Monday, October 25, 2010

Blast from the Past

Here is a write up of my trip to California in September 2007...in the good old days before I had a blog I would faithfully write in my journal (which I still intend to do) then type it up on the computer. I started doing that for my mother who loved to read about my trips and then everyone else (well maybe not everyone...I recall a couple of people who didn't want it!!! ) wanted a copy. As you can tell I do enjoy my food - oh yes!!! I will try to post pictures as well...Enjoy!!

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Tuesday September 18: Up at 3:45 a.m. and as I walked down the front stairs to wait for the taxi I heard a gigantic bang, the lights went off and the fire door slammed behind me. Oh no. Everything around me - outside and in was black. Luckily when I peered out the door a taxi was making it’s way carefully down the street and I was off to the airport - no traffic lights along the way but luckily not much traffic either. Luckily the airport had auxiliary power - I never did find out what caused the massive black-out. I flew to Calgary, changed planes then on to Los Angeles. My luggage was there which is always a relief. Got the Fly Away bus to the Amtrak station - I had to wait a while which was no hardship as the LA train station has the most amazing court yards outside with benches and flowers. The trip down on the Surfliner was great - especially when the train ran along beside the ocean. Once we arrived In San Diego I walked to my hostel which was in the downtown area just a few blocks away. My room was very large and clean - very good to see after the grubby lobby. I grabbed a quick piece of pizza from across the road and headed to bed.

Wednesday September 19: I woke early and headed down to Richard Walkers, a breakfast place I had a coupon for. Had the most wonderful banana pancakes while sitting outside - it was voted the best breakfast place in San Diego and I can see why. I then walked over to the Holiday Inn on North Harbor Drive - the starting point for the 10km walk. It stayed pretty cloudy and cool all day which was good for walking - walked past the Midway and Star of India into Balboa Park which was absolutely wonderful. After completing the walk I went back to the hostel for a rest (ie: flopped on my bed in exhaustion). Then purchased a transit pass from the hostel office and headed out to Ocean Beach via a trolley to Old Town. I couldn’t get over the number of trains in San Diego - between the trains running to the suburbs, up and down the coast and the trolley you were always hearing tooting!! Once I got to Ocean Beach I walked down to the ocean and paddled in the water and then sat on the beach to let my feet dry. Eventually I walked down the long pier to the end and then back for a cappucino at the café. What a view. I fell in love with Ocean Beach! By the time I got back onto Ocean Beach’s main street the farmer’s market was in full swing so I wandered around. I had a couple of home made tacos while walking around followed with a wonderful fresh fruit salad while I sat and looked out at the ocean. I bussed it out to the Sunset hills to take photos but it was too early and cloudy for the sunset. Back to San Diego via the Target store where I got myself a new pair of Capri pants and a long sleeved top…just because….

Thursday September 20: After a better sleep I tried to find another place for breakfast to no avail. Nothing was open yet. I ended up at Starbucks with a coffee and a pumpkin scone. Caught the bus to the zoo and what a zoo! I had been there twice previously back in the 70’s. Highlights were the orangutans, the polar bears & of course the pandas. I spent a long time watching the polar bears play. A regular visitor to the zoo had brought them big brightly coloured balls to play with and they were having a wonderful time. Back to the room to drop off my heavy SLR camera and rest a bit then off by bus to Pacific Beach. It was pretty but very crowded and not as cozy as Ocean Beach. I had a cheese quesedilla and Belgian fries then hopped a bus to La Jolla. Trouble was I couldn’t decide when to get off and ended up at a huge shopping centre. Got an express bus back to downtown San Diego and looked in a few shops.

Friday September 21st: This morning I headed to Old Town by trolley. I stopped at the hotel to sign in for the 5 km walk and then went to a Mexican restaurant for breakfast - Ranchos Hueveras - which were very good!! I then did the 5 km walk which was disappointing. Afterwards I went to Old Town which is a state park highlighting San Diego’s Mexican heritage. I went on a very interesting (free) walking tour. From there I took a bus out to Pacific Beach and stopped for an ice cream then on to La Jolla where I got off the bus earlier this time - at Bird Rock which had some lovely views. Back on the bus to La Jolla village and walked over to the cove. Beautiful! It was busy with people swimming and sunning themselves. Sat and enjoyed it for a while then stopped at a little café for coffee and cake. Back to my room for a rest. (need that rest now - getting old!) and then hopped a bus back out to Ocean Beach for the sunset - which I just missed. Oh well. Had the most wonderful Greek meal - lamb kebob, greek salad, potatoes, veggies and pita bread. A masterpiece - and I told the chef that too!

Saturday September 22nd: Woke up to pelting rain. On my way out I almost wiped out on the wet floors INSIDE the hostel on the third floor. I mentioned it to the girl on duty in the hostel office and she cheerfully replied it’s always like that when it rains as it’s an open roof and she nearly wiped out too. Okay…On my way back to Richard Walkers for breakfast I noticed a quaint little old fashioned café was open so stopped there. MISTAKE. It was cheap but not that great when I knew what the alternative could have been. I walked over to the bus depot and picked up my prepaid ticket to Las Vegas and then got the bus to Coronado. It was raining at this point. I got off the bus at the huge Hotel Coronado and explored. It is beautiful. Finally it stopped raining and I walked along the beach and took photos of the place. I then got a bus to the Trolley station and had a LONG trolley ride back into town where I got off at Little Italy. I had a delicious late lunch of spaghetti AND lasagna - burp! I walked along the water front and saw a few of the planes that were racing but it was absolutely packed. Back to the room for laundry and a shower.

Sunday September 23rd: Up at 5 a.m. and walked over to the bus depot - what to my wandering eyes do appear but a Starbucks and open at this hour. What a treat! I am not a big Starbucks fan but I will take anything at that hour. Got on the bus to Las Vegas and arrived at 2 p.m. I had booked a room at the Plaza Hotel which was right beside the bus depot. My room was ready and I did a dance around it as it was huge with my own bathroom. Woo hoo! After five days of sharing one bathroom for the whole floor (the other one was out of order) I was in heaven! I then took the bus to the Strip and walked over to the Best Western to begin the 11 km North Strip walk. It was a LONG walk and I was exhausted by the end - especially as I had a long walk even to get to the hotel to begin walking. I wanted a really nice meal but every place I wanted to eat had huge line ups so I gave up and had a submarine sandwich at the hotel - not exactly what I had envisioned but it was food. Spent the evening sitting in my king sized bed watching TV!

Monday September 24th: Had a breakfast buffet this morning - it was okay - I’ve had better at home. Checked out of the hotel and stored my luggage. Then I headed out for the 11 km South Strip walk - I had been smart the day before and had stamped my book so I didn’t have to head back to the hotel until the end. On the way past the Mirage I picked up my ticket to “Love” and walked all the way down to the Mandalay Bay. With both walks I covered the whole Strip. Nothing much had changed in the two and a half years since I had been there except one more hotel - the Wynn which was being built then. Back to the hotel where the walk box was and had the $9.95 Steak and Shrimp special which was great. Headed over to the Venetian and looked around - it is my favourite hotel. Then across the street to see “Love” which I loved! The Beatles music of course was fantastic booming through the huge speakers but the dance and acrobatics were amazing as well. I was in the second row so could see the expressions on the artists’ faces. I would go and see it again in a heartbeat. Back on the bus to the hotel to get my luggage, have a quick change and head out on the night bus to Monterey.

Tuesday September 25th: We arrived early in Los Angeles so I had four hours to kill. The area the bus station was in was one which I wasn’t interested in exploring – to put it mildly. So I stuck my nose in my book. The trip to Salinas was good and the transit center to catch the local bus to Monterey was just a block away – 45 minutes on the bus and I was in Monterey. I walked to the Days Inn – after getting lost just a little bit and having to phone! By this time it was late evening and I just wanted my bed.

Wednesday September 26th: After a mediocre breakfast at the hotel I headed over to the Casa de Bogota to do the 10 km walk. I had to call the local contact to find the walk box but then I was on my way. The route went by Fisherman’s Wharf and of course I had to stop to explore and noticed that they had whale watching tours and it was a lovely day so I couldn’t resist. We saw three humpback whales which were amazing – I am humbled by those wonderful creatures. I never get tired of going whale watching! After a delicious shrimp melt lunch overlooking the wharf and watching the noisy sea lions I started off again on my walk along the walking path by the ocean. Beautiful sea views!!! Lots of rocks and smashing waves. I then visited the Monterey Aquarium where I spent a long time with the sea otters – they were gorgeous! Then I carried on to Lovers Point via Cannery Row – where they used to have sardine canneries and now have shops instead. For dinner that evening I had a huge hot fudge sundae at the Ghillardi chocolate shop – I sat outside on the deck of the shop and watched the sunset while having a chocolate overload. My idea of heaven and what a perfect day – ocean, sunshine, whales, otters and ice cream sundaes. One of the days you’d like to rewind and relive over and over again. J

Thursday September 27: I was fortunate I had my beautiful day yesterday as today it was dull and rained on and off all day. I could not face another crappy breakfast at the motel so I treated myself to a heuvos rancheros breakfast at the Old Monterey Café. Took a bus to Carmel and walked around looking in the expensive shops. I couldn’t face doing another 10k walk so I just did my own thing – walked over to the beach and people and dog watched. Lots of doggies in this town so I was happy. Took a bus out to the Crossroads and had a coffee at the start point – at least I know where it is if I decide to go back and do the walk. I then took a bus out to the Carmel Valley – very pretty with vineyards & hills. Some ladies were doing a do it yourself wine tour – looked like fun. Definitely a return trip is in order!!! When I arrived back into Monterey I had a delicious Indian meal.

Friday September 28th: Up at 7 and caught the 8:45 bus to Salinas and then the bus to San Francisco and arrived about 3:15. Got the local bus to the hostel which was an old hotel. My room was okay and the area was central so given the high cost of hotel rooms in San Francisco I would likely stay there again. I walked around a bit, purchasing a three day transit pass which proved to be invaluable and the highlight was seeing some hilarious anti-Bush protestors – one guy wore a Bush mask and even sounded like him. Had a so so Shrimp quesidilla at the restaurant next to the hostel. I walked over to Virgin and Borders and got a couple of CD’s and a new book and then back to the room for an early night.

Saturday Sept. 29th: I treated myself to a breakfast at Dotte’s True Blue Café which is very popular – I stood in line and got into a conversation with a Mormon couple. They were kind enough to let me sit with them and we had a pleasant meal together – they were widely traveled as well so it was an enjoyable conversation and a good meal although it wasn’t special enough to stand in line for. I knew they were probably big Bush supporters so tried to hide my orange ribbon which stood for “Impeach Bush”!!!! After breakfast I took the Powell & Bay cable car down to the harbour and hung on the outside – quite exciting! Then I walked over to Pier 39 and saw the sea lions – hundreds of them and the aroma is quite overwhelming! They came to the pier in throngs after the earthquake in 1989 and the authorities have let them make a home there as of course it’s quite a tourist attraction. I signed up for the 10km walk and off I went. All I can say is hills, hills, hills, - I think they picked every hill in the city but what an awesome walk. Highlights were walking down Lombard St., the most crooked street there, up to Coit tower and Telegraph Hill. Walked over to North Beach/Chinatown and Nob Hill then across into Pacific Heights. Back to Ghillardi Square where I had a fried shrimp dinner at Lori’s’ diner overlooking the bay. Took a bus to Haight Ashbury and walked up to Alamo Square to see the classic view of the “Painted Ladies” – Victorian houses – with a view of San Francisco Bay in the background. Took a streetcar back to the hostel.

Sunday September 30: Up early for the trip to Yosemite. There were 9 of us including Wendy – a lady from China who was on a 7 month trip to South America and Antartica. She is an accountant who has quit her job to go traveling – what an amazing lady! It was a magnificent day for the trip. After a few photo stops Peter, the driver and guide dropped us off at the Yosemite Village Store and from there most of us caught the shuttle to Mirror Lake. We did the easy hike there – no water in the lake but we had been warned. It was the end of the season and there wasn’t much of a waterfall either – just a trickle. Having been there in May 17 years previously I had seen the falls in all their mighty power and I felt sorry for people missing that. Unfortunately we also saw a couple on a cell phone – not a problem except they had it on speaker phone oblivious to the male and female deer close by. Grrrr!!!! On the shuttle bus on the way back Wendy and I spontaneously jumped off the bus at a gorgeous meadow and went for a bit of a hike and sat by a lovely river. We then got the shuttle back to the village and made quick trips to the Ansel Adams gallery - I was tempted to get a poster but decided against it as I didn’t want to haul it back as it didn’t fit into my suitcase. We headed out of the park and back to San Francisco – what a day!!!

Monday October 1st: After a quick breakfast at the hostel I put my bags in a locker and took a cable car down to the end of the line and then back again – just to video it. I then took the bus around San Franciso – jumping off at my favourite parts to revisit from another trip or even see my favourite bits I’d seen on Saturday. I had lunch in Chinatown at a restaurant the Yosemite guide’s wife had recommended. I then took the local bus to the Greyhound station and hopped the bus to Sacramento. Walked to the hostel which is a lovely old mansion. My room was tiny but clean. I tried to find a place to eat but had to make do with a sandwich at a convenience store deli – downtown Sacramento, like a lot of government towns rolls up its sidewalks early!! I felt very let down as after the excitement of San Francisco this was very boring!!!

Tuesday October 2: I had breakfast at a place recommended by the hostel and it was excellent – a very gooey cheese omelette – one of the best I’ve ever had. I then headed off to do the Sacramento walk – I had trouble finding the start point but finally did and chose the 6 km walk as had no interest in doing the 10km walk which went to the fort. It was interesting but once in my lifetime is enough. I did enjoy Old Sacramento which has been restored beautifully. I had a pizza for dinner which wasn’t too inspired and went back expecting a quiet evening but the hostel was full of kids so it was very noisy.

Wednesday October 3rd: After a pear scone and a cup of coffee I went back to the hostel and checked out – leaving my bags there to pick up later. While it was a lovely hostel & a good location the staff were not friendly at all. I visited the nearby farmers market and got some nectarines, grapes and kettle corn then sat on the huge veranda of the hostel and sampled a bit. I then picked up my bags and walked to the bus depot and got the “local” bus to Reno. It stopped everywhere. I was impressed with Truckee which is cute little town in the mountains (with a 10 km walk as well) so have put that on my “to do” list. The bus stopped right at Circus Circus and I had a very quick check in. Walked around the strip – I had been there previously in 1991 but it seemed so much smaller than before! Had an early night.

Thursday October 4th: Grabbed a Krispy Kreme donut and a coffee then got a city bus to Carson City. It is a commuter bus so only has a couple of schedules in the morning and then again in late afternoon back to Reno. It took almost an hour to get there but the scenery was pretty. I walked to the start point of the walk and got my instructions then stopped at a restaurant for another coffee and some toast. Off I headed on the walk which almost immediately headed out of town into the country in a rural area which was gorgeous. Lots of construction going on though so I am glad I did the walk before more McMansions were put up. Back into town to see the State Capital which I visited. The walk then followed the Kit Carson trail around town so I saw some gorgeous old homes – including the Governers Mansion – many decorated for Hallowe’en. After the walk was finished I had a buffet lunch (oink) at the Golden Nugget. It was okay. I then cooled my heels until the bus was due to leave by going to the library and checking my email. Back on the bus. I had wanted to get a ticket for Dancing Queen – an ABBA tribute but was too late plus too tired. Oh well!

Friday October 5th: Today was a cold day – snow in the mountains. After another buffet breakfast I left my luggage with the bellman and headed out. I wasn’t really dressed warmly enough to do a 10 km walk in that type of weather so just walked along the Truckee river a bit and looked in shops. I spent a long time in Starbucks nursing a spiced Pumpkin latte to stay out of the cold. One of those wasted days but sometimes you just need one of those “chill out” when you are on the road. I got the bus later in the afternoon from Circus Circus to Sacramento. The bus depot was crazy with loads of people.

Saturday October 6th: The overnight trip to Los Angeles was okay – we had a half hour break in Calinga Junction. Arrived into LA on time and then got a #60 bus to 7th and Spring and then a #33 bus to Santa Monica. Trying to be pc here let’s just say I was the only person on the bus representing the Caucasian race. The bus trip was LONG – it was a city bus but they had a TV on board – first time I’ve seen that on a local bus!!! After at least an hour I finally got into Santa Monica and checked into the hostel. The hostel there is quite nice – expensive but nice. A hotel room was way out of my budget. The hostel was in a fantastic location only two blocks from the beach. J I couldn’t check in so early so asked about a good breakfast place and the girl at the front desk recommended Jimby’s across the road. So I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving which was that weekend by having pumpkin pancakes which were delicious!! A fella walked in that made my fork stop in mid action and I thought “I know that guy”. I realized it was Ron Howard – well I thought it was and after checking the internet later for current pictures of he and his wife I realized it was them. So I got my first little taste of Hollywood before I’d even finished my first cup of Southern California coffee! After breakfast I headed over to the Santa Monica beach and pier and fell in love – with Santa Monica! I took my shoes off and paddled in the ocean. Lots of surfers. I noticed one particularly handsome specimen struggling to do up his wet suit and I thought to himself…hmmm…love to help him! J No sooner had I smiled at the thought then he was walking towards me and asked me to help zip up the back of his wetsuit. J J “If only my friends could see me now” I thought! I was going to ask if he wanted me to help him out of it when he was done but thought better of it. I walked along the boardwalk but decided to leave Venice until the next day. I wandered over to the Third St. Promenade which had some fun shops to look into and lots of street entertainers. I had dinner at Johnny’s and sat outside – had the best calzone I’d had since the one at John’s Pizza in Greenwich Village, New York City in 1999!!! As the light faded fairy lights came on along the promenade which was so pretty. I walked over to the ocean and watched a very beautiful sunset.

Sunday October 7th: I had brekky at Jimby’s again and sat outside this time – had a breakfast sandwich but it wasn’t as good as those pumpkin pancakes. Another perfect day in Southern California. I started walking along the beach in my bare feet then cut over to the pedestrian path (and put one shoes) once I reached Venice. What a place! I loved it. Lots of different funky people with lots of things to sell. I sat and people watched for ages. It was a wonderful day – Venice was very busy but that was part of the fun. I walked along the beach on the way back in my bare feet again. Venice is definitely on my list of places to re-visit! I had a spinach & feta crepe at Café Crepe.

Monday October 8th: Today I took the grand tour of Los Angeles. Our guide was from Croatia and a real cutie. We did all the tourist traps – Graumans Chinese theatre, movie star homes, Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood sign, stopped outside Universal Studios but didn’t go in. I had seen it years before as well and now that I’ve seen it again when I return to LA I will just stick to Santa Monica!! That evening I watched the sun set again – fantastic!!! I walked over to REM and treated myself to a pair of Teva sandals as the Canadian dollar was kicking the American dollars’ butt at that point and they were much cheaper than at home.

Tuesday October 9th: After a last early morning visit to the pier and beach I said goodbye to Santa Monica I got on the local blue bus to the airport and boarded my plane home.

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