Of Lavender, and Olives, and Oaks

On one particularly enjoyable California day, our friends took us to the Highland Springs Resort in Cherry Valley. 

Despite living in California for most of our lives, Colette and I had never been there before. (Hubby had returned to New Hampshire at this point...work calls.) In existence since the mid-19th century, the resort was gradually expanded until it became a popular destination for the rich and famous. Among its notable visitors were: Albert Einstein, Roy Rogers, Bob Hope, Ernest Hemingway, and Elizabeth Taylor. Today, it is a: hotel, restaurant, wedding venue, organic farm, and lavender fields.

We began our exploration of the property by walking down this lovely pine allee to the lavender fields.

We were fortunate that our visit coincided with some of the lavender being in bloom. So many pretty shades of green too!

Leaving the beauty of the lavender, we walked through the olive groves. Such big olive trees...they must be quite old. Although it was a rather warm day, it was cool in the olive grove. The resort presses its olives to make olive oil.

We walked past blooming cacti and fields of mustard to reach a 100-year old oak tree on the property. It is reputed to be the second oldest oak in California. 

Beyond the oak is this view! Sooo beautiful in that old west way! It just took my breath away, as it reminded me of the untouched California of my childhood. Not the California of urban sprawl, endless strip malls, and unceasing traffic, but the California that still had rolling hills of open space covered with golden waving grass.

Hot and thirsty, we meandered back to the resort's restaurant and ordered a delicious lunch. I ordered a salad with their own lavender-balsamic dressing and roasted tomato soup (shown here with Colette's lavender lemonade).

If you live in southern California, or are just visiting, I highly recommend you stop in at the Highland Springs Resort!

Haste to the Wedding!

Our main reason for going to California was to attend the wedding of one of our dear family friends! Colette was a bridesmaid! There was a strict "no photography" rule during the ceremony, but I snapped a few cell phone pictures before and after.

I got to hold this little bundle of cuteness during the ceremony, because his parents were both members of the bridal party. Is he adorable, or what?

Colette in her bridesmaid's dress (J. Crew, if you're interested).

Our dear friends, the parents of the bride.

The Happy Couple!

The venue overlooked the country club golf course, with a view of the city lights and the stormy clouds. The cocktail hour happened on this terrace.

And the next morning, Colette posed for this picture with the bouquet...which she caught!

Fun at the Beach

Our first day back in California, Colette was busy with wedding preparations for her friend, so the hubby and I had a day-long date! What a luxury! And we were back in the county from which we moved. We had a great day of fun enjoying each other's company and being back on familiar turf.

We began our day with a leisurely walk along our favorite beach, Corona del Mar. When we lived in Orange County, I would bring the kids to this beach frequently during the summer...to just enjoy the sand and water, for birthday parties and bonfires.

Due to the warm waters of El Nino forming this year, there was an unusual invasion of tuna crabs on the beaches of southern California while we were there. Normally, they stay further south. But now they were washing up (and dying) on the beaches by the tens of thousands. They're small, about 3"-4" long, and are not good for eating. Although this fellow was a good 6" long!

Then we hopped back in our rental car and drove up the coast about ten minutes to the area of the Balboa Pier. While hubby was putting money in the parking meter, I was glancing around...all the usual things...cars, people, surfboards, bicycles...but wait! What on earth was that? In the distance, I thought I saw a polo player. Surely not. As soon as the parking meter was fed, I said, "I want to go over there for a moment," pointing in the direction I'd seen the horse and rider. And sure enough, we had stumbled upon the first ever Newport Beach Polo Match (played for charity). Neither of us had ever seen a polo match before, and we found it quite interesting...very fast-paced. And of course, there were women in huge hats, because the ability to wear one or see other ladies' hats is at least half the reason to go to a polo match, don't you think?

We couldn't watch for too long, because we had lunch reservations here, at the Balboa Pavillion (c. 1906). From our table by the window, we had a great view of the comings and goings of the boats in the Newport Harbor, one of the busiest small-craft harbors in the world.

Afterwards, like little kids, we bought some salt water taffy and enjoyed the Balboa Fun Zone, an amusement area that generations of southern Californians have enjoyed. We played skee ball and rode the Ferris wheel.

The view from the top!

Then we walked onto the small passenger ferry and rode over to Balboa Island, where we indulged in some delicious Balboa bars. They are an ice cream bar that is made to order...dipped in melted chocolate, which freezes immediately, and then rolled in your choice of toppings. I chose toasted coconut.

Later, we had a delicious dinner, and this was our view the whole time we dined. In Orange County, nearly every night, the "marine layer" (a bank of low clouds) comes in off the coast every evening and slowly burns off with the sun each morning. This particular evening, it rolled in with a strange crack in it, stretching all across the sky, and lasting for more than an hour, as the sunset peeked through the crack. So beautiful!

Lots more vacation pictures to come!
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