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Dottie Simione

Fairfield, New Jersey Travel Agent

The Many Worlds of California

One of my favorite trips was traveling along the California Coast. Each area was truly a destination in itself. I started in Los Angeles. Since I love the entertainment industry, I enjoyed exploring Hollywood and Universal Studios, and I spent a day at Disneyland. It was also amazing to drive around Beverly Hills and see all the mansions and ritzy shops.

As I headed north, the personality and ambiance changed. Santa Barbara is beautiful in a very different way. I loved the red tiled roofs of the town with the mountains in the background. One of the most memorable spots was the Santa Barbara Mission. Still an active church, it was founded by Spanish missionaries in the 18th century and its museum gives you a sense of what life was like in those early days. 

The coast was beautiful and changing all the way. In some places, the Pacific Ocean was angry and raging against the cliffs; in others, it was gentle, calm and inviting. I’m most fascinated by wildlife, and from whale watching to bird watching, there was a lot to see. 

A highlight for me was visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best in the world. The exhibits are wonderful and you can watch sea otters play with toys, African penguins being fed, and seabirds hopping along the sand in the aviary. I spent a lot of time there and enjoyed it immensely. 

I also took a boat tour and we saw a pod of Orcas, great white sharks and my favorite, sea otters. They’re very playful and smart and we watched them in the ocean, on their backs, cracking open clamshells with a rock. To me, it’s fascinating that they are smart enough to use a tool like that. We also saw a colony of seals in an enormous kelp forest where they like to swim and play.  They reminded me of little puppies playing. It is amazing to see nature that way!

Even if you’re not into sea life, the landscapes are incredible. Big Sur was breathtaking and the Napa and Sonoma Valley wine-growing areas rival anything in Europe for beauty and flavor. 

Traveling through California underlined the fact that you don’t have to go overseas to have a thrilling voyage.  California is a top choice, but without leaving the U.S., you can enjoy the history of Charleston and Savannah, the music of New Orleans, Nashville and Austin, the scenic beauty and charm of upstate New York and New England, and so much more!