My fiancé, Tom and I have been making trips to Big Bear for several years. We enjoy the activities, the beauty and the sense of calmness whenever we are there. But until now, and for as many times as we have made the short trek from our homes in San Diego and Orange County, we had never come without at least one of our 3 sons and their entourage. We decided it was time to make the journey by ourselves and discover Big Bear from a new perspective, capturing a bit of romance in the process.
Our mini vacation to Big Bear began mid-day on a Friday in early June and couldn’t have come a better time. I’ve had my fill of the May-Grey and June-Gloom at home. I felt revitalized as we drove up the mountain when somewhere around Running Springs we are released from the clouds. The sun shines bright with a promise of the romantic adventure that lies ahead. My spirit yearns for a few fun-filled days in the sunshine.
As we arrived in town we drove through the Village before checking into our rented cabin. There were so many cute little shops and restaurants I planned to explore. After moving into our cabin (featuring everything “bear” related) near the base of Snow Summit, we promptly hopped onto our bikes for a leisurely ride. Tom is more inclined to tackle a thrilling downhill run at Snow Summit, but I am a real estate junkie. I can’t wait to uncover all the quaint and sometimes elaborate homes in the neighborhood, imagining that one day one would be mine.
After a tumble off my bike, and being no worse for wear, we headed back to our cabin for a glass of wine on our deck. We aren’t wine snobs, but with a good glass of red (like Tempranillo or Super Tuscan) enjoyed under the pines, everything seems perfect, in particular my perfect fiancé.
A quiet, intimate dinner in the Village is on the agenda for our first night. We had received several recommendations of romantic places to dine and romance is what I wanted. Peppercorn Grille, Sweet Basil Bistro, Bistro at the Mansion and Ooh La La Bistro were high on the list. We chose Ooh La La Bistro for an evening we wanted to make out of the ordinary.
The restaurant was small but cozy with white linen tablecloths and massive chairs that appeared to be designed for royalty. It was all very charming and perfect for an intimate dinner. Ooh La La serves French cuisine; not our usual fare. Some of the items on the prix-fixe menu were unfamiliar to us, but there was not a single item we did not fully enjoy. As to be expected from a French restaurant, we were more than satisfied with our choices of wines. Hot and cold appetizers, the main course and dessert came in under $30 per person. The ambiance was perfect and the meal was delicious.
After dinner we strolled through the Village and stopped at Club Bombay for an after-dinner drink. Club Bombay is an upscale cocktail lounge that surprisingly still subscribes to offering free bar food on Friday nights. After Ooh La La, we weren’t hungry, but good to know for the future. Nestled into one of their comfy loveseats, we were treated to contemporary live music by a very talented artist. The couple playing chess next to us informed us that Club Bombay is well known for their signature cocktails. Of course we had to sample one. If you love chocolate or martinis or both, don’t leave without trying their White Chocolate Martini! As we finished off our second round, our second round finished us off and our romantic evening on the town drew to a close.
Saturday we were up bright and early for a brisk walk to a coffee shop on the Boulevard for breakfast. We love taking walks together. From where our cabin was located, it seemed we were within walking distance of virtually everything from the slopes to the lake to the Village. June mornings can be chilly, but this morning was exceptionally warm and by 8 a.m. I was already in shorts. What a gorgeous blue-sky day!
Fishing was the plan for the day. To some that won’t sound very romantic, but Tom is a fisherman so this appeals to him. If he’s happy, I’m happy. My idea of fishing is basking in the sun until the fishing pole starts to shimmy. Then, maybe, I jump into action. We rented a small pontoon boat from Big Bear Marina and took off for our adventure on the lake. Once on the lake it was a little chillier than I had expected, so be forewarned and bring a light jacket and wear long pants. We had very little luck fishing except for a few small trout that had to be released. We pulled in our rods and headed over to Papoose Bay, a protected cove out of the wind and simply relaxed (as always soaking in the sunshine). These are the moments that I remember the best. This is the romance. There is only the two of us and nature. No phones, no TVs and the beauty of the lake and mountains surrounding us. It is the perfect setting to reconnect with each other.
We drove the pontoon over to B’s, a local’s hang-out for people and dogs alike. They have a public boat dock if you’re lucky enough to find an open slip. This day we were lucky. We tied off and headed to the beach to enjoy a beer. We were fully entertained by the dogs allowed to run off their leashes. If you’re not fond of dogs, this is not the place for you. The dogs are pretty well behaved, but you never know when, after a dip in the lake, one is going to give a good shake next to you.
I could have sat and enjoyed the view from the beach for hours. The sun began its slow descent just beyond the dam and we watched the sky’s spectacular show of colors with awe. Tom used this spectacular moment to share with me that “this is why we will live in Big Bear one day.” Without taking my eyes off the setting sun, and without further need for explanation, I understood and silently agreed.
Back at the cabin we enjoyed a quiet evening and set up dinner in front of a roaring fire. Tom prepared the meal himself (which almost never happens). There was something special in the air that night!
Our last day at the lake is upon us and we know all good things must come to an end, but we intend to make the most of it. With an 8 a.m. tee-time at the Bear Mountain Golf Course, we’re up and out early. Tom is the “real” golfer. My golf game isn’t the best. Fortunately, this is a course that doesn’t intimidate me. To get in a full 18-hole game of golf here, you must play two 9-hole rounds. In the essence of time, we end our game after 9 holes. We finished our morning of activities with another bike ride, this time along the pedal path of the North Shore. It’s a breathtaking ride through the trees and open fields along the lake.
Before we headed back down the hill we had to stop at Murray’s Saloon & Eatery. It is another local’s (dive) bar offering some great food. Every time we come to Big Bear Tom must stop and have the foot-long grilled chicken sandwich and an Arnold Palmer lemonade. This trip is no different. On the surface, a chicken sandwich at Murray’s is not very romantic. But there is something very romantic about sharing our history here.
There is an unspoken love that involves me, Tom, Big Bear, Murray’s and that chicken sandwich that no one else ever needs to understand.