Thursday, Sep. 25, 2008

Santa Ynez Valley

Drive north two hours from L.A. for wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley, like they did in the movie Sideways. The restaurants in San Luis Obispo have gotten pretty good, and the wine — while not cheap — has gotten great. Eat at the Hitching Post II (just like in the movie) in Buellton and visit the beautiful Bridlewood Estate Winery. If you want a splurge, pick up a bottle of Whitcraft lagrein or Sea Smoke pinot noir.

On the way back, stop by Santa Barbara. It's a cute little beach town with rich people and a taco stand, La Super-Rica Taqueria, that was one of Julia Child's favorite restaurants.


Let's say you get sick of the plastic people and fake happiness of L.A. The obvious solution is to go to Disneyland. When you get back, L.A. will look as gritty as a Raymond Carver novel. If you go at the right time, the drive to Anaheim might take less time than the line for the tea cups ride. Though no one does it, there's also the option of using public transportation: You can actually take the train to Anaheim or Fullerton right from Union Station.

Joshua Tree National Park

Just south of L.A. near Palm Springs, the desert becomes one endless U2 album cover. Sure, it's just a collection of sad little cactuses, but it's as vast as the ocean, stretching out in every direction — it's the American version of Ayer's Rock. You can rent a house near Joshua Tree, such as JT Rockhouse (928-814-4552), and look at the stars and feel tiny. Also, you can probably get laid.

If you've already made the 140-mile drive from L.A., you may as well pit stop in Palm Springs on the way back. Yes, it's a little gay even if you're gay, a little old even if you're old, and a little golfy even if you're into golf. But in the last few years, the desert, as we call it, has gotten cooler restaurants, bars, hotels and spas.