Thursday, May 25, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - 5-2-17 - NAPA VALLEY

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017



Gregg's sister drove us to Napa Valley today, where she treated us to a wine tasting and tour at Palmaz Vineyards.  She only lives a couple of hours away and has been there several times, with her husband when he is not working, occasionally on her own and also with family and friends.  Her favorite is Palmaz Vineyards, and I can see why.  It was a fascinating experience.  We were given a tour by a charming young man.  The winery is 18 floors underground and the building is built into the mountain. (Its owner, Julio Palmaz, is a doctor who invented the stint. He had a heart attack when he was 71 and it saved his life.   You can read his biography here.)



The tour came first and it was amazing.  The central feature of the winery was based on the old Roman concept that the best way to crush grapes was to use the force of gravity.  



We took the elevator to different floors, and were shown the fermentation room where 24 large vats were placed around a circular room.  He showed us a map of the property highlighting the 24 unique soil types present, and the 24 unique grapes growing on each of the soil types.  These end up in those 24 vats. On the concave ceiling above us there were projected statistics and visual data of each vat, state of the art that looked like something out of a science fiction movie.  


We walked through long tunnels full of wine barrels. The wood for the barrels comes from France and are assembled in California.  By doing it that way they could ship more wood at a more economical price. Along one of the tunnels was a bottling room where we were introduced to several of the staff.  The machinery used for the bottling process was surprisingly small.   However, giving the limited distribution of the wine, there was no need for anything larger.  Unfortunately, you won't find this wine in any store, and the distribution to restaurants is limited to just a few states.  The primary customer base for the wine are those people who join their wine club like my sister-in-law. 


  
The wine tasting came next where we we were taken to a room and treated to a selection of six delicious wines.  I couldn't remember each one so went to their website and found what you see below, though they do vary at times.  

Palmaz Vineyards Riesling "Louise"
Palmaz Vineyaards Chardonnay "Amalia"
Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Current Vintage
Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Select Library Release
Palmaz Vineyards Muscat Canelli "Florencia"



As we drank from each glass of wine we were told its history. Before we moved on to the next glass, we ate an hors d'oevre, also explained to us.  Placed behind our selection of wines was the hors d'oevre plate, and each delectable delight was a tiny work of art.  (On the wall is a projected photo of the Palmaz Family.)



Here are a few photos taken in the wine tasting room.













One interesting fact we learned was that many of the winemakers in Napa Valley are female, including the lady we met at Palmaz as we toured the tunnels.  He explained that the palate of a woman is more refined in general.  Well, there you go!

I was very impressed with our host.  He was excellent throughout this experience, very warm, friendly and polite.  At the end of our tour, as Gregg and my sister-in-law were talking to him, I excused myself to take some photos, and I thanked him very much.  I expected that to be the last of it but then as I had taken several photos, I turned around and realized he was waiting for me so that he could say a last goodbye.  He shook my hand warmly and said that he had hoped I had enjoyed myself.  I assured him I had, beyond measure.  



If you go to this page on YouTube you will be able to view several short videos on the vineyard.  I chose two, which can be found here and here.


I noticed that at the end of each line of vines, rose bushes are planted.  Not only do they look extremely pretty but they are put there for a reason.  If a sickness attacks the vines, the roses become infected first.  If the roses become unhealthy, then they know whatever is affecting them will attack the vines next.  This gives them time to doctor the vines before they too are infected.  



There are also falcons used to protect the vines, a scarecrow of sorts.  They are used as a deterrent to keep away the large flocks of birds, (such as the starlings mentioned in this article) who love to feed on the grapes as they ripen.  You can read about them here.



I was quite sorry to see the end of the tour as it was memorable.



We finished our trip to Napa Valley with a lovely meal at a restaurant called Bouchon Bistro.   



It was another very enjoyable experience.  We ate a delicious meal at one of the outside tables.  In the top left is Gregg's chicken dish, top right I had ordered rainbow trout, and the bottom two photos shows my sister-in-law's escargot encased in puff pastry and a small cheese platter.



In the photo below the waiter can just be seen on the left, clearing off our table which was next to the wall and out of sight.



When finished Gregg and I were sitting on a bench nearby and an Englishman started talking to us.  He was employed at the restaurant, one of the managers.  We had a very pleasant conversation and he told us he was from London-by-the-Sea (Brighton and Hove).

It is 6.27 p.m. and after a long but exceedingly enjoyable day Gregg is tired, I am tired. I think we will be going to bed early tonight.  

We are off to Monterey again tomorrow with my sister-in-law.  We are going to the Aquarium.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - 4-30-17 AND 5-1-17 - FARMERS MARKET

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

4.23 p.m. I am listening to The Dubliners while sitting in the back yard.  When they moved in Brother-in-law set up a sound-system outside.  

My sister-in-law and I are reading.  Gregg walked over to watch a game at the local baseball field.  There is some kind of tournament.  It is a nostalgia thing for him.  Not only does he enjoy baseball but he often tells me stories of when he and his brother spent their growing up years playing at their local sand lot. 


Today we went to a farmer's market. We also had brunch at a restaurant on the same street.  The road is closed off to regular traffic.  The restaurant was so popular, we had to wait an hour to get seated. The time flew by as we explored all the different stalls.  I really love a good street market.


















That big dome is a pizza oven.









Gregg found his beef jerky. 



A musician was selling CD's. 



We enjoyed its relaxing and melodic tone, and bought his CD. 




He enjoyed it too.



Another little darling enjoying the music.



I have never tried raw milk before.  



Here's Gregg's sister buying cherries.  We enjoyed tasting them that evening.  You can see by those empty baskets that they were selling fast.



She stopped by the flower stall also.



If we hadn't have been going to the restaurant, I may have stopped by here.



Or here.



There were also other restaurants trying to entise people inside.



These grabbed my attention.



With so much to see, it seemed like no time at all before our table was ready and we were ready for brunch.  I can't remember the name of this restaurant.



We all enjoyed our meals.  The one in the top left is mine, nutella and hazlenut filled French Toast with strawberries and two rashers of crispy bacon.  Top right was my sister-in-law's meal, waffles with strawberries and cream.  Bottom left was my brother-in-law's meal, huevos rancheros, and to its right, Gregg's beef tostadas with scrambled eggs and a small dish of black beans.  We all enjoyed them.



Later we went to a Best Buy around the corner and bought a replacement camera card, plus reader. (This reader works.  The last one must have been faulty.)  I also popped into a greeting card store and bought a few cards to send out.  

And now we are back at their home and sitting outside, relaxing on their comfy chairs, listening to Irish folk music, with a wonderfully restorative cool breeze gently providing a soothing balm for my sunburnt forehead.  I didn' realize the other day on the boat, even though I sat in a shady spot, the wind and the salt spray had its effect.  I will be peeling for days.



5.53 p.m.  Gregg has gone up to the store with his sister and I am still sitting outside in the garden. Brother-in-law knows I enjoy opera and I am listening to Rene Fleming over the loudspeakers. He is very kind as I am the only one who enjoys opera here.  I have been given a cider and I am blissfully sleepy with these favorite pieces being sung by one of my favorite opera singers.  

It is now after midnight.  We spent the evening outside. The table has a covered fire pit in the center. The coals were lit and I loved the warmth as the evening got cooler.  I enjoyed listening to everyone's conversation.  Our meal tonight - cheeseburgers cooked on the barbecue.  It was a lovely evening.



Monday, May 1st, 2017

I have stayed around the house all day, catching up on my blog. Gregg and his sister enjoyed a couple of trips to various stores.  

8.42 p.m. We have just finished a delicious meal. No pictures.  Sister-in-law cooked shrimp and scallops with asparagus, corn and red peppers in a lovely sauce.  In another bowl there were three different types of sliced sausages in another tasty sauce, and sauteed bok choy.  She is an excellent cook.  We also had a glass of red wine.  Listening to Gregg telling about his experiences on his two year exchange tour with the British Navy in the early 70s was a lot of fun, one story I had never heard before.  A very pleasant dinner indeed, not only because of the delicious meal prepared for us, but for the company also.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - 4-29-17 - THE LIGHTHOUSE AND THE RITZ-CARLTON

Saturday, April 29th, 2017. 


It is 9.22 p.m. and we have had a full but very enjoyable day. 


Gregg's sister and her husband took us out for a drive around the area.  We started off by visiting Santa Cruz Wharf, and having lunch at a place called "Splash", another restaurant with a great view of the water.


I was intrigued by the enormous oyster shell filled with ice.  It was on our left as we walked in the door.  This young lady was shucking oysters.  I have never tried them and still haven't, but I know they are popular.  I am not that adventurous with certain things, but the image of that large oyster shell made me smile.


I did, however, try steamed clams for the first time in my life, thanks to my sister-in-law who ordered them as an appetizer.  My taste buds must have changed as I thoroughly enjoyed them. (Gregg just had a chuckle when he saw these photos.  He said, "All those years of family 4th of July picnics, and you never touched one steamed clam."  I told him, "It was a different time dear.")


This was my lunch, a lobster roll with fries, coleslaw and let's not forget that melted butter I poured all over the lobster.  It was delicious!



As I didn't think it very polite to stick a camera in everyone else's face, I don't have pictures of my my sister-and-brother-in-law's meals.  I held myself back - unusual - and yes I am smiling.  Also Gregg's meal I can't remember but when I asked him he thought it was fish and chips.  He said the coleslaw was great.

After lunch we took a walk to the end of the wharf and discovered.....


a raft of seals.


There was quite a racket going on.  As we studied the scene further, it became apparent that there were more seals who had hoisted themselves up onto the wooden framework below the wharf.  We watched as this seal tried his best to do the same.  However, the tide had gone out, and that much prized resting place he was after was now out of reach.  It didn't stop him from trying though, honking noisily in the process, and his large family group honking back.  Translation, "I told you not to dilly-dally matey!  You have to wait for the tide to turn now with the rest of your brothers and sisters."  And the raft was getting larger.  Lots of dilly-dalliers that day apparently.

I read about rafting behaviour at this site.  It said, "Often sea-lions will sleep in small or large groups, a behavior called rafting, with only a flipper or tail visible to regulate their body temperature.  Periodically a nose will pop out of the water briefly for a breath and then disappear.  It is an unnerving sight to those unfamiliar with this behaviour."

You can find out more information if you go to the link I have provided above.  


"Too late to get up here now son, go join the raft and wait for the tide.  And don't dilly-dally next time!"


A little further along you could look down in the middle of the wharf and see the rest of them snoozing, or honking.


We have seen a lot of seals in California.  I truly believe we have been given a gift.

 


There is a great site here telling you all about this beautiful animal.



Here is Gregg wearing his Bombay Hook hat.  He has had comments about it at various stops all along our route since leaving Virginia.  They always peer at the embroidered mosquito and look a bit puzzled.  He has fun with the conversations it starts.  (We are looking forward to another trip to Bombay Hook NWR very soon.)



This is Gregg's sister and her husband.  



Time to get back to the car and enjoy the rest of the day.


We stopped at a lighthouse next, or it may have been to watch the kite surfers.  Not sure of the sequence now but I will start with the lighthouse.



There is a major fund raising campaign to restore the lighthouse, which is crumbling due to its exposure to the elements over these many years.  It has been closed to the public since 2001. 



Gregg and his sister.



We walked towards the back of the lighthouse...




and the views were amazing.


This is a very pretty spot for gazing out at the ocean.




The lady in the red coat told me it was a great place for whale watching.



There is a hostel here also.  You can stay in one of four houses.  They have a wonderful display of healthy geraniums in front of one.



And other pretty flowers.



We also had a great time looking at the kite surfers when we went down to the beach.  


Gregg's sister and her husband have been to watched them several times, but had never seen this many before.  What I thought were tents on the beach turned out to be more kites.



It was certainly an impressive sight.


After this they took us to the Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay.  We were dressed very casually and a little concerned about our clothes, but we needn't have worried.  Apart from a large company party going on where everyone was dressed up in cocktail attire (you can see all the tables set up in the center of the photo below) everyone else was like us, and some wearing shorts like Gregg.  



On the far side of this photo there is a patio where we had to wait for a table.  By the time we sat down the sun was getting lower in the sky.  My sister-in-law ordered us each a glass of Prosecco, then another, and we also ate hors d'oeuvres.    


It is interesting to see the golf course. There were a few still playing.   



Gregg and his sister.



While walking to get a better view of the sunset, one of these went by.



The place is very interesting and there is, of course, more people watching, one of whom I recognized.  Hello Gregg!



My brother-in-law plays golf, neither of us do.



It was idyllic watching the sun go down, and to herald this event, a bagpiper.  I haven't heard a bagpiper at an event since we gave a party for a group of friends from Gregg's ship back in the 80s, and one of those friends brought his bagpipes.  He was an American with Scottish heritage, and an excellent piper.  We made sure our neighbors were aware as we had an inkling beforehand. He was great and the neighbors were okay with it, even told me how much they enjoyed hearing them.  We had a much bigger yard back in those days, the sound was diluted somewhat, but of course the pipes can carry a ways.  It also brings back memories of a bagpiper at a friend's wedding many, many sunsets ago, this being a few years before I met Gregg.  

 

So here we are hearing them again and it was marvelous.



We made sure we had photos taken with that beautiful golden orb as our backdrop.



We can rely on one constant in this world, the sun sets and a new day will rise.





I don't often mention the many sad events happening in the world.  I read about them daily, in the morning and at the end of the day.  The latest news of what went on in Manchester is heartbreaking.  My heart goes out to all those who were the victims of this terrible act, and to those families and friends who have lost loved ones.  I will never forget you, or any who have suffered because of this kind of conflict.