Santa Barbara. Monday and Tuesday I wake up to a spectacular panorama view of reddish mountains. Go downstairs for breakfast with my best friend and her daughter. Sourdough bread, blueberries and steaming coffee. Lazy laps in the heated salt water pool in the garden. Working from a room with ocean view. Fun barre class at The Dailey Method, recommended by my teachers at home in Singapore. Quality time with people I love and usually miss – my friend and her husband taking me on a sightseeing roadtrip, pointing out historical buildings and awesome surf spots, shopping, lunching in small, cosy patio cafes, meeting their friends for dinner at the chic and shiny, slightly sterile-seeming Public Market.
Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Tuesday-Friday, the bliss continues down south in Cardiff. Last time I was here, three years ago exactly, I was living in London, interviewing for my current job, training for the Copenhagen marathon and planning a series of trips to explore the art and food scenes of Madrid. The excitement of that time comes back to me as I enter my friends’ beautiful big house at the end of a cul-de-sac in the pretty villa neighbourhood. Back then, being here was a very welcome, serene, comfy break from a highly pressured daily life. Though I feel more balanced now, and in some ways perhaps exactly because of that, a deep appreciation of this complete Cali idyll still fills my body and mind. My friends puts me up in a newly done up guest room – comfy bed with crisp white bed linen, indigo blue walls and big windows overlooking the lush garden. During the daytime, I work from the living room, with easy access to the coffee machine in the kitchen and to my friends, whose offices are both at the end of the hall across from me. Quality time with them, and plenty of healthy alone time. Morning runs down through the quaint little town overlooking the ocean in the lightly chilly (!) air, accompanied by eager surfers out to catch a wave before work, crossing the railway and stopping briefly at the top of the cliff to take in the sweeping views, continuing down the long wooden staircase to the firm, white beach, and sprinting from one baby blue lifeguard house to the next, doing sun salutations every time I reach a new one. Breakfast in the big American/Scandi kitchen. Going for long walks with the good, old newfie. Lunch at a tiny taco joint above the beach, Bull Taco. Driving around Santa Fe Ranch to see horses and gigantic cacti, dream houses in Del Mar and the rain flushing down the sand in spectacular cascades on Moon Light Beach. Coffee at a hippie happy little spot in Solana Beach, Lofty. Bathing the baby while reading Danish fairytales to her (with a glass of red wine in hand) before putting her to bed. Nights of curling up in the sofa with cashmere blankets, takeout from Whole Foods and Seaside Market and many episodes of Silicon Valley. Meeting my friend’s sweet Californian girlfriends for dinner at the local bistro/wine bar.
Art. I listen, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand. On the kitchen wall is a painting by their friends’ mother, who is a very gifted artist. I like it a lot.
Yoga Tropics. I love California! Nowhere else have I ever found a totally full 5:30 am hot yoga class on a (relatively) cold, rainy morning. On Thursday, I get up at 5am and sprint through the torrential downpour, down the empty villa road, down Santa Fe, remembering how we walked here three years ago, my friend and I, at dusk, watching the sunset while chatting, laughing, sipping on our paper bagged beers, on our way to drinks and dinner in Encinitas… The popular studio is tiny and primitive-looking, but the teacher is great and the heat so soothing. On the way home, I jog past the Self-Realization Fellowship Center, which was founded in 1920 by Paramhansa Yogananda, recognised as the father of yoga in the West, whose Autobiography of a Yogi, was the one book that Steve Jobs read every year, his secret to greatness, and gave to his friends at his memorial service at Stanford University, encouraging them to actualize themselves. I snap a shot of the golden dome of the centre serving as background to a roadsign warning drivers of surfers crossing the road. Funny – the two religions represented here, with a mindful focus on balance, flexibility and breath to achieve physical and mental well-being as a common denominator.
Vikings. Later that morning, my friend and I spend our lunch break at Cardiff State Beach, where we spread out a blanket and sit down to eat our scrumpy açaí bowls from the organic shop downtown, watching the waves break, wetsuit-clad surfers of all ages running and paddling out to catch them. Mustering the courage to jump in the waves after we’ve finished eating, just for a quick thrill, we walk briskly along the beach to get the blood flowing, come back to our things, pack our bags, put out our towels, strip down to swimming costumes and run into the clear, shallow water. Gosh, it’s cooooold!! With the first, no second, no, third, wave, we dive in, or, bend, rather, tensely, gasping, realising, as always, that it’s not so bad once you get in… and our bodies and brains feel so refreshed after, as we drive home to get a warm shower and cup of coffee.
Amtrak. On Saturday morning, my friend drives me to the Oceanside train station. It’s always sad to say goodbye – but we always know we’ll meet again; on FaceTime weekly, and also in real life. Chilly, windy wait for the LA-bound train in clear sunshine whiled away with a lovely conversation with two cheerful middleaged blues musicians on their way to a music convention in Anaheim; very talkative; very American. Where are you from? Denmark. Ooooh, I always wanted to go to Holland; wooden shoe? haha. We talk about music (they play in churches and at nightclubs), my job (they recognise and love the company I work for; I’m grateful that’s the reaction I always get), Trump’s inauguration yesterday and their view on the state of the country. When the train rolls into the station, we nod our goodbyes. They travel coach; my friend got me a first class ticket. Which gives me a first floor view of the ocean, cityscape and landscape, as well as a complimentary newspaper and cup of coffee.
Downtown LA. I’ve got about 4 hours to check out downtown LA before my flight home. Excitement of exploring alone, at my own pace. Women’s march. Wildly spacious streets. Arts District. Walking down broad sunny streets with my suitcase, drinking in all the hip and artsy impressions thirstily. Peering into Poketo, Alchemy Works and other trendy concept stores. Coffee at Blue Bottle. Lunch at The Springs – light and bright über-cool green kitchen and juice bar, homeware shop and yoga & wellness centre, with girl power music filling the air. I buy a funny little orange plant from there. Head to Ace for a quick coffee before heading over to the airport.