headed. We had perfect beach weather but a huge long hike over the sand to get to the water – good for the calves, but hot on the feet!
When it was time for us to head up north for the second part of our holiday, we wanted to just get to our destination. So no sightseeing on the way – we have done Hwy 1 and the coastal routes before – so this time it was straight up Interstate 5, through the Central Valley full of farms and heat! Driving was quick and easy until you hit the San Francisco traffic, but that’s normal! We booked an Airbnb property in Healdsburg, Sonoma County. The place we chose had views of vineyards, and being married to a farmer, this would be perfect! We’ve been to Healdsburg a couple times before and it once again didn’t disappoint. So very charming and ideally located.
Since our daughters were now of legal drinking age for the states, we wanted to do a bit of wine tasting. We booked a private tour which picked us up, took us to 4 different wineries, (they were Starlite Vineyards, Lambert Bridge Winery, DaVero Farms and Vineyard and Flanagan Winery, in case you’re interested!) and then dropped us off at our place at the end. This was perfect, and we could all enjoy ourselves, and that we did! We had some very good friends by the end, and a few bottles tucked under our arms, not only of wine but specialty olive oil too! The suitcases are getting heavier!
So after all this wonderful scenery, wine tasting and California dreaming I’ve come home to have a go myself with making some Elderflower Champagne. I had seen this made on a TV show over here so I had had it in the back of my mind, but this trip definitely encouraged it! So once home it fortunately was perfect timing for the elder flowers so off we went to collect some. I searched the internet for recipes and compared them. They all seem to have the same basic ingredients, maybe adding them at different times, so it all seemed easy enough. I’ve got it stored away at the moment hoping they are fermenting as they should without exploding! Yes, I’ve heard stories of tops blowing off! We shall see if I end up with bubbly or just some nice wine vinegar!
I found this book in an independent bookshop in Healdsburg which summed up how I was feeling being back in my home state – I definitely needed this book by Nathan Turner, for when I need to feel a little bit of the California spirit on our northeast, English farm.