Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

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.

00DelMonteHotel

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.

00DelMonteHotelSuite

This was the sunset from one of our windows:

00SunsetFromDelMonte

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.

00EntranceLaMesaVillage

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 🙂

00BistroMoulin

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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!

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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.

00CotijaMenu

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

00CotijaGuacPlate

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

00CotijaTacosAlPastore

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.

00CotijaCombinationPlate

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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00MercedParrots

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