What a summer!

July 27, 2017

I dropped out of the blogosphere when I mashed my right index finger as I worked on a landscape project. 11 stitches and a few months later, it looks like it will be fine. I have feeling back in most of the tip. As bad as it was, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. It’s hardly even ugly! Uglier than before, that is.

This has been a whirlwind summer. During the month of May we had 62 individual overnight guests. The month of July will double that number! That doesn’t count about 60 individual dinner guests that didn’t stay over night.

I LOVE IT!  I admit than when we ended up “buying down” into the biggest house we’ve ever owned last year, I felt a little guilty. Was I over consuming? Was I needing to impress someone? But now that friends and family are  accepting our invitations to come and stay, I don’t regret our decision at all. I love to have company. It also justifies my mammoth towel collection.

Right in the midst of our company inundation, Jeff and I had a trip to Long Beach. We had committed ourselves to  a press trip long before we realized that we’d be in the thick of visitors. If we hadn’t already received our flights, I might have tried to change it. But we went and had a fantastic time.

It was super fun to see cousin Ray and Aunt Eleanor.

Aunt Eleanor, Cousin Ray, (Jeff is taking the picture) and me. We had breakfast together on Thursday at the Maya hotel near the Queen Mary.

Everette Hoard, Commodore of the Queen Mary, gave Jeff and me a private tour of the ship. (Gosh that dress is unbecoming!)

We got to stay on the Queen Mary. The old ocean liner has been turned into a hotel, event center, and museum, with a POSH restaurant called Sir Winstons on the top deck. I’d never had Beef Wellington before, but it was a Yorkshire pudding-like pastry around some of the most delicious (3″ thick!) filet mignon I’ve ever had.  Alas, I couldn’t finish, but it was so good. The salad that came first was so pretty, I am determined to duplicate it the next time I cook a fancy meal. The red and yellow beets were the stars.   It makes me happy just remembering!

We also loved Parker’s Lighthouse restaurant. It’s right on the water and cool ocean breezes made for a perfect setting. Jeff said his meal was one of the best hamburgers he’s ever had, (it was huge and so savory!) and my fish sandwich (salmon) was nicely done also. It’s less formal, but heavy on the seaside ambiance.

Two other restaurant stars were ‘can’t-miss delicious’ George’s Greek Cafe in the Belmont Shores area near Naples Island. It felt like a European cafe, very much like the one where we ate in Greece last year. But their food was better than we got in Greece. YUM.  Jeff had the gyro sandwich with spit roasted lamb and I had the falafal with a Greek salad. (Falafal is mashed chick peas seasoned with cumin and other herbs, breaded and fried. They look like meatballs, but they don’t taste like meat or have a meatball consistency.)

Last but not least, the Attic which is in a less touristy area of Long beach is in an old craftsman style house. I didn’t have enough imagination to marry  creme brulee with brioche french toast, but when I tasted it, I knew that garden variety french toast was ruined forever. They make the french toast, (light and eggy from the brioche bread) and then sprinkle it with turbanado sugar and then torch it into caramel. So there’s a sweet, caramel crust on the outside.  Jeff’s cheesy, meaty Monte Cristo sandwich was also delectable.

We enjoyed lots of other places on the trip, but these were tops.

Long Beach, CA is such a fun place these days. They’ve completely rebuilt and refurbished the downtown, so that where it was once dirty and dangerous, it’s now upscale, touristy, and clean with lots of water-related activities.

The Aquarium of the Pacific has petting tanks for sharks and rays, and is tons of fun. 

There’s a business called Gondola Getaways where you ride on a Venice-style gondola (boat) and are rowed around the canals that flank the homes of the uber-rich on Naples Island. Since my Uncle Bob and Aunt Eleanor lived on Naples for a lot of the years I was growing up, it was doubly fun to revisit that exotic place. Our gondolier sang Italian love songs to us under some of the bridges and we were supposed to kiss under the bridges, too. FUN! The sun was setting and there were few other boaters, so it was a big treat. 

The trip was a blast. Long Beach has 7 miles of clean empty beaches with biking and jogging paths and clean restrooms spaced at comfortable intervals.

We took a Whale watching cruise with Harbor Breeze Tours (right there in Rainbow Harbor near the aquarium). We saw tons of dolphins, (pods with over 100 members). We also saw sea lions leaping out of the water as they swam.

But BEST OF ALL, we got to see a blue whale! They’re the biggest mammal ever to live on earth. I’ve wanted to see one my whole life, so it was just amazing to see that creature. Unfortunately, we didn’t find him until the end of the tour, so once he dove the second time, we couldn’t hang around to watch him. The boat got its prow about 50 feet from his tale. We were in the front of the boat so could see him really well.   His blowhole was about 14 inches long.

We used Groupon tix for the whale watching excursions and got them for half price. The PR company gave us an extra day and a gift card to book any excursions we wanted, so it worked out well.

I had never thought of Long Beach as a destination all in itself, but it really does have everything. The airport is nearby and easy to get to. It’s also easy to book cheap flights into there. Long Beach  I’d allow a week next time to really enjoy everything right there in Long Beach and longer if you want to hit other LA attractions.  It’s not far from Disneyland and other attractions. If you want more info go to VisitLongBeach.com and check it out. Stay on the Queen Mary. It’s mid-priced and comfortable with loads of history.


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1 Comment

  • Reply Ray Armstrong July 27, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    It was great seeing you and Jeff! And your Aunt Eleanor really enjoyed visiting with you too. Thanks for making time to see us.

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