I’ve been so worried about traveling alone with the girls for the first time on such a long trip as a single parent…only to realize how lucky I am to share so many beautiful firsts with them. I get so wrapped up with work that it’s easy to forget to stop, breathe and enjoy.
Day 1: August 6 - San Francisco Priorities
We flew from Philadelphia to San Francisco and our first stop was In and Out Burger with my late husband’s best friend, John. Or as Senna calls it, Inside Out Burger. Today has been perfect.
Day 2: August 7 - New Experiences, Old Traditions
Today we ventured out for a ferry ride over to Sausalito. Pretty city, but the best part was being near the water and riding the ferry. Any time I get near water, it immediately feels like a vacation. What is it about those waves that makes everything so relaxing and refreshing?
Once we got back to the city, we took the girls on their first bus ride and headed to the Hayes Valley area for some shopping… My favorite! One of Scott’s must do things on vacation was to eat ice cream… every day. Yesterday was milkshakes at In N Out and today we stopped over at Smitten, where they offer 4 unique flavors daily and make each batch fresh and fast using liquid nitrogen. So neat to watch! We feasted on Fresh Corn and Fresh Mint Chip ice cream… tasted like it came straight from the garden. Quite possibly the best I’ve ever had, he would have loved it!
Day 3: August 8 - Reminders
Today we walked and walked and walked! There’s so much to look at in this city and these girls are such troopers! We ventured out to the Misson area and ate the best Mexican food ever, pigged out on a Super Quesadilla and then stopped for… more ice cream of course! On our way, we walked along Scott Street. A perfect little reminder of him.
Day 4: August 9 - Route 101
Our next leg was a 6-hour drive towards our rental house in Malibu. I was worried that the girls would get super antsy for that long and didn’t want to waste a day. They were itching for the beach!
We left midday and made our way down Route 101. I thought it would be good timing so we could enjoy the beautiful California landscape and it did not disappoint! We don’t have canyons like these in Pennsylvania! Road trip lesson learned while traveling solo with kids… make fun pit stops. There were so many Vista Points along the way, the girls loved it! They used their mini flashlights from their TOC travelpack to send safe travel signals to all the boats they saw. One of those super cute moments that I love being able to observe as a parent.
We landed in Calabasas for the night at about 10:30 and had a late night room service dinner. Maya thanked me for staying in a hotel and letting her sleep in a “big big bed” alone while I shared with Senna. Another what I thought would be terrifyingly hard milestone…Check!
Day 5: August 10 - Malibu
We arrived in Malibu around noon today and stopped for a delicious lunch. I get crazy anxious when I’m some place I’ve never been, what will I do for the next 4 hours before we can check into our Airbnb rental? I nearly ran out of gas this morning because I had no clue where I was going and for some stupid reason didn’t think of looking one up.
We drove the coast, “oohed and aaahed” over the awesome beach homes, dreaming they could one day be ours. We stopped at a public beach and the girls woke up! The sand, the smell, the sounds of the waves… could turn the worst of days into an amazing one.
Man… I see why everyone loves California. We shopped for food, went for a walk and played on the beach once we could check in. Now we’re listening to the waves crashing just outside the door. Ok, I am… the girls are running around the house! I love how a new space can easily jumpstart their imaginations.
Day 6: August 11 - Beach Day
Today we dedicated the entire day to the beach. Right after breakfast we went for a walk and played in the sand. Took a 2 hour lunch break and headed right back until dinner. Not everyday of a vacation has to be “exciting” or so I’m learning. I’ve always found myself exhausted after a trip, doing and seeing every possible thing I can. But this time, we’re slowing down and enjoying what’s right in front of us.
Day 7: August 12 - Week One...Done
As much as I wanted to do a thousand different things in honor of Scott here, I feel like the best thing and what he would have wanted most, was to relax. So that’s what I’m doing. Other than food shopping, we’re here at the beach and soaking in every minute. He always told me I did too much and wanted a trip where we could enjoy the peace and beauty of our surroundings. Here we are.
Maya had an epic tantrum… clearly tired from the sun and traveling. It was awesome, expected, and dreaded as a single parent on vacation. We watched a plane write a romantic message in the sky and ate too much food. Did I mention that my direct neighbor is also a young widow? How ironic and cosmic is that? After dinner, we sat on the deck, had a few beers, shared our stories filled with laughter and sadness and made a date to set our alarms for 1am and watch tonight’s epic meteor shower. Another great day at the beach, plus a few lovely sunburnt thighs. One for the books.
Day 8: August 13 - Santa Monica Bee Sting
Whooohooo! The morning started with a breakdance session by the girls while I made breakfast. That was fun! Then we ventured out of the house to meet my food blogger friend, Ellen who proceeded to take us to the most delicious destinations that my double chin will hate me for later. Burgers and milkshakes at Pono Burger then insane sweets at DK Donuts, both in Santa Monica.
It felt good to leave our spot for a bit, but so nice to return back to the beach. Today was great, but without fail something not so fun had to happen. Maya had another EPIC tired tantrum, one I feel might have some underlying issues…maybe the loss of her dad. I don’t know, but I found myself in a moment of weakness, not knowing how to handle her anger and sadness with no one to turn to, lean on, ask for help…I felt helpless. Who knew a 7 year old could do that to an almost 34 year old? It subsided in time and she welcomed back my hugs, interrupted only by Senna’s first bee sting. Poor kid. I think she was more shocked by it than anything. Did you see Maya’s face though? Cheeky little bugger! All great days end in tears and ice cream, right?
Day 9: August 14 - Throwbacks
Today was simple. A little shopping and throwback to the 80s with crop tops and fanny packs for the girls. We picked up our friends from the airport who will be joining us for the last leg of our journey and spent the afternoon on the beach. After we washed off our sandy toes, we took a stroll on the Malibu Pier and chatted with the fisherman. Senna got a kick out of the little mackerel one fisherman caught and was brave enough to hold the little guy.
Day 10: August 15 - Venice Beach
We headed out for an early morning walk down to Venice Beach today for some shopping, people watching, and a trip to the skatepark. Senna tested her skills on Muscle Beach and we watched the skaters ride in the concrete bowls. The sounds of their wheels, gnarly hands, scrapes and bruises…They all brought me to tears thinking about how much Scott would have loved to be there with us and with those guys. It was a beautiful, yet bittersweet moment Senna told me she wanted skateboarding lessons again…like daddy would have liked.
Day 11: August 16 - Traveling To Disney
Today said goodbye to the calm and beauty of Malibu Beach and drove south towards Disneyland. We made a pit stop in Long Beach on the way. Years ago, before kids, I toyed with the possibility of moving here for a great job opportunity working with a new ecommerce start up. I remember being so excited and scared about the chance of picking up and moving across the country, but then I met Scott and declined the job. Imagine where I would be if I took that job? Although our future together was cut short, I have never regretted that decision.
Once we arrived at the Disneyland Hotel, we explored the grounds and spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool. I even took a ride down their big slide…and I’m terrified of that stuff. The phrase YOLO is in full effect for me here.
Day 12: August 17 - Disneyland
Woah. Today was a full day at the park! The excitement, the smiles, the oohs and ahhs over each ride…I couldn’t have imagined a better reaction from the girls. The crazy part is that I nearly forgot how scared I am of roller coasters and rides. I don’t love heights, I don’t love being whipped around. I don’t love rides! But we’re here and I didn’t want to disappoint these two. I didn’t ride all of them with these fearless two, but somehow I got myself on the SCARY Tower of Terror! I may have closed my eyes and my knuckles may have turned white, but I did it. And when Maya and Senna said they were proud of me…it felt good. Big big smiles on all of our faces tonight.
Day 13: August 18 - Kid Again
Today was our second full day at the park and I woke up just as excited as the girls. I made a promise to myself that I would go on at least one ride that scared me. A ride I would never have done a year ago! As we fast paced to Space Mountain, chills ran up my spine, my heart beat faster and yet Maya and Senna ran up the walkway like they were heading to a candy shop. I can’t forget the feeling as they opened the gates to climb into the car and I turned away frightened, pulling the girls out! I couldn’t do it. But there was Senna smiling, jumping with excitement and the ride attendant looking at me annoyed. So I climbed in, held on tight and squeezed my eyes shut! And away we went. Midway I found my eyes open, looked over at those babes and enjoyed an experience I never thought I could.
I walked out there speechless, yet wide eyed. It’s funny how experiences like these at age 33 can make everything look brighter, easier, more enlightening. We walked the rest of the park and I felt so good… admired the beautiful architecture and design from every angle. I felt like a kid again. That’s what they always say Disney would do to you right? Well, they’re right.
Day 14: August 19 - Last Day
Two weeks…done! I can’t believe we’ve been away for so long. I can easily remember when I couldn’t push the button to book my flight and thought I would lose every last hair I had going away with my girls for so long, solo. I made it. I feel like yelling…I ACTUALLY DID IT!
On our last day we actually woke up and got to the park when it opened. What a difference in the amount of rides we could hit before the lines formed! When they say, get there when the gates open…get there when the gates open! At least once. I just wanted to sleep in the other days.
We stuffed our faces with ice cream (of course), enjoyed lots of entertainment-type attractions to get out of the sun and shopped for souvenirs. We even got back earlier than usual and took a nap. I mean…A nap! That probably hasn’t happened since these two were about 2 years old. We had a few hiccups, like Maya waving her new Minnie hat on the log flume ride only to accidentally let it fly out of her hands and I had a terrible allergic reaction to some bad sunscreen leaving my skin itchy and not to awesome looking the whole week….But all in all, this trip has definitely hit the ranks of my top 3. One I will never, ever forget.