A Father/Daughter Journey Back to the Motherland

“You could travel the world, but nothing comes close to the golden coast.”

Last fall my father and I took our annual father/daughter trip, this time to California. Los Angeles has everything the two of us enjoy on these adventures: a renowned car museum, a notable botanical garden, and an abundance of great restaurants.

This trip had an added bonus: we were both returning to our birth state.

While I share many wonderful things in common with my mother, being a Californian is a strong tie I’ve always had with my father. I only lived there for the first couple of years of my life, but I consider it an essential part of who I am.

I’ve been back to California numerous times as an adult, but this was the first return visit I’d made with my dad. So it was with great anticipation that we planned our time in Tinseltown.

Our number one priority was a visit to the Petersen Automotive Museum. As a former contributor to Vette Vues Magazine and founding member of the River City Corvette Club in Chattanooga, my father is a big-time car guy who appreciates any beautiful vehicle.

The Petersen has hundreds of them, and we spent the better part of a day admiring everything from Steve McQueen’s 1956 Jaguar XKSS and a pristine 1967 Ford GT40 Mark III to the sleek 2002 Jaguar XKR stunt car from James Bond’s Die Another Day.

Food is always a priority on these father-daughter trips, and we had a surprisingly delightful lunch at Drago Ristorante at the Petersen.

On another day we feasted on Mexican food and flaming margaritas at Sunset Boulevard’s El Compadre restaurant, born the same year I was in 1975.

Margaritas so hot the fire department is on standby

We were eagerly anticipating a day at the J. Paul Getty Museum, with its stunning architecture, outdoor sculpture displays, manicured gardens, and special exhibition of the art and correspondence of Édouard Manet.

Located in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood, the Getty’s holdings include pre-20th century European works as well as an international collection of photography that spans from its invention in the early 1800s to modern day.

During our day at the Getty, we had lunch at their restaurant overlooking the Santa Monica mountains. This was the first day the museum had reopened after the October 2019 wildfire known as “the Getty Fire,” and smoke still hung thick in the valley.

From our table we could see scorching along the hillside that stopped mere feet from the property’s edge, and the museum staff was talking about the Getty’s good fortune at having escaped the blaze.

As a Master Gardener and lifelong garden lover, I visit botanical gardens anytime and anywhere I have the chance. The Huntington Botanical Gardens are part of a 120-acre complex in Santa Monica that also includes a museum, a library, and educational and research institutes.

My father and I were most interested in the Japanese and Chinese gardens with their graceful ponds and waterfalls, their intricate architecture, and their overwhelming sense of peace.

We spent several lovely hours meandering the grounds followed by afternoon tea at the Rose Garden Tea Room, which my dad enjoyed more than he expected he would.

No visit to California is complete for us without seeing family, and we met my father’s brother and sister-in-law, Paul and Josephine, just down the road in San Marino for a huge Italian dinner and a trip down memory lane.

And speaking of memory lane, we spent a fun afternoon zipping our not-at-all-sporty rental car up the famous curves of Mulholland Drive, where Steve McQueen raced his aforementioned Jaguar XKSS in the 1960s and where celebrities like Jack Nicholson live today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented our annual father/daughter adventure in 2020, but we’re looking forward to more food, flowers, fast cars, and family time as soon as possible.