January is the longest month - the holidays are over, I'm home from Italy, and spring seems so very far away. The days are short and the weather can be cold and gloomy. This makes January the perfect time for a mid-winter weekend getaway; somewhere warmer, somewhere fun, and somewhere not too far away from my home in Albuquerque. So I recently headed west with a friend to California and the small beach town of La Jolla.
There is much to love about La Jolla. To start with, there is all that ocean. To a land-locked desert dweller like me, the ocean is pure magic. Add in a mid-January temperature in the low 60s, bright sunshine, oceanfront parks and walking paths, blooming flowers, interesting architecture, and an all-around vibe that is part causal beach town and part upscale living, and you've got the makings of a great weekend. Oh, and did I mention the ocean? The sound of the waves is soothing; watching the waves break over the rocky coast is hypnotic. This is my kind of therapy!
My hotel for the weekend was the Grande Colonial, which was charming and pretty with a vintage elegance. It's a short walk to the ocean and the path that stretches from the Children's Pool and Seal Beach to Scripp's Park and La Jolla Cove. This is a rocky coastline interrupted with small sandy beaches and waves breaking in dramatic fashion. It's easy to do low-key R&R here. My weekend was spent walking, watching birds soar overhead, laughing at seals that barked on the rocks and dashed playfully in and out of the water, browsing in the local shops, watching people, and playing the "which house would I buy if I had millions of dollars" game. Mine was right on the ocean with a pretty cottage garden and a gazebo with an endless sea view.
Any good vacation has to include great food, right? Luckily, there were plenty of choices for casual meals with good but not fussy food. Some favorites were:
The Cottage, appropriately named for its setting in a former beach-style house, serves breakfast, brunch and lunch to locals and tourists alike - inside or on the beautiful outdoor patio. It's popular and there can be quite a wait (no reservations taken) but it is absolutely worth it! Sunday brunch of crab Benedict with avocado and a roasted tomato hollandaise was so good that we went back again the next day for breakfast. Not to be missed are the berry smoothies and the lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes. Our server was friendly and helpful and we sure appreciated her advice that most dishes were big enough to share (you would know what an understatement this was had you seen the order of French toast delivered to the family at the next table).
Brick and Bell. This may be the cutest coffeehouse on the west coast, a tiny local spot with a nice patio and a pastry case full of temptations. It wins my vote for best raspberry scones ever.
Puesto. It's not a trip to La Jolla without fish tacos. The ones here were fresh and tasty with a light batter, a bit of chile-infused cream, fresh lime and blue corn tortillas. A new flavor for me was the side of esquite - grilled corn cut from the cob and flavored with lime, chile and a soft queso. It's big enough to share, but trust me, you won't want to.
The bar at La Valencia hotel. You don't have to stay in the hotel to have a drink in the bar with one of the best views in La Jolla. Sip away and daydream as you look out over the water.
A weekend in La Jolla goes by quickly, but the net relaxation effect makes it feel like you've had a month's rest.
-post by JB