As the Monty Python gang used to say: “And now for something completely different….”
We just got back from California, and I feel compelled to put Italy aside for a week and write at least 1 blog about this beautiful state. I’ll tell you right now that I loved this trip even more than previous ones. Those of you who know me even slightly will not be surprised to learn that we spent most of our time in the wine countries. Countries is plural because we weren’t just in the Napa/Sonoma area.
We started the “wine touring” part of our trip in Santa Barbara County. Devotees of the movie “Sideways” know that this is the area where all the action took place. Yes – it’s just as beautiful in person as it was in the film and the wines we tasted there were just as good as the main character, Miles, promised they’d be.
We next hit the Paso Robles region – someplace we’d never been, and that turned out to also be beautiful with equally good wines.
I feel I should interject right here that in the past I always enjoyed the trip part more than the wine part on our California visits. After about 2 days of tastings, I’d had just about all the wine I wanted for awhile. Alan and I always shared the glass, but it still ended up being much too much wine. And don’t suggest that I could have spit the wine out. Women raised in a certain era never learned how to spit properly and the end result would have been serious wine stains down the front of whatever I was wearing.
However, on this trip, our friend Marcia joined us – meaning we split the tastings 3 ways instead of 2, and it made all the difference in the world. A small sip is all I really needed to tell if it was a thumbs up or thumbs down wine. So not only did we have gorgeous weather and beautiful scenery, but I could really enjoy all the different wines we sampled. What could be better???
Well – how about elephant seals? Male elephant seals are those enormous creatures with a long, flexible nose that looks so comical, while the females just look like larger versions of what we usually think of as seals. Lucky for us, it was that wonderful time of year when they come to shore to give birth, mate and then head off to sea again. The beach where we stopped was littered with them, and we were lucky enough to be standing next to one of the “experts” who go through a pretty stringent training program so they can answer the questions people like us always ask. They know who the players are in the pack, and what the relationships are among them. The females give birth, feed their pups for slightly less than a month and then leave them forever to fend for themselves. As the expert called it: very efficient parenting.
The Friends of the Elephant Seal even have a live-cam so you can watch them in “action”: www.elephantseal.org. I tried watching yesterday, and I must say that it’s way more interesting in person. With the webcam, you just see a bunch of large blobs lounging on a beach. The “action” consists of one scratching her/his head with a fin every once in awhile. For those of us with short attention spans, head scratching is just not quite enough drama to keep us glued to the screen.
OK – so we had gorgeous weather, beautiful scenery, great wines and elephant seals. Anything else??
Of course!! FRIENDS!!!! Unfortunately, it turned out that we didn’t see as many friends as we would have liked, but still – we had a lot of fun with the ones we saw. First we visited with Alan’s aunt and cousin, and then Cynthia, my friend from school (all 12 grades). Cynthia and I were in absolute agreement at how remarkable it was that none of our classmates had changed even one bit since graduation. We said this as we got out our #2 readers so we could see the menu.
On our way to Sonoma, we stopped for dinner with my friend Lee Geiger and his delightful wife and older son, whom he refers to as “the pretty blond” and “the red headed kid”. Lee is an author. He writes a very enjoyable financial market blog called The Marginal Prophet (www.marginalprophet.com) in which he cleverly combines finance news and personal musings – all improbably bound together with humor. But his real claim to fame is that he also found the time to write a book, Pearls of Asia (available in all the likely places like Amazon, Kindle, etc.), which he describes as: “A romantic mystery set in San Francisco which features a special gender twist.” While all of that is true, he modestly left out that it is witty, fast paced and great fun to read. The man knows how to write AND entertain.
If you enjoy the fact that I show up weekly in your e-mail, you have Lee to thank for that, too. He has encouraged me to write for years, and is the one who pushed me into the blog format. Our dinners always set records for how fast time can fly. I swear that our 3-1/2 hour San Francisco dinner seemed like it was no more than 1/2 hr long.
OK – to recap: gorgeous weather, beautiful scenery, great wines, elephant seals, friends and mentors. What more could there possibly be??
One word: DOGS!!!!! I don’t think I’m jumping to an unreasonable conclusion when I say that the wine-centric areas of California also seem to be wonderfully animal friendly. The reason I love Carmel so much isn’t because I think it’s THE prettiest town I’ve ever seen (which it is); no – I love it because they let dogs run on the beach.
We have always stayed in Sonoma when visiting the northern wine area, and we have always had great dog experiences there. Here are a few favorites from the past:
This year we were having our morning coffee outside. We had a German Shepherd to the left, a Basenji to the back left and a Boston Terrier to the back right. Just when we thought life couldn’t possibly get better, a somewhat dirty Mini pulled up right in front of us and the man got out, leaving us to enjoy this for the rest of our coffee time:
Life was very good in California.