Australia in Santa Cruz?!

UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

During our first few days in Santa Cruz, a friend took us through the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Arboretum. What a beautiful place! Apparently, they have a similar climate to that of Australia and most of the Arboretum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing Australian plants. While we were there in October, because of the climate, there were many plants still blooming or just starting to bloom. I fell in love with the Banksia plants, of which there are about 173 species. Crazy! They have the coolest flowers as you can see in the slide-show below (they’re the cone-shaped flowers.)

There were also quite a few hummingbirds, which still surprises me. I know we’re in a southern, warmer climate; but back home in Washington we’d be hard-pressed to find one at this time of year. I also saw a couple of ravens, heard some other birds hanging out in the bushes, and there were lizards everywhere. Some tiny ones would scurry into the nearest bush when we walked by, while the bigger ones stayed out sunning themselves. Can you spot the Hummingbirds in the two photos of the pink-flowered bushes? (Hint: They’re not flying.)

From there, we went into town for dinner and, afterward, received a whirlwind tour of all the amazing restaurants and chocolate shops available for our future enjoyment. It looks like Santa Cruzians (SCruzians? What do Santa Cruz people call themselves?) love their chocolate as much as they love their coffee and tea. There are at least three places downtown where you can sip amazing hot cocoa while nibbling on a truffle or a chocolate pastry.

Santa Cruz Wharf

Another day, Brian and I decided to go to the Santa Cruz Wharf for lunch and to walk around a bit. The Wharf holds several restaurants – all focused on seafood, of course – a few touristy shops, and the business office for the Wharf. It also has a wind turbine and an entire program, called GreenWharf, devoted to reducing the carbon footprint of the businesses on the Wharf as well as for marine conservation.

We ate at a restaurant called Splash, which has the coolest ceiling décor. Seriously, click on the photo below so you can see the ceiling better. That wave of silver is fish! They also have a rotating bar like the Space Needle restaurant where the floor slowly rotates giving everyone a chance for a good view. The food was good. I wouldn’t say it was amazing, but it was good. I’m spoiled, though, having some of the best seafood restaurants up in Seattle. Coastal Kitchen comes to mind. I do miss that place and the friends we spent time with there. Yes, we miss just being able to go hang out with our friends and family up in Seattle. But…we’re getting to spend time with other friends and family – more than we probably would normally. We’re also getting to explore more places than we’d ever see by flying to certain locations and staying in hotels. Plus we get to take our cats with us! All great bonuses to this lifestyle even as we miss our Seattle tribe.

Okay, back to the Wharf! After lunch, we walked to the end of the Wharf. There were tons of people fishing off both sides. At one point, we walked by a pole that was unattended and it jerked from a bite. I grabbed the pole so it wouldn’t go over the edge and a little kid and his dad came to rescue it. The kid reeled and reeled and…the fish got away. I hope he got one later in the day!

There are holes cut into some areas of the Wharf’s deck, with wood half-walls built around them for safety. These let you look down onto the sea lions napping on the Wharf supports below, so we hung out with them for a bit. The Boardwalk is just down the beach and you can clearly hear the screams of the people on the rides. It’s a little odd, walking in this peaceful setting with sailboats on the bay behind you and sea lions barking now and then, all the while with this background of screaming people. At least you know they’re having fun! We plan to check out the Boardwalk on a future visit.

That’s it for this visit! Be groovy, friends, and remember to live your journey…