We all need a break from time to time and mine took place November 17 – 24 this year. Securing a week off from work, the dazzling Angelina and well-worn I woke up early and hopped on a Virgin America flight from New York to Los Angeles. Complete with video games and a Simpsons-only TV channel, the in-flight entertainment system helped ease the long journey. I even managed to reboot mine, and discovered it to be running Linux. Here’s the video:
After a night at the comfortable home of Angie’s parents, we all went north to Hearst Castle, where we met my parents, my brother and Megan. A quick bite in a local patisserie was followed by a tour of the castle and its grounds, which were quite impressive. Built primarily to impress W.R. Hearst’s guests, the mountaintop village had a string of splendid guest houses, a Romanesque swimming pool and plenty of nice statuary. There was also an improbably large book in the living room, which we weren’t allowed to touch but must have been 4′ tall, 3′ wide and 8″ thick. One of the nicest aspects of the place were the beautiful vistas featuring an expanse of rugged coastline, the glittering Pacific Ocean and a thick bank of clouds rolling in.
For dinner, we went to a pleasant evening meal at a Moroccan restaurant in San Luis Obispo before the wiser generation returned to the hotel and Angelina, Megan, Aaron and I went out for a couple of drinks. We had a good night trading embarrassing stories about each other and enjoyed our brief time visiting with Megan before she headed home the following day.
A great breakfast of salsa and eggs the next morning was a suitable beginning to a fantastic day. Angelina and I went wine tasting with our parents, hitting three different vineyards with three very different servers. The first, a bubbly girl with a nervous laugh, was plenty amusing. The next was the exact opposite; cold and fierce, she throughly earned the moniker “Zin Bitch” after the winery’s own vintage. Our final tasting proved to be at the best California winery, Peachy Canyon. At $3 for six wines of our choice, it was the best value and even that was refunded after we bought a few excellent bottles. They also let us heat up our Moroccan leftovers, and we picnicked on them with our hands amid the lovely rolling hills of the vineyard. A few grapes straight from the vine provided the perfect dessert.
We stopped in Solveng, an overpriced but pretty Danish village on the way home, and watched “Stranger Than Fiction” (which I highly recommend) on Angelina’s new iPod during the drive. To cap off a great day, dinner was at Umi Sushi, a small restaurant that boasts one of the best sauces I’ve ever tasted. Go there and order the Year 3000 and Mountain Rolls. It’s worth the $8 + airfare.
While Angelina remained with her folks about 45 minutes away, I spent most of the week with my parents in LA. We had a great time walking, talking and shopping (mostly for groceries). I also managed to drag my Dad along to Ye Olde King’s Head, a very English pub in Santa Monica, where we took in the pulsating Euro 2008 qualifier between England and Croatia. A roller coaster ride of a game saw the crowd despair, hope, celebrate and despair again. Though my team (England) lost, it was a great game and a great experience, well washed-down with Sierra Nevada beer and chicken tikka masala.
Thanksgiving was spent with Angelina and her family. The visit was very enjoyable, with Virgil displaying his magnificent ping pong skills and Terry once again surpassing herself in the kitchen. Despite Angelina and her brother’s addiction to the their mother’s stuffing, the real centerpiece was the turkey. As you can see, it was about the size of about two human heads.
The last day of vacation was spent accomplishing some final tasks: hiking up to the HOLLYWOOD sign and hitting every letter with a thrown rock, eating at In ‘N Out Burger and having dessert at Pinkberry. It was a fantastic trip full of fun with the family and I’m already looking forward to Christmas and seeing everyone again. You can see all of the pictures from this trip right here.