Saturday, March 30, 2019

California Spring Break Days 6-8: Seals, Sand, and Sunsets

I'm at the airport waiting to fly to Colorado. This might be the earliest I've ever been at the boarding area for a flight- as it turns out, getting one person out the door is way faster than getting five. I'm headed to Denver to meet my newest baby niece, see my sister and brother-in-law and cook them lots of food, and play with my newly crowned big sister niece. Southwest unceremoniously canceled my original direct flight 5 days ago but were able to book me on another. I just have to layover in Lubbock. I didn't even realize Lubbock had an airport, but I'll be there about 20 minutes after we take off from Dallas. But before I bounce around in Texas and land in the mile high city, let's go back to California.

We woke up on Day 6 of our vacation to the sound of waves and absolutely nowhere to be. The house we rented is one of the only single family residences left on South Mission Beach. The current owner, now in his mid-60's, grew up in it, something my children were very jealous of when they heard him say so. Now he and his brother rent it out and we are so glad! It was wonderful to have our own house- no shared walls, no shared patios, just our own space to spread out and make our own for three days.

So back to Day 6 - everyone slept in and woke up to a lazy breakfast on the beach-side patio. We discovered a giant sand pile directly in front of us (extra sand from smoothing the volleyball courts, I'd guess?) and the kids (James included) immediately jumped on it and started digging. I drank tea in my pj's and a sweatshirt under the shade of our patio umbrella and watched the volleyball players volley and my family members dig... whatever they were digging

Since the sand was still pretty cool (it was in the 50's in the morning and upper 60's/low 70's in the afternoon), we decided to go on a morning adventure, eat lunch out, and then come back for an afternoon of sand and sea. A few blog commenters had mentioned the seals and cliffs at La Jolla and we thought that sounded fun. I typed in "Seal Rock" to google maps and off we went, about 5 miles and 20 minutes away to the stunningly beautiful La Jolla Children's Beach/Seal Rock.

And it is CRAZY beautiful. The kids were delighted to find cliffs right up by the water. I mean, is it even a Lag Liv family vacation if we aren't climbing on something?

It is NOT. We felt right at home.

The water was SO beautiful and it was absolutely surreal to be so close to the seals and see them swimming, sunning, and nursing their pups.

After running around on the sand, admiring the seals, and just hanging out, I googled a lunch place and decided on The Taco Stand. It had a couple thousand reviews and a line out the door when we arrived.

We ordered many things. I went with the California Burrito which involves steak, french fries (oh yes), sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, queso, and maybe other things? I don't remember the specifics through the haze of deep, true love I tumbled into upon my first bite. This is my platonic ideal of a burrito. I savored every bite, even all the ones I took past the point I was full to burst.

We added the carne asada fries (fries! with steak and queso and all the other delicious California things!) at the end for dessert and I regret nothing.

We drove back to our "new house," stopping at the store again quickly for a third shovel (the house had many beach toys, but only two large shovels and I decided we could invest $2.99 in my children's joy and my own sanity), more strawberries (we'd inhaled the two giant cartons I'd bought the day before), and something for dinner. Once home, James decided we needed to rent a motorized scooter to putz up and down along the little walkway in front of our house.

I got a ride too- and love that I was in a sweatshirt and jeans while Cora was in a sleeveless sundress. We were both very comfortable.

Later we moved on to sand castling.

While I sat in the sand, still in my jeans and sweatshirt, reading under my beach umbrella we found at the house. It was perfection.

A couple hours and a lot of sand later, we ate dinner on the deck, and then made use of the now-empty volleyball courts for a little ball before bed. It felt like the Mission Beach thing to do.

James and I watched a movie, the kids slept soundly in their rooms at the back of the house... this is my favorite kind of vacation.

On Day 7, our last full day, we allowed ourselves the luxury of doing exactly what we wanted to do and nothing we thought we should. We contemplated going somewhere new - there is so much to see and in/around Mission Beach and San Diego, but what we wanted to do was stay in pj's for 2 hours and watch a movie with all the windows open and then go back and visit our seals. So that is exactly what we did.

And the seals rewarded us by hanging out even closer on the sand when we arrived!

We had the beach to ourselves and this time the kids (and James) wore swim suits because they are crazy. The water was FREEZING. I got my toes wet one time and was glad for my jeans and jacket. But man, was it beautiful.

Watching Cora at the beach is nearly as much fun as watching Cora on a roller coaster. She bursts with joy, that one.

Landon found cliffs to climb, of course.

And then everyone decided to go in the water because 59 degrees sounded refreshing.

James said it was colder than Lake Superior, but he got to watch the seals swim under water and declared it totally worth it.

As I was walking back up the path to our car, a woman stopped me and showed a picture she took of me and the kids sitting out on the point earlier in our adventure. In halting English she said she thought we looked "so beautiful" and wondered if I'd like it. And I did!!! I'm the photographer, I so rarely end up in the candid pictures. It was the most thoughtful special thing and I ADORE the picture.

We stopped at the Taco Stand yet again because it was delicious and all I wanted in my life was another 15 bites of California Burrito. It's true love and I will not apologize for it. And even though we knew we probably should stop somewhere new, nobody had any objections.

We spent the rest of the day on the sand. Volleyball, digging, running in the surf, reading (me!), snacking, playing volleyball, frisbee, football, and whatever else they could come up with. It was so lovely and relaxing. I love the beach. I love having kids old enough to just go play while we occasionally perform a headcount. A new family came in to the rental house next to ours and they had 3 kids, including a son (10) named Landon James, which was crazy and confusing and fun, and a daughter Claire's age, which was so great. Landon was throwing the frisbee with the other Landon until the last ray of sun left the land and then up again at 6:30 to do it again until the last minute we had to leave.

On our last day we checked out of our house, drove back up the coast, stopping in Dana Point for brunch (Cap'n Crunch french toast, you are my second love), Crystal Cove for a goodbye to the beach, and then LAX to drop off our car and fly home. Our flight was delayed so we had a high-priced mediocre dinner at an airport restaurant (the reason we are almost always able to avoid those), but our plane was a jumbo jet that had just flown in from Beijing and the kids were delighted with the 9-seats across, the in-flight entertainment, and the double snacks.

We pulled up to our "old house" just before midnight, another fabulous vacation in the books and a to-do list that included laundry, grocery shopping, and calling the insurance company in the morning.


  1. From someone who grew up in South OC and lived in SD: well done! You were able to experience so many of the things that make those areas special. And what a lovely picture that stranger took of the family! What great luck.

  2. We love San Diego and will be heading back there next year. We'd love to have a place near the beach, but wonder if it felt loud or busy since Mission Beach is such a popular area. My husband loves his Best Western, but I kind of want to try something different.