Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Back home with the Kids

Back to Northridge, to Andy and Lizzy's flat, and time to get to know their area a bit. We drove back via a shopping centre not far from them, and I spent a very happy hour or so, whilst Ian checked out a nearby sports shop, selecting from masses of fabric and sewing hardware at "Jo-Ann's" fabric warehouse. Crafts are a big leisure activity over here, and there are even craft aisles in the local "Albertsons" (a bit like the co-op over here). Consequently, because it's not such a "specialised" activity like it is in UK, and also because cotton is still manufactured in USA, whereas we import it from them, the cost of fabric and accessories is almost half the price in US, so I was having fun. But you've always got to remember the addition of roughly 9% in two types of tax added at the till! Still!!
On Saturday it was Lizzy's 25th birthday, and we'd bought her a Mexican Lime Tree, which they were both thrilled with. Andrew bought her a rosemary plant, which she can use in cooking. So it was looking very mediterranean on their verandah! Lizzy was delighted that her mum rang her to wish her happy birthday, all the way from Saudi.
Ian and I used the kids' mountain bikes and cycled out to a little oasis in the streets of Northridge- Balboa Park. It has a large lake and lawns and planting, with cycle paths, jogging and walking tacks running around the perimeter. Really relaxing place, full of wild geese and ducks and herons sitting by the water's edge. Although it was only 7.30am by the time we arrived, the park was already ful; of people, and the car parks were full. They rise very early here. Andrew starts work at 7am, breaks for lunch at 11am, and finishes at about 4pm, unless he's got overtime.
Lizzy made a cracking breakfast of eggs, bacon and french toast. That evening we went out for a meal with them and a small group of friends from work, and then on to a bowling alley. Back at the flat, all the "dudes" gave a rock concert on "Rock-Band", which was impressive and much more skilled than our efforts a few nights ago!!
When it was suggested that we had a go, we knew it was time to go to bed, or be humiliated!!! The evening was great and the dudes that Andrew works with were really nice guys and great fun.

Our last day began with a cycle ride in the Santa Monica National Park. We drove up to Mulholland Drive, with magnificent views over the San Fernando Valley and picked up a cycle/ running/ walking trail, the Westridge Trail, where Mulholland Drive changes into a dirt track! There are several trails which run off the tops of these big hills and weave along the top of them, all the way to the sea, with great views of Downtown Los Angeles, all the way down. Unfortunately, what goes down must go up, and it was hard winding back to the cay, but well-worth it.
Altogether there are about 55miles of trails all over the Santa Monica National Parks. The Americans are great at creating these parklands and preserving some of the wildness of this area. It's a great spot where their flat is, being only half an hour cycle from the park, and a short drive from the National Parks of Santa Monica and a bit further to Big Bear.
Although it was Sunday, Andrew was working, because he'd had the previous day off for Lizzy's birthday, and when he arrived back home at 5pm, we went out to Claimjumpers, which served great, wholesome food, with fantastic veggies.

With a lump in the throat we said our goodbyes and set off for the airport, on yet another very warm, sunny, blue-sky day. Just time to call in at the secret gem that is Venice. Not the brash, Blackpool-with-sunshine, crazy, slightly seedy Venice Beach that neither of us liked, but the beautiful, character-filled area of the Venice Canals. Five canals run alongside each other, inland from the sea. The locals had built them to emulate what they had seen in Italy. Clapperboard houses mixed in with modern, chiq properties jusr a few blocks inland from the beach.

ByeBye to LAX, USA. See you again soon.
Hugs and Kisses to Andy and Lizzy from Ma and Pa!

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