Oh Malibu…Our Trip Southern California

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Back in the spring of 2015, we were a bicoastal family for a week. The kids were in Wilmington, North Carolina with Clay’s parents while Clay and I spent a week in Southern California.


We took an early morning direct flight to LAX out of RDU last Wednesday. The flight was unremarkable in a good way I suppose, although flying coach nowadays is about as much fun as getting a root canal. But we arrived safe and sound and ready to begin our child-free getaway.

While it wasn’t our first time visiting California, it was our first time flying into LAX. Our reason for going to California was that my cousin, Matt, was getting married that weekend in Newport Beach, so we decided since we were spending $$$ on tickets, we might as well bookend the wedding festivities by a couple of days. Sadly, weather was not on our side for the majority of our trip – we did not get to experience stereotypical sunny SoCal. But since California is currently experiencing a major drought, we didn’t let the drizzly overcast weather get us down! After picking up our rental car and escaping the not-so-nice-area of Los Angeles, we made our way south to Newport Beach, stopping at Seal Beach for a smoothie along the way.


Seal Beach

We were surprised at the amount of industry located right on the Pacific Ocean…something that is almost non-existent on the Atlantic Ocean. It seemed like oil derricks were absolutely everywhere with minimal effort to shield them out of sight. Additionally, off-shore oil platforms peppered the horizon outside of Los Angeles. But as we drove further south, the beach became more serene and the horizon less industrious.


All of the wedding guests stayed at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. Because we were among the first to arrive, we were able to check in early. After unpacking, we walked down to Balboa Island and Newport Beach to explore and grab a bite to eat.



We still talk about the tacos we had at Great Mex on Balboa Island.


After lunch we walked to the beach – by then the sun had disappeared and we felt grossly underdressed for the cool and windy air. We decided to scrap our plans to swim in the ocean and catch a movie instead (While We’re Young, in case you’re wondering). Jet lag caught up to us and we were in bed by 9:00pm…exciting, I know.


We woke up the next morning at 6:00am well-rested and ready to squeeze in as much as we could before the rest of my family arrived. The previous day, Clay had spotted an artisanal waffle shop on our walk and knowing my fondness for the delectable treats, suggested we check it out for breakfast. I am sad to report that the waffles did not live up to their hype. They were good, not great. But the illy coffee? Oh my goodness, by far the best coffee we had the entire trip.



We spent the morning hiking at Alta Laguna Park in Laguna Beach.  Our favorite trail was Car Wreck Trail. It had all of our favorite elements for a hike – remote, challenging, steep, and a little quirky.



The highlight of Car Wreck Trail is a (supposedly) wrecked 1949 Dodge that no one knows how it got to the bottom of the canyon. The views from the trail weren’t too bad either – there is a reason why it is called Top of the World (or at least Laguna Beach). The hike back was the most challenging – extremely steep but a great workout.


After our hike, we grabbed some coffee and walked down to Laguna Beach, were we spent the rest of the morning talking about our future together and long-term goals. We resisted the temptation to create flow-charts, choosing to stare into the horizon instead. On our way back to Newport Beach we stopped for more fish tacos (when in Rome…) and then promptly ran into members of my family in the hotel lobby.


After the obligatory hugs and hellos, we scattered about with plans to meet up again before the rehearsal dinner that evening. My brother and his wife wanted to see the water and do something active so the four of us walked down to Balboa Island and Newport Beach, catching up and just enjoying each other’s company.


That night we attended the rehearsal dinner and then met up at a bar afterwards. All of my family flew in from the east coast so most of us tapped out at midnight and went back to the hotel. The following morning, we drank coffee and ate breakfast with members of my extended family as rainstorms rolled through town. Once the weather cleared, we joined my parents and my brother and his wife for a walk down to Balboa Island and the beach.


At Balboa Pier, we stumbled upon the gunshot start of the 2015 Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race. I do not come from a family of sailors (speedboats are more our style) but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to be fascinated by the sport. I’d love to learn how to sail but I’m hesitant to fall in love with such an expensive hobby that isn’t exactly compatible with the various locations the Army is known to be throughout the world. And watching the start of the race from the pier definitely didn’t do anything to squash said desires.


We ate lunch at a Mexican place on the peninsula where Clay and I shared the largest margarita I’ve had in years. After popping into some shops on the walk back to the hotel, we met up with the rest of my family and hung out at the pool until it was time to get ready for the wedding.



Prom-pose time! Sadly, we didn’t realize that we didn’t get a picture of everybody, including my parents until it was too late.


My cousin and his beautiful bride were married on Huntington Beach in an absolutely gorgeous and personal ceremony. We all adore her and can’t think of a better match for my cousin…she is a great addition to our family.


The reception was on a yacht that sailed throughout Newport Harbor.


On Saturday morning, we met up with everyone for coffee (sensing a common theme here?). After saying goodbye my parents and some of my siblings, my sister and her husband joined Clay and I for brunch at Plum’s Cafe, which did not disappoint. Afterwards, we checked out Aliso Beach Park and made the best of the not-so-great weather.


That afternoon, we drove to Orange, California to check out my cousin and his wife’s new house. I’ve never been shy about my love for older ranch homes so obviously, I fell in love with their mid-century home. They even have a lemon tree in their backyard…how awesome is that? After socializing at the open house, the four of us went out for sushi and called it a night.


Sunday morning began with bagels, coffee, and saying goodbye to my sister and her husband. They were heading back to San Diego to catch a red-eye flight and we were heading north to LAX to catch our own red-eye flight later that night. We decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway back to the LA-area, which proved to be an interesting…not only did we see a woman using a selfie-stick as a passenger in a convertible (pictured), but we had the pleasure of seeing police drape a white sheet over a body in Long Beach (not pictured).


Our destination for the day was Malibu. Although the skies were clear and the temperatures were a little warmer, it was not a good beach day. So instead of laying on the beach, we decided to grab lunch at (surprisingly) one of the few fresh seafood places in town and hike throughout the area.


If we had more time, we would have checked out Escondido Canyon Park but settled for the Coral Canyon Trail instead. Not that the views weren’t spectacular but the trail was shorter than we had hoped. Oh well.



After spending some time in Malibu, we drove through the mountains to take the 101 back to Los Angeles. I’ll be honest – this trip we realized that we’re more east coast, than west coast. Not that we didn’t appreciate all that Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Malibu has to offer, but we just prefer the New England and mid-Atlantic coastline. And we definitely prefer the San Diego area over the Los Angeles area. That being said, we really liked the Thousand Oaks and Calabasas area…being in the mountains/hills that close to the coast? Sign.us.up.


And of course, no trip to the Los Angeles area is complete without a Hollywood sign photo-op. We checked into the airport a little earlier than usual so we could eat, have a couple of drinks, and become sufficiently sleepy for our flight. After a quick mechanical scare, we took-off without incident and landed at RDU around 5:30am. We were reunited with the kids by mid-morning (yay!!!!) and then cursed ourselves for choosing a red-eye on the llllooonnnggg drive home to the DC area. It was a great trip and we can’t wait to go back – do you think we can convince the Army to send us there?

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