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Nov 29, 2021

Thanksgiving at The Ranch

Thanksgiving on The Pacific Coast Highway

Traveling with a 3-month old is terrifying. This was his first plane ride. The amount of preparation, equipment, and anxiety leading up to this trip cannot be overstated.

But we did it. And he did great.

We landed in California on Friday morning and yarded our car seat, travel stroller, 2 suitcases, and 2 backpacks through John Wayne airport. After bouncing, swaying, and praying for 45 minutes, we were somehow able to load everything into our minimally equipped Nissan Murano – which I later learned is Spanish for "pulls to the right and poorly accelerates." 

We jumped on the PCH and headed southbound for Laguna Beach. The palm trees and ocean felt like the start of vacation. 

That vacation feeling was short-lived. 

We checked into our Airbnb and were greeted with the fresh scent of Febreeze Ocean Air®. The decor could only be described as TJ Maxx Coastal Antique. Everything was beach-themed. Seashells and faux antiques everywhere – this lady had more thingamabobs than Ariel.

[Sidenote: In The Little Mermaid, Ariel asks Flounder if he wants a Thingmabob as she opens a box to display her collection of earthly antiques... she then states that she has "twenty" when the box CLEARLY does not contain twenty thingamabobs. This lady had way more than twenty thingamabobs.]

I began unloading our equipment. We quickly realized that despite the fresh ocean air (fe)breeze, the Airbnb had not been cleaned. It was gross.

The owner was very accommodating and encouraged us to check in to a Waldorf Astoria nearby. Going from a Febreeze drenched used Airbnb to the Waldorf Astoria was incredible. Right after checking in, we saw Kris Jenner. No shit. We took it as a sign – Kris Jenner was our patron saint of vacay. We quickly decided that despite the $700+ per night difference in price, we WERE NOT GOING back to that Airbnb. We belonged here, with Kris Jenner, at the Waldorf Astoria.

We got room service and gawked from our balcony at whatever charity event Kris was attending was in the courtyard below. It felt we were officially back on vacation.

We woke up and walked to the beach. 

There was a group of surfers out catching the early morning swell. One of them approached me and said that he had recently lost his father. 

He said that seeing me hold Sonny made him think of his Dad and reminded him how everything was connected. The whole conversation felt like a blessing.

That first morning in Laguna felt magical, but at close to $1,000 per night... we really couldn't afford to spend the week there. There was something liberating about not having a plan – traveling with a 3-month-old requires so much preparation, but now we suddenly found ourselves without a plan – it felt good.

We decided to drive up the coastline towards Los Angeles. We found a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica and booked it for the week. It was time to pack up the car again. 

We arrived in Santa Monica around 3pm on Saturday. We had a killer view of the Santa Monica pier but quickly realized after walking around a bit that this would not be a good fit for the entire week. The following day Steph somehow negotiated her way out of our week long reservation, and we checked out.

Steph, after negotiating her way out of a reservation.

Once again, we found ourselves without plans and without a place to stay.

We decided to head back towards Laguna Beach.

By this time I had become quite adept at packing up all of our shit. We loaded Sonny back into the car and cranked Pet Sounds as we headed south back down the Pacific Coast Highway.

After some research, we found a spot at The Ranch, a small resort tucked in a canyon about a 5-minute walk from the beach. The Ranch was the original Laguna Beach country club and it had a smaller, word-of-mouth vibe with some killer mid-century architecture. The resort had a farm-to-table restaurant that hosted live music every night at 5pm that would draw locals – an acoustic cover of The Wallflowers One Headlight was the universe telling us we were right where we were supposed to be. 

The whole experience had a Shangri-La energy to it. It felt like we were in the middle of nature vs. at a resort. There was a casual luxury to it – it wasn't trying too hard. The entire scene felt much more local than tourist. It reminded me a lot of Hotel Joaquin – another one of our favorite Laguna spots that we found does NOT allow children... 

Our Thanksgiving was spent walking the beach, swimming, and feeling very grateful for everything we had been given this past year. 

Nov 20, 2021

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