California, here we come
Aug. 18, 2014
by Jenni Sebora

Our family recently returned from a vacation to California – and a vacation in California it was.

We covered cities from southern California to northern California. The range of topography and temperature across California is as diverse as Minnesota’s temperatures from winter to spring.

From desert to hills and mountains, and temperatures more than 100 degrees near Las Vegas to the cooler temperatures in the San Francisco Bay area, the diversity was amazing.

However, California is missing freezing temperatures, and snow, flat land, and prairie. Thus, the reason for people choosing to live in California.

We flew into Las Vegas for a one-night and one-day stay. Heat, lights, noise, people, food – sensory stimulation at all levels.

A delicious buffet dinner at the Cosmopolitan was first on our agenda – prime rib, sushi, lobster, and practically every kind of gelato that you can think of. This, of course, was a favorite among our children.

Not to mention our stop at Carlos Bakery (Food Network), which meant we had to taste cupcakes, shortcake, pastries, and more pastries.

We went in our 15-passenger van, as we were traveling with my brother and his family – 10 people in all.

San Diego was our next destination. This included a campus visit at San Diego State University. I love touring college campuses. It is always refreshing to me, with knowledge all around and the desire for it.

This campus was no exception. The counselor and tour guide were very informative, and truly love working and attending college there. It is a beautiful campus.

My husband, our upcoming senior son, and I have attended different campus tours. I find it so interesting to compare the requirements for acceptance into each college.

Some colleges really review test scores, others focus primarily on grades and classes that were taken, and still others rely heavily on personal references and letters of recommendation.

Now, in our planning, we had decided that we would just find a hotel in San Diego on the fly. Little did we know how difficult that is at this time of year – prime time vacation time in California.

We searched, called, and almost begged until we found a place that was – might I say – maybe a one-star hotel. But, the bathrooms were clean and it was just a one-night stay. Part of the experience.

Now, on to the meat of our vacation – Los Angeles and Manhattan Beach for seven nights. We were right on the Pacific Ocean. Here is where the temperature changed.

The low- to mid-70s were the temperatures most of the week. Manhattan Beach is an upscale community. Our beach house we rented was right next to the ocean and in walking distance of shops, restaurants, and the Strand.

A walk to the pier was about a two-mile trek. And the pier was the place to be, with triathlons, a small aquarium, volleyball tournaments, eateries, and ice cream. It was truly beach life at its best.

We walked or biked to the pier daily. Viewing the beautiful beach homes along the Strand was part of the fun. People walking, running, and exercising their dogs were part of the hubbub day and night. And everyone had dogs – big dogs and small dogs.

The highlight of each evening was sitting on the beach and taking in the beautiful and breathtaking sunset. It was almost magical. A family volleyball game was also part of the sunset wonder.

Each day, we spent time body surfing, boogey boarding, and riding the major waves of the Pacific Ocean. A couple of days, dolphins decided to show themselves. Now what can beat this? Dolphins, the ocean, and a beautiful sunset.

It was time to move on, in what we called our Vegas Vacation Van. Laughs and more laughs were certainly not missing in our Vegas Vacation Van and travels.

But, not before we took in Hollywood and the Walk of Fame. We placed our feet in John Wayne’s boot print, which was about the size of a child’s foot. We felt the wand prints of each of the Harry Potter characters.

We ran into Superman and other super heroes walking up and down the streets of Hollywood – not your normal residents of a city, but normal for Hollywood.

San Francisco, here we come. This was my favorite city. We stayed for a few nights right on San Francisco Bay, and enjoyed cooler temperatures. In fact, at Fisherman’s Wharf, it was not uncommon to see winter hats and Ugg boots.

We walked on the Golden Gate Bridge, and took in Alcatraz, which sits right in the ocean, surrounded by water.

My favorite visit was that of Stanford University. It is a beautiful campus, with so much history. As part of the tour we were able to walk inside the magnificent church on campus, which students can frequent for church services and prayer. I was mesmerized by the artwork, organ, and stained glass, as well as the space.

Stanford is home to only about 5,000 undergraduates and 7,000 graduates, and is prevalent in research. But, the campus is massive, being the second largest campus in the world, next to a university campus in Russia. Students travel around campus by biking all year – something you can’t do in Minnesota.

I can see why people choose to live in California; the weather is phenomenal and mild. But as my daughters proclaimed at the end of the vacation, “I like California, but I am a Minnesota girl.”

It is always good to be home.

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