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From Fort Lauderdale we make a quick stop-over in Dallas, as we’ve stored some non-essentials with the Hillsabecks (In addition, Katrina kindly bought our ski gear over from Australia earlier in the year and had it sent to Dallas).

It was very quick hello to Ang (Chris was away on business), as we arrived, repacked everything into as few bags as possible and left very early again the next morning.

We are very lucky to have Chris and Ang in Dallas; it has been a great jumping-off point for our travels in America.

Our next destination is LA and we have a guest joining us for three days – Jamie.

Jamie is an ex-work colleague and golf pal of Don’s. The three of us have been traveling companions before – we go back to the very first OS holiday I took with Don, which was in 2005.

I joined Don and Jamie on a three week trip around Ireland and Scotland. Yes, it did include golf and it culminated with spending a few days at the British Open in St Andrews.

Looking back now and understanding the ritualist tribal rights that surround the lads and their golf trips, I can’t believe I was invited. I think the only reason I got a gig was because Michael and Dianne also joined us at The Open, so I wasn’t the only female.

Anyway, back to 2015…. Arriving in LA and we are informed that Jamie’s flight is delayed a few hours, so we go and collect the rental car. On the advice of the rental agent we head to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House at Manhattan Beach for breakfast.

It’s January, the middle of winter, and LA feels like a balmy Melbourne day. It must be about 21-22’C, people are enjoying the outdoors; surfing, cycling and rollerblading along the beach promendade.

Jamie finally arrives and we collect him from the car rental location.

A little tip – over the years we have often used the rental location as a meeting place. Much easier than navigating airports, especially with security these days.

Most major airports around the world have car rental locations off-site and provide free shuttles. I’ve never been cheeky enough to pick someone up from a car rental I’m not using, but it’s probably possible!

With Jamie on board we head north out of LA, arriving at Ventura early afternoon.

We found a reasonable last-minute price for The Holiday Inn overlooking the Harbour, providing wonderful sunset views.

wpid-sideways-winery-map.gifHave you see the movie Sideways? If not, we highly recommend it.

The ‘Sideways Effect’ is folklore in the wine industry. A derogative comment about Merlot in the movie claims to have bolstered the sales of Pinot Noir and stymed Merlo; though there is much debate as to the truth in this.

Regardless, it put the Santa Barbara wine region on the wine tourist map.

We follow the ‘Sideways Wine Route’ stopping off at some of the highlights in the movie – not looking as good in real life!

We visited a couple of wineries en route, but generally the tasting rooms cluster in the towns, such as Los Olivos.

Wine tasting in the US is run a little differently than at home as there was always an upfront tasting fee (although this is happeing more in Australia). I don’t have an issue with this, as it’s generally deducted from a purchase, if you make one (and, we always seem to make one).

However, the US tasting fees were $10-$15 per person (so we shared) and only deducted if you bought a case of wine, not just a bottle. This could turn into a very expensive day!

Heading back to Santa Barbara we stop off at Cold Spring Tavern, which opened in 1865, an historic stop on the old stage coach route.

Our hosts for the night are Martha and Doug, friends of Ann and Bob. Martha is a talented watercolourist and has some fantastic pieces throughout their home.

Doug is full of intriguing facts; he works with a think-tank on predictability of events, which provided endless topics of conversation.

Doug also makes an excellent coffee at breakfast, blending various coffee varieties.

We had a wonderful night with Martha and Doug, such generous and lovely people.

Our stay in Santa Barbara is brief, as Jamie is flying out to Orlando for a work conference and we need to get him back to LA for his flight.

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The following day we are heading to San Diego. On the way we catch-up with Jean, Lisel and their son Jesse, at Newport Beach. Don worked with Jean in a past life and they are now living in LA.

Don comes down with ‘man-flu’ in San Diego (really it was just a cold), so we took it easy for a few days. Whilst San Diego was a nice town, one of the main reasons you’d go is for the zoo.

We had a fun day at San Diego Zoo. Though I’d much prefer to see wildlife as just that – wild, this zoo plays an important role in protecting rare and endangered species and is one of the largest zoological research centres in the world.

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