Aspen Princess: California Dreaming |

Aspen Princess: California Dreaming

Ali Margo
Aspen Princess

I’m writing to you guys from my lovely perch on the terrace by the pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara, California. We’re staying at a $7.5 million estate that was built in 1958 on 3 acres.

The terrace and pool overlook a mature orchard where grapes, avocados, apples, walnuts and figs ripen on the vine. There are also lemon, lime and orange trees and a lot of tropical fruits growing on the property such as passion fruit, bananas, mangoes (sadly not in season) and a few things we couldn’t identify. It’s a spectacular lot when you consider most parcels of land around here are measured in square feet.

We get all this for 200 bucks a night, which may seem like a lot to ski bums like you and I. It is a bit of a splurge, but this is our last hurrah before our X Games baby arrives (both because he is due X Games weekend and because he will likely one day be some kind of X Games champion; of course we aren’t going to pressure him or push him into it, silly — he can choose any sport he wants, so long as there are skis, a snowboard or a snowmobile involved).

We’re still getting a lot of bang for our buck to stay in a private residence in the prestigious Hope Ranch neighborhood, where chances are good we don’t know anyone who lives here and never will. It’s all because of Airbnb, which has turned the travel industry on its ear by opening up private homes like this one to hacks like us who could never afford this kind of luxury unless we figured out a way to finagle it for free (which, as a member of the media, I have been guilty of many times).

I actually once stayed at the Four Seasons just up the road for the Alaska Media Road Show, which I was never invited back to again, probably on account of the column I wrote about the event in which I compared it to speed dating. Anyhoo, this place is a lot nicer than that old five-star hotel, which isn’t even located on the ocean side of the street. So I guess what I’m trying to say is thank God for Airbnb, because it not only makes places like this accessible but also lets us raise some extra cash to come here by renting out our own place.

So this is what you might call our “babymoon,” our last hurrah as a family of three (yes I’m counting the pug) before our lives are turned upside down with sleep deprivation, dirty diapers and leaky boobs.

Needless to say I am loving it here and am always torn between the mountains and the beach, as I have written about many times before. (You try writing a column for 13 years and not repeating any themes or topics!) California will always feel like some sort of dream, a surreal place where the colors are more vivid, a kind of make-believe land where everything tastes good and everyone looks good and the whole world is temperature-controlled and smells sweet, like jasmine and honeysuckle.

Yesterday we went to Lazy Acres, the kind of California gourmet grocery with hardwood floors and orgasm-inducing produce that was around long before Whole Foods decided to brainwash everyone and take over the world. I could walk around the aisles all day, drooling over exotic cheeses and beautiful vegetables and a bin full of Hawaiian-style poki made from chopped raw ahi.

“I’m sorry, did we come to California to walk around a grocery store?” Ryan asked, tilting his head the way he does when he is being sarcastic.

I answered with an enthusiastic “Yes, of course we did!” since walking around California grocery stores like these is one of my favorite pastimes. I know it sounds weird unless you understand.

We bought salads and a veggie wrap, with plump slices of Kermit-green avocado and sprouts and a fruit salad with fresh organic kiwi, mango, pineapple and strawberries. Then we took a walk on Hendry’s Beach with Gertie, where dogs are allowed off-leash, an anomaly in Southern California. She was really afraid of the water at first but got braver as we walked along, letting the water come up to her belly and running toward the waves as we walked along the shore. The amount of joy we got from seeing our little dog experience her first time at the beach made me wonder how we’re going to contain ourselves with an actual child. Needless to say we are more than ready for whatever that experience brings, as we’ve been waiting a very long time (despite the numerous anxiety-provoking warnings from various friends that taking care of a newborn almost killed them).

Speaking of Gertie, we recently got her certified as an emotional service animal. Before you judge me, it’s kind of legit, as I do suffer from mild to severe panic disorder, a little-known fact I haven’t written about much (there’s a new topic to explore!), but let’s just say the notion that bringing my cutest-ever pug on the plane to keep me calm isn’t that far-fetched.

So she wore her little harness with the patch and her little laminated badge clipped to it, and the plane wasn’t crowded, so she even got her own seat. Everyone went bonkers over her, and so I feel even less guilty because it appears as though she is supporting everyone emotionally, not just me.

As I sit here looking out at the Channel Islands with the gentle breeze tickling my cheeks, I think about what the future might hold: I just hope our baby is as cute as our pug — otherwise it’s going to be a little awkward. One thing I do know is I can’t wait to have another beautiful little creature to celebrate my life with.

The Aspen Princess really is living in la-la land. Email your love to


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