Thursday, February 26, 2015

California Day 2 (part 1)

I'll have to split Saturday's photos in half because 67 pictures are too much for one post. (Arguably, 33 photos are too many from one post, but whatevs.)

On Saturday morning, we awoke free of jet lag ready for another Platypus Tour.  (Also, I remembered to eat breakfast this time since we would be drinking at 11am--big help.)  Really, I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful these tours are.  Granted, we had only been on one before, but now that we've done two I would have no problem signing up for a third, a fourth, a fifth, etc.  They looked up our tour from August to make sure we wouldn't repeat anything.  Rather than send us down closer to Sonoma Square, we stayed north in Healdsburgh.  Four other people were on the tour with us, all of them friends.  Two were from Pittsburgh, Fred and Rihannon, and Fred promptly greeted us with "Flyers SUCK!!!"  Frankly, if he hadn't been a Pens fan, I would've wondered what was wrong with him.  (And Leslie went to CMU and we all know that I love Pittsburgh, so that's fine with me.)  Their two friends, Farrest and Rosemary, I think were both from the Bay Area, but we were referred to as the Pennsylvania Group all day.

Our first stop was Viszlay Vineyards.  Basically one guy runs the whole show there, but he was out of town so his daughter did our tasting with us.  We sat outside--the sun was so bright it was bizarre. No clouds; there was a breeze and it seemed like most of us had to adjust to the concept of being (just being. BE-ing.) outside.  We couldn't get over it. (Or at least we and the Pittsburghers couldn't get over it.)  At one point I said, "I can't believe I'm outside. On purpose."  I began to think about it, and the last time I remember doing that was the first week of November on a Wednesday before school.  Everything was golden yellow because the leaves were still up, but a front was moving through and the wind was going to rip them all down.  Pretty sure I wore closed toe shoes that day too. It had been our last warm day (and we all knew that particular day that it would be our last one for a while)--four months ago [insert three anguished emoji].


Mustard was in bloom everywhere we went. Since spring has arrived early, all of the vines are waking up but the timing isn't right.  If there's a cold snap in March, anything that's allowed to grow now will die--the results could ruin the entire harvest.  Apparently, most wine growers are just cutting back all of their vines as fast as they can--they're trying to trick the vines into sleeping as long as they can.

I almost didn't bring sandals ... so glad I did!  My toes didn't turn blue or yellow or go numb once.  In fact, I could feel my extremities the entire weekend!  What a luxury.  (Wish I was joking.)  Rihannon and I bonded the most over our hatred of winter.  I kept telling her, "You win, you win: You live in freakin Pittsburgh. I got nothing on you!"  At one point though, she paused and said--totally serious--"You know, people really don't get how awful it is to be cold all the time.  It's so painful.  Really, just painful.  I hate how people don't get that, and then they think I'm really weak or something.  I'm not weak--I'm doing everything that needs to get done while in terrible pain."  I noticed that Fred and Ron refrained from their jokes and retorts on that one.  Rihannon wasn't messing around.

Yup, you can just leave your cyclamen outside and they won't die.

And your olives too--just leave alllll your olive trees outside. No big deal.

There was a pasture with goats not far from here, but we didn't get to see them.

From here, it was off to Everett Ridge.  According to Ron, this was the group favorite. I must have missed that conversation.  I did like their wines best, but I think I would pick the stop after this for favorite ambiance.  This place was gorgeous too, though.

I saw this (lichen? moss?) all over the place on this particular trip.

The first of, like, a zillion citrus trees I would see on this trip.

Half of my wardrobe are these colors.  There were two wines here that we really loved: the Riesling (not the off-dry one, but that one was pretty amazing too) and (I think?) a Pinot Rose' ... I can't find it on their website which makes me wonder if I'm making that up.

Mom, they serve CHEESE PUFFS instead of cheese and crackers here!

I just couldn't get a shot of the wine swirling--I would really have to concentrate and take a hundred to get it right.

We had lunch here overlooking this valley.  By this point, we all felt really comfortable together.  Fred was seriously hilarious--he reminded me so much of my friend's little brother, Marshall (who is nearly 30 now and not so little).  He and Farrest bantered back and forth for the entire day just cracking us all up, and it was one of those weird things where you are amazed that you've only known these people for four hours.  And it's even stranger that when the day is over, you'll never see or hear from them again.

I THINK those are Spanish Oak trees? I need to look them up.  I think these are too curly to be Spanish Oaks ... they could be California White Oaks?

See the wall in the foreground? Yeah, it's just covered in heaps of rosemary.  It's just there. All year. No problem.  Ron called it lavender and I corrected him, and he was like, "uhh, I think I know lavender when I see it" and before I could think up a decent smart ass retort, our tour guide said, "Yeah, that's rosemary."  HA!  The leaves of the two are similar, but the flowers are nothing alike.

I must've taken more pictures the second half of the day than the first, so I'll keep going ...

This blew me away: CHERRY BLOSSOMS!!! IN FEBRUARY!!  Really, it was enough to make me weep.  April exists--she's real ... but she's 3,000 miles from Philly.  (She's also too early for California, but that's not my problem. And hey, you can't control the weather, right? Better to be at it's mercy here than where I live ...)

The patio at Kachina Vineyards--I could've stayed here all day.  Our table here was in the shade, and with the sun shining through the trees (Spanish Oaks--I asked, so I actually know this time) it felt like May.

There has to be a pool around here somewhere--trust me, I looked for one.

We tried a port here, and it was served with half of a truffle (the chocolate kind--not the mushroom kind ... I think I remember Fred asking for clarification on that).  That port was amazing--my favorite part.

And they had goats! And not just goats, but also BABY goats!

This is Kiva, a fifteen week old border collie--so friendly and sweet.  She's going to learn how to herd the goats.  I loved how her right eye had black eyelashes and her left eye had white eyelashes.

So we're two-thirds of the way through, but only halfway through the day.  Even as I sort through all these images and write all this down, I wonder if it was real--I could not have been further away from my daily February grind on this particular day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

California Day 1

Sooooooooo ....

I spent the weekend in California.  California is 60-70 degrees warmer than Philadelphia right now.

It was--hands down--the best weekend I've had in a reaaaaally looooong time.

Here's the stupid part: Ron has the same set of meetings in San Jose every February.  This has been going on for years. And this is the FIRST year that I've gone with him.


We took our usual flight out there--7:40am and you land between 11 and 11:30. We took off a little late, and it felt like one of the longest flights I had ever been on.  No big deal, and it was totally uneventful (a good thing) but usually it feels faster.  As soon as we got in the car I said, "To the Cliff House." I couldn't imagine going anywhere else.

It had been nine hours since we had eaten anything.  Even though this place is a tourist trap--I doubt anyone would tell you to go here for the food--I thought, "Let's eat here, avoid the center of town, see the ocean, and then back in the car to find the elusive Sunset District that I could NOT find last time." There was a thirty minute wait for a table. Ugh.

So we waited outside, and we just stared. at the water. for the thirty solid minutes. and never said a word.  Let me tell you: it was the best thing we could've done after 7 hours on a plane.  I think it was the most memorable part of the day.

Just stare at the water, listen to the birds, enjoy the warm sun and the cool breeze.  And the air smells so good!! Better therapy than two Advil and a cup of coffee.  Ok ok, maybe do this AND take two Advil with a cup of coffee.  But the water helped with the jet leg. No question.

(This would make great fabric.)

It took thirty minutes ....

... for this freighter to come off the horizon and disappear around the corner to the Golden Gate Bridge.

I can't imagine ever looking out these windows and not shrieking in my head, "IT'S THE PACIFIC OCEAN!!!! OMGGGGGGG!!!!"

I had an omelet (and coffee and a diet coke and water) and Ron had fish and chips.  Oh that fried fish--pretty amazing.

Nothing to say about the Sunset District.  We had a car this time (rather than death-marching it block after endless block) but we drove block after block, me zooming in and out of Google maps the whole time, and while I LOVE the residential neighborhood that is the SD ... I saw one cafe, two Asian restaurants and maybe three dry cleaners and that was it.  So whatever article I read in Whole Living four years ago about the lively SD must have been a figment of my imagination.  So we gave up and headed for 101 to cross the GGB and head up to Santa Rosa. During rush hour. On a Friday. (Oh well.)

How many times can I take this picture?

I'm not even sure what happened after we got to Santa Rosa.  It took nearly two hours to drive the fifty miles there.  I have foggy memories of being in a CVS and buying a box of Jujubes (can't find them at home anymore), a bag of caramel cremes (wrapped in Easter colored wrappers), and three ginormous bottles of water.  Ron kept talking about a tooth brush.  And I wanted to buy a bunch of those Our Lady of Guadelupe cylinder candles that people light on the sidewalk when someone has died there.  (None wound up in my suitcase so I guess I put them down.)  And that's it.  And Anthony Bourdain was on the TV in the hotel room.  And then I just couldn't take one more minute of the fluid in my ears vibrating for the fifteenth straight hour from the plane, and my teeth hurting from exhaustion, and finally it all just went black.

(In California, it takes 3-4 hours to really feel the jet lag. In Europe, you feel it the whole damn first day you're there.)

(Also, how do pilots do it?  There is no WAY that flying is good for you.  It's one of the most unnatural things that the human body could be forced to do.  No way it's healthy or even just "neutral" or whatever.  You are not supposed to be that high up in the air for hours at a time, in a vibrating tin can, with no humidity, and fake air pressure.  Forget the recycled air and all the germs, we won't even go that far.  Who would sign up for that job?)

Jet lag was gone the next morning, and that was good because it was 72 degrees and sunny and we had a Platypus tour to do ...