Napa Valley

On Monday we explored the grandeur of Yosemite National Park (read here) and on Tuesday we drove north to Napa Valley. Yountville and Calistoga are favorites.

Of course Hannah (rightfully so!) compared everything to the movie Parent Trap! -ha.

I loved how this winery mixed fall decor with succulents. (I was taking copious notes!!)

This statue will always remind me of visiting Yountville right after my son and daughter-in-law lost their beloved dog, Max. It was such a sad time for everyone so seeing this statue entitled ‘Who Saved Who’ was very sweet.

Wandering around the old Marketplace building is enjoyable both from the perspective of the shops as well as the architectural elements of the building.

Hannah’s love for Young Frankenstein knows no end!!

Scott and I have been to the Napa Valley region in the winter, the late spring and now Fall. It’s fascinating to see how things change from season to season. One magnificent highlight dies back as a new spotlight appears somewhere else.

The French Laundry. I have talked before about my respect for this restaurant and its owner and chef, Thomas Keller. Named the Best Restaurant in the World in 2003 and 2004, recipient of the coveted 3-star Michelin award and ultimately called “the best restaurant in the world, period” in 2005 by Anthony Bourdain.

In the 1920s, the building was owned by John Lande who used it as a French steam laundry, thus the name.

The restaurant wasn’t officially open yet so Hannah and I wandered around to the back…

It was beautiful and calm in the back. Easy to imagine guests milling about on a cool, Fall evening.

But then I noticed the open windows across the way and about dropped to my knees! It was the kitchen!!! I stood for an awkward amount of time – in reverence – and watched all the kitchen staff in their sharp, white uniforms, diligently working to prepare the evening meal.

In my imagination, this was Chef Thomas Keller. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it! 🙂

The door that leads to the magic.

Not to mention that Anthony Bourdain once walked through it. Maybe stood outside and smoked a bit before returning to the kitchen to see how they prepared his delicious meal. sighhhh…..

Across the street from The French Laundry, is their garden. Without hesitation, it is the most beautifully perfect garden I have ever seen. We spent a long time walking around, reading about the different types of vegetables growing, etc. It’s the garden every gardener dreams of in their wildest imaginations.

And let’s face it – it’s all about the irrigation capabilities, right??

Bees to support the garden…

The most adorable chicken coop area…

And an enormous herb greenhouse.

It is a dream to imagine living like this. Supporting yourself through your own sustainable gardening.

We have yet to identify this nut tree. Anyone have any ideas?? (It doesn’t appear to be an almond when we broke it open.)

Down the street from The French Laundry is a Thomas Keller owned bakery, Bouchon Bakery. While I can’t afford the $310 a plate dinner at TFL, I will happily pay for the best croissant I’ve ever had. And the best macarons. Each time I come I think it might be a fluke, but no…they are the best in the universe!!!

Hanging in the Marketplace building is a colored drawing of the cookbooks from the local chefs of Napa Valley. I want every book – and the drawing of them!

We spent most of our time in Yountville, then drove through Napa’s plethora of vineyards. We’ve seen these vineyards in 3 seasons and each one is as fascinating as the next. It was fun to be experiencing it with Hannah this time.

Rows and rows of perfection.

Miles and miles of fun.

A perfect way to relax.

 

 

 

Yosemite National Park

Our daughter, Hannah, flew into town on Sunday. We started right out on our California adventures on Monday morning. We are tired and car-weary, but it’s been an incredible two days (and more to come!)

(interesting water levels on the rocks across the lake)

We drove 3.5 hours to Yosemite National Park yesterday. Lots of talking and catching up along the way (…the good, good part…) We were each completely overwhelmed with the enormity of the iconic views of Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Once again, California has taken my breath away.

(picture above: why do I doubt the validity of this statement?? -ha Regardless, I am thankful for the commitment to preservation of Muir and Roosevelt.)

The talls are so tall and so straight and SO difficult to capture on film.

Half Dome…

An awe-inspiring waterfall. It was so high up that by the time it reached the level we were, the water dissipated into mist and blew away.

Notice the people on the ground below…

…and the full-grown pine trees on the top of this ‘lil rock’.

I was a little enamoured with this photographer. He looks like he holds a lot of stories…

Unfortunately, we saw a lot of burned forestry in the Park as well.

On the way home we took Hannah by one of our favorite places: Big Tree State Park. We arrived near sunset which made it even more amazing.

What I didn’t get were pictures of us. It was all just wonderfully overwhelming. Cameras aside… eyes up.

It seemed the right place to be, Yosemite National Park, on Indigenous Peoples Day.

Thankful for my people. And the fascinating Northwest.

[Adding some of Hannah’s picutures too]

Fab Forties

Since moving to the Sacramento area last year, we have been repeatedly told we need to visit the ‘Fab 40’ houses in East Sacramento. “Big old homes from the 1940’s…”, people would say.

Recently, Scott and I watched the movie Lady Bird, which takes place in Sacramento. The main character, Christine (aka: Lady Bird), falls madly in love with one of the Fab 40 homes and pretends that’s where she lives. Hearing the movie refer to the Fab 40 area instigated us to take a trip over to see the houses on Scott’s last day off from work.

We found the area and picked the street Christine mentioned in the movie: 44th Street. As we turned on the street we quickly realized not only had we driven onto a street of beautiful 1940’s houses, we had also stepped directly back into Kansas City, Missouri!

Meyer Boulevard, the area around Loose Park, Brookside… with the exception of the palm trees and tile roofs, this neighborhood immediately transported us to some of our favorite Kansas City neighborhoods.

This is the house that Christine stood outside and dreamed of in the movie. It’s easy to understand her fascination.

And while it would be almost impossible to pick a favorite house on the street, if I had to, I think I saved that house for the very end of this post. 😉

Each home had its own unique features.

This tree, at the corner of the street, was immense! Absolutely gorgeous.

There were cottages and colonials. Some homes with a strong bohemian Spanish influence, others were conservatively symmetrical. I adored them all.

The house below reminded me of some of the Walt Disney homes in Kansas City.

It’s always a win for me when a home has black windows. There is something strong and unyielding about black, beautiful windows.

Add in a little Nantucket for good measure…

Decidedly Californian (allll the heart eyes!)

Most all of the homes had a detached garage at the end of a side driveway – and they all matched the main house.

Many many many of the homes had authentic leaded glass windows. As you walked by, each individual pane glistened in the sunlight.

Some were completely decked out for Halloween. We have heard that the Fab 40 Christmas displays and decorations are unbelievable. I can’t wait to come back to see that!

I collect doorways in my mind. I appreciate and love a well-adorned doorway welcome.

The house below had a bright side room that was consumed by a grand piano. Perfection!

The house below, however, made me gasp. That pink! That pale, beautiful, baby pink against the clay tile roof and white gingerbread everything. I felt a little like Lady Bird, standing outside and admiring each detail.

Pink. White. Clay. Green. That might be my new favorite color combination!!

It was a beautifully sunny day with cool temperatures and the most perfect partner in home-admiring, photo-taking, sidewalk-stalking crime. It was nice to see such a strong resemblance of Kansas City being admired and respected in cool California.

As we were watching the movie, we both laughed out loud when Christine…bored and wanting to get out of her hometown of Sacramento…says to her friend in disgust, “Sacramento. It’s the Midwest of California.” -ha!

We’ll take it, Christine. 🙂

A Viewmaster Vacation

As a kid I remember my grandmother had the coolest Viewmaster with slides and slides of beautiful scenery and landscape. I would click and click through each slide with my eyes pressed firmly against the back – wondering where these magical places existed and how soon I could get there to see them in person. Maybe this is where my wanderlust soul took route.

As we drove closer and closer to Lake Tahoe, we kept remarking how unreal our surroundings looked. Unreal as in not real. They were like a scene from a movie or…a slide on a Viewmaster reel. And in so many ways, we kept running across a 50’s-style infomercial for traveling across America.

In my last post I mentioned we stayed in Carnelian Bay (the northwestern part of Lake Tahoe). On our first day we traveled over to Nevada, down the east side of the lake as far as Hwy 50. We stopped a million times and took pictures and walked around the various points on the east side (the Nevada side) of the lake. I don’t know if it was the lack of people or the lack of commercial/touristy areas, but this was my favorite area of Lake Tahoe. On the next day we traveled along the western side of the lake – down to the state line on the other side. (On the map below I marked our territory from star to star.) Again, each day included a million stops for pictures and walking (I refuse to say ‘hiking’. I’m not worthy.) We took our time and enjoyed each leg of the journey, feeling completely unrushed.

We started our day with some coffee and breakfast at The Dam Cafe.

There was only a little bit of snow left on the Sierra Nevada Mountains to see from the winter. This past winter was especially rough. Our daily news (in Sacramento) talked about it on the nightly news and the Tahoe locals we encountered this week were eager to talk about how rough it was. Fortunately, it filled the basins with enough water to take our area out of the drought stage and (…how they figure this is beyond my limited brain capacity…) – they say there is now enough water in reserve to support northern California for three years if it never rained again.

Lake Tahoe is biking, biking, biking everywhere. And when people aren’t biking, they’re golfing. Many routes. Many courses.

Driving was sometimes a little tense. The edges of the road dropped over to plummeting basins and valleys below.

There were also plenty of extreme curves in the road. Scott was a trooper. (Especially for someone who is NOT a fan of heights!)

Curves. Drop-offs. And plenty of steering-wheel gripping. 🙂

We get our share of snow in the Midwest. But to see the poles along the sides of the road that are flags for snow plowers to use as guides to where the end of the street is…well that’s a WHOLE lot of snowfall!

We saw a lot of ground squirrels, but no bears. Which I was a little disappointed about. (Although I would completely freeze and be eaten alive. So there’s that.)

We climbed these rocks to see the view from the top. It was fun (and I TOTALLY felt like Jeremy Collins) until the lizards appeared near my hands on the rocks. Then I was ready for the security of my passenger seat and the car’s air-conditioning. -ha!

6’3″ Scott looked like an ant next to the Lake Tahoe landscape.

We didn’t see a lot of it, but occasionally there were acres of burned trees among the incalculable amount of tall, straight, pine trees around the lake’s edge.

I couldn’t get over the amount of packed-in pine trees. And all so perfectly straight and tall!

(There were other beautiful things too…)

And everywhere – hills to be climbed. Pelaton spin class bicycles had nothing on Lake Tahoe!

We thought we’d found a geode….

 

#geodefail

We stopped at a cute roadside garden center along our way. I bought some nasturtium while Scott was off videoing the trees for sale vs the natural trees all around.

 

We also visited Olympic Village in Squaw Valley – home of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The town at the foot of the ski runs looked like a European village. I can just imagine it in the winter snow!

A decision we might not make again was our verrrrrrrrrrrry backroads trip to see a waterfall in Fallen Leaf Park. The gravel road was too narrow for two cars so everyone had to take turns pulling off to the side of the road when an approaching car came toward you on the other side. Most of the road was unpaved.

But there were some cool houses tucked inside the forests. Houses that looked like they were begging writers to come seclude themselves there and write an award-winning novel.

It doesn’t look like much in the pictures but if you can find the people walking along the granite edges, you can get a better perspective of the size.

It took us about an hour to get to the waterfall. I’m glad we saw it, but the trip there and back was……rough.

Before leaving Lake Tahoe and heading home, we stopped at Camp Richardson.

It looked like an area frozen in time. Everyone on bicycles. Kids running in and out of the general store, slamming the screened door behind them as they bought candy bars then raced on to their next adventure.

Nearby, campers were set up in the grove of the trees. Camper doors open for the coming and going of family members as they spread out to find awaiting adventures.

It was an amazing few days away. We returned home feeling like we had just traveled three states away – not just an hour and a half. We are already anxious to return soon. Come visit us and we will take you to our favorite Lake Tahoe spots.

Because now…we’re old pros!

sea level: 7000+ ft

We had the crazy idea to travel the breadth of California this week.

We live in the middle of the state. On Sunday we drove 1 hour and 31 minutes to San Francisco (sea level: 0 ft) on the far west side of the state, then on Tuesday we drove 1 hour and 53 minutes to Lake Tahoe (sea level: 7,000 ft) on the far east side of the state. It was a fabulous choice of ‘themes’ for this week of vacation. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous scenery going in both directions.

There is absolutely no way to do any of it justice. And yet, I have multiple blog posts with an excess of pictures trying to at least give some idea. Feel free to blow through them quickly (or blow them off entirely.) I get it…looking at family vacation slides has never been high on anyone’s list. 😉

A co-worker of Scott’s told him we must eat breakfast at Smokey’s Kitchen in Truckee, California. So we got up early and made our way to the cute town of Truckee. This is a town we will definitely revisit – to shop at the shops and also to attend their big Thursday night farmers market/flea market event they host down the center street of town.

I love jadeite!

Obviously I took this picture through a shop window, but we really liked this wood etching showing the differing depths of Lake Tahoe. Very clever idea.

In every town – we find a coffeeshop and a bookstore. *all the heart eyes*

And since we are at Donner’s Pass – how about having a little fun with it at their expense, huh?!

(Actually, many things are named after the Donner Party in this region. But as far as I can understand the situation, this was a party of pioneers that took ‘a new route they’d heard about’, got lost, waited 4 months for help to arrive and noshed on the members that didn’t make it. None of that sounds worth of name-memorializing to me. *shoulder shrug*)

We stayed in Carnelian Bay on the northwest corner of Lake Tahoe. Homes were gently tucked into forests and forests of pine trees. Our Airbnb was a log cabin-type home that had a separate section/entrance for guests. We slept with the windows open and woke up to the sun peeking through the pines that filled our room with Christmas tree aroma. It was delicious! (This was our morning view out our window…)

You will never, ever convince me that the bottom of Lake Tahoe is not painted blue and turquoise – like a backyard swimming pool. The color…….. I’m not even going to try to adequately describe it. It is simply magnificent. Every marketing material photo I’ve seen of Lake Tahoe makes me assume there was some photoshopping done to it. That’s cool. It’s the way things are done. But everywhere we looked, all we saw was ‘photoshopped’ reality. It’s a place you must see to believe.

so. many. pine. trees!

The water is unbelievably clear. In some of these pictures you can see the rocks at the bottom of the lake. The camera didn’t capture just how far out you could see to the bottom. The turquoise shores turned into a dark blue center, the deeper it got.

Scott took some video…

We spent significant time along the northeastern shoreline. Personally, I think it was my favorite spot to see the lake. Most people talk about Emerald Bay (below) at the south end of the lake – and while it was beautiful, there were SO. MANY. PEOPLE. crowding around, taking pictures, etc, it was less enjoyable. We were practically on our own up north.

If you squint your eyes and use your imagination, you can see the Vikingsholm Castle on the island, built in 1928 after Lora Knight purchased the island for $250,000. Two hundred workers were hired to hand hew the timber, carve intricate designs, and for the interior walls they hand planned the wood. Much of the materials used (such as the timber and granite rock) came from the Tahoe Basin. There are sections of the Vikingsholm Castle that contain no nails, pegs, or spikes. The castle was heated with six fireplaces – all in a Scandinavian style.

Let me get this straight –  your own island in the middle of a beautiful lake and acres and acres of pines, in a castle with giant fireplaces and decorated in Scandinavian style??! Am I awake? Is this heaven? Please don’t wake me.

Later that evening we were lucky to catch the sun setting as we walked around Tahoe City after dinner. It was an amazing memory.

We quickly ran out of ways to say, ‘That’s SO amazing!’ As always, I am happy we were experiencing this beauty together.

(more about our trip in the final post: A Viewmaster Vacation)

sea level: 0 ft

When we’ve had enough of the ‘bedroom community life’ of Sacramento, our first instinct is to drive over to Berkeley/San Francisco; it always feeds our urban-loving souls.

According to Google Maps, it takes us 1 hour and 31 minutes to get there. Piece of cake. Not to mention the fact that the west coastline is so much cooler than the middle of the state.

It feels good to get lost in the busy crowds of college students getting ready for the new semester as well as rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of revolutionaries past. Those sixties demonstrators that, surely, would be gobsmacked at the state of our political climate today.

Okay, so it’s a horrible picture – but I found a new Berkeley sweatshirt that I hope to wear to some Golden Bear football games this fall. Plus – it’s proof that I wore my Birks in Berkeley. (I think it’s a city ordinance or something.) 🙂

I’ve never been to a college town that doesn’t have a few fabulous thrift stores. Of course it’s always hit-or-miss but this time, I found a treasure.

I mean, their doorway caught my attention first. I have saved years and years of broken dishes to someday learn to mosaic. Someday!

I walked the aisles of this vintage shop, waiting for something to call my name (kidding, not kidding) until I ran across this soft, leather backpack. I checked it over really well but had a hard time finding a pricetag. Finally, I reached into a suede-lined pocket and pulled out a tag: $28. What?! It promised to carefully protect my camera for many years to come. A match made in….well, Berkeley!

Love and peace and bicycle racks.

Before leaving the Berkeley area, I met up with a person I’d met online who was interested in one of my favorite chandeliers. I used it in my shop down in the West Bottoms and was selling it on FB Marketplace. When she said she was interested in buying it and lived in San Francisco, I told her we come to the area often and would let her know when we were coming next.

When we knew we were coming, we decided to meet up at Whole Foods in Oakland. She works for Google and guess where she’s from….

….Lee’s Summit, Missouri! -ha! It was nice to stand and chat about our favorite KC places – and the fabulous California weather.

While we were in Oakland we had to stop by our Arch Nemesis and show them who’s boss!!

(yessss……we brought this flag from home for this specific reason. -ha!)

Thank you for letting us crash your cool town, Berkeley (even though we’re boring suburbanites.) We’ll be back soon.

We decided to try a new-to-us beach in Marin County: Rodeo Beach.

It was a perfect day outside. There were some surfers and the beach was sprinkled with sun-loving families. We weren’t intending on lazing on the beach, but wanted to check out the beach and take some pictures. Scott said ‘take me to the ocean’ so to the ocean we went!

(He takes as many pictures as I do.) (Almost.)

I’m not sure I will ever get used to succulents growing all over the place like wildflowers do in the Midwest. It’s so bizarre for me to see. These succulents were everywhere.

I like rocks. I love to see their crags and formations from years and years of existence.

I love to see a girl in a pink tutu that doesn’t take it too seriously. Dirty and sandy and in perfect use. 😉

Rodeo Beach is also a dog-friendly beach. Is there any joy more pure than a dog playing in waves??!

Title: A Pug in the Pacific

Livin’ their best life. An old Jeep carrying surf boards and an old van equipped with camping pop-outs and cooking gear. Twenty-something and digging life.

Swimmers. Surfers. Sailboats. Fishing boats. Yachts….it really was a perfect day to be near the Pacific.

I can’t believe we get to live so close to the ocean’s shore. This is always a fun daytrip.  We’ve finally stopped doing only the kitschy touristy thing and branched out into the less-known areas of the shore. We continue to be tourists in our own state!

Semi-Stay-Vacation

Scott took a week of vacation this month and instead of packing it with the many activities we’ve done on vacations so far this year, we decided to have a more ‘quiet’ vacation week this time.

We decided to travel the breadth of Northern California. We live in the middle of this area, so we are spending a day on the west coast side, coming home, regrouping, then spending a couple of days exploring around Lake Tahoe on the east side – completely new territory for us! We’re very excited to make our Trial Run trip to Tahoe. It will be our first pancake. Our trial-and-error adventure so that next time, we’ll be even more prepared to know what to do and what not to do. We’re staying at an Airbnb in Carnelian Bay at the northwestern edge of the lake. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

But for today, some Pacific Ocean wandering along the Bay then over to Berkeley to reconnect with our hippie vibe. We love hanging out in Berkeley! I have a quick hook-up with an online friend in Oakland and then we’ll head back home – undoubtedly filled with more information about the Bay Area then what we’ve learned so far. In our other trips into San Francisco we’ve concentrated on all the touristy things to see. This time we hope to hit some more out-of-the-way places to experience the area in a whole different way.

It will be a fun adventure together. No pressures. No timelines. Just plenty of pictures and plenty of reconnection. We’ve needed the time together and are looking forward to being away from all the normal routines for rebooting and revamping our ways of communication and connection.

I hope you’ll enjoy discovering things along with us! Many more pictures to come, I’m sure…