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The next day, Kimberly and I awoke a little hung over, which was the perfect state in which to find ourselves since, on TV, Andrea Mitchell was announcing that John McCain had just picked an unknown governor of Alaska, with a bouffant hairstyle, to serve as his running mate. We marveled, horrified, then headed to a breakfast of eggs benedict and got back into the Prius, Big Sur-bound. The cabernet suitors were right—that drive should be enjoyed in the daylight. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and we wondered what it looked like before the recent, tragic fires. Best evidence it was so gorgeous: Kimberly and Celest were compelled to go for a hike. And not just any hike. We attempted the renowned Waterfall hike at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Two Manhattanites found themselves traipsing through the redwoods, crossing freezing cold streams barefooted, and loving nature! With Amanda prodding, Kimberly hiked to the top of a volcano in Saba, but the two of us basically just hunted down the perfect spot to sit and dish while Kimberly smoked a joint perched atop a fallen tree trunk. We fantasized about trading in days spent on the 6 Train and nights spent at The Box for days spent whale watching and nights spent stargazing. Then, we started to get bitten by bugs and we headed back to the car. Fast. Back on the road, driving down to Santa Barbara, I suggested we not miss boutique shopping on State Street.
Santa Barbara wasn’t unfamiliar; I was there a few years ago with Sara and Amanda. This time, Kimberly and I walked on the beach, ate some killer fish tacos, did some shopping and downed another bottle of California red while soaking in our private hot tub, back at the B&B where we’d rented the only room the place had left—the Honeymoon Cottage! On the way out of town, we marveled at the mansions in the hills above the ocean and wished we’d had time on this trip to visit a spa…
I have little love lost for L.A.—the “industry town” feel, the smog, the macrobiotic diets, unsavory celebrities.But, I was on a California high when we drove into the city, listening to “Paper Planes” by M.I.A., our aviators shielding us from the sunset. Plus, we were filled with the excitement of seeing our west coast friends. First stop >was Nini’s pre-party at the X Bar at the Hyatt Regency hotel. The wedding guests intermingled on the outdoor patio. We sipped cocktails and lounged around a giant, mod “bonfire” that protected those of us in short dresses from the cool night air. We munched on tuna ceviche, mango, brie and mushroom quesadillas (a wonderfully odd combination), and mini Ruben sandwiches. After catching up with Nini about nerves and the big event around the corner, we said our goodbyes to the party and headed out to Hollywood, Amanda’s neighborhood.
We drank some wine at her apartment, then headed out for the rest of the evening, along with my dear roommate from college who also now lives on the west coast, Remy. The four of us drove a couple of blocks to the famed Chateau Marmont, our Saturday night destination. I know little about the “scene” in L.A., but even I had heard of CM. We crawled though a throng of skinny jeans and nightwear Ray Bans to get to the bar, where we were shocked (and thrilled) to find that the bartender was none other than our former NYU classmate (and Erin’s partner in a popular condom commercial, back in 2002), Joe. L.A.’s stock improved considerably when we were hooked up with fabulous tequila cocktails by a friendly face amongst the “players.”
It felt good to have a packed social schedule in a far away city. Besides, of course, Nini and the girls from her bachelorette party in NYC, we saw lots of familiar faces. Friends had invited us to be houseguests in one part of Hollywood. Amanda showed us her part. Remy and her girlfriend, Maria, invited us out to West Hollywood for brunch and treated us to an outdoor café and a mini tour of Boystown. And there was one other person I was excited to see while in L.A.—my hot, Irish, ex-boyfriend, now friend, who is a chef and caterer and has his own, great food website called the Healthy Irishman. Gavan, with whom all of my best L.A. memories before this trip were created, took me to lunch in Brentwood and then walking on the beach and through parts of Santa Monica. We ate at an adorable café and I had the most delicious and simple vegetarian omelet. Over coffee (green tea for him—healthy, remember) we caught up on life and talked about our blogs and the food we love to eat and (in his case) cook. He showed me his local farmers market and made me laugh with his characteristic Irish wit.
After Kimberly joined up, he pointed the two of us toward Venice, his own neighborhood, and my favorite part of the city. If there is a place in L.A. at all comparable to my own, beloved East Village, Venice Beach has got to be it. I loved the clothing, furniture, stationer boutiques and the people watching—surfers, tattoo artists, bikers, etc. Kimberly wasn’t that impressed (she insists all of L.A. is just plain ugly), but agreed that the Mexican food we gobbled before leaving was exceptional. At Tortilla Grill I had a fish burrito with delicious, grilled tilapia and fresh avocado and she ate cheese enchiladas before we split a plate of chicken flautas. The flautas were perfection – cigar sized, fried golden and dipped in pico de gallo. It was the best Mexican food either of us had had since Texas and it made up for plenty of L.A.’s other sins.