Sunday, March 23, 2014

California Here We Come

Our much anticipated trip to California came and went. My friend Sharmi and I were the chaperones for my 7 exchange students from Finland, Germany, Norway, Spain, and Brazil. We showed them the time of their lives! (and we had a lot of fun in the process)
Here are the highlights:
Day 2: Universal Studios, Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, and Hollywood Walk of Fame
The students got a real flava of L.A.  when our GPS took us right through the heart of the city. Once at the park, we enjoyed learning about and seeing where many of our favorite TV shows and movies were made-- like The Voice, Parenthood,  and Spiderman. Besides the studio tour, my favorite was surprisingly, the Simpsons. The park was beautiful and the weather was PERFECTO which added to a wonderful day. We took advantage of the single rider lines and walked on most of the rides. The only thorn to this rose was that I left my camera on the hook of the bathroom stall. When I went back to find it it was gone and it hasn't been returned since!  Losing my camera was like losing one of my organs --and at the beginning of the trip!  On the other hand, it was kind of nice not to be taking pictures all the time. For a change, I was in some!
After a full day of entertainment we dined at Hard Rock Cafe. Next it was off  for a short drive to see the stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
We parked at the Highland Center, where we shopped and found the biggest candy store we had ever seen. We strolled along Hollywood Boulevard. We didn't see anyone famous, but we got a few pictures their stars and that was close enough.

Day 3: Whales, Dolphins, and Sea Lions
 Off to  Newport Beach for a 2 hour whale watching cruise. The boat almost left without a couple of our students who got sidetracked in the stores. We saw followed 3 grey whales as they migrated down the coast. We also spotted a few dolphins and a buoy full of sunning sea lions.
After our little cruise, we shopped around Balboa, shared fish and chips, and relaxed on the pier while savoring a chocolate-coated nut-studded "Balboa bar."  The teens enjoyed the beach.

We stayed at the same hotel every night, centrally located to our activities, in Long Beach. We had 3 rooms: one for the girls, one for the boys, and one for the adults. The kids used the pool and hot tub most nights and we were grateful to start each day with the hotel's free breakfast.

On the way home from our whale watching day we were supposed to be heading North but we were actually heading South. It took us a bit to realize that --like for example when we passed Fashion Island Mall. It turned out to be a good thing because the traffic was a bear!  Even though we all looked like beach bums by this point, we decided to spend the next couple of hours having dinner and roaming the mall. We had a great dinner at PF Changs. The Spanish girls took off in hysterics when they found a soccer star from their home country. I'm not sure if they got a photo with him or not but their excitement was in and of itself entertaining for the rest of us.

DAY 4: Triple Beach Combination

 Sharmi and I snuck away for an early morning walk and to watch the sunrise at nearby Seal Beach. We called it  "coordinator training" and it was very successful!

Each day was started with morning prayer given by one of the students. We had prayers in Norwegian, German, and the rest chose to say it in English.   As a supervisor for these students and driver, I was grateful for these prayers!! I know they helped keep us safe and have a good time.

After breakfast we loaded up the kids and went to Huntington Beach. The sun was shining, making the water crystal blue. It was a perfect day to spend at the beach.  Activities abounded from beach volleyball to swimming to shell collecting to just soaking up the sun.  Sharmi and I discovered the farmers market.  We all met back up and had a fantastic lunch at Ruby's on the pier. Florian tried his luck and put in a quarter at the gumball machine. Out came a red gumball, winning him a classic American root beer float!

Sharmi and I explored the tidepools at Corona del Mar. We saw anenomes and crabs. Back at Huntington the kids layed out. They were really intent on getting a natural tan before prom.

Day 5: Six Flags/Magic Mountain

Finally! The most anticipated day of all. We ended the trip with a bang at Six Flags. Off-season the park is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. After our visit I wish they would open more days! It was uber crowded. It think the whole world was on Spring Break. We got on a few good rides before wait times for the most popular rides reached 3 hours!! Despite the long lines the rides were amazing. I have never been more thrilled in my life! We went on the world's fastest roller coaster, the tallest free-fall, and other death defying rides. We took a little break for shakes at Cold Stone and the crowds had died down a bit. We only had to wait 1 1/2 hours for the best roller coaster I will ever experience in my life: X2. Wow!! That actually was definitely worth the wait! 

My favorite Brazilian.

Besides losing my camera, the only lows of the trip were the days coming and leaving. The rental agency in St. George where we were supposed to pick up our big passenger van did not have our van!!!???!!!  There weren't any available around anywhere in the city and the worst was they didn't even want to do anything to fix the problem!  After 4 hours of haggling and trying to get a hold of supervisors we had no choice but to go in 2 separate cars.  We arrived in CA much later than anticipated.

On the way home our 4 pm Utah arrival time was stymied by a huge accident in the Arizona Gorge. A semi had smashed a car into the side railing  and the accident had I-15 backed up for miles!!!  Sharmi's car was stuck way up in the gorge only 10 cars behind the accident!. My car was right at the entry of the gorge and right next to the police ramp that crossed over to the South bound freeway.  We were at a complete standstill, giving our Norwegian girl a chance to sit down on the freeway and paint her toe nails.   Phone service in the gorge was bad to non-existent. I was able to hear something from Sharmi telling me to turn around and take the Old Highway that goes the back way into St. George. I piled the kids back in the car, and we turned off and headed south where luckily I found an exit sign for Beaver Dam Highway, St. George 25 miles. Phew!  We didn't know how much time it would take the other car to be able to get through--probably hours. We drove past Anasazi Ruins where I had just hiked a couple of weeks prior and decided to spend our time there until we could hear back from the others. We also passed an Indian Reservation and stopped to check out a primitive looking cemetery. The "sacred Indian burial site" was fascinating for the European students!  Eventually the other car was able to turn around and catch up with us for dinner at Costa Vida.  We returned out rental cars, picked up our own cars and finally got home at 11 pm!

A picture of the accident taken by our other car load that put I-15 in a standstill for 5 hours.
The students handled the few setbacks very well. They were just happy to be together! We had an overall awesome trip and the very best part was getting to know really well these wonderful kids from around the world!!

1 comment:

cold cocoa said...

Wow, Laura! You sure know how to find a good time! Glad you got in some more adventures this year.