From Santa Ana, Monica and I jetted straight to Bakersfield so that I could do some quick childhood reminiscing while we grabbed a quick lunch. From there, it was straight to Davis California where we stayed at The Hyatt located directly on the campus. Great facility and great alumni staff. The next morning, we soaked in the beautiful UC Davis campus. Monica loved it. Every bit of it. The campus, the surrounding city, the people, the buildings, the housing options, the stature of its academic programs. A campus with so much character.
And let us not forget The Craft Center! A truly comprehensive craft center, which is part of their Campus Rec department. So very cool.
Before leaving Davis, we jetted over to Sacramento to hang with my dear friend, Dori Barrett and her three lovely children for a brunch. Dori ... my friend who can make me laugh until milk comes out of my nose ... who listens so well and gets me so deep and listens some more and understands and loves so deep.
From Davis, we traveled to Berkeley, CA. Oh Berkeley, beautiful Berkeley. We stayed at The Hotel Durant. My favorite place to stay in Berkeley. It's in the lobby where this sign was suspended—with my favorite line from my favorite musical of all time: To love another person is to see the face of God (Les Miserables).
How did my daughter get so beautiful and brilliant was the question running through my mind that night, as we wound down and prepared ourselves for the next day's tour of the campus.
What's there not to love?
It was a sight to behold ... to witness my daughter fall in love with the campus.
Our tour guide was sweet. Matthew. Transfer student from Modesto. Evidence that even if you don't get in straight from high school, you can work your ass off in community college and then transfer into one of the greatest instituttions in the entire world.
From Berkeley, we traveled to Stanford.
No denying that the campus was beautiful. But definitely different from Berkeley. Super manicured. No rough edges. No homeless on the side. And ... er ... um ... The Hoover Institution omnipresent at every angle. Impressive campus. But not one that captured Monica's heart. Nor mine.
From Stanford, we traveled to Jack London Square and had arguably one of the best meals of our lives at a new restaurant named Forge. Roasted vegetables. Killer salad. Amazing steamed mussels. Great service. Great ambiance. Great night.
The next morning, we traveled to Aptos, CA to meet up with Monica's cousins, Gabriella and Juliana, and their family.
A great night we had with everyone as we ate delicious food repared by Lily, caught up with what everyone was up to, including Victor and Estella's newest baby miracle.
The next morning, before heading to UCSC, I had a blast working out with Gabriella and Trainer Joan who worked us hard on these stairs.
And then it was quality retail therapy under the leadership of Gabriella and Juliana's mom, Migdalia, who introduced us to some amazing shops in the Aptos/Santa Cruz area. So much fun.
And then there was UC Santa Cruz. The tour was SO well organized. I really appreciated all the work that the staff and students did to make everyone feel so welcome. The campus was nestled amongst magnificent trees that took our breaths away.
There's a lot for Monica to ponder right now. We have other campuses to visit still. Will she go directly to a 4-year college from high school or go first to a community college? Will she go far from home or stay close by? Will she know anyone when she gets there? Will she make new friends? Will she find her voice? Will she?
Yes, she will.
Of that, I'm certain.
My beautiful daughter. I blinked just once to find her all grown up ... beautiful, brilliant Monica.