California Trip – Day 5 – 10/20/10

Today is our 6-year wedding anniversary!  WOW!  We’ve been together for 7 years and married for 6.  It’s wonderful.  Amazing, really, because we are doing great….and we are both so happy and thankful for one another and for the experiences, like this California trip, that we get to share together.  We are very fortunate, indeed!

Speaking of fortunate, we are headed to the famed Catalina Island today.  We woke up and had a nice breakfast at the hotel.  David made me mini waffles!

After breakfast, we checked out and explored a little bit of Long Beach.  We saw the Queen Mary from afar, the Long Beach Marina and even found bits and pieces of “track” for the Long Beach Grand Prix.  We headed to the Long Beach downtown ferry terminal for the Catalina Express.  We picked up our round-trip tickets that we reserved (bought with a coupon I found online – yay!).  Here’s where another splurge comes into play…we went ahead and upgraded to the Commodore Lounge.  It was on the upstairs deck, gave us priority boarding, drinks, snacks, and comfy seats.  I got me a mimosa!  (<–horrible english, I know, but I couldn’t help it.)  

Our boat was a Jet Cat Express, a high-speed catamaran, which whisked us to the Avalon port of Catalina Island in about an hour.  The ride was smooth and comfortable and we happily chit-chatted the whole way.  My champagne was workin’. 🙂

Did I mention that it was raining?  Yeaaahh.  It was raining….again!  We didn’t care.  We made the most of it!

We arrived at Catalina Island and walked around the streets of Avalon and explored and shopped.  Catalina has a rich history, much of which has to do with the Wrigley (of chewing gum fame) family.

It’s a neat place.  There are very few cars.  In fact, I heard that there is a waiting list for many full-time residents to be able to even own a car on the island.  The main mode of transportation is golf carts!  In fact, check out this interesting (off-road!) Segway get-up that I spied:  

In walking around the streets, we noticed many multi-colored tiles that adorned the common areas.  We later learned that these were made by the Catalina Clay Products Company (1927-1937).  Their pottery is highly sought after and very collectible today.  We wanted to learn and see more.  We bought tickets for a sightseeing tour and then grabbed some lunch at this fish & chips place at the end of a pier.  The rain stopped (sort of) long enough for us to eat outside.  Seagulls and pigeons came to visit us and wanted to partake of our food.  No, you silly birds!  This is our grub!  Even so, it was neat to see them close up.

We made our way back to where our tour was supposed to begin, but unfortunately, it was cancelled at the last minute, due to the dang bad weather.  BUMMER!  We were able to get a walking tour of the Catalina Casino instead.  Well, I must say that we were very glad we did.  It was fascinating!  Built by the Wrigley family, it is not really a Casino for gambling, but a large art-deco theatre (the lower floors) and a huge dance hall (the upper floors) all done in period, art-deco style.  “Casino” was never meant to mean gambling.  It actually used to mean a “large gathering place” for entertainment.  That, it was!  Our tour started outside the theatre.  The Catalina Casino Mermaid is a very popular mural above the box office and very much in keeping with the art-deco theme of the place.  We went inside and got to see a beautiful, lovingly restored theatre.  The wood paneling in the lobby is a beautiful, black walnut and is worth $3.9 million today!!!

Inside the theatre, there were gorgeous murals on the walls and twinkling stars in the ceiling.  Gold leaf was used in much of the mural.  Folks used to come here to watch silent films while the 1929 Page theatre organ (one of only 2 in existence today) was being played.  After the experiencing the theatre, we walked up large, wide ramps that zig-zagged up 6 flights to the ballroom.  These ramps were created purposely to move large crowds (and bands with all their equipment too) en masse….just like…Wrigley Field!  The ballroom was huge and beautiful.  I can totally see how this was a hoppin’ place back in the day…young men and women, dancing the night away to amazing big-band music, taking a break now and then for a drink and enjoying the ocean air and views from the balconies outside.  The whole place was done in style and with the best of technology and engineering for its time.  It’s easy to see how Wrigley went $1.4 over budget in building this place!

After our tour, there was a break in the rain!  YES!  We walked back to the main part of town to rent a golf cart and do our very own sightseeing tour.  First stop, the Wrigley Memorial.  It is off the beaten path and high atop a mountain.  Me likee.

We drove to the base of the memorial and paid a small fee to enter the botanical gardens, also created in honor of the Wrigley family.  The botanical gardens were almost entirely made up of succulents and cacti.  For me, these are not things you see every day, so we spent some time checking out all the varieties of spindly plants.  We then clambered to the top of the memorial you see in the picture above.  Here’s a movie David took that shows you all the neat things and views we saw.

It was very pretty up there, especially having the place all to ourselves.  That is, until the tour bus arrived!  That was our queue to head on out. 🙂  Note that the tour bus was also of an art-deco nature.  It was an old, restored Flxible (not a spelling mistake).    It was the only bus we saw on the island.

We continued our journey through the backroads of Avalon and saw many an eye-catching thing.  We saw a LOT of wild critters…two packs of dear, a sea-lion, a huge buck, a pirate ship, and a pride of cats!

After our adventurous ride around Avalon, we turned our cart in and walked around town and back to the pier.  We found a shallow cave, somewhat hidden from the “road” and explored that.  We initially planned to have our anniversary dinner at Chart House at Marina Del Rey, but since we had a good bit of time to kill before our ferry ride back to Long Beach, we decided to go ahead and have our anniversary dinner at Catalina.  I’m SOOO glad we did!  We ended up at Steve’s Steak House.  If you click on the link, you will see our seat right by the window on their website.  It was perfect!  The food was amazing too.  We really lucked out….the food, the atmosphere, the wine…everything was wonderful!

Pretty soon it was time to catch our ferry ride back to Long Beach.  I think there was only one or two other people besides us in the Commodore Lounge.  We got front seats on the way back, not that we could see much of anything in the dark!  We had fun playing Jeopardy and eating cookies, but boy were we tired.

Back on the mainland, we hopped in the G37 and headed to…..The Ritz Carlton at Marina Del Rey!  We were staying there overnight, with breakfast included for the grand price of $0.00.  That’s right – FREEEEEEE!!!  Welllll, sort of free.  I had to work at Sage for 10 years first – lol!  I cashed in my 10-year anniversary reward points so we could stay at this fine establishment at no charge whatsoever to us.   Thank you, Sage!!!!   We received a complimentary upgrade to a full marina view room on the 10th floor, which was fabulous – especially at night, as you can see.


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