Tarun and I started our journey in frigid Iowa and then rooted ourselves in the heat and humidity of the Mid-Atlantic. It's no surprise that Tarun has craved good weather for as long as I can recall. Recently, we became bi-coastal hoping to balance the seasons across Virginia and California.
We went west at the tail end of the Virginia winter when the trees were bare, the grass was dead, and the chill was firmly in the air. We came back east last week and when I looked out of the bedroom window the next morning, I was confronted with a carpet of greenery and foliage touching our roofline.
"Oh my God! We live in a jungle!" I exclaimed.
The difference in the landscape on the two coasts can induce whiplash.
The flowers, bushes, trees on the west are drought resistant. At first, my mind couldn't wrap around the greenery or I should say brownery! The dry and brown shrubs on the hills remind me of our dog, Hershey, when she had a bout of mange and lost her hair. These mangy hills present a constant reminder of the infamous California wildfires.
The succulents are another story, offering a level of lush I have never seen before. I haven't figured out if this bit of vibrancy is a flower or a cabbage!
How about this for a new take on twisted!
On the east, it feels like we are living in a tropical rainforest with a billion shades of green. It's astounding to see the intensity of the foliage in the midst of a metropolitan area.
The Southern California climate makes me feel like a kid skipping down the road.
Summer days in SoCal start with a marine blanket that brings in the clouds. By mid-morning, the sun pushes through to bathe you in perfect warmth. Locals call this phenomenon "May grey" and "June gloom". The evenings are consistently cool.
The Pacific near us, with subtle hues of grey, blue, and green, offers the best surfing spot in the world. My favorite evening activity is to watch the "bug people" in the water, waiting to catch the perfect wave. That's what I call the brave people in black wet suites bobbing in the ocean. I live vicariously as I watch them ride fast, go high, and fall perilously into the cresting and crashing waves.
From the top of the oceanside cliff, we take in the uninterrupted views of the horizon under a picture-perfect canopy and feel invigorated after long days in front of the laptop.
On the east, the sweltering days and afternoon rains swiftly take me back to childhood memories of the monsoon season. The musty smell and the humidity cling so ferociously to the air around us that it feels like you can reach out and grab droplets of water.
For foodies, heaven exists on both coasts!
You can't get better Mexican anywhere else like you can within eyeshot of Tijuana in SoCal. We researched food trucks and tried authentic taquerias with names like Tostadas Loca (literally, crazy tostadas) and - boy! - they redefine loca with meats and seafood piled high on tostadas and in green coconuts. The tacos are tiny, incredibly flavorful, and they have NO CHEESE.
Note to east coast taquerias: please do the right thing already and dump the cheese!
The food scene in DC has come a long way in the last ten years too. On our list is to try the 38 restaurants on the DC Eater list as we make a safe re-entry from the pandemic.
The most striking difference lies in the critters.
Out west, we saw seals that come to the shore to birth their pups. They bark loudly at each other or laze in the sun like quintessential California natives. There are plenty of rats and mice outdoors, as well. Worst of all there are rattlesnakes everywhere, camouflaged in the brown landscape. I won't walk anywhere in open-toe shoes for this reason.
In Virginia, we flew smack dab into the cicadas! Bugs with the ginormous, bulging eyes creating a deafening ruckus and dropping dead on our driveways, decks and heads. The story of the cicadas is even more bizarre than their physicality - they appear once in 17 years, reproduce and die immediately. The larvae burrow into the soil and reappear as full-fledged adults in the next cycle.
There is nothing redeeming about rattlesnakes and cicadas. On this score, both coasts lose big time!
Until we head west again, I will continue to wait for the imaginary monkeys to leap out of the lush greenery around us while dreaming of walks on the beach and wondering what that cabbage plant is called.