My California adventure ( with photos!)

Hiking Runyon Canyon with kids on

Can you find the Hollywood sign?

We just returned from a week with family in California. You know with family, sometimes it’s great… and sometimes you need a triple dose of Xanax.

This year, we had a terrific time. Two of my closest friends live in West Hollywood so I get girl time while Wilson and the fellas watch football.  We had dinner at Umame Burger at The Grove, a sprawling outdoor mall that satisfies every need from eating, to shopping, to movies, not to mention supreme people watching.

Umame burger on

Umame burger-yum!

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the 15th impossibly tall, wanna-be actress donning the skinniest of jeans and giant designer sunglasses, toting her chihuahua under one arm, and iPhone and shopping bags in the other.

I also love the holiday displays in LA. Santa sits in a heap of fake snow as holiday lights twinkle from palm trees. Ah Hollywood kitsch.

CA holiday lights on palm trees on

On Sunday, we gathered up the kids, my friends, and my brother and hiked Runyon Canyon to see the gorgeous views of the city. It was the perfect activity for all ages and athletic aptitudes.

Hiking Runyon Canyon with kids on

Wilson’s aunt and uncle live in Orange County so we stayed at their house for the rest of the week. 14 people and 4 dogs in one house keeps things interesting. There’s basically no escape. Everyone is in your bidness. Every meal is a production, and so many opinions and needs means we often take hours to decide what to do.

Tuesday we made our annual pilgrimage to Disneyland, where we had on off day.

Disneyland in November on

It started off ok, as you can see from this flattering Splash Mountain photo. Can’t tell if that scream is panic or delight….

Splash Mountain Disneyland on

We didn’t plan well and had some bad ride karma. We were there for 10 hours but only went on 4 rides… although we did 3 of them twice. (Don’t ask!)

Too much standing and waiting made us cranky and tired.

One of my favorite rides is the Indiana Jones Adventure, but while we were smack in the middle of Indy’s journey, the ride stalled for a good 15 minutes. We were stuck in our jeep as the lights went up, revealing stark black walls that only moments before felt like a scary trip through the jungle.

Stuck on Indiana Jones ride Disneyland on

Waiting in dark for ride to start

We had to finish the ride surrounded by bright lights and no sound– a bizarre behind-the-scenes look that demystified the experience.  We did get a repeat ride once it started up again, but it wasn’t quite the same.

We waited online for the new Cars ride at the California Adventure park and after 90+ minutes in line they announced the ride was closed due to mechanical difficulties. By that point I wanted to run someone over.

Cars ride Disneyland California Adventure on

The ride that wasn’t meant to be

Then we ran back to Tomorrowland to make our FastPass for Space Mountain and just as we got to the front of the line, they announced it was closed due to “guest issues,” which apparently translates to somebody losing their lunch during flight.

We were not feeling the Mickey Magic.

Disney disappointment aside, it was still a fun week of togetherness. Wine flowed freely, Wilson and I got in a few sunny runs, and I saw two movies. (Caught up on Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Cate Blanchett is amazing and the story compelling, but don’t go for the laughs. Dallas Buyers Club is also rather dark but Matthew McConaughey is better than ever and the story inspires.)

Thanksgiving turkey on

The kids loved playing with their cousins, and we all ate ourselves silly on Thanksgiving. Our Aunt Ruthie slaves for days to create a traditional, delicious meal, with two turkeys (one baked, the other fried) and stupendous sides from marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes to my favorite creamed corn.

Thanksgiving dinner on

Cousin Jeremy stuffs his plate

hanksgiving dinner on

….10 minutes later. Seconds?!

As the week came to an end, the kids begged us to change our flights to stay an extra day. We wanted to, but it would only prolong the sad goodbye. The boys’ spirits were lifted by DirectTV at their seats on the flight home. Nothing like inappropriate movies and unlimited soda to plaster a smile on a young boy’s face.

And just like that, vacation was over.

The house is a mess, the kids scrambled to finish homework they neglected, my packed suitcase is still sitting on the bedroom floor. Back to work tomorrow and a week filled with meetings, doctor appointments, carpools, holiday prep.

Makes waiting in line at Disneyland seem like, well, Disneyland.

Reality bites.

What was your holiday highlight? Tell me in the comments.

3 responses to “My California adventure ( with photos!)

  1. Barbara Johnson

    Sounds just like a visit to Disney World! Our holiday was filled with great food, wine spirits, and movies! Just like the doctor ordered. 🙂

  2. Sounds like a great time. One of these years you’ll have to come up to the beach and hang with us.

  3. Podell, Margaret

    How was David’s sister?

    Margaret Ansell Podell Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP 787 Seventh Avenue New York, NY 10019 212-728-8758 (direct) 212-728-9758 (fax)