Follow by Email

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cambria... Is it Cam-bree'ya or Came-bree'ya?

We needed a few days out of the heat of Arizona and took off with our Aussie, Wyatt on a drive up the coast of California to Cambria. We settled on a delightful ocean-side spot called The Fireside Inn on Moonlight Beach (http://www.pacificahotels.com/firesideinn.) Lovely bedrooms with a few patios facing the ocean and majestic sunsets (grab one of these if you can) and a light continental breakfast served each morning - very clean! Seriously... a very special spot to relax and listen to the crash of the surf day and night. I had forgotten what a treat it is to sleep with the windows open... aaahhh.




There's a lovely boardwalk (walk on boards!) along the coast of Moonlight Beach. You can jog or walk your leashed dog along the coast here for about a 3-mile round trip jaunt. The temps during August were in the low 80's with a drip of seaside humidity in the air. Didn't matter to us - it was so COOL!

The town of Cambria is just a mile or two away from The Fireside Inn and there are darling shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants. A couple of our favorites were Robin's, which had the most darling dog-friendly patio and their food was delish! Check them out at www.robinsrestaurant.com. We also had some great Mexican food while visiting - Try La Terraza Mexican Grill and Las Cambritas. Both had dog-friendly patios and some mighty tasty Mexican food. We scored with veggie burritos at La Terraza and a spicy jambalaya at Las Cambritas. Yum.

We also stopped into Moonstone Cellars (www.moonstonecellars.com) and sampled our way through their wine list, bringing a few delicious bottles of wine home. I'll order from them again when it gets cooler for sure. Couldn't leave without sampling the beer at The Cambria Beer Company (www.cambriabeerco.com) as well and we loved the friendly service at both locations.

As luck would (always) have it, we stumbled upon the town cemetery and it was lovely. If you know me, you know I love good cemetery pics and here's a few from this quaint old place sitting up on the hillside above the town.






Many of the gravesites had unique benches for guests to sit, relax, and visit their loved ones. Charming!

One of the most interesting spots in Cambria was a "home" that has been built completely with recycled and found items. The place was terrifyingly decrepit, but offered tours to those brave enough to climb through. I was only brave enough to photograph the place lovingly called Nitt Witt Ridge.




We did a little hiking out to Fiscalini Ranch and truly enjoyed the open spaces preserved along the coastline. Your pups must be leashed on the surf side, but can stroll leash-free on the upper edges of the preserve. 



Love This Bench!!


Along the cliffs of Fiscalini Ranch


Wyatt loved his vacation with us! 

Up the coast about 20 minutes you won't believe the wonderful sight to see - great huge Elephant Seals! They are protected here on a large spot of coastline and come to breed, bear their young, and nurse their babies. Above the edge of the ocean there are lovely viewpoints to watch all kind of nature in action.





Aren't they adorable?


Further up the road is the majestic Hearst Castle, built by William Randolph Hearst. My first visit to this magnificent structure was absolutely breath-taking. The care to keep this home and its antiquities a State Park is rare and glorious to behold. If you're in the area, try to grab a visit and take one (or more) of their tours (www.hearstcastle.org.) The visitors center is also a wonderful pit-stop if you're unable to take a tour.









Another surprising treat along the way was the little town of Harmony, population 18. Yep, population - 18. We had to stop into their little pottery shop and take a look around. How often will you come across a town of that size in your lifetime? I would guess... not too often. 






I truly loved this little peek into the central California coast, an area that I have not visited in all our time living and vacationing in California. I would definitely make a return visit and stay in Cambria again for a cool time-out. I'd bet the prices are even better off-summer. Check it out yourself for a nice getaway.  




Just a little P.S.
We started this trip out in Los Angeles, visiting my husband's grandmother. She celebrated her 100th birthday while we were there and I wanted to share her sweet self here. I only hope that I can make it that far and as gracefully as Grandma Kate. Love you Grandma!!




Until next time - Cheers to wherever your travels may take you...
Deb :)


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Memories...

I heard a turn of phrase today that moved me enough to share it ...

"The business of life is in the acquisition of memories." 

Is this not the grandest of ideas? I believe it is a grand idea, and one I support wholeheartedly. From the earliest days of our marriage we have both looked to making memories with friends and family and storing them up. Such pursuit is what has made our lives so incredibly rich and I am grateful for every opportunity. 




I am reminded of so many happy trips with our children ...


At the White House in Washington, DC...


In Chicago...


Walt Disney World! 




And cruising to Alaska!

Many of our most memorable vacations have been spent camping as well. One such time was spent in Buellton, California at a lovely RV park called, Flying Flags RV Resort (www.flyingflags.com.) Now I may have written about Flying Flags in the past, I cannot remember. I know I have written about Buellton and the surrounding areas of Solvang and Lompoc. Flying Flags is a lovely campground with lots of green space for tents, tent-trailers, RV's, and even a few camping cabins.

On this particular weekend our friends rented a tent-trailer similar to the one that we owned. We propped them up side by side on our camp site and enjoyed spying on wildlife, shared meals, conversation, s'mores, and stories around the campfire. Their youngest was napping one afternoon as we sat visiting outside and all of a sudden he thumped to the ground outside the tent-trailer. Such a shock and thankfully he was not injured. Our friends (who may never forgive us) had not looped the canvas to the underside of the trailer. They also weren't too happy with us when we turned on our heater during the night. Their rental did not have any heat at all, and it was chilly. Even so, we feel so incredibly blessed to have these friends in our life, that they would spend a weekend camping with our family, making memories that last. Camping never became a part of their vacation planning though, truth be told! 




Dragging our tent-trailer behind us, we spent a lovely week camping all around Colorado one summer. We visited Gunnison where our 8-week old beagle puppy, Greta, gleefully scampered through the lush and gorgeous greenery of the state park. She daintily peed only on grass those first few weeks of ownership and nothing persuaded her differently her entire life. 

We encountered the supreme kindness of strangers in Colorado Springs when we found our trailer crank had fallen out along the roadside. That crank is absolutely essential to open and close the tent-trailer and a gracious family loaned us theirs for the duration. You do meet the nicest people while camping. 




Durango was our all-time favorite spot in Colorado. We stayed at the KOA just outside downtown (www.koa/campgrounds/durango.com) and thoroughly loved it. Situated alongside the Animas River, the calming sounds of the river, scents of fresh bacon frying, good fishing and rafting, and loads of fresh air make this an ideal camping site. Durango is a lovely city with good food, quaint shops, and the Durango-Silverton Train (www.durangotrain.com) to boot. My grandmother had delightedly embarked on this adventure just before she died and I wanted us to experience the same. We wound the rails both ways - up to Silverton and back to Durango in an outside car. It was so very chilly heading up through the mountains, but the scenery was unbelievably spectacular. Green hills, frost and a little snow (in July!!) goats, sheep, and deer bounding the countryside as if a thundering train were not traipsing by. The return trip was warmer but our children were about out of their heads with boredom. I would highly recommend taking it only one way with your own kiddos. Most fun of all was the original Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. We have visited many storefronts from this chain of delectable fudge renown, but the original was quite perfect. The nearby factory tour was also a highlight and I try to sample a bit of their famed English Toffee, Peanut Butter Buckets, and fresh fudge whenever I spy a sweet franchise. Check them out at www.rockymountainchocolatefactory.com. 

And then there is the all-out gorgeousness of Bryce and Zion Canyons. Our visits here were days of hiking, sight-seeing, and horse-back riding. Both are spectacular in vast beauty, but Bryce has the edge for me. The vivid red, orange, and brown colors are a wondrous sight to behold. Check out Zion National Park at www.nps.gov/zion and Bryce Canyon at www.nps.gov/brca for more information. Oh, and take a peek at Ruby's Campground outside Bryce Canyon at www.rubysinn.com. 

But I digress from my original thought ... 

The idea of RV ownership has again presented itself. Jeff and I discuss it at length and go back and forth in our thought process. Should we camp? Or should we continue into our retirement years chasing quality Bed and Breakfast locations and quaint inns that are dog-friendly? Do we want our own place to lie our heads each evening, pulling our home behind us? Or does Marriott really have my number? Do I want to eat fresh meals outdoors under the stars? Am I ready to be riddled with mosquito bites all over again? Which direction will be the more affordable in retirement? And the more enjoyable? Can I have it both ways... 

The camper conversation came up at lunch yesterday with my good friend who had recently spent a weekend with four women in a comfortable RV in the cool pines of Flagstaff. When asked if she would consider one for retirement, a resounding "no" was her response. Might I say that I was thrilled to hear her negative response? It only fortifies what I have been thinking as of late. Though we camped quite a bit in our younger years loving all the scents, sights, and sounds of the outdoors... it may not be an ideal pursuit for our golden years. We will continue to travel searching out all types of locales ... but probably not in a camper. 


Cheers!
Deb :) 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Planning....

I'm in the midst of a planning spree! Where to go?? Adventures to seek?? Food & beverages to sample?? Trip Advisor, Yelp, The Travel Channel, Triple D, and the like are my best friends these days.
We have just about finished our planning for next month's drive up the California coast towards San Simeon with Wyatt. Can't wait!

This year is all booked out (of course) and 2015 is really beginning to take some shape. There will be a short jaunt to the Caribbean via Celebrity Cruises next March, my nephew's wedding in May, a 12-day cruise to the Mediterranean via Princess Cruises in July, and my son's wedding in the fall. Lots of room for little side trips and adventures between all that. We've gotta use up our vacation days or we lose them. And one thing I won't lose are our vacations days!!

That said, we're talking about a few driving trips... maybe around this gorgeous state of Arizona or into New Mexico? Maybe over to the coast of California and some relaxing beach time? A quick trip to Memphis or New Orleans? And where shall we head for our annual wine-tasting weekend with Zach & Natalie? We've done Napa, Sonoma, and Portland so far. Oh, the burden of planning!

Into 2016, we're talking about the British Isles... a cruise to Iceland... a trip to Japan... or maybe a fall foliage cruise into New England. Can I convince Mr. Smith that more than one of these ideas are good?? We shall see, and I shall keep you all posted.

Wherever you're headed.... relax and enjoy!

:) Deb




Thursday, July 10, 2014

Portland... You're Doing So Much Right!

Our annual wine-trip weekend with Zach and his lovely lady, Natalie, took us to Portland last weekend. This City of Roses has so much to offer...




And we were blessed with some of their finest weather for our 4th of July visit.

I simply could not get enough of the beautiful hydrangeas everywhere we walked.





Taking off out of Sky Harbor Airport amidst a dust storm is intriguing. The airport shut down for about an hour pre-flight which was good (and safe.) Thankfully we were in the terminal and not sitting on the tarmac for this little delay. Though I keep reminding myself to book alternate air, we flew USAirways to Portland. Bah.

Portland International Airport (www.pdx.com) is extremely navigable and though we arrived past midnight, a very friendly National Car Rental agent was waiting for us with a smile. Go with National if you can (www.nationalcar.com.) They were extremely accommodating and our vehicle behaved superbly all weekend long.

It's about a 20 minute drive into downtown Portland where our B & B was located. We stayed at the Heron Haus and it was beyond lovely. Screened sun-room, cozy nooks for reading, lovely patio, gorgeous bedrooms, and dynamite breakfasts.






The Heron Haus (www.heronhaus.com) is located in the northwest area of downtown Portland in a grand old home near restaurants, coffee shops, shopping, and public transportation. She is gorgeous.



Friday, July 4th had us up and ready for our downtown walking tour of Portland. There is a lot of quirkiness here in Portland - a gentle, green, hippie vibe you might say. We encountered uber-friendly folks and some downright snobs. That may be the way of our world you know, but I lean towards the friendly. 

First stop to Cacao (www.cacaodrinkchocolate.com) on 13th Avenue in Portland. As most know, I love my hot cocoa. This was my all-time second-best favorite ever cup of hot cocoa. It ranks second only to the love I got in Amsterdam from a Starbucks of all places. Must be the chocolate! This place had a very fine selection of hand-crafted chocolate bars, some local to Portland. Groovy flavors like sourdough bread with olive oil, and foie gras dark chocolate and spiced cinnamon-pepper chocolate. We purchased a few bars to go with my drink and were on our way.

For our coffee lovers we stepped into World Cup Coffee (www.worldcupcoffee.com) located in the immensely popular Powell's City of Books (www.powells.com.) Zach ranked this coffee as one of the best espressos he has ever had. They ship my friends - order some!! Natalie had never been to Portland or seen Powell's and she was as amazed as we are every time we have visited. A little remodeling action is going on here, but that did not sway us from touring every floor and peeking into the ever widening city of books that never... seem... to... end. We came away with a few great deals and loads of ideas to order from their website when we got home. One can only carry so many books onto the airplane! 

Our next stop was just up the street to Deschutes Brewing Company. What a lovely piece of property on the corner with great people-watching views and some sassy service. Our waiter was a stitch, talking about her "mood" drinking and describing the integrity of the company itself. We enjoyed quite a few samples here and were feeling pretty darn good about ourselves after imbibing. Hey... we were out walking people! 




And so we continued on our way through the streets of Portland. There are interesting things to see everywhere you wander...






Our next stop was a top-rated (by the Brew Dogs from Travel Channel) neighborhood bar called the Belmont Station Bottle Shop (www.belmont-station.com.) On the other side of the river (an enchanting bus ride with some of Portland's finest characters) this cozy little spot is part liquor store, part taproom. Their claim is over 1200 bottles of beer to choose from and that may be a teeny-tiny exaggeration, but there was a whole lot of beer. We tried some local stuff  - a few bottles, and a few beers from the tap. Nothing quite as good as Deschutes, but some interesting samples. 




Though the pic shows a Deschutes sign, these were the tap handles at Belmont Station! Our next stop was to be another highly recommended location at the Horse Brass Pub, but alas... they were closing early and not serving food. Famished (and de-hydrated) we cabbed (www.radiocab.net) to Hair of the Dog Brewing Company (www.hairofthedog.com.) Great lunch here with fresh charcuterie, delicious sammies, ice-cold beer and a refreshing marionberry soda for me. 

Portland'ers (so I've heard) love their bridges. So... we headed out over the Morrison Street Bridge back into downtown Portland in search of a few more places on our list. Underwhelmed at both Rogue Ales & Spirits (surly service, and lackluster brews) and the Teardrop Cocktail Lounge (great service, fascinating menu, and disappointing cocktails) we headed to dinner at Andina (www.andinarestaurant.com.) OH my land.... we arrived about 30 minutes early, and they squeezed us in (thank you Andina!!) Terrific cocktails, impeccable service, and truly amazing Peruvian food. We shared incredibly plump fresh shrimp, tenderly prepared grilled beef hearts, lightly crisped cheese, and amazing home-style bread with dipping sauces for appies. Between the four of us we shared two entrees - one a superior lamb shank with garlic and olive oil steamed rice, and a delectable duo of duck... crispy and grilled with a side of cilantro and olive oil rice. I highlight the rice because I am not a huge fan of rice, but these rices were delicioso!! I would not hesitate to stop in here again and dine with them. The owner came by for a visit and explained a few things about Peruvian cooking and you should have seen her enthusiasm. Wonderful.

Last stop of the evening was the Pope House Bourbon Lounge (www.popehouselounge.com) within walking distance of our inn... thank God. The drinks here were... well... bourbon. A very nice selection, and some very stout mixed cocktails. The sun setting on a lovely patio with a casual vibe and fireworks popping all around us as we celebrated a perfect evening. 

Day two began with coffee sampling at Coffeehouse Northwest (www.sterlingcoffeeroasters.com) and hot cocoa to go - very nice little pit-stop as we continued our search for the best cuppa in Portland. Then out to the Willamette Valley for some extraordinary wine-tasting. This area of Oregon is known for its pinot noir and Zach and Natalie planned our day for us (quite well I might add.) First stop was Alloro Vineyards (www.allorovineyard.com) where we met Abbey and wandered the gorgeous grounds for about 30 minutes prior to opening.







Truth be told, I think we enjoyed the dog and lovely gardens more than the wines. They were drinkable to be sure, but not amazing.

On to an impromptu stop at Ponzi Wines (www.ponzi.com) where a thoroughly knowledgeable staff treated us to some terrific wines. Gorgeous view of the vineyards here and I could have relaxed for a few hours just looking out at the view and enjoying their wines. Since we brought a few home, I'll relax on my own patio and take in the view of my pool instead!!

Our third stop of the day was by far the best with a tasting at Soter Vineyards (www.sotervineyards.com.) We loved the rustic feel of the vineyards on a hillside outside the city of Carlton. 




We heard from our wine expert that this gorgeous piece of property had been a dairy farm in its previous life and when it sold there were many many offers of purchase. Soter Vineyards won, and we're glad they did. Really superb pinots here. Even the view from the restroom was lovely...




Lunch was a true delight at The Horse Radish Wine & Cheese Bar (www.horseradish.com.) We enjoyed a very nice selection of cheeses and salamis, with olives and marcona almonds. The BLT and tomato soup were highlights, as were the macaroon cookies. Yum. Right next door was a little wine bar serving up Honest Chocolates (www.honestchocolates.com) and we dropped in for a bite of their dark chocolate caramels with lavender... YUM. I've decided there should be a chocolate app for my phone. I mean, there's a beer app, a wine app, an everything-and-their-brother-app... Should I create one?? 

Last winery of the day was a disappointment, though so very highly recommended. Do you ever get that feeling that you're being looked down upon for your very presence. Maybe your dress or style or vocabulary? Whatever the case, Winderlea Vineyards was not a hit for us - rude and uninterested with less than palatable wines. Meh.




Another delicious dinner was found at Olympic Provisions (www.olympicprovisions.com.) A wonderful assortment of goodies such as tempura green beans, crunchy ciceronnes, charcuterie, olives, and cheese. Their bar list was quite nice and the best Pimm's Cup I've ever sampled. We had friendly service, with a very Portland'esque vibe - loved this place immensely. 

We woke up on Sunday morning and decided to make a few stops for coffee sampling and purchasing. We visited the minimalistic but very happening Courier Coffee Roasters (www.couriercoffeeroasters.com) where we found Michael Jackson's Thriller playing on the record player. Zach said it was the most "Portland-like" experience of the entire weekend. Second stop for coffee sampling was Barista (www.baristapdx.com) and wow! They had a terrific selection, and loads of personality... great coffee! Last up was Nossa Family Coffee and they had a delightful ambiance, friendly coffee baristas, classes in brewing (oh my!) and really good coffee. Might have been my favorite place aside from Cacao. 

Our next adventure was the Hoyt Arboretum/Vietnam War Memorial and the Oregon Zoo (www.oregonzoo.org.) The entire Forrest Park is a giant green space encompassing the Portland Rose Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden, and a very touching Vietnam War Memorial. Spend some time strolling through the park before or after visiting the zoo. I thought the price of admission for the zoo was very fair at $12 per adult and the grounds were absolutely lovely. Loads of shade trees, meandering pathways, and plenty of wildlife out and about. We saw elephants (and their baby), lions (and their cubs), giraffes, polar bears, lorikeets, and plenty more. This family-friendly space is a must-see if you love zoos like we do.



Our Portland adventure took off from the Portland International Airport where we had a very fine lunch at Gustav's (www.gustavs.net.) This little German eatery had hearty sausages and burgers, crisp fresh salads, and velvety bowls of tomato soup. Yum. Airport food has come a long long way and I appreciate the airports that cater to travelers who must spend precious hours waiting for their flights. 

Thanks so much to our dear Zach and Natalie for joining us again this year on another wonderful wine excursion. Can't wait to see what you choose next year. Love you both.




Until next time when I'm sidling up the California Coast on a vacation with Jeff & Wyatt ...
Cheers :)