Bees, and thorns, and snakes! Oh, my!
A couple weekends ago my friend Gina came down from Santa Barbara to visit. When I was in Fort Worth last month, our tour guide at the Ball-Eddleman-McFarland house mentioned that California’s apple orchards are great to visit. So I brought the idea up to Gina and she was game for going! Sweet action!
After using The Google to research apple orchards in Southern California, one of the best reviewed ones I found was Riley’s Farm in Oak Glen, CA. There are a ton of orchards in this area of California, but Riley’s Farm was one of the few that included almost year round fruit picking (not just apples). And though this time of year is not apple season, it is great for rasberries, blackberries, and strawberries! Once we made the one and a half hour trek east of Los Angeles, Gina and I arrived at the winding gravel road of Riley’s Farm tucked at the base of mountains. It immediately gives off this charming rustic vibe and I knew we had found a great place to spend the afternoon.
First, we had to check-in at the General Store. This is where you purchase your basket to go pick berries. $5 for a pint, and $3.50 for a 1/2 pint. Very reasonable for organic fruit! After some tips from our very friendly and colonial dressed guide, she pointed us in the direction of the berries and we were free to roam the rows ourselves.
Tips: 1) The raspberries are good to pick when they practically fall off at your touch. Also, bees LOVE raspberry bushes (more on that later). 2) The blackberries are ripe when they are juicy. And the best ones are underneath the bush leaves. Beware of their thorns and spiders. 3) The strawberries are hidden underneath the thick leaves of the bushes. Oh, and watch out for rattlesnakes! “Wait, what?!” (that was my reaction lol)
As Gina and I approached the raspberry fields you could begin to hear the faint humming of the bees. This is when my fear immediately kicked in! I’ve never seen so many bees in one place before! There were hundreds and hundreds of beings swarming the raspberries bushes. The entire time we were in the fields you could here their humming, and it took all my strength to not make sudden movements and stay put with Gina in the raspberry fields. The good part is the bees are not interested in the raspberries, but rather the flowers on the bushes. But I learned the extent of my fear of bees when I could only muster up enough courage to pick a total of five raspberries haha. Gina was the warrior in this round of fruit picking. She was fearless in going up to the bushes and filling up her basket with raspberries. And she was never stung nor even had a bee land on her. They were very uninterested in us. But I couldn’t get my fear to understand that rationale haha.
After the raspberries, we headed over to the blackberry fields. Here we had to watch out for thorns and spiders. I learned that I am fearless when it comes to thorns! I had no problem sticking my hand in the blackberry bushes to find the ripe berries. Gina was a little more timid here so we tag teamed it. Gina would hold up the leaves while I picked the blackberries. I enjoyed this part of the farm!
After we nearly filled our baskets, we headed to the strawberry patch. We both were pretty timid here since we were afraid of a rattlesnake popping out at us, but we did not see one, only snake holes.
The strawberries were pretty picked over so we only found a couple ripe ones. Thus, we headed back to the raspberry and blackberry fields to finish filling up our baskets. I went to the blackberry rows, while Gina tackled the raspberries.
After we finished picking, we were hungry for lunch! We headed back to the General Store to have our berries wrapped up, and then we walked to their lunch area where they cook their own BBQ over a big outside wood burning cooker. We both ordered the BBQ beef sandwich and it was delicious! We ate our sandwiches out on their patio looking up at the mountains. It was beautiful.
After lunch we drove back to Los Angeles, and hung out in my neighborhood of Burbank until dinner. For dinner, I decided to take Gina to Philippe’s in downtown LA. This is a Los Angeles must!
Philippe The Original is the oldest continuously running restaurant in Southern California. It was established in 1908 by Philippe Mathieu, and it is here that the “French Dipped Sandwich” claims to be invented. According to their website, the story goes “One day in 1918, while making a sandwich, Mathieu inadvertently dropped the sliced french roll into the roasting pan filled with juice still hot from the oven. The patron, a policeman, said he would take the sandwich anyway and returned the next day with some friends asking for more dipped sandwiches. And so was born the “French Dipped Sandwich,” so called either because of Mathieu’s French heritage, the French roll the sandwich is made on or because the officer’s name was French. The answer is lost to history.”
To order, customers wait in the lines leading up to the long display counter where the servers take your order and prepare your meal. The meals are served cafeteria-style on paper plates and trays, and seating is family style. Philippe’s is delicious and affordable, and worth a visit if you are in LA!
Our adventure for Sunday was The Huntington in Pasadena. The Huntington is a library, art gallery and botanical garden. I’ve gone here before with my family, but it poured rain the whole time we were there so it was nice to return and actually spend time exploring the grounds.
The Huntington was founded in 1919 by Henry Huntington who had a passion for books, art and gardens. Throughout his life, he amassed one of the greatest research libraries in the world, as well as establishing a grand art collection and beautiful botanical gardens representing many countries around the world.
Unfortunately Gina and I did not have enough time to visit the art galleries and library, but we did walk most of the gardens. It was gorgeous!
There are 120 acres of gardens, mostly separated by their respective geographical ranges. The most notable gardens are the Desert Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden and the Chinese Garden. I highly recommend visiting The Huntington. It’s a beautiful way to spend the day.