shewhomust: (bibendum)
We are arrived chez [livejournal.com profile] weegoddess and J., fed, slept and caffeinated and reconnected to the networks which we had lost while in transit. All is well. The journey was - well, it was a journey, as they are. But that's another post. This is the post I was writing last time I was online, two days ago now, on the Edinburgh train, starting as the train was sitting on Newcastle station, where we were joined by survivors of the day's Great North Run. I'd thought I would be able to finish and upload it that evening, but was defeated by the hotel's very slow internet. The plan had been that one last post would complete the story of our previous trip to the States, before our next had quite, quite begun. Will the circle be unbroken? As it turns out, yes - indeed, so unbroken that the ends overlap, but here's that post, anyway:

What to do on our last day in California? Something special enough not to leave us wishing we'd made a different choice, because there's no saying 'never mind, we'll do that tomorrow', but something within easy reach of home base: tomorrow would be a long day, and besides, we had a dinner date with [livejournal.com profile] desperance and [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams. Luckily, [livejournal.com profile] sbisson had at some point recommended a visit to the Lick Oservatory on Mount Hamilton: we would do that.

For a start, it's a fine drive up. I remember a sequence of views over the Bay Area, but my notes are all about the wild flowers: there are no pictures, because the prettiest ones grow on the rockiest slopes, above the steepest bends over the sheerest drops. "Tell me when you want to stop for a photo opportunity," says [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler, and I'll tell you why I can't." There were the red ones, the ones that might be wallflowers, the ones that probably aren't, the purple buttons and more red one.

Then there were the trees: the very delicate conifers with the enormous cones; and the ones with a growth of something that looked like mistletoe, sometimes a loose tangle on frail lichened branches, sometimes a dark mass, teardrop-shaped like a swarm of bees among the green leaves; and the one with pink leaves - or flowers - or catkins.

So we would have thought the drive worthwhile if there had been nothing to do at the top but admire the view. In fact, although the place seemed deserted, there was an interesting display in the secondary space (I don't seem to have noted any of the names and facts; I am a bad reporter), and we nosed around the complex and admired the white buildings and the blue sky. But just as we were about to say 'well, that was fun,' and go home, [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler saw a lady about to enter the building, and since he has no shame he asked her "Is the Observatory open to visitors today?" (which it quite obviously wasn't). And since she was a kind person with an evident zeal for teaching (she turned out to be Mrs Lotus Baker, pictured here among the former staff of the Observtory) almost a soon as she had said no, it wasn't, she invited us in and showed us around anyway.



So here is the great telescope, discoverer of several moons of Jupiter, in all the panelled glory of its nineteenth century gallery - a suitably steampunk note to round off a steampunk wedding adventure.

After which we came down the mountain and landed in a thrift shop in Alum Rock: where I bought a book with Maurice Sendak illustrations, one of Ann Cleeves's early mysteries (which I read on the flight home) and Carson McCullers The Member of the Wedding (because [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams had been telling me what a good and important book it is. A good haul, and followed by a good dinner with good friends (at an Afghan restaurant, as I recall), a good end to our trip.

And now, here we are again...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Continuing my attempt to complete writing up our last visit to the States before we set off on the next one, I was encouraged by finding the notebook: no, I don't write these posts completely from memory, I have a notebook and a camera.

The notebook tells me that we spent St. George's day in San Francisco, but all it has to say about it is that Russian Hill smells of jasmine, and that a sudden thicket of rosemary comes as a relief. So this will be a picture-heavy post. Think of it as a sequence of postcards. Behind a cut, because pictures. And heavy. )
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Cayucos was the most southerly point of our trip; after our day in Paso Robles, it was time to head north again, back to Sunnyvale. Back up route 101, which doesn't sound very romantic, but turns out to be El Camino Real, the Royal Road along which the Spanish missionaries settled California, building a chain of missions from San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north (according to Wikipedia: who also provide this rather pleasing map). I'm a sucker for historic routes, roads with names, so this made me happy.

We had less than 200 miles to go, so there was time to make a stop en route and look around: we'd barely set out before we came to San Miguel, with its mission of San Miguel Arcangel. Where else? We must have approached from the wrong side, because we parked by a high wall, with no obvious entry point, and at first thought we would see no more than the wall, the surrounding spiky plants, all dominated by a bell tower - which turned out not to be as historic as all that, built in memory of a former superior of the mission killed in the second world war... Still, we said, might as well complete the circuit, and had almost closed the loop when we came to the gate:



It's one of those magical gateways: passing through it changes your whole perspective on the world: inside is a garden with a fountain, and waterlilies in bloom, a museum, a church, and we took our time admiring them all. I loved the details of life at the mission, and I loved, too, the many-coloured paintwork of the church. The interior frescoes are original, and it seemed impossible that the delicate work could have survived from when the church was first built in - when was it? - ah, yes, 1821. Not so impossible, then. I continually stub my toe on how comparatively recent California's historic buildings are, even the earliest of them - and this one had a simplicity which could have been much older.

A cluster of restaurants line the road beyond the mission, and we walked up and down it, scrutinising each in turn, before settling for The Country Diner: tiny, brightly coloured, friendly. Having established that we were English, the owner told us all about some previous English customers (as far as I can recall, a school trip from one of the public schools*).

Back on the highway, and an easy, if not very interesting drive through the agricultural flatlands. Further north the terrain became more hilly, and we made a couple of brief stops. The first was a rather splendid rest area, with an information board explaining about the local ecology: purple needlegrass, it said, is the Official California State Grass, and the saber-tooth cat (smilodon californicus) is the Official State Fossil. The second was just an excuse to look at the scenery, and to boggle at the pine cones fallen by the road side - one was larger than a pineapple.

And back to our hotel in Sunnyvale, still on the Camino - and here's how I know:



ETA: Having found the relevant notebook, I can confirm that it was Oakham School.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
We were last in the States in the spring of 2012, for the wedding of [livejournal.com profile] desperance and [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams. The diary of that trip is one of the many loose ends in this journal, so now would be a good time to revisit it, and see how much remains to be written. Let us pause to be thankful for tags, which make this comparatively easy. Now, if I can rearrange those entries from the order in which they were written to the order in which they happened:

Travelling hopefully:
Setting off * flying to Chicago * On the California Zephyr I * On the California Zephyr II - and arriving.

In Sunnyvale
At home * A trip to Gilroy * A day in San Francisco

The Big Day
Computers and the stag party * Wedding breakfast * The Wedding

Exploring
Stinson Beach * Meeting Athenais * Santa Cruz * Santa Cruz again * Monterey (the Aquarium, mostly * San Simeon * Hearst Castle * Paso Robles

Home again
Rules * In transit at LAX * - and home!


Oh, that's almost possible! The drive back from Paso Robles, another day in San Francisco - and one more day out - yes, if I don't try to sort all the photos, I might make it. Have a celebratory photo:

shewhomust: (dandelion)
Visiting Cragside at the weekend, I thought of Hearst Castle; though when we visited Hearst Castle, just over a year ago, I thought of Lord Armstrong's other residence, Bamburgh Castle. I have many photos of Hearst Castle, and no notes, so this will be mainly a picture post - which is fine, because you have to see it to believe it:

'The Ranch'


More under the cut )
shewhomust: (dandelion)
It's been an odd, disjointed sort of day, with trivial things refusing to work out as they should - as a result of which I am sitting at my desk in the half-light, on not my preferred desk chair. So this won't be a long post, and it won't be about today - time to cheer myself up with some of last year's California sunshine.

From Monterey we drove south along the coast to San Simeon, where we spent the night at a hotel right on the coast. We watched the sun set into the ocean in the classic fashion and then ate in the restaurant - about which I can remember nothing but the child wearing a hat in the shape of a pizza (isn't the internet a wonderful place? here it is!).

Morning was whale patrol time. On the way down to breakfast, [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler saw a possible spout.

Before we drove away, we paid one last visit to our lookout oint, and arrived just in time to see a long line of pelicans fly past and resolve into a V-shaped skein - but no whales. "Never mind," I said. "I'd rather have the pelicans." " - And here they are again," said [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler. Even so, I wasn't quick enough with the camera, so here are some we saw later:

Pelican flypast


Then we drove off to Hearst Castle - more about that when I have sorted through the many, many photos I took there.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Something more cheerful than my last post: continuing our travels in California last spring. It wouldn't have occurred to me to visit an aquarium, but the one in Monterey was enthusiastically recommended to us by a variety of people, none of whom are hardened aquarium visitors. So we booked ourselves an overnight in Monterey, at the Clarion Hotel, up a long hill from the waterfront but very comfortable, with swimming pool. They offered a two day ticket to the aquarium for the price of a single day, and armed with this we split our visit in two, with a preliminary sortie in the late afternoon, and a more thorough exploration the following morning - a very successful strategy. And did we see anything? Yes, wonderful things:

Moongazing


- which is why most of this post is pictures. )
shewhomust: (dandelion)
At last the snow has all gone, and today was bright and sunny and very cold. I'm thinking back to last spring in California: time to resume the much delayed travelogue. After our day in Santa Cruz, we left Sunnyvale to explore a little further afield - and our first stop was Santa Cruz. I wanted to visit the Bonny Doon winery - indeed, this had been a major incentive to visit California. Plan A had been to visit as my birthday treat, and maybe even eat at their Cigare Volant, but we were too early in the season, it didn't work out (and now it seems it never will, as the restaurant has closed).

Once upon a time, I suppose, you could taste Bonny Doon at the winery itself, but now they are located on a commercial estate, tucked in behind the ethical supermarket near the lighthouse. We arrived in Santa Cruz early, before the tasting rooms were open, and had time to walk down to the ocean, to discover that the lighthouse was a surfing museum, and to explore the supermarket thoroughly, before getting down to serious business.

DecantingWe stepped inside a vast hangar, the space broken up by screens, small tables and a long bar, with the iconic 'cigare volant' suspended above us: "That," said [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler, "is what I call steampunk."

There was a choice of tasting menus, and we opted for the "reserve flight", the more expensive wines, on the basis that this was how we got to taste wines which were otherwise out of our reach. They were delicious, and I don't know why I don't have tasting notes - except that we were enjoying the wine, and talking about it to our nice server. I love Bonny Doon's presentation, their beautiful labels and their bad puns - reassuring to be reminded that they make delicious wines as well.

We lunched at Bonny Doon on a selection of 'small plates': smoked fingerling potatoes smoked with aïoli; shredded pork with artichoke relish and steamed rolls (the rolls were good crusty white rolls, which wasn't as exciting as it had sounded, but the relish was delicious, the flesh of the artichoke lightly pickled - high risk, I thought, letting vinegar so near their wine, but it worked just fine - and the petals crisply fried). Our nice server said: "I'd like your opinion of this, if you wouldn't mind," and poured me a taste of the wine formerly known as Clos de Gilroy, which was both flattering and generous. We'd had Clos de Gilroy in the past, when the grapes really were sourced from Gilroy - which is no longer the caser, hence its name. It's a fruity grenache wine, and the truth is that it was rather overshadowed by the Rhône-style wines we'd been tasting.

Our mission accomplished, we set off south down Highway 1 (to which nothing compares except of course Iceland's Route 1).
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I liked Santa Cruz. I liked it so much that we went there twice, two days running. We hadn't intended to, but things we had planned didn't quite fit together. and in the end we made two separate trips: it was no hardship.

To the sea!


The first was my birthday excursion, and we were accompanied by [livejournal.com profile] desperance. One of the bits of plan that didn't work out was that we had hoped to see his friends Mike and Paula, formerly of London but now of Santa Cruz. That would have been a bonus, but I was quite happy to stroll through the sunshine and admire the shops and the murals. Then we found the Santa Cruz Bookshop, and I was more than happy: I found the books I hadn't been able to buy in Borderlands, and more besides.

Although Mike and Paula weren't able to join us for lunch, Mike recommended a restaurant: so we ate Middle Eastern in the courtyard at Laili (warning: slow-loading website plays music). We shared flatbread (which they called naan), dipping it in herbs, chopped vegetables, oil. My starter was the Silk Road plate: minty tzatziki, tabbouleh, hummus stained bright yellow with saffron and baba ghanoush (which was good, but not as good as that served at Dish'n'Dash across the road from our hotel. This was not automatically served with bread, but when we asked for bread it was supplied promptly. Since the spinach salad was my main course, I took the option of adding chicken, which was tasty but unnecessary: the pile of spinach leaves was already enlivened with slivers of pink pickled onion, candied walnuts and haloumi. Only [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler was tempted by dessert, a cardamom-pistachio ice cream so thickly studded with pistachios that it was difficult to force a spoon through it (but we all managedm even [livejournal.com profile] desperance, who does not do ice cream). We drank white wine from Sarah's Vineyard, billed on the menu as grenache/viognier: this turned out to be there Côteaux de la Madonne. When we tasted it at the vineyard, I had thought that the viognier was masked by the marsanne and roussanne in the blend; here, served colder, the viognier was more apparent, but as it warmed up a more unctuous quality emerged, which was interesting, and I was very content with my choice.

The smarter part of Santa Cruz lies well back from the sea front. We walked (which was a mistake) to the sea, to the Boardwalk, which is seaside as Whitley Bay or Southend is seaside. But if you make your way along the Wharf (which is what I think of as the Pier) past the fish and chip shops and the gaudy souvenirs, down at the far end there's a patch of sea which is all splashing and thrashing and barking: and that's the sea lions, a great raft of them tumbling and jostling and generally having a rowdy good time. And just as I was explaining to [livejournal.com profile] desperance that while I was sorry that we hadn't been able to see Mike, actually, the sea lions were better, two pelicans flew past. So as far as I am concerned, the day was, in its unscheduled way, a success.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We didn't go out walking today: the forecast was for torrential rain, so I spent the morning hacking a path through the garden (to the compost bin and beyond!), and felt justified when the torrents materialised as promised this afternoon. Fortunately, other Sundays are also available...

Golden GateThe day after the wedding, we followed the route recommended by [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams's brother, straight up the freeway and over the Golden Gate. We stopped to admire the bridge, of course - who would believe we'd been to San Francisco if we didn't bring home photos? - but the city was celebrating the bridge's 75th birthday by surrounding it with roadworks and 'keep out' signs. Perhaps that's why, after a good look from each end of the bridge, I still felt only: "Well, yes, it's a bridge." Sorry about that.

We should probably have stopped in Sausalito, but we didn't. We'd barely set off again from the bridge, and by the time I'd registered that this was a very charming little town we were passing, we'd passed it. We'd stop at the next one... Only of course there wasn't a next one, there never is. There was, instead, a coastal drive with plenty of opportunities to stop and stroll and enjoy the view, none of which we took because we were by now in looking-for-lunch mode. I enjoyed the drive, but not as much as I should have, and it's my own fault.

Eventually we found lunch at the Parkview Café in Stinson Beach. There were moules frites for [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler, so he was happy, and there were Dungeness crab cakes for me, made from local Dungeness crabs (from which I infer that that this is a variety of crab, rather than one imported from Kent - ah, yes, and in fact it comes from some other Dungeness altogether. Ah, well). After lunch we walked on the beach, and told each other that this really was the Pacific, and were impressed, and paddled in it briefly.

Further north, we crossed the Bay by the Richmond - San Rafael bridge; just before the bridge, a handy pull-in allowed us to admire the bridge itself, to identify the local wildlife, none of which we were seeing, and in my case to photograph without getting killed by traffic the brilliant purple flowers planted along the highway verges, with which I was becoming obsessed (it turns out to be the ice plant, or hottentot fig, and I kept trying to photograph it, without ever catching the vibrancy of the pink flowers against the carpet of fleshy green leaves).

We weren't quite ready to call it a day, and our map marked a 'Rosie the Riveter Memorial', which was intriguing. Richmond was the site of major shipyards during the war, and seems to have reconstituted itself as a National Historical Park to present its stories of the Home Front, with much emphasis on the the contributions of women workers (the term "Rosies" sounds patronising to me: one Rosie the Riveter is an inspiring symbol, but I'd rather real women's lives weren't overshadowed by that symbol. But that's secondary). The memorial is a structure in a park beside the marina, not a thing of beauty in itself but a framework for telling the story - this page gives quite a clear idea of it.

So that was Sunday, and Monday was washing day, and on Tuesday we went to Santa Cruz. In fact we went to Santa Cruz twice, but that's another story.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
After our long day in San Francisco, we felt we needed a gentle day to gather our strength for The Wedding; visiting the Computer History Museum in Mountain View would be fun, and we could check out the wedding venue (the Rengsdorff House, also in Mountain View) at the same time.

How to operate an IBM 360The Computer Museum has many wonderful things, including a real live (though not entirely authentic) Babbage Difference Engine, which we saw in operation, much handcranking setting all the pieces dancing through their sequence of steps. This was a thing to be marvelled at, but the real joys were more mundane: [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler had to be forcibly separated from the IBM 360, but not before he had explained every stage of its working ("...and this is where the punch cards go..."); I was rather taken with the miniature model, doll's house furniture sized, made for IBM sales reps to show to potential purchasers. And they have a Minitel terminal, the first I'd ever seen, just three months before it became completely obsolete. Some thought had clearly gone into making it easy to use, even for people with no keyboard skills At All; the keyboard was neither QWERTY nor AZERTY, but in alphabetical order, which made me very happy.

As we were leaving the museum we received a text from D. asking why he couldn't see his website. Probably just one of those things, we thought, and went off to discover that the Rengsdorff House really was as easy to find as [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams had promised, and that we weren't too late for coffee in the little tea shop by the lake.

But back at our hotel we discovered that D.'s was not the only website with problems; a whole bunck of them displayed a blank front page, though the rest of the site was still there, as was the front page when you followed the links from within the site. This was a clue to what had gone wrong, and enabled us to fix it, a couple of hours work for both of us using my little laptop and [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler's Android phone, feeling simultaneously irritated at this tedious repair work and smug at the living in the future which enabled us to do it. Not to mention a little jittery about what had gone wrong (eventually we discovered that our hosting service had done something unwise in the course of an 'upgrade').

By the time the job was complete it was time - past time, in fact - to go and meet two more wedding guests from the Coast Starlight in San Jose, where naturally we got lost again. Fortunately the train was half an hour late, so that although A. and C. were not expecting us, we were able to intercept them and take them back to our (and their) hotel.

By which time we were due at the restaurant where the wedding party had been dining, to scoop up the groom and take him out for a stag night - a token visit to the pub which served us a very palatable stout and, for those of us who had missed dinner, a very welcome helping of tortilla chips and avocado dip. Honour satisfied, we called it a day: after all, we had to be up in the morning for the wedding breakfast, and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the wedding itself.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
When I was little, both my parents were teachers. In those days, teachers weren't as well paid as they are now, but they were free to enjoy the long holidays without preofessional commitments. So as soon as the summer term ended, they would fill the car with children and camping equipment and head for the cross-channel ferry. Those were the holidays which shaped my understanding of the word: it's a long time since I've been camping, but I still assume that a holiday is as leisurely as I can make it, and the further I travel, the longer I want to spend at my destination. In theory I know that the speed and relative cheapness of air travel makes short breaks in distant places available, especially to people who are richer in money than in time, but applications of this take me by surprise every time. Which is a long run up to saying that I was surprised how many people, when we told them we were going to California, did not say "Oh, wow, California!" but "Oh, San Francisco is my favourite city." Surprised how many people had been there, and surprised at the extent to which it is All About The City.

Not that we didn't want to visit San Francisco, of course. And the day after we visited Gilroy, we left the car at the train station and took the Caltrain into town. The city welcomes you with a huge and very stylish mural, just before you arrive: there's a picture of it here and another here, though I can't find any information about it.

We had two aims for our first day in town; the first was to walk about and orient ourselves, the second was to visit Borderlands bookshop. I may have been unduly influenced by the guidebook which talked about the smallness and compactness of the city, but we found a tourist office which provided us with a sheaf of suggested walks, and wandered along quite happily, looking at interesting buildings where people we'd never heard of had done things, and enjoying the sunshine - it had been raining earlier in the week, but Thursday morning was bright. It was fine enough for us to lunch outdoors, in a café whose tables spread across Maiden Lane; I had a Greek salad and observed that in San Francisco even the olives were stoned (so I must have been in a silly, holiday mood).

Dolores Park


Getting to Borderlands took longer than I had expected, and I was disappointed that they didn't have either of the books I had promised myself I would buy there. No big deal: these were books I had held off ordering from Amazon for the sheer pleasure of shopping for them in a bookshop I'd heard so much about, I managed to find something else I wanted, the staff chatted very pleasantly about why they didn't have my books (I suspect that YA fantasy doesn't qualify), and I found the books in the Santa Cruz bookshop a few days later. And the trip was worth it if only because the bus dropped us at the bottom of Dolores Park, and we climbed up to this magical view at the top (why yes, it was by now beginning to drizzle).

We shopped at the Ferry Building for a picnic supper; I may have gone a little crazy at the Cowgirl Creamery. From the train, we phoned [livejournal.com profile] desperance and [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams: "We have cheese -" "You have cheese? Come on over - we have wine!" [livejournal.com profile] frumpo and H. were there, and by now everyone was ready for a little cheese and wine - except H., who was asleep - and we nibbled and listened to the rain crashing down and the thunder rolling, and tried not to think about an outdoor wedding due to take place the day after tomorrow.

It was a truly exceptional thunderstorm - [livejournal.com profile] athenais linked to this photo of lightning on the Golden Gate Bridge. But it was not so much an omen as one grand clearing of the air, because the next day and thoser that followed were bright and clean and sunny.

Pictures of San Francisco
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Garlic City mural


Meanwhile, back in California, we collected our hired car and went exploring: a gentle trip to start with, just as far as Gilroy.

Gilroy is the Garlic Capital of the World: it says so, right there on the wall, and there are allium-themed motifs on much of the street furniture. It wasn't Gilroy's fault that we had turned up in April, when the garlic is entirely inactive, in the slack time between tidying up from one garlic festival and starting to prepare for the next, when there is not so much as a haze of green in the garlic fields. It's still an attractive little town with some splendid old buildings ('old' in this context might mean 1905 - everything's relative), some pretty little houses, a fine variety of murals and a Carnegie library. By the time we'd had enough of these low-key delights, we were ready for lunch and the Garlic City café was calling.

Lunch began with the most wonderful garlic soup, a perfect balance of creamy and savoury with a distinct but not overpowering tang of garlic, We followed this with sandwiches, garlic chickrn for me, calamari steak for [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler on the grouns that he'd never heard of calamari steak, and this was his chance to find out what it was. (The answer wasn't obvious from eating it, though further reseach indicates that it's just the body of the squid cut into steaks rather than into rings). Ever more intrepid, he followed this with the garlic ice cream. I had a spoonful to taste: it was exactly as advertised, a very good creamy ice cream inexplicably flavoured with garlic. Our friendly and efficient server was Karla with a K. At the table behind us, a group of Italians were discussing the dishes their mothers used to cook, and their attempts to replicate them.

The road out of town up into the hills brought us among the vines to Sarah's Vineyard, and we stopped for the first wine tasting of the trip. The five wines we tasted were the Clos de la Madonne (a Rhône-style white, marsanne/roussanne/viognier blend, well-chilled which accentuated the freshness but tempered the richness of the viognier and marsanne. Since I don't like the rather gluey quality of much marsanne, I enjoyed this, but it seemed a waste of viognier), a chardonnay, a pinot noir with a distinct flavour of cloves, the Clos de la Madonne red and a merlot. I enjoyed everything we tasted, not to mention the conversation, but we were disconcerted by the prices - and happy with the local style of paying for the tasting and therefore feeling no obligation to buy.

Then on into the hills, meaning - and completely faiing - to pick up Skyline Boulevard: you are in a maze of twisty mountain roads, all the same..., differentiated by a clearing full of fruit trees here, a pool of forget-mr-nots there. There were some magnificent trees, not all of them redwoods, and some striking houses, but mostly we concluded for the first but not the last time, that we fifn't know the way to San Jose - despite which, we did eventually make it back to Sunnyvale in time to dine en famille at Thai Basil.
shewhomust: (puffin)
When he was only 39, and touring the UK to promote the publication here of Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak had a heart attack. He might have died then, but he was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, and his life was saved (and that's why the QE Gateshead makes a cameo appearance in the skyline of the Night Kitchen).

By that measure, everything he has done since is a bonus. What's more, his health has long been poor. It shouldn't be a surprise that he has died, that there will be no more books (one posthumous publication, and that's it). No surprise, perhaps, but a real sense of loss.

On the first morning of our recent trip, I spent a happy half hour in the bookshop opposite our hotel in Chicago, and came out with a Sendak that was completely new to me (Bumble-Ardy, as it happens); on the last afternoon, in a thrift shop in Alum Rock, I pounced on a copy of I Saw Esau, his version of a collection of rhymes from the collection of Iona and Peter Opie. The last poem in that book is End of Term, and its last verse:
Np more things to bring us sorrow
Cos we won't be here tomorrow.
Alas, no.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
The flight from LA to London was as good as an eight-hour overnight flight in economy can be. There was no queue at passport control, and D. collected us from Heathrow and drove us to King's Cross, which was more than kind of him. Since we had neither queued for hours to have our passports verified, nor spent hours dragging our luggage across London during a tube strike, we had plenty of time before our train, so we lunched at the Gilbert Scott restaurant in the St Pancras Hotel, as an end-of-holiday treat.

We were just too late for the (comparatively) cheap lunch menu, which was unfortunate not just because it cost more but because the pricing policy is that everything is extra, which is presumably supposed to gibe you the illusion that things cost less than they do, but has the opposite effect of putting me on my guard anf=d making me feel they cost more. To the prices on the menu you have to add a cover charge (this strikes me as both petty and old-fashioned, but there it is: an extra £2 per head) and service. If you want vegetables with your main course, that's extra too - you have to order a side dish. On the other hand, there was a cute little amuse-bouche, a miniature white china barrel of vivid green soup (leek and wild garlic), and my main course, a puff patry tart of artichoke pieces laid on artichoke purée was very good. Dessert was pleasant but less successful. I forget how it was described, but the words pear, walnut, ice cream, sandwich and caramel appeared - the dish was a disc of ice-cream sandwiched between two biscuits, with a smear of satisfactorily intense pear purée and served with a little jug of molten toffee. The biscuits were more shortbead than walnut, and didn't offer enough contrast to the ice cream; and the sauce didn't feel integral to the dish. Service was charming young people in crisp white shirt sleeves, bustling about and hitting a good balance between formality and friendliness - but we had to remind them we had ordered wine (we'd ordered a half bottle, because it was the only sauvignon blanc in the lower reaches of the list - Pascal Jolivet's 'Attitude', details hidden on their irritating website, lots of green vegetable freshness - and if they'd brought it more promptly we might have been tempted to order the other half, so perhaps it's as well they didn't) and each time our water glasses needed filling. Worth it, on balance, when you throw in a glimpse of the renovated building - another time I might reverse the emphasis and try to book the tour of the building which includes afternoon tea.

The train carried us north through well-watered greenery, fields decorated with pools of gleaming water and rivers in spate. We're not in California any more.

I even managed to do a little work that evening, which is just as well, because we had an outing ooked for the following morning: a trip to Hexham, where Claudia Roden was speaking at the book festival, about her new book on the food of Spain. The first cookery books I bought were by Elizabeth David: but the book whose influence is most evident in the way I cook is Claudia Roden's book of Middle Eastern food. My first copy was passed on by my mother, and I wore it out; its replacement, the revised edition, is showing signs of strain. I love Claudia Roden's Italian book; and after our trip last autumn, I'd love to know more about Spain. So although it made no sense to commit to an event so close on our return home, I wasn't going to miss it.

Claudia Roden


I'm so glad we went. She's an interesting and a likable speaker - the format was 'in conversation', which can mean anything, but the questions were intelligent and served to nudge a fluent speaker forward along her own lines. She talked about how much of her research involves asking people for recipes - which many of them clearly regard as a cue to tell her their entire life story - so I wondered whether she speaks Spanish, and was pleased when the question came up. And even more delighted at the answer, which is that one of her grandmothers was a speaker of the language she refers to as medieval Judaeo-Spanish and which I know as Ladino. She described being in Santiago de Compostela, and being offered a cake made of oranges and almonds which she recognised as a Sephardic Passover cake (it's one I cook from her recipe, especially if I need a gluten-free cake). Her hosts were thrilled at this connection, and insisted she appear on television to explain it: &quoy;But I don't speak Spanish!"

Food geekery and language geekery, what more could I want? Of course I bought the book ([livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler took the picture).
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Our homeward itinerary is: get up at 6 o' clock, breakfast, return car to Hertz at San Jose airport, fly Air Alaska to LA, arriving 10.49 am. That's where we are now. Onward flight to Heathrow is with Air New Zealand at 16.45, so no rush.

Do we know the way to San Jose? Up to a point. Repeated attempts have established that we can fairly reliably find the airport, but we get lost when we try anything more ambitious. I'd assumed from the song that San Jose was a small town far from LA, somewhere where a wannabe movie star might dream of returning if only they could scrape together the fare. And it's true that when the song was written, it wasn't yet the capital of Silicon Valley: it's now the tenth largest city in the entire USA, as well as the third oldest in California. But it wouldn't be had to find from LA - just head for san Francisco, and stop short. Anyway...

I thought we would have time in hand (coffee!) at San Jose, but by the time the queue had snaked through security, our spare hour had vanished, and it was time to board. The flight on Air Alaska's comparatively small plane went smoothly - I had time to read the inflight magazine's recomendation of the Palouse region, with its picturesque waterfalls and famous Lentil Festival. We would even have arrived slightly early, had we not had to wait 20 minutes for a gate to be free. From the captain's comments, I infer he felt that American Airlines had pinched his parking spot, but I think it's just that Los Angeles Airort hates me (and it's mutual).

When our gate was finally clear, we had another delay while they found some steps to let us out of the plane. Then something triggered the alarm on the door of the terminal building, and we had to wait again until they decided to let us in, the alarm whistling in our ears all the while. There is no visible signage to direct you from domestic arrivals to international departures, and the staff member at the desk began by telling us that 'Air New Zealand doen't fly from here' which wasn't helpful. The car rental shuttle buses passed in shoals while we stood waiting for our bus, and when it came, it didn't stop (there was another one just behind). At Terminal 2 there is a very uninviting lobby, with a small Starbucks and a newsstand, and again no signage - but a queue for the lift, which we joined, on the basis that wherever we wanted to be, it wasn't here.

Maybe airside is better, but we are still barred from that promised land: we can't go through security until we are checked in, and we can't check in until Air New Zealand open their desk (about half an hour from now). So we are back down in the lobby, where Starbucks have provided coffee (which improved my temper somewhat) but no internet (which didn't).

Oh, and although there is a locking mechanism on the cubicle doors in the ladies', I haven't yet made it work.

Later: After another 45 minutes in various queues, airside is better, but not much. I'm posting this courtesy of leaky wi-fi from the Air France executive lounge.

Not my favourite airport.

Rules

Apr. 25th, 2012 02:40 am
shewhomust: (bibendum)
The rule of the house is: It's not a cat toy, it's a fetish. That's what [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams said as she rescued another small decorative item from Mac; "That's a rule of the house," said [livejournal.com profile] desperance. So it must be.

The rule of the road is: Speed enforced by aircraft. The signs on Highway 101 say so; we never saw it happening, though (I don't know whether to be relieved or disappointed).
shewhomust: (bibendum)
- that's what [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler told me when I asked him how far south we are. Anyway, it's as far south as we will go on this trip, at Cayucos on the Central Coast, south and west of Paso Robles. Our original plan had been to take a couple of excursions from Sunnyvale, down to the coast and north to the wine country of Napa or Sonoma; then we talked to [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams's brother and his partner, who gave us such a glowing account of Paso Robles and its wines that we decided to make a single longer trip south. They also recommended the Paso Robles Inn, but we had left it too late to find a room in Paso Robles itself, and we have ended up in the much less elegant - and less pricey - Beachwalker Inn (warning: site plays music) on the coast at Cayucos, where they have upgraded us to a suite (ie we have a kitchen corner) and we are very comfortable. We had a ocean view when we arrived, but today the coast has vanished into the fog.

It was fine when we arrived yesterday, and we had time to explore downtown - that is, to walk the length of the town along Ocean Avenue, checking all the eating places (plus a detour out to the end of the pier) before deciding on Hoppe's, where we had a very enjoyable meal, and were out in time to see the last of the sunset fading over the pier, and back across the little creek where the noise of the frogs was deafening.

Had we been staying in Paso Robles, I suppose we'd have spend the day lurching from one wine tasting to another, staying within the town so we could do the whole thing on foot. As it was, we had to drive into town, which meant more work and less drinking for [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler; I hope he thinks it was worth it. I enjoyed the scenic drive and the different selection of wineries to visit, and think we gained on the deal.

In the vines


Almost as soon as we turned off the coast road into the hills, we were driving in sunlight, through avocado groves. Our first stop was at the Wild Horse Winery, where we stepped out of the car into blazing heat. Fortunately the tasting room was cool, and we wre greeted with a glass of refreshing sangiovese rosé (named after the lama whose name I have forgotten but whose job is to mingle with the sheep and protect them from coyotes).

Then on into Paso Robles, where there was a small market in the park. I managed to buy a rather strange bonnet - I hadn't brought a hat with me, and have been looking for one - and [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler bought some almonds from the producer.

We lunched at Artisan, which was delightful, and very swish. We both chose 'small plate' options: I had the cheese, and [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler the charcuterie, with a side salad each. This brought me a large rectangular plate, bearing a tiny skillet of Lamb Chopper (thank you, Google. I wouldn't have identified it as sheep's milk, I'd have compared it to cheddar) melted over a sweet fig preserve, a wedge of Mt. Tam, a camembert-style cheese, pleasantly creamy and just a little bland, and the Central Coast Creamery's Big Rock Blue, a characterful blue served with caramelised walnuts. With these I drank a 'flight' of white wines - I could get fond of this practice of serving small glasses of a group of themed wines - Silver Horse Albariño, Clavo Vermentino "Voluptuous" (which was) and the star of the bunch, the Hearst Ranch's "Three Sisters Cuvée" (a marsanne/ grenache blanc/ roussanne blend, and the second Rhône-style white I've tasted on this trip which has made me reconsider my dislike of marsanne. Better draw a veil over the desserts...

We completed our tour of downtown Paso Robles, which didn't take very long, then hit the road again. We had come into town from the south and east, and we looped round to leave to the north and west, along Peachy Canyon road. Another winding road, dotted with wineries, bordered with vines and orchards, and at the end of it Limerock Orchards, where they make perfectly acceptable wines and absolutely delicious toasted walnut oil and walnut butter. Old Creek Road brought us through green rolling hills, startled us with views of a beautiful lake (Whale Rock Reservoir, apparently) at the end of which we could see a white bar of mist into which we descended at Highway 1.

Undaunted, we ended our excursion with a walk on the beach in the fog. Tomorrow we go north again, back to Sunnyvale.
shewhomust: (Default)
For the benefit of those of us who are trying to keep track: on Wednesday we picked up our hired car, and took it down to Gilroy to try it out; on Thursday we spent the day in San Francisco; on Friday we visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View; Saturday, of course, was The Wedding; and yesterday we drove north over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County. There will be posts about all of these things sooner or later. But today's Monday, today's Monday, Monday's washing day...

So we took our laundry and our website problem to [livejournal.com profile] desperance, who not only gave us the run of his washing machine and [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams's computer, but plied us with coffee. This is surely the best laundry in Silicon Valley, but I have promised not to tell TripAdvisor about it.

Once [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler had solved his computer problem, we left [livejournal.com profile] desperance to struggle with his, and ran away to Half Moon Bay, where we met [livejournal.com profile] athenais for lunch at the Brewing Company. I had been disappointed not to meet her at the wedding, so it was great to have a second chance, and we talked like old friends (which in a sense we are, though this was the first time we've actually met). There was just time for a stroll by the sea, and to watch some fishermen doing clever things with nets, and the police doing police-type things with a taxi, and then we went our separate ways.

Human figure included for scaleWhich in our case was back along Skyline Boulevard, a scenic drive along the ridge of the Santa Cruz mountains. Much of it is through forest, which looks completely wild but is actually quite thickly settled (you see a turning off the road, and think there must be a house tucked away down there - then you see eight or ten mailboxes all in a row, and think again).

I suppose El Corte de Madera Creek isn't really wild, either: it's carefully managed and protected, and the trails are broad, well-marked paths. We walked just over a mile, with enough ups and downs to make us feel we'd made an effort. It's just like walking through pinewoods at home, except that the trees are ever so much bigger, not round the trunk but in height. Old trees in Europe - old oaks and yews - come with stories of how many people it takes to join hands around their girth, but these redwoods are just dizzyingly tall. Even Methusaleh, across the road from the reserve, which is allegedly 1800 years old, is not broad in relation to his height.

Out of the woods, the road suddenly opens to panoramic views of Silicon Valley. Then there's a steep and winding descent, and quite abruptly we were back on the freeway and home. We dined at the middle eastern café over the road from our hotel, and brought our dessert back to our room to enjoy with added internet.
shewhomust: (Default)


Congratulations, [livejournal.com profile] desperance and [livejournal.com profile] klwilliams! Now the next volume begins...

ETA: All the wedding photos

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