Vacationing like the other half lives [pt 1]

For the unabashedly shallow such as myself, having champagne taste on a beer budget often triggers heartbreak, greed, and temporary conversion to Marxism.

Refreshingly, however, tales of time spent in plush hotels or resorts rarely bestir my darker emotions. Of course I’m envious that people are ON the vacations themselves. But while I can and will admire larger-scale luxurious accommodations from an aesthetic standpoint, I’m always shocked that folks don’t see how such structures tend to attract the wrong sort of element…the human element.

Now as someone who skews cantankerous even on good days, I’ll cheerfully admit that I’m generally fed up to the back teeth with people breathing my air (let alone requiring my input or patience) by the time I’m slated to get away. Staff, guests, random visitors: whether it’s all or none of the above under discussion, the thought of being unable to escape from depending on, interacting with, or seeing others makes me cringe.

My god, a vacation shouldn’t be like everyday life!

As a result of my oft-fluctuating tolerance for others, MY ultimate luxury is being alone—or with a desired travel companion—in a beautiful-to-me setting that lets me forage-and-feed for myself. Sure, my inclinations require me to forgo room service and other potential indulgences. But give me a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed, a bathroom that functions, a back-to-basics kitchen, and windows that contain views of more things than people, and I’m ecstatic.

But then a favorite childhood/forced-communal-life activity was locking myself in the bathroom with a book to get some mental and physical space, so I get that I’m a little…high-strung. I understand others might be less averse to sharing their vacation time with strangers, and I don’t expect to sway anyone from their preferences toward my Garbo-esque desire for privacy.

Even if my side can suuuuure be pretty:

Ringing in 2011: For $125/night all-in, this super-private studio apartment gave me---and Mr Vix---charm and a spectacular view of the South Bay (Los Angeles) coastline

And/or visually stimulating. And/or serene.

My past studio apartment successes include a ~ $100/night Arsenale-area find in Venice (IT) and an $85/night place on a 3-acre upcountry Maui fruit farm in the vicinity of Oprah's Hawaii spread

I have to admit, however, that my most recent vacation rental upped the fabulous, darling! quotient quite a bit. Luckily, having the stylish Ms-69ish-going-on-16 (aka The Gilded Lily) deliver Mr Vix and me to the airport prepped us for leaving the mundane behind in exchange for hot-tub-overlooking-the-Pacific hedonism:

(L) Ms-69ish-going-on-16 (aka The Gilded Lily) models her ski bunny chic after delivering us to the airport; (R) the owner's house was below the rental, and its outdoor, ocean-view hot tub was ours to use...a welcome treat post-sightseeing and on NYE

Leave it to the PNW-ensconced Ms Lily to capture a certain segment of the LA style zeitgeist with her ski bunny chic—a look I soon saw on many a woman bravely navigating 55-and-sunny temperatures.

During our bon voyage moment, Lily had ordered me to enjoy the hell out of myself while gone. So I proceeded to carry out her directive by doing lots of nothing and at least a few wee somethings.*

Since Mr Vix and I couldn’t help but feel that we should live up to our living quarters, he and I decided to gallivant in the hills with Los Angeles at our feet…

While the sculptural Griffith Observatory puts its focus on the stars above, LA shines below

…though we also made sure to have a night on the town where the focus was on coastal curves.

On the Santa Monica Pier, everything sparkles---including amusement park rides and coastal curves

While those adventures were wonderful, our taco consumption was spiking wildly and we were doing an awful lot of sitting; it started to seem prudent to think of our arteries. Alas, having been spoiled by a few days of solitude, the idea of exercising cheek by sweaty jowl with the masses seemed rather…common.

The solution? We opted to climb 4 of the many “hidden stairways” tucked into LA’s city neighborhoods and coastal regions—as well as a muddy-from-unusual-rains trail that lured us in with the promise of ocean views:

(L) A fast-moving Mr Vix adds another set of tucked-away stairs, this time in Pasadena, to our wanderings; (R) a short-but-rather-steep hike in Temescal Gateway Park eventually rewards with ocean views

The trail’s viewpoints were definitely superior to those of a gym…

As we tromped up the trail, the sun set on houses and ocean

…and the hidden staircases were a voyeur’s delight.

A Palos Verdes-area stairway gives glimpses of a rather unusual yard

Feeling there was something to be said for flatter zip codes, however, we made sure to explore notorious, multifaceted, irrepressible Venice Beach by day after having walked the Venice-Santa Monica boardwalk at night.

Winter foliage on one of Venice California's famously lush, traffic-free walk streets

If only I could bottle that blue: Winter sun shines on the architecture and art of Venice (CA)

I mean my Persnickety Bohemian side would have RAGED had I dared to skip Venice Beach. Especially as I’d packed my two peeeeenk Missoni fabric-by-the-yard skirts knowing I’d be in boho’s beach blanket bingo backyard!

Unfortunately, even drenched in color and pattern I skew more “uptight broad wearing clothes borrowed from groovy goddess-type pal” than anything else. Ms Madeline (who kindly allowed me to share a few of her South of France photos here) gave me the rose/grey/black velvet scarf several years ago. Having known me for nearly three decades, she understands I’m happiest when my more free-spirited side gets the attention it deserves, and I try to keep her gift in frequent rotation as a reminder of that.

BLOSSOMS NOT HUSKS, ONWARD HO!

When in Rome/SoCal beach towns: Indulging my Persnickety Bohemian side with pattern, texture, and another of my Missoni-fabric-by-the-yard skirts

Truthfully, it WAS a little nippy for a SoCal winter, and my coat was usually buttoned...but how could I resist showing slivers of my Barely Boho outfits, comprised of scarves + two peeeeenk Missoni-fabric-by-the-yard skirts?

As the clock started ticking down on my time away and I started to ruminate on all the places I wouldn’t get to see, my Awww Ya Big Lug Boots (happy to be part of my Barely Boho outfit) gave me a swift kick in the caboose. They were thrilled to have the chance to heel-ball-toe their way down new streets, rejuvenated and ready for action; shouldn’t I be focused on enjoying the same? Touché, boots, touché.

Next: Part 2 of Vacationing like the other half lives, in which I see too many gorgeous vintage clothes and houses to handle

* Due to having to spend a portion of the trip traveling to/from family, I decided not to even TRY to see if two of my favorite bloggers, La Belette Rouge and Une femme d’un certain age’s Deja Pseu, just MIGHT be available to meet during my vacation. I hope to rectify that another time!

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Vicarious Vacationry

Admittedly, it was totally insane and uncharacteristically extravagant of me to say “hell yes!” when my friends proposed going to the South of France just 6 months after my mid-life crisis/40th birthday vacation. Seeing as how that trip took 99% of my non-allocated-for-bills money and all. But THIS European trip was to celebrate one friend’s milestone birthday and another’s graduation; given my whole post-40 carpe diem thing, I figured I could just about justify going.

As long as I didn’t spend a dime on the house or my caboose before the trip. Or food.

But of course my oui oui oui all the way far from home answer was before my ancient computer slipped into a coma and one of my income sources dried up. And also before I realized that plane fares from the West Coast would refuse to get with the “we’re in an economic crisis, enjoy our fire-sale prices” program and actually RISE vs drop. So eventually I had to face reality, cast one last glance at photos of the darling little Avignon apartment I’d planned to plop in for a week, and tell my pals that I would not be the trois in their menage.

They took it very well, and I took it not well at all. But then I’m someone who nowadays sees NO POINT in working if I can’t spend on things that bring me joy. It’s not very evolved of me, I know.

Luckily, they agreed to share their trip with me in semi-real-time ways by writing online epistles from the aforementioned little Avignon apartment. Unluckily, I was only thinking of my pal Madeline’s passion for photography and history, NOT her passion for gastronomical delights. Which means that in addition to learning quite a lot about the various towns she and my other friend toured, I also had near-daily photos of pastries accompanied by prose such as:

For dessert I had a chilled ganache that was sprinkled with pecans and rolled in a tortilla, sliced into medallions and served with creme anglaise and whipped cream.  L. had some profiteroles.

….

“L’s dessert was definitely the more visually compelling.  She had three scoops of house-made ice cream: gingerbread, Calisson and banana flambee, which were accented with a little kumquat and a slice of star fruit.  It was lovely.  Mine looked a little like breakfast cereal, but it was wonderful: chocolate raviolis in a white chocolate sauce with flambeed banana ice cream served on the side.”

Friends for almost 30 years, and I never knew she was such a sadist.

It was tough, but I kept reading. All about how they needed me–the 3rd lightweight–to help them finish bottles of excellent wine. About how my tie-breaking skills were missed when arguments about gelato flavors (in France?!) flared. About the thrice-daily tears they shed over my absence. [Okay, one of those was more of a reading-between-the-lines thing.]

Yes, it was tough, but I loved hearing how excited they were about all they were absorbing and ingesting. And I really did learn a lot about desserts and architecture. So thanks, Ms M!

…Ms Madeline has offered up some coloriffic South of France photos so that those of us with open hearts and closed wallets can enjoy some vicarious pleasures…

...grabbed with a camera phone after the 2 adventurers had a particularly decadent, enjoy-our-truth-in-advertising dinner...