DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Shopping in El Paso

Shopping, but in Juarez, not El Paso's Sears
Shopping, but in Juarez, not El Paso’s Sears

TRAVEL BUG TALES: DADDY MAKES EVERYTHING ALRIGHT

So, we’re in El Paso, but our hanging clothes are still in my closet in Dallas.  Mom insists the outfits in our luggage will not take us everywhere we need to go.  So it was time to go shopping.

Saved by the Sears

When it came to clothes shopping, my family was usually on the JC Penney’s team.  I’m not sure why we ended up at a Sears store in El Paso, but that’s what happened.  At the front door Dad disappeared to do something mysterious and Mom took us to the girl’s dress department.

I’m guessing Dad went to the credit department and explained our dilemma.  “Hi, I’m George Cave.  We’re here on vacation and need to pick up a few things, but I left my credit card at home.  Can you help?”  Knowing my father he told them a whole lot more and I bet before he left the office he knew everything about the people who he’d been talking to.  Dad was that guy.

Nowadays, all you have to do is give them your name and they can tell you anything and everything about yourself, re-fi your home and forecast your horoscope, but our shopping emergency happened in the days before computers ruled the world.  He probably had to give them his driver’s license and wait around the credit department while a phone call was made to some centralized billing location.  I’m imagining a huge room where someone had to go through a file cabinet or card file to find our account.

Meanwhile Mom was fluttering around with us among the dress racks.  Had I been on the store’s security detail, I would have been suspicious of my mother.  She was dancing around like a cat on a hot tin roof.  I guess she was nervous about whether Dad would succeed at his assignment.  My dad did everything my mom told him to do, but he didn’t always do it exactly the way Mom expected him to and that caused her a lot of anxiety.  Of course, we’re talking about Ruth and pretty much everything caused her a lot of anxiety.

A visit to the caverns
A visit to the caverns

The Red and Gold Culotte Dress

Over the the last week or so, as I worked on this series of posts, I’ve been going through all my photo albums trying to find a picture of me in the dress we bought that day.  I know there was at least one picture of me in it, but since it was a picture of a birthday party for my sister, she might have it somewhere.

I loved that dress.  It had a roll collar, short sleeves and a drop waist.  The color was tomato red with gold stripes – not metallic gold like it would be today, but the goldenrod color used for some copy paper.  The fact that it was culottes caused a dilemma for my parents.  School dress codes were strict in those days and culottes weren’t kosher.  Would I ever wear it again after the vacation?  Mother let me try it on, but warned me she had reservations about it.

Not sure who this guy is!
Not sure who this guy is!

I remember my dad showing up after his mysterious disappearance.  He was grinning ear to ear and mother’s relief was obvious.  “Daddy, daddy, look what I’ve found!  Isn’t it a great color?  And look it’s culottes!  I can’t wear them to school, but I can wear them to Duck Inn and choir and…”  I wanted to be the one to tell him about it, because I knew Mom would start with all the reasons it was impractical.   Duck Inn was our favorite place to get catfish and we went every couple of weeks, so I figured including it would give the idea that I’d be wearing it a lot.

There was some discussion of price and if I remember correctly, we’d found it on the clearance rack and my dad thought, for the price, if all I did was wear it on vacation I would get our money’s worth.  I wore the dickens out of that thing.  It was if I had to prove Dad was right to let me buy it.  I actually wore the dress to shredding, which was a weird thing.  I was growing fast and Mom was fastidious about the laundry, so most of my clothes looked brand new when I outgrew them.  This one started fraying where the skirt was connected to the bodice.

Susan at White Sands
Susan at White Sands

Vacation wise, I don’t remember what we saw in El Paso, but I do remember going over into Juarez.  We saw the bats erupt from Carlsbad Caverns and then went down inside the next day.  Somewhere along the way we visited White Sands National Park and the Palo Duro Canyons.  We went to Houston that year to, but for the life of me, I can’t remember whether it was on the same trip or on another one later in the year.

Come back next week and I’ll share a few tidbits from that trip to the Houston area.

 

 

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Teaching Tools and Credit Cards

Imagine! These poor travelers had no hang-up clothes!
Imagine! These poor travelers had no hang-up clothes!

TRAVEL BUG TALES: WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MOM REALIZED WE DIDN’T HAVE THE GARMENT BAG

We were on a family vacation.  I was supposed to load the garment bag.  Had I done it?  When Mom first asked, I couldn’t remember whether I did or not!

We Were in Trouble, Big Time

After my weak, “I’m not sure, but I might have,” Mom’s death stare turned to Dad. “Did she bring them to you?”  Good old Dad, either he couldn’t remember or he knew for sure I hadn’t, but he didn’t want to to get into it.

He refused to stop the car and look right at that moment, too.  I’m sure he wanted to avoid the possibility of hearing the chewing out we would receive if the bag wasn’t in there.  It would have gone something like this:

“I cannot believe this. I give you one simple thing to do and you didn’t do it.  You had plenty of time to ___________________ (fill in the blank with some non-essential kid sort of thing that I did), but you couldn’t do the one thing I asked you to do. And George, you are no better.  We discussed this.  You knew the hang-up clothes were in Jane’s closet.  This is not the first trip this family has made.  I’m working now and I cannot do everything all by myself.  I have to depend on the rest of you and you always let me down.”

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure we got this harangue in spite of Dad’s efforts.  After she got started, he told her it didn’t matter one way or the other, because it was too late to turn around at that point. Besides, each of us had an entire suitcase of clothes.  His ploy didn’t work.  We were treated to a lecture on the inappropriateness of our suitcase clothes for some of our activities.  After thoroughly explaining this point, we returned to the previous discussion of our unreliability in the face of her need for our cooperation.  Then we got a little reminder of all the things she did all the time.

At some point Dad had to stop, either for lunch or gas or a potty stop.  Once Mom confirmed that we were all unreliable louts based on the evidence of the missing hang-up bag, I’m sure Mom repeated each and every word of her earlier lectures.  In fact, this particular incident was referred to and discussed (by her) for years to come.  Mom was almost as big on repetition as a teaching tool as she was about ironing out wrinkles.  Obviously, it worked pretty well, since I can remember to this day that sour feeling of failure at the bottom of my stomach.

What Happened Next?

Eventually we arrived at El Paso.  We unloaded the car and then went shopping.  During the drive my parents had decided to buy something to wear for our dress-up occasions on the trip – though I can’t think for the life of me what these situations might have been.

To me this seemed like a lark, but from the position of adulthood, it probably wasn’t so  much fun for Mom and Dad.  In those days, money wasn’t such an easy thing.  Those of us who depend on ATM’s and credit cards can barely remember when these tools weren’t readily available.  Forget paying with your phone.  Our only phone was hardwired into the kitchen wall.

When we traveled we always used traveler’s checks.  This type of currency is still available, but I can’t even remember the last time I used it.  I remember serious discussions about how many travelers checks we’d need.  You didn’t want to buy too many, because there was a percentage fee for them.  You didn’t want to buy too few, because you didn’t want to be stranded.  You always took a little cash, but very little, because it could be lost or stolen.  Unlike money, travelers checks could be replaced, if you had written down your serial numbers, which of course my parents always did.  However, four new outfits would have wiped out our stock of traveler check.

We had all kinds of charge cards for Dallas stores, but, in those pre-WalMart days, each city had its own set of stores.  Master Card was in its infancy and was called Presto-Charge.  It worked great in Dallas, but it was unlikely they had it in El Paso.  Dad had a walletful of gas cards, but while service stations still provided service, if you wanted to purchase more than a soda and a candy bar along with your gas, you were out of luck.  There were cards like Diners Club and American Express, but folks like my parents didn’t have them.  Those were for high-rolling jet-setters.  What’s more, one of the things my parents always did before leaving on a trip was lock their charge cards, except for the gas cards, away in the bank box.

Most likely, on top of the concern about the form of payment to offer, the cost of four new outfits probably wasn’t in my parents’ budget.  We didn’t exactly live paycheck to paycheck, but every penny was spoken for.  Dad was saving up for a house and Mom was already socking way everything she could for my eventual college education.

Where were we going to go to get the outfits we needed for the rest of the trip.  Find out next week!

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

From No Vacation to River Cruise – BAM!

Budapest here we come!
Budapest here we come!

AT HOME IN HEATH: JUST WHEN I LEAST EXPECTED IT, A RIVER CRUISE

We choose to live a frugal life.  Sometimes we run into a financial boundary I find inconvenient, but I get over it pretty quickly.  At the end of the day, I love laying my head on the pillow of financial security.

Travel is a Luxury Item

In late December I asked Bill if we’d have room in the budget for travel in 2016.  Family concerns and budgetary constraints have dominated our lives for a number of years.  We’ve enjoyed a few vacations, but there have been blinders on our imagination.  I had my parents’s health to consider, we’ve built a house and there have been other issues.  Bill was ready to put travel back in the budget, but with limitations.

His first suggestion was Myrtle Beach.  I grew up going to Myrtle Beach and loving it, but on my last trip I was dismayed by the number of miniature golf parks and beach towel emporiums.  My memories of Myrtle Beach involved a cozy beach shack and driving to Calabash for fried flounder.  A few years ago with my mom, I discovered that Myrtle Beach no longer exists and I wasn’t crazy about spending the money to confirm it again.

To me, Destin sounded like a better beach target.  I started researching Destin and proposed several road trip itineraries, but none of them floated Bill’s boat.  So, we discussed other items on my American short list.  At the top of that list is the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Belle Grove Plantation on the banks of the Rappahannock River in Virginia and perennial loves, like Sedona.  Bill still wasn’t buying into it.  Then I mentioned Washington State and reminded him of all the places we’d fallen in love with when we were researching the Pacific Northwest for other potential vacations.  I was given permission to start thinking toward a fall road trip in Washington, which would include a visit to Butchart Gardens in Victoria BC.

Then There Was the Travel Show

Even when we are not in the market for a home, my husband loves walking through model homes and open houses.  I’m the same way about travel shows.  Even though I’m not going to put down a deposit on a cruise or a tour, I love to go and acquaint myself with the possibilities.  I love sharing what I learn here on my blog and enjoy creating wonderful travel fantasies in my head.

So, I went to the CTC travel show and brought home tons of brochures and spread them around my den to enjoy.  To my surprise, Bill picked up one of those brochures and fell in love with a price point.  A clipper ship cruise has always sounded intriguing to me, even if it wasn’t at the top of my wish list, but if that’s what Bill wanted to do, then I was all for it.

I called the travel agent and she gave me additional information about the clipper ship cruise with the great price point, but she also invited us to a Viking Cruise wine tasting event scheduled for that evening.  From the minute the Viking presentation started, it was all over for the clipper ship.  For several days my email box and my phone were very busy.  The bottom line?  Sandra Rubio booked us for Viking’s Danube Waltz Cruise in mid-April and she did it for a price I would have never dreamed possible.  If you are even thinking of a cruise, then I suggest you give Sandra a shout.  Her email is Sandra@CruiseTourCenter.com, or you can call her at 214-206-4488 or 800-447-4435.

I’ll be exuding my joy over this trip in the days to come and then I’ll give you all the details when I come home, but for now, I just wanted you to know who to call if cruising was in your future.

 

DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

A Little More Strolling in San Antonio

Mi Tierra, San Antonio, TX
In the Mi Tierra Bar

TRAVEL THERE: MORE SAN ANTONIO STROLLING

On this trip we’d already hit some of my favorite culinary spots in San Antonio: The Guenther House in the King William District, Casa Rio and Boudro’s on the Riverwalk and NAO street tacos at The Pearl Farmer’s Market. We’d also tried and fallen in love with a new place, The Chart House at Tower of the Americas.  Now it was time for brunch at Mi Tierra.

Mi Tierra

I’ve always known about Mi Tierra, but until I went with Bill back in 2013 I’d never managed to get anyone to go with me.  It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more, so it immediately moved to my list of favorites – and since it’s open 24 hours I should always be able to find a way to squeeze it in.

Brunch

Sunday morning Deb and I packed up our belongings, checked out of Hotel Contessa and toted our belongings to the car, but we decided to walk to Market Square.  It seemed as if every time we left the Contessa we either headed north or east.  We’d been neglecting the west, something we were ready to correct.

Market Square is one of the oldest parts of town and during its long history it’s always been an area of mercantile.  The actual old El Mercado isn’t what it used to be.  It probably deserves the “tourist trap” slam many folks have given it on sites like Trip Advisor, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – especially if that baby is Mi Tierra.

My previous visit to Mi Tierra had been during a freak winter storm that blitzed out about half of what I wanted to do.  We made a mid-week visit for lunch and then headed over to the McNay.  The crowd was primarily business people grabbing a quick lunch and a few of us tourists who had braved the cold.  There had been no wait for a table.

Things were a little more lively on this Sunday morning.  The bakery counter was busy and you had to wait for a table.  Deb and I settled in the bar and watched for our buzzer to go off.  Remarkably we only had a few minutes of cooling our heels, so I think they opened up the patio.

Once seated, we made selections from the breakfast menu and sat back to enjoy the show.  Mariachis entertained us on the patio and just outside vendors were setting up booths from which to sell their trinkets.  The food was delivered fresh and delicious.  It was a little early for a margarita, but I couldn’t help wishing I had one.

Back to the Car

When we headed back to the car I spotted that one of my favorite shops was open.  I never can remember the name of it, but you can’t miss it.  It’s right next door to Mi Tierra.  They have clothing and jewelry on the first and second floor and wonderful ceramics in the basement.  Maybe next time I’ll actually write down the name.  I’d love to be able to afford some of their beautiful embroidered dresses on the second floor, but I’m not paying three figures for a sundress.

Main Plaza, San Antonio, TX
Main Plaza

Along the way back to the car, we enjoyed the beautiful Main Plaza, but we agreed that the western part of downtown couldn’t compare with the eastern side.  It won’t be my last trip to Market Square or Mi Tierra, but I won’t walk next time. I’ll either grab the trolley or hop in my car.

Next we’ll head out on the Mission Trail, so come back next week.  You’ll love it.

 

DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

On the Road Again – San Antonio Stroll

Heath, TX
Ready to hit the road!

TRAVEL THERE: SAN ANTONIO STROLL

Any day I’m traveling is a good day. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good hair day. Looking in the mirror for the first time that morning was a startling experience. Maybe I should have just washed my hair again, but instead I decided a few hot rollers would do the trick.

bad hair day, heath TX
The taming of Big Hair!

On the Road Again

Bad hair aside, I was almost giddy at the prospect of traveling.  Deb texted she was on her way, so I stacked my luggage outside the garage and went about those last minute things you have to do before you leave home for several days.  Hubby was going to be there, so I didn’t have quite as many to do.  He’d keep the home fires burning.

My partner-in-crime arrived.  We loaded up the car, took a few photos and headed south.  The first stop was a brief one in Waco.  No sightseeing, even though Waco is a great little town for that.  Just a little restroom break, a morning snack and a some gas – then we were back on the road.

The morning snack was pretty darned good.  I don’t usually go to Burger King, but it was convenient.  Deb had some kind of coffee concoction that was really more like a chocolate shake with a little coffee flavoring.  Since we decreed nothing we ate during the weekend would have any calories, I had a cinnamon roll.

Dining and Shopping in Round Rock

Mimi's Cafe, Round Rock TX
Cousin Brenda and the sneaky ‘fro. It’s trying to make a comeback!

Next stop was lunch with my Cousin Brenda in Round Rock.  The city’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s just north of Austin, but they also have a pretty good outlet mall.  We met Brenda at Mimi’s Cafe.

Can you say Cinnamon Spice Muffin?  When they said Cinnamon Spice, I thought Spice Cake, but am I ever glad the waitress set me straight, because I almost opted for a Blueberry Muffin.  Instead, out came this amazing pastry filled with walnuts and dusted with cinnamon sugar.  My official entree, which was delicious, was a chicken crepe, but the muffin stole the show.

With Round Rock Premium Outlet Mall just next door, we should at least drop by right?  We’d thought about making a sight-seeing stop or two down in Austin, but Brenda said the traffic wasn’t worth it.  She told us about a new toll road and said we should be headed south by three.  That only left us an hour and a half, so we shopped with some very good luck.

This year has been so crazy that even though my bestie gave me a handful of gift cards to Bath and Body Works for Christmas, I had never gotten around to using them.  Since this was the first store we saw, I whipped out my cards and went to town.  I love my daily bubble bath, but I usually opt for whatever bubbles I can find in the grocery store.  The gift cards allowed me to stock up on all kinds of amazing scents the grocery store will never smell.

A few more steps down the sidewalk a few steps were a pair of my favorite clothing stores, Jones of New York and Kasper.  The good news was the great sale they were having.  The bad news?  It was a store-closing sale – and not just those stores, all the JNY and Kasper outlet stores.  I can’t tell you how much of my wardrobe comes from those two outlet stores.

Apparently, someone bought them and decided to get out of the outlet business, to focus on their department store business.  That makes me sad, because I am not a department store shopper.  I really don’t need any clothes because I still haven’t worn everything I inherited from Mom and Aunt Edie, so I don’t hang out in department stores.  I’ll visit an outlet mall, because it’s less hassle and I find real bargains on clearance.  Every once and a while I’ll stop by and find a few items at give-away prices to keep my look fresh or to replace something I’ve worn to thread-barrenness.  Kasper and JNY have been two of my favorites, I guess because they were favorites of Mom and Aunt Edie.

I did virtually steal a navy blue sundress and a sweater set, because the prices were jaw-dropping.  If you have an outlet mall near by, run over there and check out the savings.  Gorgeous stuff, great prices.

The hour and a half we had for shopping disappeared into the plastic bags hanging on our arms, so it was time to go.  We hugged my cousin’s neck and took her toll road to San Antonio.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you all about our interesting stay at an not so marvelous hotel bargain.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

Finding Footwear for the San Antonio Stroll

TRAVEL THERE: HEADED TO SAN ANTONIO TX

Finally, it was time to go!

I love the planning part of a trip, uncovering all the possibilities and making geographic sense of them.  Who’s open when, how much does it cost and how long will it take?

What to Pack?

Once I’d mapped out the days of the trip I began to wonder what the heck I was going to wear.  Everything above the ankles was easy – mostly sundresses and one day a knit pantsuit that’s as comfy and cool as pj’s.  The problem was from the ankle down. One of the reasons I named this trip the San Antonio Stroll was that there was going to be a lot of walking.  (Another reason is that I like alliteration and Tanya Tucker’s song.)

I have a lot of shoes, but for hours of walking most of them won’t do.  They’re just for looks, but do they ever look good!  I made a special trip to the closet to check out my options and quickly discovered I didn’t have any.  See, I call those kind of shoes “fun shoes” and my fun shoe factor was in sad shape – holes in the sole in my favorite sneakers, sandals falling apart, straps broken.  Even sadder was the fact that I’d worn all of them for so long and so hard that the cobbler wasn’t an option.  That meant DSW.  I threw away the dead soldiers and planned my shopping trip.

DSW Emergency!

Now my usual gig at DSW is to go to the clearance department and discover the gems – those interesting selections that have gotten to the 50% and more off.  I don’t go with a shopping list, I’m just looking for bargains.  When I pay a tiny price for fab footwear, I’m over the moon.  It was immediately obvious that I wasn’t going to make that sort of score on this trip.  If their clearance inventory had included fun shoes, someone else beat me to them.  So I grabbed a bag, wandered the store looking for likely suspects and then sat down to try them on.

This one was too ugly, that one too heavy, another one hit me at the wrong place on my foot.  I narrowed it down to a sandal, an espadrille and  well, I did find one bargain I couldn’t leave behind.  The bargain pair wouldn’t be going to San Antonio, but I’ll look marvelous when they do step out.  The bargain and the espadrille were thrifty, the sandal was not.  Have to take care of those dogs though, so I made my way to the check out counter.  Now I was ready to pack.

The Old Red Suitcase and My “Hairable” Mistake

After dragging the old red suitcase down from the attic (the wonderful walk-in attic in my new house) I pulled together all the stuff I wanted to take.   As Deb pointed out on this trip, the clothes took up one small corner of the suitcase, while the makeup and electronics needed to have their own bellhop.  It didn’t take long for me to get it all stowed away.

Then I had to decide what to do with my hair.  I’ve been letting it grow and most of the time I’m not quite sure what to do with it.  My mom liked my hair to be short and she had a way of getting what she wanted.  Now that she’s gone I’ve been having a little late-life rebellion and so far the hair is down to my shoulders.  We’ll see if it goes any longer.  Anyway, it sort of has a mind of its own, so trying to get it to do what I want is like trying to control a force of nature.

Rather than wrestle with it on the morning we were going to leave, I decided to wash it in the laundry room sink.  That would be easier – right?  Well, first of all, I don’t think I’ve ever washed my hair in a sink when it was this long.  You’ve never seen a mess like the one I made.  I was so wet that I looked like I’d washed the dog’s hair, not mine.  I think I should have just stepped in the shower.  Then about the time I got it washed and towel-dried, I went outside to talk to Bill about something.  I do live next to a pond, so I exposed my hair to the damp night air.  Then I decided to see what it would do if I didn’t use any product in it.  Remember, Diana Ross’s huge ‘fro from her solo years.  Yep, that’s what my hair looked like when I woke up.

Come back next week and we’ll load the car and then head out on the San Antonio Stroll.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Libraries, Museums, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Huntington Library and Gardens

Huntington Library & Gardens, San Marino CA
The Sadeks at the Huntington

TRAVEL THERE: THE HUNTINGTON LIBRARY AND GARDENS IN SAN MARINO, CALIFORNA

Until I started planning this trip I hadn’t heard of the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. I was just looking for a museum to visit, since the Getty Villa would be closed the day I wanted to go. As it turned out, I got to see both the Getty Villa and the Huntington. Let me tell you – you’ve got to go to the Huntington.

THE HUNTING WHAT?

Even now that I’ve been there, I don’t quite know how to describe the Huntington – which might be part of the problem.  The official name of the place is The Huntington Library.  Quite frankly, though I’m very grateful our nation is blessed with wonderful libraries, I don’t consider them as tourist destinations.   Also, it’s in San Marino, not LA, so maybe that’s why I’d never heard of it.  Call it what you will, it’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been and very little of it is actually a library.

THE HUNTINGTON GALLERY

As I researched LA, some clue hinted at an art museum inside the grounds of the Huntington Library.  Following my nose I found The Huntington’s website and investigated their collection.  I about had a heart attack.  Staring right at me from the webpage was Blue Boy – yes, Gainsborough’s Blue Boy.  And do you want to know who is looking at Blue Boy from across the room?  You’re not going to believe it!! Pinkie!  Thomas Lawrence’s painting of a young girl in pink and white.  (Go ahead and click over there, I’ll wait.)You’ll be amazed  You’ve seen prints of the two displayed together a million times.  Well, at the Huntington, the real things are in the same room…looking at one another.  It was almost too much for me to bear.

Huntington Library & Gardens, San Marino CA
Enjoying a break before heading out to the gardens

The Huntington has a whole slew of gorgeous European paintings that you will devour, but even if they didn’t have a single painting, I’d still tell you to go.  I’ve been to a lot of luxurious, ornate, beautiful historic homes in my life, but I have never ever seen anything like the Huntington Art Gallery.  Well, maybe “never ever” is stretching it a bit.  King Ludwig’s Linderhof in Bavaria was on par. (Probably Versailles is too, but I’m still mad a Jimmy Carter for being there when I went to Paris.)  Bottom line – go get your socks knocked off.

THE PRICE OF ADMISSION

If you go during the week, it will cost you $20 per person ($23 on weekends).  It doesn’t open until noon (10:30 on weekends) and they shoo you out at 4:30.  It ought to be illegal.  Not the price, it’s worth every penny, even if all you see is the Art Gallery, but how are you supposed to see any of it in just four and a half hours.  I could have spent four and a half hours in the Art Gallery alone.  I call a foul.  They should open up at the crack of dawn and stay until very late.  Charge me by the hour.  I don’t care.  Just give me more access.

THE HUNTINGTON BOTANICAL GARDENS

Huntington Library & Gardens, San Marino CA
On the paved road not quite seeing the gardens

With only a few hours to see everything and an entourage to manage, I made a tactical error.  I thought the prudent thing to do would be to stroll along the paved road that leads through the gardens.  Sure enough, you get a peek at the edge of the gardens, but not much more.  The gardens are designed for you to enjoy them on the foot paths within the various settings, not zipping by on the paved road.

Huntington Gardens, San Marino CA
Follow me. I’m not sure where I’m going, but eventually you’ll love it – really!

Needless to say, my entourage soon tired of almost seeing things.  Just about the time I figured out the drill, the entourage was through.  I tried to encourage them deeper into the garden, but their visit was over.  A lot of the conversation happened in Arabic, but I knew they thought I was nuts.  Besides, I don’t think they had prints of Blue Boy and Pinkie for sale at the five and dime in Egypt.  They just didn’t get any of my rapture.

Too bad.  They departed and Bill reluctantly followed me into the Japanese Garden.  Moments later he was calling the kids and begging them to come back, but it was too late.

The Japanese Garden, which was unbelievably beautiful, gave way to a Chinese Garden which was even better.  I realize that I’ve run out of superlatives, but if you’ve been there you understand.  Get this!  There are fifteen gardens, each one more amazing than the last one.  How are you supposed to see fifteen gardens in four and a half hours?

AND THAT’S NOT ALL!

As if being able to enjoy the Huntington Art Gallery in the gorgeous palace housing the remarkable collection wasn’t enough, there are two other galleries.  One is home to American art and the other hosts special exhibitions.  I’d pay twenty dollars to see either of them!

Oh, and why is it called a library?  Because they have a huge building with 420,ooo rare books and 7,000,000 manuscripts.  Yes – SEVEN MILLION manuscripts.  Now the general public is not allowed to get their grubby hands on all of that, but they can see highlights of the library in an exhibit hall.

I didn’t even get near to any of this.  I’m ready to go back, right now.

A GIFT SHOP TO BEAT ALL GIFT SHOPS

The Huntington Gift Shop is not the largest gift shop I’ve ever been to.  Oh you can get a T-shirt, but why would you bother when there are gorgeous scarves, amazing jewelry and stunning decor items.  Go ahead – do a little browsing.  See if you won’t want one of everything.

So, now you know.  The Huntington is more than an art museum, more than a library and more than a garden.  It’s shangri-la, the garden of eden and utopia all rolled into one.  Go!  It’s wonderful!

But my day wasn’t over!  I was meeting one of my besties at one of my favorite places for dinner.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Revisiting Los Osos

Los Osos CA
Imagine waking up to this view!

A NOSTALGIC VISIT TO LOS OSOS, CALIFORNIA

Happy New Year!  I hope 2015 holds much happiness for you and yours, as well as lots of travel!

Now onto our journey to the West Coast.  We called Los Osos home while our house was built in Pismo Beach. In fact, we almost bought a lot in Los Osos rather than Pismo. I wonder what turn our life together would have taken if we’d gambled on that steep outcropping rather than the more sedate hilltop in Pismo.

Sally and The Great Skin Company

One of the first things I did when I moved to Los Osos was join South Bay Women’s Network.  I loved that group of women and had the honor of serving in several offices for them – from Historian to President.  It’s through SBWN that I met the lovely Sally Brooks and made my way to The Great Skin Company.  In Sally I found a wonderful friend and at her salon I enjoyed some of the best facials I’ve ever had.  Should you happen to go to the Central Coast, book something at The Great Skin Company and tell Sally I sent you.

On this particular morning, I didn’t have an appointment for a facial, but Sally had arranged for several of my friends from SBWN to drop by for coffee.  I loved that the group is still doing great things for the South Bay area.  I have to confess that I was proud that my presidential year still holds some record accomplishments, but I was lucky, I was working with an amazing group of women.

Cabrillo Estates

I hugged a lot of necks and loved catching up at Sally’s, but the road was calling.  We had lunch plans in San Luis Obispo and things we wanted to see before that.

First we stopped in Cabrillo Estates, a subdivision of homes at the edge of Los Osos.  That’s where we hung our hat for a few years.  We particularly liked Cabrillo Estates because the streets were all named after heroes of the Alamo.  Not sure of the reason, but when we lived there our house was on Bowie Drive.

When we were looking for lots, there was one we loved in Cabrillo Estates, but we ended up choosing a lot in Pismo Beach.  The lot in Cabrillo Estates had the most dramatic view by far, but Los Osos is a sleepy little bedroom community, while Pismo was a happening beach town.  We chose the beach town, but lived in Los Osos while the house was built.

Looking back, I was much happier in the Los Osos rental house than I was in the luxurious home we built in Pismo Beach.  There are many things which contributed to my season of discontent, but I can’t help but wonder how life would have been different if we’d built in Los Osos instead.

The lot in Los Osos was intimidating – virtually a sheer wall cliff to hang a house on.  Some one did eventually build a very contemporary home virtually made of glass and it had nearly a three million dollar price tag.  Crazy for a house with less than 2000 square feet, but the view, as you can see, is out of this world.

The Top of the Hill
The Top of the Hill

The top of the hill was also for sale when we were looking for lots, but it was an acreage we knew we couldn’t afford.   Here’s what they built up there.

From Cabrillo Estates we went to an old favorite, Montana de Oro State Park.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.

 

 

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Beautiful Big Sur CA

Nepenthe, Big Sur CA
Sculpture at Nepenthe in Big Sur

BEAUTIFUL BIG SUR

You don’t need me to tell you that Big Sur is a beautiful place to visit.  There’s a reason it’s one of the top destinations in California.  However, I do need to tell you about a few of my favorite places along the way.

Nepenthe

Nepenthe is at the northern end of Big Sur, a little ways south of Carmel.  I have a hard time explaining this place to people. It’s mostly a restaurant, except that it’s not just a restaurant. The view is remarkable and the food is good, but it’s more than that.  When I pull off the road and into their parking lot I always feel like I’ve been granted entrance into another world. There are all sorts of legends attached to the place and at least one movie was filmed on site. You just have to go. That’s all that I can say.

Phoenix Gift shop, Nepenthe, Big Sur CA
From the Phoenix Gift shop

A part of the attraction, for me, is the Phoenix Gift Shop. It’s bigger than a mere gift shop or at least it seems that way and they don’t carry your average souvenirs. I’m sure you can buy t-shirts and ball caps with Big Sur splashed all over them, but that’s almost beside the point. They have handcrafted musical instruments, artisan jewelry, lots of books, unique wind chimes and the list goes on. Don’t neglect to go downstairs. That’s where they have the clothes.

I aspire to buy all my clothes at The Phoenix. Everything is handmade, unique, unusual and/or exotic, but none of it is weird. Does that make any sense? It’s the sort of thing that makes people want to ask where it came from, but not for the wrong reasons. It’s all out of my price range – not in the sense of couture pricing, but it costs more than it makes sense for me to spend, when I don’t have any room for anything else in my closet. It’s like if my house burned down, I’d go there with my insurance money to start all over, because most of what I’d buy doesn’t go with what I have.

However, I usually buy something.  This trip it was a t-shirt.  It had been marked down enough times for me to feel like I stole it.  Now that I’m home I love wearing my find.  People always comment on it and when I tell them where I bought it, they’re always jealous.

Ragged Point, Big Sur CA
The Cliff at Ragged Point from Highway One

Ragged Point

At the southern end of Big Sur is Ragged Point.  It’s sort of an inn/restaurant/gas station/snack shop/photo opportunity.  Call it what you will, I always stop.  I’m usually in need of a break and Ragged Point has an absolutely jaw-dropping view.

I have eaten at the restaurant, but I didn’t on this trip.  It’s been an uneven experience.  Great one time, horrid the next.  While we were there, someone said it had new ownership/management and was going through a sort of Renaissance, but don’t hold me to that.

There’s a nature trail that wanders down to the edge of a cliff – that’s where your jaw will become unhinged.  We sort of stroll down there and back. A nice little break.

San Simeon

Most people go to San Simeon to visit Hearst Castle and that’s a darned good reason to go, but I saw the sprawling estate frequently when I lived on the Central Coast, because everyone who came to town wanted to see it.  The tour takes a lot of time and the price of admission discourages casual visits.

Elephant Seals, San Simeon CA
Elephant Seals on the Beach at San Simeon

Just north of the Hearst Castle is a scenic overlook that looks over more than just sand and sea.  Elephant seals have chosen it as their home.  They aren’t very pretty and the smell is somewhat foul, but the sight of all the huge animals laying on the beach is pretty amazing.

The Day Draws to a Close

We woke up in San Francisco and at day’s end we were drawing close to Cambria, where we had reservations for the night.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about one of my favorite places in the world:  Moonstone Beach.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Cannery Row on Monterey Bay CA

Shopping Cannery Row,Monterey Bay, Monterey CA
This almost came home with us from Monterey Bay

TRAVEL THERE: CANNERY ROW ON MONTEREY BAY 

Monterey Bay is one of my favorite destinations and Cannery Row is one of the reasons.  Whatever you like to do, you’ll find ways to entertain yourself.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

If you’ve never been to Cannery Row, then the Aquarium should be at the top of your list.  We’ve been many times, but on this visit to the area, we were short on time.  Still, you should go, because but kids of all ages (including Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation) will be fascinated by the amazing exhibits, including the one of a kind otter tank.

The John Steinbeck Factor

Had John Steinbeck never lived in Monterey, it would still be a beautiful place to visit.  However, his novel Cannery Row, added to the area’s mystique and helped make it the destination it is today.  To completely appreciate the Steinbeck factor, it’s well worth the drive over to Salinas for a visit to the National Steinbeck Center – especially since it’s not far away.  In fact, here’s an itinerary you might enjoy for a three-day Steinbeck Immersion  Weekend.

Shopping Cannery Row

Two words:  Outlet Mall.  I love them and Cannery Row has one.  It’s called American Tin Cannery and it’s across the street from the Aquarium.  But that’s only the beginning.  The whole area if rife with shopping opportunities.  Truth be told, a lot of these opportunities are just tourist traps filled with junk.

Two shops,  Turkish Fine Jewelry and Fine Art Turkish Grand Bazaar, were new to us and they were also exceptions to the tourist trap trend.  I know, the names of the shops are less than creative, but OMG what gorgeous things they have inside.  I’d give you a link, but they don’t have websites!  And I’ll tell you this too: Don’t judge the places by their exteriors.  Without Bill I wouldn’t have walked into either one and that would have been my loss.

We stepped into the jewelry store first.  The pieces in the window were out-of-this-world gorgeous.  GORGEOUS!  Not your usual stuff.  Exotic, but not so weird you wouldn’t wear it.  Frankly, I wanted one of everything I saw in the window, but I knew I couldn’t afford any of them.  I was glad Bill wanted to see more, even though we weren’t going to buy anything.  The decor of the store is pretty boring compared to what’s in the showcases.  What I’m saying is that this is not one of your premiere shopping experiences, but if you’re looking for beautiful jewelry, it’s the right place.

Along one wall they display hand-crafted mosaic chandeliers – jewelry for your home.  I’m sure the proprietor could tell we weren’t serious jewelry prospects, but he quickly picked up on the fact that we might buy a chandelier.  He and Bill chatted for a bit.  That’s how we found out about the Grand Bazaar across the street.  It’s owned by the same people.

Loved this too!
Loved this too!

As I said, the jewelry store was not exactly a premiere shopping destination, but the bazaar looked like a place I would avoid altogether.  The front of the store was crowded with cheap imported knick-knacks, but they did have dozens of the beautiful mosaic chandeliers, so in we went.  Ignore the chotckies!  This place is a treasure trove.  Stunning pottery, unique clothing, hand-embroidered boots!!  I loved it.  Bill got me in there and without his restraining influence I would have broken the bank.

In the end we left empty-handed.  Bill couldn’t negotiate the owner down far enough on the chandeliers to justify carrying them all the way back to Dallas and I really didn’t need another pair of boots.  But my-oh-my, did I ever want a pair, and about four of the outfits, and several of the plates, and some jewelry, and…well, you get the drift.

(Psssst!  Dallasites!  Since this trip Bill and I discovered Another Place & Time at The Shops at Legacy in Plano.  They don’t much of a website either, but they do have a facebook page and they do have the same kind of gorgeous stuff the Monterey store has, though they’re in no way related.  The store has been in the mall for a while now, but it didn’t used to have all this cool stuff.  They also just moved off Bishop, but I promise, it will be worth the effort to find them.)

Did Someone Say Lunch?

It’s amazing how long we lingered in the store admiring the chandeliers, but eventually hunger pangs overwhelmed our urge to buy.  I’ll tell you about that next week.