Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Big Sur, California

If you live in California and buy a new car, the only real way to celebrate and to break it in is to take to the winding roads of Highway 1 on the central coast.

As you snake above the sea cliffs, you might find yourself imagining you are racing through Monte Carlo; even better is when you remember where you are and what lies ahead.

As you twist along the rocky coast, North of San Simeon and South of Carmel you will find yourself in Big Sur, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Last week C and I did just that, to break in the Tesla and visit one of my favorite escapes. We set out to test the range and availability of charging stations, and fortunately found ourselves in good supply of electricity when needed.

As much as I hate to use the tired cliche, Big Sur truly is like no place on the planet. It is where the Redwood Forrest meats the Pacific Ocean, where the mountains really have crumbled to the sea. It is where the Beat Poets shared rowdy nights of drinking and found inspiration in the roaring of the sea, where Hunter S. Thompson and Henry Miller found much needed solitude. It is where you go to breathe, to really breathe, and the air has a delicious woodsy, salty, fogginess that simultaneously envelopes and invigorates you.

One of the southern most parks, Julia Pfeiffer Burns park, holds what is probably the most iconic view of Big Sur:

McWay Falls

There are many places to stay; we found that Big Sur campgrounds/RV park/ cabins fit our needs. (RV parks are a perfect place to recharge an electric car!) Here we cozied up in a small cabin nestled among the redwoods.


To the north, you can find the Point Lobos nature reserve, where you can spot otters frolicking in the sea (though you might need binoculars to see them).


Andrew Molera State Park has one of my all time favorite hikes. You can begin by taking a flat path across a creek, through a meadow to the sea shore. (A pair of fawns seemed to find that trail as lovely as we did.)


Once you reach the shore, you can hike for several miles through the bluffs and enjoy spectacular views. If you make a little detour off to the Spring Trail that will take you along a spring at the bottom of a canyon. If you discover a massive piling of driftwood that looks like this, climb over it. Trust me.

Once you get past it, you will find yourself alone on a secluded beach, where the crimson rocks from the mountains above have eroded onto the sand to create patches of purple sand, the likes of which can only be found in Big Sur.

After a long day of hiking (and it will be long if you complete that loop) the famed Nepenthe restaurant is a wonderful place to refuel and enjoy a glass of wine on the panoramic deck that overlooks the ocean. The fog had rolled in by the time we were dining, so rather than watching the sun dip into the Pacific, we watched the thick whipped cream of the clouds lick the cliffs below us–which in my opinion was an even more impressive view.

Just across the highway from Nepenthe is the Henry Miller Memorial Library, a beautiful garden/bookstore/homage to the bohemian lifestyle Big Sur has become known for. It is the perfect place to read, contemplate, and/or enjoy a cup of tea, where books hang from the ceiling and a fat, indifferent cat named Theo “does as he pleases.”

Contented sigh…

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Slainte, Dublin!

St. Patrick’s Day for me used to mean green beer, Irish car bomb shots, and walking home barefoot.
This year, not so much. 
But I do promise to drink a pint as I reflect on  the patron saint who brought Christianity to Ireland,  my own Irish heritage, and the beautiful town that was so good to me last Summer.
Here are some of the lovely sights of Dublin in June 2012:

Heh heh. That last one always gets the 13 year old in me.
Dublin, I will return to you, I promise.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Scenes from a Road Trip

So for the first weekend of January, we decided to go on a hiking trip through the national parks in Utah.
 We started in Zion and hiked the first two days. Being January and all, the hikes were far different than what most Summer vacationers experience. Here’s Cliff walking on the frozen over Emerald Pool. Notice the giant icicles hanging from the canyon wall?
Our first big hike was Angel’s Landing. We tried the first day, but couldn’t get far due to ice.
 After renting shoe spikes, we tried again the second day, only to have me freak out on the last ridge. What can I say, I am afraid of heights! This hike is not for the faint of heart; the part where I freaked out has sheer 1000 ft drops on either side. Here’s a pic looking up from the ground; as you can see, that’s a long fall…

That’s me at the point where I chickened out. You can kind of see how high up we are…
Thinking about it gives me anxiety, so here’s a sweet deer grazing in the woods that I saw that day…
So after 3 days, we packed up and move on to Bryce Canyon, where we came down with nasty colds. The hiking trip then turned into just a plain ol’, fun road trip. Maybe not as healthy as a week of intense hiking, but we still had some amazing adventures.
This is Bryce:

The picture quality isn’t so good because it was effing cold, and taking off my glove to touch my phone’s screen took a lot of effort. 
So we drove along Utah State Roads 24 and 95, pulling over often to take in the views. That route also closely follows the route that John Wesley Powell, the explorer, took, which was pretty cool. We were pretty much the only people on the road. At one point, we drove just under 100 miles without seeing a single soul on the road!
We drove down to Capital Reef National Park, which we had never heard of. 
We got the park pretty much to ourselves; really, we passed 3 guys leaving and never saw anyone else. 
It was awesome.

These parts of Utah really are desolate. We learned from road side information stands that this was the last part of the continental U.S. to be mapped. I can only imagine explorers looking down into what appears to be a vast wasteland and saying “Oh HELL no!”
But only to discover all sorts of canyons and rock formations that are unlike any other place on Earth.

This view from inside the car, coming up on Monument Valley, made me want to indulge in a marathon of old Westerns.
 We finally made our way down to Sedona, AZ, just in time for sunset and margaritas.
From Sedona we made our way back home, stopping in the small town of Salome to see Cliff’s dad. The drive from Sedona to L.A. wasn’t as picturesque, at least not after what we’d taken in all week.
Noted:
Desert Air in the winter is not pleasant for the respiratory system. I hope I never take for granted the soothing, humid air of a beach climate.
Hanksville, UT is not really a town, more of a wide spot in the road. Don’t ever stay the night there. Worse, don’t bother trying to find food.
Germans really dig our national parks. Most people we came across in any of the parks were foreigners, and most were German.

Scenes from a Road Trip

So for the first weekend of January, we decided to go on a hiking trip through the national parks in Utah.
 We started in Zion and hiked the first two days. Being January and all, the hikes were far different than what most Summer vacationers experience. Here’s Cliff walking on the frozen over Emerald Pool. Notice the giant icicles hanging from the canyon wall?
Our first big hike was Angel’s Landing. We tried the first day, but couldn’t get far due to ice.
 After renting shoe spikes, we tried again the second day, only to have me freak out on the last ridge. What can I say, I am afraid of heights! This hike is not for the faint of heart; the part where I freaked out has sheer 1000 ft drops on either side. Here’s a pic looking up from the ground; as you can see, that’s a long fall…

That’s me at the point where I chickened out. You can kind of see how high up we are…
Thinking about it gives me anxiety, so here’s a sweet deer grazing in the woods that I saw that day…
So after 3 days, we packed up and move on to Bryce Canyon, where we came down with nasty colds. The hiking trip then turned into just a plain ol’, fun road trip. Maybe not as healthy as a week of intense hiking, but we still had some amazing adventures.
This is Bryce:

The picture quality isn’t so good because it was effing cold, and taking off my glove to touch my phone’s screen took a lot of effort. 
So we drove along Utah State Roads 24 and 95, pulling over often to take in the views. That route also closely follows the route that John Wesley Powell, the explorer, took, which was pretty cool. We were pretty much the only people on the road. At one point, we drove just under 100 miles without seeing a single soul on the road!
We drove down to Capital Reef National Park, which we had never heard of. 
We got the park pretty much to ourselves; really, we passed 3 guys leaving and never saw anyone else. 
It was awesome.

These parts of Utah really are desolate. We learned from road side information stands that this was the last part of the continental U.S. to be mapped. I can only imagine explorers looking down into what appears to be a vast wasteland and saying “Oh HELL no!”
But only to discover all sorts of canyons and rock formations that are unlike any other place on Earth.

This view from inside the car, coming up on Monument Valley, made me want to indulge in a marathon of old Westerns.
 We finally made our way down to Sedona, AZ, just in time for sunset and margaritas.
From Sedona we made our way back home, stopping in the small town of Salome to see Cliff’s dad. The drive from Sedona to L.A. wasn’t as picturesque, at least not after what we’d taken in all week.
Noted:
Desert Air in the winter is not pleasant for the respiratory system. I hope I never take for granted the soothing, humid air of a beach climate.
Hanksville, UT is not really a town, more of a wide spot in the road. Don’t ever stay the night there. Worse, don’t bother trying to find food.
Germans really dig our national parks. Most people we came across in any of the parks were foreigners, and most were German.

Dispatch From Utah

Greetings from Bryce Canyon, where the boyfriend and I are holed up in a hotel room with nasty colds!

Fortunately we got out for a little while yesterday to experience the grandeur of the park. The snow dusted Hoodoos and pines are breath taking, and January really is a magnificent time to visit the park. If you take to some of the trails, you will share them with only a half- dozen or so German tourists.

We wanted to hike the trails down into the canyon, but a few minutes of walking uphill left the bf doubled over in coughing fits. The ole bronchitis– ain’t nobody got time for that!!

I’ll share more stories later about adventures in Zion.

A couple of days ago, when the nasty colds first kicked in, we decided to go into town to buy a humidifier, since the dry, heated air of the cabin in Zion was wrecking havoc on our throats. We found a super-sized Walmart on the outskirts of Hurricane, UT, and as we wandered through the aisles, we saw three young girls  dressed in full on Sister Wives Prairie garb, with pastel dresses to their necks and elaborate french braids. For reals!!
It was as if I had just discovered the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy raiding my liquor cabinet. I HAD to see more of them. So we tried our best to trail them inconspicuously, and caught up with them in the pharmacy section; while we evaluated cough drops, they met up with Mother (that’s what they called her) who was looking at travel sized medicines.
Curioser and curioser.

I so wanted to snap a picture, but I felt it wrong. So instead, here’s a picture from the internets that is extremely close to how they looked:

Two of them were quite young, maybe 7-9 years old!
Also, do you remember Scrunchies? Well, people use them here in Utah. I hadn’t seen one in LA or OC since 1998. But the scrunchie is alive and thriving in Utah. Good to know. 

Oh, 2012…

One of my favorite things about New Year’s Eve is that it forces you, if at least momentarily, to reflect on the year you are finishing. Some years I have cringed at the memories I was leaving behind (ugh, 2009 and 2010) but this is one of those years where I can’t help but grin as I think back. I don’t mean to brag, especially since I know a lot of people who had a tough year, but as far as I am concerned, 2012 was effing awesome.

I don’t want to bore anyone by listing the year month by month or anything, so here’s a sort of random compiling of categories to help me remember this year:

New skills I learned (or at least tried):
 Sailing– took classes at a community college and learned some fundamentals on small Lido boats; saw how it all works on a 50 ft boat in May off the coast of Mallorca. Planning to continue my sailing education.

Cheese making– I feel I have mastered making mozzarella and goat cheese. The cheddar, parmesean, and gouda I tried really sucked, but now with more kitchen space and better equipment, I plan to try again this winter.

Gardening– I have several hanging and potted plants on the balcony. Some have died and been replaced, some are still going strong. At the moment they are all living and thriving, but I want to learn more about how to keep that happening, and how to start a vegetable garden in the back yard.

Teaching a writing course that included more literary analysis– I feel like that went better than expected. I copied my colleague Beth and started assigning Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw There in my English 101 courses, and since I did, the classes and assignments are so much more fun. At a time when I was feeling discouraged and burned out about teaching, it’s shown me just how awesome my job can be.

Teaching an Upper-Division Course: When Beth and I got the opportunity to co-teach a course for undergrads and grad students who work in our writing center, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. It ended up being such a positive experience, though.

New Year’s Resolution, and did I keep it:
 To make my bed every day. In the parts of the year where I lived alone, yes. But once I moved in with Cliff it became nearly impossible since he’s usually in bed when I am leaving for work.

Favorite television show:
Hands down, The Walking Dead. I am obsessed. So obsessed that Cliff bought me a Katana for Christmas.

Road Trips:
Joshua Tree in March, Phoenix/ Tempe in November, Bakersfield in December

Best Meals:
Beef Tartare in Paris
Traditional Mayan food in Xela, Guatemala
The yogurt, fruit, granola and honey breakfast we kept ordering at Hotel Modelo in Xela, Guatemala
Christmas Eve tamales
Cedar Plank salmon that Cliff and I grilled up
Filet Mignon with bleu cheese crust at Ruth’s Chris

Best drink:
ginger margaritas at Rip Jack Inn in Costa Rica

Books read:
Middlesex, The Hunger Games trilogy, Just Kids, Big Sur, Lamb, Medium Raw, The End of Something, A Moveable Feast, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Paris Wife

Books I started, didn’t finish, but will come back to:
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Bitter Fruit, and Blindness

Scariest moment:
Zip lining in Costa Rica and braking too early so that I was stuck on the line and had to pull myself long to the platform. I actually still have nightmares about zip lining.
Moment that should have been scary but really wasn’t:
Falling out of the raft and being swept down the rapids (also in Costa Rica)

Memories that will ALWAYS make me smile:
-playing hop scotch and “Salta!” with the preschoolers in Guatemala, and little Roxanna Michaela showing me the stash of chalk she had hidden in the folds of her traditional skirt.

-finding Shakespeare and Co. in Paris in the pouring rain– we got lost and combed the streets for hours looking for it

-The cats that hung out on the bar in Costa Rica
-The bartender at The Liberty Bounds pub in London who was excited that I was from Huntington Beach. He said that when he was younger, he and his friends would practice their California surfer accent, much the way I’ve tried a British accent.
-Cliff presenting me with a leopard print key to his house
– Getting hammered with my brother at The Bruery’s St. Patrick’s Day bash
-Dinners with my family

Biggest Physical Accomplishment:
Hiking to the summit of Mount Baldy

Memory that makes me Proud of Myself:
Making friends with strangers in Dublin. I had always been afraid of traveling alone, but when I got to Dublin I discovered that I wasn’t staying with a friend and had to experience the city on my own. I cried for a short while, but then I got myself a bus pass and a map, and went exploring. I chatted with all sorts of people and surprised myself with what a good time I could have. A few times I found myself lost outside of the city due to my poor understanding of the bus table, but it all worked out, and I always found my way, eventually.

Places I traveled to (internationally):
Costa Rica (Arenal and then Playa Grande), Amsterdam (for a few hours– enough time to visit coffee shops & the red light district, and to get some pommes frites), Mallorca, Guatemala (Xela, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua), Dublin, London, and Paris.

Things I kind of Sucked at:
-Keeping some plants alive
-Saving money
-Speaking Spanish
-Zip Lining
-Tying bowline knots
– Not dwelling on negativity when I should know better
– Keeping up with everyone in Vegas. I am not the drinker I used to be!

The Best Change of 2012:
Every day I come home to my best friend.

Resolutions for 2013:
Do more yoga
Stay in better communication with friends and family
Write more

2013, you’ve got a lot of awesomeness to compete with, but I have faith in you.
I can already tell that this year is going to be amazing, and we’ll be ringing it in at the W Hotel in Hollywood tonight.
CAN’T WAIT!
Cheers, everyone!

Oh, 2012…

One of my favorite things about New Year’s Eve is that it forces you, if at least momentarily, to reflect on the year you are finishing. Some years I have cringed at the memories I was leaving behind (ugh, 2009 and 2010) but this is one of those years where I can’t help but grin as I think back. I don’t mean to brag, especially since I know a lot of people who had a tough year, but as far as I am concerned, 2012 was effing awesome.

I don’t want to bore anyone by listing the year month by month or anything, so here’s a sort of random compiling of categories to help me remember this year:

New skills I learned (or at least tried):
 Sailing– took classes at a community college and learned some fundamentals on small Lido boats; saw how it all works on a 50 ft boat in May off the coast of Mallorca. Planning to continue my sailing education.

Cheese making– I feel I have mastered making mozzarella and goat cheese. The cheddar, parmesean, and gouda I tried really sucked, but now with more kitchen space and better equipment, I plan to try again this winter.

Gardening– I have several hanging and potted plants on the balcony. Some have died and been replaced, some are still going strong. At the moment they are all living and thriving, but I want to learn more about how to keep that happening, and how to start a vegetable garden in the back yard.

Teaching a writing course that included more literary analysis– I feel like that went better than expected. I copied my colleague Beth and started assigning Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw There in my English 101 courses, and since I did, the classes and assignments are so much more fun. At a time when I was feeling discouraged and burned out about teaching, it’s shown me just how awesome my job can be.

Teaching an Upper-Division Course: When Beth and I got the opportunity to co-teach a course for undergrads and grad students who work in our writing center, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. It ended up being such a positive experience, though.

New Year’s Resolution, and did I keep it:
 To make my bed every day. In the parts of the year where I lived alone, yes. But once I moved in with Cliff it became nearly impossible since he’s usually in bed when I am leaving for work.

Favorite television show:
Hands down, The Walking Dead. I am obsessed. So obsessed that Cliff bought me a Katana for Christmas.

Road Trips:
Joshua Tree in March, Phoenix/ Tempe in November, Bakersfield in December

Best Meals:
Beef Tartare in Paris
Traditional Mayan food in Xela, Guatemala
The yogurt, fruit, granola and honey breakfast we kept ordering at Hotel Modelo in Xela, Guatemala
Christmas Eve tamales
Cedar Plank salmon that Cliff and I grilled up
Filet Mignon with bleu cheese crust at Ruth’s Chris

Best drink:
ginger margaritas at Rip Jack Inn in Costa Rica

Books read:
Middlesex, The Hunger Games trilogy, Just Kids, Big Sur, Lamb, Medium Raw, The End of Something, A Moveable Feast, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Paris Wife

Books I started, didn’t finish, but will come back to:
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Bitter Fruit, and Blindness

Scariest moment:
Zip lining in Costa Rica and braking too early so that I was stuck on the line and had to pull myself long to the platform. I actually still have nightmares about zip lining.
Moment that should have been scary but really wasn’t:
Falling out of the raft and being swept down the rapids (also in Costa Rica)

Memories that will ALWAYS make me smile:
-playing hop scotch and “Salta!” with the preschoolers in Guatemala, and little Roxanna Michaela showing me the stash of chalk she had hidden in the folds of her traditional skirt.

-finding Shakespeare and Co. in Paris in the pouring rain– we got lost and combed the streets for hours looking for it

-The cats that hung out on the bar in Costa Rica
-The bartender at The Liberty Bounds pub in London who was excited that I was from Huntington Beach. He said that when he was younger, he and his friends would practice their California surfer accent, much the way I’ve tried a British accent.
-Cliff presenting me with a leopard print key to his house
– Getting hammered with my brother at The Bruery’s St. Patrick’s Day bash
-Dinners with my family

Biggest Physical Accomplishment:
Hiking to the summit of Mount Baldy

Memory that makes me Proud of Myself:
Making friends with strangers in Dublin. I had always been afraid of traveling alone, but when I got to Dublin I discovered that I wasn’t staying with a friend and had to experience the city on my own. I cried for a short while, but then I got myself a bus pass and a map, and went exploring. I chatted with all sorts of people and surprised myself with what a good time I could have. A few times I found myself lost outside of the city due to my poor understanding of the bus table, but it all worked out, and I always found my way, eventually.

Places I traveled to (internationally):
Costa Rica (Arenal and then Playa Grande), Amsterdam (for a few hours– enough time to visit coffee shops & the red light district, and to get some pommes frites), Mallorca, Guatemala (Xela, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua), Dublin, London, and Paris.

Things I kind of Sucked at:
-Keeping some plants alive
-Saving money
-Speaking Spanish
-Zip Lining
-Tying bowline knots
– Not dwelling on negativity when I should know better
– Keeping up with everyone in Vegas. I am not the drinker I used to be!

The Best Change of 2012:
Every day I come home to my best friend.

Resolutions for 2013:
Do more yoga
Stay in better communication with friends and family
Write more

2013, you’ve got a lot of awesomeness to compete with, but I have faith in you.
I can already tell that this year is going to be amazing, and we’ll be ringing it in at the W Hotel in Hollywood tonight.
CAN’T WAIT!
Cheers, everyone!