this past weekend i spent three days with my aunt P (or AP as we refer to her) at her beach house in ventura. want to hear something crazy? of course you do. this trip had actually been in the works since late march but due to the two of our busy schedules, the earliest date we could arrive upon was late june. anyway, with months of built-up anticipation, i was a tad nervous about how all of the moving parts might come together in time. and by “moving parts” i mostly just mean that i seriously doubted my ability to navigate my way up the coast even with the assistance of google maps. but luckily, i made it there (and back!) in one piece and even took a detour through malibu (go waves!). in other news, we seriously had it made in college. remind me again why i graduated early?
but back to my story. the weekend was a dream. it lived up to and exceeded every previously held expectation. even though it’s only a three-hour drive up the coast, being in the quaint beach town of ventura made me truly feel like i was worlds away from my north county bubble. and the only thing i regret is the fact that i didn’t take off the whole darn week to spend within footsteps of the sand and in the company of my partner-in-crime. but c’est la vie. that just means i’ll have to come back.
i took a half day at work and hit the i5 around noon on friday. per my aunt’s recommendation, i skipped a majority of the 101 in exchange for a scenic drive up the coast (gosh, i sound like one of the californians, don’t i?). even though beach traffic was a bit unbearable at times, if i was going to be stuck in gridlock, i figured i might as well be overlooking the pacific. turns out, malibu was the perfect pit stop to stretch my legs, use the little girls’ room, and get my caffeine fix with an iced coffee from starbucks. i’m not gonna lie, it felt good to be in my old stomping grounds again. albeit brief, my quick jaunt past john’s garden brought back so many fond memories.
semi-related: i walked toward starbucks very slowly in case one of those skinny blondes or v-neck clad bripsters (bro + hipster) behind their oliver peoples sunglasses was a celeb. but no such luck. though now that i think about it, i’m fairly certain i said “excuse me” to jeffrey tambor (from arrested development) as i nearly collided into him on my way to the cream & sugar station. so maybe my time in malibu was not spent in vain (let’s be honest, time in malibu is never spent in vain).
i continued northward on pch which, despite having lived in malibu for three years, i had never taken past neptune’s net. aside from the slight anxiety induced by the “danger! falling rocks for the next 8 miles” signs, my coastal commute was quite lovely (and relatively uncongested). though i couldn’t say the same for the 101 which was moving at a snail’s pace as i merged onto it for the last few miles toward my final destination (<– omg, do you remember those movies? i wonder what devon sawa is doing these days…). i eventually turned off the exit and drove due westward toward the beach. i crept along the one way road until i properly identified the address and quickly turned into the drive.
i’m here! i’m here!
AP had told me to let myself in when i got there (she had left the door unlocked), so i gathered my luggage (yes, plural because i like options) and went inside. i unpacked a little and made myself at home. AP arrived about 45 minutes later and oh my goodness was it ever amazing to be united once again. we shared a big embrace before throwing on pandora, pouring ourselves a homemade mocktail (one part pomegranate juice, two parts perrier, and a squeeze of lemon, delish!), and retiring to the back patio for a little pre-dinner happy hour and girl talk.
after about an hour, we headed into town for dinner.
having lived in ventura for over 30 years, being involved in various local organizations, and overall, just being a spectacular human being, AP might as well be the unofficial mayor of the city. we ran into nothing short of a half dozen of her dearest friends when we arrived at watermark -a gorgeous eatery and bar on the corner of main street. the restaurant was a buzz on a friday evening, so with no vacant tables in the dining room, we bellied up to the bar for our meal instead. AP opted for the roasted chicken, me, the sugar seared salmon, and we shared two sides of grilled asparagus and brussels sprouts (obviously). we barely came up for air as we filled in the blanks of the last umpteen years -recounting the last few seasons of life and the lessons learned in their aftermath. i told her all about australia and the growth i had experienced almost exponentially in the last six months. there were tears -the happy kind -and hugs, and just an overall mutual sense of “yes, you get me.”
we closed out our evening with a stroll down main street. seeing as it was friday night in summer, the streets were filled with a hodgepodge of families, homeless people and middle-aged men on the prowl. it’s a whole different world after 9 p.m. AP acted as my tour guide, pointing out her favorite boutiques and restaurants along the way. we ducked into a cafe-slash-specialty store for some gelato and coffee to-go and enjoyed them as we continued our stroll. we eventually retraced our steps back to the car and made our way back to the beach house where AP dropped me off before she made her way back to her main house in the hills. it was kind of nice to have the whole house to myself. i took my time with my evening routine, still on a high from the previous hours’ events. i finished my night watching dodgeball before retiring to bed.
i slept in the best i could, knowing that a saturday morning without a pre-7 a.m. wake-up time is as treasured as it is rare. i managed to remain horizontal until about 8 (go me!) before rising to tend to my day. i packed a bag with my bathing suit, a change of clothes, and my toiletries before changing into a t-shirt and jorts in preparation for our afternoon in ojai. before she had dropped me off the night before, AP had pointed out where the nearest starbucks was in town. man, does she know my heart (and my clear addiction), so after i had gotten myself presentable for public (a panama hat does wonders), i cruised over to the green mermaid which was nestled in the back of a nearby vons shopping center. i got the usual (venti iced unsweetened coffee with soy) and drove the 0.6 miles back to the house. there i relaxed, alternating sips between water, coffee, and the fresh green juice from pressed juicery AP had left for me in the fridge.
oh hello first official day of summer (june 21st) , i think i love you.
AP arrifved to get me a hair before 11 a.m. we loaded up the car and hit the road for our days’ destination -the quaint town of ojai and more importantly, the magical ojai valley inn. i had visited the inn last april with L and her now fiance, but this was the first time i would be doing anything more than simply touring the grounds. in honor of my (belated) twenty-ninth birthday, AP had booked us a pair of massages -relaxation for me, deep-tissue for herself. but with our treatments not until 2 p.m., we were shown to the locker room where we changed into our bathing suits and fluffy robes and headed to the pool.
AP snagged us two chaise lounge chairs in the shade and we ordered a couple of lunch entrees off the spa menu to share -the chopped salad and vegetable spring rolls. we chatted (as we did most of the weekend, conversation with AP is as effortless as breathing it seems) in between bites before retiring to the quiet room in preparation for our respective massages.
almost as quickly as i sat down in the designated silent area was i greeted by lauren, my massage therapist. she led me into the room and waited outside while i changed and shimmied under the blankets on the table. the next 55 minutes were dedicated to bringing me to a place of zen (i could use some zen). per my selection, lauren filled the room with a mixture of citrus, vanilla, and jasmine scents and spent the remainder of the time working out every crook, knot, and sore muscle in my body. it quite possibly could have been the best massage i’ve ever received -not that i get them that often or anything. lauren sent me away with water and advised me to continue to hydrate for the remainder of the day in order to flush out the toxins she had just shaken loose. i did my best to heed to her counsel, which really just meant i was running to the ladies’ room every 10 minutes (but yay! no more toxins!).
as i was waiting for AP to finish up her treatment, i showered and got ready at one of the spa’s vanity stations. it was lovely to take my time with my beautification routine. because let’s be honest, the hair blow-drying portion certainly isn’t ever speedy.
speaking of speedy…
time out for 2.5:
meet speedy, the tortoise that lives in the garden that AP shares with her neighbor at the beach house.
isn’t she the best?
okay back to the spa.
once i had gotten myself together, i waited for AP to do the same. when we were both looking refreshed and fabulous, we said our goodbyes and loaded up the car to drive into town for a little sidewalk stroll.
we walked down the main street of the town stopping by various boutiques along the way. we eventually wound back around to rainbow bridge, a small health food and specialty store to pick up a few pre-made goodies for dinner (chicken, soup, and grilled veggies).
AP comes from a family of six, and fabulously enough, her oldest sister lives just a short drive from downtown ojai. so we took a slight detour back to the house to pay aunt K (AK) a visit. i couldn’t recall the last time i had actually seen her, but when she greeted us at the door, AK welcomed me in with open arms -as if our last encounter had been a few weeks ago as opposed to a few years. hospitality and warmth obviously run in their gene pool. speaking of gene pool, the resemblance between the sisters is striking! the three of us sat and visited for half an hour or so before AP and i were on our way again. albeit brief, it was so lovely to see and spend time with AK. i can’t wait to see her again on my next trip up north.
from AK’s condo, we began our trek up into the hills where AP’s main place of residence resides. but before we settled in for the evening, we made one more pit stop -this time to her friends’ house where a group of couples had gathered for a dinner party. one of the couples i had met the night before at watermark was there as were three more pairs -all whom were just as sweet and welcoming. AP has bar-none one of the most closely knit and supportive friendship communities i have ever seen. it was a pure joy to watch her in action and to put faces to names she had previously mentioned in passing.
we finally reached AP’s hilltop abode around 7 p.m. after spending so many thanksgivings there as a kid, it was like a deja vu as we walked through the front door. “ohmygoodness, so many memories,” i exclaimed. AP gave me the tour -pointing out the most recent renovations she had made to both the interior and outside landscaping. aside from being beautifully decorated, the house boasts the most incredible panoramic views of downtown ventura and the pier.
we ate our dinner at her dining room table, sharing more stories and revisiting memories of thanksgivings past. as we were later sipping decaf and munching on tate’s famous gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, i remember floating above myself and trying to commit the moment to specific memory. words cannot even begin to quantify the sheer amazingness that AP embodies. she is as wise as she is gracious, as loving as she is generous, as warm as she is kind. she is someone i’m not only grateful to know but feel honored and privileged to call her both a family member and beloved friend. anyway, after a few more happy tears and deep conversations about life, love, and gratitude, she drove me back down the hill to the beach house where i drifted off into dreamland soon thereafter.
sunday morning came way too quickly. but i appeased my alarm and got up quickly as it sounded off around 7:15 a.m. AP had suggested that we end our time together with a late breakfast at saticoy country club, the private club where she is an active member. so in preparation of my departure, i re-packed my stuff and loaded it into the car before making another morning visit to starbucks. on my way back to the house, i drove down to the end of the street and idled near the sand in order to take a few photos of the beach. i figured i had spent the past 48 hours in such close proximity to it, i might as well have some sort of photographical evidence of it.
when i got back to the house, i made one final tour through the rooms to make sure i had gotten everything before stripping the beds and cleaning out the fridge (good house guests get asked back). AP arrived twenty minutes later and we locked up the house before i followed her out to saticoy.
working for a private club, it’s always a treat for me to visit clubs similar to ours. like la jolla, saticoy is nestled up atop a hill, and its course and clubhouse are equally as charming. i mentioned that AP might as well be the unofficial mayor of ventura, well the same can be of her status at the club as well. when she arrives, everyone is there to greet her. she’s like norm, and saticoy is her cheers. after being introduced to various fellow members and staff, we sat down at a corner table in the main dining room for some breakfast fare. the dining room overlooks the 18th green, so we watched golfers finishing up their rounds as we shared a few final moments together.
it was already nearly noon by the time we walked out to our cars to engage in our last goodbye. ugh, goodbyes are the worst. but i knew if i didn’t leave then, i would be stuck in gridlock well past sunset. so we exchanged one last big bear hug and i attempted to quantify how grateful i was for what had turned out to be the most perfect weekend getaway. we agreed to plan a similar trip for the fall and the knowledge of that appeased the disappointment i felt in realizing our time together was coming to a close.
i waved goodbye as i drove toward the freeway, picking up the 101S en route back to san diego. by the grace of God, i avoided the often inevitable sunday traffic and made it home safely and sound three hours later. and just like that, my whirlwind weekend was over.
in other news, there were quite a few mirrored closet doors around the beach house, providing ample opportunity for snapping some daily outfit photos. i now present to you my weekend in outfits:
when AP had offered up her beach bungalow to me for a weekend escape, i was hesitant to take her up on her invitation. not because i didn’t want the opportunity to log quality time together, but because i’ve always been someone who had a complex with saying yes to such generous open doors. but i’ve since realized that people don’t present invitations if they truly didn’t want you to accept them. otherwise they’d be the worst indian givers ever. so i’ve become more comfortable with taking people up on their offers. whether they be invitations to stay at their beach houses or visit them in far off countries or even to let you tag along to an afternoon bbq at their boyfriend’s house. i’ve never really suffered from FOMO (fear of missing out), in fact, for a majority of my life i think i’ve subscribed to the exact opposite mentality. but now i want to take full advantage of the invitations presented to me. because i’m finding that when i do such things, i come away so incredibly full and blessed. which is exactly what happened following this particular weekend with AP. there were laughs and tears (the happy kind), good food and even better company.
everyone deserves an AP in their corner. and i’m so blessed she’s in mine.