For the last three years, I’ve spent Christmas in the UK. Whether I was alone or with friends and loved ones, I always enjoyed the peacefulness in London. Everything (except for the occasional local corner shop or pub) would shut down from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day – even public transport was closed. It was pretty special to go out into the deserted streets and see such a bustling city suddenly grind to a halt.

Last year, E and I took advantage of the quiet streets and the new Barclays bike scheme during our four days off of work. We cycled all over town, in between cooking delicious meals, watching movies, creating this blog (FFR is almost one-year old!), plotting our 2011 travels and relaxing in our cozy flat. Just another Jewish Christmas in London!

Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I still associate the holiday with spending time with my family and thus am very grateful to be in Santa Cruz this year. I certainly couldn’t see a sunset like this in London on Christmas Eve!

This is one of my favorite spots since I was young – the cliffs near my parent’s house overlooking my favorite beach, which is where I often run and go for walks. My Mom and I hung out on a bench for a long time, chatting and taking in these incredible views of the Santa Cruz bay. I had already done my long run for the holiday weekend – 12M to Top of Incline in Nisene Marks (around 1,500ft elevation gain) with two fabulous new running buddies who I met through the Santa Cruz Running club – so it felt nice to sit and relax for awhile, knowing that my hard work was done!

As you probably know, the typical Jewish Christmas often involves Chinese food and movies. This year, however, our day is a bit different. We already saw several movies recently, including The Artist (which was amazing) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (which I also loved), so we’re taking today off. Instead of Chinese food, I made us a delicious and healthy brunch including veggie omelets and fruit salad, and we are going to a friend’s house in the early evening for a small Hanukkah dinner celebration, including homemade latkes! Yum.

We are sticking to one family tradition, however. Christmas Day in California wouldn’t be complete, to me at least, without a long walk together on the beach. The weather has been crisp but sunny here for most of this month, and it would be a crime not to get outside and enjoy it. My days of warm sunshine and beautiful beaches are limited!

I miss my wonderful London family of friends I made during my years living there. Most of all, obviously, I miss E – he is in London right now enjoying that peace and quiet I mentioned above. Thankfully, I just found out that he planned a last-minute trip to visit me in California for New Year’s! All those beach photos must have made him jealous. 🙂 He is all mine for a week and I am beyond excited! Best Hanukkah gift ever.

And now, it’s time to head down to the beach with my parents. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to you all!