Have you ever been outside in the kind of weather that is so perfect you don’t know how to describe it? As though it is neither hot nor cold, and although it almost feels the same as being inside, it is different because the sun is lightly kissing your skin, a light breeze is flirting with you, and somehow, you know you are outside. This is what every day in California is like. Perfect. The kind of perfect that is hard to describe.
It started the minute we stepped off the plane in LA. Well not quite. The airport there is always hot and full of smoke. But once we got in the car, greeted by Miss Katie, my husband’s mom, and Todd, and the luscious scent of sweet fruit, I knew the adventure was beginning.
On the second day of our stay, I woke up late, relaxed and refreshed and put on my running clothes. I headed out into the neighborhood and was awed by the palm trees and mountains as I ran past them. The air was warm but perfect, and the neighborhood was alive with people setting out Christmas decorations or walking home with their shopping bags swinging loosely by their sides. In California, our Texas homes would have looked out of place. Instead, cool whitewashed walls lined the neighborhood and bright, tropical plants caught my eye. I had to stop several times to snap photographs of the landscaping.
When I returned, Todd was already in the kitchen, thoughtfully making my husband and I waffles for breakfast. We ate breakfast outside on the porch, overlooking the canal that runs through the neighborhood. We sipped on cold Bai and listened to the sound of running water from the fountain, and ducks quacking. Then, I took the opportunity to stretch out in the hammock and read in the sunshine.
Later in the afternoon, it was time to leave for dinner as we were anticipating a long wait. The restaurant, Beach Comber, was located on Laguna Beach. As expected, we were quoted an hour and a half wait time. But the wait was hardly a wait. We set off, walking down the beach, our feet in the freezing surf. At first, the beach was full of people, but the further we walked down the beach, the less crowded it became. We talked and laughed and listened to the waves crashing on the shore.
The rocks along the beach were scattered, but in some places, they became larger and closer together. We sought out these pools of water, made by the clustered rocks, to wade into and step on the snapping seaweed, nature’s bubble wrap. Miss Katie also introduced us to mossy looking sea urchins with gaping holes at their center which kiss your toes and then retreat into the sand when you step on them.
Finally, we made our way back up the beach and browsed a shop next to the restaurant. And then, it was time to eat. Our buzzer went off just at the first signs of the sun beginning to set.
We followed the waiter in his white uniform up the steps of the porch and took our seats at a table for four in the center of the porch. I ordered cold water and then began looking over the menu. The menu was short, which was good because I could never have made a decision had there been more options. Since I was the only one who had never been there before, Miss Katie and my husband insisted that we try the clam chowder. I did not object.
Our bowls of chowder arrived with bacon crumbled on top. I dipped my spoon into the soup, breaking through the top layer of thick cream that had begun to clot on the surface. The chowder was so creamy it seemed to slide down my throat, the thick chewy clams complimenting it. I can’t remember much else about the clam chowder because I was so immersed in eating it.
Once again, Miss Katie said we must try an appetizer so that we could admire the beautiful garnishes. She was right. A huge plate of fried calamari and zucchini was delivered to our table with beautiful fresh herbs and lemon decorating it. The batter was light and seemed to pop in my mouth when I ate it. I was expecting something heavy since it was fried, but I was not. The sweet marinara sauce created the perfect sweet and salty contrast. Miss Katie ordered a fruit and grilled salmon salad for herself. Todd requested his favorite: the beer battered fish and chips, and I followed in suite of my husband and ordered the Marine Lobster Club. It arrived in two lightly toasted triangles, the fresh lobster spilling out the sides. Once again, I had been expecting something heavy, but it was not. The lobster meat was covered in a fresh salad of lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, and some sort of celery and mayonnaise sauce, topped with a thick, juicy, slice of bacon. It was fresh, light, and springy. When I bit into the sandwich I felt my teeth sink through the toasted bread and bacon, slid through the fresh meat and salad, and then sink through the bottom slice of bread again. I did it again and again, sighed, and picked up the other triangle.
Meanwhile, the sun had been dipping further and further into the ocean and the sky had become a canvas of rich oranges, purples, and blues, all the colors of royalty. The wispy clouds were no longer white but had been illuminated by the radiant sun, and the island the sun vanished behind was a deep purple. I ran down the steps of the porch to take a picture, and then it was over and we were walking up the winding path and through the tunnel with murals to the car. As I reflect upon this afternoon, it all becomes a blur of warm salty wind and sand, family and laughter, and the freshest seafood and flavors of the Pacific coast.
This post goes out to Miss Katie and Todd as a big thank you for hosting us for a long weekend of fun and rest.
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