California in Two Days

There are places we find pleasant and enjoy visiting, and there are others that touch our soul. The South Bay area of southern California is such a place for me. South Bay is defined geographically as the area between El Segundo down the Pacific Coast Highway, as far south as  San Pedro, on the southern end of the Santa Monica Bay.  I’d been tasked over the last 6 years to visit for my job. For all of the stressful work days, my ultimate reward was finding this area, and the gift to be able to explore it.

It had been several months since I’d visited and was glad to be back. I resided for two short nights at the Portofino Hotel and Marina. www.hotelportofino.com. This boutique hotel sits on an outcropping of land between the pacific ocean and King Harbor in Redondo Beach. I’ve stayed here many times, and each time I’m filled with wonder as if I’ve stepped into a daydream. Walking into the lobby, your line of sight is filled with what is called “the living room.”  Soaring ceilings, a fireplace that is always lit, dreamy colors in various seaglass hues, are a warm hug to the travel weary corporate soldier. A diamond patterned wall treatment with lighting gives the effect of living inside a jewelry box. I’ve spent many an evening curled up in the cushioned window seat, with the cool pacific breeze blowing through the open windows.

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Just down the ornate hallway, was my cozy room. A mix of sunny and nautical colors and decorative mouldings and textures make the rooms feel opulent and sweet at the same time. Graceful. One of the real reasons I come back, time after time, is to experience the very vocal neighbors just over the sea wall…the sea lions. The Portofino embraces their relationship, and the beds are dressed with not only comfy pillows but a sea lion stuffed animal, available for purchase, with a portion going to an organization that benefits the sea lions. I immediately change clothes and slip into their white, plush robe and sit on my little balcony and watch the sea and listen to the serenade from my barking and croaking friends out in the water. Truly, there is nothing more gorgeous than  a sunset over the pacific ocean.  This time around, it was raining and the sky was grey and mercurial, which made the landscape very dramatic.

While I am there for work and not much play, I maximize my off hours with wonderful experiences. “Thumbnails,” I’ve dubbed them. During my expedited trip this time around, I caught an early dinner at Kincaid’s www.kincaids.com  on the pier, in Redondo Beach. I was spoiled with clams and calamari and their basil gimlet which I would equate to a spa treatment. The herby goodness of the basil assails the senses, and the seafoam color of the cocktail evoke a zen feeling after a long travel day of late flights and long hours.

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My co-worker and I went to Baleen Kitchen for a nightcap to warm up…. The weather being a little blustery. Baleen Kitchen is the Portofino Hotel’s restaurant and lounge. It is  a mix of funky lounge music, dark wood accents, light fabrics, Plush wing backed chairs and another roaring fire. We immediately grabbed the vacant wing-backed chairs that flank the fireplace, and had a fireside business chat over Irish coffee. A perfect ending to the evening and a short walk across the driveway to the hotel.

We began our next day at Baleen, as well, with breakfast overlooking King Harbor. One of the most relaxing ways to start a day. Just watching the water from a window side table, and the play of light from the cloudy sky is a meditation in itself. I ate hard poached eggs over arugula. A simple, delicious pleasure.

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right-oneWe repeated our second day and evening routines, with the addition of a dinner in Los Alamitos, www.originalfishcompany.com with our vendor, and I greedily ate a bowl of Prince Edward Island Mussels, with more bread than I care to confess!!

I drove back to the Portofino and on the walk back from the car, spotted three sea lions in the harbor and stood there for a while, making croaking and barking sounds back at them. We’d communicated! The translation was – thank you for visiting us, you must come back, darling! I will gladly oblige my sweet marine bound friends. This place has a piece of my heart and it always feels like home.

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As I do every time I visit, on the way to the airport, I don’t take the freeway or the main roads. I drive up the coast through Hermosa Beach, to Manhattan Beach, and pull over and snap pictures of the most picturesque pier. I take five minutes to reflect on the beauty of the pacific and the interesting mix of life in my small slice of California. Until next time, my South Bay!
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