Los Angeles | USA

I don’t know at what point Santa Monica became the annual Irons family vacation but I wouldn’t change it for the world! We generally travel around the Fourth of July because of my dad’s work schedule. This year, we spent the holiday playing volleyball on the beach!


Stumbling Onto A Movie Set

While Haley and I were stretching out legs on a much needed break from the bicycle built for two, we saw a crowd of people gathering by the Venice Skate Park and decided to check it out. If you are acquainted with my family, you know that my sister has a knack for running into the rich and famous anytime she lands in NY or LA. On this particular occasion, the subject of all the commotion turned out to be Bruce Willis and crew, shooting his new police-chase thriller, Going Under. While we didn't get to actually hear the dialogue, we did get to jump into one scene and cheer on a juggling clown. Check out some shots from behind the scenes:

Venice Beach | California

My summer back in the States flew by, as usual. It was a wonderful time, filled with visits from friends both near and far. Despite the added task of planning a wedding in six weeks (more on that later), I managed to get away for a couple of weekends with my family.

Our first destination was our home away from home, Venice Beach. Over the years, we've seen it grow and change, but many of the people stay the same (i.e. the artist above). This particular weekend was the 4th of July, which meant an extra helping of street performers, free spirits, and...Bruce Willis. Nothing beats a morning of people watching and a breakfast burrito from the Candle Cafe, which you subsequently have to work off with a nice long ride down the beach from Sea Mist Bike Rentals. Haley and I tried out a bicycle built for two but in case you're thinking about getting one for yourself, it is a lot harder than it looks, particularly on a holiday weekend with clueless tourists walking all over the bike path.

Somehow, we made it past the stream of tourists who seemed intent on causing destruction and caught the beginning of the Mr. & Mrs. Muscle Beach competition. The crowd, as is the norm now, was completely focused on the day's activities.

Venice Beach | California

We wrapped up our west coast road trip with a final day at the Los Angeles area beaches. Growing up, the Santa Monica/ Venice Beach area was the Irons family´s go-to spot for holiday getaways, so with our time constraint in mind, I knew that we had to start our day with one of the best breakfast burritos in America, at the Candle Cafe on Venice Beach. I was pleased to discover that my memory did not disappoint and we both left feeling full and satisfied. While we were voraciously devouring our breakfast, I noticed that a homeless woman was hanging around outside the patio area. Unlike most restaurants, which would have shooed her away, the server from our table invited her in and paid for her breakfast out of his own salary.

We continued our beach day by parking near the Santa Monica Pier, renting bikes and riding the length of the beach and back before, for the first time in my life, going for a ride on the ferris wheel. Since January is not optimal beach-going time in the northern hemisphere, there were minimal crowds present which made for a lovely view from the top.

Our day finished with a late afternoon meal at Paradise Cove in Malibu, one of Haley´s favorites. Though we discovered that the breakfast is more worth the journey up the coast than later day savory eats, the view was still pleasant and peaceful. Our day concluded with a spectacular view of the sun vanishing behind the coastline.

What a whirlwind trip! We essentially made a round-trip drive the length from Canada to Mexico. We drove approximately 3,000+ miles in our sturdy little Saturn. We saw three different states, two National Parks, and made some lovely memories. Stay tuned for our Carnaval road trip upon our return to Brazil!

Salvation Mountain | Niland | California

Located in the desert a few miles from the Mexican border (which we learned the hard way, see below), Salvation Mountain springs from the sandy landscape in a bright burst of whimsy. We decided to give up a day in Los Angeles in order to be able to drive through Joshua Tree National Park and make it to Salvation Mountain. It was indeed worth the trade off! In essence, this "mountain" was created from locally donated hay bales, locally harvested adobe clay, and gifted paint from enthusiasts. To understand why this is such a special place, not just for its artistic quality, take a look at these video portraits of the artist, Leonard Knight (you can view them here and here).

As I said, we learned the hard way that we were near the Mexican border. While we were driving down the two-lane road towards Niland, California, we passed a Border Patrol roadblock, which we would encounter on our way back to LA. As soon as we saw it, Felipe and I shared a brief (or not-so-brief) moment of panic because we realized that his passport was not in the car but three hours behind us in a Los Angeles hotel. 

We approached the roadblock around dusk. Though I've had a large gun pointed in my general direction in other countries and not thought twice about it, it has never happened on my home turf. This experience coupled with the feisty canine eagerly sniffing each vehicle that passed definitely got our adrenaline pumping. 

Of course, out of all of the cars slowly creeping through the checkpoint, we were the ones that got stopped. After staring at us for what felt like eternity, the border patrol guy asked some simple questions in a rather accusatory manner before asking if we were both citizens. Having played games enough to realize that my poker face is almost non-existent, I calmly stated that Felipe was a Brazilian citizen. At that point, the officer ceased the not-so-friendly chit chat and with furrowed brow, intently considered what to do with us after examining Felipe's Brazilian identification and promptly declaring "All that does is prove that you don't belong here". After minutes of deliberation, we left with a stern warning and a lesson learned to always carry your passport abroad. Meanwhile, I was immensely relieved to have avoided a nine hour round trip to retrieve the passport and return to the desert in the dark to bail Felipe out of border jail!