Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Morning in Newport Beach, CA

The ferry between the peninsula and Balboa Island is $1 for a pedestrian and fits two cars on it. When I was a kid, I had revolving crushes on 16 yr old ferry operators.

Balboa Fun Zone Ferris Wheel

There's always money in the banana stand

Balboa Bar, nostalgic treat

When we were kids, our family used to rent a house for a week every summer on Balboa Island in Newport, CA. My parents packed up the car until my sister and I were up to our necks in sheets, towels, clothes, food, games, our Snoopy fishing poles, etc. We'd take everything we owned 30 minutes down the 55 freeway to our little cottage for the week. Sometimes at night after a spaghetti dinner (I still associate spaghetti dinners with a beach stay), we'd take the ferry (at time about fifty cents, now $1 for a passenger) over from the island to the tiny fun zone and play skiball and walk around and around the same few blocks, out to the pier or to the "real" beach (the one with waves--the ocean as opposed to the tiny harbor beaches on the island).

The Balboa Fun Zone is a small amusement park on the Newport Beach peninsula, first started in 1936. On a foggy Wednesday morning last week, I'm the only tourist walking around the zone, photographing old signs and early morning surfers near the pier. A camera crew films the carousel being taken down. I notice most of the rides I remember from those family vacations are gone--a nautical museum takes up most of the space now. I take the ferry over to the island, and walk its circumference, admiring rose gardens and watching hired men adorn the harbor front houses and private docks with elaborate Halloween decorations. As I walk by one of them laughs and rolls his eyes when I look at him and point at the ghosts he's rigged to fly in circles over the roof.

On Marine Avenue, the sales woman offers me a glass of Chardonnay as I browse in a book store (as I write this I quickly look up Balboa on Wikipedia for some dates, and I learn Balboa Island has one of the highest property values in the country after that of lower Manhattan...the wine and gardeners planting Halloween decor amongst the perfect rose gardens now seems fitting instead of just weird). Anyway, it's a nice spot, but I'm trying to remember a youth spent there, and when you're a little girl at the beach, you're thinking of plastic shovels and soft serve ice cream not property values. I stop for a Balboa bar, even though I'm too full from lunch, and as I stagger a little sick over the little bridge towards PCH to meet my sister at work, I realize I overdid the nostalgia a bit.

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