Out and About Southern California: From Country Marts and Monocle to Sea Urchins and the Channel Islands

Sea lions and a seagull enjoying the sun

The month of April has turned out to be surprisingly busy for me, which has resulted in a lack of posts. However, with the weather warming up, I also seem to be scurrying around a little more and so here are a couple updates on some recent activities.

This past weekend we visited up the Brentwood Country Mart for the first time in search of Monocle's new store in Los Angeles - its first ever in North America after the success of the original store in Marylebone in London. In spite of my high hopes and great anticipation, I left somewhat disappointed. During mid-day Saturday, around lunch time no less, when there was increased buzz and circulation around the store, we spent 45 minutes waiting for the store to open. The "Back in 15 minutes" sign was obviously not very accurate. During that time, we saw other potential customers approach the store, peak through the window and walk away. For the brief 5 minutes someone did show up to open the store, the salesperson seemed disinterested and was dressed somewhat slovenly (this in a city that is so driven by appearance) and left again promptly soon after. We actually never made it into the store. This entire experience was really not in keeping with the sleek smart brand that Monocle (or Tyler Brule) promotes. It made me realize that when you are trying to create or solidify a brand - everything matters from the location, the space, the design, the items sold, the human representation and service. Since many of the products sold in the store are created in partnership with Japanese designers and Monocle I would suggest that they might benefit from adopting also the meticulousness and promptness of service found in any department store in Japan. I guess at some point I will venture back. It would be nice to get in the store this time.
The Monocle Shop in Brentwood

Shifting from the commercial to the natural - a couple weekends ago, we drove just over an hour north of Los Angeles to Ventura, then motored 14 miles out into the Pacific Ocean to reach the island of Santa Cruz - one of 5 in the Channel Islands National Park. (There are 8 islands in all). Santa Cruz is the largest of all the islands (96 square miles) and like the others is contains animals, sea creatures, flora and fauna that are found on no other place in the world. It is often known as the American Galapagos Islands. Surprisingly, although easily accessible, it is one of the least visited national parks in the U.S.

Santa Cruz - the view from Potato Head Point

While we did not make it to the sea caves this time, the ones around Santa Cruz island are some of the largest in the world.
Remnants from the ranching days

The island is named after a Franciscan priest's staff which was topped with an iron cross. It was accidentally left here during the 1769 expedition by Gaspar de Portola for the King of Spain, who was the first to claim ownership of the island. Before and during Spanish rule, the Chumash Indians lived on the island for over 9,000 years, originally named the island Limu which means "in the sea." Unfortunately, the 'white man's disease' measles apparently wiped out the majority of the native population on the island. The rest were forcibly moved to the mainland in 1814. In the 19th century, Santa Cruz was used as a sheep ranch and vineyard- farming Zinfandel, Reisling, Muscatel and Granache grapes. The wine was then shipped and bottled under the name "Santa Cruz Winery" in San Francisco.
The tail of a humpback whale

Orange starfish underwater

The purple fuzz are sea urchins

On the way to the island, we spotted sea lions and a couple humpback whales (or one very fast moving one). These sightings kept my mind preoccupied and less focused on my gurgling seasickness. Once on the island we picnicked and hiked for hours, feeling most of the time like we were the only people on the entire island. The clarity and color of the water was unlike anything I have seen on any coast of the United States. The cool temperature of water was the only barrier keeping me from diving right in clothes, backpack and all. But the pull was strong. After about 7 hours on the island, we packed up all our trash, as nothing is to be left on the island and boarded the boat back the mainland. The ride back was calmer, the ocean had settled and by the time we had driven back to Los Angeles, the entire trip seemed almost like a dream.

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