Sunday, September 25, 2011

Home again, home again, etcetera.

I could happily live the rest of my life in central California, near the coast, provided I didn't have to do anything to earn a living. Could somebody please invent a time machine so that I could invest in Microsoft stock early? Thank you.

Pens the Lotion Slut and I keep emailing and texting each other with the words "Best Vacation EVER" and "CONDORS."

We ("we" being Pens and me) arrived late in the morning Sunday at San Jose and were whisked, as much as a bus can whisk, off to the CalTran station near the airport. There's some wonky stuff going on with construction there that would've made it impossible for Beloved Sis to pick us up, so we just rode the bus through town, with Pens asking things like "What's that vine?" and "Is it always so gorgeous here?" (Answers: Bougainvellia and Yes.)

Beloved Sister and Brother-In-Law have a little place in Monterey--and by little, I mean little--with a guest house/studio out back. Pens and Beloved Sis and I installed ourselves there and proceeded to eat lots of bread and hummus and snackages, complete with thyme-infused olive oil. Then B.S. and B.I.L. made us ravioli and butternut squash puree with sage butter and perfectly sauteed zucchini with the sweetest bell peppers ever. I should've known at that very moment that it's nearly impossible to get a bad meal in central California.

Seriously? Had I posted during the past week, this would be the Head Food and Condor blog. Because we saw CONDORS. But before that, I saw HUMPBACKED WHALES. And before that, I sprained my knee.

On Monday, Pens and I went to see whales on the Monterey Bay Whale Watch tour. We took the Sea Wolf II from the wharf at 0900 sharp. It was during the boarding (boarding? Embarking? Getting-on-the-boat?) that the boat went *wibble* and my left knee went *gronk* and I stumbled, practically into the arms of the handsome man who was charged with getting my landlubber ass onto and off of the boat in one piece. Sadly, I caught myself and sadly, my knee swelled to the size of a small grapefruit during the trip.

But I saw three humpbacked whales: a mother and calf and a big male lazily doing the flipper-slap on the surface. And dozens of Risso's dolphins pacing the boat and breaching, and several sea lions (distinguishable from harbor seals by their longer flippers) scamming for scraps. Penny ended up belowdecks in the cabin, green and sweaty from seasickness. At least I won the genetic lottery *somehow*: Penny could be mistaken for a European fashion model, but *I* got the steady cerebellum that allowed me to stand at the bow of the boat and go whooping over the waves while eating a sandwich and ignoring the groans of the dying.

It was, truly, one of the best moments of my life.

Then we went to Cambria. If you ever have to go to Cambria, stay at the White Water Inn. They have cookies! And, if you go straight across the street, dozens of ground squirrels will meet you on the boardwalk and beg for food. I have pictures; they are forthcoming.

Also, if you ever have to go to Cambria (and poor you, having to go to one of the most gorgeous spots on this earth), you should eat at JJ's Pizza. I'm not sure why it got only three and a half stars on Yelp; it's seriously the best pizza I have ever eaten, and close to if not the best hamburger. Plus, the dude who couldn't work the bottle opener for my Sierra Nevada IPA was both charming and handsome.

When you go to Cambria, you have to do two things: See the Hearst Castle and eat at Indigo Moon. The tours at the Castle have been cut to 45 minutes, which is just enough that your head doesn't *quite* explode from the beauty of the place. I kept walking past medieval tapestries and triptychs and saying, "Wait. . .I saw that in a book."

Indigo Moon is that sort of experience, but in food form. Beloved Sis had a risotto that made me determined to learn how to make risotto, with a cheese that I will be ordering in bulk. Pens had a tomato-basil soup that (and I will not lie, here) I was unreasonably proud of already having the recipe for. I had seafood fettucine that will live forever in my memory. Get the Harmony Wineries Riesling: it's the only Riesling I have ever liked. It's superb.

I've been so caught up in the food that I haven't even mentioned the condors. So, CONDORS: As we were driving along Highway 1, a route that is fucking lousy with vistas, we passed a low stone wall with two large, ugly birds sitting on it. One had a nasty pink head; the other had a less-nasty grey-feathered head. The dialogue in the car went something like this:

Pens: Vultures?

Me: Too big.

Beloved Sis: TAGS.

Beloved Sis and Me, together: HOLY SHIT CONDORS.

So we screeched to a halt and walked back to get within ten feet of two California Condors in all their impressive, irrepressable ugliness, and take pictures. Other people were hopping out of their cars and grinning maniacally at us.

Penny mentioned, being the bird-person that she is, that number four looked like she was getting a bit agitated, and what happened? Everybody moved back and let the birds calm down.

Then we saw two more condors soaring over a cliff. Protip: They look a lot like vultures, but marked differently and WAY bigger than vultures.

AND I spotted a purple-freckled starfish and several anemones and a hermit crab in a tidepool, AND Beloved Sis has great pictures of a bright-orange starfish in another tidepool, AND we saw a sunfish at the aquarium, AND Pens is Beloved Sis-and-Brother-In-Law's favorite person ever, AND there were many cuddles with my pit-bull nephew sweetums snuggums Bones, and we all slept eight hours a night at least without nightmares or insomnia.

I'm so glad I took a vacation I could not afford to a place I had left, the last time I was there, with loathing and disgust. I want to do this every week. Tell me, those of you who live in California: do you ever get tired of being surrounded by Nature that isn't trying to kill you?


Bardiac said...

WOW, you saw condors! I'm jealous!

As an exiled Californian, the answer is "no," no one gets tired of the nature, but in some places, the traffic is really nasty.

Glad you had a great trip! (And saw whales, too! Did you see otters? Sometimes you get to see them around there.) (And when you go back, if you can go up to Elkhorn Slough near Santa Cruz, it's well worth the trip!)

jimbo26 said...

Welcome back , young lady .

bobbie said...

No ~ you NEVER get tired of it!!! I'm so glad you had such a great time at my old turf ~ made me homesick!!
Eagerly awaiting pix!

IMQTPI said...

Love-Love-Love being a Native Californian!

Hate-Hate-Hate the traffic, but love that I'm not too far from rolling hills and farmland.

*Please* tell me while you were @ Mo-Bay Aquarium, you went next door and had clam chowder and sourdough bread at the Fish Hopper. Their chowdah is THE BEST - EVAR!!!

terri c said...

WOW and WOW. I am salivating over the descriptions of the food. And the flowers. And the fun. Terrific trip, can't wait to see photos, thanks for taking us along!

Tee said...

it sounds like a perfect vacation and if anybody deserved a perfect vacation you do after the last year you put in.Here's to many,many more like it.

wv : surite--looks like we're all in agreement

gina said...

I recently went to Monterey Aquarium... I wonder if we were there the same day :) I saw the sunfish, too. That there is a crazy half-fish-looking fish.

Living in California is nice, yeah. :)

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

I love it here in the Bay Area and would not even entertain the idea of leaving the state.

Cr0w$C@lling said...

Yes, but were you hugged by a sea urching. Tell me that! Huh. Hu?!

yes I am quite jealous, but with the BS you but up with on a near daily basis no one deserved a better week.

Laura said...

Oh good, someone who feels the same way about the South as I do (i.e. everything around here is trying to kill me).

'Drea said...

I love when vacation time comes around.

Ditto what you wrote in the first sentence.

Misha said...

Love living in California! It is harvest time here in wine country, it smells so good every morning. I love getting off work and seeing dozens of hot air balloons floating over the valley. One morning, a balloon crash landed in my hospital's parking lot. Excellent timing for them, crashing at change of shift in front of the hospital!

nurse 8 said...

hey! We were just vacationing in the bay, too! That sunfish is something else... like the Hannibal Lecter of the ocean world.

The weather was gorgeous the whole week; it's bittersweet to be back in New England where the leaves are already changing.

Penny Mitchell said...

The Sea Wolf II needs to be renamed The Please God Just Kill Me Now.

And not even THAT kept it from being THE. BEST. VACATION. *EVER*.

Mia said...

Your question kind of cracks me up--the Central Valley is somewhat lacking in nature, since in the thirty-minute stretches between towns there's pretty much just farmland as far as the eye can see. And I live in a city in the Central Valley that is noted more for its crime rate than its beauty. So, you know. But the pretty parts of California are pretty rockin', glad you had a good time!

Winnicycle said...

We Californians spent the summer riding our bikes from Seattle to Boston. We encountered: snow (in June!), thunderstorms, extreme heat, a tornado warning, and a hurricane. Seems like everyone we met said, "California? Aren't you scared of the earthquakes?"

No. In my 59 years, I've experienced two that actually hurt anyone. Everywhere else, snow-related car accidents alone are worse than that.

Glad you had a great time here.

Dr. Alice said...

Sadly, you saw more nature in a week than I see in a year (I work in Beverly Hills). But I do love it here and when I make it out of town, the landscape never fails to amaze me.

messymimi said...

Sounds like you had the vacation of a lifetime. Good for you.

chrissoup said...

I'm going to answer your question the same way as everyone else: No, we never get tired of it. And I love the sunfish at the Aquarium too. What did you think of the jellies?

Middle-aged Diva (Carol) said...

I love the Central Coast and rent my 2BR condo there out right now as hubby and I live in San Jose. Still, the best years of my mid-life were spent there. Love Love love it and so glad you do, too.
Oh, and you do rock, girl. But then, you know it.

Sunshine said...

Nah, never get tired of it :)
Thanks for a great blog, and so happy to hear you got such a great vacation!!