On the move again; this time to California to visit family and friends VIII

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

It is so true that time flies when you are having fun.  We were having so much fun with Jim and Vilma when we realized that our visit would be over in just a few more days.

With the major activities checked off our to do list, we spent the last few days at Jim and Vilma’s just relaxing on the back patio, accompanying Vilma on a buying trip to buy new patio furniture, met a good friend of Vilma’s for lunch one day, and yes, enjoying one last happy hour before leaving town.

Tuesday we drove to meet Vilma’s friend Cheryl at the Mission Inn Restaurant in Riverside. The skies were clear, the temperature cool and, fortunately for us, the traffic was steady.  We arrived at the restaurant and found a parking spot on the street close by.  The setting of this restaurant was quite lovely.  The ‘Spanish mission style’ architecture was quite beautiful.  We made our way onto the Spanish Patio settled into our seats and waited for Cheryl to arrive.

Everywhere you looked there was something beautiful to behold.  There was a bell tower, a clock and glockenspiel, lovely flowers draped over wrought iron balcony railings, red umbrellas at every table and a circular tiled fountain in the middle of the patio.  “What a lovely setting,” I thought to myself.

Cheryl joined us and we enjoyed a wonderful time eating, talking and laughing.  Vilma loves to reconnect with friends that she has made over the years and was excited to learn that Cheryl would be staying up the coast for a time this summer and made plans to visit her.

I love hamburgers and decided to order the Mission Inn Cheeseburger consisting of a half-pound Niman Ranch Angus patty, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese on a Brioche bun.  It was delicious.  We bid Cheryl goodbye and made our way back home and spent the rest of the day just enjoying each other’s company.

Wednesday was yet another beautiful day of sunny skies and cool temperatures.  After doing some shopping for patio furniture earlier we drove down to one of the most beautiful spots I have seen in California, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.

Randy had mentioned that he spent his early childhood in Point Loma and loved the cliffs.  Vilma and Jim had never been there so off we went.  Oh my, from the moment I stepped out of the car I knew I would have a hard time leaving.

The park extends 1½ miles along the Point Loma peninsula’s western shoreline. We walked along admiring the view of the ocean crashing against the cliffs, the lovely wild flowers that adorned the landscape, the gulls clustered on the ledges and a few brave souls pencil dropping from the cliffs into the ocean below.


Evidently, it is not permitted for people to engage in diving/dropping into the waters off the cliffs.  As we watched a truck filled with lifeguards came along and shooed everyone off the cliff but not before a young girl dropped into the water with her cap and gown on.

We stopped here and there to just take it all in.  The words, “Beautiful, just beautiful,” kept drifting through my mind as we walked along.  We eventually reached the end, turned and made our way back to the car.  Our next stop was down by the beach to visit a street market and enjoy happy hour at the South Beach Bar & Grille.

Cool van belongs to Hodad’s restaurant


On our way to the restaurant we walked through the street market teeming with people.  Everything you could imagine was on sale; food, clothes, shoes, artwork, jewelry and more.

We climbed the stairs and found seating outside along the railing with a beautiful view of the ocean.  I looked over the happy hour food menu and decided to order from the pub favorites instead.  I ordered the Coconut Shrimp – 6 prawns dusted with toasted coconut and panko bread crumbs with Thai dipping sauce and a very tall glass of ice-cold beer.  Wonderful!

Very cool street lamps lined the streets

We had the best time people watching from our perch. After we ate, we walked down to the beach to a small grassy area and witnessed people dancing, someone walking a tight rope, a few people playing a variety of instruments and just hanging out.  The atmosphere was quite festive and carnival like.

We had another wonderful day!  The day was waning so we returned home for a relaxing evening.

Our last day with Jim and Vilma was a quiet one.  Jim and Randy went out to purchase the patio set we had seen the day before and set it up on the back patio.  It was lovely and just the right size.  Vilma was very pleased.

At the very beginning of our visit with Jim and Vilma I shared that we call Vilma our ‘energizer bunny’ friend. What is really amazing about Vilma’s level of energy is that she has been battling cancer for a number of years.  She has endured several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy and surgery.

Through it all she has maintained a positive and upbeat attitude and an exercise regimen that makes me feel as though I am always standing still.  Vilma walks between 2-4 miles each morning during the week.  She also does free weights and squats each day.  Vilma is a true inspiration to her family and friends.  Randy and I count our blessings that we are counted among Vilma’s friends.

We spent quite a bit of time talking about her latest diagnosis and when she would start her new round of treatments.

The rest of our day was spent talking about future visits, Jim’s trip to Albuquerque, doing laundry and packing for our departure the next day.  Then it was time for dinner.

View from the outside patio of Duke’s in La Jolla

Jim and Vilma wanted to take us to yet another really nice place for dinner called Duke’s in La Jolla.  What a beautiful location.  We found a table on the patio overlooking the ocean and had the most wonderful time talking about what a great visit it had been and the next time we would meet.

Duke’s Mai Tai

While we sipped our cocktails and ate our delicious dinner, Vilma shared that they had plans to drive to the east coast sometime in the fall or after the first of the year to spend time catching up with friends and would come down for a visit.  “Great,” I said with a smile, “hopefully by then we will have scouted the area and found some wonderful places to take you and Jim for happy hour”.

The atmosphere and menus at Duke’s had a distinct Hawaiian flavor.  Menu choices included Maui onion soup, Lilikoi Ceviche and Banana leaf Steamed Fish & Shrimp.

But first things first.  I started my meal with a Duke’s signature cocktail made with, “Aloha, fresh Hawaiian juices and two kinds of rum”.  This delicious drink was served in a fun Tiki glass.

I absolutely could not resist ordering Duke’s Classic Burger made with ½ lb. of chuck, brisket & hanger grind, crisp bacon, white cheddar, yellow mustard aioli, tomato, onion on a potato bun with Yukon gold fries.  The burger was juicy, tasty and delicious.

Hula Pie

Tasty drink with a kick and a delicious burger cried out for a great dessert.  We ordered one “Hula Pie” for the table and enjoyed a taste delight that was beyond delicious. The pie is made with macadamia nut ice cream piled high on a chocolate cookie crust and topped with chocolate fudge, whipped cream, and more macadamia nuts.  We all loved every bite of this delicious dessert!

We finished our meal and watched as the sun started to set.  We returned home, talked a little more and finally said our good nights.

We left California the next day happy that we had spent time with Randy’s sister Antoinette and her husband Brian, visited with his son Richard and his partner Robert, spent some time with Randy’s 102 year-old Aunt Martha and spent a busy and fun week with our friends Jim and Vilma.

Our next travels will take us on a trans-Atlantic cruise to Norway, Scotland, Iceland and Canada.

Until then,

View from South Beach Bar & Grille



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On the move again; this time to California to visit family and friends VII

Have you ever had a, what I call, a ‘joy and rapture day’.  Well today is just one of those days.  One place I really wanted to visit was the San Diego Zoo and today we did.

The day started a bit chilly but the sun was high in the sky and we hoped for a pleasant day as we prepared for our outing.

As a young mother I remember being amazed and awed seeing these beautiful and exotic animals and birds on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom featuring zoologist Martin Perkins.  Reading National Geographic and watching Wild Kingdom was wonderful to learn about all the wild and exotic creatures that cover the earth but it cannot compare to seeing these beautiful creatures up close.

I took my children often to visit the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  They especially loved stopping by the panda exhibit always hoping for a glimpse of these playful bears.

My beautiful girls: Kristine, Jennifer and Kara.

The last time I visited the San Diego Zoo was with my family in 1979.  We had a stopover in the city on our way to Hawaii.  We decided to take the children to the Children’s Petting Zoo. We had a wonderful time there.  The children loved being able to be up-close and personal with so many of the animals.  I had such nice memories of this day that I wanted to return and see how the zoo had changed over the years.


When we arrived we decided to purchase the Adult 1-day pass because it included a guided bus tour.  We thought this would be a great way for us to get our bearings and see as much as we could before starting our way.  By far this was the prettiest Jacaranda tree purple blooms) I had seen since coming to California.  Beautiful!

We sat on the top deck of the double decker bus. What a great view.  We learned a great deal about the park, the ecosystem, the animals and birds and the efforts that are taken to create and preserve amazing habitats for all the creatures at the zoo.  The habitats were all beautiful but so were the grounds.  The entire zoo was filled with lush vegetation of all kinds.  Beautiful trees, flowers, cactus and more.  It was truly a beautiful place.

The zoo also has Kangaroo buses that allow visitors to hop-on and hop-off at the four locations around the zoo.  The view from above was wonderful but now it was time to start our trek through the zoo on foot.  We decided to walk for a while and then catch a Kangaroo bus when we needed a rest.

We walked by tiger, rhinoceros, camel, elephant, panda, lion, giraffe, zebra, panda, orangutan, flamingo, koala,  polar bear, Siberian reindeer habitats and so many more.  Each stop was just wonderful to see these beautiful creatures so close.

One attraction that caught my attention was the California condor habitat.  During our guided tour the guide gave us a little history of this magnificent bird.  We learned that the first condor was donated to the zoo in 1929 with a crippled wing.  It lived for ten more years.

According to the history of these birds on the zoo website, “There were only 22 of the birds left in the world and a special “condor-minimum” with six large, free-flight enclosures was built at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  The first California condor was brought into a zoo as part of the recovery program and was successfully raised at the Safari Park.  Since that time the zoo has had 165 California condor hatchings.  In 1992, the first zoo-bred condors were released into native California habitat in Los Angeles National Forest”.

According to what I read, these birds can reach flying speeds of up to 55 miles per hour and can fly to altitudes of 15,000 feet.  Can you imagine looking skyward and see these beautiful birds with their large black wings soaring high in the sky?  Periodically we would see them flying from one perch to another the wing span was incredible.  It was beautiful, just beautiful.

We spent around four hours touring the zoo and finally decided to leave and make our way to the Paradise Point Resort Barefoot Bar + Grill  for happy hour.

Once again Vilma brought us to a beautiful spot.  The open-air restaurant and bar was located at a resort with views of a beautiful water fall to one side and a lovely marina on the other.  We were seated at a high table close to the bar.  There were five appetizer choices all costing $5.00 each on the happy hour menu.  There were also a nice variety of libations at reduced happy hour prices to choose from.

Randy ordered the Pork Sliders (braised ginger cilantro with house slaw) and I ordered the Pesto Flatbread (Buffalo mozzarella-fresh basil and cherry tomatoes).  Both were delicious.  I loved Randy’s pork sliders and ordered a second plate.  The pork was so tender and the slaw was sweet and tasty.

After spending time relaxing and enjoying our food, we walked around the grounds.  The sun was starting to set casting a beautiful stream of silver light across the water.

On the way home I declared that Vilma was, “Queen of the Happy Hours”.

Tomorrow we are off to Riverside to have lunch with one of Vilma’s many friends.



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On the move again; this time to California to visit family and friends VI

Fred’s Mexican Cafe-Historic Old Town San Diego

Today started off with cool temperatures and sunny skies.  Our plans for the day were to kick-back and relax and make a trip over to Old Town San Diego for happy hour.

We started with a lovely breakfast on the patio.  We had the best time looking back on our long-time friendship and all the lovely people we met along the way.

Randy met Vilma and Jim in the early nineties when he joined the divorce support group, New Beginnings.  The organization offered seminars on coping with the divorce process and moving beyond divorce.  The group also organized social opportunities like outings and dances.  Vilma was a very active member of the social committee and eventually we all worked on or for this fun committee.

I met Randy in 1994 in another setting and eventually joined New Beginnings in December of that year.  Shortly after I joined Randy was asked to be a substitute DJ for an event and I went along.  He dealt with the electronics while I chose the songs to be played.  I also ran onto the dance floor and led several line dances.

Before we knew it, the social committee was inviting us to play at many of their events.  From that beginning, Randy and I started our own DJ business playing for weddings and special events.  We continued with the business for the next 10 years.

Jim and Vilma’s wedding day.

Over time Randy and I became a couple and so did Jim and Vilma.  We attended each other’s weddings and have stayed connected even after we all retired and moved away from the Washington, D.C. area.

The morning seemed to just drift by and we finally decided to prepare for the rest of the day.  Vilma found an article in the paper that she thought Jim and Randy would like advertising the El Camino Memorial Park Classic Car & Bike Show and we decided to add it to our day’s activities.

1934 Packard 4-door convertible


By the time we started our journey to the car show we noticed that skies had become overcast and there was a hint of rain in the air.  We arrived at the Memorial Park and noticed that some of the classic cars and bikes were already leaving.  But we continued hoping to see at least a few.

Harley-Davidson trike trailing a hearse. Very cool!


And, we did.  The most interesting bike on display was a Harley Davidson trike trailing a hearse.  I asked Randy what he thought.   “It’s kind of unique,” he replied.  I thought he would have had more to say.  I thought it was very cool indeed.

1936 Chevy 2-door “Flatback” streetrod

Randy’s 1956 Ford Thunderbird

We walked around looking at the few cars that were on display reading all the literature and taking pictures.  We all agreed that we were not surprised that many of the cars and bikes left early with the forecast of rain later in the afternoon.  Trust me, Randy owns a 1956 Ford Thunderbird and would never take it out if there was a hint of rain. He has been working on the restoration of this beautiful car for several years.  The first time he took it to a car show won a prize.  Very cool!

1957 Chevy Bel-Air


We milled around for a bit and then started our journey over to Old Town.  Vilma was interested in the Saturday Market, looking for a pair of earrings and stopping by the Barra Barra Saloon to see what they had on the menu for happy hour.

Historic Old Town San Diego is a wonderful place to visit.  There are many historic buildings to tour, museums to visit, specialty shops to browse, restaurants to enjoy a variety of foods, and a variety of entertainment.


We enjoyed our walk around the grounds but were not successful in finding Vilma’s earrings and after checking the Barra Barra Saloon’s menu we would walk around and find another restaurant.

We walked a while and came across a very festive looking restaurant called Fred’s Mexican Café.  What a great decision to stop here.  The atmosphere was lively and festive.  the service was great and the food delicious.

There were five food offerings on their happy hour menu and a variety of drinks at reduced prices.  Randy and I ordered Fred’s Fiesta Nachos (Frijoles negros, pepper jack quesa, roma, jack & cheddar cheese, tomatoes and pickled jalapenos), Rolled Chicken Tacos (three of Fred’s delicious homemade Chicken Rolled Tacos) and the Quesadilla De La Casa (Four cheese flour quesadillas).  The appetizers were only $2.95 each.  Everything was delicious!!

Over the next two-hours we drank, ate, talked and laughed.

We finally made our way back home to spend a relaxed evening watching a little TV.

Tomorrow we are off to the San Diego Zoo.

Old Town State Historic Park. Love this beautiful tree.




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On the move again; this time to California to visit family and friends V

What a wonderful, fun and festive day!!

Today we are off to check off one item on Vilma’s list of things to do and one on mine.  The first stop will be to attend the San Diego Festival of the Arts at Waterfront Park in downtown San Diego and then on to the Gaslamp Quarter.

Our day started enjoying a light breakfast on the back porch and sitting around the table chatting away the morning.

The skies were a little cloudy but no rain was forecast so off we went to the Festival.  Jim and Randy dropped us off at the festival and they went off to find something to do down by the waterfront.

The Waterfront Park covers 12-acres in front of the County Administration Building.  There is an 830 loot-long interactive fountain with 31 jets that can reach 14 feet into the air. Evidently, this is one of the favorite places for children to frolic in the water.

“Guardian of the Water” sculpture by Donal Hord in front of County Administration Building

As soon as we walked through the entrance, we were immediately happy seeing so many white-topped tents in our vision.  According to the program, there would be over 200 fine artists at the festival covering a multitude of disciplines.  On display were beautiful ceramics, jewelry, paintings, sculpture, photography and more.


We walked leisurely up one row of tents and down the next stopping once in a while to admire something beautiful.  Vilma was mostly interested in the jewelry on display. Me, I wanted to see as much as I could.  I eventually purchased a beautiful pair of earrings.  Vilma purchased several pieces of jewelry that she really liked.


“Serpent Tree” sculpture by sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle


We walked and talked for almost two hours. All the while  the sounds of very nice jazz wafted through the festival ground from the main stage.   There were so many people meandering through the festival grounds, groups of women, husbands and wives and mothers with little ones in strollers.  There was a also a food court with restaurant tents, food trucks and beer and wine gardens on the festival grounds.  They were all very busy.

Mary, Vilma and Susan

With so many people milling about it was quite a coincidence that we ran into two of Vilma’s friends.  We stopped for a while chatting with Susan and Henry before continuing on our way.

Once we had walked the entire festival area, we called Jim and Randy to see where they were and to set up a place to meet.  When we finally caught up with them we learned that they had spent their time down by the harbor next to the aircraft USS Midway Museum.

“Unconditional Surrender” sculpture by J. Seward Johnson

They did not go on a tour of the ship but had a great time walking around the grounds and enjoying the various sculptures.  One was of the “Unconditional Surrender” statue by sculptor J. Seward Johnson of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day.

The statue was right next to the Bob Hope Memorial Plaza.  The area contains, “15 life-sized bronze statues, arranged as if attending a Bob Hope show. Each figure represents a serviceman from a different conflict. The scene is completely open, allowing visitors to wander between the figures, and pose with them in reverent or irreverent pull-my-finger positions, or join the frozen crowd to cheer on Bob Hope’s one-liners”.  “How wonderful was that,” I thought as I looked at photographs they took.



Next stop was the Gaslamp Quarter.  I had read a little  history of this area of downtown San Diego and was intrigued about the architecture and some of the folklore surrounding many of the notables in history who had spent time here.


The Quarter covers 16-blocks.  Vilma and I were a little tired so we all decided to just walk around a little and then find a good place to stop for happy hour.

I loved the street lamps, the buildings and the constant buzz of people enjoying a variety of foods and libations at the many sidewalk cafes we passed.  I made a mental note that the next time we venture out to visit Jim and Vilma we would return and take our time stopping in some of the historical buildings and museums in the area.

Vilma had mentioned that she had been to the Gaslamp Quarter and enjoyed a restaurant called The Garage Kitchen + Bar.  We walked over to the bar, looked over the menu posted and decided we would stop in.

What a great choice! The Happy Hour menu included all appetizers and selected drinks.  What caught Randy’s eye immediately was the 34 oz. stein of beer.  The happy hour price was $3.50.  Randy was in heaven.

We decided to choose a variety of appetizers and share tastes with each other.  Jim and Vilma were intrigued with the “Wild” Meatballs made of wild boar, lamb, bison, spicy marinara and shaved pecorino and were sold. They loved them!  Randy and I ordered the Margherita Flatbread.

We sat for quite a while just talking about our day and all agreed it had been a wonderful day. The evening was waning so we finally made our way back to the car and headed home.  We spent the rest of the evening relaxing.

Tomorrow we are off to look in on a car show and walk around Old Town San Diego.

Inside the festival grounds was another El Camino Real bell. I love these bells! In the background you can see the “Star of India” the world’s oldest active sailing ship.




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On the move again; this time to California to visit family and friends IV

View of the San Diego skyline from Coasterra restaurant.

Our last day visiting Brian and Antoinette, we woke up early in the morning to another misty coastal morning.  I stood looking out of the door and took a long, last look at the beautiful view before we made our way to the main house to enjoy a nice breakfast and say our goodbyes and thank you for their wonderful hospitality.

Today we are on the road again to drive down to Los Angeles to see Randy’s son and partner and then on to San Diego to spend some time with our friends Jim and Vilma.  We had not seen Richard and Robert for several years and were anxious to see them again.   The traffic down to L.A. was terrible.

At first blush when we arrived at their house Randy’s thought that it was a Sears kit house circa 1940’s.  We learned that in California these homes are called “Craftsman homes”.  We were greeted by Richard and Robert and after hugs and kisses all around and meeting their three cats were given a tour of their home.  It was quite nice inside and out.  They have a full-front porch and an amazing landscaped backyard.

We invited them to lunch and they suggested a local barbeque restaurant a short distance from their home called Max City BBQ.

From left-Robert, Richard, Randy, Mary

The restaurant was small but quite comfortable and each item on the menu sounded delicious.  While enjoying our lunch we had a great time talking to them both catching up with what they had been doing since last we saw them and what was in their future.  We were surprised to learn that they, at some point, may be moving to Montana or out of the country.

After lunch we drove Richard and Robert back to their house to bid them farewell with promises to keep in touch.

After we got back on the road and melded into the crazy L.A. traffic Randy said, “That was a great visit with the two of them”.  “Absolutely,” I chimed in.  “It was so good to see their lovely home.  I especially loved the backyard.  Just beautiful!”

By now it was 2:30pm and between the traffic and construction the trip was just horrible and we still had 175 miles to go.  Randy got into the HOV lanes when they appeared and we zipped along pretty well until we were just north of San Diego and turned off I-5 and into San Diego’s rush hour.  At one point Randy took a wrong turn and ended up on surface streets which were just as congested as the freeway.

It was so good to finally reach Jim and Vilma’s house and just kick-back and relax for a while.  I had to laugh because no sooner than arriving, putting away our luggage and sitting down than Vilma, pen and paper in hand, wanted to know what if anything we wanted to do while visiting.

I told Vilma that we would like to visit the Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego and the San Diego Zoo.  Randy spent his young childhood in San Diego and was anxious to see his 102 year-old Aunt Martha and visit his parent’s friend Coleen.  Vilma added these to her list of things to do.

One thing you need to know about our friend Vilma is that she is the quintessential energizer bunny.  She walks 3-4 miles each morning and then is in constant motion until bed time.  As she said, “I would like to do at least one thing each day even if it is just going to local restaurant for happy hour”.  That was just fine with Randy and me.

And so we did.  That first evening we went to Escondido to a restaurant called Vinz Wine Bar  where Randy and I enjoyed a small pizza.  It was a little cool but we decided to eat on the patio.   We returned home and retired early to get a good night’s sleep.  Tomorrow would be another busy day.

Sun peaking through the pergola

We woke up the next morning to a lovely sun filled sky and cool temperatures.  Vilma prepared a lovely omelet breakfast and we sat out on the back patio.  The back patio is such a peaceful and lovely space that I just love to be there no matter what time of day.   We enjoyed our breakfast and talked about plans for the day.

Jim and Vilma had plans for the morning and Randy and I were off to visit Coleen and his Aunt Martha.  We also had to return the rental car today.  We made arrangements with Jim and Vilma to pick us up at the rental office later that day and headed out to Del Cerro to see if we could connect with Coleen.

Unfortunately, we did not have her phone number so we could not call ahead.  We drove to her home but no one was there.  Disappointed, we turned our attention to driving over to Point Loma and visiting with Aunt Martha.  During the drive Randy talked a bit about times he spent as a young boy at his aunt’s home.

You could hear a smile in his voice when he talked about time spent at his aunt’s house.  “I grew up in San Diego and my cousins were great friends and playmates.  My Aunt had 8 children and I always liked her,” Randy said.

We did not know what to expect when we saw Aunt Martha.  She still lives in her home with a caretaker and one of Randy’s youngest cousins.  We learned that other members of the family come to the house during the week to care, cook and shop for Aunt Martha.

Randy was so happy because she looked just as he remembered from many years before.  She did not immediately remember who Randy was but after talking a little bit about his family and her son Robert, he felt as though she remembered him.

From the moment I met Aunt Martha I loved her.  She had the most wonderful smile and very funny sense of humor.  We talked for quite a while with Randy reminiscing about times when he would come to her house to play with his cousins and how much fun he had had.  When we left Aunt Martha had that wonderful smile on her face and Randy said as we walked back to the car, “If I do not get to see her again, that is how I will remember her”.  This was a very good visit.

Jim and Vilma picked us up just in time to drive over to Coasterra for happy hour appetizers and drinks.  We sat on the patio and were treated to a wonderful view of the San Diego skyline.

deb’s coconut margarits-olmeca altos reposado coconut cream, lime juice, coconut salt rim. YUMMY!

Caesar Salad



What a wonderful evening.  The weather was perfect, the view spectacular and the happy hour appetizers and drinks delicious!

Coasterra’s questo fundido–monterey jack & oaxacan cheese, chorizo, refried beans, roasted poblano chilies, pickled jalapeno & onion, charred corn tortillas. Beyond YUMMY!

Tomorrow we are off to the San Diego Arts Festival, the Gaslamp district and another fun happy hour.

Aunt Martha’s front yard. Beautiful!




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On the move again; this time to California to visit family and friends III

Cactus Garden in Lotusland


We were up bright and early on this misty morning because today we are off to a local attraction called Lotusland.

The Fern Garden

Antoinette knew that I liked gardens and thought this would be a lovely way to spend the morning.  From what she explained Lotusland is a private estate that was owned by Madame Ganna Walska.

Blue Garden

We arrived at the estate under a gloomy sky and met our guide, Ginette.  The guides are all volunteers and conduct these tours because of their love of the gardens.  The first thing we learned was that Madame Walska was a well-known opera singer and socialite who purchased the property in 1941 and spent the next 43 years designing 25 gardens  over the 37 acre estate.

Topiary Garden


We also learned that after Madame Walska’s death the estate became a nonprofit botanic garden and opened to the public in 1993.

Original bath house-Lotus pond


After Ginette’s introduction we were off on the path of seeing an amazing collection of beautiful and exotic plants, flowers, bushes and trees.

Arbor in Australian Garden


We spent the next 2 1/2 hours walking the estate stopping periodically so Ginette could share a little history of the estate, describing how the collection of gardens grew over the years and happily explained that Madame Walska was the, “Intractable head gardener of Lotusland”.

The Parterre/Rose Garden

Ginette’s love of the estate and the gardens within was apparent each time we stopped and she painstakingly described what we were looking at and where it came from.  I was impressed with the length and breadth of Madame Walksa’s dedication to filling her gardens with plants from all over the world.

Water Gardens

As we strolled through the grounds we passed fern, water, aloe, cactus, topiary , blue, cycad, insectary, rose gardens and so much more.  The gardens were sprinkled with stone figures, blue glass and rocks.  Everywhere you looked beauty filled your eyes.

Japanese lantern exhibit

I was sad to learn that the Japanese garden was under renovation.  These beautiful stone lanterns “Ishi Dōrō” were carefully removed from the garden and temporarily placed along this path until the renovation is completed.

There is no way I could ever remember all the names of these beautiful plants but no matter I will carry the memory of these beautiful, dramatic and, at times,  fanciful gardens in my memory for a long time to come.

Theater Garden

Beaucarnea recurvata (Elephant’s foot, Ponytail palm)

As we walked through this wonderful place I thought of my friend Genny, a wonderful gardener in her own right, and how wonderful it would be if we could have walked through the gardens together.

By the end of the tour I understood why Lotusland was deemed one of the top 10 gardens in the world!

Blue slag rock

By the time we completed our tour we were hungry.  Antoinette suggested that we drive to a local restaurant called Jeannine’s. We had experienced occasional spits of rain throughout our stroll through the gardens but by the time we reached Jeannine’s the sun had finally popped out from behind the clouds so we decided to sit on the outside patio.

The menu was a variety of delicious sounding choices.  I chose the Turkey Berry sandwich which was a sandwich of roasted turkey breast, house-made cranberry chutney, balsamic mixed greens, tomato, Dijon mayonnaise and Swiss cheese.  It was delicious!  I washed the sandwich down with a lovely cafè latte.

We drove back to the house and after a short rest we met Brian and Antoinette’s lovely friends Sean and Leilan for dinner at Clementine’s Steak House.  We met Sean and Leilan several years ago and were anxious to see them again.  Our evening was marked by lively conversation and a delicious meal.

Upon arriving back at the house, we retired to get a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we leave to make our way to visit family and friends in Los Angeles and San Diego.




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On the move again; this time to California to visit family and friends II

Hearst Castle

After a wonderful night’s sleep, we awoke to a morning heavy with dew.  As we made our way to the main house we noticed that the beach was still shrouded in coastal fog.

Today we were striking out on our own up the coast to visit Hearst Castle built by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.  We met Brian and Antoinette in the kitchen for a quick breakfast before we all went our separate ways for the day.

From the moment we entered the highway we encountered heavy traffic that continued until we reached our destination.   We were also hampered by a heavy mist that shrouded our view of the beautiful California coastline.

Along the way we spotted many bells along a portion of the El Camino Real. According to Randy and what I have been able to research, “The 600-mile trail, stretching from Mission San Diego de Alcalá in San Diego to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, was created by the Spanish to link the 21 California missions and the associated settlements and presidios. Missions were located approximately 30 miles apart – a long day’s ride on horseback”.

A private group called the El Camino Real Association placed a series of cast bronze bells suspended from 11-foot high posts designed to resemble a shepherd’s crook along this path.  The first bell was placed at the Plaza Church in the Pueblo near Olivera Street in Los Angeles in 1906.



We drove along passing many farms and vineyards.  As we drove along the coastal range mountains and passed through a tunnel.  When we exited the tunnel we were pleasantly surprised to see a sun lit sky.


We finally reached San Simeon and the entrance to Hearst Castle.  The welcome center was a busy bee hive of activity as people were lined up to purchase tickets, buying souvenirs and enjoying many of the foods available for snacks.  We looked over the tours available and chose the one that suited our time constraints.  It was already early afternoon so we chose the 1-hour guided tour of the Grand Rooms.  The itinerary for this tour included a guided tour through one level of the main building.

The Neptune Pool

We boarded a bus that traveled the long, winding road up the hill to what Hearst called, “La Cuesta Encantada—Spanish for “Enchanted Hill”.  We started our walk around the bottom of the Esplanade stopping first at the guest suites where our guide explained that none of the guest house had kitchens because Mr. Hearst expected everyone to enjoying dining in the main house.  We continued our walk over to the Neptune Pool.  Unfortunately, it is under repair for a leak.  I would have loved to have seen it full.


Then we walked up to the terraced Esplande. The Esplanade is beautiful.  The space is filled with beautiful flowers, trees and statuary.  And, oh my, the view was spectacular!  One piece of art that caught my eye was a sculpture of the Egyptian Goddess Sekmet with some of the pieces dating back over 3,000 years.  Beautiful!

Beautiful front door to Hearst Castle


The guide then brought our attention to the Casa Grande.  He explained that Hearst hired architect Julia Morgan in 1919 to design a main building and guest houses for his ranch.  This collaboration lasted for 28 years.  By 1947 the estate comprised, “165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways—all built to Hearst’s specifications and showcasing a legendary art collection”.

View from the Esplanade

The outside façade of the castle is beautiful and very reminiscent of structures we have seen traveling through the Mediterranean. The architecture of the castle reminded me of a Spanish mission. And, indeed, Hearst got his inspiration from a church in Ronda, Spain.

From top left: Fireplace in Assembly Room, Morning Room, beautiful tapestry in Pool Room, carved ceiling in Refectory.

The Assembly Room

Our first stop inside was called the Assembly Room.  Here everyone who was invited for a visit would gather before dinner for cocktails and conversation.  The room was huge with a large fireplace, tapestries hanging along the walls and massive furniture. Our next stop was the Refectory or dining room.  Here Hearst and his guests would engage in lively conversations while enjoying a meal.

Left side: Refectory (dining room), place setting. Right Pool Room.

Indoor Roman Pool

We continued our tour stopping at the Morning Room, Billiard Room and Theater. As we walked through the rooms my eyes would take in the many pieces of beautiful artwork, drift to the intricately carved and painted ceilings and linger on the many beautiful tapestries that covered the walls.  The entire tour was like walking through a museum of antiquities.  I loved it.

The exit to take us back to the bus took us through the indoor Roman Pool.  Wow, it was beautiful.  We learned that the pool, “Consists of more than a million Murano glass tiles, some of which contain a layer of gold leaf inside”.  I was fascinated with the marble ladders and the color scheme.  All I could think was, “Beautiful, just beautiful”.

We boarded the bus for our return ride down the mountain to the visitor’s center.  The earlier mist that hovered over the mountain had dissipated and we could see the castle a little better as we made our descent.

Brian and Antoinette told us of another site we should not bypass before returning home and so we turned north to make our way to Elephant Seal Beach.  We were told that peak season for sightings of these beautiful creatures span the months of December to March so we were not sure what we would see.

Randy and I were blown away when we stepped up to the fence and looked down at the beach. The beach was lined with Elephant seals basking in the sun.  Every once in a while we would see one flipping sand with their tails to cover their bodies.  I suppose that was done to cool down their skin.

As we stood there watching the seals my attention was drawn to the water.  I watched as two large elephant seals seemed to be facing off while emitting low guttural sounds.  It was all quite fascinating.  We stood for quite a while but finally turned our attention to returning home.

We knew we would not make it back to Brian and Antoinette’s in time for dinner so decided try to locate the deli Brian had told us about.  With the aid of our GPS we were able to locate DePalo & Sons in Shell Beach.  I walked in and was instantly reminded of the deli I used to frequent as a child in New York.

We made our way to the back of the store and ordered a delicious smoked turkey and cheese sandwich and sat at one of the outside tables while sharing our thoughts about our wonderful day before returning to the long trip home.  Before retiring for the evening we touched base with Brian and Antoinette sharing our day’s experiences.  Today was another wonderful day.

Tomorrow Antoinette is taking us to one of her favorite spots in Carpinteria, Lotusland.

Beautiful lily in the lily pond in front of the castle.




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