The 405 San Diego Freeway ~ where our Californian love affair began

Why would anyone be reduced to tears in the hazy, virtually standstill, 6 lanes of gas guzzling405 Freeway sign on route to Santa Monica 405, San Diego Freeway? A Los Angeles freeway that I always think of as ‘mine’. A road full of so many memories and where my California love affair began 28 years ago.

‘If’, ‘what’ and ‘maybe’, all put together have the power to change your life, they certainly changed ours. They bought us to Los Angeles where our eyes were opened to a different way of life; a sundrenched, carefree, beach existence full of ‘beautiful people’…….. The opportunity to shop 24 hours, where you never paid to park your car, where you could drive through to do almost everything ~ to eat, deposit your money, collect your laundry; in a time when this was not the ‘American norm’ but certainly the Californian norm! A crazy place where you thought nothing of sitting in traffic for 2 hours and driving 70 miles to go to dinner. A world so unlike England, so unreal, that it actually felt sometimes that we were living in a sort of Disneyland. A world which could be both intoxicating and yet repugnant in its excesses, (‘he who dies with the most toys wins’, ughhhhh!) but a world where ‘dreams really can come true’ and an experience that changed the course of our lives forever.

Despite living back in England for 7 years, it was a world that we never really left, that we yearned to experience again and when the opportunity arose to live in its more Freeway sign on the '80' at Sacramento interchange with '5'sober, more ‘real’ neighbor, Northern California, in1993, now with 2 small children in tow, we grasped at it eagerly. There we found a different life, still Californian with all that we loved but a life that The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco California, USAwas more tangible. The gentle, leafy suburbs of Danville, 30 miles east of the dazzling city of San Francisco, became home. Within one to three hours of the stunning destinations of the Napa Valley, Carmel and Lake Tahoe…Places which have all become a treasured part of our lives.The Napa Valley

Carmel Beach California

Summer at Lake Tahoe

A place,  despite all we cherished, we still left after 2 years to return back to England but a place we ultimately emigrated back to in1999.View of Mount Diablo from Danville, California, USAPool and spa in garden in Danville

Mulholland Drive road signSo now stuck in bumper to bumper LA traffic what is all my emotion about? It is remembering how it felt to be here when my Californian story began, on the 405 freeway, arriving at LAX in July 1984. Naive, green, young, carefree, with no children and few complications. Where already in love, we fell in love together with Royce Hall UCLA Campus 2005California. A place where in 2005 our lovely girl chose to go to university; UCLA, where the streets of Westwood, Wilshire and Santa Monica became her home. UCLA, a place of academic prowess and learning where she was able to excel and then be able to secure a highly

The Wills Building, Bristol University, England

sought after position at Bristol University, UK to study for her PhD.

A place you sought of love to hate or hate to love …….but a place where both my Kate, now older than I when I first arrived in 1984 has enfolded us into its embrace. And those tears, what where they about? Sentimental ties, the agony and the ecstasy of a Brit living overseas, loving bits of it all and wondering what exactly she is looking for and where is home…………..

‘Provence’ in California?

Californian Sunflowers at the Farmstead RestaurantI called my blog ‘sunflowers and shutters’ because they are a few of the images embedded in my heart when I think of southern France. In my 6 months there I actually never saw any sunflowers but I did yesterday, not in Provence but in the beautiful Napa Valley, California.

Farmstead Restaurant, Napa Valley, California

Eating a delicious lunch at the stunning Farmstead Restaurant, just outside charming St Helena, savouring all the fresh flavours, handpicked that morning from the restaurant’s organic garden, Organic garden at the Farmstead Restaurant
Cabbages from the organic garden at the Farmstead RestaurantApples from the organic garden at the Farmstead Restaurant,

sipping my favourite bold, oakey, buttery and I realize very passé Californian Chardonnay (a deliciousness you can only get here!) – with special friends, I remembered why we moved to California so long ago.

Lavender in the garden at the Farmstead restaurant Things I love in Provence, the lavender, Lavender in the garden at the Farmstead restaurantthe vineyards, the sunflowers, all basking under azure blue skies, well they are here too………

Vineyards in the Napa Valley

Long Meadow Ranch Winery at the Farmstead Restaurant

True, no shutters or medieval streets, 1874 was as old as it got yesterday, (but still impressive!), it really gives you pause for thought!Long Meadow Ranch Winery at the Farmstead Restaurant

Californian Vineyards in the Napa ValleyThe lush and bountiful vineyards of the Napa Valley, flanked either side by the rolling golden Californian hills are just a 45 minute drive from my Californian home. As I sat there discussing plans to visit Carmel, another very much beloved Californian stunner, I could see my lovely daughter’s smiling face……”Yes Mummy it is pretty special here!”Kate Longstaffe in Uzes France

It doesn’t in any way dilute my passion for those ancient cobbled streets guarding theirCobbled streets in Uzes, Languedoc Rousillon France age old secrets between the shutters. Neither can that unique beguiling atmosphere be found here, it belongs there………

July 4th 2012 Danville California USA

but where do I belong……….?

What a question to ponder, I’ll keep you posted!!!