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February 1, 2009

California Dreaming--Plan A

California Road Trip--Preliminary Planning

Saturday: Fly into SF Saturday night, Overnight near the airport.

Sunday: Meet J & C for lunch somewhere--Pescadaro or Santa Cruz (1 hr drive); visit Point Lobos State Reserve; Pacific Grove butterfly reserve; overnight Pacific Grove/Carmel. Dinner at Lucca.
http://pt-lobos.parks.state.ca.us/Information.htm
http://www.pgmuseum.org/Monarchs.htm
http://www.carmelcalifornia.com/
hotel—Carmel Village Inn http://www.carmelvillageinn.com/ $99 on Expedia
Dinner—Lucca http://www.cantinettaluca.com/kitchen/menu_dinner.html

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February 3, 2009

My Google Maps Addiction

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I'd never really paid much attention to google Maps, just using it as a tool to find sites when trip planning, to find routes, or to estimate distances. Just for chuckles, I started making a map for our upcoming Californa trip. I started with putting on the sites we wanted to visit along the coast. OK, then I started researching Mexican restaurants in LA on Chowhound. Before I knew it, I was adding restaurants, shops, hotel possibilities, beaches, taco truck stands, state parks, interesting driving routes, museums, and anything else that came my way. Hello, where did the last two hours go?

Now, to make this thing really usable. Could it be somehow plugged into the GPS? Five seconds of research showed that yes, that little "send" button on the right can be used to send your pinpointed sites to your Garmin GPS!

For the curious, here are my two maps, still being worked on:

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February 12, 2009

Mother Nature Isn't Cooperating

The latest weather forcast for rain, rain, and oh yes, did we mention heavy rains for central and southern California for the next ten days do not make me a happy camper.

May need to revamp the SF to LA Road Trip plans significantly. Driving the coast road in a downpour and sitting in our hotel room looking out at the sodden beach does not sound like the ideal break from the lousy weather in Boston.

Rats. Ah well. Can't be worse than coastal Alaska was in August--low 40's and with a cold rain. I think the reason why the boys are smirking in the photo was to keep their teeth from chattering.

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February 15, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We're here, enjoying the comforts of the airport Embassy Suites before heading down the coast to have lunch with Colleen in Capitola. It's stopped raining for the moment, looks to be drippy for the next day or two. Planning to go to Point Lobos, and if the weather gods smile, to the Monarch reserve in Pacific Grove. If weather stinks, the Aquarium in Monterey.

Updates (and hopefully photos) tonight!

February 16, 2009

Carmel and Monterey

Yesterday morning we drove around Larry's haunts in Palo Alto, ending up at a beautiful state park high up on a hillside. With an IBM plant at the top. *grin* From there, we headed across the mountains and down into Santa Cruz, and then to Capitola for lunch.

Still raining.

Walked over the wharf, admiring the huge grey swells breaking on the beach, and ate a nice lunch at The Wharf Restaurant. Said our goodbyes, and we headed to Monterey. I enjoyed driving through the farmland in the valleys, seeing fields of artichiokes and newly planted lettuce.

We shelved our initial plans on going to the Monarch reserve in Pacific Grove and Point Lobos, and headed to the Aquarium. What a fabulous place! I had thought the Boston one was good, but this was far and away stronger in both what they dieplayed and how everything was presented. The exhibits geared toward young kids were astonishing--so much to touch, play with and explore.

I particularly loved the Jellyfish area, with bright blue tanks showcasing the jellyfish like moving jewels. There will be an exhibit on seahorses and seadragons in the Spring, which shuld be awesome. Look at these guys--

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After we'd been "fished out" (Dan asked "am I a bad person because I really, really want sushi now?") we drove around Pacific Grove a bit, admiring the adorable victorian cottages and lovely beach. We rested up a bit at our hotel (comfortable, not fancy, and the best deal in Carmel at $99 for a double right downtown) and walked over to Cantinetta Luca for dinner. Excellent meal, and I am a happy girl with spaghetti with crab. Excellent pizzas, too.

Still raining.

February 17, 2009

Carmel to Cambria

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Baby Elephant Seals Ahead!

Woke up to still more downpours, but as we ate breakfast at the hotel (and why does Quaker insist on putting so much sugar into their instant oatmeal? Yuk) we could see breaks in the clouds. Yay!

Dragged the boys up and into the car. Have I mentioned the car? The boys were thrilled beyond reason yesterday when we saw Dollar had given us a convertable. I was less thrilled, given how tiny the thing was. I've been less thrilled each time I haul myself out of it and bang my knee on the door. They're really looking forward to driving with the top down. If it ever stops raining.

Drove around Carmel a bit. Charming little town, with hundreds of shops selling bad to middling artwork and things that might appeal to well-heeled tourists. The houses are beautiful, although there seems to be some sort of competition for most precious curb appeal. Amazing shoreline, though.

I had wanted to go to Pacific Grove to see if the monarch butterflies were still overwintering at the Reserve. Lots of trees, not a single monarch. Sadness. Stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up snacks for the road.

Headed south on route one, and as the rain stopped, we turned into Point Lobos State park. Headed out for some hiking. What a glorious place, full of pine, cypress and eucaliptis; rocky shoreline, huge rocks catching spray. We saw pelicans and deer, the boys almost gave me a heart attack leaping over rocks close to the edge, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

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The rain started again before Big Sur, and we chased rainstorms and breaks of sun all the way down to San Simeon. Stopped for lunch for hilariously overpriced burgers.

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As we reached the valley, I saw a large parking lot with groups of people clustered at the water's edge. We'd found the Elephant Seals nesting grounds at Piedras Blancas. Wow. Imagine hundreds of these guys, ranging from the month-old pups up to the 5000 pound daddies lounging on the sand, squealing and shouting as they defend their inches of beach.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOmc3gEPA-Q

Finally reached the Hearst Castle at 4, and got into the last tour of the day. What a ludicrous place, proving that yes, it is possible to have too much money. We had a great guide, who really helped put Hearst and his guests into a historical perspective. I loved the indoor pool, with the glittery pavillions of Murano glass tiles.

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Checked into our hotel in Cambria, the very nice Fogcather Inn on the beach. Ate dinner at Linn's. collapsed by 9:30.

February 18, 2009

Cambria and Paso Robles

Blue skies, some overhanging clouds to the north! Larry and I walked a short stretch of the boardwalk along the beach in front of the hotel. Lovely place to walk or run.

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After I made obscene noises over the homemade salsa served with the scrambled aggs at breakfast, we headed to the edge of Cambria for some hiking. Large parcels of land have been turned into a Greenspace, with miles of hiking trails and boardwalks. We started at the Fiscalini Ranch Reserve, and followed a spectacular trail along the bluffs over the sea, eventually wnding up high over the hills. There were a few enormous benches made of driftwood, wildflowers were starting to bloom (Marta, I'll be asking you to identify some plants), and we spotted a few sea otters in the surf. It was about two miles, a nice walk.

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February 19, 2009

Cambria to LaLa Land

Woke to blue skies and a suspicious glow in the sky. Saddened the boys that driving down 101 with the top down was not going to happen because luggage in the trunk meant the top couldn't be put down, and set off. Pismo Beach reminded us of the Jersey Shore, but with palm trees. Once past the sprawl of Santa Maria, the countryside turned lovely. Rolling hills topping up to craggy ridges, grazing cattle, peeks at vineyards. We followed 101 back to the sea and gave the boys a drive through Santa Barbara, a place Larry and I had enjoyed many years ago. We'd love to return to explore the Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara areas in depth.

We got off the road in Agoura Hills to see the Teradyne building where Larry dissapears to every month or so, and had lunch with awesome sweet potato fries in a deli near the office. I continued success with my goal of having avocado or salsa at every meal.

My camera's batteries failed me yesterday, so no photos of the morning!

We decided that since we'd be going right past the Getty Museum off the 405, we'd stop in. Forked over our $10 for parking, and rode the tram up the hill. What a gorgeous place, with the pale travertine stone against blue sky.

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We didn't want to overburden the boys with too much culture (insert eyeroll here) se we kept the visit brief. We all liked the photography galleries, I was disappointed to see very few paintings from Flemish artists beyond Rembrandt, and we did a fast walk through European paintings. It's not an extensive collection by any means, but makes for easier viewing because your eye doesn't get overwhelmed. We loved the gardens, and the water elements in the designs. I think the building, grounds, gardens and view are what makes the place special.


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February 20, 2009

Fossils, Cars, Tacos, and Mr. Warner

After being very amused by Wolfgang Puck's face grinning at me from my coffee cup (Remember when he used to actually cook for a living?) we headed to the Fairfax area. Luggage was out of the convertable's trunk, so we took the top down to enjoy the blue skies and warmth. Larry wanted to see the La Brea Tar Pits.(Probably from hearing Johnny Carson make so many jokes about them, and doesn't that age us?) Mercifully, we were just ahead of several busloads of school trip groups. The Page Museum was a lot of skeletons pulled from the pits, although we managed to get roped in by a zealous docent who was quite interesting to listen to as he talked about the big find of a mastedon skeleton which was announced to the public yesterday. He took us over to the lab area, where you can see people working to clean tar off the fossils. Pretty cool.

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From there, we walked over to Pit 91, where a docent told us more about what goes on behind the scenes. There are huge trailers full of fossils they're still going through. And yes, a pool of tar looks about what you'd expect it to-

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The enormous LA County Art Museum is right next door, but they don't open till noon for some reason. Dan had wanted to go to the Peterson Automotove Museum on the next block. We were very amused when a guard at the art museum told us it was a far walk since we had to go the long way around--a distance that took us a bit more than five minutes. People in LA don't seem to walk much in their daily lives, except when in exercise clothes. There is a bus system, but we saw very few people actually using it.

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February 22, 2009

Where Would I Live?

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One of the little games I play when traveling is "Where Would I Live?" With just two days in LA I couldn't make any judgements about location, but I certainly could about type of dwelling. I love places where there's some definite "type" of architecture, and LA is chock full of it. I adored the Craftsman-style houses and the little Spanish Revival cottages from the early part of the century; and the more modern apartment buildings from the 20's and 30's are pretty cool. Some day I'd love to return for some sort of architectural tour of LA.

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