Sunday, August 03, 2008

California - Part 2

The second half of our trip was just as fun as the first half. On Monday we took a trip to Monterey Bay. Our mission was to tour the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We read about the aquarium and knew that it was one of the best aquariums in the country, so we had to go knowing it would be something that Olivia and the rest of us would enjoy. We planned this trip very carefully by making sure that Olivia had a nice long nap before spending the second half of the day in Monterey. We wanted her to be well rested so that she would enjoy all of the wonders of the aquarium.

First we stopped for some lunch. Monterey is known for their clam chowder. Just about every restaurant in the area features theirs as "The Best Clam Chowder". I think they all taste about the same but we knew we had to have some. So we stopped at a cute little restaurant before heading to the aquarium. It is such a beautiful area!

The aquarium was unbelievable! There were so many unique and fascinating fish there. Olivia just wanted to run wild but it was quite crowded so we tried to keep her in her stroller as much as possible. There were many different petting stations were you could touch different things like starfish and sea urchins. She enjoyed that. One of Olivia's favorite things was the wave wall. Every 15 seconds or so a huge wave of water would rush over this glass wall. When you are standing underneath the glass you feel as if a huge wave was crashing over your head. Each time the water would come Olivia would scream with delight. It was pretty cool!

I think our favorite exhibit was the jellyfish. I have never seen anything like it. I had no idea there were so many different types of jellyfish...from teeny-tiny ones to big huge ones! Some of the glow in the dark, others have what look like little lights that move up and down their tentacles. It is indescribable. I am glad we were able to see the jellyfish on our visit because the exhibit will soon be leaving the aquarium for good.

Some of our other favorite exhibits were the penguins and stingrays. All of the animals were so fascinating to watch. We saw some species of fish and other creatures that I did not know even existed.

I think Olivia would have enjoyed herself even more if she were just one year older. There were splash stations for toddlers but the activities were just a little too grown up for her. Regardless, it was a very fun day and one of the highlights of our trip. The following day brought gorgeous weather so we decided to make it a beach day! I wanted Olivia to have one day where she could go to the beach, play in the sand and not worry one bit about getting messy. She was in heaven! Pouring sand in her lap, filling her bucket and dumping it out...she was more than entertained!

We took her down by the water a few times but the waves made her a little nervous. She did stand by while we watched my cousin Justin skim board. Later while Olivia was busy playing, Todd, my cousin and I were able to sneak away to take a walk on the boardwalk. We came across a huge pelican that was resting off to the side of the boardwalk and not too concerned about all of the people walking around him. I was able to get in right in his face to snap his picture!

Once we returned to the beach we decided to feed the sea gulls. Olivia was very excited about this activity and was not scared at all once those birds started getting close to us. She was however unhappy once we ran out of snacks for the birds. It was fun while it lasted!

I was surprised by how long we stayed at the beach. I thought Olivia would tire of it quickly, but no way...she was content to just sit in the sand. It was fun watching her play and enjoy something new for the first time. I think we could all get used to living near the beach! We took so many fun family pictures at the beach that I just have to share them.

We relaxed during our final day in California. Since our flight was not leaving until almost midnight we had the whole day to enjoy. Since Todd and I had not had any time without Olivia all week we decided to go into Santa Cruz with my cousin for lunch and some shopping. It was nice to do a little sightseeing without the kid. That afternoon we took Olivia to a very nice park in the area. There were tons of swings and slides for her to enjoy. Hanging out at the playground is one of Olivia's favorite things to do.

That evening we had one last family dinner before we had to head to the airport. Although we did lots of fun things during our trip, Olivia's favorite part of each day were the evenings spent at my aunt's house. She just loved being around everyone while playing and showing off. From wrestling with Uncle Ron, to swinging on the balcony, to just relaxing at the end of the day and watching a little bit of Elmo...Olivia always has and always will be most comfortable when she is home with family.

My aunt has a beautiful grand piano and Olivia became obsessed with it. She loved nothing more than playing the piano whether it was with others or by herself. You must watch the video of "Olivia the Pianist". While watching the video listen for her rendition of the "Elmo's World" theme song, and her version of "Head, Shoulder, Knees & Toes" with some actions to go along with her words...very funny!

And I must not forget Rusty, my aunt's very sweet little dog...Olivia's best friend while visiting. She spent most of the week telling Rusty what to do and walking around asking, "Rusty...where are you?". After seeing how much Olivia loved playing with Rusty it made me realize that one day we will have to get this child a dog!

Olivia had such fun getting to know her Aunt Sue Sue, Uncle Ron and Cousin Justin better. We were sad our time in California had to come to an end. It was an amazing trip and we look forward to going back next year...expect next year we will have to pay for a ticket for Miss Olivia! Oh will be worth it! Thanks to Sue, Ron and Justin for being such great hosts and for putting up with us for a whole week! We had a great vacation!


Tiffany Leininger said...

Wow! It looked like so much fun! I loved the picture of the jelly fish and Olivia playing in the sand. You are very lucky to have such a beautiful place to visit. Thanks for sharing all the pictures!

Anonymous said...

We all enjoyed having you visit so much, Olivia was such a delight..I love watching her explore the world. Next year will be even better, she will be one year older and ready to do more things, can't wait..I miss her terribly and so does Rusty!!
Love and kisses Auntie Sue Sue

Anonymous said...

As Aunt Sue-Sue said, next year will be even better. I may have to watch the video of Olivia singing and playing the piano every day. It just makes me laugh. Her personality is never boring.