The Land of Sun and Clouds, Los Angeles

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I was pounding the pavement under the warm sun, elbow to elbow with Angelenos out for a post-Thangsgiving breather. Today, the sky is moody and continually dropping rain. Outside, overflowing gutters are spluttering from exhaustion. The gardens, however, are rejoicing. Goodbye sunny temp, hello wintry December.

Santa Monica Beach

Santa Monica Beach, Nov 29

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Pinch and a Punch for the First Day of the Month (No Returns) ~ Santa Monica, CA

The first of June fell on a Saturday. The news promised temperatures in the three-digits*; luckily, it turned out to be pleasantly sunny and breezy. The beach beckoned – we responded.

(Again, I only had the phone on me but I aim to photograph with the Nikon… soon! Oh and, *, that’s in Fahrenheit.)

Santa Monica Beach from Ocean Boulevard

Santa Monica Beach from Ocean Avenue

Swaying palms

Swaying palms

Umbrellas and a lifeguard station

Umbrellas and a lifeguard station

The edge of the Pacific Ocean

The edge of the Pacific Ocean

I cannot remember the last time I built a sandcastle... Can you?

I cannot remember the last time I built a sandcastle… Can you?

Santa Monica Pier in the distance

Santa Monica Pier in the distance

"She saw seashells along the seashore..." Not really, but I did see a lot of seaweed.

“She saw seashells along the seashore…” Not really, but I did see a lot of seaweed.

Pay no attention to this sign. The ocean was a bath tub!

Pay no attention to this sign. The ocean was a bath tub!

Asking for a dollar...

Asking for a dollar…

The other side of the beach, looking back at the Pier

The other side of the beach, looking back at the Pier

It's really a tourist hangout here on the weekends..

It’s really a tourist hangout here on the weekends…

A mural underneath the Pier

A mural underneath the Pier

This is Santa Monica waterfront living. The homes back onto the Pacific Coast Highway.

This is Santa Monica beachfront living. The homes back onto the Pacific Coast Highway.

If a 2 br 2 bath apartment on Ocean Blvd costs $5,400 per month in rent, imagine what beachfront living costs...

If a 2 br 2 bath apartment on Ocean Avenue costs $5,400 per month in rent, imagine what beachfront living costs…

A neat little home

A neat beachfront home.

Bike rentals are a regular feature here. The shared pathway can get pretty crazy with people of all ages and abilities riding alongside us pedestrians.

Bike rentals are a regular feature here. The shared pathway can get pretty crazy with people of all ages and abilities riding alongside us pedestrians.

Bike rider in sepia.

Bike rider in sepia.

The overpass that connects the beach to Ocean Blvd.

The overpass that connects the beach to Ocean Ave.

From Ocean Blavd's Oceanfront Walk, you can see the Pacific Coast Highway in the foreground and the beach beyond.

From where I am standing, on Ocean Ave’s Oceanfront Walk, you can see the Pacific Coast Highway in the foreground and the beach beyond.

Away from the beach...

Away from the beach…

Blue Skies at Rockaway Beach ~ Queens, New York

Located about 40 minutes away from Williamsburg, Brooklyn – a car drive that includes a couple of turns and two long stretches of road – lies Rockaway Beach in the borough of Queens. This is the largest urban beach in America; its wide stretches of sand and dunes extend along a peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean.

Large apartment complexes and new residential developments line the Shore Front Parkway, along with a few green spaces and handball courts. From one of the only waterfront eating spots along the parallel Ocean Promenade Walkway, your meal choices start with fish n chip fare, and end with Oreo Cookie Italian Ice for dessert. Throw in a couple of margaritas from the adjoining Sand Bar, and enjoy the simple pleasure of watching life pass by; frequently interrupted by the sight of planes overhead, either taking off from, or approaching to land in, nearby JFK airport.

An Ode to San Clemente

Beautiful palm trees

When I think back on the two years we lived in San Clemente, I begin to miss it. Living near the beach was always on my wish list, and that wish was granted when we relocated to the ‘Spanish Village by the Sea.’ However, a couple of years later, I felt the pull of the city and longed for the urban sprawl; our move to LA was short lived when a job opportunity came up in New York. I seized it; we moved back. Now, over a year later, I am frequently in a California state of mind. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

View from San Clemente’s Pier

You may have heard of San Clemente through its associations with Nixon and his ‘Western White House.’ Perhaps you have spotted photos of residents such as actor Dominic Purcell, or professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, snapped unawares on their home turf, within the pages of a magazine. You may have even visited, lived in, or driven through San Clemente. After all, it is the midway point between Los Angeles and San Diego, and the final pit stop before you embark on a long stretch of uninterrupted army base. Maybe San Clemente is completely lost on you. Before relocating, I knew nothing of the place. I hadn’t even heard of it.

Ocean view as one descends to the beach

My first impression of San Clemente was that it reminded me of a beach town just outside of Sydney, Australia called Terrigal. About 25 years ago, my family used to pack up the car and set off on a week’s holiday to this beachside spot. But today’s Terrigal suffers from overdevelopment, and has lost its small town appeal. To me, San Clemente feels like Terrigal during its golden years, and I was immediately drawn to that. Until a huge hotel plops itself right across from the beach, San Clemente will continue to be a cute beach town in Orange County.

The start of Avenida Palizada, the main street through the town

San Clemente’s surfers

I loved to catch sight of the ocean on my daily walks. I remember breathing ‘wow’ as its blue would came into view. The Pacific Ocean was always welcoming, especially on sunny days when it would glitter and shine. On most days, the water looked like a still infinity pool, disrupted only by the waves as they lapped the shore. On other days, when the mist would fall thick and the waves would kick up a notch, surfers would suddenly appear on the horizon. They’d lay on their boards, perched like seals, in anticipation of catching the next wave. The haziness of such days was temporary as the sun would eventually peek out.

The ocean view from street level

I also miss taking strolls in and around San Clemente’s maze of gently curving and undulating streets, quiet, except for the sound of an oncoming car or the blare of the train’s horn as it passed through the beachfront station. Each street was punctuated with Spanish Colonial style homes and fully tended-to gardens. On show: robust citrus trees, blooming bougainvillea, cacti, and if I was lucky, a hummingbird hovering over a bottle brush tree (this is when nostalgia would set is in as the bottle brush is endemic to Australia). As symbolic as palm trees are to the city of Los Angeles, San Clemente’s streets are filled with them. They are not the city’s official city tree – that’s the Coral tree — they aren’t even native to the terrain, but they look like they belong and the scene wouldn’t be complete without them.

Rail route through San Clemente

Why all this reminiscing? Well, when I think of San Clemente, three things come to mind. The ocean, the outdoors, and the Blue Danube restaurant, which was the reason we moved to San Clemente. If it wasn’t for the Blue Danube, where my husband was offered a job, we might have never moved to the West Coast. And we recently found out that the restaurant will be closing its doors forever. San Clemente is not renowned for its dining scene; however, it is undeniable that the Blue Danube Restaurant is the grandest of all the dining establishments in the area, spanning 10,000 square feet. Its Austrian-inspired menu never failed to please with Weiner schnitzel, spaetzle and red cabbage. Formerly the site of San Clemente’s first jailhouse, the restaurant includes a number of themed rooms, including two jail cells that were transformed into private dining rooms.

We hold a great many memories at the Blue Danube. I remember feasting on gravy-soaked turkey and my favourite side of mash on the restaurant patio at Thanksgiving, surrounded by family and friends. I remember attending an elaborate family wedding – just when I had thought it would be impossible to use every square inch of the restaurant space, I was proven wrong on that day. I’ll never forget enjoying a delectable homemade cheese strudel with a Vienna coffee, appropriately surrounded by Gustav Klimt artworks. I’ll never forget the beautiful sounds of the piano, as the restaurant’s owner played classical music upon request. Not having the Blue Danube around means that it won’t be possible to create any more memories there. Aside from the memories, perhaps the thing that sticks out most in my mind is the love and support that the restaurant’s owners – Ali’s family – extended to us during our time in San Clemente. I hope their next adventure will be as exciting as the one of the past decade.

And San Clemente – we’ll be back sooner than you think.

Blue Danube