For three weeks, Mark and I took care of a cute 7-month-old dog named Jaxx and a small apartment in Costa Mesa, California. I report on that sit here. We had never visited this area before and gladly drove the eight hours down from Northern California for some warmer, and hopefully sunnier, weather. Well, the weather was wishy-washy, but on the weekends and some late afternoons, we did our best to explore a few sites with our “happy go lucky” temporary pet. And, three times, the sun gloriously accompanied us with 70-degree weather (21°C). Here are the discoveries we made…
Costa Mesa’s neighbor has a long beach and is no doubt very popular in the summer. Mark and I briefly stopped here to check out the waterfront, before we first showed up at our “new place”, since we had some time to kill. It didn’t look incredibly appealing to us and parking was expensive, so we never returned.
Technically a part of Newport Beach, this touristy peninsula has a right to stand on its own. There is something to do for everybody, from amusement rides for kids to a plethora of bars and restaurants for adults to whale watching for the whole family. You can take a short ferry ride to quaint Balboa Island when the mood strikes ($2 per car + driver, $1 per person) or walk along the bay side or beach.
More to be on the water again than to watch whales (we are spoiled in that regard, having sailed in the Caribbean and South Pacific for eight years), Mark and I took advantage of coupons to join a whale watch tour out of Newport Beach. For $12 each, we inhaled the sea breeze and followed one whale with a bunch of other passengers and boats.
Mark and I took our car to this little getaway full of summer homes. Parking is free in the residential streets and one can walk around the whole island in less than an hour. The main street is packed with stores and restaurants, while the boardwalks are quiet areas (this time of the year) to stroll and enjoy a view of the water and the well-maintained rental properties.
On the warmest day of January, Mark and I went to Laguna Beach for the day. It promptly became one of our favorite Sundays. As we strolled along the waterfront with Jaxx and soaked up the sun, we felt happy to have come to Southern California. I wrote a separate blog post about Laguna Beach, which you can read here.
One day, the three of us drove to Huntington Beach and, while realizing it would not be as atmospheric – or warm – as Laguna Beach, walked a few miles along the shoreline here as well. Following a walking/biking path parallel to the beach is satisfying exercise. Dogs are not allowed on public beaches in HB, but somewhat up the coast, heading north, there is a massive dog beach (humans are also allowed :-)). It is often referred to as the best dog park in Southern California. Jaxx agrees!
Driving out of town, we almost got in an accident due to traffic aggression. When we accelerated after the light turned green, the driver behind us did not like our slow progress of our Prius. With screaming tires, he passed us and slammed his brakes right in front of us. Poor Jaxx flew forward off the back seat and when I helped him up again, the %&*# braked again, sending some pain through my twisted back. Luckily, no permanent damage was done, nobody hit us and we didn’t hit him, but we did call 911 and reported the car and the driver.
Corona Del Mar
A ten-minute drive away, Corona Del Mar is another seaside town. The houses are enormous and the atmosphere is a tad snootier than elsewhere. Dogs are only allowed on the beach in the evenings and early mornings, so we resumed ourselves to walking above sea level on the sidewalks where this was possible. Twice we hoped to catch either sunset or blue skies and twice, the area was engulfed in a heavy bank of fog.
A bit further afield, La Jolla is a seaside community in San Diego. We stopped here briefly on the way to meet up with friends in the city. More about that later as well. Not expecting anything (we actually wanted to size up some electric bikes in a store here, but since it only opened at 10am, we had time to check out the waterfront), Mark and I – and Jaxx – were pleasantly surprised with what we found: a scenic shoreline with heaps of birds and sea lion colonies.
Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
On the last warm weekend day of our stay, I half hoped to drive back to San Diego and see some of the amazing sights there. But, this would mean more than three hours of sitting in a car on a beautiful day, something we had just done the day prior, on a cloudy day. We postponed a real visit to San Diego until further notice and went hiking in the surrounding hills instead. Orange County parks are generally not dog-friendly, so we were happy to find some trails in Aliso and Wood where doggies could have fun hiking as well.
San Juan Capistrano
I planned to take a sunny day off from work during the week, to visit Mission San Juan Capistrano by myself. It was only 25 minutes away, the forecast showed sunshine and my bag was packed. When I opened the door, a foggy environment greeted me. No way! I waited until noon to decide it was a bust. Then, I saw a small patch of blue sky (how I love my blue skies), jumped in the car, was annoyed with the GPS, drove circles and became discouraged by red light after red light. So, I turned back home, followed by white skies. Darn. I went for a long walk with Mark and Jaxx instead.
There was, however, one more chance to visit this mission, on our very last day in Costa Mesa, which promised to be very sunny. These last days at a house sit are usually filled with laundry, cleaning, packing up and loading the car. The only way to pull this one off, was to start my chores immediately after getting up at 6:30am. No email, Facebook or blog distractions! I left home at 11am for a three-hour immersion in this beautiful mission and some craved me-time.
The town of San Juan Capistrano also has a historic area with cute houses and restaurants. Upon my return to the apartment, we put all our belongings in the car, took Jaxx for a 45’ walk and greeted the owner, right in time to open the door for her. 🙂