Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Birthday Celebration

*Warning* Long, boring, self-indulgent travelogue follows...


I don't often celebrate my birthday in a big way, but this year felt special, being 7-7-07 and all. :-) During my last trip to El Un-Del-Del, I turned up a couple of nice liveaboard sailboats. I knew I needed to get MBH out there to see them. So about a week beforehand, we began making "plans" to do double duty...show MBH the sailboats and celebrate my birthday in San Diego. He lined up some workers to cover him while he was out of town for 3 days and I went on Priceline to get us a cheap hotel (the Sheraton in downtown San Diego took our lowball offer...but wait...even though we paid for 2 nights at the Sheraton, we never used them...Priceline is great until you start changing your "plans").

What God had planned for me was much more fun than just a couple nights in San Diego. If you let Him, He will show you a good time. Really. Here's how it unfolded...

A call to my mother before we left revealed that she was going to be in the area for a jury selection of National Watercolor Society awards (although San Pedro is 2 hours north of San Diego, it's much closer than the 2,000 miles we live apart from each other, so a detour to San Pedro Friday night for dinner with Mom seemed in order). Dinner with Mom turned into spending the night in San Pedro instead of driving back to San Diego late at night (but we couldn't get a refund of our San Diego room...read the small print on Priceline's policies), so we reserved another room in San Pedro for Friday night.

Spending the night in San Pedro turned into "hey, why don't we take a ferry to Catalina Island on Saturday and return to San Diego after that?" I had never been to Catalina and it sounded like the perfect "exotic" getaway without the hassles of going to Mexico (an idea we had discussed but nixed due to rumors of long lines crossing the border on weekends) for "my special day." So we bought tickets for the 6:15 am departure for the island on Saturday, my birthday.

Our non-stop on-time flight to San Diego arrived early Friday morning and we went to look at the first of two boats we planned to see. On second viewing, it didn't appeal to me nearly as much and we decided we could not live aboard comfortably. We decided to do a bit of sightseeing and then drive up to San Pedro. Weather was sunny, breezy, 75 degrees, perfect. On the drive up, I decided to check my messages at the office because the day before, I had been asked to join an "important" conference call re: a business acquisition. Since I was on a plane at the time of the conference call, I had to decline but told them I would check in later in the day...big mistake. I spent the next hour driving through L.A. traffic with one hand on the wheel and one on my cell phone, negotiating nit-picky details of a contract, while my husband tried to navigate us to the hotel in San Pedro. Have I ever mentioned that I despise the phone? I especially despise cell phones, and I really hate the freeways of Los Angeles, even when I have two hands available. My husband hates city driving even more than I do so I was voted "driver of the day." Nerves rattled and knuckles white, I finally lost my patience and the cell phone went "dead" for the last time. From that point on, we had a marvelous time...

When we hit San Pedro, we headed straight for the pier...

San Pedro Pier

Where we enjoyed...



Snacks (ceviche & baby octopi)!

And later, dinner with Mom accompanied by some live music, including a bluesy jam session with "Chris Morrison" (alleged son of Jim Morrison...given what I have since found on the internet, I am not convinced, but the music was good for the most part, once we moved away from the speakers a bit, and Chris was entertaining anyway...they pulled off a very good version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida)...


Dinner (& Music) With Mom

My birthday started after only a few hours of sleep at 4:15 am. I am not a morning person! At the front desk, we asked for directions to the ferry landing and also a map. The desk clerk told us, in broken Indian-English, that we didn't need no map, his verbal directions were very seemple and all that we would need. I pressed him for a map (I love maps), but was not successful..."no map for you!" We tried to remember all of the turns and bridges and landmarks he had given us and managed to feel our way to the ferry landing in time to board our boat at 6:00 am, grumbling all the while that we should have reserved the 8:30 boat instead. But on board the boat, we "accidentally" entered the Commodore Lounge and were treated to free cocktails (at 6:30 in the morning...gak). We ordered Mimosas. What the heck? It was MY BIRTHDAY! Heh. I was going to milk this for all it was worth. When we arrived on Catalina an hour later, it was overcast and still a bit dusky (and quiet)...

Catalina Island (early morning)


And there was no line yet for Joe's, which is where we went straight away for the world's best breakfast. Joe's is a classic diner where we sat on swivel stools at the bar and ordered corned beef hash and eggs and hash browns and a side of bacon and Portuguese sausage and coffee, lots of coffee, and english muffins. What a great way to start MY BIRTHDAY!

The Line at Joes

After breakfast, we walked around town and out on the pier (where I noticed a kiosk with internet access for rent...I toyed with the idea of posting a special blog entry from the pier but instead, kept on walking...a decision that will no doubt haunt me forever) and wandered into a few stores that were open (where my husband bought me a silver bracelet with 7 charms representing Catalina Island, for my birthday)...


And laughed at all the golf carts tooling about the island...


By late morning, we were at this little snack bar on the beach at the far end of town, for ceviche and a margarita (what?! yes, well, it is my birthday afterall)...


Catalina (late morning)

After more strolling about, we put our clothes in a locker, changed into our bathing suits, rented snorkeling equipment and headed for the beach (only not this beach...the other beach, where the snorkeling is better...there will be no pictures of us in our swim suits or snorkeling gear ;-)...


Catalina Island (late afternoon)

After snorkeling, we found a community shower near these birds of prey and cleaned up for dinner...

Which One is Not Like the Others?

Throughout the day, we witnessed 5 weddings in various stages of progress (there were 12 scheduled on the island that day)...



One of Many 7/7/07 Weddings on Catalina

All dressed up for dinner...


Avalon Promenade (& Casino)

And then, accompanied by a bottle of Pinot Grigio, mmm...


Birthday Dinner

Shortly after dinner, we boarded the ferry back to the mainland and the sun was just beginning to set. Also, the fog was returning and Catalina was once again enshrouded in hazy, grey skies...


Leaving Catalina

And this concluded what will always be remembered as one of the happiest days of my life. It was completely relaxing and free of any thoughts related to work or responsibilities. It was full of indulgences and quality time spent with my husband. Quite simply, we had a blast. It was just Enough.

We landed back in San Pedro at about 8:30 pm and drove the 2 hours back to San Diego. We went straight to the Sheraton where we had paid for two nights, and checked in. Only, they had re-sold our room! Yep. Since we never picked up our keys the day before (although we DID check in because we wanted to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening...they just didn't have a room ready yet). After much bickering with the desk clerk who tried unsuccessfully to explain how it is that they could re-sell a room we paid for, her manager agreed to put us up in a "partner" hotel down the street. They drove us over to a quaint bed and breakfast where we enjoyed a very restful and romantic evening, ignoring the slight hiccup at the end of my near perfect birthday.

We woke up early Sunday morning, wandered around a small farmer's market going on outside of the hotel, enjoyed the most fantabulous savory crepes (filled with eggs, bacon, cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, and spinach), and then went to look at the 2nd boat, which turned out to be a perfect fit for both of us. We haven't committed to an offer yet, but are working on the logistics surrounding the reality of pulling this off (i.e. pulling up roots and moving onto a boat in the Pacific Northwest...my husband has grown out his beard so as to look more the part of Sailor). After the viewing, we drove over to Coronado for lunch at a sushi bar I had spotted on my earlier trip. We took a stroll through the grounds of The Del (most of the construction mess has now been cleared) and asked some innocent bystander to take our picture...

"The Del" Redux, w/MBH

We left San Diego late Sunday evening after a full day in San Diego. On Monday, after I thought it was over, a special delivery arrived at my office (which I brought home to share)...


Flowers!

And last but certainly not least, my birthday was extra special even before receiving any presents, but this year, my husband outdid himself in the present department (we typically don't exchange birthday gifts between us), completely surprising me with this (no, not the coffee cup...that's from my mom), pulling it out of his pocket at dinner on Catalina Island (how he managed not to lose it with all the schlepping of our stuff in and out of lockers, snorkeling, etc. is beyond me)...



Presents!

I've tried to find the words to express the happiness that I experienced during this very special weekend and while the circumstances certainly made for a pleasurable weekend, the true Joy came from a peace within that only God can provide. Sometimes it takes the vulnerability of travel to an exotic (or at least unfamiliar) place to fully experience this wonderful sensation. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "there is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious. It is too good to waste on jokes." And so I'm left speechless. :-)

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5 Comments:

At 7:28 PM, July 14, 2007, Blogger beth said...

Sounds like a blast - and I don't really blame you for not blogging @ Catalina -- seriously. Well, ok, maybe just a little. :) Still, the presents looked wonderful and I'm glad you had so much fun - definitely well deserved.

 
At 3:41 PM, July 16, 2007, Blogger DarkoV said...

So, this yacht/boat stuff is truly of the semi-serious type?

I thought you were spinning a billowing yarn, what with boat stories being a subset of fishing stories.

Any thoughts of sailing over to the Adriatic with that 50 footer?

 
At 6:35 PM, July 16, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

Wow.

I mean, seriously, wow. ;-)

 
At 6:46 AM, July 17, 2007, Blogger Rach said...

Thanks for the photos! :)

 
At 12:35 PM, July 17, 2007, Blogger Gwynne said...

Beth, I don't know how "deserved" it was, but I took all I could get away with. ;-)

Darko, yes and YES! The ultimate dream would be to live on the Adriatic, sailing from island to island. Whatever boat we buy has to be seaworthy enough to get us there (of course, one of us needs a few more sailing lessons before we take off across the pond). :-)

Eric, well, it's not like we swam with sharks saw ball lightening or anything! ;-)

Rach, you're welcome. :-)

 

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