For all of my OCD friends, and surprisingly there are a lot of you, this post comes with a warning: I am skipping my last 3 NYC blogs (which are half written and full of stories involving brothels, best places to shop, tips on where to stay, parole offices and dodgy Disney characters) and I am also skipping all the stories I have amassed so far in Anaheim and Disney Land, in order to write this blog post while it is fresh in my memory. I will get to the other posts later. I’m just having trouble finding time to write in between all of my pre-organised activities and frequent need for napping.
Today we had the morning free and last night spent about 30 seconds wondering what to do with our free 6 hours. Before mum and the girls had much of a chance to wonder I had whipped out my mobile phone and on a whim hired a car for the day without a single thought in regards to what I may do with this car. The idea of spending a third day at Disneyland was enough to make any other trip sound like paradise.
No one was impressed. Honestly though, I don’t know why people doubt me. Fun is what I do best!!! I spent a good deal of time last night researching places to go from Anaheim that were not touristy and more like local hotspots. One thing I hate to do while travelling is spend the entire time doing and seeing all the mundane touristy things and having all the contrived photos in front of all big attractions. I like to get a feel for what local life is about and get off the beaten track. Consequently I spent most of the night going down an internet rabbit hole trying to find an interesting place to visit. Whilst down the rabbit hole I happened across a picture of a pirate castle built into a cliff at Victoria Beach. The directions were very sketchy and I’d read the access to the beach is well hidden so I decided to take up the challenge to find and invade Victoria Beach and the Pirate Castle. I am torn as to whether to reveal directions to this secluded piece of paradise or save it so that only the people who live in the luxury houses surrounding it can enjoy it’s beauty. No brainer really. I’m super jealous of all those rich people in their stunning houses and very annoyed that one of them gave me mis-directions in order to keep me from finding the beach. So I will totally give out detailed directions.
We picked up our car from the hire place and I confidently got in the drivers seat without a second thought about what I was about to embark on. How hard can it be?? You just drive on the other side. I can’t tell my left from right anyway so as long as I make sure my side of the car is closest to the middle of the road there will not be a problem.
I soon found out that some aspects were a teeny bit more difficult than I had anticipated. For starters, the blinkers are on the wrong side of the wheel in the US and every time I needed to put them on I would end up engaging the wipers, which all my children found hilarious. For some reason, even though I tried really hard to stick to the left hand side of the right lane, my mum and Kylah (who were seated on the passenger side) would screech at me that I was too far to the right. In fact they swear that I came a fraction of an inch (mere mm’s) from taking off the left hand side mirror of a Porsche 911 that was parked on the side of the road. I strongly disagree with their claim and counter that even if it was true, the owner of the fancy car was an idiot to park it in that position with the side mirrors out anyway. Don’t the mirrors automatically fold in when you park in those flash cars???
The address that I had found on the internet to the castle was WRONG!! Bum steer number one. Not one to be easily deterred I decided to pull off the road into a diner and do some google satellite stalking. The diner we pulled in to turned out to be a proper American diner, complete with waitresses in 1950’s costumes and old cars displayed around the front. As we were there and it was lunch time we decided to eat. I erroneously assumed it would be totally gimmicky and full of loud Australian tourists but amazingly – WE were the only loud tourists!! It was chock-a-block with genuine Laguna Beach locals. There were two diners there who I swear were famous (one of them may or may not have been Steven Spielberg – jury is still out). The other one was definitely in a lot of movies but my crap memory along with my children’s disinterest in famous people meant we didn’t know who it was. Another diner looked like a proper mobster/mafia member. I kid you not. He had the mobster hat, suit, cuff links, dark glasses, physique and stony expression. I’m almost positive there were numerous concealed weapons under his coat and in his pants. I felt like I was on a movie set.
In order to find the entrance to the elusive Victoria Beach I struck up a conversation with a local couple at a nearby table. Could they perhaps give me directions? “Sure!! When you go out of the diner you turn left and follow that road along. You’ll see an entrance to the beach on your right hand side” the gentleman explained to me. Bum steer number 2. This information contradicted what I had found on Google maps.
After lunch, which consisted of burgers (the only thing on the menu), we left our car safely in the diner car park surrounded by 50 million dollars worth of other cars and set off to the beach on foot. The children were feeling sick from too much greasy food and milkshakes and trudged along behind me miserably, still doubting my expertise in the fun department.
The area of Laguna Beach where we were walking was not designed with gawkers in mind. There was no roadside footpath along the stretch of road that ran along the ocean and no where to park your car. The little side streets from the main road leading down towards the ocean had ZERO visitor parking. We were forced to risk our lives and walk in the bike riders zone. By this stage I was too invested to admit defeat though. We finally made it to the little street we needed to go down to access the beach and spent a good 15 minutes waiting for the little flashing white man to indicate we could cross the road. Seems to be another ploy to dissuade tourists from entering wealthy territory.
The houses along the little side street were incredible. Every neutron in my brain was firing off at a rapid rate in response to all the gorgeous stimuli I was absorbing. I didn’t know where to look!! Every house was unique and breathtaking. In Australia, quite often the fancy, rich areas all have very similar looking houses. I call it lego land. These houses were nothing alike and each one seemed more stunning than the last.
FINALLY, I found the “blink and you’ll miss it” steps that lead you down to Victoria Beach. Even when you reach the bottom of the steps and step on to the beach you still aren’t there. In order to see the castle you have to clamber over slippery green rocks around a point in order to get to the next beach (which has no other access) to see the castle.
We were not disappointed. Squeals of delight erupted from all three children as they discovered rock pools, caves, the castle, beaches, areas to show off their dance moves for insta, waterfalls and an ocean so beautiful it makes all other oceans look like sewerage.
The locals we met on the beach commended us on finding their secret paradise and allowed us to pet their dogs. Mum and I took a gazillion photos while the kids explored and had a jolly good time.
We found a very cool art place on the way back to Anaheim and all decided that this is an area we would definitely like to return to in the future. There is waaay more than 6 hours worth of activities to do in and around Laguna Beach. I wonder what other hidden gems the wealthy OC’s are trying to hide from us tourists???
The afternoon was spent shopping, which I won’t discuss too much. Ben has been reading my blogs and I don’t want to alarm him by regaling you all with my tales of fabulous finds – just yet. I’ll reserve a whole blog post for shopping in America.
By the end of the day I was extremely confident in my right-side driving. I only activated the wipers instead of blinkers 25% of the time, as opposed to 100% of the time earlier on in the day, and I worked out how to stay to the left side of the right lane by lining up a sticker with the white line.
Then I encounter a round-about and all Hell broke loose!! I had not prepared for this!!! I was panicking. Mum was freaking out. The Navigator started flashing red and screaming at me to let me know I was going the wrong way up the street – it was a big disaster!! All confidence was lost. Mum and I decided that before I head off on my road trip with 2 other dance mums and 6 children from LA to Vegas I need to develop some strategies. Most of my strategies involve stickers.
1. Need to put coloured stickers on the left and right sides of the car to remind myself of left and right. In my mind a right hand turn is turning across the traffic so when the navigator tells me to go right, that is my first instinct.
2. I will put stickers on the windscreen to line up where the car needs to be in regards to the centre line so I don’t drive too far to the right hand side of the left lane.
3. Might put a sticker on the indicators just because it’s really embarrassing to keep activating the wipers.
4. Put a sticker on the drivers side window saying “at round-abouts keep this sticker close to the circle bit. Driver inside – passenger on the outside.
4. Am considering a sticker for the back the van that says “WARNING!! Aussie driver at the wheel. This is the wrong side of the road for me. Please be patient.”
5. Have allocated a substantial amount of time tomorrow to study CA road rules. There are zebra crossings everywhere that seem to have no meaning. Why are they there??? When do we stop?? I am so busy concentrating on staying on the right side of the road that I haven’t spared a single thought for pedestrians. There are also so many cross roads where EVERYONE has a stop sign. All 4 sides. Who gives way to who?
6. Need to find out which lane on the highway is the slow poke lane. Is it the right hand lane? Or the left? You can enter and exit from either lane so is the fast lane the middle?
Anyway, I’ll leave it there for today and try to catch up some more tomorrow. I just went on Google to screenshot the satellite image of how to find Victoria Beach and it is well indicated on Google. It just isn’t well indicated anywhere else. I recommend parking at the diner where we stopped off and popping in to say hello to Steven Spielberg before walking there.
Thanks for reading!! All the lovely comments give me such warm fuzzies. I’m not very good at many things. I’m a crap housewife, crap dance mum (can’t do make-up, hair or dramas), crap budgeter….. I could go on and on. It makes me feel great when people tell me they enjoy my ponderings. I really wish I could turn my writing into a career. All suggestions welcome!!