Tag Archives: friends

Love in the Desert

I’m kind of obsessed with the desert.

Ever since I was a little girl growing up on the east coast — where winters meant trudging through blackened city slush and summers enduring swarms of blood-thirsty mosquitoes — National Geographic images of saffron-hued desert landscapes like Canyon de Chelly and Arches National Park were my own version of celestially illuminated fluffy clouds.

There’s something supremely mystical to me about the juxtaposition of electric blue skies, saturated sunlight, dramatic geologic formations and arid earth  — and the flora and fauna badass enough to make such a seemingly inhospitable environment home.  And let’s not forget the exceptional hair weather.

Southwestern Utah

Over the years, I’ve made pilgrimages to desert wonderlands across North America.

Joshua Tree National Park

I’ve hiked amongst the otherworldly stalagmites of Bryce Canyon and stood 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley.  I’ve delicately run my fingertips along the smooth, water-carved canyon walls of Zion National Park and marveled at the magnificence of saguaro and cardón cacti in southern Arizona and Baja California Sur.  I’ve spent many blissful days frolicking on boulders amidst Joshua trees, and cavorting in the playland that is Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

A Twilight Tequila Ride, Burning Man 2010 (photo by Caroline Florence)


A Magical Sunrise Moment (photo by Shawn Bisi)

My most recent journey to the desert, however, was a little more — um —civilized.

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells Tennis Garden

It had been decades since I last sat in the stands of a professional tennis tournament, so I was especially grateful when my dear college friends whom I had not seen in two years and their family (scattered between Hawaii, New York and San Diego) invited me to join them at the BNP Paribas Open.

Just over two hours east of Venice, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden seemed a world away.  The chilly coastal morning air that had fogged my car windows soon gave way to the unrelenting Mojave Desert sun.  By the time I had picked my ticket up at the will call booth and joyously hugged Barb and Ian, it was hot — sunscreen-and-sweat-stinging-your-eyeballs hot — which made the snow-covered peaks in the background all the more spectacular.

Sitting Courtside, Feeling Sun and Seeing Snow

And then there’s the world-class tennis.

Roger Federer v. Juan Ignacio Chela

Held every March since 1979 (under a variety of sponsorship-related names), the BNP Paribas Open is one of professional tennis’ most prestigious tournaments, after the four Grand Slams (the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open).  Despite the Williams sisters’ famous boycott (10 years and counting) over alleged racial slurs, the tournament remains — aside from the Grand Slams — the most widely attended in the world.

Dotted around stadium grounds replete with international cuisine food stands, bars, live music and a tree-shaded grassy respite, the courts were easily accessible and full of fans.

Center Court Fans

By day, we sat — completely schvitzing — around center court, watching Kim Clijsters battle it out with Marion Bartoli before retiring with a shoulder injury, and Roger Federer gracing the court while handily defeating Juan Ignacio Chela.

Beautiful Barb

And Her Handsome Husband, Ian

As the welcome air of evening arrived, we sat mere meters away from Jelena Jankovic, Anastasia Pavylyuchenkova, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko as they played a lively — and remarkably vociferous — game of doubles.  (Let’s just say I may have blushed the first time I heard Azarenka pummel a forehand.)

Jelena Jankovic Serving One Up

And somewhere in between, we took a break and cooled down.

Vodka & Lemonade vs. Gin & Tonic

Most importantly, we talked and laughed and spent some precious, long overdue time catching up on each other’s lives.

And as we walked briskly back to the car with the promise of a delicious dinner ahead, I knew there was a lot of love flowing that day in the desert — both on and off the court.



Filed under Friends, Sports

Spring Awakening

Bears do it.  So do ground squirrels and marsupials.  Even the western diamondback rattler makes a habit of it.

Hibernating, that is.

And apparently, so do I.

(I, however, was buried in the madness of moving, working, and studying — not the earthy hollow of a winter’s den.)

But now that the Southern California sun seems to have eclipsed the cloudy skies and cold rains, I figured that the arrival of March meant it was high time for me to emerge and pick up my Local Gypsy adventures where I last left them.

And I could think of no more appropriate way to mark this rebirth than by a daytime frolic in the Santa Monica Mountains, with vivacious friends and an abundance of wine.

Did I mention wine?

While Malibu’s wineries may not revel in the international acclaim of Napa Valley or Hollywood’s halo illuminating Santa Barbara (think Sideways), its Los Angeles County terroirs are blessed with microclimate conditions conducive to quality cultivation of this sacred vine.

So, on an unseasonably warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, three lovely ladies who define spectacular — Courtney, Naz and Stephanie — and I piled into my road trip-hungry Subaru Outback.  We headed north up the PCH to take in the sparkling Pacific Ocean and soak up some local sacrament.

Welcome to Malibu

After thirty or so profoundly colorful minutes trading stories of our latest love interests and dating debacles, professional pursuits and international journeys, we made the strategic call to preemptively fill our bellies with something other than sulfites.  We pulled over at Coogie’s Beach Café and ordered a peculiarly random assortment of dishes, including an artichoke and brilliantly crisped sweet potato fries.

And while each of the four of us was equally eager to begin the bacchanalia, trust me when I say that, collectively, we have a magnificent ability to talk…and laugh…and eat…and talk…and laugh…

Before we knew it, 4:45 p.m. had arrived.  And the last tasting at Malibu Wines was scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

We raced out into what was now a much cooler late afternoon, screeched out of the parking lot and wound our way up Kanan Dume Road until we hit Mulholland, and eventually Malibu Wines — just as the sun was sinking behind the harvested hills.

Let the Tasting Begin...

Harvested Hillsides

I was surprised at how spacious the winery’s tasting grounds were, dotted with ample tables, fountains, as well as vintage wagons, cars and a watertower.

Vintage Beauty

And Another...

Shivering as I surveyed the entirely outdoor setting, I vowed to come back another day at an earlier hour to take full advantage of a long lazy and wine-hazy day.

The Wine Well

In the meantime, there was just one way to warm up.

To Life!

My Kind of Menu

Friendly, fetching staff assisted us as we blazed through the eight Saddlerock and Semler selections.

The Man Behind the Bar

Several so-so white and red varietals were followed by three particularly luscious Cabernets, which made us very happy.

Happy Us

Especially Courtney.

Courtney 🙂

And as the sky darkened and the grounds’ lights began to glow, I knew that spring had finally sprung — vibrantly.


Filed under Food, Life, Los Angeles, Outdoor Adventure