California beach

Pull Over And Have An Adventure | California Photography by Rachel Abrahams

Before going to California, the number one question I was asked was "Are you planning on driving the Pacific Coastal Highway?". I was told repeatedly how it is beautiful and definitely worth taking the extra time to drive it. We decided to drive it from Los Angeles to San Francisco and it was absolutely worth every minute of it. Some parts were isolated, other parts were nerve wracking (high cliffs and teeny weeny ledges for the car), and almost all of it was gorgeous. We didn't have a detailed plan other than wanting to be at a certain point before sunset so we took full advantage of stopping wherever we saw beautiful sights. My husband was fantastic and kept scouting great photography locations to explore.

Not too long into the drive, we came upon this beach. It was isolated and there was only one other car there so we pulled over to explore. There was a large drop off from the road down to the sand and without my husband's assistance (both down and up the drop off), I never would have been able to get down onto the beach to explore. It had everything you expect from a beach on the Pacific Ocean - rocks, huge piles of seaweed, driftwood, and the water was so COLD. Not like Florida ocean water - this was wet suit required cold water. Plus, I'm a big (Floridian) wuss when it comes to cold water.

I am proud of the fact I was running around in capris and flip-flops while it was 50 degrees on the beach. That didn't bother me. Swimming in it would.

It was so lovely to be on this beach, scouring for treasures, with no one really around. The wind was blustery and the sun was strong. This situation was an example of something I read once that said to take pictures no matter what the light is like. As photographers, it is repeated over and over to us to always take photos in the best light - which is typically around sunrise and sunset. Well, I didn't have that option and had to work with the sun light directly over the water and the ocean reflecting it like a huge mirror onto my camera. The article was right - just take the photos. Don't miss out just because the light isn't perfect.

My favorite aspect of traveling is seeing how different things are where you visit and I could not get over how FLUFFY the seagulls were in California. Are they seeing some specialty bird hairdresser we don't have in Florida? Maybe it's all the celebrity beauty treatments and some weird seagull keratin feather treatment? These guys actually looked cuddly. Of course, I still can't stand birds so they didn't look cuddly enough to actually try to get near one. The day that happens, the people close to me know it's time to check me in for old-timer's disease or senility. I've tried but birds and I don't mix. Trust me.

Although it felt really isolated in this nook of a beach there were two houses within view. I cannot even imagine what a gorgeous vantage point they have every day. I waved in their direction in case anyone happened to see this little redheaded hobbit climbing around the rocks like an idiot. If someone did see me, I guarantee they were placing bets on me falling. FYI - I didn't. Well, I nearly did trying to climb back up the drop-off to the road. Hubby saved me though so it doesn't count.

What's the best place you discovered while meandering off the beaten path? Would you (or have you) dare(d) to swim in the arctic cold of the Pacific Ocean waters without a wet suit? Am I the only one who isn't a fan of birds?

Mesmerizing Lights of Santa Monica Pier | California Photography by Rachel Abrahams

California - Santa Monica Pier - Ferris Wheel and Beach by Aspiring Images by Rachel

We arrived in Santa Monica, California at night, checked into our hotel, got ourselves settled into the room, and then we crossed the street to visit the Santa Monica Pier. Yup, our hotel was across the street from the beach (jealous?!?). It was late at night and quite cold, for California, so we knew the pier wouldn't really have a lot of activity going on but I still wanted to visit it and say I'd been there. We walked all the way to the end of the pier and, since everything was closed and it was nighttime, it was hard to deny the true star of the show was the Ferris wheel and its' mesmerizing and ever changing light show. The Ferris wheel was closed but I knew if it were open I'd still be too chicken to go up there. The idea of the open air and swinging seat - yeah, that's not my idea of fun at all. Nope.

Walking the pier also allowed me to see the famous California beach where the sand goes on and on forever until it finally hits the water. Our beaches in Florida typically are very short from water to shoreline so this was amazing to see. I could see small crowds of people hanging out on the beach and, despite being so far over the water, we could hear someone singing warm-up scales on the beach. The singing was carrying over the water right up to the end of the pier.

My other favorite was turning the corner to find a guy walking up a set of stairs, upside down, in a hand stand. He had the air of "weirdo" all about him so I tried not to make eye contact (because I have a really really far too strong weirdo magnet) when he was right side up as I knew if I did I'd be sucked into some conversation that wouldn't be too far from wearing a tin foil hat. I did, however, watch to see if he'd fall down the stairs. No luck.

I was proven right in my avoidance when hand-stand-man chose to "parkour" his way back up the pier by doing pull-ups on awnings, jumping on/over posts, flipping around the boardwalk, and eventually making his way back to the beginning of the pier (while ensuring full t-shirtless viewing along the way). Since there weren't a lot of people on the pier, he provided quite a bit of entertainment but also managed to get in the way quite often of those of us walking in a straight forward path, like normal people. I did enjoy seeing him run and try to climb up the streetlight pole while waiting for the crosswalk sign to flash. However, he didn't do anything exciting while actually crossing the street. Bummer.

Do you remember what movie Zoltar starred in? What is the best place you've found to do nighttime people watching? Are you a wimp, like me, who is too scared to go up in a Ferris wheel? Or am I just a big baby? Any other parkour enthusiasts out there?