Catalina Strolling along Avalon Towards the Casino, Such Awesome  Colors!

Ahoy ! My Solo Trip Adventure to Catalina Island!

My Mom,  (who recently turned  80 years “young”),  always said…”Nothing in life is free”. Well, Mom, you were “almost” completely right!

For my birthday this year I did something really out of the ordinary:  I traveled solo to and from the beautiful Mediterranean picturesque Santa Catalina Island, population just over 3000 (I will be referring to it as Catalina Island ) on my “free” round trip boat ride, courtesy of Catalina Express  http://catalinaexpress.com/birthday_promo.html  and enjoyed a few other free or discounted goodies thrown in!

You’re probably thinking…”Huh?”…”You’re kidding..” or “What a risk” or “How idiotic”, right?

Nope! Best trip ever! I am still smiling inside!

Although I’m originally from  New Jersey, I’ve lived in several cities, states and a few countries. California is especially dear to me because overall,  I’ve lived here a total of 18 years. Despite so many years here, I was yet to experience a trip to Catalina.

So, this past April, on my birthday, my husband would be working, my daughter was in school and I didn’t want to “obligate”  friend(s) to pay for the round trip boat ride. Plus, and this was a big bonus: I absolutely love photography, and I’d be able to snap away where, what and when I wanted! So….

I drove bright and early from San Diego to Long Beach, grabbed some breakfast, checked in with proof of my actual birthday, received and donned that  cool “It’s my birthday” ribbon and boarded the boat! I sat outside and bundled up for the ride!

Aboard the boat to Catalina!
Aboard the boat to Catalina!

Oh…I did take some children’s strength medicine for potential motion “challenges” which turned out to be a real plus! Did I say a real plus???? Yep, some queasiness hit me a tiny bit, but I survived!

I’m happy to share some photos and tidbits from my trip.

We left the harbor and suddenly it was extremely windy !

Leaving the Long Beach Harbor
Leaving the Long Beach Harbor

We passed by the Queen Mary on the way to Catalina, another place I’d like to visit sometime soon!

Passing by The Queen Mary Docked in Long Beach
Passing by The Queen Mary Docked in Long Beach

Also saw the “China Shipping Line” En Route!

Passing by Cargo Ship
Passing by Cargo Ship

Aha! Our first view of Catalina Island in the distance!

First sight of Catalina Island!
First sight of Catalina Island!

How cool is this? A parasailer welcoming us!

Another
Another “first glance” of Catalina Island

A view of the beautiful Catalina Island Casino!

The Famous Catalina Island Casino
The Famous Catalina Island Casino

The beautiful Carnival Cruise was in port! Passengers took smaller boats to get onto the island.

When I arrived Avalon was very busy with many cruise passengers for the day. Then at around 4 p.m., they all left, and Avalon felt like a ghost town!

Look! A Carnival Cruise in Port!
Look! A Carnival Cruise in Port!

Another colorful view of Catalina Island!

Catalina Harbor
Catalina Harbor

Once we happily  “disembarked”I was eager to explore Avalon on Catalina Island. What a delightful way to spend the day! I decided not to rent a golf cart (the golf carts are all over the place, since they only allow so many cars on the island and there is a 14 year wait for a car permit)! and strolled at my own pace. Here’s a look at some of the shops and tourist spots I snapped. Feel free to click on each picture for a larger view!

After wandering a bit, I decided to enjoy a delicious lunch and a Margarita at Maggies Blue Rose. I was having such a great time, that I thought…why not stay overnight??? I knew it was completely out of the ordinary for me…but nonetheless decided to do a quick search of hotels but also asked my server what she recommended. Serendipitously, I decided to stay upstairs from Maggies at the  Hotel Vista Del Mar. They also had some fun birthday freebies, including a bottle of wine or champagne (I chose the bottle of wine and brought it home), and a celebratory balloon ! I bought a few essentials for staying overnight and relaxed for the rest of my solo journey! Feel free to click on each picture for a larger view!

Hotel Vista Del Mar Sign
Hotel Vista Del Mar Sign
Fish Tank at Hotel Vista Del Mar
Fish Tank at Hotel Vista Del Mar

The Hotel Vista Del Mar has a great fish tank in the lobby filled with colorful fish and coral decor ! It was very relaxing to peek at the tank while relaxing on the lobby which overlooks the water.

Once I checked into the hotel, I decided to take the very interesting  Catalina Scenic Tour. The bus driver a.k.a. narrator was terrific spokeperson for the Avalon and island of Catalina.

Here are some of the sights from that trip:

Feel free to click on each picture for a larger view!

After the bus tour, I strolled around Avalon some more. I thoroughly enjoyed a great dinner at Steve’s Steakhouse!

Of course, I then had to sample some ice cream and candy from this place!

Feel free to click on each picture for a larger view!

I noticed the beautiful tiled fountain on Crescent Street, which is made of clay from Catalina Island.

The tiled fountain at Crescent Street, Avalon
The tiled fountain at Crescent Street, Avalon

Afterwards, I decided to walk towards the famous Catalina Casino and these are the sights seen on my way! Feel free to click on each picture for a larger view!

That was it for my day in Catalina. Then it was time to get some rest at the hotel! They had some cool DVD’s that I borrowed. I  didn’t drink the wine, brought the bottle home, but enjoyed looking at that balloon! Had a great night’s sleep too!

Time to get some rest at the hotel!
Time to get some rest at the hotel!

The next morning I decided to venture out a bit more to the casino area, the Museum and then and Descanso Beach Club. Feel free to click on each picture for a larger view!

It was soon time to say goodbye to Catalina Island! Here are some photos from my final minutes of solo joy!

catalina.veterans
Avalon Veterans Memorial Park
catalina.veterans2
Catalina Veterans Memorial Park
catalina.goinpeace
Goodbye Catalina Island!!!

Even though I could have traveled free roundtrip, on the way back to Long Beach, I decided to take advantage of the Commodore Lounge on the Catalina Express for $15 and go back in style!

We were served a drink and a snack, and had very comfy seats!

catalina.boat5
All aboard inside the Catalina Express Commodore Lounge!

We arrived back in Long Beach and I happily drove back to San Diego! This was a quick, fun, safe getaway and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Avalon on Catalina Island!

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And now to finish with a Haiku:

Overnight in Catalina Island

1.

Traveling alone

Seeing sights, snapping photos

I embraced it all!

2.

A gorgeous island

So perfect for sightseeing

And relaxing too

3.

Yes I will be back

I will bring my family

We shall all have fun!

 

Rocks at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines State Reserve & Beach Hike: Magnificent Nature (Even a Drone)!

 

 

This morning I enjoyed a wonderful hike with my friend Ninon at Torrey Pines State Reserve. We walked up the hill from the parking lot. (Usually $12/day, but for locals like us, it pays to buy a “California Explorer” Annual Pass which gives access to California State Parks).

Looking North West from Torrey Pines State Reserve
Looking North West from Torrey Pines State Reserve

 

A lone Torrey Pines tree at Torrey PInes State Reserve

Lone Tree at Torrey Pines State Reserve
Lone Tree at Torrey Pines State Reserve

  We spotted a “Scrub Jay” blue bird

Scrub Jay  in Tree at at Torrey Pines State Reserve
Scrub Jay in Tree at at Torrey Pines State Reserve

 

 We both admired the beautiful Pacific Ocean views from atop the cliffs

Susan at Torrey Pines State Reserve

 

Ninon at Torrey Pines State Reserve

 

We admired several rock formations

Susan admiring Rock Formations at Torrey Pines State Reserve
Susan admiring Rock Formations at Torrey Pines State Reserve

 

 And savored the gorgeous ocean views from atop the cliffs

Cliffs Overlooking the Beautiful Pacific Ocean
Cliffs Overlooking the Beautiful Pacific Ocean

 We finally made it to the view of Flat Rock!

Flat Rock at Torrey Pines State Reserve
Flat Rock at Torrey Pines State Reserve

  We took the beach trail and observed several wild yellow, and orange flowers blooming.

 

 

The trail led us to gorgeous majestic views of the blue-green hued Pacific Ocean. Then we took the steps down to Torrey Pines State Beach below.

View of La Jolla at Torrey Pines State Reserve
View of Flat Rock & La Jolla in the Distance at Torrey Pines State Reserve

 Then lo and behold…all of a sudden, as we ventured down the steps to Torrey Pines State Beach, we spotted a DRONE in the sky!

JIm Gleason's Drone in the Sky at Torrey Pines State Beach
JIm Gleason’s Drone in the Sky at Torrey Pines State Beach

 

 Here’s a short video of the drone landing!

 Which led us to meet “Droner” Jim Gleason, a freelance videographer, originally from San Diego but visiting from Austria with his wife Camille, who is a Scientist with Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Jim Gleason with his Drone at Torrey Pines State Beach
Jim Gleason with his Drone at Torrey Pines State Beach

Jim told us about his drone, a DJI Phantom 2 H3-3d combo which costs approximately $1000, along with his Go-Pro (approximately $300),

plus an installed video downlink system all through Aerial Media Pros.

Jim Gleason with his Drone at Torrey Pines State Beach
Jim Gleason with his Drone at Torrey Pines State Beach

 Jim and Camille Gleason

Jim and Camille Gleason at Torrey Pines State Beach
Jim and Camille Gleason at Torrey Pines State Beach

 All in all, a fun morning hiking at Torrey Pines State Reserve and Torrey PInes State Beach!

Here’s a gallery of more photos from today!