Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Seeing is Believing!!

June 2, 2015

Loren's license came up for renewal.  He studied hard and he passed the written test with flying colors.  It was the vision test which posed the problem.  Loren has macular degeneration.  A friend of his, who has worse eyesight than Loren, had passed her vision test at the DMV in Marin, so Loren sneakily made his appointment in Santa Rosa.  Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be, and his license officially expires on June 9, 2015.
  This is a BIG deal...  loss of independence, facing limitations, recognition of physical decline...  But Loren has a way of making lemonade out of lemons:  We live in a fabulous city where it is very easy to get around using public transportation;  his car is almost twenty years old with a whole bunch of dings and dents;  it will save money being a one-car family;  for every door that closes a new one opens;  it may be the end of driving, but it's not the end of living!!

When he was telling his oldest son, Sim, about the loss of his license, Sim said, "Why don't you rent a red convertible before your license expires and go out in style."  WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!

So that's what we did this past weekend.  On Saturday, we rented a red Ford Mustang Convertible!!

 And set out on an adventure.  We had no destination in mind, but decided to head SOUTH in search of some sun!

We headed down highway 1 along the coast.

First stop was the fishing boats at Half Moon Bay.  We talked to some of the fishermen who sell salmon and dungeness crab directly from their boats.  We found out the dates for the season, and plan to go back to get some fresh salmon!!

The fog was thinning a bit and some blue sky was beginning to poke through, so we stopped at a state beach to put the top down!!

 At some point I was expecting Loren to say, "Why don't you drive..."  But that never happened.  This guy was behind the wheel and loving every minute of it!

I wrapped my scarf around my head and Audrey and Gregory were ready for their "Roman Holiday!!"

We got to Santa Cruz where we had frequented while Dave was in college.  

One of our favorite places for lunch was Gilda's, so we stopped there.  I had a bloody mary because I WASN'T DRIVING!!  

We stopped to visit the sea lions, and walked along the boardwalk.  The sun was coming out in full force and if was good!

We kept going down the coast stopping off from time to time to check out the little towns.  Capitola was thriving with beach goers.

 Moss Landing was interesting with its big PG&E plant framing the fishing marina and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Center.

The coast was so beautiful and the beaches were full of surfers and hang gliders and picnickers.

We decided to look for a place to stay.  Siri on my iPhone was able to let us know all the available motels in the area and the cost for each.  We first drove to Pacific Grove which was a darling town, but we ended up at the Oceanview Inn in Monterey.  It wasn't exactly an ocean view, but it as a great location, and the fog had moved back in, so there wasn't going to be much of a sunset anyhow.  After settling in briefly, we set out again for Carmel - specifically to visit Clint Eastwood's Mission Ranch.  It is quite a spread; there was a wedding going on, sheep grazing in the field, a piano bar, and a great vibe.

A friend of Loren's had told him about another great place in Carmel called The Cypress.  Because it had been owned and run by Doris Day it was very dog friendly.  It seemed as if Loren and I were the only ones who hadn't brought their dog!!  They had live music on Saturday nights, so we listened to Brenda and a fabulous piano guy  put on a show for the dogs and their owners.  One couple actually ordered a hamburger for their dog!!

Sunday morning we got up and decided we wanted to go on the famous 17 Mile Drive.  There is a tool booth at the beginning of it and it costs $10.00 to drive it- but it is SOOOOO worth it!!  There was a muted red line interspersed between the dotted yellow line down the center of the road that demarcated the 17 Mile drive.  It was a bit like following the yellow brick road - but we were following the dotted red line.  Loren couldn't see it very well so he deigned to let me drive these special 17 miles!  

We started out with a thick layer of fog which lent a magical feeling to our drive - at one point I said I felt as if I were were in the middle of Tolkein's Middle Earth and a Hobbit would appear at any moment.

We stopped at the Poppy Hill Golf Club for a wonderful breakfast of home cured bacon and home made corned beef hash.  We sat at the first Tee and watched as the early golfers got their start.

There were overlooks all along the way - most of which we stopped at because the views were so amazing.  

Seals and cormorands could be seen from the overlooks.   And majestic vistas were everywhere.

Perhaps the most famous sight on the 17 Miles is the Lone Cypress which is really quite spectacular.

Then of course we had to stop off at Pebble Beach Golf Course.  It was bustling with activity, and if we hadn't just had a delicious breakfast, we might have succumbed to their Sunday Brunch which looked amazing!

As soon as the 17 Mile drive was over, Loren took back the wheel!!!... and he wouldn't relinquish it for the rest of the trip!  He was in his glory.  I had never seen him drive so fast on the open road, and when we hit the mountainous climb through Big Sur, he was in total control!  

We stopped for lunch at a wonderful restaurant called Nepenthe- which means something capable of inducing forgetfulness of pain and sorrow!!   A tuna fish sandwich cost $19.50- but I'd pay that with no tuna just for the view!!

Unfortunately the fog had attached itself to the side of the mountain, and we were engulfed in mist.  But again, Bilbo Baggins was not far away and we felt we had come across a secret, special hideaway.  Nepenthe for sure!

Nepenthe and Big Sur were as far south as we were going to go.  After lunch, we drove north and decided we'd like to go back through the mountains, so we headed in land.  

Whereas the coast was expansive, the mountains were embrasive.  Thick glades of redwoods created tunnels that we sailed through.
We found a very nice motel in Ben Lomand, nestled below some towering redwoods and were asleep early - it's amazing how driving around in a convertible in the fresh air can tire one out!!
Monday- our last day of our adventure, we set out to find Alice's Restaurant - the very same Alice's restaurant that Arlo Guthrie sang about.   It's hidden on a windy road in the mountains and is known as a haven for bikers  - Harley kind of bikers!  It was a beautiful drive and we finally did get there. 
 I had a BLT, but Loren said he wasn't very hungry, so he just ordered apple pie ala mode!  Well the pie was MUCH bigger than my BLT, and he at almost all of it!!  A great way to end a fabulous memory.

I was so proud of Loren.  He was a magnificent driver and we had so much fun that we have decided we might just do it again!!!

 "When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade!!"

Here is a Selfie we took as we arrived home!

The Mustang was terrific...  but maybe a Porsche might be fun to try next~~

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Las Mananitas

Edna and Larry are leaving tomorrow so they wanted to make sure they fit in a visit to Las Mananitas before they left.  We all decided to meet at Sonia's - a wonderful little shop that sells beautiful silver which is located just across the street from Las Mananitas.  I had vowed not to buy any more silver.  It is very beautiful and very inexpensive, but over these many years I have bought enough of it and it sits in my jewelry box at home unpolished for the most part.  But then I tried on a very unusual necklace and everyone oohed and ached and said it was "so Nancy" that there was nothing I could do but get it.  Loren wasn't there,  and I only had a credit card to pay for it.  The shop keeper asked for cash so he wouldn't have to pay taxes on it, so Mac loaned me  some pesos.  Take a peek at the picture below to see the new purchase!

Las Mananitas is legendary in Cuernavaca.  As a matter of fact, when we first started coming down here I discovered that my ex-husband Tom's grandmother Lacey came to Las Mananitas on her honey moon many,many years ago.  It is a beautiful hotel and restaurant, but the most unusual facet is that is has peacocks and flamingoes strutting around the grounds as we enjoy our very strong margaritas!

Can you see the new necklace I bought?

Conversation here is perhaps the most precious gift of all.  It is quite lively and varied and is aided by one of Fred's "Rules of the House."  There are three rules that are announced every time a new couple arrives:
  • You may talk about your health only on the day you arrive, then it is off the table.
  • If you ask a question you must listen to the answer
  • There can only be one conversation at a time- no side talk
It is this third rule that really makes for interesting conversation, but I am also extremely impressed with the experiences and the sagacious minds of the participants.  Judy informed us that she took the challenge to immerse herself in the early 20th century ex-pat writers in Paris.  Among those she read were F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein.  Although I don't presume to be in the same category as those luminaries, I do feel Fred and Kat have created an atmosphere here in Cuernavaca similar to a Paris Salon.  

Our discussions have ranged from travel to sports to politics to fashion.  One guest is a law professor about to go to Prague to teach a semester on emergency medical law.  "What is emergency medical law?" you might ask, as did we...  It is at the forefront because of the Ebola epidemic and deals with questions like Can a State legally demand that someone be quarantined?  Or can a country bar people from crossing their borders.

One couple determined many years ago that they were going to go to a National Park or a National Monument in every state in the Union.   They have completed that task with the exception of Montana and Idaho which they plan to visit after going to London to spend some time with their son who is over there revamping the public school system.  Their tales and adventures were fascinating and I'm wondering how long it might take and whether I have enough time left to put that on my bucket list.  

We have someone here who is a lawyer who works for ESPN and can tell you anything you want to know about sports in the courts and then some.  He says watch out for the Cubs this year;  Tiger is over the hill; and if you read something in the Enquirer...believe it!  They have a terrific cadre of reporters and they usually get it right!

Great stories pop up one of which concerned David Brooks and how he got his start.  As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, Brooks wrote a parody of William Buckley for the school newspaper.  One day Buckley came to speak on campus.  He walked up to the lecturn and loudly asked, "Is there a David Brooks in the audience?"  David sheepishly raised his hand.  Buckley pointed to him and said, "You're hired!"  Brooks went to work for the New Republic and the rest is history!

Often times one thing leads to another.  After dinner, over coffee, we got on the subject of the OJ Simpson trial.  Someone mentioned Dominique Dunne who was a reporter who wrote about the trial.  That segued into a discussion of his sister-in-law Joan Didion and someone said, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem..." a novel Didion had written.   We all had heard that phrase, but our collective memory could not determine from whence it came.  So we had to consult Google which brought up the Y.B Yeats poem The Second Coming:  

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;  
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold...  
.... And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards bethlehem to be born?.  
which of course we read aloud and decided it was time to turn in for the night as none of us could make much sense of it!!

Before retiring we were all given a print out of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by Thurber which we plan to discuss over margaritas tonight. 
  Gertrude Stein must be smiling upon us!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Another stay in Paradise - Back in Cuernavaca

I wasn't going to do a blog again, this being our 25th year of coming down to this wonderful "City of Eternal Springtime."  I thought things might be a bit redundant.  But just being here one day of our three week stay,  I realize everyday brings new things.

We arrived last night just in time for margaritas with Fred & Kat and Edna and Larry and Jan and Bill.  The cocktail conversation covered Brian Williams where we had a number of different takes to female musical composers.  Dinner, much to my delight, was chili relines.  Natalia, the cook, knows that is my favorite and had made it specially for my arrival.  Needless to say, it doesn't take very long to be transported to paradise where life just doesn't seem to be able to get much better.

Today we went to the Gardens of Mexico- an amazing place that covers 51 hectors which is close to 125 acres of gardens.  It is about 30 minutes south of Cuernavaca;  about 2 hours north of Acapulco - in the middle of nowhere.  Four years ago there was nothing there.  Now it is a cornucopia of delights.

We were greeted by a very large peacock topiary and later found his mate, the pea hen.

Our distinguished group in the Italian garden

There is an Italian garden replete with marble white statures of Neptune, David, the Madonna and others.  

There is a Japanese garden with flowing waterfalls, bridges, serene pathways, a tea house and a huge assortment of Koa swimming among the lili pads on the pond.

Bill taught us that if you clap your hands the Carp will come;  sure enough it worked!

                        Then there is a sculpture garden with a wide variety of different sculptures positioned along pathways.  In the middle of this space is an art gallery with a delightful assortment of art sculpture.

This was one of my favorite:  a small figure outside with a huge shadow painted on the wall.  It was titled "Shadow Box"

The place is so extensive we took a golf cart around to get from place to place although there was a lot of walking involved as well.  It was a feast for the senses as we wandered through mazes and arbors.  Looking up we saw strange fruits hanging from trees or bright colored flowers.

And there we're plenty of benches and seats along the way where we could stop and enjoy the surroundings.

Next up was an orchid exhibit;  the colors were gorgeous!

Bill and Jan
There was even a water moat around them.  Loren clapped his hands and carp appeared!

Edna and Larry

Near the orchids was a building where monarch butterflies were kept.  We learned there are two kinds of Monarchs:  One kind migrate from Canada and live about 9 months.  The ones we saw in Las Jardines de Mexico only live for two months.  A guide showed us a Monarch laying eggs on a leaf, tiny little caterpillars, as well as cocoons ready to hatch.

Our next stop was the cactus garden.  Looking at these pictures, just imagine that four years ago NOTHING was here.  They had to bring in all these cacti- the large one weighs more than 50 tons!!  (I know you think I embellish but that is what I heard!!-  At any rate it was VERY heavy.  I would have loved to see the cranes or whatever they did to get it here.)

This is the blue Agave plant where we get our tequila for our margaritas!!

We were parched and ready for lunch by the time we ended our tour so we went to the restaurant that is part of Las Jardines. . . and what a grand place it was!  It was a huge space covered over with a bamboo dome.  We chose an assortment of dishes, and the plating was beautiful.
Tomato Tuna Salad

Eggplant Parmesan

Stuffed Calamari


We came home exhausted but enlivened and most of us went up for a short siesta.  Bridge at 6:00 was followed by margaritas at 7:00.  There was more lively conversation through dinner as we pondered what composers after the nineteenth century might be worthy of our attention.  We also weighed in on  some Oscar nominees with critiques ranging from no stars to five stars.  That's what I love about this place - no one is shy about giving an opinion and the opinions are multi and varied!  This was a grand first day of our 25th year, and I can't wait to see what follows!  BUENOS NOCHES.