After the loss of my beloved mother and at the insistence of my sister, family and friends, everyone thought it would be a good idea for me to embark on a much needed vacation. Scouring the internet for places to visit seemed like a chore. Turks and Caicos, Italy and even a Mediterranean cruise were top contenders. However, the thought of multiple flights, transfers and schedules seemed exhausting and somewhat paralyzing. I couldn’t fathom the thought and preparation of all this immediately following the intimate burial of my “Sweetest Angel”.
Before my mom had become ill, she had always talked about going to Solvang, CA and taking a ride down PCH Highway to see the beautiful sights. My sister and I had discussed doing this for Mom’s 75th birthday and I had it all planned out. A girls trip, in a BMW convertible, just the three of us. Unfortunately, that never came to fruition. Instead, her 75th was spent in a bed in a post-acute rehabilitation facility. We still weren’t certain if she would ever walk again, and if we’d make this trip together, but we were equally as happy that she had defied her odds and we could celebrate her. Almost 4 years later, I had recently discussed this trip with her again. Just before her passing, I was planning to see Solvang and come back and share my experiences with her, pictures, memorabilia and of course, their authentic Danish pastries. However, on June 21st, when hospice told my sister and I that they were moving our mom to a transitional status on the day before my scheduled trip, there was absolutely no way I was going to leave her. The trip was cancelled and we shared as much time with Mom as we could. Our final five days together were filled with much emotion, prayers, gratitude and most of all, LOVE.
So, this past week, in honor of my dear Mother and with the blessing of my sweet sister, it seemed fitting that I take “our” girl’s trip. I know Mom was with me every step of the way as some very special things occurred. I was moved to tears on many occasions and I thank God for the blessings bestowed upon me.
It started in Newport, California. A fabulous dinner at my absolute favorite restaurant, Fig & Olive. The next day, shopping at Fashion Island and a wonderful ocean view lunch before beginning the trip north. Heading up Ventura Highway, top down and the smell of the salty, sea air, felt incredible. I was in my element and so excited for the next two nights that would be spent in Solvang.
Upon arriving in Solvang, I particularly noticed the countryside of the Santa Ynez Valley. It was splendid with its rolling hills, fields of grapes and majestic beauty in this relaxed and peaceful setting. The following day was all about getting to know Solvang, with the hopes of “My Angel” sharing it with me.
The stroll through the village was incredible. I admired the old-world European architecture and the charming boutiques and shops. Although I did not indulge, there are world famous bakeries on just about every corner. There is an adorable trolley that runs through town and a wooden, horse-drawn street car which is a part of Solvang’s rich cultural heritage and offerings. Food and wine lovers will find more than 120 wineries and beautiful vineyards to explore. There are abundant dining options, including California farm-to-table cuisine. I absolutely fell in love and understand why my sweet Mother wished to visit this incredibly charming town. I also had the most amazing and wonderful experience occur, which I will keep private and safeguard it for those that were with me. Leaving Solvang was bittersweet, however, I know that I will return every year, approximately around July 8th, to celebrate the memory.
The trip continued north, up the coast, to Pismo Beach, Spy Glass, Monterey (Cannery Row) and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Each town with its own uniqueness, its own charm and beauty.
There were beautiful flowers everywhere I turned. Living in the desert, Arizona is more indigenous to cactus and wildflowers. I simply couldn’t get enough of the things we often take for granted. Flowers are the sweetest thing God ever made and forgot to put a soul into.
The trip down PCH 1 was magnificent. Big Sur is a rugged stretch of California’s central coast between Carmel and San Simeon. Bordered to the east by the Santa Lucia Mountains and the west by the Pacific Ocean, it’s traversed by a narrow, 2-lane route, known for winding turns, seaside cliffs and views of the spectacular coastline. Stops in Cayucos, Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo did not disappoint either. The final stop in Santa Barbara, at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, was the piece de resistance.
One week of California bliss! One week of celebrating my Mother’s memory. Never, have I seen such splendor and the weather was absolutely perfect. My company, considerate, generous, caring, compassionate and thoughtful. I had my moments. I had my tears. I miss my mom. I miss her laugh, her hugs, her voice, holding her hand and even when she would roll her eyes at me because of my silly antics. I will never move on, but each day, I will try to move forward.
I also never dreamt that I could be a California girl, however, this trip has significantly changed my mind. And as my life is about to change again, for my betterment, I scour the internet for the next possible home on the California Coast. As the Beach Boys sang, “Wish they all could be California girls” .. I think the dream is soon becoming a reality. I am so excited for this next chapter. Mom, I hope you come for the ride again, only this time, let’s stay awhile. I love you.