Sunday, December 27, 2009

California: Days 7 & 8 (Sat & Sun)

Yesterday marked the beginning of the second half of our trip - when my family of origin started gathering together for a vacation.  Geoff, Matthew, and I spent yesterday morning wandering up the spectacular coast, via the Pacific Coast Highway, from the southern most tip of Point Loma just outside of San Diego, through to La Jolla beach.  

We visited one beach town after the other, each more beautiful than the last.  Imagine the panorama:  tiny little stores lining the beach for miles and selling both product and local food (including tons of yummy Mexican food and ocean-fresh seafood); surfers wandering around half clothed, looking sun bleached and carefree; pale white sand that is warm and soft to the touch; rolling waves spiraling in towards the shore, bringing with them surfers, swimmers and occasional bits of sea weed.  After spending time in paradise for the better part of the day, it was hard to turn inland, but eventually we did.

We made our way to a San Diego suburb/bedroom community called Escondido, where my parents  rented a house for the next week.  My parents were already there by the time we arrived, and shortly thereafter my sister and brother-in-law arrived with their two kids.  My brother and his three boys arrive tomorrow from Vancouver.

The house is great - a 4,500 square foot place with six bedrooms (and a few air mattresses) and 4.5 bathrooms...a bathroom for each family unit and a half to spare!  There are many lovely parts of the home's interior but my favourite part of the property is the exterior.  In addition to the big deck with a view of mountains and palm trees, there is a swimming pool and a hot tub; also (and this is my favourite part), in the lower level of the yard, there are over thirty fruit trees, which have several varieties of oranges and lemons ripe for the picking (including sweet lemons - who knew??!).  So this morning before breakfast, the kids picked thirty-two oranges, some of which we ate and some of which Andrew (my brother-in-law) juiced for fresh orange juice.  I highly recommend orange juice squeezed from blood oranges - the taste is somewhere between an orange and a grapefruit and it is delicious.

Today we woke 'early' and managed to get to the San Diego zoo for opening at 9:00.  We spent the day there and really enjoyed it.  I've heard of this zoo for years and it lived up to its reputation.  Amongst the hundreds of animals we saw, my favourites were:
  • the hippos!  I've never, ever seen hippos from underneath the water.  The exhibit enabled us to see them sleeping under water and swimming under water - it was unbelievable to see these gargantuan females swimming so gracefully (as my sister pointed out, they even pointed their toes as they kicked their stubby legs, making them look something like massive, underwater ballet dancers. It gave me hope that even us large girls can sometimes emanate grace!
  • gorillas - they're huge and somehow so human in their movements and facial features (though I'd like to think that I'm not quite so hairy!). And there was a little baby gorilla that was frolicking about...adorable. 
  • anteaters - I've never seen one outside of the pages of National Geographic - they're weird and amazing.
  • the baby giraffe, born on December 01 at six feet tall!
  • a black panther - its coat was so shiny and lush and black that, even in broad daylight, it looked a bit like a shadow.
  • a very small python, whom we happened to visit at feeding time, just in time to see it devour a (recently dead) mouse. Matthew and I were transfixed by this display for about fifteen minutes as we watched it gradually take in this small creature that was significantly bigger than its mouth/body width.

Below is the swimming hippo, though the picture doesn't do justice to it:

The adult gorilla below looked uncannily like a person, with its mannerisms and intense looks.  Matthew added that he was as furry as my legs sometimes are!  Sigh - too true - though you can be sure that after that comment, I rectified the situation this morning!

If you're squeamish, don't look below at the pic of the snake eating the mouse!

And, pursuant to Shannon's request for a picture of the zoo baby, here's a pic of the baby giraffe that was born on December 01, at a whopping height of six feet!

I could go on and on about the various creatures we saw but I'm sure I'd bore you into oblivion, if I haven't already.

Most of us are swimming at the moment (I'm still sick so I'm holding off for a couple of days), and in a few minutes we're going to indulge in some pizza that we've I'd better sign off for now. More tomorrow!

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