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Whether it was watching the sunset on Ferris wheel, admiring the beauty of Morro Bay, driving through pitch darkness looking for Krishnamurti foundation in Ojai valley, taking the 2-hour hearts castle tour even though your knees are telling you otherwise, traveler C K Gariyali’s 7 day trip to California was a mixture of “peace, pleasure and pain”. She writes about her experiences and places, the usual suspects and the hidden gems that you must see on your next visit to Socal.
By: CK Gariyali
Santa Monica to Catalina Island
Catalina is the most beautiful island in LA. We took a ferry from Long Beach to go to Catalina. The journey lasted about 80 minutes and it turned out to be a quaint little island full of cafes, restaurants, boutiques, gift shops and bars. In addition there is plenty to do on the island like whale watching, island tours, surfing, kayaking and so on.
As soon as we landed in the island we stumbled upon a wedding celebrations going in full swing on the ocean side. The bridegroom a Caucasian and the bride a Chinese young woman were surrounded by scores of bride’s maids and relatives. It appeared to me at that moment that Santa Monica was a perfect place to get married.
The best way of enjoying the sights of the island is by renting an electric golf car for two hours for $8o. We drove it up and down the hill. Passing the shops and lanes, homes of islanders. The views from the top are totally out of this world.
You can also drive to the Wrigley memorial and botanical garden. This is a unique botanical garden displaying a host of cacti native to California as well as endemic to Catalina Island. I had never seen such an array of cactus plants some of them as large as a big tree.
The idea for a garden came from Mr. Wrigley’s wife, Ada. In 1935, she supervised Pasadena horticulturalist Albert Conrad, who planted the original Desert Plant Collection. Catalina Island’s temperate marine climate made it possible to showcase plants from every corner of the earth.
In 1969, the Wrigley Memorial Garden Foundation expanded and revitalized the garden’s 37.85 acres. Along with the new plantings came a new attitude. In the same way that the Wrigley Memorial uses primarily native building materials, the Garden places a special emphasis on California island endemic plants. (Plants, which grow naturally on one or more of the California islands, but nowhere else in the world.) Many of these plants are extremely rare, and some are on the Endangered Species list.
The Memorial Garden is particularly concerned with the six Catalina endemics – plants, which grow naturally only on Catalina Island. The Wrigley Memorial Garden Foundation maintains a special interest in the preservation of all Catalina endemics, including the rare Catalina Ironwood.
In 1996 the Wrigley Memorial Garden Foundation merged with the Catalina Island Conservancy. This was a natural combining of two important ecological organizations, both dedicated to the protection and restoration of Santa Catalina Island.
There is plenty of wild life as deer and foxes too. We not only saw deer but also stumbled upon the fox pups twice.
There are plenty of places to eat and drink but we had lunch in an original Catalina Island Waffle and Omelets place and topped it of with the island’s home made ice cream. One of the historical buildings in Catalina Island is the Historical casino, which contains a theatre and a ballroom. In good old days it was a place for people to meet and socialize. Today Casino could be hired for events. One can also go for the Casino tour. The day we were in Catalina a ball had been organized in the Casino Ball room. We could see scores of elegantly dressed ladies, leaning on the wrists of smartly dressed gentlemen strolling towards the Casino to attend the great ball. It appeared that their costumes had just come out of my fair lady.
The Casino café /Bar is one of he best places to relax in evening with a drink in hand and see the sun go down into the ocean. We returned to Santa Monica via Long Beach by 6p.m. ferry but not before browsing through the shops and buying souvenir T Shirts that are available in many colors and shape.
Catalina Trip Planner
Catalina Express takes you to Catalina in an hour with up to 30 daily departures year round from Long Beach, San Pedro or Dana Point.
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