March has been very busy with work, so I find balance in a variety of outdoor activities. I love the diversity of nature that Southern California offers…it’s only hard to choose which activity to do :-)! We had a “rainy” March in California – which means lots of snow in the mountains. It is true, you can go surfing in the morning and snowboarding in the afternoon here in SoCal – all in one day.
We had planned a winter vacation to Mammoth, but due to our tight work schedule, we had to cancel our trip. However, we did a day trip to Big Bear mountain. I was kind of nervous of getting back on my snowboard after an almost 1 year (unintentional) break and not sure if I could even ride down the mountain. The conditions were perfect as there was just a storm that moved over – so all fresh powder. As soon as we arrived on top of the mountain and I stood on my board I remembered what to do. Actually, I’ve had my best snowboarding experience ever. I focused on turning my shoulder on the turns instead of my feet and it worked wonders. I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics and cheering on Shaun White and Chloe Kim. Their skills must have rubbed off on me (HAHAHAHA). Seriously, I’m not sure what it is, but sometimes when you start with no expectations it turns out better than expected. I had a ton of fun and we stayed until it got too crowded in the afternoon. I’m not even sure if we can go another time before summer, but I can’t wait to get back on the slopes!
Run, Bike, Ride, Repeat
There are so many activities we like to do so we try to switch it up each weekend. My only must do is volleyball on Saturdays. I can’t wait to get out early morning and play until everyone is tired and I have no one to play with anymore :-). Another one of our Sunday traditions is starting the day with a (longer – for me) run…mostly in one of the Canyons here so Ulli can get some hill work in. That way we earn our Sunday Brunch 🙂 We’ve also got back on our mountain bike. We have great trails here in Orange County and are really lucky to have Aliso Wood Canyon in our “backyard” which offers some of the best trails in Southern California. The ride starts out pretty easy but then you have to climb up steep & technical trails to get to Top of the World. From there you can choose from several downhill trails. It’s a lot of fun and a good workout….which you only feel when you get home 🙂
I’ve been practicing riding a motorcycle with sidecar to get familiar with shifting. I’m feeling more comfortable each time and having fun doing it. However, I always loved riding with Ulli and being the passenger on the backseat. I feel very safe with him and love the feeling of riding on a bike. So the other weekend after our morning run, we did a motorcycle tour. We rode down Pacific Coast Highway from Laguna Beach to Newport Beach. I can never get enough of this coastal view. There’s nothing like the freedom of riding on a motorcycle down the Southern California coast…..ahhh….until you run out of gas and have to push up the bike and get an Uber to the gas station (yes, that happened). Our reward was a stop at our favorite smoothie/bowl place Sejuiced in Corona Del Mar.
So many activities…so little time! What do you like to do on the weekend? What are your favorite scenic driving routes? Always like to hear what everyone is up to 🙂
We LOVE Los Angeles. It’s always been our favorite city in the world and since we moved to California we spent at least one weekend /month here. I personally wouldn’t want to live in the city, as I love my beach lifestyle – but I do enjoy visiting as much as possible. This time we focused on West Hollywood area. We stayed at the London West Hollywood hotel – a hidden gem off Sunset Boulevard. It’s one of my favorite boutique hotels …and not just because they have an actual real dog as their mascot in the lobby. The rooms are all suites so very spacious, all have a balcony and you’re in the middle of the trendiest WeHo neighborhood. There are plenty of restaurants & nightclubs / bars in the area to choose from. We don’t drink, but we love to go out to the Laugh Factory / Comedy Store on Sunset. There are truly the best stand up comedians. They never disappoint. This time we got to see Ken Jeong (the Asian – real life – Doctor from the Hangover)…ohhhh – he was my favorite. We also got to see Dane Cook who always tells the funniest every day life stories. I honestly didn’t stop laughing for the entire show….everyone was so entertaining & professional! I promise you’ll always have a good time at the Laugh Factory on Sunset.
Each time we’re in LA I want to explore a new trail. That’s the best part of LA you can experience city life and also be in the middle of nowhere in nature. We decided on a run/hike in Griffith Park on a new trail (that I can’t remember now ;-() It started close to the Hollywood Reservoir up to Wisdom Tree and then over to the Hollywood Sign. Such beautiful views and gorgeous California weather! We also made friends with the @OCRunningMama (Instagram) who shared her inspiring story with us (about losing her eyesight and still keep running marathons). She’s has great energy and good vibes.
What do you love most about LA? Any tips for your favorite hikes/runs here?
There’s a place where lemon trees grow by the pool, people greet you with warm smiles wherever you go, you wake up and view the beautiful Palm Tree streets of Beverly Hills, a scent of fresh flowers follows you around and if that’s not enough…you may bump into a Hollywood legend in the elevator. Yes, this place exists and I was lucky to stay here….The Four Seasons Beverly Hills. Wow! For our anniversary we splurged on this special weekend LA getaway and I didn’t want to leave.
Upon arrival we started our celebration with their famous Sunday Brunch. Amazing!!! They have several rooms set up with different themes – everything from: seafood, sushi, salads, risotto served out of a Parmesan bowl, fresh cut meats, Chocolate fountain with strawberries, fresh pressed juices… The décor was beautiful and everything we tried was delicious. We sat outside, heard the birds chirping and enjoyed our sushi roll with ginger shot one after another. We also had our first “celebrity” sighting (so glad I’m keeping up with the gossip magazines … but actually Ulli recognized her first): TV/actress/comedian Sherrie Shephard was having brunch with a group of people next to us.
At check-in to our room the guest services agent came out and welcomed us personally with a handshake. This reminded me of our stay in Tokyo and their customer service level where they always come around the counter to welcome you. We then heard some tumult in the lobby and there he was Clint Eastwood standing next to us with a group of other guys. At the same time when we went up to our room he also went up the elevator. Wow – a true legend and so charismatic. We found out he held a press conference promoting his new movie The 15:17 to Paris. It was amazing standing so close to this Hollywood legend. If I was actually reading “real” news I would have recognized the true life hero’s standing next to him (that played themselves in the movie). Lesson learnt.
Our -wow- experience continued when we got to our room….I mean SUITE. Holy moly! Beautiful fresh décor, a huge bathroom, bedroom separate from living area with a balcony overlooking Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills. Speechless. Can I move in here? I felt right at home (who wouldn’t) and we were able to see a beautiful sunset.
You know by now that the most important area of the hotel for me is the gym….Hotels are easy to neglect the gym and put it in the basement…because who goes there on vacation? Me! This is truly my standard for rating hotel stars. J Needless to say the Four Seasons didn’t disappoint in this area either. The gym is connected to the pool deck and it’s an open-air gym surrounded by beautiful plants – which makes you feel you’re in Hawaii. New and innovative equipment and several choices of different flavored water and Gatorade. Ok now I really don’t want to leave.
Besides all the exciting amenities and perfect location of the hotel, the customer service is really what stands out here. Ever staff member is so attentive in trying to read each small wish before you say it out loud. It’s amazing. Unfortunately, there was a check-out day….so I actually had to leave this oasis in Beverly Hills, but I will make sure to come back soon. Promise to myself. What’s your TOP 5 hotels you have ever stayed at?
These past two months were busy with traveling, exploring city life and going in/out of airports. It was a ton of fun, but this Sunday I was longing for a day in California wilderness – somewhere alone with my husband and connecting with nature. I had just recently found out about this area on the other side of Palm Springs called Idyllwild which is the Mount San Jacinto forest. It’s connected on one side with the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – but I wanted to explore the other side of this mountain range. Idyllwild is one of the stops for hikers on the John Muir Trail – which as you may know is one of the most scenic hikes you can do. We left our home in Orange County at 8am in a foggy marine layer and arrived at a sunny mountain top at 10am.
We picked up our day permit (no charge, just need to fill out a form) at the ranger station in Idyllwild. Not far from there, across from the nature center is the parking area for the trailhead. We had decided on Suicide Rock Trail, a 6.7 mike uphill hike in San Bernadino Forest.
The hike pretty easy and, but has a nice elevation gain of 2000ft to get a bit of a work out in. It took us about 2 hours through magnificent high country wilderness to the top of Suicide rock. At the peak we took a snack break and enjoyed amazing 360degree views.
I truly loved this hike – very calm (only the chirping of birds and sounds of squirrels) and walking through the sun-alpine forest. Even though it was a Sunday, we were pretty much by ourself the entire hike. The trees and fauna were changing from the bottom of the trail to the top. I especially loved the Manzanita bushes which have the really beautiful red bark. I truly felt reenergized inside and out after this day in nature!
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” John Muir
It has become our Labor Day tradition to participate in the “Run to the Top” race to Mount Baldy. It’s a very tough course as its starting at 6,000’ and finishing on the summit of third tallest mountain in Southern California–Mt. Baldy at 10,064′ – which means an 4,000′ of gain in only 7+ miles. Ulli ran the entire climb up in 1hour 40minutes, while I hiked in 2hours 20minutes. It was very windy/stormy on top but the scenic views made up for it. Have you done any fun races or adventures lately? I would love to hear!
These days are flying by. The last few weeks have been super busy at work and on the weekend I’ve been using every minute to find my balance outdoors. Each Saturday I get up at 5am to be out on the beach volleyball court for lesson and playing and I’ve had so much fun learning this sport (ok also a lot of frustration too as my body is not cooperating the way I want to sometimes). I had been playing for a few months, but have found an awesome coach who is patient with me to get me to the next level. I also made some new friends while playing and it’s been so much fun being at the beach from sunrise to sunset. I’m still hoping to see Kerri Walsh out on practice sometime, I know she trains around here…:-)
We also have had some very unique weather especially where I live – close to the beach. With warm days and cool ocean water the marine layer clouds develop and the fog moves in over the coastal areas. As we live on top of a canyon, it’s a spectacular phenomenon to witness and something you don’t see every day. I posted some pictures below and video here so you can see for yourself. They actually call it “June gloom” but it’s just March now. Does that mean it’s already hotter than it’s supposed to be?
Another highlight these past days was going to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers live at the Staples Center (here’s a sneak peak). The venue is iconic (home of the LA Lakers) and seeing the band that loves LA as much as I do was freaking awesome. I almost forgot how many incredible songs they have and now they’re back on my running playlist. My current favorite tracks are Give it Away, Can’t stop and Soul to Squeeze. RHCP are such a cool band and they’re touring right now – so go see them! On that note, Ulli met Anthony Kiedis a while ago in Malibu and they had a quick chat about motorcycles and stuff…really nice guy too!
We also went one day to Big Bear Mountain to go snowboarding (first time this year), as we had some unusual storms earlier this month (you may remember the flooding in Northern California). Rain at the beach means snow in the mountains, so we had a blast playing in the snow. I always have to decide snow or sunshine each weekend – and so far beach & sun have won (Ulli is not happy). Last weekend we’ve been to Indian wells which is in the desert (next to Palm Springs). We went to the tennis tournament there and I actually struggled with the heat at 100F. It’s so unique to California to experience snow, extreme heat, marine fog and sunny 70F all within a 2 hour driving radius (so you can even go on the same day). For me as an outdoor enthusiast it’s a true adventure paradise – and hard to choose where to go each weekend (yeah I know tough life).
What have you been up to lately? How is the March weather where you are? Have you been to any memorable concerts or sports events? Would love to hear!
P.S. As we’re talking music today – I discovered the band LANY (my #1 song is “ILYSB”) and Matt Franco “Fresh Eyes” – L.O.V.E. these two songs! Is anyone with me on this?
Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite holidays as it’s the start of Christmas season but without the stress of getting presents. It’s all about good food and spending quality time together with your loved ones. This Thanksgiving day we had a super early start at 4:30am as we signed up for the 10k Turkey Trot run in Dana Point. It was a crisp morning in the 50s with over 16,000 runners. I usually run part of this route on my own as it’s so scenic, but it was fun going out together as a group. Also, there were a lot of unique costumes and people (and dogs) cheering the runners on. I was happy to finish in 59minutes which was 10min faster than two weeks ago in Las Vegas. I guess a 15k has to be the next challenge…
The rest of the day we spent decorating the house, going for a walk on the beach and enjoying our feast (vegan roast was delicious). It’s also the season when I can finally watch all Christmas movies again. We watched Love Actually and Family Man – what are your favorite Christmas movies?
“May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.”
Since moving to California I found my passion for hiking. When living in Florida there are no mountains and also the weather is usually too hot to do such outdoor activity. So my favorite store when moving to California became REI 🙂 I felt like a kid in a candy shop, buying backpacking equipment and hiking gear and emergency blankets (Ulli rolling his eyes). I even became a real geek in taking an adventure class at the local REI shop (yep –you can make fun of me). So I’ve been exploring different hikes in the area, Palm Springs, San Diego and San Bernadino. The most famous peak and the highest mountain in the contiguous United States is Mount Whitney with 14,505 feet (4,421m). It’s located in the Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and connected by a scenic highway in Death Valley. When you google Mount Whitney hiking to the peak, it is recommended that you do a backpacking trip over 3 days so your body can adjust to the high altitude. You also need to apply for a permit as there are only a limited number of permits allowed (I believe 200 per day). When Ulli heard about it he decided he wanted to do a hike/run in 1 day to the top by himself. I loved the idea of hiking this mountain, but would have preferred a multi-day backpacking trip. However, this was not “challenging enough” for my husband. So when we got the permit for May 31, I was excited and anxious to go with him. We arrived in the small town of Lone Pine at 8pm as this is the closest town to the mountain. We picked up our permit from the ranger station and after dinner at the local Chinese restaurant (that was the “healthiest” choice in town) we checked in at the Best Western hotel. We prepared all of our gear what to take on the trip with us the next day. The most difficult part was to decide what to pack – as we wanted it to be as light as possible to move quickly, but also needed some basics like food, extra clothing layers, emergency supplies, headlamp, and water. We got to bed early as we had a very early start planned.
While everyone else was in the Halloween spirit this weekend, we attended two unique culinary experiences. First we went to the Vegan Festival in Costa Mesa on Saturday. I’m not vegan, but I don’t eat any dairy / cheese or meat (read my blog post about my diet change). However, I’m always eager to learn about nutrition and the latest vegan products on the market. There were many trucks and booth set up with everything from food, vegan clothing, juices, nutritional supplements and even information about local animal shelters / farms. They also had a stage with inspirational speakers, which we listened to a few of them. One of the speakers spoke about the fact that you can be vegan and still eat unhealthy – like coca cola & french fries! So being vegan doesn’t mean you’re eating healthy. Nevertheless, most vegans eat consciously. Another interesting point of view he mentioned was how in other countries our farm animals are considered as “holy” but our pets (like dogs) are eaten like in China. In Germany they eat horse and people in Peru eat guinea pigs. Basically it mainly depends on where you grow up that influences your opinion on which animals to eat is “normal”. When you visit a sanctuary with farm animals like pigs you can experience that they behave like dogs – rolling on their back when you give them belly rubs and wagging their tail when they’re happy. And cows are cute! Just because you grow up thinking its “normal” to eat pigs and cows it doesn’t make it right. I also watched a cooking demonstration by Jackie Sobon for a (healthy & vegan) corn chowder. She had such an energetic and positive personality – it was fun to watch. I learned some new tricks, e.g. about cooking with liquid smoke (Am I the only one that never heard of this before?). If you want to check out her vegan blog or cookbook – here’s the link. In my opinion, there are so many delicious and healthy meatless options from all around the world available in the grocery store – there’s really no excuse not to give up meat.
On Sunday we attended a much different culinary experience in Torrey Pines (close to San Diego). The annual event “Celebrate the Craft” was held at the beautiful Terrace at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. It’s a food and wine festival with the best chefs from the region. They are representing innovative dishes and highlighting ingredients from local farms or ranches. They also have local breweries and vintners to pair with the plates – but I don’t drink alcohol, so can’t tell much about it. It was a delightful experience as you could experience how creative and with much love for food each chef prepared their dish. My favorite was a cauliflower Brussels sprout salad by True Food Kitchen – which I have to visit in Newport Beach soon.