Category Archives: Vacations

[LA Life] Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Scenic Highway

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Mother’s Day Weekend is a special weekend, a fruitful time for family and a fitting occasion to embrace the divine feminine, and within that – our true Mother – Earth, Nature, Gaia – if you will.  As Danny and I gallivanted away this past weekend to go spend some quality time with his mom in Lancaster, we had (what we considered) a brilliant idea: instead of taking the 14, let’s take a leisurely drive through the Angeles Crest Highway.  And what a magical adventure that became.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

The Angeles Crest Highway is often referred to as the ‘Highway to the Heavens‘, and in my opinion – rightfully so: just one cruise through it’s winding trails, your car eagerly hugging the curves and you’ll be confused if you’re still in Los Angeles, let alone California – or the United States.  At times, the drive reminded me of Zion, my fiance kept thinking of the Grand Canyon and it’s easy to think that you’ve instantly been transported to the Swiss Alps or somewhere picturesque in the South of France.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Considered one of the most beautiful non-coastal drives in the United States, the Angeles Crest Highway spans the northern most portion of California State Route 2, reaching from the the tip of Los Angeles County in La Cañada-Flintridge to Wrightwood in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Wander along the winding roads and you’ll find picturesque views of every angle of Los Angeles from the ridge-line of the Angeles National Forest.

The area is befit with a rich history that dates back to the turn of the 19th Century, and boasts plenty of turnouts with epic views, and hiking trails for those willing to adventure. And with nature just off of a stunning Superbloom season – or as I’d like to think of it, still marinating in the tail end of it, the hills are currently lush with bright yellow, violet and pink blooms.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest HighwayStopping literally at every turn out we could – because, why not?! – we quite accidentally took a hearty nature break where Mill Creek intersects with the scenic byway.  As Danny found himself enamored by the tunnel born out of the mountain slabs, we were stopped in our literal tracks by the serene sounds of a bubbling brook. Danny eagerly clamored down the hill, reveling in the diamond in the rough that we just discovered – I was busy freezing in my flip flops, overthinking my way down to the water’s edge. After negotiating, and then poorly navigating my way down – spoiler alert: I slipped several times anyways – it was absolutely worth it.

Because we live in the wonderful Mediterranean climate of Southern California, it’s pretty much always a good time to go for a drive on the Angeles Crest Highway, but during the winter months (and some awkward days of June gloom), the snow can shut down parts of the mountain pass and the fog induced poor visibility is actually terrifying – just trust me on that one.  So, before you hop in your car and ride away into the sunset – make sure you check the road conditions to ensure a smooth, beautiful drive.

There’s something absolutely sacred about the way a car hugs a tight turn along a scenic cruise, whipping the soul around to enjoy a palpable, panoramic landscape in a heartbeat; albeit I think the windows should be down and music up to take full advantage of the moment – but who am I to tell another soul how to enjoy a leisurely, weekend drive.

Take a peek at my recent adventures on Flickr!

For more on the Angeles Crest Highway, peruse their website and social media channels – or just take yourself out for a spin; trust me, it’s worth it – and you can thank me later.

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Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

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[Traveling Tales] A Whimsically Introspective Walk Through Dr Seuss’ Sculpture Garden

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“Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

By in large, I live life anticipating adventures around every corner while my eyes overflow with wanderlust….except for lately; I’m typically a happy go-lucky, bouncy lady – but over the past week, there’s been a somber strain in my step and heavy hesitation in my heart.  An emotional being by nature, I’ll more often let them take the reigns of my soul as I watch the ego dissolve. From the loud moments of synchronicity to softer, gentler nods to our impending mortality, life is full of consistent reminders to attack each day with passionate vigor.  The other week while I was away at a music festival my aunt passed away from cancer and it’s been a hard, jagged pill to swallow.  I’m sad…but, it’s more than that (not to mention – I’ve discovered that sadness is typically rather selfish); truth is, I’ve been marinating in introspective inquisition of my purpose and being. I feel resolved and analytical, pensively and perpetually lost within a moment and found within myself because regardless of the places we go in life – we all end up the same. ‘Be noble for you are made of stars; be humble for you are made of earth.’ Whether we climb mountains, swim oceans, extend the field of scientific discoveries, land on the moon or simply sit on our asses doing absolutely nothing – we end up back in the ground.  Whether we live passionately or deviously, timidly or boldly, courageously or lazily, we disintegrate back into the nothingness from which we came.

With the right sort of perspective, the bittersweet, impromptu trip to the East Coast for my aunt’s memorial turned into a lovely family reunion with a touch of local lore and history.  A lot of the local residences were built pre-1900, and many had signs with their build year – some of them dated back to 1860…we even saw a house used in the Underground Railroad.  On our last day, we took one little liberty to visit a park I’d always dreamed of visiting: the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in historic Springfield; it’s only fitting that the man I attribute so many colorful, wonderful memories of my childhood to was helping me on my path through adulthood.

Life is jovial, enjoyable, lovable and ephemeral, while the beauty and anxiety we experience is nothing more than a mental construct, obscured by our personal vision.  The only static, the only constant, is that there is something greater than us, there has to be something greater than us, because we only exist for a figment of time – yet this world, it’s forever. Death can be called many things, but one thing it’s not is discriminatory.  The only guarantee for anything that is brought into existence, is that it will eventually disintegrate back into the same obscurity it came from.  I’m going to die, you’re going to die, and your great-grandchildren are going to die – so don’t prevent yourself from living while you still have time.

We all sacrifice bits and pieces of ourselves for something else’s good, we place parts of our personalities on the back burner because we’re afraid that some people can’t handle it, we remain silent when inside we’re passionately screaming because we’re nervous of the reaction we’ll get; we tiptoe around our personalities, deferring our wants and needs just to make other people comfortable. In a million ways, it feels like we die a thousand deaths before our actual death – so stop running fast just to stay in place.  Change the rules, change the game, change your perspective.  Our time here is limited, how will you spend yours?

[Traveling Tales] Keeping it Coastal in Central Oregon

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“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Until a few years ago, I firmly believed that down to my core I was a city kitty; from a purposeful hustle and bustle like you’ve never seen before to vibrant, neon color schemes boldly emblazoned against the darkness of the night and the palpable buzz of a technologically savvy, creative beehive. I grew up in California’s South Bay Area and quite frankly one of the few reasons I’m proud to be from the Silicon Valley is that people actually know the area I’m from instead of “40 minutes south of San Francisco”, “a little East of San Jose” and “a lovely drive from Santa Cruz”.
Being close to San Francisco and San Jose meant that whenever I could immerse myself in their go-go-go nature, I would – but there’s something to be said for what Santa Cruz had to offer: a slower pace of life, a calmer approach to the present moment with a less populated view and a stunning landscape where the trees meet the sea.

When we live in a fast past environment, we’re forced to adapt to a fast paced way of doing, being and living.  Like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, we feel like we’re running just to stay in place. Suffice it to say that in Los Angeles – a quick wit, high levels of intelligence, deep passions and lack of sleep are  four cornerstones of the lives of basically everyone I consider a close friend.  Like a caterpillar in perpetual chrysalis, as age and experience boldly dance together inside, I’ve gladly shed the skin of my past while transitioning into a phase of my life that’s falls on the side of a country mouse than a city kitty. img_1148

This past weekend, Danny and I took a lovely deviation from our typically atypical LA life and jaunted up the West Coast for some wedding planning and much needed family time. For both of our first times, we blasted off out of the lovely Long Beach Airport and headed up to Central Oregon.  Originally, we’d planned on flying in Friday afternoon and leaving Sunday evening – but by extending our stay from Thursday night through Monday afternoon, we saved a few hundred dollars and got some extra family time; now that’s what I call a win-win!  After settling in for a cozy Thursday night, we woke up Friday morning fresh faced and adventure hungry; with a quick breakfast in our bellies and a glance at the stunning weather on tap for the day, we’d packed a bag and we were off off and away, ready to spend a day with the scenic Central Oregon Coast.

Our first stop of the journey was in Newport, Oregon to chow down on some delicious eats at Local Ocean Seafood, with a lovely view to the harbor. For as much as I consider myself a Bouncy Kitty of sorts – I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to eat a lot more raw fish, the likes of sushi, sashimi, tuna tartare and seared salmon make me salivate; but when it comes to the cooked variety, I tend to shy away.  Enter Danny.  He has a no holds, or foods, barred approach to chowing down and it’s expanded my culinary cravings tenfold.  LOS had the most delicious oyster shooters and seared albacore kabobs – and I know precisely what I’m ordering next time we go back!

 After a quick jaunt down the pier for a friendly conversation with some local seals, we were off off and away down the Central Oregon coast to Yachats, a small, sleepy town where I spent several memorable summer vacations with my dad’s side of the family.  But first, we plotted a few stunning beach stops on the way, first – to Ona Beach!

 

I had a million and a half flashbacks to fond childhood memories, tidepool hopping with my father, scavenging for sea glass, seashells and seashell things with my step-mom and breathing in the salty air while dancing in the sunshowers bouncing off the Pacific.  These memories and feelings fill my soul like a warm bowl of soup on a frigid day, or a hearty hug after a long night.

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Apparently, we couldn’t get enough of the beach because after leaving Ona Beach, we stopped again at Seal Beach to take in the awe inspiring view – and then, it was finally off for Yachats, a town so small that you have to remind people in Oregon where it is.  Translated from the Siletz language, ‘Yachats‘ literally means the ‘dark water at the foot of the mountain’ – one look off the cliffs down into the Pacific, and you’ll be sure to agree. A quaint community about halfway between California and Washington, Yachats sits right on the water and feels like it walked right out of 1950’s America. Back in the day after my grandparents settled in Corvallis Oregon, they snagged an adorable Summer home from a fantastic Rhododendron expert who scattered the flowers across our property.  The end result is a beautiful landscape boarded by the bubbling Bob Creek that sprouts to life and blooms only four weeks of the year, and we were lucky enough to be around to witness it.

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The last leg of the trip was definitely my favorite, if not for proof that my apple doesn’t fall far from the family tree. Back in August in 1987, hundreds of thousands of eager souls around the globe flocked to sacred, spiritual locations to participate in the  ‘Harmonic Convergence‘ – the first internationally synchronous  meditation event in recorded history.  Of course – my dad and his group of friends went; they chose an area called Cape Perpetua, and Danny and I were lucky enough to stop by for a sunny, afternoon visit – a rare, sunny afternoon at that, especially for anyone that knows the Oregon Coast!  Cape Perpetua is a slice of Oregon heaven with hundreds of tall trees sitting over bluffs that give a panoramic view of the entire Oregon Coastline. Pay it just one visit and you’ll see in a heartbeat why it’s so special.

 

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What I learned on my trip is that if you’re a fan of the California Coast, you’ll be head over heals for Oregon’s. Start planning your journey now and check out these helpful sites on the state’s natural wonders.

Travel Oregon | Yachats | You Might Like Oregon | Oregon National Parks

 

[LA Life] Kick Start 2016 Off Right With a First Day Hike!

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525, 600 minutes ago, yet I can still taste the moment that I was marinating in: blustery, salted ocean air coating my hair as we adventured down into Crissy Field and over the Golden Gate Bridge where I did my best to forgo my fear of heights.  Somewhere, in between two nights of Pretty Lights, my audiophilic tendencies were reinvigorated and my love for the world blossomed exponentially.  I’m a sucker for the bright lights, bold vibes and vibrant personalities of city life.  There’s an energy that resides in the city, a resilient energy that grows stronger as the night grows darker while glowing technicolor.

It’s not that I don’t find an equal but opposite view of the stars and nature, it’s just for almost 31 years that my dancing feet have led me directly into the heart of the city. Yet, after 31 years I’m finally searching for that something new, something natural, something free  – an oasis in the midst of a barren desert, a secret garden in a concrete jungle. Time and time again, I’ve found myself enthralled by the melody as the bass becomes me, but more and more I’ve simply pulled out of my city kitty tendencies and found myself into the great tonic of wilderness, clean air and a clear conscience.

The New Years offers up a wonderful, albeit temporal, period of solid resolution and personal resolve.  Whether it lasts the whole year or not sounds like more of a personal problem but those who have a will, always always tend to have a way.  But, I’ve found that writing down my personal wants, needs and goals for the year helps me not just keep track of them but I also hold myself increasingly more accountable of them.

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Last year, when I made my 31 Before 31 Resolutions –  I made it a point to visit a new local Botanical Garden or State Park every month and I’ll tell you right now that beyond going to the multitudes of festivals and events – it’s one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever had.  Betwixt the travel and writing, work and kitties, music festival after music festival across the West Coast – I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to visit so many wonderful places steeped in grandiose history and utter beauty.

 

With exercise as one of the most common New Years Resolutions, it might just behoove you to get up, get out, get over that hangover and get healthy – or at least just get some fresh 2016 air.  Around the nation, thousands of people will be hitting the trails, mountains and rivers as part of the National ‘First Day Hike‘ movement – and there’s plenty of fun to go around on each and every corner of the United States.  Just in California, there’s over 50 different hikes to join in over 40 different parks across the state, not to mention paddle boat rides, geology walks, seal tours and some vehicle rides off the beaten path.

Locations include:

Where will you be spending the first day of 2016?

 

For more details on First Day Hikes around California, head over to the State’s Parks Website. For a birds eye view of all the natural, National goodness  – use the hashtag #FirstDayHikes to dive into pictures and locations on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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For a trip down memory lane, try out these adventures from the past year!

December: The Los Angeles Arboretum | Big Bear | Crissy Park

January: UC Botanical Garden

February: Glenoaks Canyon

August: Multnomah Falls, Oregon

October: Big Sur, California

November: Stanford Arboretum + Arizona Cactus Garden

December: LA Zoo Nights

[Traveling Tales] A Leisurely Road Trip Down the West Coast

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The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve been told that there’s only one constant in life, and all ironies aside – that constant is change.  As with the old adage ‘this too shall pass‘, I’ve developed a thicker skin and a willful resolve in the understanding that no matter what I’m doing or the trajectory of my life, the chances of a roller coaster moment is coming are high – so hold on and enjoy the ride.  The ups, downs and in-betweens are all wonderful side-effects of this passionate, purposeful and perpetual, journey around the sun.  This past year alone has been a crazy one, it started with a bang on a social high and it’s ending on a more personal, yet equally loud, roar – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The holidays have always provided me ample time for retrospect, possible due to the lack of a social circle in Oregon – but mostly because of the long flight up and almost two hour drive in from Portland to Corvallis once the plane lands.  Even though I’m not originally from Oregon, my dad is and I’ve felt like it’s been my second (well, technicality third home for my entire life).  Since I was a wee little one, I’ve been frequenting California’s stately neighbor to North.  Plus, now that my dad is inching towards retirement he’s left the busy, bustling and vibrant city life of San Francisco behind while trading it for the slower paced, quieter, country life of  Corvallis; where the claim to fame is green grass, football and Oregon State University.

Since they’d spent the last few months moving, my step-mom was over the moon excited to see us for two reasons – it’d been almost four months since the last time the family got together and she couldn’t wait to unload whatever household items they didn’t need into our possession.  Whether her excitement was from Column A or Column B simply didn’t faze us – we were over the moon about both! Originally when we discussed how we were bringing it all back to Los Angeles, we’d considered renting a van or renting a U-Haul, and had jokingly mentioned that we could just fill the old ’98 Ford Expedition  for a full fledged, super fun road trip – maybe we’d bring it back later in the year and use it as an excuse to come visit again; the options felt endless! Instead of laughing at us, they mused that we might as well just keep the truck since all it had been doing over the last give years was gathering rust and spiderwebs in the garage.  Without missing a beat, we jumped with joy and resolved we’d only have to book a one way flight to Oregon – and could spend the tail end of it road tripping down through Oregon to San Francisco and then on to Los Angeles.  Sure, we had the chance to travel down this path when heading to and from Shambhala but we’d always been in such a rush and never seemed to have the time to smell the proverbial roses or bask in the delightful Oregon sunshine.

If you’re not from Oregon, one of the first things to understand about traveling during Thanksgiving Break is that you’re going to find yourself in a bit of traffic from the Civil War Game.  Every year after Thanksgiving, the Eugene based University of Oregon Ducks take on the OSU Beavers for what’s contended to be the 5th largest college football rivalry in the United States.
If you’re a football fan, it’s a proper time to rejoice – but if you’re trying to make your way down the 5 to California, beware – because there’s really only one major freeway and depending on your timing you might just get stuck in it.  That’s literally the only weekend of the year I’ve ever seen traffic in Oregon. Instead of getting stuck in traffic, we decided to not only leave early but to take every detour we saw fit – we were in the mood to enjoy ourselves and for once we weren’t rushing back to LA on zero energy!

Our first stop was the little known Corvallis BMX Park on the edge of the city where the Marys River and the Williamette River collide.   Some parts were too waterlog to risk, others were too icy to entertain – but throughout it all it was an enjoyable adventure, even when we had to look up exactly what poision oak really looks like. Then we were off, off and away to a rest stop near Oakland, Oregon that looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale with vibrant greens, radiant yellows and blossoming reds.  Time had come to a standstill while we stood there, laughing like five year olds as we waltzed the empty paths around the field, enraptured by our momentary microcosm.

By the time we reached Mt.Ashland, it felt as though we’d experienced the brevity of all the seasons in just a few short hours.  First a cool breeze and sparse sunshine, blossoming into sunshowers and scattered clouds as we climbed our way into an indescribable winter wonderland.  Squealing like a schoolgirl that hadn’t seen snow more than a handful of times in her life, I pleaded with Danny to pull over at each and every turnout so we could embrace the snowfall, dance on the purity of the ground… and apparently have a snowball fight or two.

By sunset, we’d conquered Yreka and saw a beautiful orange and magenta shimmer off of snowcapped Mt.Shasta

We got to Menlo Park late that night, to wake up to the excitement of a stunning Saturday in the Bay Area.  It’d been forever since we’d had a day to just spend some time with my mother and I was beyond happy that she could host us for the weekend.  We spent the day gallivanting around the Bay Area to all my former stomping grounds – Strolling through Menlo Park, and into Atherton where my old High School was to grab lunch downtown at Le Boulanger, then into Palo Alto, Stanford Campus and my favorite hidden gem of a botanical garden. It was a whirlwind few days with a lot of driving and a ton of walking, but it felt great to stretch the limbs, expand the mind and really connect with my family and my fiance.

 

[Oh, Snap] A Holiday Stroll Through The Descanso Gardens

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As I’ve grown up over the years, the holidays have become less and less about the physical, tangible presents exchanged among family and friends, and in turn – more and more about the actual holiday presence of the same individuals.  I mean, sure – who doesn’t love a gift every now and again; especially if it’s heartfelt and / or handmade.  My parents are pros at both of those, but to this day I honestly still prefer long strolls and chatting them up to anything that money could actually buy. The other week, I was struck with an awkward work situation – I was going to be the big boss for a few days while my boss was out, but for the Friday and Monday after the holidays.  My original feelings were a hodgepodge of frustration, anger and sadness that I wouldn’t be able to spend the days with my parents, but instead of getting into a bind about it – we did a quick about face; for the first time since moving down to LA, they were finally going to visit me for the holidays and enjoy a crisp, clear Christmas in the City of Angels.

The crazy thing about living in East Los Angeles is that I’ve gone from being surrounded by city streets, skyrises and bustling public transportation into an area that’s a much slower pace of life, and where nature is seemingly more abundant, though in truth – maybe I’m finding it more frequently, because I’m looking for it more.  Over the last year, Danny and I’ve explored a plethora of parks and finally – we’re running out of Botanical Gardens to introduce ourselves to in the area; it’s a beautiful thing! After the local options are exhausted, we’re going to spend our weekends traveling – in search of the serenity that only nature can provide.  After tackling Griffith Park, The Huntington and The Arboretum – it was time to conquer the Descanso Gardens and I was stoked to bring my parents along for the ride.  Being a holiday, there were barely any people in the park which was nice – and for the record, the Descanso Gardens are only closed a few days of the year, Christmas Day being one of them.

After spending the early afternoon galavanting around and grabbing some quick and hunger quenching pizza at Blaze in Pasadena, we were off to Descanso – located right about where the 2 and the 210 meet in La Canada / Flintridge. Unlike the other gardens we’ve visited which were much more in the heart of the city and centrally located, Descanso is a little further out of range of the city and has the stunning landscape to prove it.  We started in the Japanese Garden and wound around to the Live Oaks Forest, the Camelias, a California Native Plant Garden and last but certainly not least, the wonderful Rose Garden.  But, that’s not to say we always stayed on the beaten path – we definitely jumped off a few times, hiked through the hills and stole a stunning view of the city.  Though there wasn’t as much color or variety as the other gardens we’ve been to (which, truthfully, could just be due to the time of year) – I really enjoyed strolling through and enjoying the forested areas.  The Descanso Gardens are perfect for a mid-week walk, artistic inspiration or a little reading on a beautiful day.

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[Oh, Snap!] An Afternoon at the Huntington Botanical Gardens

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Between my father and step mom being in town, and Danny’s mom heading down for the day – we’ve been inundated with family time, and it’s been perfect! Last night we went out on the town with my family, grabbed some sushi and enjoyed downtown Pasadena. Today, we thought we’d try something new so we cruised down to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens for a beautiful adventure.  Revered as one of the world’s epicenters for culture, research and education – the Huntington itself is a Non Profit institution founded by Henry Huntington back in 1919, almost a century ago.  During his lifetime, Huntington procured and collected an immense collection of art, classic and historical literature and my personal favorite – an assortment of botanical gardens from all over the world.  From the Australian outback to the Jungles, to Chinese and Japanese Gardens to the Rose and Herb Gardens, and with over 120 acres to the Huntington – there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

To start, we wound around to the Chinese Gardens to admire the lush vegetation, incredible architecture adorned with sacred geometry and the most delicious iced jasmine tea I’ve ever had the pleasure of slurping down.

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After spending an hour meandering through the Chinese Gardens, we waltzed down by the running river and into the Japanese Gardens, to find an area adorned with the most extensive assortment of bonsai trees I’ve seen in my entire 30 years of existence.  I swear, some of the trees were nearly a century old and so incredibly miniature!

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As we exited we were pulled into the canopies by the rose gardens while we caught our breath (it was almost 100 degrees out, mind you) and wouldn’t you know it but we stumbled right upon the full glory of their rose gardens, with so many different and beautiful hybrids.

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Finally, as we left four hours later we had to stop and smell – and eat! – the edible herb garden; I tasted a flower that tasted sweet and peppery – I so wish I remembered the name right now, but it was as beautiful as it was delicious.

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With the size of the Gardens themselves, here’s simply no way to see everything on the grounds but boy, did we ever try.  Do you have a favorite local botanical garden that you enjoy? Whether it’s in the Southern California region or across the globe, I’d love to get some ideas on other amazing botanical garden’s to fawn over.