Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

California- Pacific Coast April 20, 2010

Our vacation started late Thursday night when 4 people in 3 groups were to meet at San Francisco’s touristy Fisherman’s Wharf. It was convenient to meet straight at the hotel, considering the weeks of cold, snowy desolation and long hours of flight, work and minor jet lag preceding the trip.

While 3 of us reached within minutes of each other the fourth person unfortunately adventurous took a few more hours to make it to a good night’s sleep. After a bad, hurried dinner of an uncooked cold pizza and fried calamari, the 3 of us, early birds hit the sack–enamored by the green, blue flowy pastels of Sheraton decor http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60713-d81375-r58689249-Sheraton_Fisherman_s_Wharf_Hotel-San_Francisco_California.htmland or maybe by the sheer incidence of being among beloved friends.

We were to wake up early next day pick up the car and start the much anticipated vacation.

And after changing our initial plans of picking up the car at the airport (we didnt realize how far Fishermans Wharf and SFO airport would seem like on a cool rainy morning) we walked a few blocks closer to the pier at a smaller pick up location and got bombarded with meanness and surcharges. Our reluctance was all but subdued with the sunroof on our cute SUV that was just enough for all 4 of us, our luggage and our high spirits. The gloomy sky gave in almost immediately….the drizzle morphed into heavy shower of big raindrops just as we finished our breakfast (@ Boudin) at the pier and got into the warm car seats.

Wading through the rain and traffic and getting lost in unfamiliar loops we finally hit southbound Highway 1 near Pacifica. The first view of the roaring ocean was well, as if I’ve never seen the seas before. The wet sand, the moist skies, the rushing water, the foamy rocks were all new, fresh, all the fatigue and sleepless disturbing days right before the vacation were melting away, the enthusiasm, the young nights strangely feeling worth it…and we were just getting started. We were at a traffic light, reading aloud everything we saw on the road in casual banter…One of such obscure signs promised spicy Pakistini food and as we rolled down the window, the smell of batter-fried hot snacks, filling the wet air as if hypnotized me into pulling my car in their driveway.

Let just say the food wasnt as good and the much-needed restrooms horrible but the dhaba feel on a rainy long drive was almost essential in shooting our excitement right through the now-shut sun-roof.

But the excitement, the spicy snacks and the ice tea did not put a cork on our bladders, now dancing to the rhythm of rain. We found a nature-stop closeby, one–where the two others in our group enjoyed a closer view of the ocean.

And off we were on a couple hundred winding miles, stopping every few to enjoy the sea, the snacks, the signs and the locales. Wildflowers, artichokes, gnarly trees and cherry blossoms lined our drive wherever we drifted away from the ocean. The scenery suddenly gave way to art stores, touristy shops, fudgerys and chocolate houses as we hit Monterey.

What a lovely downtown, the downside– everything closed at 6 pm on weekdays. We got to our hotel at 5 and by the time we could unwind, freshen up and get over the huge beautiful window overlooking monstrous waves lashing at Lover’s Point, it was getting dark and the city almost died on us before we could take a wink.

Good, we bought some beverage and a pack of cards…we spread out and set up shop right after our breezy dinner @ PassionFish

We will skip until the next morning because the narrative has to be 1st hand here (and I had allegedly drifted off to another land (of sleep) during our card game)

So, next morning, the first to wake up, jerk the snooze off and run out with the camera was me, closely followed by 1 and then 2. Luckily enough Pacific Grove being on the peninsula, allowed the Sun to rise over the water even though we had no expectation of watching sunrise-on-water on the Pacific (of the Western Hemisphere).

The sky was lighting up from behind the trees. The water splashing looked almost gelatinous and pale. The city, the waves and the feathers of the flying pelicans was glowing alike in the first rays of Sun. Times like these make me want to become a morning person….-click, zoom, click, click, snap.We had dispersed with our thoughts and our cameras into the horizon, only to come back later to the brave 3-some that decided to get their feet wet. Hello, Pacific. Hello, freezing toes…. Getting her feet wet

Hanging their flipflops and jeans out to dry we went for a wholesome breakfast @  Austino’s Patisserie . The quiches, the beakfast sanwiches, the marinaded artichokes were all glorious, second only to the yummiest desserts I have had in a long, long time (and I always, always have dessert).

As much fun, was evading the parking police as our meter hit expired. It was time to start another long drive. This time headed on the 17-mile designated magnificent stretch from Monterey to Carmel.

Where you'd want to be
We stopped at all the overlooks and looked over every stop.

We met the seals and the sea lions basking in the sun in the distance, friendly Nutty and his squirrel friends, Mr. Bone-Beak-in-the-Stone-house, Ms. Haughty Pelican with an itch problem and Little Miss Yellow-eyed Black Bird.

Closer we got to Pebble beach, the more the stale smell of ‘overrating’ reached our nostrils. We agree our view of Carmel was much clouded much by the Pebble Beach lint, but to us Carmel looked more than the proclaimed quaint and arty. It was also very touristy, very artificial and very costly. The lunch at Flaherty’s was hearty, heavy, delicious and costly, just how vacations were supposed to be.

Back to Pacific Grove we spent all afternoon and evening strolling Cannery Row–the “downtown” of Monterey. Being a glass artist I had long before wanted to check out Sand-to-Glass. This artist had an unique way of tight filling sand to make sceneries… sometimes he’s even use dusted glass and fuse them to make plaques, glass fusing and sand art is difficult enough. Imagine combining them.  Whoa Physics! Then there was this shop selling items that changed into brillian colors when you walk out in the Sun, using the Sun’s UV lights. Hello ingenuity….or atleast that’s what you’d say if you just got out of a town of eternal hibernation and frozen in time and temperature, Dunkirk (or Stillwater)!

Needless to say, we didnt buy any of the spectacular items. Tired and still full from the heavy breakfast and lunch, we retired early, but not before we got some Mochi from the nearest Traders Joe (thanks to my friends who introduced me to it, I never pass up an opportunity to try some good Mochi).

We were advised by some friends we made on the trip (not our wildlife friends, but the ones less hairy, English-speaking kind) that we should definitely go to Big Sur. That the Pacific Coast Highway was nice but the nicest was Monterey to Big Sur.  So we tweaked our plans last moment to drive down to see some of the most magnificent coastlines. Rocks, ridges, blues, greens and the Sun and an aimless drive with old friends– music!

Big Sur Bridges

3 hours south, we turned back, stopped at Pacific Grove for a late lunch at Fisherman’s Grotto. Enjoyed the good food and great views before we hit the road for San Francisco.

After checking into our downtown hotel we headed straight for the Sunset on the Golden Gate bridge.

TouristsThe cheesy tourist-ambience was killing us, so we trudged our way up to the Marin headlands after multiple mistaken loops and getting lost we reached there after the sun was down. Night fall at the bay But the sky was beautiful, now the color of water that Big Sur had.

We stayed there until late, Golden Gate Bridge looked more like a string of cheap golden beads hanging low beside a smoky skyline of a bustling city. A gold garland

That night we dined at Fisherman’s Wharf at Alioto’s, ordinary but tourist-priced food, only exceptional dish–the calamari.

Our touch on San Francisco remained perfunctory with a cruise (Red and White Fleet: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60713-d653292-Reviews-Red_and_White_Fleet-San_Francisco_California.html), some Lombard St. walking http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60713-d106232-r58998952-Lombard_Street-San_Francisco_California.html#UR58998952, some Fisherman’s Wharf http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60713-d108678-r58998192-Fisherman_s_Wharf-San_Francisco_California.html#UR58998192, some great sushi (Maru Sushi: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60713-d1468768-r58998701-Maru_Sushi-San_Francisco_California.html#UR58998701) and a lot of lazing at the airport.


As my husband says its good to leave some things in the to-do list for next time, so spinning your glass wheels becomes easier! Until next time….let the shadows of vacations past keep you warm and let Purple here on your shoulder keep you fuzzy 🙂


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