Thursday, September 30, 2010
The little town of San Juan Bautista is practically traffic-free (almost freakishly so for California). Old two-story buildings with peek-a-boo courtyards line up down three blocks of “The Alameda”. We ate at Jardines de San Juan for lunch out in their pretty courtyard. The courtyard includes interesting cacti, olive trees, and chickens! Cute little chickens and roosters roamed around picking up bugs—cackling and crowing. You do not see that everyday.
We found out today that we are on the San Andreas fault. Literally on the San Andreas fault. I guess if our little RV house can withstand traveling down the road, it should hold up during an earthquake. Keep your finger crossed.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The homes along the beach scream wealth. But, we both agreed it was not the big McMansions that caught our attention; it was the smaller, subtle homes that were the most beautiful—from the low-slung modern blending naturally within the rocks to the quaint English cottage complete with a colorful rose garden and white picket fence.
Along the road paralleling the ocean are public beaches with rugged rock outcroppings creating an angry sea even on a calm day. With one exception. There was one sandy surfing beach, and it was filled with black wet suit surfers. Swimming near them, unafraid, were seals, lots of them. The seals and surfers look so much alike; it is easy to understand why sharks often snatch a surfer mistaking them for a juicy seal snack.
Yes, we saw the Pebble Beach logo along the drive, The Lone Cypress. But, it was not so lonely. There were scads of tourists snapping pictures on the shore. Based on the crowds we saw at this stopping point and several others, the 17-mile drive would be grid-locked, if it were not for the $10 toll.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The only downside to the stunning scenery was the heat wave hitting California the last two days. When we stopped down near the surf, the temperature was a refreshing 70 degrees; but as you drive up the cliffs, the heat was a blasting 100 degrees.
When we reached the Nepenthe restaurant, located 800 feet, straight up from the sea, it was 100 degrees. But we could not resist the view outside, so we sat in the shade to see the spectacular coast as we ate. You sit on one side of a long table because the other side drops to the Keva Cafe (picture to the right). I put my purse on my lap rather than next to my chair for obvious reasons.
The Nepenthe has delicious food, appreciated chardonnay and unbelievable views. At one time Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth owned the restaurant—another piece of trivia. It would have been amazing to watch the sunset from the deck, but driving home in the dark on that windy road is not something to we wanted to experience.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Not speaking for Mike (As long as it fits, he is happy; but I at least make sure his shirt works with the pants…), I am realizing my previous wardrobe was dated. I am not a fashionista, but I do like dressing nicely. In my quest for age-appropriate, updated clothing, I stumbled across a website http://www.polyvore.com/ that is a neat tool for planning clothing purchases and it is creative way (a collage/scrapbook tool) of thinking of more than one way to wear an article of clothing. The picture to the left shows clothing I own (the shorts were a recent purchase) and the collage I created for our trip to the beach later this week. I will let you explore the website to understand how this works, but it is pretty neat the way you can import from retailers’ websites.
I recognize this approach is not for everyone, but I find it is a fun little hobby. Maybe as I create more collages, I can post another blog with them and the ways I plan to maximize my wardrobe on the road.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Large numbers of teenagers were playing volleyball on the beach. I am guessing this was their high school physical education class. Man, maybe I would have loved P.E. if I had played volleyball in my bikini on the beach. My high school P.E. involved cowering in the corner during the war ball game in the gym. Maybe Mike would have shown up for P.E. if he played on the beach with bikini-clad hotties….
Seriously, Santa Cruz is beautiful. And the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is very cool with the wooden rollercoaster, the Ferris Wheel over the water, arcades—all painted in brilliant colors and the beach literally steps away. The Coney Island of the West. Walking around the rides and arcade, we found we were behind a family from New Jersey. They were almost a clone of the Soprano family. I am not making this up. In his New Jersey accent, the son was discussing the shortcomings of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk compared to Coney Island. “Lemme-tell-yous this is no Coney Island Pawk.” Hilarious.
Mike was ready by noon for a cold beer in a frosty glass. He was very insistent on the frosty glass. We found a great bar on the wharf with a perfect view of the ocean and the fishing boats in the bay.
Interestingly enough, we have found that we get the best local advice from hairstylists, golf partners, and…bartenders. Based on the advice of our bartender today, we ate at the Crow’s Nest next to the marina. The restaurant is positioned on the channel for boats incoming and outgoing. Lots of boats going out today—the weather was spectacular for sailing.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
“What is wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing is wrong.” I replied. “Why? Everything is great.”
“You have not blogged since Sunday. Are you sick?” She insisted.
Really, nothing is wrong. We have just been hanging out and I did not think anyone cared to know that Mike was washing and waxing the 5’er (this takes several days and the RV Parks allowing you to wash your rig are limited—our current park does) and I have been cleaning the cupboards. Apparently, I was wrong—somebody cares. I will be more diligent in my daily blogging.
If you did not notice, there are at least four safety violations in the picture of Mike buffing the RV. What happened to his work safety ethic? A rebel without a cause.
We did go out to eat at a cute Mexican restaurant in the little town of San Juan Bautista a couple miles down the road from us. We plan to go back to the town and see the old Spanish Mission (built in 1797) and hit a couple more restaurants there. I will take my camera this time.
I have been reading a lot since I found a new series of books to enjoy. Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse southern vampire books and HBO True Blood television series, writes another set with a couple more interesting central characters. When I start reading, it is hard to stop much less focus on anything else.
Maybe tomorrow we will head to Santa Cruz to enjoy the beach and the boardwalk. It is like summer here and we like it!
Sunday, September 19, 2010
The most well-known musicians (Harry Connick, Jr., Chick Corea, Dianne Reeves—just to name a few) play in “The Arena” in the evening. The Arena seats are much coveted even to the extent they are sought after during divorce proceedings. Of course, we were not able to get tickets to “The Arena”. Just think of it, in the first year of the festival in 1957, Billie Holiday sang on that stage. That would have been something to see. Between the big name musicians and celebrities flying into the small airport located next to the fairgrounds, I lost count at twenty private jets—not small planes—large private jets.
The Johnny Nocturne Band was our favorite. They have been around a long time, and are all phenomenal. The guitar player was out of this world.
Never listened to gospel soul before, but Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens had the crowd standing and clapping and swaying to the music. People get into a frenzy over this stuff; and admittedly, it was fun to listen to and watch. Old Naomi did not stop for over an hour and a half. We still cannot believe that big voice came out of that little woman. I want some of her stamina.
Lastly, Trombone Shorty played. What a performer! He plays the trombone like the devil and the trumpet and the drums and sings. The crowd went wild! The only downside to this was we unfortunately parked our blanket in front of the speakers and his music and his band were LOUD! We tried stuffing our ears with bits of napkin which helped some, but we finally had to pick up and move way in the back.
The first two acts were crowded, but when young Trombone Shorty came on stage the place was packed—people sat down in the aisles, they were up on limbs in all the trees, and they squeezed into every bit of space they could. Add to this, they all wanted to wiggle their booty (Side note: Some men should not dance to jazz.) It was crazy and fun to watch! I swear Yoko Ono was dancing just like Mick Jagger next to us—looked just like her and she was a little wacko, too.
Oh, and the food was to die for. New favorite meat is alligator. We think it tastes like a sweet, chewy pork. This came from a New Orleans food vendor, and they cooked the meat with a spicy deep fry served on a stick . Groan..so good. The whole time we were listening to the music you can smell all this delicious food—Cajun, Italian, Thai, BBQ—it was all there. Even the food courts (note: more than one) had small jazz bands playing.
Wow, can you spell “over-stimulated”? We need a few days to rest.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
The subtle charm of Carmel could not happen without a wealthy clientele willing to support it and the years spent cultivating the feel of the town. I read somewhere the number of galleries averages more than one for every 100 residents. This is due to celebrity residents and upscale tourists purchasing art you cannot find elsewhere. All shopping was way, way out of our price range; but it was sure fun to window shop and walk through a few—such unique clothing and unbelievable artwork. Would you buy a wooden canoe for $28,000?
Try finding an address for your GPS in this town; you cannot. Carmel recently voted overwhelmingly to NOT receive home delivery of mail. This would require putting numbers on their homes which are known only by names and descriptions. Take a look at this link, it has great photos of the homes found in Carmel http://www.flickr.com/photos/nursebms/galleries/72157623283029580#photo_489008780 The best we could do to find our chosen eating location was to input only the street name and cruise the street once we got to Carmel. We ate at Clint Eastwood’s former restaurant, Hog’s Breath Inn, which still displays his portrait and the pictures of parties he held at the restaurant over the years.
Of course, we had the Dirty Harry Hamburger. We told them, “Go ahead, make our day.” No, we did not—that is pretty cheesy; but we sure wanted to.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Did you know 80 percent of the lettuce in the US is grown in Salinas, California about 17 miles south of our current location? Do you really care? The farmer’s market seems to be a year-round thing here. It has not been difficult to find fresh strawberries, vegetables, garlic, etc.
Mike has been a little under the weather with a sinus headache the last few days; so we have relaxed around home with a few short shopping trips for household items and groceries. In hindsight, we are happy to finally chill out. Since we started traveling over three months ago, we have been so excited to be at a new location that we run out everyday to see the local sights. Until now, we have not taken the time to just enjoy the RV Resort, the wonderful mild weather, and views of beautiful hills with oak and cypress.
If Mike is feeling better this weekend, maybe we will head over to the Monterey Jazz Festival. This is a big, international event and should be fun. (Jazz is usually our music choice and hearing some of our favorites in person would be a real treat.) There are also a number of other things to see before we leave at the end of the month; including Pinnacles National Monument with huge bat caves (the garlic smell must not bother these guys), Carmel & Pebble Beach Golf Course, the Santa Cruz boardwalk, and Big Sur a little farther south on Highway 1. We plan to leave here at the end of the month, but maybe we will extend our stay. It is pretty darn nice.
Friday, September 10, 2010
- Jellyfish in many different sizes and colors. The displays were designed with special lighting and a solid blue background--all you see are graceful, glowing Jellies with New Age music playing gently in the background in time with their pulsating motion. We were so mesmerized by the Jellyfish that we bought a DVD that creates a Jellyfish aquarium on your television with the same hypnotic music.
- There is a variation of the seahorse family called sea dragons. Amazing. They look like miniature dragons in camouflage. Some can blend into the soft green foliage and others into brilliant yellow coral. We never knew they existed.
- The kelp forest tank is two stories high and the tall swirling plants sway back and forth along with the simulated waves. Numerous fish species including leopard sharks swim between the kelp. Forget the sharks; it is the Sheephead fish everyone avoids; he has two canine teeth. Yikes!
- You can find a round aquarium on the ceiling of a separate round room with smelt schooling and swimming above, around and around like a child’s spinning top. They were almost a blur of silver motion.
John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” was required reading when I was in high school (or maybe it was middle school); and although, I do not remember much of the book storyline, I remember a few of the characters and the description of Cannery Row—“Doc”, Mack and the gang, the Chinese grocer. I am told that a number of the buildings standing today are the same as the ones depicted in the book, but they certainly are a cleaned up version. The Steinbeck description gave you almost a shantytown impression.
We ate at Sly McFly’s for fish and chips—kind of a dive, but great for people watching and a little local color. Also ordered up a cold beer--Cheers, Mr. Steinbeck--we sho’ do like your town.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
We left Napa Valley on Tuesday, relocating to the Betabel RV Park which is about 5 miles from San Juan Bautista, California. Our travel gnome enjoyed Napa and the wine quite a bit. We will all miss beautiful Napa and Sonoma Valley, but it is time to move on.
Someone asked how far we usually travel when relocating. We have certain criteria when moving:
1. Keep the distance to around 100 miles. (We drove 104 miles from Napa to San Juan Bautista yesterday.) We generally have a 50-mile area we explore and relocating by 100 miles gives us new territory.
2. A two-hour trip is just enough without too much prolonged stress, especially driving through high traffic areas.
3. We like leaving around 10 a.m. This gives us time in the morning without rushing. If you rush, you make mistakes like leaving a cabinet door open or forgetting an item. We have a checklist, but it is wise to take your time. And why hurry anyway? We are here to have a good time!
4. Most RV Parks have a check-in between 12 noon and 1 p.m. Leaving at 10 a.m. and driving two hours gets us there exactly on time.
Sometimes we cannot keep to these guidelines, but it is our goal for traveling.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
It was a beautiful ride once you got past Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square (jammed packed with people). Then you ride through the Aquatic Park, the Presidio National Park, and then up a couple of hills to the vista point before getting on the bridge. I was able to stop at the Park Headquarters to get my National Park Passport stamped. The total round trip was about 12 miles. We decided not to continue over to Sausalito, but instead turned around on the other side of the bridge and headed back the way we came . We wanted to have lunch at the Terminal before catching to ferry to Vallejo/Napa at 3 p.m.
The ride was not without hazards. Labor Day weekend is crowded with both locals and tourists; and we had to dodge pedestrians and other bikers. There is a bike rental place called Blazing Saddles (I love that name) that rents hundreds of bikes to tourists—they are everywhere. In addition to the tourist bikers and people strolling, you have serious, I mean serious, spandex people. I know you have seen them—their bikes that weigh no more than a quarter with skinny tires no bigger than a hair and the riders are clad in spandex from head to toe (okay, they are buff and look pretty hot). They ride fast with no intention of slowing down or stopping. They are scary.
For the first time in my life I crashed my bike. How embarrassing. It was not a little bobble, either. As I was trying to avoid some walkers, my tire slid on some old rail tracks in the Aquatic Park; and I went over the handlebars. Hard. I am a firm believer in bike helmets and I am glad I had mine on. A few scraps and bruises, but no smashed head. Out of a bad moment though, I had a positive experience. About a dozen people who ran over to see if I was alright—there are still nice people in this world even in a busy city on a holiday weekend.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Mike and I grew up in the wine country of Washington State. Most people don’t know that south-central Washington State is desert (no green trees grow naturally and temperatures in the summer exceed 100 degrees more often than not) and grapes like it there. The number of wineries are fewer and the grandeur of the wineries are not on the scale of Napa Valley and Napa Valley hills are by far more picturesque than the burnt sagebrush hills in that part of Washington State, but you know, I like the wineries there. They are intimate, no charge for tasting, the biggest crowd may be a dozen at a time (unless it is a special event) and your server can have a one-on-one conversation with you. And frankly, many of the wines rival Napa.
Now, having said all that…we found a winery today that reminded us of the wine tasting pace we enjoy. PlumpJack Winery was busy by our Washington standards (maybe two dozen there), but you felt the experience was much more relaxed than the mega-wineries. Nice little pocket patios with a farm-rustic feel. They still charge $10 for tasting, but with the number of people visiting I am sure they would go out of business if it were free. We are getting happier.
And I admit the shock and awe is what we came to Napa Valley to see. Domaine Carneros fits the bill for a grand entrance. It is a replica of the French Taittinger family’s 17th-century stone chateau in Champagne, and it is a WOW. The sparkling wine was fun to drink and the pinot noir was a nice red wine along with a cheese, fruit and nuts appetizer plate. With a table view of the expansive vineyards and the formal landscaping of the winery, we were quite happy.
Tomorrow, we ride our bikes over the Golden Gate Bridge. Wish us luck.
Friday, September 3, 2010
The town of Sonoma has the traditional Mexican/Spanish plaza. This one was established by General Vallejo, way back when. Every town should have a plaza with a large fountain, large cypress trees, and a little pond with ducks quacking loudly to be fed. This plaza was surrounded by little shops selling unique clothing, kitchen must-haves, and restaurants. I found the perfect multi-colored dress that goes everywhere (stretchy fabric is my best friend). I can wear it to a few more winery visits and maybe a wedding in the future—great with flip-flops or high heels.
Before we left Napa/Sonoma, we wanted some extra wine glasses with a winery logo. We found them at our wine tasting and afternoon patio drink establishment at Roche Winery. Great wine and great new glasses. I wanted substantial stems with a wide base to avoid tipping and a tasteful logo on the side—it is like they read my mind.
Their picnic area had the most colorful, outdoor artwork. They are waterproof! If I had a house, I would have one.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
For years, we owned a Chez Panisse poster celebrating its fourth birthday which hung in our little office at home. I always wondered if we would go there. And we did!
The Café at Chez Panisse, located upstairs, opened in 1980 offering an alternative to the set menu served in the Restaurant downstairs. The Café serves a moderately priced à la carte menu for both lunch and dinner. It has an open kitchen along one side of the room with a charcoal grill and a wood-burning oven. The cafe decor is a cozy, craftsman style with stunning Frank Lloyd Wright inspired skylights. Now, I do have to say that our waiter was very impressed with himself and put on an air which we found a little comical. Seriously, was his upper class New England with a British overlay (Katherine Hepburn –ish) accent for real—I am not sure. The service was good, and that is all we ask for.
BUT, the traffic getting there today was HORRENDOUS—the freeways (note multiple) from Napa to Berkeley criss-cross like spaghetti and bumper to bumper traffic—incredibly fast to a screeching stop. After just getting back to our quiet little RV and re-visiting the day, I am still not sure it was worth it. The GPS for navigating the roads just went to the top of our list for best technology.