Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Another Great Hike

There is a huge problem with the Cabrillo Lighthouse hike, and it is obvious from the very beginning. It is only a half mile, and it is downhill all the way.

What’s the problem, you might ask?

Well, if it is downhill all the way getting there, then coming back, it will be a half mile all . . . . What? You fill in the blank.

But it is another gorgeous day on the California sea coast, and it is a glorious day for a hike, even uphill.

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There is a wonderful story about a man who came to take the lighthouse keeper position, but he wasn’t married and only married keepers were allowed to live in the lighthouse keeper’s house. So a local girl – maybe the daughter of the previous lighthouse keeper – volunteered to marry him, and they stayed married the rest of their lives.

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I love using natural means to bioengineer against erosion loss:

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And, on the way back, yes, uphill all the way, we come across some very calm deer, not worried in the slightest by the steady trickle of visitors on the nearby path:
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April 30, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Mendocino, CA and the GoodLife Cafe

Mendocino was one of our destinations, it gets such good write ups, it sounds so attractive. Mendocino has the same gorgeous coastline, and it is cute. There are a lot of Bed and Breakfast kind of places, very nice, just, as it turns out, not our thing so much. We really like spacious.

We found a cafe we really liked, The Goodlife Cafe, where we stopped, and so did a lot of other people. It was hard to find a place to sit, and people were even sitting outside on a very cool windy day.

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I found a place barely big enough for two; the woman sitting next to us had spread out all her reading materials, so I asked “are these seats taken?” and she had to make room. We barely had room, but it was all right, at least we were seated.

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AdventureMan said this was one of the best sandwiches and chowder he had on his trip:

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I felt the same way about the pumpkin curry; it was unusual and magnificent. Warm and filling after a morning full of hikes!
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April 30, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Navarro Point Park

At Navarro Point, I make my ten thousand steps without even trying. It is so beautiful, you can hike and it doesn’t even feel like you are hiking, there is so much to look at, so much to enjoy. There is a brisk Pacific wind blowing, great for hiking, so you don’t even get too hot.

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You can see this stone in front of the bench overlooking the crashing waves:

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I am careful not to go too close to the edge; I love crashing waves but I don’t want to be smashed against the rocks by crashing waves after tumbling down a rocky bluff!

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For me, this was the best hike of the trip. I love the smell of salt sea air, I love the feel of the wind on my face and the sound of crashing waves.

April 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

“From the Redwood Forests . . .”

When I was little, this is the song that everyone was belting out. So many people sang it, Woody Guthrie, Peter Paul and Mary – and I believe it was based on an old American folk song:

As we hit the North California Coast, I could hear this song.

“From California . . . to the New York Island . . . this land is made for you and me.”

We live in a beautiful country. No matter where we turn, we have found beauty. Even parts of the country others find desertified and grim are beautiful in the spring, unbelievably green, but California has to be one of the most beautiful states of all, so much variety, so much beauty.

We love coastal areas, but driving through the redwood forests is also a thrill. The redwoods are just so beautiful, especially on a spring day with sunlight filtering through. It’s cool-warm. Too warm for a sweatshirt, too cool without it. Fortunately, we have time on our schedule to just stop and enjoy whatever we wish, because we are making a lot of stops along these forested roads.

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Even a California Poppy! Today is a blessed day!

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Of all the vineyards we saw, I liked this one the best. It’s that Art Nouveau thing they have going on 🙂

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April 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Family Interlude in Los Gatos

I have a favorite nephew, an amazing young man who is, like AdventureMan and myself, a total nerd about maps and all things geographical. From the time he was young, he showed wisdom, and understanding, and a quirky way of thinking outside the box. His license plate said “Earthling.” He cracked me up.

We watched together in horror as the planes hit the World Trade towers.

Now, these years later, he has a delightful wife, who is both intellectual equal and a playful heart who makes him happy and helps him not to take himself too seriously, nor to underestimate his talents. He has a job he loves, at GoogleEarth. They have two children, children around the same age as my own grand children, and I have never met them, so we ask if we can get together and they are eager to see us.

This was one of the best days of our journey.

One of the best moments, and you have to know four year old boys to know how serious and wonderful this is, is when my nephew’s son invited me to come up to his room so he could show me some things. When we got there, he pulled out his pajamas and underpants, and I totally got it, being a person who buys Avenger underwear for my own grandson 🙂 I was so honored, so delighted to be shown his treasures 🙂 It was one of life’s special moments.

AdventureMan had his own conquest; we had brought games and puzzles and things for children, and the two-and-a-half year old took a real shine to AdventureMan. Together, they stacked up pieces to the puzzle, and knocked them over. She had a Viewmaster that she considered her camera, and she snapped “photos” of me. We had a glorious time.

They took us to a wonderful restaurant in Los Gatos, Oak and Rye, where I followed my nephew’s wife’s lead and had a fabulous tomato soup and a shaved brussle sprout salad. This was one of the tastiest and most satisfying meals of the trip.

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We were a large and noisy group, two children and five adults who had a lot of catching up to do (we had asked that our nephew’s wife’s mother also join us) and the restaurant found a large table for us outside (it was a gorgeous day) with a shade over us to keep us cool. The kids could move around and we could talk and we weren’t disturbing anyone. Friends of the family saw us dining there, and came over to chat, so it got even noisier – just more to catch up with 🙂 It was a grand reunion.

All too soon, we were saying goodbye, wishing we could stay longer but the road is calling, and we are on our way to another stop on the California coast. We hit San Francisco in the late afternoon, and get to go across the Golden Gate Bridge in perfect weather, accompanied by hundreds of people taking advantage of the perfect day to march across the bridge on foot.

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April 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Monterey, CA; A Sentimental and Nostalgic Journey

One of the (many) highlights of our trip was spending time, once again, in Monterey, California where we had attended the Naval Postgraduate School and the Defense Language Institute. We used to lie in our bed in La Mesa Village, and we could hear the seals barking. We discovered that with our mighty ID cards, we could get a wonderful suite at the old Del Monte Hotel, now Navy Lodging on the campus of the Naval Postgraduate School.

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The Del Monte is one of those magnificent hotels built to welcome post guests to destinations served by the railroads. The Ahwahnee is another such, as are Yellowstone and Glacier Lodges. The Navy took it over during the war, and used it as a rest and rehabilitation center, then later turned the hotel campus into a school specific to Navy needs of navigation, engineering, strategy and decision-making.

We had a two room suite with a bathroom and a kitchen. It was spare, but very spacious. Having space, for me, is like breathing. Having high ceilings makes all the difference.

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This was the sunset from one of our windows:

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After settling in, we went out to revisit our old haunts. The biggest shock was La Mesa Village, where we once lived. When we got to Monterey, and saw our quarters, I cried. They were little three bedroom units in groups of four. We were lucky, we got an outside corner unit, so we had more windows and more light than many others, but we also had black linoleum. It was horrible. I cried.

AdventureMan found someone leaving who had carpeting cut exactly for our unit, and bought it to cover the linoleum floors. It was pretty hideous, a greeny-gold kind of shag carpet, but it covered the black linoleum. I thought he was a rock-star.

We couldn’t even find our old unit in La Mesa Village. Now, they are all duplexes, two story, I think they tore down all the old units and built new, modern ones. Each is painted differently, and they look very California suburban, no longer like military housing, except that one or two units have flags outside.

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We head down to Asilomar, always one of our favorite drives, and feast our eyes on the coastal rocks and the crashing waves. It is a glorious spring day, people are all barefoot and enjoying the sun.

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We stroll along the Monterey waterfront, which has changed also. It was always touristy, but it used to be sort of grungy, and now it is clean – and kind of bland, full of shops full of tourist kitch made in China.

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When planning the trip, we spent a lot of time looking for fun places to eat, and this was the place we agreed on instantly, the Bistro Moulin. Good thing we made reservations, they were turning people away as fast as they showed up. It’s an adorable place, very welcoming, and the food was fabulous. It got too crowded to take photos with discretion; we started with a pate, then I had the Petrale Sole, which was fabulous, and AdventureMan had Mussels in Wine Sauce which were more fabulous than my Sole 🙂

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We were totally caught by surprise by the most nostalgic moment on this part of our trip. We were enjoying ourselves so thoroughly, being back in Monterey and Carmel, just relishing soaking in all the good times available, and then, as we got back to our room, we heard a trumpet. The long, haunting notes of Taps began to play, and it was as if we were still young students at the PG school, everything stopping to pay homage to the end of the day and its sacrifices.

We were equally surprised to be greeted by Reville the next morning!

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Renovations, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cotijas Taco Shop in Los Banos

On our long trip, we became aware of just how big our country is, so big that there can be miles and miles and miles before the next gas station, or the next lunch stop. If it is getting to be lunch, and you see that there may be a long stretch ahead with a minimum of stops, stop now. Buy gas. Eat lunch.

We knew we had better make the best of Los Banos, California, as it seemed there would be a long stretch before the next good stop. When AdventureMan spotted Cotija’s Taco Shop, it was a blessing.

It doesn’t look like much. It is a drive-up place, with just two or three outdoor tables. But they seemed to have a lot of customers, and the platters coming out of the kitchen were sort of awesome.

We ordered, and soon, more food than we could ever eat started to appear.

This is how you order, off the menu on the wall. The prices are amazing.

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We ordered guacamole and chips to start; this is the best plate of guacamole and salsa we have ever eaten:

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I ordered Tacos al Pastore; there was so much meat in the tacos I couldn’t even eat all of one taco:

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AdventureMan ordered a combination plate and said he had to stop eating before he got sick, but it was so good it was hard to stop.

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Not every dining experience is as sublime as the Ahwahnee, but sometime road food can be delightfully delicious!

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Driving by Faith from Yosemite to Monterey

I only discovered by accident that my GoogleMaps app talks. Leaving San Antonio, we discovered she would tell us which lane to be in, when to exit, etc. I liked it because most of the time, we had plenty of warning and when we missed something, there was no judgement in her tone, just new instructions, helpful instructions, with none of that annoying righteousness navigators can assume. (I can say that, being the navigator.)

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I like it that AdventureMan and I listen together, and so I am not sounding like a nag. She repeats. Occasionally, AdventureMan told her to please shut up, that he had this, but she just wanted to be sure.

Leaving Yosemite was easy driving. I drove the leg to Merced so AdventureMan could look, and as we approached Merced, there were signs for stops with fruits and nuts and garlics and oils – all the bounty of the California Valley.

One thing I saw a lot of on this trip was a move towards multi-use restrooms; they were marked for male or female, and to me, this just makes sense. It especially makes sense if you are female, there are always huge lines in female restrooms and never lines in male restrooms. Now, we just all share. Of course, there is always the question of cleanliness, but I found, generally speaking, most of these unisex toilets were maintained with high degrees of cleanliness.

Behind this Merced shop, they are setting up for a large lunch crowd, and they have a petting zoo, as well as parrots

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They had such marvelous food-stuffs, I found wonderful dates, and an avocado oil, and all kinds of almonds and walnuts, pickled garlics, and AdventureMan found peanut brittle.

Leaving Merced, however, the GoogleMap voice told us to take a route that did not seem right. AdventureMan did not want to do it, but as it turned out, it helped us avoid traffic in Merced, took us on these very fast country roads to an intersection where we quickly found ourselves en route to Monterey.

Later, stopped in inexplicable traffic, she kept telling us she could save us six minutes, but it meant getting off the route, going through town and getting on again at the next light. We saw others doing it, but it kind of seemed like cheating to do that, and for what, you’re still stopped in traffic, just a little farther down the road? Most of the time, however, we learned to listen to her voice 🙂

The saddest thing we found, in this paradise where fruits and vegetables grow happily, were all the signs saying “Pray for Water.” California is one of the great food-baskets of the world, and the food supply is reliant on water. In the midst of a drought, with signs it may go on for many more years, they ask for our prayers.

Pray for Water.

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Cultural, Environment, Food, Gardens, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Sights in Yosemite: Life is Sweet

God is good. I had always wanted to go to Yosemite, and to stay at the Ahwahnee. It was a dream come true, but there can be a fly in the ointment – everything can go well, but if you have rain, or fog, or heavy clouds, the views don’t present themselves. Going in early Spring is a risk – maybe the waterfalls won’t be flowing yet, maybe it will be snowing and the roads difficult or impassable.

We were so blessed. We were blessed with deep blue skies and glowing sunshine, warm and light, but not hot. We were blessed to have some places all to ourselves, as it is not yet high season, and some great early morning moments. We were blessed that the streams and waterfalls were flowing heavily, and we were blessed to have the time to appreciate them. We are so thankful to have this opportunity in our lives to do the things we’ve always wanted to do – and we are thankful for all the things we have already been able to do. Life is sweet.

Note: Some of the national parks, like Yosemite and Yellowstone, have relatively steep entry fees. If you reach the grand age of 62, you are eligible for a life time senior pass to all national parks for the bargain price of $10. That ten dollars covers your car and all occupants. It is such a deal that AdventureMan and I each have one, so we don’t need to worry about passing it back and forth, we each keep one in our own car.

Coming from the south, we saw a car park on both sides of the road and hundreds of people taking photos, so we stopped. This is Tunnel View, meaning just after – or before – you’ve gone through the tunnel. It is an awesome way to enter the park, and a great place for selfies.

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Bridal Veil, which in mid-morning, has mists of gushing water surrounding it, like clouds of tulle in a bridal veil

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At Bridal Veil Falls, there were also some very tame, very unafraid deer

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Day breaking in Yosemite. We wanted to be out early, before the crowds arrived, and to catch the early morning light

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Yosemite Falls

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Rock surrounding road at the Merced entrance where we went to buy gas

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Yosemite bridge – there were all kinds of campers here, cooking up breakfast, brushing teeth, etc. There were restrooms nearby and running water and picnic tables – what more can a camper want?

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Early in the morning, you meet kindred souls. A very kind photographer told us that if we hiked to the middle of a nearby meadow, we would have spectacular unblocked shots of Yosemite Falls. He was right.

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Another unafraid animal, this time a coyote, waiting to cross the road

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April 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Environment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel | | Leave a comment

The Ahwahnee Dining Room

American diners have steadily avoided formal dining situations, it is a growing trend. I have to admit, unless I am in France, I’m less enchanted by all the formality than I used to be. I still love beautiful china and gleaming silver, snowy white real linen tablecloths and impeccable service, and at the same time, I really have to be in the mood. It really has to be worth the time, time to make the reservation, time to dress, time to enjoy a leisurely meal.

The Ahwahnee has that kind of dining room.

We ate almost every meal during our stay there. We found we liked the lunch menu better than the dinner menu, as we prefer eating our larger meal mid-day and eating lighter at night.

You have to have reservations, even when it is not high season. If you don’t, you may miss one of life’s great experiences. There is a dress code for the Ahwahnee dining room, both for men and for women. It’s a very mild dress code. They prefer coats for men, skirts for women, no T-shirts, shirts with collars only.

We were shown to what became our favorite table at the Ahwahnee, way at the end of the dining room, in a small alcove with five or six other tables, and a stunning view of the entire dining room, as well as mountains and trees. This is table 123, and a view of the 30+ feet high timbered ceiling which gives the dining room its grandeur.

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My very first meal there, I saw they had a Shrimp Louis on the menu. Shrimp Louis is very west coast; not something I get in Pensacola. This Shrimp Louis was my dream come true; it was served with real Louis dressing, not Thousand Island dressing. I nearly swooned with delight.

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AdventureMan has BBQ pork. He said it was good, but he gets good BBQ in the South 🙂 so he wasn’t swooning.

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The next day, he ordered a Reuben, and said it was good. He hasn’t had a lot of Reubens, and he said this one had a LOT of meat, but it was good meat, and that matters to him. He enjoyed it thoroughly.

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I had the Trout. I adore trout. This was pretty good.

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I didn’t take photos at the dinner meals, and some of our meals we also ate in the Ahwahnee bar, where they had a lighter menu, and we thoroughly enjoyed that, too.

You know me and light fixtures; I really loved all the details that go into making this such a designer’s dream of a hotel:

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April 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments