Posts Tagged ‘California’

Three years ago, I visited our daughter in southern California and one day when she had to work, I spent a marvelous day wandering in Descanso Gardens. What a place! The flowers were in full bloom and I even managed to find a few gates and doors. But only this one had a giant rabbit on the other side! Farmer McGregor, beware!

A somewhat ordinary door, but not every ordinary door is guarded by lions!

Fancier gates with a set of double doors behind them.

There’s a door somewhere in here, even if you have to meditate to find it and be a midget to get inside.

for Thursday Doors 10.22.20

Dear God, my brother told me about how we are born but it just doesn’t sound right?  What do you say?  Marsha

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Glendale’s outdoor mall, The Americana at Brand, is beautiful paean to consumption. High-end shops, restaurants, a theater…there’s everything a person could want.  You can even just hang out or play.  This is NOT my normal walk in the park.

© janet m. webb

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Not one, but two celebrities, unbeknownst to them, were captured in this shot:  Half Dome on the left and Bridal Veil Falls on the right, two of the stars of Yosemite National Park.

copyright janet m. webb

What?  Wednesday again?  I’m two and a half weeks into Tour de France watching and exhausted having just watched today’s mountain stage. What will I do with my morning’s after Sunday’s last stage?  Ahh, well, on to today’s challenge, the Weekly Photo Challenge.  Finding an apt photo can be as challenging as winning a Tour stage (well, maybe not) and today I’m searching for one that meets the challenge of “Unusual” posed to us by an excellent photographer, Lignum Draco.

I was blessed to be able to spend just a very, very short time in Yosemite in March.  During that stay, I had this unusual view of the park.  I also had an unusually hard time trying to get this photo ready to upload.  🙂

© janet m. webb

The sun shone on our first afternoon in Yosemite, but the rainy writing was on the afternoon wall.  Our hope was to get in a hike during the morning without getting soaked.  A trip to the food court netted me tea and my daughter coffee and a croissant.  Back at our room, we filled up on yogurt and homemade granola, put on our various layers, and headed out.  I had my non-backpack lined with a heavy plastic bag to protect my camera and telephoto lens in case the rain showed up early.

The hike to Mirror Lake isn’t difficult and if you really want to take it easy, you can walk on the edge of the paved road.  We took the path less traveled and…dare I say?…that made all the difference.

Notice my Chicago Blackhawks jacket?  🙂  Layers were definitely the thing as it wasn’t warm.  But of course, as we hiked, we warmed up.  Jacket zippers down, then up, then…  I was also constantly changing lenses or bringing out my phone for a shot.  My favorite pants have a pocket along the leg just the right size for my phone, which is most convenient.

© janet m. webb 2017

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Back from La-La Land, back from sunshine and (at the end, at least, warmth) to rain, gloom, and a high of 42F (although it’s supposed to be in the 50’s in the coming days.) It’s good to travel and good to come home…and even better to have a home I like to come home to!

Each time I visit our daughter, we have a brave, daring adventure.  Last visit it was a whirlwind trip up “The 1” to Napa’s wine country.  “The 1” has nothing to do with Neo and “The Matrix” and everything to do with the fact that for some unknown reason, highways in California and Arizona (and possibly elsewhere in the west) are called The Whatever Number.  At least you know the number.  In the Chicago area, they nickname the highways:  The Dan Ryan, The Kennedy, The Eisenhower, and so on.  If you’re new to the area or don’t use the highways much, you have NO idea what highway the traffic reports are referencing!

This year’s brave, daring adventure was a quick trip to Yosemite National Park, a place I haven’t seen since I was too young to remember what I saw and all photos were black and white without editing.  During tourist season, we wouldn’t have been able to spontaneously do this, as reservations have to be made many months (or more) in advance. My understanding is that even trails have to be reserved for hiking during the high season, a far cry from the days when my mom and her family camped in the park for several weeks, an inexpensive vacation for a Lutheran teacher’s family!

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Once my trip to California was finalized, my husband instructed me to find a tidal pool. Because I always do what he says (cough, cough), over the Fourth of July weekend, Shannon and I went to the type of beach I prefer: a beach with lots of rocks and a bit of beach, although it was too chilly to be interested in lying in the sun, even if it had been out.  We managed to find a parking spot in the lot, then took the long, steep path to the beach.  I was relieved to see the following sign, banning what would have been much too much visual information for me!

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We’d timed it so we’d be there are low tide, so as to have the best chance of finding something of interest exposed.  Keeping one eye on the rocks, we tried each before stepping, while keeping the other eye on the pools of water, searching for interesting sea life of any kind. I was hoping for starfish, but although we didn’t find any, we did find a number of other photogenic and interesting critters.

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Our day in Napa starts with breakfast at the Model Bakery in nearby St Helena.  We’ve read that they have a stellar raspberry croissant, so of course we have to try it, along with a cheese Danish and a pecan roll.  Coffee for the daughter and tea for me complete the repast, although I look longingly at their artisan breads.

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After a leisurely breakfast, we head north along highway 29 to absorb the scenery before absorbing any wine.  Wineries are all around, many with imposing tasting rooms.  But the acres of vineyards and other crops once again remind us that, tourist appeal apart, California is an agricultural state of major importance. Beachcalifornia.com tells us:

California has been the number one food and agricultural producer in the United States for more than 50 consecutive years.

California is the nation’s number one dairy state.

California’s leading commodity is milk and cream. Grapes are second.

California’s leading export crop is almonds.

Nationally, products exclusively grown (99% or more) in California include almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins, clovers, and walnuts.

From 70 to 80% of all ripe olives are grown in California.

California is the nation’s leading producer of strawberries, averaging 1.4 billion pounds of strawberries or 83% of the country’s total fresh and frozen strawberry production. Approximately 12% of the crop is exported to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Japan primarily. The value of the California strawberry crop is approximately $700 million with related employment of more than 48,000 people.

California produces 25% of the nation’s onions and 43% of the nation’s green onions.

Gilroy, California, “Garlic Capitol of the World,” has hosted 2 million at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.

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The bottom line, however, is that Napa is wine country, and with over 400 wineries in Napa and hundreds more in Sonoma, the next valley over, choices are virtually unlimited.  We had a recommendation from my boss and one from a friend of Shannon’s, but we also look online for additional possibilities.  We come up with a clear winner:  Pride Mountain.  They do tours and tastings by appointment only, but we’re able to get in as soon as we can arrive.  The road winds up and up the mountainside, emerging eventually at a winery that straddles the county line.  Part of it is in Napa, the other in Sonoma.  That makes for two sets of books and lots of work but amazing wines.

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Pride Mountain has man-made caves, something most wineries here do not. Our guide is knowledgeable and enjoyable, so the time passes quickly and all too soon we’re off with our purchased bottle.

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Lunch and another tasting are next at V. Santui, a winery that offers not only tastings, but food, a place for picnicking, and almost anything else wine-related you can think of.  In contrast to Pride, it’s packed with people, as no appointment is necessary and it’s also along the main highway.  They make more than 65 wines, none of which can be found in stores, only online, at the winery, or via their wine club. The young woman who does our tasting is not particularly interested in anything beyond parroting the party line about each wine, which makes the experience less than good and proving once again the importance of good customer service!

Our tasting day ends at Elyse, a small winery with delicious products. Even though we’ve only done three tastings, the amount of wine, small though it seems, adds up and we’re definitely done for the day.  We head back to our B&B and then into the town of Napa itself to explore a bit and look for some dinner.

Carmel is like a Thomas’ English muffin–full of nooks and crannies, although ones you want to explore, not fill with butter and eat. There’s a beautiful beach, hotels everywhere (fitting in seamlessly to the beauty of the town but seemingly perpetually full), restaurants, shops of all sorts, people, and flowers everywhere. There is also, or at least so our hotel manager told us, no air conditioning.

The beach at Carmel

The beach at Carmel

It wasn’t so much that the room was stifling, but closed rooms can get just slightly, well, closed and stale feeling. It was night, late, and we were ready to sleep, so we weren’t going to open the windows to air it out. The manager did send up a lovely fan and we took our respite after a long, beauty-filled day.

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Our breakfast, included and ordered the night before, was delivered in a cute little cooler and included cereal, milk, juice, and bananas. Showered and refreshed, we spent some time wandering the town, heading first for the beach, then looking at shops while on the prowl for coffee (daughter) and tea (me.) But the constant was exclaiming over how cute/beautiful/whatever the town was. (The other constant, in my mind at least, was how on earth anyone could afford to live here!!) Houses in a variety of attractive styles, although not in this part of town, enormous, were surrounded by beautiful gardens. The commercial part of town was equally as attractive, my cameras (phone and Nikon) were kept busy, and our beauty-meter was sated by the time we got in the car to continue our trip with Napa at the end of this day.

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It was a rather cruel shock to come around the corner, so to speak, and find ourselves in the real world of city, chain stores, and crowded roads. The imposing natural beauty of the coast and the charm of Carmel were abruptly gone. But we were headed to lunch with a friend of Shannon’s and looking forward to getting into wine country by afternoon.

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The wait for lunch was made more than bearable by mimosas served in water glasses (i.e.large), good conversation, and delicious food. After that, we followed her friend through climbing, winding roads to a winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains he liked that has, like much of the area, a gorgeous view. They also had good wine, which we tasted. Then it was back in the car and on the road once more.

Our B&B

Our B&B

Sunday afternoon found us driving into Napa just as several lanes of traffic were trying to move out. That put us on the right side of the highway for a change. Next step was to find our B&B, which turned out to be in a lovely, quiet neighborhood. Our room on the second floor had its own entrance, a large open area containing a kitchen, living room and bedroom, as well as a spacious bathroom. The husband of our host couple welcomed us, as did the bottle of wine they left on the table, and then we relaxed, getting ready to go out and explore the town of Napa that evening.

And before I forget, California is home to one of my favorite foods.  Just imagine if all thistles were artichokes!  Yet much as I love them, I have to wonder:  Who on earth ever first thought of eating one???  No matter; I’m thankful for that person.

Flower of my favorite thistles!

Flower of my favorite thistles!