At the start of the year Nathan and I spent two months in California travelling in our 1969 Econoline E Series van. It was in this very van that, two years ago, we drove through the Mexican border and down the Baja where we discovered the Baja Fish Taco that are now so popular in California. We thought it was about time we refreshed our memories! With a certain secret project underway this is the perfect place for some inspiration, new foodie discoveries and some time out. I was last in California 2 years ago and loved the vibes here. I’m not talking about the fast paced, traffic clogged towns of central LA but the relaxed, sultry sands of Laguna, Carlsbad, Santa Barbara and so on…
Although much of America survives heavily on consumerism, here people strive for freedom, nature and simplicity. My three favourite things.
The people walk at a slower pace. They smile more. Their skin is lightly bronzed and a slim figure is circumstantial to the cycling, surfing, jogging and yoga. The beach is the social meeting place of choice where people have breakfast and take out coffees. Local wine accompanies fresh seafood and vegan restaurants and juice bars far out number fast food joints . Dog walkers stroll barefoot and strangers stop to chat about the waves and where to find the best fish tacos. I’m. In. Heaven!
We found lots of grilled fish tacos which were refreshing yet filling. In America they use a lot of Tilapia which is a sustainable yet farmed fresh water fish. In San Francisco we tried the famous Clam Chowder. We were incredibly concerned by the amount of shell fish on offer here so i did some research into the sustainability to learn that many of the clams are farmed. However, although some restrictions have been implemented in the San Francisco Bay, this has only slowed the marine destruction rather than halted or reversed.
Californians appear to be naturally more concerned about the environment and where their food comes from. Fresh fruit, veggies, wine, seafood, avocados, coffee and eggs seem to be the mainstay of most diets.
It feels as if California should be a separate country in its own right. Its speaks a different language to the rest of America, especially on the coast. The central smog laden highways of California’s cities where McDonald’s and Jack in the box sneer at you over the concrete prisons left me feeling fearful and claustrophobic yet increased the intense, gratuitous feeling of relief I experienced when cruising into the palm lined esplanades of the coast. Although much of America survives heavily on consumerism, here people strive for freedom, nature and simplicity. My three favourite things.
During our first week we purchased two second-hand beach cruisers so we could see more, exercise and keep gas consumption as low as possible. After flying here and travelling in the van this is barely a small comfort to our conscious. Non the less we have spent much of our time filling my back pack and basket with fire wood, local fresh produce from *Trader Joes and cycling away to find the best lakeside, ocean side view to watch the sunset as the whales and dolphins pass the bay.
California is very accommodating for vanlife. The beaches provide cold showers and BBQ’s are found at any good Vista point. We paid $6 each to use the outdoor pubic pool and showers in Santa Barbara, they even have eco machines to spin dry your swim wear after use!
There appears to be no such thing as a bad Californian wine and if there is I am yet to try one. We are yet to have a hangover too!
Loma Linda of California is one the worlds Blue Zones. Research by the National Geographic suggest that this collection of long living souls is due to a high intake of nuts and plant-based foods, regular exercise, relaxation and a sense of purpose. On any patch of green on this West Coast stretch you will sure to find someone tight rope walking, juggling, practicing yoga, walking their parrot or teaching their toddler to skateboard. With no stress, no rush, nowhere to ‘be’, here the people just seem to live.
Things I will miss about California:
Macha Green Lattes
Grilled sustainable fish tacos
The warm weather (means more months of year outside)
The spacious (flat) cycle lanes
Grubby sand squirrels and geckos
Slow paced, simple life
The freedom and anonymity to do whatever you want and no one will bat an eyelid
Things I will not miss
The unavoidable and scary realisation of over aggressive consumption and production, especially of meat and seafood
Traffic and too many cars
Mass fast food
Although Americans are generally very friendly and helpful, coming here has made me realise how English I am. I like being ignored and being able to get out of the van or sitting on my own without being approached and asked ‘Hey, where you from’
Californian soundtrack and perfect background track!
*Trader Joe’s is a California store that goes straight to the producer and pays in cash. Nothing is branded. Little is processed and most produce is organic, fresh and local. When we came to America we were astounded by the astronomical food prices and were completely surprised to realise that Trader Joes that was cheaper than anywhere else and yet provided the BEST quality wholefoods!