And the award for most photos in a blog post goes to… Thanks for scrolling this far. <3
Almost 3 months and they went by in a flash, thanks in large part to consistently sunny, warm weather and a very comfortable house all to ourselves. We splurged on rent to give the dogs a big, fenced-in backyard and both puggles and humans were totally spoiled (the dogs are whining (again)? send ’em outside to play!).
There really is something special about Southern California beaches and blue sky for days. The light there—what you see in movies—is true. It has that clean, warm, glowy thing going on that’s so damn pretty. The water temperature was an unusual and balmy 69 degrees the entire time we were there, which made Aaron’s first surfing attempts comfortable (though the waves did give him a beating).
It was much-needed and so nice to unpack and not have to re-pack or spend long hours driving for a few months. Even with California gas prices being way above the national average, we brought our costs down by a whole lot. Same for grocery bills (I love Trader Joe’s) and being able to do a week’s worth of shopping at a time and make nearly every meal at home.
We have to give a BIG shout-out and thank you to our friend, Jessie, who used to live in the area and told us the most wonderful, spot-on suggestions of things to do (Crystal Cove, with breakfast at the charming Beachcomber Cafe), the best beginner surf spot (Thalia St.—free parking too!), where to get awesome coffee and doughnuts (Alta and Sidecar), and which neighborhoods have the cutest houses (Newport Beach/Costa Mesa). Thank you, Jessie! XO
If you’re in the area, make sure you visit Joshua Tree National Park. The sunsets are killer and it’s an interactive park in that you can climb, hike, and relax just about anywhere. There’s something for everyone.
You know the theme song for the show Weeds? It had to have been written for Orange County, California. As East Coasters, we had never seen suburban sprawl like this. You guys…I know this post is loaded with beach-y sunsets, but pretty much anywhere that wasn’t ocean and couldn’t be built up was covered in row after row of 1990s style beige construction. Yes, there are lovely pockets of mid-century modern architecture and homes with charm, but for the most part, Orange County is a ticky-tacky land of strip malls. So many strip malls.
Orange County is also a bubble. A pleasant, highly manicured, but very disconnected-feeling bubble. Based on our experience, it seems like people either have a lot of money or are trying to look like they do (think: million dollar houses, no furniture). Replace the number of Toyotas you would see most anywhere else with Mercedes, Bentleys, Lamborghinis, and Maseratis. At an average income of about $100k/year (according to Wikipedia), a fancy car and million+ dollar house just doesn’t add up. We marveled that all of the cars are always spotless, because people wash them like clockwork on weekend mornings. Similarly, people perpetually water their lawns to the point that the grass is soggy in the mornings. Coming from Northern California, even Santa Barbara, where people take the drought really seriously and will shame you for having a green lawn, it was shocking and also baffling because there are regular reminders in public spaces and newspapers about the importance of water conservation. A couple neighbors even mentioned that in Orange County, people would sooner pay a lot more for water than conserve it. #TheresNoIinTeam
Overall, we loved the weather, having our own (very nice) house, and feeling comfortable. However, it occurred to me that if I were to live in Orange County for a while, it’s possible I would become a more self-centered and less compassionate person. Truly, I think the environment makes it hard to become otherwise.*
*I know that’s saying something coming off of previous road trip posts where the lows were things like “spiders!” or “it was really hot.” We stayed in Laguna Niguel, where the people were noticeably less friendly. Had we stayed in Old Town Laguna or parts of Costa Mesa, for instance, I think we may have experienced more of a ‘neighborhood’ vibe. On the flip side, we were able to get a ton of work done while not socializing. 😉