Making sure we all get as much out of this trip as possible means taking it in turns between the kids and the adults a lot of the time. For example what music we listen to in the van, whether we choose a campground with a playground or one in a beautiful setting (you hardly ever get both together), and what activities we choose during the day. We have established that snow and animals are things kids and adults love equally, and another is sand. Beaches naturally, but also these sand dunes in Death Valley – the kids could have run uphill and down dale forever:
Death Valley is a desolate and beautiful place, and surprisingly mountainous too – you can see snow-capped peaks, and even see it actually snowing on the mountains, while you bask in 30 degrees in Furnace Creek in the valley. In fact one of the things that has surprised us the most about western USA is how mountainous it is – there are mountains everywhere that you have never heard of that are higher than Australia’s tallest mountains. Imagine all the hiking you could do with kids if all mountains were made of sand!
The next day, we headed back to the Californian coast for more conventional sand at the beach at Carpenteria State Beach, just south of Santa Barbara, and what a campground we found:
As we cooked fakon and eggs for brunch in the firepit on the beach, a family with young kids arrived next door. M and A befriended the five-year-old girl (poor two-year-old boy was about as interesting to them as a spare sock) but Gemma had an Ariel doll so that was it.
This new friendship meant we were off entertainment-duty and so I sat in the sunshine for two hours straight and finished my book (and also burnt my lower legs, leaving bizarre pink leg-warmers) and it also allowed Mr Hotford and I to take a dip in the sea together. As in: at the same time, without clutching and coaxing a small person each. And while we were in the sea who should join us in the breakers but six dolphins surfing the waves right in front of us!
Later, we managed to persuade the kids to have a nap to buy us an evening in Santa Barbara where I had these for dinner:
We were feeling so Hispanic what with all the Spanish colonial buildings of Santa Barbara, our tacos and our siesta, that the kids were not asleep until 10.30pm.
The next day we decided to go wine tasting which is always a favourite with tired and grumpy children! Said no one, ever.
Los Olivos is a village made entirely of boutique winery cellar doors. The more Chris and I swilled Syrah (which is what Americans call Shiraz) the more unruly the girls became as though they were getting drunk by proxy. By the end they were laughing hysterically at dogs, and when A. Hotford almost fell into the ornamental fountain and M. Hotford lay down on the floor we knew we had to call it a day.
On the way back we noticed somewhere I wish we had seen earlier – a winery that matches your wine with cupcakes. Now that would have been the sweetspot where kids and adults find simultaneous joy!
This entry was posted in Coastal California