Mark wanted to start some collaborations with colleagues in Seattle and Boston so we decided to make a family trip of it, including a long-awaited visit to my sister Cath and family in Carlsbad, California. We left Sydney in mid-June, so we all had sniffles and coughs. Despite that, the flight was okay. Felix (4) loved his back-of-seat screen and fiddled with the remote control contentedly nearly the whole time. Alice (1), too little to have much time for TV, climbed around the seats, peeping and smiling, charming all our neighbours. There wasn’t too much crying and both kids finally got some sleep in the final hours.
It was so great to be met by Cath, Nick (18) and Liam (7) at LA and fall into the Odyssey for the two and a half hour drive back to Carlsbad. Everyone should be so lucky after a long haul flight. We even stopped for coffee and pizza at a seaside town. My first view of the Pacific from the other side!
We were pretty zonked for the first few days, getting over colds and jetlag, so it was nice to sleep in, potter around the house and take local trips to the park, library and lovely Moonlight Beach.
On our first weekend we had the pleasure of seeing Cath sing with her choir, the Pacific Women’s Chorus. I was very pleased that the children sat quietly through the whole first half (with the help of sultanas) then Mark took them out to play while I enjoyed the second half with Nick and Max (15), the civilised “big boys”.
We had a big day out at Legoland with Cath and Liam. It wasn’t quite the museum of Lego models I was expecting, rather a big exciting theme park with rides and dfferent ‘lands’ to explore. We took a magical fairytale boat ride where we saw all our favourite characters made out of Lego. Liam and Felix rode horses around a knights’ circuit and piloted emergency helicopters up, down and around. Miniland had famous cities of the world in perfect replica made out of Lego. Apparently they have since added a tiny Michael Jackson scene as a tribute.
I joined Cath for a classic slice of Californian life – yoga with Tom, who greeted me with warm hugs and proceeded to take us through the class while sharing wisdom about the divine mother. Non stop. We finished with a relaxation during which Tom played on the harmonium and sang. It was pure new-age Californian magic.
Before Mark left for Seattle, we went to Balboa Park, a wonderland of art, culture and history. As well as visiting the Timken Art Museum and the Natural History Museum for some dinosaur excitement, I fell in love with the mobiles by Tom Ross in the artists’ village. He suspends all sorts of objects in the most beautiful arrangements, my favourites being the fans and the flutes.
There was a flurry of activity at various airports as we sent Max to Sydney for a school interview, saw Mark off to Seattle, Nick off to Paris for his first backpacking adventure and welcomed Simon home from a business trip, all in the space of five days! Talk about jetsetting. Sorry about the massive carbon footprints… Special mention should be made of Cath’s tireless and good-humoured taxiing. She was a champ!
Other highlights of the San Diego leg were a ferry ride to Coronado Island, taking the Coaster train down to San Diego, where the boys and Cath went on the “pirate ships” at the Maritime Museum, and an idyllic visit to Quail Gardens, a glorious botanical collection with a new children’s garden. We loved the musical garden with all natural instruments like gourd drums and slate xylophones.
We had a great day at San Diego Zoo, which is as good as its reputation. I saw pandas for the first time and the enoooormous backside of a submerged hippo. All the apes were brilliantly close to the viewing areas. That rarely happens at Taronga – I wonder what the trick is? We got tired walking around and then enjoyed the 40 minute double decker bus tour (top deck of course).
My favourite bit, though, was spending time with the family and their lovely dog Sayla, who initially overwhelmed my little ones with her licky affection but became a great pal. There is nothing like hanging out in the garden with a bucket of water and some paintbrushes, climbing trees and playing with the dog. That’s what the kids did, of course. I sat with a cup of tea and read the paper. Mmm, now that’s a holiday.