My lovely MCB had been planning (aka stressing about) the perfect Valentine's weekend for the past couple months. He's a romantic at heart, and while I haven't particularly paid too much attention to the day in years past, he happens to love doing nice things on this day. Since I find myself happily in a relationship, I was more than happy to let myself enjoy whatever it is that he had planned. It's not hard when he always does such good things for me.
He can't really keep a secret very well and always demands to know upfront when I tell him I have a surprise for him, but he did a pretty good job, except for the part where he hinted about going on a helicopter back in January. More on that later.
We try to see each other about every 3 weeks and decided during Southwest's fall sale that we were content to celebrate belatedly on the last weekend of February, which turned out to be a good idea. The actual day is always overcrowded and overpriced anyway. Not to mention LA traffic.
I flew in Thursday night and we did the usual - sushi in the neighborhood. While walking back home, we passed a nail salon with window decorations, run by Asians, of course. Josh mentioned that it was a little early to be celebrating Easter, and I had to laugh. Chinese New Year - Year of the Rabbit, duh!
lovely lady. I kicked it around Santa Monica until 5, when MCB's work happy hour starts. I went upstairs and met the whole office - they're quite the rowdy fun bunch. We had a relatively quiet night in since the weather was poor, it was kind of cold, and we had a big day ahead. I made really easy Chicken and Dumplings and got a good night's rest. All I knew was we need to be out the door by 11am.
Once we started driving south, I sort of had an inkling where we were going, and I was right. Down into Long Beach, to the Catalina ferry. I'd never been out that way, though every time I'm in California and it's a clear day, I always make sure to look over at Catalina! The ferry takes just over an hour, and once we were settled into our seats, the captain pointed out that there were four-foot waves with three-foot chop on top, and we'd best stay seated. Uh oh. My poor stomach almost didn't make it, and the crew was passing out bags to some people. As long as I didn't look outside and got distracted in conversation, I was okay.
Finally, we made it! Avalon is a picturesque little town with houses on the hills and no traffic other than golf carts. It's certainly a different way of living. Oh, except as soon as we got there, I got out my camera to capture it all, and the battery was completely dead, despite charging it all night. Cell phone pics to the rescue.
The water around the island is pretty clear, and it was overrun with scuba divers. I guess that's the thing to do, unless you're golfing or bird watching.
I tried sitting on the bottom in the middle (smaller range of motion), but in the end just had to put my head down and not look at the wildly fluctuating horizon. Barf bags all around, some people had to use them, and I was thankful to get off the boat. MCB apparently has a stomach of steel.
Finally after a drive though the Long Beach airport, we wound our way around and ended up at - you guessed it - LA Helicopter. Whoa! I started getting nervous. My fear of flying has gotten worse as I've gotten older, and getting into a tiny capsule on a really windy day in an apparatus that's tough to fly was a little scary. We walked in, met the pilot, and he looked like he was about 21 years old. Maybe I grilled him a bit, but after hearing that this has been his full time job for the last 4 years, I felt okay.
After a quick safety briefing and waiver signing, we walked outside and got into this helicopter:
Finally we were ready to take off. It was just like THE FUTURE - like we were in this hovercraft car. We barely came off the ground and kind of glided around into this gradual ascent. And before I knew it, I was loving it. It's really, really cool. We headed out towards the water as the sun was going down (darn clouds were in the way), the wind wasn't bad at all, and we glided up the coast.
Even though the day was awesome so far, it still wasn't over! MCB had one more trick up his sleeve. We drove home and changed clothes, since we were about to explore some fine dining at Valentino.
This place is posh. The Yelp atmosphere description says 'power broker,' and you could definitely imagine some A-list stars meeting with agents here. The waiters are all older Italian men, slightly fussy, and running around like busy madmen. The man next to us (celebrating his anniversary with his wife who didn't say a word all night) schmoozed his way into his neighbor's conversation, taking pictures with the granddaughter for her birthday and passing out business cards. He wouldn't shut up.
We opted for the 4-course menu - I had a lamb prosciutto with salad and a citrus dressing to start, an amazing asparagus and leek risotto, and beef tenderloin for dinner. I think MCB started with a seafood salad and ended with the octopus. I tried it, despite my texture issues. Actually pretty tasty. Dessert was a trio of small dessert, a strawberry sorbet, a coffee flan (ugh), and a chocolate dish that was great.
I crashed hard that night, after such a long day of awesomeness. Pretty much the best V-day I've ever had, and I know how lucky I am. Best part is, MCB got to do all of this with me - and his efforts certainly paid off. I'm kinda smitten :)