Two years ago five friends and I rented a villa on Lake Como in Italy. We had all been to a reunion at our boarding school in Switzerland and were ready for some down time. Sitting on our porch we were soothed by the waves lapping onto the beach and an awe inspiring view. We were all transformed in one way or another after that trip. The beauty of the place, the calm atmosphere and the joy of sharing time with old friends inspired us all.
We would have loved to do it again but finances did not allow another trip to Europe so soon. Instead we decided to share a house on the west coast and coordinate it with a school party at a friend’s house. I found a three bedroom house in the Malibu Colony right on the beach. This time the waves were crashing onto the beach below us. We spent five days mostly mesmerized by the Pacific Ocean. We talked, we ate, we drank, we relaxed. It was sunny and peaceful.
Frederick Rindge, founder of Pacific Life insurance and vice-president of Union Oil Company, purchased the 13,300 acre Spanish land grant Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit in 1892. In 1929, his widow, May Rindge, was forced to start selling the property in lots. One of the first to go was the Malibu Colony. It is located just off the Pacific Coast Highway about an hour north of the Los Angeles airport. Today it is a gated community with multimillion dollar homes right on the beach. We were lucky enough to enjoy five days there.
The five women arrived on Thursday but our friend, Leo, could not get there until Friday. Leo is a professional photographer so we always tell people we just can’t travel without our photographer. On Friday morning we headed out to the airport in our rented Ford Explorer. It was a monster of a car but very comfortable for the six of us. After having one of our major disagreements of the week (life isn’t always perfect in paradise), we settled down and ended up in Venice Beach at the Baja Cantina ordering Margaritas. They sure hit the spot. We were all craving Mexican food and enjoyed tacos, tamales and fajitas. Leo had a burger and a coke.
Saturday night was the big party at a friend’s house in Glendale. On our way there we got lost, went up a curvy mountain road where everybody had vertigo and felt nauseous, went back down the same mountain and then as we approached our exit off the freeway we were welcomed by a bright rainbow marking our destination. The house was built on the side of a hill with terraced gardens and the surrounding landscape resembled Tuscany. The view was spectacular. There was a clear plastic tent over the back terrace in case of rain. The tent had chandeliers running down the middle. The food and the company were excellent.
One of our schoolmates had just won an Emmy and she brought it along for everybody to see. She let people hold it and some people even posed with it. The award was for 2016 Daytime Emmy Awards for Special-Class Special – Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine. The Director and Emmy winner is Michele Josue. She and Matt both went to our boarding school in Switzerland. It revisits the brutal killing of Matt Shepard in 1998 at age 21, but it is mostly about Matt’s life. The film is available on Netflix.
At the end of the evening, after the bar closed and desert was served, there was a food truck parked outside offering all the greasy food you could eat … for free … Just what we needed. We got back to the beach around 12:30 but stayed up until 3 AM debriefing each other about the party.
Our last day, we headed to the Santa Monica Pier. There have been several piers in Santa Monica and today the pier is really two in one, the long Municipal Pier and a shorter, wider one next to it called the Pleasure Pier or the Newcomb Pier. The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome sits on the second pier. In 1987 this hippodrome was declared a National Historic Landmark and today it houses a carousel which has been owned by the city since 1977.
We found a great Italian restaurant next to the Hippodrome called Ristorante Al Mare. It is owned by two friends who moved to California from Rome, Italy. We sat on the rooftop deck and enjoyed lovely weather and a wonderful view. The food was good too. Prosciutto e burrata, Polpo arrosto (pan roasted octopus with crushed potato, green beans, olives and pesto), Spinach ravioli, Maccheroncini al fume (pasta with pan smoked pancetta, prosciutto and speck in a pink sauce and parmesan), Caprese salad, Chitarrine Bolognese (spaghetti with beef ragu). We ate well.
All week we had been looking for dolphins. Somebody told us we would see them in the afternoon but we were feeling a bit sad because they did not show. The morning we left we were up early having coffee on the porch when six dolphins appeared. We watched them go up the coast and then when they came back down. Leo said, “This means good luck”.
Kathleen Gamble was born and raised overseas and has traveled extensively. She has a BA in Spanish and has worked in publishing, printing, desktop publishing, translating, and purchasing. She also designs and creates her own needlepoint. She started journaling at a young age and her memoir, Expat Alien, came out of those early journals. Over the years she has edited and produced an American Women’s Organization cookbook in Moscow, Russia, and several newsletters. Her first book, Expat Alien, was published in 2012 and she recently published a cookbook, 52 Food Fridays, both available on Amazon.com. You can also follow her blog at ExpatAlien.com.