Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Santa Barbara '17: Rainy Days in Movie Houses

We hit the ground running in Santa Barbara.  We arrived around lunchtime on the 1st, unloaded the car, walked the dog and headed off for a tour of the historic Santa Barbara Court House, conducted by Cherif, a friend of our hostess at Secret Garden B and B.  Cherif, also a baker, gave us a grocery bag of fresh rolls and ciabatta bread!

(A reminder that you can click on any photo to enlarge it to full screen.)
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
Courthouse Interior
In our first twenty-four hours, we took the tour of the courthouse, attended the opening night film of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, "Charged;" and attended an award ceremony for Denzel Washington.  The ceremony included a ninety-minute interview with Denzel which was quite a treat.  In addition to his acting skills, he seems to be an all-around good guy who is more proud of his four kids' college diplomas than he is of his own accomplishments.

Then, it was off to the movies.  For the next ten days we indulged ourselves by seeing all the films we could manage.  We saw movies from Denmark, France/Belgium, Australia, Serbia/Montenegro, Spain, Croatia, Iceland and even the USA.  We saw some excellent movies, some average ones and one that left us wondering if there were any minimum standards for acceptance.

The timing of the festival was perfect for us.  It began the day we arrived and went on for ten days, and so did the rain for most of the time.  Almost every day brought overcast skies and lots of rain.  With all the rain, Santa Barbara is still mired in deep drought.
Smilin' in the rain at the downtown farmers' market on a break from the movies
Jazz man with a silken saxophone and a velvet voice at the farmers' market.

Strangers in the Night

One evening, I took a late night walk.  A moody rain was falling.  The hood of my raincoat covered my head.   A half block ahead of me a taxi stopped. A woman got out with a suitcase and walked up to her house.  As I approached, a second woman got out of the cab.  As I passed, I heard a high pitched, "Oh!"  I turned and said, "Are you okay?"  The young blonde woman said, "You startled me."  I replied, "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to."  Without another word, she spread her arms wide and wiggled her fingers in a come here motion.  I approached, and she wrapped me in a big hug and spoke to me in Spanish.  I don't know what she said, but a friendly voice speaks a universal language.  Before I could respond, she turned and headed toward the house.  "Good night," I called after her.

A Visit from Minnesota Friends

Toward the end of the festival, our friends from back home, Dave and Georgie, passed through Santa Barbara.  Like us, they've left winter behind.  While Carol and I stay put, Dave and Georgie lead a vagabond existence all over the southwest.  In honor of their visit, the rain let up for one day.  We had them over for a big breakfast and then took them on a walking tour of the mission neighborhood.  A good time!
Dave and Georgie lunched with us at El Encanto, our favorite place for a splurge.
One of the sights on our walk.  This is a small fraction of the frogs inhabiting the wall.
Dave and Georgie left and we went back to the movies.  And then one day, the skies cleared in earnest!
After ten gray days, blue skies!
With good weather, we hit the hiking trails again.  When the tides cooperated as well, we took Rowdie to the Hendry's Beach, where she delights in walking in the surf, barking at shore birds and taking in all the strange smells.  We also took a guided tour of Mission Santa Barbara, led by Cherif.

When Cherif led us into the church, the choir was practicing and we were greeted with a lovely solo of Ave Maria.  Cherif lowered his voice so that we had to lean in to hear him, which I did half-heartedly as I listened to the peaceful melodies of Gelineau Psalms.  The words of Psalm 23 flowed like clear water washing over rocks in a stream.
Wall at Hendry's Beach
Hiking the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains
Fog creates an eerie scene.  Santa Cruz Island seems to float in the sky.
Cachuma Lake, principal reservoir for Santa Barbara, is at 20% capacity.
Hendry's Beach is a favorite walk for Rowdie.

Monastery Window, Mission Santa Barbara
Cherif, looking a bit monkish himself, watched over by Junipero Serra
St. Barbara, martyred by her own father, looks over the altar of the mission.
Mission Santa Barbara
Neighborhood vegetation
Downtown Art Gallery
I hope they have separate entrances.
This coming weekend, a traditional treat is in the offing for local residents.  The "third weekend" of the film festival will offer free screenings of some of the best of the fest.  Will we be able to take in even more films?  There will be crowds, but you can bet we'll be there.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

San Luis Obispo 2017

It's California Marc here, checking in with my latest update to Travel Journals.  I've been pretty laid back, a major goal of being here right after not having to wear a heavy coat or walk gingerly to avoid ice patches.

Our stay in SLO was an abbreviated one this year.  Our pace was slow, but we managed to get in some hikes, listen to some good live music, catch a few movies and dine at all of our favorite restaurants.

The very first thing we noticed on our arrival was the effect of the rain that has visited the Central Coast.  The area is still in a drought, but recent rains have lessened the severity considerably.  The brown lawns and landscapes of 2015 are gone, replaced with lush greens.

The South Open Space behind our house was brown in 2015.
On our first day in SLO, after unpacking the car, I hopped on my bike and went downtown to sit outdoors and have a coffee at Peet's.  It was a bit cool in the shade, but I had my dark roast and a good book.  The people-watching was good.  A few feet from me a man stood at the curb playing his saxophone, his dog lying contentedly at his feet.  He set his sax down after a while and sang for those of us who cared to listen in a voice that never needed a microphone and filled the air with his rich baritone sounds.  I sighed.  We were back.

The Neighborhood

Calla Lily in our front yard
Our neighborhood played a role in our visit this year like it never has before.  Our memory from past visits was of a quiet neighborhood where we hardly ever saw people out and about.  What a change this year!  The streets were alive with school-age children on bicycles and skateboards.  Some child with a sense of humor (or perhaps a gang of young artists) was using chalk to create sidewalk art that stretched over two blocks and carried whimsical messages.  Jump...  Don't land.  Smile a lot!  Speak your own language.  Keep going.  

Their parents were out and about as well.  We met Dave, our next door neighbor, when he showed up with a ladder after a very windy night to fix the vent cover blown over in the night.  Later we had him and his wife, Kate, over to share a couple beers in the back yard.  We met Aimee, who invited us to her home for a gathering of neighbors to sign a petition for a much-need traffic light.  We met Cathy when I knocked on her door and asked her for permission to take photos of her front yard, which is filled with all manner of day-brightening "art."

One day I was struggling along the sidewalk, trying to walk off some pain in my hip, when a very nice woman stopped her car and asked if she could give me a ride to where I was going.  This was my introduction to Paula (and eventually her husband, Steven, and daughter, Laura).  We ran into each other a few times after that and had some nice chats.

Cathy's Yard
Cathy's Yard, Up Close
Cathy's Whimsy
At Aimee and Carl's, we got an invitation to a "Hob Nob," a bi-weekly gathering of neighbors and friends for the purpose of eating, drinking and conversation.  Everyone is welcome, especially new people.  The week's theme was "Foods Beginning with C."  So we new folks from Minnesota showed up our cranberry chevre cookie and chardonnay.  We thought our three C's dish would earn plaudits, but that's part of the game; and there was on the table a five-C dish with chocolate being one of the C's.

In the neighborhood

The Local Music Scene

We've learned that in SLO there is always music to be found.  In our short stay, we attended a "cabaret" at Cuesta Community College put on by a community education class (with some surprisingly talented performers), a jazz concert featuring Oscar Hernandez and the Alma Libre Quintet and a slack key guitar concert at the SLO Museum of Art featuring Led Kaapana.  (If you go to the link, there is some great slack key guitar music after the 90-second intro.)

Led Kaapana
In and Around San Luis Obispo

On Saturday, the 21st, Carol and I joined thousands from the area to participate in the Women's March,  the people's response to the inauguration of Donald Trump.  It is not a time to remain silent.
The Women's March, San Luis Obispo
Nourishment for All
Children's Museum, SLO
A really tall palm tree, dwarfing Bishop's Peak
A local arts competition has brought about a proliferation of California cows everywhere.

Outside Mission San Luis Obispo,  Moonipero Serra
We got in some hiking, of course.  When the welcoming rains finally let up, we needed to wait a couple days for the very soggy trails to dry.  Each year we visit, we traditionally cap our hiking treks with a climb up rugged Bishop's Peak to see if we still "have what it takes."  On our last day in SLO, we showed ourselves that we do indeed still have the right stuff!

From the Islay Hill Trail
Cows Everywhere!  Atop Islay Hill
On the Stenner Creek Trail
Bishop's Peak - at the summit!  (A 2015 photo, but I'll never take a better one than this.)
We made time for tennis, of course.  Are there handicaps in tennis?

What's your handicap?
And last but not least, there's the fine dining to be experienced in San Luis Obispo.  We were determined to visit our five favorite spots, even though our time was short.

Cioppinot, one down and four to go.
Thomas Hill Organics - #2
Novo, Al Fresco Dining by the Creek - Getting close!
Buona Tavola - Almost!

Luna Red, tired and hungry after conquering Bishop's Peak
Next, off to Santa Barbara and its International Film Festival.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Chico & Point Reyes - A Good Friends and Lots of Rain

Chico - A Reunion with Friends

Having cleared the Sierras and the snow, we arrived safely at the home of our friends, Mark and Shirley, in Chico.  In two days there, we cooked for one another, visited the Sacramento Valley National Wildlife Preserve and the Trappist monastery and vineyard of New Clairveaux and took in the Chico farmers' market on a rainy Saturday morning.  Yes!  A farmers' market in January! A lovely experience, even in a steady rain.  One of many reasons to love California.  We scored a delicious pummelo as well as some locally-made pomegranate jam.

Speaking of rain, it began raining on our second full day in Chico and hardly let up until our last day in Point Reyes, a week later.  The drought in northern California is, I believe, officially over.

(A click on any photo enlarges the photo.  Your Back arrow brings you back to the journal, I think.)

Shirley and Mark were excellent hosts to weary travelers.

Another treat was the local taco truck which offered delicious tacos for a dollar each, a deal to beat all deals.  I was disappointed when it rained the next day and the taco truck didn't show up.

Mark took a break from being a good host and cleaned our clocks in a game of Catan Saturday evening.  I'm going to have to practice for a rematch with my grandson, Aidan, when we return home.

I'll tell the rest of the story of our stay in Chico in photos.

Sacramento Valley Wildlife Preserve
Not such a good bird photographer, but I do well with landscapes.
On the road outside Chico
On the road, evidence of the drought's end
My one keeper bird photo

On To Point Reyes and Another Good Friend

We drove four hours to Point Reyes in a steady rain.  My friend, John, emailed to tell me that we were in the midst of a major storm hitting the west coast.  It had never occurred to either Carol or me because what was falling wasn't white stuff.  We arrived in the middle of a five-day span when the area received ten inches of rain.
Carol and Elisabeth, friends since high school
No sooner had we arrived at Elisabeth's lovely home overlooking Tomales Bay in Inverness than she told us we could drive into Point Reyes after dinner to hear live music, a local blues musician named Lowell Levinger, nicknamed Banana.  Any music trivia folks reading this?  Do you remember him?  He was part of the 60's group, the Youngbloods.  (Remember them?  Take a listen.)

We were psyched to hear live music, but it wasn't to happen.  We thought we had left hazardous road conditions behind at the Donner Pass, but on the dark roads into town I drove the RAV4 right into eighteen inches of water.  I carefully got us out of the mess, thinking all the time of cars swept off roads in such situations.  We drove back to Elisabeth's, the evening's entertainment complete.

We spent a good week with Elisabeth, rain notwithstanding.  Carol and Elisabeth spent hours reminiscing over their Visitation Academy year books.  Elisabeth invited four friends to dinner one evening, a very good time.  We managed a few hikes and investigated the shops of Point Reyes Station.  On our last full day, the sun broke through brilliantly. 

Here it all is in photos.  First, In and around Pt. Reyes Station:

A Treasure of a Book Store

Lots of Good Stuff To Be Had
On the edge of town
Inside the barn
Cow's-eye View of the world
Our Lady of the Harbor
Tomales Bay
Turkey Vulture
The home of Philip K. Dick's widow.  He wrote "The Man in the High Castle" here.
 A few scenes from Point Reyes National Seashore:

Welcome!  Beware!
After the rain, a trail detour
The Pacific Ocean
An optimistic coyote?  He didn't seem to cause much concern for the herd.
At Tomales Point, we hiked among herds of Tule elk.
The elk were not too concerned about us.
You lookin' at me?
From Elisabeth's deck, the end of the storm:
Tomales Bay

The morning after the rainbow, we said good-bye to Elisabeth and headed for San Luis Obispo.