Sunday, 8 November 2009


Set off 11am flight to Los Angeles
Arrived 3pm. Not too bad a flight really, and collecting the Dodge car from airport went very smoothly. An hour or so later in busy LA traffic we were at Andrew and Lizzy's flat, which is literally opposite where he works. Great to see them again, and Lizzy had made us a lovely lamb curry for tea, which Ian later accused her of being too mild, as I kicked him for saying, as she'd specifically made it mild out of consideration for our post-flight tummies!!!!

am We called at Home Depot to buy a BBQ for tea! and a Mexican Lime tree, which was to become the latest addition to the family. After potting the tree, we drove down to a sea-misty Santa Monica and ate a Bubba Gumps seafood and burger bar on the pier. The food was great,and it was a shame that there was a cold sea fret over the Ocean, which meant you couldn't really see anything. We drove back along the famous Mulholland Drive and christened the new BBQ with some fantastic ribeye steaks bought from the local food-store.

After a 3 hour drive, we arrived in Big Bear National Park, after a fairly convoluted road journey. We did a short walk up Castle Rock, among rocky and pine-clad terrain. It's a lovely spot with a lake, quaint clapper-board houses, painted grey, beige and stone-coloured to blend in with the stone surroundings. Another bright, blue sky and pleasantly warm. We drove back down the twisty road to the Hampton Inn just outside the park, in the Highland area. We ate out at an Applebees and I had my first Quesadilla, which tasted great!

Our second day drive into Big Bear, where we drove along the beautifully understated "Rim of the World" road. We walked on the Pacific Crest Trail, or rather part of it, up to Cougar Trail, which Andrew and Lizzy had walked previously, with great views over the lake and across to Big Bear village. Back to the car and back to the Hampton, and another quesadilla at Applebees!!!

Because it's bright and cheery by 5.30am and more importantly, because our bodies are telling us not to stay asleep any longer, we were up and in the hotel gym for 6.30am. Weird!!! I'd been awake since 4am!!!

We were off to Palm Springs today, in the middle of the desert. We drove for an hour along ever "deserty" roads to the Aerial Tramway, or cable car, which goes a fair way up Mt Jacinto. At 10,800ft, it's the highest peak in Socal (which is the cool way of referring to Southern California).

After a brief and incredibly smooth cable car ride, we had climbed up from dry, barren desert, to pine-clad cooler forest land, with about 54mile of trails up and around the mountain. Also views across to the San Andreas Fault, the San Bernardino mountains, down towards the valley smog and Palm Springs, and on towards the incredibly salty Salton Sea, the largest land mass, the deepest below sea-level in the Western Hemisphere, or so the "exhibit" says!
A Big Sandwich with 4 types of fillings and then onto the "Living Desert". Well-thought out landscaping divided up the park into different landscapes and vegetations -Mojave, Sonaran, Colorado and Chihuahua, to name but a few. Really well done. We arrived at feeding time just in time to watch a (beep-beep) Roadrunner consume a white mouse all in one, complete with rather large pink tail! We saw hummingbirds, butterflies whose chrysalis were brought in from Florida Keys, which we'd visited when Kate was small. Fabulous plants, cholla cacti, yuccas, Joshua trees. Animals such as Lynx, big-horned sheep,which are indigenous to the area, bob-cats and coyotes.
Back to the Hampton in Palm Desert. Big rooms and big beds- kids were really happy. Off to the "Fire House" for burger and fish and chips, and margaritas, and thought I'd give the quesadillas a miss tonight. Palm Springs is very upmarket and swishy, with Palm Desert its apparent younger and less expensive neighbour. Both very beautiful, very artificial, probably very expensively sustained resorts in a strangely, hostile environment. Weird!

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