Thursday, November 03, 2016


[Kyle]We were up for what seemed like an unfairly early requirement to vacate our mooring by 8:00. The sun only came up at 7:15. All right. Well, it's not like we had anything else we wanted to do.

We had a nice downwind sail along the southwestern side of the island and were at Avalon harbor a few hours later.

{Maryanne:I was not familiar with Avalon, nor did I have any idea what to expect. Being so close to Los Angeles (and Hollywood) it was developed as an Island get away for folks on the mainland, and quickly became somewhere the rich and famous visited and generally mixed well with other visitors (movie stars, Winston Churchill and many others - Marilyn Monroe even lived here for a year before she even contemplated becoming an actress). And the place totally looks the part, it is stunningly beautiful.}

Once we were secured, we discovered a bunch of little issues that seemed like they would be better addressed sooner than later. By the time we were done with those, both we and the light were starting to fade. We decided to stay aboard and deal with the dinghy tomorrow. In the meantime, just outside, we had a view of Avalon. Unlike Isthmus, Avalon was dripping with charm. It looks so much like a little Mediterranean village that every now and then, we would forget we were still in California.

First views of Avalon from our mooring

The next morning, I went out to ready the dinghy for the trip ashore when I looked out to sea and saw a giant cruise ship anchored outside the harbor. Oh no! Cruise Ship Day! So many times, we have seen charming little villages turned to overcrowded and overpriced bazaars on Cruise Ship Day. Sighting the ship makes us feel like what people who work feel when they realize it's Monday.

First day exploring the waterfront of this beautiful town

It wasn't actually so bad. Instead of increasing ten fold, Avalon's population temporarily went up maybe 30%, which it seems pretty well equipped to handle. We wandered around, looking at shops and restaurants. The triple rule seems to be in effect here as well. We know a way around that: Don't buy anything (okay, not much). We walked all over the place, taking in the view from one side of town and then the next. We found an outdoor restaurant with THE perfect atmosphere and decided we would take the opportunity to try the island's signature cocktail, Buffalo Milk. Buffalo Milk contains no buffalo products, but instead is basically a White Russian with whipped cream on top. It looks like a frappuccino, only with kick. Somebody nearby got nachos and we decided to add that as well. It was a perfect spot for one of those "life is good" moments as we watched the surf lap the beach below. {Maryanne: Prices were really not that bad, about right for waterfront dining in California - but still more than we generally like to spend - poor Kyle}

The beach club was one of the many stunning places to hang out

We followed that with a walk out of town to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens. The memorial was impressive and the gardens were really well done. All of the plants were of types suitable for the arid climate and it was especially interesting to see examples of species that are only found on Santa Catalina. Many are a convenient bench height, like the barrel cactus, but almost none seem to be good for sitting.

A walk to the outskirts of town, and then on to the Botanical Garden - where Kyle was keen to inspect the prickly things.

On the way home, we stopped in the local grocery store for a few items of which we were running low. There, my suspicions about the triple conspiracy were strengthened. Cruise ship passengers don't need groceries. People who live here need groceries. Groceries here are NOT triple. They cost the same as everywhere else we've been in California. Ah, ha!!! Busted.

I suspect the same is not true of real estate.

The ship left at the end of the day and we had the whole place to ourselves and those other twenty people again. We enjoyed an inexpensive dinner made with Catalina-bought groceries with the lights of the town as a backdrop.

There was no cruise ship blocking the sunrise the next morning, so we took in a few attractions.

First was a snorkel around Lover's Cove. The visibility was pretty good. We saw lots of fish species, most of whom were so tame, they were happy to follow us around. There was some kelp and a lot of sea grass, but strangely no stars or anemones. We were also secretly hoping to see a few sea lions frolicking around, but they were elsewhere. We would have stayed a while, waiting for them, but even in our wetsuits (thanks, Mom!), we were starting to get chilly. California water is cold, Man!

A snorkel in Lover's cove

We went back to Begonia, dried off and headed back to shore for a tour of the Casino, which is not a gambling casino, but instead just a really big entertainment venue, maintained in its original 1920s glory. It reminded us of other grand theaters like the Paramount in Oakland and Radio City Music Hall in NY. On the tour, though, we learned that we had it backwards, Radio City was built using inspiration from the Casino. Cool. The Casino is split into two main areas, a giant theater below and the world's largest uninterrupted circular ballroom above. Back in the day, Avalon used to be huge on the big band circuit. I couldn't resist swinging Maryanne around a few times in the middle of that giant floor.

A behind the scenes tour of the 'Casino' at Avalon

From there, we went to the island's museum, where we learned a lot that we didn't know about its star-studded history.

We decided we had done plenty of exercise for the day, so we would treat ourselves to a meal out. We paid for a very nice meal at a romantic restaurant. What we got us a pretty good pizza and a couple of beers at a hole-in-in-the-wall with lots of character called Antonio's. It was still romantic, though, because I was with Maryanne and we were in freakin' Avalon!

The next morning was beautiful and clear. I went outside to admire the orangey light on the town and noticed another cruise ship. Uh, oh. We didn't have much to do ashore, so we got out early. We managed to get all showered and were enjoying a nice breakfast ice cream when we intercepted the first wave of people from the ship. We were then ready to get back to Begonia to prepare for departure while enjoying the entertaining chaos ashore from a peaceful distance.

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