30 July 2008

Honeymoon Pictures

If you want to skip all the verbage and just look at the photos, check out this link:

The wedding pictures are here:

29 July 2008

Heading Home

We didn't have to have the rental car back until 11am and our plane wasn't due to take off until several hours after that so we didn't have a hurried last-morning.

We stopped by the hotel to check out and give Marta a little something for her schooling as well as a tatted heart I made for her. We chatted for quite a while...I don't think any of the other guests had bothered to ask her about herself. She told us about her travel plans when she finishes at the hotel and before she heads back to Poland.

We headed back to Seredipity for the last time and had breakfast...cleaning out the fridge and cupboard. It was kind of an eclectic meal with cereal, leftover pizza/cioppino and Cherry Garcia ice cream.

We loaded up and headed toward the airport, retracing our path from Saturday by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. We returned the car and took the shuttle to the airport. We had to shuffle flights as something happened to our scheduled one. We ended up flying home through LA instead of Denver and getting home an hour later than originally planned.

When we got home we pretty much just fell into bed...it'd been a long day but an absolutely fabulous trip!

28 July 2008

Hotel tour - Petrified Forest - Geyser

Another gorgeous, sunny, cool morning... We walked across the street for a tour of the hotel from Marta. She's a student from Warsaw (Poland) here on a summer internship thing in business management. And she's been the manager...she said she has never met the owners. They've been on holiday in Spain since before she started. She's here for 2 months, returning in mid-September.

Apparently, she's not the first intern they had...there was the one who was here before her that messed up our reservation. She must have arrived not long before we did.

The hotel has 20 rooms, 3 of them are suites. All of them are similar but uniquely appointed. Downstairs in the lobby is the 'cafe' where coffee/tea and pastries are served in the mornings. All around the outside are seating areas, small tables, vines/hedges/landscaping to provide quiet and privacy for the rooms that open to the outside. In addition to our cottage, there's a house next to the hotel that has a couple rooms in backand the front 2 stories area 2 bedroom set up similar to ours, only on 2 floors. There's also a small Airstream trailer and the 1 bedroom Alice's Nest. The owners are looking to add more properties around the hotel.

Part of the attraction is that it's a very picturesque part of town near the historic downtown area. There are a number of other hotels in Petaluma but they're chains out on the interstate. This is the only hotel actually in town. And it's a wonderful location. We've walked to all our meals. If we'd stayed at one of the other hotels, we'd have had to drive to eat anywhere but our hotel restaurant.

We asked what our cottage should have rented for...$150. We paid $85.

After our tour, we headed north out of town and stopped at the casino restaurant for breakfast. It was good food at a reasonable price. They gave us 2 $10 gift certs to use on a future visit...not that we were going to be able to use them.

Alan was intrigued by the blackjack. They're playing by rules he's never run across before and he spent giddy time calculating odds and bonuses according to their rules. California law says the house can't pay, so one player at the table has to be the bank. They bank for 2 hands ...paying wins and collecting losses...and then the banker role rotates. In addition to this, the house collects a fee from each player and provides special bonuses...for example, if you get three 7s in one hand, you win $777.

After breakfast we headed north to the Petrified Forest...wonderful! They had very nice trails and labling for a self-guided tour. They'd left some covered with moss and lichens as they were originally found but most had been pressure-washed and excavated. It was a very nice facility.

And then to Old Faithful geyser. It was kind of cheesy and tourist-trappy, what with the petting zoo and all but the geyser itself was cool. Once the spout petered out, we went into Callistoga and wandered around the downtown area for a while.

Back in Petaluma, we went to Risibisi for an Italian supper then spent some time packing in our cottage and went to bed.

27 July 2008

Wine tasting

In one of the literature booklets I picked up, I saw a burb about the "Lake County Wine Adventure"...a weekend long event where you pay $25 and you can go to and taste wines from up to 22 locations representing 27 different local wineries.

There was a traffic jam on 101 as we got on (northbound) at Petaluma. We had no idea how far south it went but we logged it at 7 miles to the north.

The road between Callistoga and Middleton was the most windy, twisty road I think I've ever seen. I started to get a little woozy... It led us over the mountains to Napa Valley and then north to Lake County.

We stopped at the closest winery and got our wrist bands and souvenir wine glasses. Cool place! It's about 6 miles off the highway but it's tucked up in the hills with a fantastic view of the hills, valley and lake. The estate (Langtry) has a nice wine tasting shop in an Old West sort of way. The tasting area had barrels on end sitting around like cocktail tables with little tin buckets of salted peanuts in the shell...one of those places where you throw the peanut shells on the floor and the help has red neckerchiefs and cowboy hats. The wine was good (also the most economical of the day) and they had very appropriate appetizers paired with the wines...peanuts, fresh bing cherries, cucumber slices topped with salmon mousse.

The next winery was 6 Sigma. It was also a bit of a jaunt off the highway had some very good wines with superb food pairings. They had 7 wines for tasting with foods specifically presented with each wine. They had 2 wines I'd never heard of...a pique-nique (actually, a cuvee) and a tempranillo. The last is a new grape to the area and only one other winery we visited had it. I liked it.

The next was Ployez Winery, run by a man from the Champagne region of France. They had 4 wines to try with soft jazz playing and a spread of roast beef, pizza, shrimp cocktail, brie and various dip and chips/crackers.
At Terrill Cellars in the Tuscany Village, there were 3 winerys represented. Murphy had a syrah and a cab that I loved. I didn't really care for the Terrill Cellars ones. The 3rd one had an excellent cab-franc.

At Gregory Graham they had some seriously good wines and food pairings. The sauvignon blanc, viognier and syrah were great. The zin (not white) was good but more of a dessert wine...very sweet.

We stopped at a few other wineries but they were nothing special.

Each of the wineries we stopped at had at least 4 wines to taste...most had 6 or 7. Each pour was 1 ounce. If you drank it all (as opposed to the official wine tasting technic of swishing and spitting), you could have a full glass of wine at each place. It could be a LOT of wine. We only did about 4 hours on Sunday but could have started at 10am both days for the one-time $25. With all the food and extras, it was a heck of a deal and a whole lot of fun.

Somewhere along the way, we decided it would be cool to buy a case of wine and open one bottle every month on our monthiversary day to toast and remember our honeymoon. Unfortunately, by the time we decided this, it was almost 5 and we weren't at the winery where we liked the wine the most. The was one winery that had wine we liked that we could possibly get to ... Gregory Graham.

I tried to call to see if they'd still be open by the time we got there, but with the hills I couldn't get reception on my cell phone. Then we got to the top of a hill and I managed to reach them. The woman I talked with said they'd be there so we soldiered on. We got there, bought our case, which they packed for shipping for us. We'd asked about shipping, but shipping charges would be $40 or $50. Since we hadn't checked any bags, we could check it as luggage without charge. It was not very convenient to carry to the airport but it was certainly the way to get it home!

We headed back to Petaluma, where it was about 30 degrees cooler than at the wineries. We took off our shoes, kicked back and just chilled for the rest of the evening.

26 July 2008

Guide Dog School - GGBr

We were up and on the road by 9:30 to "return" our rental car. It was a screwy deal...we have it for 10 days but we have to return it to the rental lot after 1 week to check it in and then check it out again for the final 3 days. Alan talked to the people when we picked it up to no avail but they were low-level employees so he figured he'd call and talk to a manager/supervisor type person. He called... same result. They've been a pain all along and having to drive all the way back to the airport south of the city by 11am to deal with this is annoying.

So we drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (paying the $5 toll), across downtown SF, and get to the rental car lot. We hadn't gassed it up because it was down a quarter tank or so but we figured it didn't matter because we were just going to turn around and drive it again. However, the car place insisted that we had to "return" it with a full tank so we drove across the street to fill it then back, went through the whole check in process. Then the check out process just to drive away again. It was annoying.

But then it was over and we were on to the rest of our much-more pleasant day. We drove back through SF, across the GGBr again (no toll if you're leaving the city), to San Rafael where the Guide Dogs for the Blind school is.

I'd been listening to the Guide Dog Podcast on my iPod so I knew about the school. When I checked the website before our trip, I saw that they were having a graduation ceremony while we were going to be in the area...and that it's open to the public. This was the only event we had planned for our trip that would be scheduled. I wanted to see the ceremony.

Our plan was to find the school, confirm the start time of the graduation ceremony (we weren't sure if it was 1 or 1:30), then get something to eat and come back for the ceremony and a tour.

However, when we got there, the woman said there was a tour just starting and we could catch it so we decided to tour right then. It was a good tour. We were a group of about 10-12 people, including several people who had raised Guide Dog puppies and a family with a couple of grade-school age kids. We first toured the campus grounds. Our guide told us that they planned the landscaping to smell different in different parts of the campus to help the blind students orient themselves on the grounds. She also pointed out the dorms where the students stay but we didn't go inside those.

We did go into the kennels and training areas where we learned about the breeding program (how they determine which traits they want and select the dogs that will be bred), the whelping area (which we didn't enter as there were dogs with brand new puppies and dogs about to have puppies...but we could see them on a monitor), the kitchen where they prepare the meals for the various groups of dogs (lactating mothers, weaning puppies, weaned puppies, ill dogs, etc), the kennels with weaned puppies, the training court with agility type equipment, etc. It's quite the place.

The tour finished at 1...the graduation ceremony was set to start at 1:30. But we'd intended to eat long ago and were starving. We asked at the front dest for the closest place to eat and were directed to the food court of a mall just up the street. We grabbed some subs, wolfed them down and then headed back to the school.

By then, everybody and their brother was there for the ceremony too and we had a hard time finding a place to park but eventually did. We walked back to the center of campus where the ceremony had already started but wasn't much past the preliminaries.

The stage area was the patio in front of the dormitory. At the back of the stage were the 20-some students sitting in the shade of an arbor on folding chairs. The audience was on the grassy area in front of the stage, also mostly on folding chairs but a few permanent benches and some on blankets picnic-style. We found a spot in the shade.

Each student would walk to the front of the stage when it was his/her turn while the MC gave information about the student...name, hometown, whether this was their first dog, what they do, etc. Then the MC would talk about the dog they were getting as the dog was walked on stage from the left by the person(s) or family who raised it. The people who raised the dog (from weaned to about 18 months) would hand the dog's leash to the blind person. The blind person would take the microphone and talk a little about whatever they wanted. Some talked about how getting this dog was giving them back some independance and dignity, some told a story about an experience they had while they and the dog were training together, they pretty much all thanked people...the trainer they worked with, the family that raised the dog, people who sponsored them, etc.

Then the raisers would say something...sometimes about the temperament of the dog, a story about raising them, how hard it was to give them up after raising and loving them for a year and a half.

There were plenty of emotional moments on both sides of the story.

One blind woman told about how she'd had guide dogs for 25 years, traveled all over the world and had extensive experience working with guide dogs. But the dog she'd just be given had saved her life in a "traffic test" during training. The dog had stopped her from crossing a street when she insisted and actually backed her up.

She hadn't heard the silent electric car coming down the street but the dog had seen it.

There were one or two raisers who were too choked up to say much.

And the students had obviously bonded with each other over the 4-6 weeks in addition to their new dogs. There were a number 'inside jokes' and they all seemed very supportive of each other.
One young man commented during his talk that he'd been blind for "only 18 months" and the entire class said it in unison with him.

There was also a man that had struck up a conversation with Alan just after we finished our tour. He told Alan that his daughter was getting her first dog and they were all very excited. During the ceremony, when that man went up in front of the stage to take a picture of his daughter getting her dog, Alan pointed him out to me. The daughter was a young woman in her second or third year of college.

The students came from all over...2 from Canada, 1 from Kentucky, 1 from Illinois, 1 from Alaska, many from the western states. There were about 6 who were "retrains"...people who'd had dogs before and did a slightly shorter version of the training process. Some of "regular" students...students going through the full training program...had actually had a dog before but wanted the full training as reinforcer.

I have no pictures of any of this...I'd discovered that my camera was turning on in my purse and draining juice when I wasn't using it. I didn't have a charger for it because I always charge it on the docking cradle at home and a good charge usually lasts for more than a week trip.

After the ceremony, we found a Best Buy in San Rafael and I bought a battery charger for my camera batteries. I wanted one anyway, I just hadn't gotten around to getting one. That solved the problem of charging the batteries that evening, but didn't help for the rest of the day.

We left San Rafael and headed back south. We decided we'd head to the Golden Gate Bridge (GGBr) and walk across it. When we got there, it was an absolutely gorgeous day...clear and sunny. From the Marin Headland you could see out to sea, the entire height and length of the GGBr, all of San Francisco, clear across the bay to the Oakland bridge, Sausalito, Alcatraz, Angel Island...it was phenomenal. I don't think I'd ever seen the bridge or city when it wasn't foggy, hazy or cloudy. Too bad my camera batteries died...the charger I bought came with 2 sets of batteries. One of them had enough juice for me to take 2 pictures...that's it. The only pictures I took all day.

Vista Point is a viewing staging area for getting to the pedestrian walk across the bridge but we couldn't figure out how to get there without going across the bridge (paying the toll) and coming back. We drove around a lot and finally gave up and asked someone working at a grocery store in Sausalito if there was a way to get to Vista Point without crossing the bridge. She said there's no way to drive there. But there's a parking lot across the highway from Vista Point that has a pedestrian crossing underneath that will take you right there.

We found the parking lot and the pedestrian crossing. It was pretty cool to see the bridge from the underside...all the struts and bracing and supports. If we'd managed to drive to Vista Point, we'd never have known this crossing was here and wouldn't have seen the underside.

At Vista Point we got on the bridge and started across. By that time it was getting late enough in the day that we decided not to walk the whole way...we stopped halfway, in the middle of the center swag. We got an up-close look at the 4' bundles of cable swags that hold up the bridge. The smaller, vertical cables (in groups of 4) are bigger around than I can grasp with one hand and have my thumb and finger touch...my hand is short by about an inch and a half.

We walked back to the car and then headed into Sausalito to look for supper.

Downtown was buzzing with activity on a lovely Saturday night. As we drove down the main street along the waterfront, I saw a guy building rock towers from the rip-rap on the shore. I don't know why...maybe to amuse tourists and solicit tips. I only got a quick look as we drove by but they looked amazing . They were towers of 7-8, large, odd-shaped...stacked one on top of one on top of one in what looked like a gravity-defying sort of display.

We ended up eating at Saylor Restaurant. It was a bit outside the downtown area where the crowd hadn't spread so we got right in. I finally had cioppino! Alan had grilled shrimp and scallops. Just about the time we were done and leaving, the musicians started playing...a vocalist and a instrument player or two playing soft jazz.

25 July 2008

Wharf Pass

Woke...sunny. I'm reminded of when a co-worker and his family were taking me on a safari in South Africa...we're driving across the savannah with the sun peeking above the horizon, springboks leaping on a far ridge, a gorgeous sunrise breaking and he turns to me with a big grin on his face and says, "Yep, it's just another crappy day in Africa."

Like that. It's just another crappy day in north California.

We had breakfast and hit the road to actually make the 10:10 ferry out of Larkspur this time. That odd traffic jam around San Rafael just wasn't there so we made it easily.

This time, upon docking we decided to take the MUNI to the wharf instead of walking. Once we got there, we bought Wharf Passes. They had all kinds of options for bundled packages. The Wharf Passes that we bought included a choice of bay cruises, choice of city tours on either double-decker bus or a "trolley," and then an additional choice of 3 (from 6) attractions. The attractions list included stuff we wanted to do anyway (the aquarium, ship museum, wax museum, etc.). Just the first two things would cost more than the Pass if you bought them individually...it seemed like a no-brainer. There were also a lot of coupons and discounts in the booklet, too, but those were mostly not worth much.

We decided the first thing we should do was get on a bay cruise because that had the least flexibility for scheduling. We had a choice of the Red & White fleet or the Blue & Gold fleet. We found the B&G first so that's what we picked. It's a 60-minute cruise along the wharf area, across the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge then back to port via a loop around Alcatraz. It was narrated the whole way, but we were standing outside along the railing and couldn't hear it for the most part.

When we got off the boat, we headed for the aquarium. I wasn't expecting much but it was really a very nice aquarium. The first part was a series of big tanks with various displays...a school of sardines, a coral reef with a big moray eel and colorful fish, a video from a "surf cam"... unmanned video camera attached to a surfboard that was attacked by a shark, etc. I was kind of thinking, "Well, that was nice." but then we walked through the door and instead of walking out of the aquarium, it was the beginning of the "undersea" tank.

You walk down this inclined tube with all the fish swimming and schooling around and over you. At first, it's the 'shallow sea' part...close to the surface with daylight filtering in. But as you continue down the tube, you also get deeper in the 'ocean' to see the different sorts of animals that live at that depth.

In places there would be little "waystations" that had various other displays. One that I thought was really cool was a series of skate egg packets where they had cut away a window in the side of the packet and replaced it with clear plastic so that the embryos could continue to develop but you could see inside.

They were really odd. Each egg packet was mostly rectangular, a dull darkish brown, about the size of my hand and sort of curled over on the shorter ends. If you didn't know what they were and just saw one lying on the seafloor, you might think they were a piece of kelp or old wood. I don't know how thick they were...they were fixed with the flat side to the window but my impression was that they probably weren't as thick as my hand.

Each egg packet could contain up to 7 little skates and there were half a dozen different packets on display in various stages of development. The egg packets are laid by the skates in the exhibit and they pretty much always have packets in all stages of development.

They also had a display of moon jellyfish. Those were cool too.

After the undersea display, there was a "petting pool" area that had several shallow pools where you could touch small skates/rays, leopard sharks, etc.

All in all, it was a much better display than I was expecting and worth the visit.

By then, our legs were really tired so we decided it was a good time for the stop-n-hop tour of the city. The stop-n-hops are designed to drive you by the main sights of the city with a narrated tour. They have a number of scheduled stops where you can get on/off. Your ticket is good for 48 hours so you can get on or off as much as you want in that time. We'd originally planned to use the stop-n-hop as a way to get around town. We ended up just riding the tour for the whole 90 minutes without getting off. There was another tour route that we could have taken also that went across the Golden Gate Bridge but we never got around to doing that one.

We walked back to Pier 39 and had supper at Neptune's Palace at the end of the pier with a wonderful view of the bay, Alcatraz and the sun going down.

We headed back up the Embarcadero to the Wax Museum and perused that. Again, I was expecting a rip-off tourist trap but it was pretty impressive. Every time we'd walk around one room and head toward a door, I'd think that was it but there'd be a whole other section of displays to view. I don't know how many rooms there were total.

The wax figures were kind of uneven. Some of them were really good and looked amazingly like the person depicted. Others were pretty bad. Some were obviously made from a painting or photo. Some were complete fabrications...who knows what Salome actually looked like?

We ended up spending a bit more time than we'd intended and had to rush a little to get to the ferry terminal in time to catch the ferry. We made it by about 5 minutes.

24 July 2008

Laundry & Highway 1

We woke (yada-yada) to another sunny day. We gathered up dirty clothes in plastic grocery bags and started walking toward the laundromat. We stopped at Original Marvin's for breakfast.

It's a very small place with maybe a dozen tables and boothes. The outside is painted to look like a Swiss chalet with window boxes; the inside is kitsch galore. The whole place had one waitress...a brassy, fiesty little woman of indeterminate age, but probably the far end of middle age or early elderly. She had dyed hair, artful makeup, false eyelashes, short shorts (and the legs to carry that off), and a skinny cap-sleeve T. She reminded me of a New York version of Flo at Mel's Diner from the old "Alice" TV show.

We shared a 4-egg omelette with coffee and tea in a cozy booth streetside with a cafe-curtained view of Petaluma.

After breakfast, we continued on to the laundromat and did our load of clothes so we could rewear them the second half of our trip. We folded and hauled it all back to Serendipity then loaded up for our Highway 1 adventure day.

We stopped on the way out of town at a casino on the edge of town. Alan didn't like the odds on the blackjack and they had some unusual rules but the restaurant looked good.

We headed north on 1 at Bodega Bay, stopping for mochas at Roadhouse Coffee. Along the winding road, we stopped at a few beaches and overlooks, but spent most of our beach-walking time at Goat Rock Beach. We walked in the sand, Alan played tag with the surf, we stomped on seaweed bobbers to hear them pop, Alan skipped "dad stones" into the water, I picked up some cool rocks that had been smoothed by wave action and a couple crab shells. We saw a guy trying to fly a sled kite in too heavy wind with too little tail. At one spot, there was a sea lion haulout. There were a few hardy souls trying to surf but most people were bundled up against the wind. Most...there were those two women in bikinis walking hand-in-hand across the parking lot at Goat Rock but I can't imagine how they were freezing.

Back at Serendipity, Alan went to the store to get more milk, wine and pop. I deleted some pictures off the camera as the card was giving me "full" warnings. We had a glass of wine together and talked then decided it was time for supper.

We talked about driving to the casino restaurant but decided the joy of staying within walking distance of downtown was walking. So we went window-shopping for a place.

We ended up at Graffiti 'cause the menu looked good and they had outdoor, riverside seating. We split an entree (Mediterranean chicken...very good) then walked across the footbridge we had seen from our table. There were a few more restaurants, a Baskin Robbins, some daytime shops (shoe repair, etc) and an on-line gaming place...like an internet cafe except only for playing MOGs.

We walked through the area without stopping anywhere and looped back to Serendipity and bed.

23 July 2008

Ferry ride & Fisherman's Wharf

Slept, yada-yada.

Except today we woke up to sunshine! We had breakfast at "home" then headed for the Larkspur ferry terminal. We ran into a traffic jam around San Rafael or we'd have made the 10:10. As it was, we had to wait until the 11:10.

We got our tickets then hung around the ferry terminal until our boat arrived. We boarded and found a corner out of the wind for the ~35 minute trip across the bay to the San Francisco terminal.

We got off and picked up MUNI transfers...that gave us free passes to anywhere on the MUNI system within 90 minutes and from anywhere back to the ferry terminal for 24 hours. We decided to walk out this time and leave open the option for MUNI back to the terminal. As we walked along the Embarcadero, we window-shopped for restaurants to have lunch at.

When we got to Pier 33, where the Alcatraz tours leave from, we checked into getting Alcatraz tikets. The next available tickets were a week away and we'd be back home by then.

We continued our walk toward Pier 39 and ended up lunching at a streetside vendor on hot dogs and clam chowder in a sourdough bowl.

We wandered among the shops on the pier, window shopping. Out at the end of the pier, we looked at Alcatraz, watched the pelicans (in a formation of 11...Alan counted) and seagulls flying by, caught a magic performance by "Big Al Catraz," and got ice cream and mocha to fortify our efforts.

We walked to one of the cable car turn arounds, bought tickets ($5 each...I could swear the last time I was in SF, cable car tickets were 50- or 75-cents...'course, that was probably 15-20 years ago...), and waited for our turn to get on the car.

We got off at the Chinatown stop and window-shopped (mostly) the markets. At one streetside market, I saw longans...a fruit I had in Bangkok a year ago and didn't think there was a chance I'd ever have them again. I was telling Alan about them and he wanted to try them so we bought a couple handfuls and ate them on the curb...spitting pits and skins into the bag. They're very easy to eat. The skins just pop off if you put your thumbnails together and pry. You pop the whole fruit (about the size of a big marble) into your mouth and separate the translucent fruit from the smooth, shiny pit with your teeth. Spit the pit and you're left with a very sweet, juicy flesh that tastes like...well, like fruit. It's really not much like any other fruit I can think of.

In another store, I found a box of jasmine tea bags...100 for $1 and a package of figs for $2. We looked for Ts for the boys but couldn't find the ones Alan wanted in the right sizes. By then, it was after 5 so we decided to stay in Chinatown for supper instead of heading back across the bay first. Just about then, someone handed us a coupon for free pot stickers and 20% off at a local restaurant so we decided to try that one. The food was pretty decent and we ended up with a couple of big prawns left so we boxed it up to take "home."

As we were leaving the restaurant, a British man was looking at the San Francisco maps on the on the wall of the lobby and trying to ask an employee where he could get one. The employee really didn't speak English and didn't understand what he was trying to say. As he was in the process of giving up. I started to tell him where he could get one, then decided that was just too complicated and gave him one I had in my purse. I knew I had another at Seredipity. He said his wife was going to be so happy with him. He gets to be her hero, I got to be his. Win-win.

We were only a handful of blocks from the ferry terminal so we decided to walk it instead of catching a cable car or MUNI bus. We got there just as the 7:10 ferry was leaving so we had to wait for the 8:10. While we were waiting, Alan called the boys. Meanwhile, a bird crapped on his jacket so we had to look for a restroom so he could wash it off. When we headed back out to the dock, our ferry was there so we boarded and headed back across the bay.

En route, we shared a podcast from my iPod...he had the left earbud and I had the right. The podcast is called Truth-Driven Thinking, hosted by Steve Gibson. The specific episode we listened to was an interview with Bishop John Shelby Spong that actually aired in April of 2006 about the mythological components of Christianity. The Bishop (retired) is the author of about 15 books on "progressive Christianity" with titles like The Sins of Scripture, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, and Why Christianity Must Change or Die.

The Bishop's main point is that the Bible is not literal, historic truth but grew out of a culture of story. There are iconic or "mythic" images or symbols that repeat and are meant to illustrate, not meant to be a description of fact. For example, Moses was not the only person to part the Red Sea...it occurs several times at the hands of different people. The image of someone parting the sea so that the people can escape is iconic.

In any case, I'd heard the podcast before. As a recovered Fundamentalist, I thought Alan might appreciate it so I'd been saving it for him. We got about half-way through it on the ferry and had a great and fairly involved conversation on the way back to Petaluma. While we both generally liked and agreed with what the Bishop had to say, there was divergence in the end result. I'm not going to go into that whole discussion...you can Google the podcast and listen for yourself.

We opened up the house when we got home, adjusted our schedule for the next day then went to bed. I lotioned my forehead, which had gotten sunburned during the day. Apparently, when I put sunscreen on my face, I forgot that part. It didn't feel particularly toasted but it was a bit red.

22 July 2008

Redwoods & Castle

We slept until we wanted to get up (Are you seeing a pattern here??) after another wonderful night's sleep. We had breakfast of cereal, fruit, tea/coffee in our cottage then headed out for Armstrong Redwoods State Preserve.

When we got there, the visitor center and entrance booth were both closed. If you wanted to drive through the park, you were supposed to self-register for the $6 fee but hikers could enter for free. The trails were well marked and signed so we decided to just hoof it on the Pioneer Trail to see the giant redwoods.

It was a very nicely laid out park. The main trails through the park were not very long but took you by all the main attractions (the BIG trees) and the signs along the way provided a lot of interesting information. One section of the trail was designed specifically for blind hikers. There was a rope strung at a convenient height along the trail so a person could just follow the rope down the trail. All the signs on this section were in braille in addition to regular printing with information and suggestions about what to listen for (woodpeckers, song birds, insects, etc) and textures to feel (redwood bark, moss growing on trunks, etc).

By the time we got through the trails with all the stops, the visitor center was open and the parking lot was full. We started to go up the (very steep) East Ridge Trail but it was lunchtime and hunger drove us back down and toward town for food.

We went to Guerneville (nearest town) for lunch. We ate panini at a small wrought iron table on the sidewalk in front of a cafe/bar on the main drag through town. While eating, we called the castle (Castille de Amoroso) to make reservations for a tour and wine tasting for later that afternoon.

We wanted reservations for 3:15 because we didn't really know how far we were from the place or how long it would take us to get there but they wanted us to take the 2:15 time. We finished eating as soon as we reasonably could and started in that direction.

We made it only a couple minutes late. An employee there got us caught up with our tour group and we completed the tour of the big stainless steel vats where the wine is fermented, the catacombs under the castle where the barrels are stored, the castle proper (grand hall, court yard, knight's hall, torture chamber, etc), and then went to the Knight's Bar for our wine tasting.

We tasted 12 wines that they sell only at the castle directly or via mail order. It was very good wine (mostly) but we didn't buy any. We were mostly interested in the experience of tasting wines and seeing the castle.

We headed back to Petaluma where Alan napped while I read. After that, we walked downtown to window shop for a restaurant for supper. We ended up at a place having "tapino Tuesday"...which was basically tapas plates for $5 each and $5 glasses of wine. We had 3 plates and one glass...and could have done with only 2 plates. It was good stuff, though...salmon cake, 3 kinds of bruschetta, a little pizza with cool stuff like pesto and goat cheese on it. We checked out and walked a block or so closer to our cottage at a candy/gelatto store we'd been eyeing since hitting town. We got there just as they were closing and ate our gelatto on the way back to Serendipity.

We planned or next day then hit the hay.

21 July 2008

Point Reyes

We slept until we wanted to get up. I made tea in our microwave while Alan walked across the street for coffee at the hotel cafe. We have a coffee maker in our space but Alan declared that the coffee at the hotel was really good and if he drinks their coffee, we don't have to clean up the pot. Works for me!

We had leftover Thai food for breakfast since we couldn't really see when we'd actually be at the cottage for lunch and we had a lot of other restaurants to check out for suppers. Then we got in the car and headed to the post office to mail a postcard.

At the P.O. we were 1-cent short of the stamp price and the counter guys said, "Don't worry about it. Life's too short." This, for a postcard that Alan got for free at the Petaluma information desk because they were 3 for a dollar and he asked how much for only one so the woman behind the desk said, "Oh, just take it."

We got directions on how to head out of town toward Point Reyes. It was a very windy, narrow road through dry foothills that reminded me of parts of Colorado. Once we got to the coast, we drove about 20 miles through park lands (Point Reyes is a National Seashore) to get to the lighthouse. We passed a LOT of cattle ranches, most dating from the mid-1800s and all very cleverly named things like "A Ranch" through "G Ranch."

We hiked out to the lighthouse which include 30-floors worth of stairs that got us below the cloud line to where the actual lighthouse is.

(View of the lighthouse from the top of the stairs)

It was an impressive site and well worth the drive and walk. By the time we'd hiked back up the stairs, it was past noon and we were starving.

(View of the lighthouse once you get below the clouds.)

We headed back out the way we came and stopped by an oyster farm (Drake's Bay). We got half a dozen fresh-from-the-sea oysters on the half-shell for an appetizer then continued on our way.

(The oyster farm at Drake's Bay.)

(The wire "strings" that the oysters are 'planted' on. They hang down from floating platforms and when it's harvest time, they pull up the strings and cut the oysters off with a hand-held jackhammer sort of thing.)

We ended up having lunch at a place called Pricilla's in Inverness (still inside the park)...wonderful crab melt and salmon burger sandwiches on the patio.

We left the park and got back on Highway 1 headed north to Bodega Bay.

In Bodega Bay, we stopped at a kite-n-candy store for some salt-water taffy and a grocery store across the street for cold drinks and a bathroom. We consulted a map and decided that going any further north would require a lot more miles than we had daylight left so we headed back toward Petaluma.

On the way back to Seredipity, we stopped by our favorite Lucky store for another $1.99 bottle of wine. Alan took a nap and I started reading a Bones book I brought along.
I'd had "a Kathy Reichs book" on my reading list for a while and just happened to see one when I was at the store before leaving home so I decided that it was A Sign and I bought it. I've been a big fan of Bones, the TV series for a long time and when I found out the series was based on a series of books, I wanted to check them out.

This book was called Bones to Ashes. Other than the fact that the main character is a female forensic anthropologist, it doesn't really bear much resemblance to the TV show. It was a good mystery story, though.

Alan woke up from his nap and we decided we'd try Pinky's Pizza, just a block up the street. Their motto, emblazoned in neon in their front window, is "We don't have sissy boy, limp crust pizza." And they're right. The crust is delightfully chewy without being bready or doughy, slightly crispy on the bottom, and the sauce had a very nice kick to it.

Alan brought it home and we ate at the dining room table in front of the fireplace (no fire) while 'holding feet' under the table. (Hey, it's our honeymoon...we're allowed to be a little disgustingly mooshy.) After supper, we planned our Tuesday then went to bed.

20 July 2008

Petaluma exploration and unexpected trip to Sonoma

We had a very lazy, liesurely morning after the best night's sleep. Cool room, comfy bed, white noise from the fan...ahhhhhhhhh.

We had showers in the claw-foot bathtub then headed across the street to the cafe at the main hotel. There's no restaurant in the hotel but they provide coffee, tea and pastries in the morning in the lobby area of the hotel. We sorted through brochures and maps to decide what we'd do for the day.

We decided that today would be a good day to explore Petaluma on foot, get transit and tourist , etc information. We headed out and sort of followed signs to the transit mall in town where all the buses stop. We looked at schedules posted on the plexiglass windbreaks around the benches but didn't really see what we wanted to know.

There was a woman sitting on one of the benches with a carry-on size rolling suitcase. She (Victoria) was reading and waiting for a bus. We asked her about buses and schedules and she pulled a copy of the bus schedules from her purse and gave it to us and explained how to read it.

She said she wasn't sure if her bus was actually coming since it was a weekend. She mentioned trying to call some friends to pick her up but with the prevalance of cell phones these days, there are no pay phones to speak of any more and she'd lost her cell at another bus stop. She'd been so helpful that Alan gave his cell phone to call some friends. She called a couple of them and left messages along with Alan's number to call back in the next few minutes.

While we were chatting with her waiting to see if they'd call back soon, we found out she was trying to get to Sonoma, which was only abut 15 minutes from where we were. So we offered to give her a ride.

In the car on the way there, she made a list of things she thought we shouldn't miss on our trip. When we got to Sonoma, she directed us to the town square and we drove all around it while she gave us a little tour. Then we dropped her off at her house and we drove back to the square for lunch and tourist-ing...stopping at a streetside fruit market that she highly recommended to buy some nectarines and snacky things.

We drove around the square about 1 1/4 times before lucking into a free parking spot right on the square. We started walking around the square to look for a place to have lunch. We perused the posted menus of a few places then ended up at a sandwich shop (Sunflower something) and ate in their "garden" space behind the shop. It was a lovely spot to rest and eat...there was a fountain, arbors for shade, little tables and big booths, etc. Alan had a turkey and bacon on sourdough, I had a mango chutney glazed pork loin on foccacia. They were both superb.

After eating, we continued wandering around the square, peeking in shops, tasting cheeses and chocloates, taking in the historical displays and docent lectures, etc. wherever we ran across them.

An entrance to a back courtyard in Sonoma. --->

Details of the frescos in the hallway.

We killed most of the rest of the afternoon around that square before heading back to Petaluma.

Alan shaved and read the paper while I looked through brochures, sorting and tossing and organizing.

We discovered that the back part of our "cottage" (we'd named it Serendipity by then) was another hotel space occupied by a guy who was living there for the month because his previous place had burned and he needed somewhere to be while the damage was repaired.

We learned this because he rang our doorbell to complain about his missing paper. It was sitting on our front walk and, not knowing there was another space in the place, Alan assumed it was a hotel perk. We apologized profusely and offered to gather it up for him or pay him for it. He declined, just asked that we not take any other papers. He also asked us to shut the AC fan off. As mentioned previously, there really wasn't any AC, we just had the fan on to move air around. He said the noise bothered him. We turned it off. With the windows open and some small fans, it was really pleasant enough.

We walked up the street about a block and a half to Le Bistro for another excellent meal and then started a walk toward downtown but it was a little too chilly to make that pleasant so we headed back to Serendipity for the night.

19 July 2008

San Francisco - Sausalito - Petaluma

6:30 a.m. flight to Denver went without a hitch. We had a 4-hour layover scheduled for Denver but checked in to fly standby and only had about an hour. We ended up arriving SFO around 10 a.m. It was like getting a bonus day!

We picked up the rental car, drove through San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge and into the picturesque town of Sausalito. We found a restaurant (Anchorage 5) that was tucked back in a marina area...one of the joys of getting "lost"...that had fabulous food. Al had a crab melt and I had a sauteed prawn dish that had mushrooms and garlic with sides of black beans, spanish rice and guacamole. Yum!

We got directions to the downtown area and found a place to park in a public lot. Then we walked up and down the street that fronts the bay. It was crowded with boutiques, shops, and restaurants. After traveling in economy class, it was great to stretch our legs on a lovely day.

During the walk, we passed a visitor center so we stopped and picked up some literature and brochures. I added it to the stash of stuff I picked up in the airport. We didn't plan a whole lot of activities prior to the trip. We intended to play it mostly by ear and now we were armed with the info to do it.

We hit the road again and headed north to Petaluma...our home away from home for the next week and a half. We found the Metro Hotel on the main drag through town and checked in. The woman running the place (Marta, a young woman from France, here on a business management internship from her university in Warsaw, Poland) walked us over to our space ... not actually in the main hotel... across the street and a couple doors down.

Our "cottage" is a 2 bedroom Craftsman style house with a rose garden and arbor flanking the sidewalk up front, a fireplace and furnished living room and dining room, full kitchen, and a bathroom with a claw-foot bathtub. Our jaws dropped. We were expecting a one room cabin sort of thing.

It turns out that the person who booked our reservation (a previous intern) messed up the booking and put us in this place but quoted us the price of the one room cabin thing. Sweet!

The AC didn't work (actually, it would be more correct to say there was no AC) and the house was a bit hot and stuffy, which concerned us, but since there were no other rooms available in town, we decided we'd stay there the night and re-evaluate in the morning. (As it turned out, once we opened the windows, it was less stuffy and it got so cool at night that it was lovely sleeping weather and we decided we didn't need AC after all.)

We drove around the historic downtown area, looking for a grocery store. We found one and bought some milk, cereal, fruit, chapstick (which I'd forgotten to pack...or did, but couldn't find) and a couple bottles of $2 wine (entirely drinkable).

We returned "home" and put away the groceries then set out on foot to find some supper. We stopped at SEA (a Thai restaurant) that was just a couple doors up the street from the main hotel and ate way, way too much Thai food. At that, we still took enough home for a whole other meal. Once we stowed the food, we walked the few blocks to downtown, just to see what was there, then turned in for the night.