Vacation in Carmel: San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission

Carmel Mission is about a mile from where we’re staying, so it was very easy to get there. We found it easily and parked in the lot in front. For a Monday, it was a little bit busy, but not too bad.

This was the second mission in Alta California, founded by Junipero Serra. It’s historically significant because it was basically Fr. Serra’s headquarters while he founded several other missions up and down the California Coast.

Upon paying the the entrance fee, we were given a handout with a map and told to follow the dotted lines on the map. Visitors are first directed into a small, slightly overgrown but lovely garden. Dave and I sat and read the two-page history as explained in the handout before we proceeded.

That’s where I found this gem of a sentence: “The Indian’s [sic] lack of natural immunity to European diseases caused many illnesses and deaths.” Isn’t colonialism fun?

We entered the basilica and the small rooms found just off the main sanctuary. The mission is a restoration (i.e., not original), but the interior is in good condition and period-appropriate.

It was upon leaving the sanctuary that we discovered that the woman selling admission really should have given more direction. The dotted line on the map directs visitors through the cemetery to the side of the building. However, construction on three sides of the building prohibit entry to the cemetery. I’m glad to see they’re doing some structural restoration; however, it would be so easy to alert visitors to the changes before sending them on the self-guided tour.

Dave and I deviated from the dotted-line tour and found ourselves poking around the courtyard on the other side of the basilica, enclosed by the school buildings. It was a lovely courtyard, and would have been quite peaceful if not for the very loud noises produced by a chipper machine being run behind the building.

It turns out that 12 noon is a nice time to be at a mission. We got a chance to hear the bells strike the midday hour. It was loud but it was fun to hear and watch.

There are a few rooms of museum on the way out which are set up to show what life was like at the mission when it was in its heyday. It includes “California’s first library“.

The tour ends, as all good tours do, in the gift shop. Mission gift shops are a uniquely distasteful combination of commercialism and religious fervor. We poked around for a few minutes just to be polite, then headed out.


Vacation in Carmel: Dinner at Andre’s Bouchée

We decided that Monday evening would be our romantic dinner out. At a friend’s recommendation, we made a reservation at Andre’s Bouchée Bistro and Wine Bar.

The dinner was quite delicious, and the service was excellent. I certainly recommend it.

Our main entertainment came from the couple next to us, who were obviously from the NY/NJ area. The woman was a little too friendly, and spent most of the time chatting with the folks at the table on the other side of us. (I think she tried to engage us once or twice, but since we didn’t really reciprocate, I think she probably thought we were a lost cause.) She sounded just like Fran Drescher from “The Nanny”. Also, it was a French restaurant, and she kept saying, “Gracias.”

Toward the end of the meal, I accidentally knocked an empty wine glass to the floor. It made a rather musical sound, but of course shattered all over the ground. The staff were really nice about it.

The couple on the other side of us were much quieter, but I overheard them telling the server that they were from Texas. The couple from the East Coast had already left when the Texan couple got up to leave. The woman made some not unkind comment about my wine glass, and I said, “Well, at least it was a lovely sound.” And she said, “It wasn’t as loud as some people,” gesturing with her eyeballs to the table on the other side of us. How I love catty Texan women!

Bay Area

New Years Eve Hike: Purisma Creek, Half Moon Bay

Purisma Creek RedwoodsOn New Years Eve, we got a ZipCar and went on a little adventure in Half Moon Bay. We had lunch at a yummy fish taco place called Flying Fish Grill (slightly fancier than we expected, and quite yummy).

Then we went for a hike in the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. It was a lovely day. The creek and the redwoods were beautiful. The trail was quite moderate, and very wide, though a bit muddy that day. We saw lots of banana slugs. Check out our photos from the hike.

Final Sunset of 2011On the way home, we made a little stop at Twin Peaks in San Francisco, to watch the last sunset of the year. We weren’t the only ones who had that idea!

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V: The triumphant return to California

Here’s the summary of our 16-day road trip as we relocated from Champaign, IL to San Francisco, CA.

  • Day 1: Indianapolis, Indiana [blog]
  • Day 2: Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
  • Day 3: Kentucky to Tennessee [blog]
  • Day 4: Memphis, Tennessee [photos]
    • National Civil Rights Museum [blog]
    • Gibson Guitar Factory [blog]
    • Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken [blog]
    • Graceland [blog] [photos]
    • Charles Vergos’’ Rendezvous [blog]
    • Beale Street [blog]
  • Day 5: Memphis TN to Dallas TX via Arkansas [blog]
  • Day 6: Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas [photos]
    • Bureau of Engraving & Printing [blog]
    • JFK Assassination site [blog]
    • The Ballpark at Arlington [blog]
  • Day 7: Oklahoma City National Memorial, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma [blog] [photos]
  • Day 8: Oklahoma City to New Mexico via Amarillo, Texas
  • Day 9: Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado [blog] [photos]
  • Day 10: Colorado
    • Scenic drives (Salida, Turquoise Lake, and Independence Pass) [blog] [photos]
    • Aspen [blog]
    • Glenwood Canyon Resort & Campground [blog]
  • Day 11: Glenwood Springs, Colorado
    • Whitewater rafting on the Colorado River [blog] [photos]
    • Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company [blog] [photos]
  • Day 12: Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
    • Scenic drive through Colorado [blog]
    • Dinosaur National Monument [blog] [photos]
  • Day 13: Park City, Utah
  • Day 14: Utah to Tahoe via Nevada [blog]
  • Day 15: Lake Tahoe [blog] [photos]
  • Day 16: Arrival in San Francisco! [blog]
Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 16: Arrival in San Francisco!

Monday, August 15: The date of our triumphant arrival at our new apartment in San Francisco!

We could have easily left Tahoe at 9 am and been home by lunchtime, but we had a bunch of errands to attend to, which were easier to do before getting to the city.

After checking out of the motel (where we boycotted the complimentary continental breakfast because I was grouchy about their lack of customer service regarding the bad internet connection), we headed to Starbucks and spent a couple of hours there. The most important thing to accomplish was to sign up for our apartment’s internet service. Dave got an appointment for Comcast to come on Thursday, which seemed like a pretty good turnaround.

Then we drove through the lovely Sierras, where US 50 follows the South Fork of the American River out of the hills and down into the San Joaquin Valley. It is always a little unfortunate to look down into the haze that is the Valley air, and realize that this is what you’ll be breathing once you descend into it. But we had little choice.

We stopped in Sacramento for lunch (In-N-Out!) and some errands. We had a bunch of household stuff to buy for our new apartment, and we ended up spending a lot more time at Fry’s, Best Buy, and Target than we expected. But we got what we needed, and finally headed west to our final destination.

It only took us about an hour and a half, even in East Bay rush hour traffic, to get to our apartment. We were very excited as we crossed the Bay Bridge and dodged the buses in the city to get to our new neighborhood.

We were happy to find that our 1.5 bedroom flat is more spacious than we expected! All of our stuff had already been moved in (thanks to my sister Renae’s willingness to open it up for the movers), so we jumped right in to making it liveable. It was a fun road trip, but it’s great to be home! Looking forward to the new adventures of living in San Francisco.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 15: Lake Tahoe

View of Lake Tahoe from the CampsiteWe started the day by wrapping up things at the campsite in Emerald Bay. We all took our time leaving, especially since there was a triathlon down the road scheduled to tie up the roads. Dave and I played board games with my sister and her boyfriend for a while before leaving the campground.

Check out Dave’s panoramic photo of Lake Tahoe, as seen from our campground.

The four of us went to lunch at a local sub shop in South Lake Tahoe called Yellow Submarine. It was very tasty. The subs were enormous. Dave ordered a 12″ sub that turned out to be at least 16″ long and a good 4″ in diameter. It was really too much for one person to eat at a sitting, so Dave had to donate it to Renae’s boyfriend to take home with him (as we didn’t have any way of storing it).

Then Dave and I ended up at a little city park in South Lake Tahoe called Regan Beach. We took out our camp chairs and sat on the grass near the lake and read for a while. It was nice just to chill and not feel like we had to do anything. It became annoying, though, when a family sat directly behind us and their three children felt comfortable learning to do knee kicks with their soccer balls two feet from us. (I am not exaggerating.)

It was becoming relatively late in the afternoon, so we checked into our motel. The motel had passes to nearby Lakeside Beach, along with coupons for kayak rentals. By this point in the afternoon, the wind was really picking up and the water was very choppy. We inquired into a kayak rental, but the guy wasn’t even renting out boats (not even 18′ motorboats). So instead we laid on the beach for a while. Since it was so windy, it never really got warm, so we weren’t really tempted to go swimming, even though this particular beach had a quite nice swimming area marked off.

We were very disappointed with our motel, the Best Tahoe West Inn. The shower didn’t have great pressure. More importantly, the WiFi never worked. We tried multiple times to connect, and talked to the front desk a couple of times about it, but we were never able to connect. (And it was apparent that we weren’t the only guests having the same problem.) They weren’t very helpful about it. I was pretty unhappy, because one of the main reasons I picked this place was the free internet.

My cousin happened to be in Lake Tahoe this weekend, so we met up with her for dinner. We drove up to Tahoe City and had dinner at a place called Evergreen. It turned out to be a very pleasant dining experience. It was hard to decide what to get, because the menu was full of yummy-sounding things. My cousin shared her melon gazpacho with us, which was creamy and cool. I had the pork loin, Dave had steak, and my cousin had salmon. They were all very tasty. We ate on the patio, which was comfortable due to the heat lamps, where we got some glimpses of the lake. We were glad we got there on the early side (around 6:30 pm) because the place had filled up by the time we left. Definitely a good choice!

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 14: Driving ~ On to Tahoe

Today was a very long driving day. We left Park City around 9 am (after making our requisite contribution to the local Starbucks) and just started heading west – destination Lake Tahoe.

We drove down the mountain into Salt Lake City, drove across the salt flats (on Interstate 70… no crazy off-road racing in our packed Ford Escape Hybrid), and made a quick gas stop on the border of Utah and Nevada.

No matter where you cross into Nevada, it is immediately obvious – suddenly casinos spring out of the desert, ready and waiting to take your money.

We hauled across Nevada, stopping only a couple of times – for lunch in Elko, plus a couple of gas or rest stops. The drive was mostly boring, until we got near Reno. At that point, the road follows the lovely Truckee River. Reno itself wasn’t fun to drive through, especially since the interstate was all under construction, but once out of the city, the river reappears and the road becomes more woodsy.

Welcome to CaliforniaThen we crossed over into California, were asked by the inspection guards if we had any produce or animals, and headed toward Lake Tahoe.

We stopped in Truckee for some beverages, then drove down the west side of the lake toward our campsite.

Our campsite at Eagle Point CampgroundMy sister Renae had been camping for a week with her boyfriend’s family at Eagle Point Campground in Emerald Bay State Park. Fortunately we were able to join them for their last night of camping.

The campground was lovely. They had a couple of beautiful campsites overlooking the lake that had spectacular views and were also remarkably spacious. For the first time in our trip, we had a campfire. It was so relaxing.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 13: Utah ~ Park City ~ High West Distillery

For dinner in Park City, we took the free bus from our hotel to the “historic Main Street” area and ate at a place called High West Distillery.

There was a long-ish wait for a table, but there was an immediate opening in the bar area, where we were happy to dine. It had a fun ambiance – a contemporized historic barn look. The bartenders took turns waiting tables, and were very friendly and helpful.

High West Distillery makes their own whiskey and vodka, so of course we had to try some of it. I had the Silver Western Oat whiskey, which was very smooth, and later had the Rendezvous Rye, which had a lot more kick to it. Both were quite tasty. Dave had one of their special whiskey cocktails and stuck with that.

We’ve been trying to do our “fine dining” experiences at local places that make an effort to source their food locally, and this one fit the bill.

For dinner, Dave had the High West Burger, which was a “secret blend” of beef and bison meat, while I had pan seared Utah trout. It was a yummy meal. Dave couldn’t resist dessert – fried Krispy Kreme donuts with whiskey vanilla ice cream. I went ahead and got the fruit cobbler, which was warm and delicious.

If I find myself back in Park City, I wouldn’t hesitate to come back to High West Distillery.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 13: Utah ~ Park City ~ Utah Olympic Park

Park City Olympic ParkIn 2002, the Winter Olympics were hosted in Utah. While they were officially the “Salt Lake City” Olympics, quite a few of the events actually took place in a ski resort town about 30 miles east called Park City.

We headed to Park City at a leisurely pace, and got there around lunchtime. We had lunch at a deli in the “Historic Main Street” area (which is, amazingly, pretty much confined to the one main street), which took way longer than it should have. (Note to self: Don’t get Philly cheesesteaks west of the Mississippi.)

We then made our way over to the Utah Olympic Park. We bought tickets for the 3 pm tour, and had about 45 minutes to kill. We poked around in the 2002 Winter Olympics & Ski Museum. The first floor features mildly informative exhibits (which make a pathetic attempt at being interactive) regarding snow, skiing, famous groundbreaking skiers and snowboarders, etc. The second floor is a tribute to the 2002 games, from the design themes to the athletes and everything in between.

Ski jump into a poolAt 3 pm we gathered with our tour group to meet our guide Chris. Imagine a combination of John Malkovich and Ron Howard, and you will have a sense of what he was like. He had a lot of personality and some great stories. He had been in the bobsled track control booth during the 2002 Games, so he had a lot of firsthand experience to share.

The first thing we saw was the pool. Yes, there’s a pool at a ski training center. (BTW, the center is still an active ski school and training center for Olympic athletes from around the world.) The purpose of the pool is to train for the ski jump – skiers actually ski down jumps and do flips into the pool. That might be the only way you could get me on skis…

Atop the 120K Ski JumpWe then got to see the ski jumps from the actual Olympics – first from the bottom, and later from the top. We hopped on a shuttle bus, which took the road around the bobsled track (which is remarkably long) up to the top of it. We got to see where the luge, skeleton, and bobsled men’s competitions begin their races. We actually got to see a bobsled push off – full of paying tourists rather than training athletes, but still cool.

After the tour, Dave and I decided to do the alpine slide. We took a chair lift up to the top of the mountain, and then waited in line for about 45 minutes to get onto our toboggans. The ride lasted 5 minutes at most. It was pretty fun, but it would have been more fun if there weren’t so much “traffic”. Just before the second-to-last curve – just as we were getting the hang of it – we had to stop because there was a slow person stopped a few toboggans ahead. Oh, well.