The Joys Of La Jolla (contains added pelicans)


When you are travelling a lot, especially if flying sometimes daily, opening your schedule to see the words: “3 night stop” are like a little oasis to the soul. A three day stop means you can get your stinking clothes dry cleaned (travelling in 100 degree heat means you get through A LOT of tops), wash your underwear in a hotel sink and have time for it to dry (the glamour!) and mostly just STAY STILL for a day or two.

When those words are followed by the words La Jolla, this novelist’s heart sings. La Jolla is a little seaside town in South California. The hotel I have stayed in for my past 3 visits here, La Valencia, is a decades-old building with antique Spanish tiles at every corner, and a view over the Pacific. The first time I arrived here I actually nearly cried, it was so beautiful.


Got to dip those feet in the water. Oh yes.

Got to dip those feet in the water. Oh yes.

I arrived on Saturday pasty and exhausted from the time zone changes and days of constant movement in fierce  heat. Twenty four hours later, after a walk along the coast, a visit from an old friend, a serious back massage (I am still fighting a stupidly stubborn sacro-iliac joint) and being in constant earshot of gently lapping waves, I was as laid back as a laid back thing in Laidbacksville, popn: 1. In fact I am currently so laid back that this post may be deeply uninteresting as most of what I meant to write about has simply slid out of my brain.

Even being woken up by mournful sea lions every morning couldn’t harsh my mellow. Because one of the great joys of La Jolla is its wildlife. Pelicans fly lazily past your window, or sit in clusters on the rocks, their strange jellified lower beaks quivering. Seals bask on the beach, barking a warning to scuba divers who get too close. Even on Saturday, with the Children’s Cove packed with shrieking families, the wildlife seems unworried.

I want a pelican. I really really want a pelican.

I want a pelican. I really really want a pelican.

It’s  an upmarket resort. There are branches of Chanel and Ralph Lauren, and visible amounts of Botox. After my lunchtime event at the Del Mar Country Club, my media escort, Larry, took me on a drive around some of La Jolla Shores real estate (there is nothing Larry does not know about real estate). There he showed me perfectly ordinary looking family houses that command prices of $8-10m, just because of their proximity to this pearlescent little stretch of ocean. Much of the new money here, he told me, is Russian or Chinese. Corvettes and Porsches sit unused in open garages. Little La Jolla, like London, has become a safe haven for foreign cash. I can’t blame them. If I had a spare $8-10m I would probably buy one of those houses too.

In the meantime, it is a damn fine place to spend your day off. On Sunday my friend Alison and I went to a local restaurant called George’s, where we sat on an upper deck and ate fish tacos, looking out over the glittering ocean and I concluded that in the words of the Young People, quite often, being a writer DOES NOT SUCK.

fish tacos

And then, there is Warwicks. Last night I did an event at La Jolla’s independent bookstore. It is  my third trip there, and one I always look forward to. It was, in short, my favourite gig ever. The audience’s chairs were backed up out of the door. They were so warm and primed for fun. And the queue was long. I felt like Hilary Clinton, without the complicated political history and constant hair scrutiny.

I am going to say nothing else about it for fear of being nauseating, but thank you, Warwicks. I won’t forget that one in a hurry.

So onwards: Suitcase: full to bursting.

Shoe count: twice as many pairs as I arrived with. Don’t judge me.

Lost items: one  charger, one t-shirt.

Underwear: clean. Back: workable.

Million pound real estate: untouched. I’ll stick with Brighton.

And now, on to Pasadena.


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