Photo of the Crepevine restaurant in Palo Alto

Crepevine in Palo Alto

After our brisk walk in the Coyote Hills, which we’ll tell you about in the next post, it was time to find somewhere to eat. Palo Alto, being just on the other side of the Dumbarton Bridge, seemed the ideal place, so that’s the direction we headed in. On University, we passed a couple of coffee houses but we were looking for food. Opposite the CVS drugstore ,we saw Crepevine. We have been to Crepevine on Irvine St. in San Francisco several times and loved it. As soon as we walked in, we found it to be a twin sister of the one in the city.

The procedure here is to order at the counter, then be led to a table by a server clutching a metal stand with a number on it, and wait to be served. There was a line which gave us time to peruse the menu. Not only were we handed a menu but everything was written up on half a dozen blackboards above the counter. The writing and decoration on the boards were pure art all on their own.

Tom ordered the Provence Scramble ($10.50), which came with potatoes and toast. Although oatmeal appeared on the menu, I went for the Milano Crepe ($9.95), with salad instead of the potatoes or French Fries. To drink, Tom had black coffee ($1.95) and for me a one shot Cafe Latte ($2.25).

Our table was on the side. A long padded bench ran down the wall. As soon as I sat down, I took out my iPad and started writing but, when the food came, I had to stop because the table was so small. In fact, all of the tables were small. It would have been better to have sat in a booth but of course they were being kept for parties of four.

The food looked amazing. My crepe was large, plump, folded into four and with the filling oozing out. There was plenty of the salad but I could have done without the dressing it was smothered in. Next time I will remember to ask for the dressing on the side. Our food was served on large, round plates and the smallness of the table became a problem once again. In the middle of the table sat a caddy holding the condiments, which meant our plates were hanging over the edge of the table. By moving the caddy to the side, I made just enough room for our plates. Whilst I’m moaning I will also mention that the padded bench was very low and the table seemed too high for me. Tom, who was sitting on an ordinary chair, didn’t have the same problem.

Tom’s scramble contained fresh salmon (smoked salmon was an option), spinach, onions and cheese and plenty of it. He did enjoy it. Coffee was pretty good; at least it was better than the usual swill. My crepe was filled to the brim with grilled eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese and was delicious. Didn’t think I would be able to eat it all but I very nearly did.  All that was left on my plate was some of the salad and that was only because of the dressing.

The restrooms were at the back. Inside the ladies, it was large and multi functional in that it was suitable for wheelchair users and there were baby changing facilities. There was no art as such but there were a dozen toilet rolls artistically arranged on a glass shelf and a can of air freshener lying at an angle on the floor. No complaints about anything though as the water was hot and everything looked clean.

Would Tom and I go there again? The answer is yes. It was a very enjoyable experience (apart from the minor moans mentioned).

367 University ave
Palo Alto, CA. 94301

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One of many murals in the Mission district of San Francisco

One of many murals in the Mission district of San Francisco

This was my first real visit to the Mission district and it was quite an eye opener.

We headed to Folsom and 24th Street, which is pretty much the center of the Mission. Parking was really difficult. All of the off street parking was taken by residents but there were a few spaces at parking meters. In the end we parked in one of them but got a happy surprise when we found out that on Sunday you get four hours for free.

We had read that there were a lot of murals in the Mission and indeed there was one right next to our car. The hand painted sign made me smile: ‘Vanilising of murals is not cool’. This is a paraphrase of the actual message but the spelling is correct. (I should have asked Tom to take a photo of it but forgot to ask when we got back to the car.) As we were studying, it a local resident walking by told us that there were some newish murals on Lilac behind MacDonald’s. We thanked him and starting walking west to check them out.

The Mission neighborhood is a mix of many cultures.  Spanish is predominant with a mix of Hispanic and other Central and South American countries. it doesn’t look like the best area in town, with its down at heel appearance and metal grills over most of the businesses. Only the coffee shops seemed to be open and few people were around. As we walked along we paused at many murals; all of which were colorful. Here is another quote from one of them – “Only when the last tree is cut down and the last river has dried up will man realize that you can’t eat money.”

Lilac Street is between Capp Street and Mission Street

Lilac Street is really an alley between Capp Street and Mission Street

Lilac Street is between Capp Street and Mission Street but is more like an alley because it is really narrow and runs between the backs of businesses and apartment blocks with garages onto the street. Nearly every building, door and wall had a mural of some sort on it. We walked the length of the block to 24th Street looking at them all. These murals did not depict rural scenes or recognizable parts of the Mission but I would describe them as modern artistic graffiti.They were eye-catching and vibrant but not quite to our taste.

We walked back down 24th. Slowly the neighborhood was waking up. Behind some of the grills, especially the restaurants, we could see activity. In one a load of pale chicken was beginning to heat up on the grill and in another someone was putting liners in the trash cans.

More murals on Balmy St. This was Margaret's favorite.

More murals on Balmy St. This was Margaret’s favorite.

We found another alley of murals between Treat Avenue and Harrison Street on Balmy Street. These were far more interesting to us as they were not only older but depicted real scenes and understandable  pictures. I could actually look at most of them and understand not only what they represented but what they were saying. I could appreciate the humor that was obvious in a few but had to studied closely to find it in others. Though there was some humor, the main messages that came across were: oppression and revolution. Once again they were all colorful and vibrant but, most of all, original. There were two I particularly liked, both showing scenes in the Mission. One was of a huge robot which looked like apartment buildings and the other with a policeman and wealthy lady in the bottom right corner and a homeless man in the bottom left corner.

One of older murals. A little worn around the edges but still colorful.

One of older murals. A little worn around the edges but still colorful.

We continued walking east on 24th and came to a grocery store with an array of fruit and vegetables displayed outside. Seeing all the fruit reminded me that we needed grapes so we ventured inside. I was amazed at the amount and variety of goods inside, including a whole range of meats. At first I couldn’t see any grapes but after walking around the whole fresh produce section we discovered three types to choose from. Back outside we walked up to Alabama Street before crossing over and walking back down the other side. In one window of a taqueria I spotted a mound of large plastic bags but had no idea what they contained. Tom told me it was pig skin, which doesn’t sound very appetizing at all, but on reflection it must be a variation of crackling, which is really good. Thank goodness the restaurant was not open otherwise I might have been tempted to try it out.

One of the great markets along 24th St. in the Mission District of San Francisco

One of the great markets along 24th St. in the Mission District of San Francisco

On the corner of 24th and Harrison we stepped into Bello Coffee and Tea. Although Tom had coffee with his breakfast it didn’t hit the spot and this place simply appealed to us. Inside it was warm and inviting. Immediately on the left is an electronic roaster – great, fresh coffee. The pastries looked good but the huge breakfast we had consumed three hours before prevented us from feeling hungry enough to try any of them out. Tom ordered a straight black coffee and I asked for a green tea latte. They didn’t have the powder mix that Starbucks use (thank goodness) but offered to make it using a special blend of green tea. We could have sat outside in the sunshine but I needed a table to put my iPad on so I could type so we stayed inside. There were several tables to chose from and the chairs were very comfortable. Tom took a sip of his coffee and immediately his eyes lit up. He had finally found a coffee that equaled Peet’s and Bello’s coffee might even have the edge on Peet’s. He was one happy man. My green tea latte was unusual but very tasty. We spent a happy half hour there. Before we left, Tom bought a pound of their French Roast beans to take home. I told him it was a long way to come to buy his coffee in the future.

As we walked the short distance back to our car, we noticed that most of the grills were down and there were lots of people now on the streets. The Mission was awake and humming. We discussed whether or not to go home. In the end, we decided to at least go and see the actual mission which the neighborhood was named after. The Mission Dolores  is on D0lores and 16th Street so we drove west on 24th, right on Guerrero Street and west again on 16th St. The mission was founded in 1776 and is the oldest building in San Francisco. Next to it is the larger, more impressive basilica which was  completed in 1918. We would have liked to stop and take a look around, especially at the garden of the old mission, but once again parking proved to be a problem. Maybe another day.

The San Francisco skyline from Corona Heights

The San Francisco skyline from Corona Heights

Back on 16th the object was to make our way home but at the junction with Market Street I looked up and saw a strange rock formation on top of a hill. We were stopped at traffic lights so had time to notice that there were people up there. I got the map out and discovered the hill is called Corona Heights. We felt the urge to investigate so we went straight across Market and made our way to Flint Street. As we were on the slopes of the hill, the roads were very steep and a lot of them were dead ends. Once again parking posed a problem but our luck was in when we reached Flint Street where we found the perfect parking spot not far from one of the paths to the top.

It was a lovely day to climb to the top of Corona Heights. We walked passed tennis courts and a large building, which I later discovered is called Randall Museum. The path up hill was very steep but the views were worth it. Just before a flight of steps we stopped at a bench which we took advantage of. The view in front us was amazing. We were looking east  over the bay towards Oakland. Mount Diablo was clearly visible away in the distance. Down below we could see the city to the right and straight in front we looked down on the Mission District with a good view of the old mission and basilica. The flight of steps was long – roughly 180 of them – and very steep. In parts the path ran out and we were walking over rocks. Of course we stopped often to admire the view, heaven forbid that anyone would think we were pausing to take breath! Eventually we make our way right to the rock formations at the top and the view was almost 36o degrees. Only the trees on the ridge to the west prevented us from seeing the ocean. To the south we could see Twin Peaks and the Sutro Tower.

When we had our fill of the view and sitting in the sunshine, we made our way downhill to the car and wended our way home. It was the end of another perfect day.

The Mission District in San Francisco


Neighborhoods, Special Places 2 Responses so far

Gallardo's Mexican Restaurant

Gallardo’s Mexican Restaurant in the Mission

Here we are in the Mission district in San Francisco and hungry for breakfast. As the Mission has a lot of Mexican restaurants, Tom had a hankering for Mexican food.

From the outside, Gallardo’s does not look that exciting and I was reluctant to give it a try but Tom said the reviews were good so we ventured inside. Granted it was 7.30 on a Sunday morning but there was only one other customer inside. I wasn’t sure there would be anything I would like to eat – remember my preference is for oatmeal – so I asked if I could look at the menu first (there was not one posted outside). The one and only server was very friendly and was happy for me to look at the menu. There were obviously a lot of Mexican dishes, like scrambled eggs and cacti, but, lo and behold, they had oatmeal. That was good enough for me, so we decided to stay and try it out.

The server said we could sit anywhere we liked. It is large restaurant and the tables are large too. We chose a table in the L-shape section. On top of each table is a thick sheet of glass. The chairs at our table were wooden but most of the chairs were metal with padded seats which would have been more comfortable I’m sure.

After a great deal of deliberation Tom chose the Pozole. He could chose between a large or a small bowl; he chose the large ($8) plus a serving of tortillas. My choice, of course, was oatmeal ($3.50).  I could have had bananas to go with it but declined. To drink Tom had coffee ($1.50) and I had fresh orange juice ($3.50).

As it was a Mexican restaurant, you would expect the decor to be Spanish with brightly colored artifacts displayed. Here it is not like that. Instead there are large black and white photographs from Mexican movies of the 40’s and 50’s. Of course we didn’t recognize any of the actors.

We were amazed when the food arrived. Both the Pozole and the oatmeal came in huge round bowls. Tom’s dish came with several side plates – one containing shredded cabbage, chopped radishes and sour cream; another with chopped onions, chopped parsley and quarters of limes; a small bowl of chopped sage and last, but not least, three tortillas. The Pozole consisted of a tomato based broth with big chunks of pork (some still on the bone) and hominy. My oatmeal already had the milk added and it came with toast. The orange juice came in a large glass. I knew it was really fresh because I had just seen our server juicing the oranges.

We got stuck in. Both dishes were hot, filling and delicious but neither of us could finish our meal as there was just too much. We knew lunch could be skipped as we had  had enough food to last us until dinner time. My oatmeal had a flavor to it but I wasn’t quite sure what it was. When the server cleared our dishes I asked her what it was and her answer put me off a bit as she said it came from a packet and the flavor was cinnamon. I’m very much against processed food and certainly would not have had it if I’d known it was instant.

Before we left, I had to visit the restroom of course. At least there were two restrooms here – one for men and one for women. Inside it was your standard multi purpose restroom which was suitable for wheelchairs as well. It was clean and functional with the added touches of a large artificial tree in a pot with very dusty leaves and a carved wooden and painted brightly colored flower.

With our check came two candies – a Tootsie Roll and a mini Crunch bar. We certainly couldn’t eat them there and then but I put them in my pack just in case we did get peckish later.

Our final verdict is that we would only go back if Tom wanted Pozole again as he was very impressed. If I had not known that the oatmeal was instant I would be raving about it too. All in all though I am very glad that we did decide to stay and eat there because on the whole we liked it.

Gallardo’s Mexican Restaurant
1807 Folsom St
(between 15th St & 14th St)
San Francisco, CA 94103

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Crystal Springs on a beautiful morning

Crystal Springs on a beautiful morning

Today is our first trip out this year. It is a cold and frosty January morning and we are heading for the coast. Normally we would get there by driving over the mountains towards Santa Cruz on Highway 17 but decided to drive north and take Highway 92 towards Half Moon Bay because not only is it a shorter journey through the mountains but the pass is lower and less likely to be icy.

(Click on the photos for larger versions.)

Even though it is 32 degrees outside, the sun is shining. We are expecting it to be cold and maybe even foggy at the coast but we have dressed appropriately in layers with extra jackets, etc in the trunk.

We have no set destination in mind; it depends on where the fancy takes us. It is such a long time since we saw the ocean that just seeing, hearing and smelling it will satisfy us. There is a warning out about sleeper waves – several people have been swept away by huge rogue waves – so we will not be getting too close to the water’s edge.

Driving on 280 just north of Palo Alto, the temperature dropped to 30 outside. Thank goodness it is not raining as it would be falling as snow. Exiting 280 to 92 we encountered a thick layer of low lying fog across Crystal Springs. Tom couldn’t resist stopping to take a photo. It did look beautiful with the sun shining above the fog and the white, frosty grass on the ground.

Entering Half Moon Bay it was bright and sunny with no trace of fog at all. Not only that, the temperature had risen to 36. We ate before we left home this morning so no breakfast blog this time. Tom didn’t have any coffee though so we stopped off at the Half Moon Bay Coffee Company for a coffee and hot chocolate.

Refreshed, we set off again driving south. The ocean was near and after a few miles we could see it. It looked magnificent, glittering in the early morning sunshine. The water was calm and there were no white caps to be seen.

Pigeon Point lighthouse

Pigeon Point lighthouse

We passed San Gregorio beach. There was only one car in the car park and an awful lot of driftwood on the beach which had been washed up by the recent winter storms. Pomponio, Pescadero and Bean Hollow beaches were also by-passed They all tempted us and were worthy of a visit but we had decided to make our next stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Before long we saw the lighthouse in front of us and turned right on Pigeon Point Road. There have been a few changes since we were last here. The car park was been enlarged and the porta potty is no longer there but it had been replaced with a much better outhouse. We made our way to the deck at the back of the lighthouse where my second favorite bench is. This is a really good secluded spot to sit and look at the view and a prime place to spot whales. At this time of the year the  whales are swimming south and they some way offshore.  With the ocean so calm I thought I might spot whale spouts on the horizon and I was armed with my binoculars just in case. I spent a happy half hour in the sunshine and enjoyed watching the surf breaking over the many rocky outcrops just off Pigeon Point and the one lone pelican skimming the surface of the water. No whale spouts to be seen though. I became quite warm sitting there I even took my jacket off. Both of us may even have got a touch of sunburn!

Path down to Franklin Point

Path down to Franklin Point. Our favorite spot along the San Mateo Coast.

On to our favorite spot – Franklin Point. Even though we did not really plan where we were going, somehow I knew we would end up here. The place draws us because it is unique. Normally we drive north from Santa Cruz and it is easy to find but driving south from Half Moon Bay we were not too sure. Everything looked different plus the old tree stump which marked the beginning of the trail fell down a few years ago and there are no signs at all for Franklin Point. Once on the trail though I recognized it. It felt good to retrace my steps down the familiar path, wondering what the changes would be since our last visit a year ago.

First thing I noticed was that the old tree stump is now covered by shrubbery with just the bottom exposed. The second thing were the number of stinging nettles growing along the edge of the path. There have been times when we couldn’t get down the trail at this time of the year due to   one section being flooded after heavy rain. A few years ago a couple of short board walks were been put down and it is easy to get through. One thing is always different each time we come and that is where the path actually meets the beach. On this visit the sand was a bit wet and much lower than last time, in as much we didn’t have to scramble down onto the beach.

The beach was deserted, although I did pass one couple on the trail making their way back to the road. I stood for a while just drinking in the view, as I do every time. It felt so good to be back. Slowly I ambled along the beach but staying on the dry sand. Up on Franklin Point I could see my favorite bench and made my way towards it. At one point the waves came too close to the shore to get past  safely but fortunately there is a trail over the bluff which led straight to the boardwalk, which in turn led to the bench.

Franklin Point

A young couple about as far out as you can get at Franklin Point.

I had the bench all to myself for about ten minutes before Tom arrived. I watched a young couple down on the beach scramble over the rocks to get past the point which I decided not to walk round. They were obviously heading for the bench as well and sure enough they turned up about five minutes later. Tom had spoken to them earlier down on the beach. We chatted with them for bit and then they climbed off the deck and made their way as far as they could over the rocks. At one point they called out to us as they indicated a couple of seals bobbing along just offshore.

It was so relaxing sitting on that bench. I spent the time trying to write but, inexplicably, my eyes were drawn to the view. Off to the north I could see the lighthouse; nearer the waves rolling onto the beach were mesmerizing and straight in front the surf broke over the rocks and the spray exploded into the air. Tom and I chatted now and again and we agreed that we were in a perfect spot.

Eventually we made our way back to the car. Nobody else was on the beach at all. We decided to drive into Pescardero, where we bought artichoke and garlic bread fresh from the oven at Arcangeli Grocery Company and goat cheese from Harley Farms. We sat outside in the car enjoying our picnic lunch of bread and cheese while enjoying the view of a swathe of mustard growing in a field and gazing at the goats in the paddock. Then we took the scenic route home through La Honda up to Skyline and then through Woodside back to 280. Once again we enjoyed another perfect day.

Special Places 7 Responses so far

Jan 15

UK Road Trip

Blenheim Palace

Tom and I spent Christmas in the UK. I fully intended to write every day while we were away but most of the time I was driving and the rest of the time we spent with family.

We took a week long road trip while we were there and Tom saw some parts of England he had never seen before. On the first day of our road trip, we drove from Reading to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Unfortunately the palace itself was closed but we took a walk around the large lake. That evening we stayed at the Falklands Arms, which was built in the 16th century, and is situated in the quaint village of Great Tew. The next day we drove up to Nottingham. We tried very hard to make our way on the back roads but somehow each road seemed to lead to the M1. In the end we just took the M1 north because we were wasting so much time. There is not too much to say about Nottingham because once we found a hotel we didn’t stir outside the front door until the next morning.

On Wednesday we drove to Pickering in Yorkshire for a brief stop before driving over the North Yorkshire Moors – a remote and wild area – to Kirkby Mills where we stayed one night at Brickfields Farm Bed & Breakfast. This was the best B&B we have ever stayed in – the room was wonderful and the breakfast was to die for. Our journey on Thursday took us through Thirsk to Ripon and then on to Skipton. Here we stayed in a B&B within walking distance of the town center. It was pouring rain but that didn’t stop us taking the walk and enjoying a pint at the Woolly Sheep Inn.

We loved Liverpool

The next day we made our way from Yorkshire to Lancashire. We headed to Southport where my daughter and son-in-law now live. Before going to see them in the evening, we set out to find our B&B in Scarisbrick where we would be staying for the next two nights. The landlady at the B&B had given me instructions but we found ourselves lost in a remote area where the only roads were muddy tracks with huge potholes filled with water. It took us half an hour to find the right road before eventually finding our way to the B&B.

Saturday Lizzie and Ric took us to Liverpool for the day. We had particularly requested to visit there because we’d heard there was so much to see and, of course, it is the home of The Beatles. We spent a marvellous day looking at old docks, the refurbished Albert Dock, St. George’s Hall, the Cavern Club, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and John Lennon’s house and – the cherry on the top – Eleanor Rigby’s grave.

On the Sunday we began to make our way further south but first we had to visit the historic city of Chester. I spent some time in Chester when I was a child because an aunt of mine lived there. The city is very old and has hardly changed since I was last there in the 1970’s. It is possible to walk all round the city up on the city walls, which were built by the Romans 2,000 years ago. It has a nice shopping center which was heaving with Christmas shoppers when we visited.

Chester. We could have spent a couple days here. An amazing city.

That evening we spent in Hereford. Once again, we didn’t have any time to explore the area and next morning we were up bright and early to make our way back to Reading. The UK had an awful lot of rain while we were there and the south west was particularly affected. As we traveled from Hereford to the M4 around the Gloucester area we could see all the fields were under water and only the hedges round the edges could be seen. When we arrived that night at our hotel in Winnersh, the car park was completely flooded and we had to park in a temporary car park.

All in all, we had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed two Christmas dinners – one in Southport and one in Winnersh. Even though we experienced a lot of rain, it in no way dampened our spirits or hampered our travels.  Although Tom has now seen some new areas, there is still so much for him to see. So far we have not touched Scotland or Ireland and both are high on our list.


Further Afield, Special Places One Response so far

Pescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach

This morning we overslept and didn’t get away as early we wanted to. The drive over the Santa Cruz mountains was as beautiful as ever. Our destination today is Pescadero State Beach. In November, 2009 we did a post on some of San Mateo beaches between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay and said in it that Pescadero State Beach deserved a post all to itself. In January 2010 we wrote a post on the northern part of Pescadero State Beach so today was the day we decided to do the rest. The sun was shining brightly when we left San Jose but we hit fog as we descended from the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains. We stopped at a great little place in Santa Cruz for breakfast.

Click on the photos for a larger version.

Driving north up Highway 1 towards Half Moon Bay, we were in fog most of the way. We couldn’t even see Pigeon Point Lighthouse when we drove past. Of course we wondered whether we would see anything at all when we got to Pescadero beach but we were optimistic. The further north we drove the lighter the fog became. As we passed Bean Hollow Beach we actually saw not only the ocean but patches of blue sky.

There are three car parks at Pescadero State Beach along the mile long, sandy beach and we parked in the southernmost one, which is right opposite the turnoff to Pescadero. It was still a bit foggy but looked to be clearing up. We walked down some steps onto a small peninsula. The tide was high and the water was choppy. Looking south I spotted a couple of surfers out on the ocean and I stopped to watch them for a while. They managed to catch a few big waves and they made the most of them, weaving and turning until the energy of the wave died down. Then they were off again, paddling to get back to catch the next big one. I thought about something Tom told me only this morning about great white sharks and the fact that at this time of  the year they congregate between Monterey Bay and Bodega Bay, so I hoped there were none nearby for the surfers sake.

Pescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach

I looked to the north and down onto a sandy beach. I noticed more steps leading down to the beach and off I went exploring. Beaches always fascinate me because there is so much to see – shells, different colored stones, driftwood and washed up vegetation. On this beach were balancing stones and dried seaweed with looked as though they had been laid out in spiral designs but they may well have been washed up the beach like that. There were no washed up logs or a convenient rock to sit on so I stood contentedly on the beach and watched the waves break and the surf wash in. I walked back up the beach to the bluffs. Here there were huge rocks embedded in soil and further along the sandstone rocks looked as if they had been sculptured. One such sculpture looked just like a human head, with the brow and nose clearly defined (see below).

Flock of sanderlings at Pescadero State Beach

Flock of sanderlings at Pescadero State Beach

I rounded a small headland to another beach and spotted a gull pecking at something on the beach. Originally I thought it was a crab which he was trying to get into but when the gull gave up and walked away, I noticed that it was a rather plump starfish. It wasn’t moving at all but I gently moved it with my foot to the edge of the surf just in case it was playing dead. Further along the beach I came across a flock of sanderlings. These birds are a pleasure to watch as they race down the beach chasing the outgoing surf and then racing back back when the surf comes. They looked like a group of little children playing a game on the beach and having fun. I even imagined them whooping for joy as they managed to avoid getting their feet wet. But of course they are not playing because every so often they paused to dig for food in the sand. Suddenly they took off all at once and weaved and turned in the air before landing again on the beach further up and resuming their manic dashing around. We reached another small headland but the tide was too high to carry on so we turned back. I checked to see if the starfish was still on the beach but it had disappeared. I like to think the tide had come in and it had managed to get back to safety.

Rock face at Pescadero State Beach

Rock face at Pescadero State Beach

We discovered another stairway which led back to a different section of the car park. I had visions of having to walk along Highway 1 to get round the headland but then I noticed a pathway leading across the top of the bluffs. It was an unusual path and, for some it reason, reminded me of the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz. The path twisted and turned and at one point ran alongside the road. A group of cyclists passed and most of them smiled and several of them even called out a greeting. They looked as though they weren’t out just for a ride because they had packed saddle bags so obviously they were travelling some way down the coast. The path took us to the northern end of the car park.

Here we found some more steps down to beach. A group of California Gulls were gathered on the beach a short distance away but amongst them were a few different gulls. They were darker in color and had red bills. I had no idea what they were but later discovered they were Heermann’s Gulls. In the distance, on another headland, I spotted a bench. Most of you know by now how I am drawn to benches, especially benches with a view, so I naturally made a beeline for it. This was a rather peculiar bench as it was quite high. When I sat on it my feet hardly touched the ground and I have long legs. It was a nice bench to sit on though and it gave me an opportunity to try and catch up with my note taking but there was a problem. The fog had almost gone and the sun was shining brightly which made it difficult to see the the screen on my iPad. I was distracted from my efforts to write by voices. Tom was chatting away to a man, who then came to join me at the bench. It turned out he was another expat from the UK. He was born and raised in Lyme Regis, which is on the south coast. He now lives in Vancouver and the last couple of years he has spent his vacations exploring Highway 1. On this trip he is concentrating on the section from Monterey to San Francisco, which to my mind is the best section. On his next trip he will do the section north of San Francisco.

Lone fisherman at Pescadero State Beach

Lone fisherman at Pescadero State Beach

Once again I found some steps down the the beach. It was here I discovered how fragile the California coast is. All you need to do is to pick up a piece which has broken off and see how easy it is to crumble between your fingers. The constant pounding of the ocean against the sandstone bluffs must be like a battering ram. No wonder there are frequent landslides along Highway 1.

Decorating this section of the beach were a lot of logs and other pieces of driftwood. A couple of wigwams had been built out of the driftwood. It must be a lot of fun, especially with a large family, to build some sort of structure on the beach and then play imaginary games.

Once again we were thwarted from walking further along the beach by a headland which jutted out into the ocean so we retreated to the steps. We walked to the end of the carpar and found a trail leading to the north but it didn’t take us very far. Our way was blocked by a fairly wide river. This is where the Butano Creek and the Pescadero Creek flow into the ocean and where we were prevented from exploring the southern part of the beach in 2010. The only way across is to go back to the road and walk over the bridge. As it was lunchtime, we decided to walk back to our car and drive into Pescadero.

Always have to vist the goats and buy some cheese at Harley Farms just outside of Pescadero

Always have to vist the goats and buy some cheese at Harley Farms just outside of Pescadero

Between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Beach there are not too many restaurants but in Pescadero there is a gem.  Duartes Tavern  is certainly the best place to eat on this stretch of the coast but, be warned, it is very popular and waiting times, especially on a sunny Saturday lunchtime, can be long. We struck lucky this day as we only had to wait twenty minutes due to the fact that we didn’t mind eating at the counter. I had a bowl of their Cream of Artichoke Soup and Tom had Chilled Artichoke Hearts with an Aioli Sauce. Both dishes were wonderful. We both finished up with a slice of their signature dessert – Olallieberry Pie and Ice Cream – which is to die for. We didn’t like to hang around too long because we knew there were lots of hungry people waiting, so we paid the bill and left.

But there was one more place to stop at and that was to vist the goats at Harley Farms. We call in here every time we come to Pescadero because it is such a neat place. You can walk down and watch the goats out in the field. It is always fun in the springtime when there are lots of frisky little kids to keep you amused. Of course we also have to pay a visit to the shop where all their cheeses are not only on display but can be sampled as well. This time we bought some feta cheese and some chocolate made with goats milk. Then it was time to make our way home going by the scenic route to 280 via La Honda. It was the end of another perfect day.




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The Walnut Avenue Cafe in Santa Cruz, California

The Walnut Avenue Cafe in Santa Cruz, California

The Walnut Avenue Cafe is in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz. On Sundays it opens at 8 am and we were outside with half a dozen other hungry customers just before 8 waiting for it to open. Outside there are a few tables with bright red and white plastic tablecloths under red umbrellas. The doors opened just after 8 and we all trooped inside. Normally you have to wait to be seated but we could all sit where we wanted to. We chose a booth and almost immediately a menu was brought to us.

Tom was served his coffee almost before we opened our menus. He took a sip and immedieately proclaimed that it was good. When I opened the menu, the first thing that lept out at me was the fact that not only did they offer oatmeal but it was homemade steel-cut oatmeal – definitely my sort of place. It came with bananas, walnuts and raisins for $5.95. Tom couldn’t decide between French toast or a Benedict. In the end he plumped for the Blackened Ahi Benedict for $10.95. We gave our order to the server, Michelle, who was excellent because she was friendly, helpful and efficient.

The Walnut Avenue Cafe is well laid out with both booths and tables. The interior is bright and cheerful which is helped by the original paintings hanging on the walls. They were all very colorful. The one right next to my shoulder was done by Cale Broz and depicted a table, chairs, vase and pears; the main colors being red, orange  and yellow. All the paintings nearby were painted by different people.

We didn’t have long to wait for our food and were impressed with the presentation. Really enjoyed my oatmeal. The only criticism I would make is that it could have been a bit hotter. Tom’s Blakened Ahi Benedict was really good. When I asked him at the end what he thought he just smacked and lips and smiled. I might just add that he had three cups of coffee because it was so good.

The final test is always the restroom. There were two unisex restrooms with a small lobby outside. The actual restroom was perfectly adequate but the one I used didn’t have anything of particular interest to mention. There was, though, a large colorful poster in the lobby of two Mexican ladies washing their hair in a bucket of water in front of huge sunflowers. It was called Des Mujeres and the artist was Simon Silva.

Our final verdict – The Walnut Avenue Cafe is another gem in Santa Cruz and it will be added to our places to visit again there, along with Cafe Brasil and Zachary’s. We can certainly recommend it.

The Walnut Avenue Cafe
106 Walnut Avenue
Santa Cruz, Ca 95060

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The Sutro Baths ruins with the Cliff House in the background

The Sutro Baths ruins with the Cliff House in the background

Our trip today is to Lands End, which is the western edge of San Francisco at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. On our way north we could see a huge band of fog covering San Francisco so we wandered just how much visibility there would be. We stopped at Peet’s on Geary for a hot drink and a morsel to eat.

Click on the photos for larger versions.

Just after 8 we were parked by the new lookout and visitors center at Lands End. We knew it wouldn’t be open at that time so decided to call in after our hike. From the car park there are a number of trails but before setting off to walk the Lands End Trail we investigated the ruins of the Sutro Baths. Built by Adolph Sutro and opened in 1896, the baths were a huge success. There were seven swimming pools – one large freshwater pool and six smaller salt water pools of varying temperatures. The salt water was pumped straight from the ocean. It was a huge construction which could accommodate 10,000 bathers and it also had a viewing area which could seat 3,700. But it was more than just a place for folks to swim. There were a number of other attractions to amuse visitors which included a host of antiques, collections and oddities to look at. Sadly the Sutro Baths were destroyed by a fire in 1966. Several attempts were made to rebuild the baths, but without success.

The Sutro Baths ruins and the Pacific Ocean

The Sutro Baths ruins and the Pacific Ocean

To get to the ruins we walked down a long, very steep, recently built, stairway. As we descended, we could see the extent of the Sutro Baths and they must have been huge. Built mostly of concrete and wood, only a few concrete foundation walls remain and some of them look quite dangerous. Part of the large pool remains but now it is not very deep. Weeds and algae proliferate there. Gulls use it now to bath in. It is hard to imagine what it looked like in its heyday. The baths were right on the edge of the ocean and just beyond them is a small beach where several fishermen, or rather anglers because one of them was a women, were standing knee deep in the water with large fishing rods.

At the end of the pathway, a tunnel through the rock beckoned us. Of course we ventured through although we could see that the path didn’t go anywhere because a rope, strung across the entrance, prevented us going any further. We looked down on a mass of huge boulders which obviously used to be part of the path. Amongst the rubble we could see twisted railroad tracks.

We walked back through the tunnel and started to climb back up. Instead of returning to the steep stairway we turned left onto the Sutro Baths Upper Trail as it seemed the less steep option plus the fact that it hugs the coast and we would have more camera opportunities. On both sides of the trail ferns were growing, which is not unusual, but these not only had lots of bright green new growth but stalks with little buds on them. On some the ferns, the buds had opened up as small white flowers which is something I had never seen before.

The Point Bonita lighthouse across the Golden Gate from Lands End

The Point Bonita lighthouse across the Golden Gate from Lands End

We came to a lookout point where we could see the Point Bonita Lighthouse across the Golden Gate. The water was a bit choppy and we stood and watched the water crash every now and again against the rocks and cascade into what looked like one of the smaller pools of the Sutro Baths. The remains of concrete walls and old rusty water pipes could be seen.

The trail continued higher up a wooden stairway with glimpses down to water and rocks below. The rock here is mudstone and in places parts of it are soft and could be crumbled by hand. It looks very much like shale but, no matter how hard I looked, I could not see any sign of fossils though at one point I could see a couple of broken white lines which could have been part of a fish skeleton.

The trail we were on joined up with the Coastal Trail. We turned left and continued walking along the edge of the bay. There were a lot of information boards on the first part of the trail and I learnt lots of interesting facts, e.g the local Yekuma tribe, which were part of the Ohlone Nation, camped here in the summer months; details of the many shipwrecks just offshore from where we stood and that part of the engines from a couple of the wrecks could be seen at low tide; the railroad track which Adolph Sutro built and the trains he ran from San Francisco to his baths so working class San Franciscans could reach them; the streetcar which replaced the steam train and the fact that part of the Coastal Trail is along the very same route as both the steam train and the streetcar, etc.

The Golden Gate Bridge on a typical summer morning.

The Golden Gate Bridge on a typical summer morning.

We took a rest at a lookout overlooking Mile End rock. Back in the late 19th century a lighthouse had been built on top of the rock. The lighthouse was replaced by an automated light in 1966 and a heliport pad built. Why a helicopter would want to land on such a tiny rock in such an exposed place is a mystery to me. Up to this point, the trail had been fairly level and easy to walk on but then it changed. Instead of a paved surface it became gravel and in places rocky. There were also several flights of steps up and down and some of them were not only steep but long.

Whenever I got ahead of Tom, because he had stopped to take photos, I looked for somewhere to sit, either on a convenient bench or rock, to wait for him. I took those opportunities to get out my iPad and write but the views were distracting. It is always captivating to sit and look at the scenery out over the bay to the Marin Headlands beyond but people watching is also time consuming. At one of these rest points, a flight of stairs opposite led down to a beach. When Tom caught up with me he decided to go down the steps and I set off to join him after about ten minutes. I climbed down about 50 steps and met Tom coming up. He said there were an awful lot of steps and he never got to the end, so neither of us got to see the beach. Next time we will be prepared and will make time to go and have a look.

This trail is very popular and in some places the trail becomes narrow and you can get stuck behind a group of slow moving people who are busy chatting away to each other. It is good though to see so many people out enjoying a pleasant walk, especially the families with young children.

From the trail we could see Baker Beach with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. The upper towers of the bridge were still shrouded in fog but it was a wonderful sight. The Lincoln Park Golf Course was right behind us. The Lands End Trail ended nearby and we found ourselves on El Camino de Mar. We could have turned round and walked back the way we came but decided to go a different way. Instead, we climbed up El Camino de Mar walking alongside part of the golf course. We stopped at a memorial written in different languages. There were a couple of seats so we took another break. I spotted a raccoon some off which was busy snuffling the ground. It stopped and looked at me and then it started trotting towards us. At first I was not too bothered as it was about 30 feet away but it kept coming. I pointed it out to Tom and he thought it prudent to move on. Just as well we did because when I looked back he was at the bench where we had been sitting with his front paws up on the bench and he was still looking at us. I guess he is used to folks feeding him but we are not that stupid.

Another shot of The Golden Gate Bridge from along the Coastal Trail

Another shot of The Golden Gate Bridge from along the Coastal Trail

At the top of the hill we turned onto 34th Avenue and walked passed the Palace of the Legion of Honor. This grand building was a gift to the city by the sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels and his wife Alma. It is a purpose-built museum and the design was copied from the Legion of Honor building in France. For nearly 100 years it has exhibited fine art and now hosts many exhibitions. I have not been been inside but it is on my list of places to visit. The building sits atop the headlands and is a well known landmark. We walked past the museum gazing into the courtyard and carried on down 34th Avenue with the golf course on both sides of the road.

At the junction with Clement Street, we debated whether to carry onto Geary or walk down Clement. We decided on the later because it would be quieter. The Lincoln Golf Couse clubhouse is on the corner and as we walked down Clement we were still aware of the golf course on our right because several times golf balls came flying into the street. It must be hazardous living so close to a golf course.

The housese on Clement were interesting to walk by. Even though it was a quiet Sunday lunchtime lots seemed to be going on. Some people were working on their cars or doing work around their yards. One house was being painted and we watched nervously as a man standing on a scaffold was precariously painting the side of the house. Several folks spoke to us as we walked by and lots more smiled. It seems a friendly neighborhood.

At the end of Clement,we arrived back at the car park and decided it was nearly time to get something to eat. Before we did so though, we went to have a look round the new Lands End Visitor Center. It is a very green building using natural sunshine to heat the building and harnessing the wind to cool it. Outside it has been beautifully landscaped not only with stone sculptures of lions but benches made out of recyled cedar wood and plants that are not only native but actually germinated at the nearby nursery at the Presidio from seeds found onsite. Inside it was filled with visitors either buying a snack, checking out the books etc for sale or perusing information about the area. They had some interesting paddle boards giving lots of information not only of the Sutro Baths but the general area, including the nearby Cliff House,  as well. The highlight though, were the old Edison films being screened showing the glory days of the Sutro baths and Adolph Surto’s steam train.

We rounded off the day by having lunch at the Seal Rock Inn Cafe at the junction of Point Lobus Avenue and 48th Avenue. Afterwards we drove home at the end of another perfect day.

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Sep 19

Big Sur

Garrapata State Park along Highway 1

Garrapata State Park along Highway 1

We were on the road before six to drive to Big Sur. The reason we were heading to Big Sur is because we read an article in the September/October edition of ‘Via’ called ‘The Secrets of Big Sur’ by Jennifer Reese. It has been quite some time since we had taken a drive down this very scenic route on Highway 1 and decided it was about time we went there again. I remember the first time I drove through Big Sur and thought it was just a lovely drive with wonderful views of the stunning North California coast but there was nowhere really to stop and explore. Now I know differently and realize that there are so many places to visit. We have been to Point Lobos State Reserve, Pfeiffer Beach to name two and we were going to investigate a couple more on this trip.

When we left San Jose it was dark and there were no clouds. Stars were twinkling in the sky and the slightly less than full moon was shining above us. At the San Juan Bautista exit off 101 we ran into fog so we missed the sun rising. The fog remained with us all the way to Monterey and only started to lift when we hit the outskirts of Carmel.

Our chosen breakfast spot was the Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop on Carmel Valley Road, see previous post. The fog disappeared just as we reached the turn off for the Wagon Wheel and the sun came out for us.

It was round about 8 o’clock we crossed the Carmel Bridge and had officially entered Big Sur. Before long we could see the ocean and the coastline was clear. A few miles offshore though, a huge fog bank lurked but we kept our fingers crossed that it would wait out there until after lunch. It was the perfect day for a drive down Highway 1. I was armed with a list of all the interesting places along Big Sur and their nearest milepost to make them easier to find.

White egret perched on a kelp bed at Garrapata State Par

White egret perched on a kelp bed at Garrapata State Par

We parked in a turnout near Garrapata State Park and took a walk down towards the beach. At first the trail was steep but leveled off a bit further down. There were several little trails branching off along the way but nothing was signposted so I guess they must be unofficial paths. We could hear the raucous sound of sea lions and I thought they were down on the beach but the nearer to the beach we went, they still sounded the same distance away. I then realized they must have gathered on a couple of rocky outcrops about half a mile offshore. We wandered around the trails for about half an hour, stopping now and again to peer down at little inaccessible beaches and inlets at the bottom of craggy cliffs. The kelp beds were abundant but I didn’t spot any sea otters. We did see though, not only a snowy white egret perched on the kelp keenly watching for passing fish but also a blue heron. That is the first time I had ever seen those birds on the ocean. It was really quiet and peaceful with not another human being in sight.

Back on the road again I saw a sign which told us that there would be curves for the next 64 miles. Yep, that’s Big Sur for you. Soon we were crossing the most photographed bridge on Highway 1 – Bixby Creek Bridge (see photograph at the very top of this page). Already there were a few tourists parked up and taking photos. Both Tom and I always hold our breath as we cross this bridge as we don’t like to think about how high up we are.

Our next stop was just south of the Big Sur Lighthouse. We were heading for Andrew Molera State Park  but parked in a turnout about a quarter of a mile before the park. Once before I had ventured a little way down this path but today we planned to go further. At the entrance to the path there is a sign saying there is a primitive camp site and I wandered what exactly that meant. The pathway starts off as a grass track through a pasture and then we entered a wood. In front of us was an old, fenced off cabin with an information board outside from which we learned that this is the oldest structure in Big Sur. It was built by George Austin in 1861 for Captain J.R.B Cooper and is now known as the Cooper Cabin. Over the 150 years since the cabin was built, all of the shingles on the outside have been replaced but the rest is more or less as it has always been.

Some deer on the trail down to the beach at Andrew Molera State Park

Some deer on the trail down to the beach at Andrew Molera State Park

We continued on our hike by going down some steps to join the Beach Headlands Trail but there was no sign to tell us that – I just happened to have a map I’d printed the night before. The trail became wider and we left the trees behind us. The only people we saw on this part of the walk were a father and his two sons walking back from the beach with their surf boards. The sun was shining and we wished we had not brought our sweatshirts with us. The path narrowed slightly and became a little sheltered from the wind. We walked around a corner and Tom suddenly stopped because just ahead of us were a doe and her 6 month old youngster. They stopped and stared at us for a couple of minutes before walking towards us and then turning off into the bushes at the side of the path. Silently they disappeared and were seen no more.

After a while we found ourselves walking beside the Big Sur River. It looked cool and inviting as it meandered along. Before long the path ended at the top of a small, sandy beach and the river flowed into the ocean. The only way to get to the main beach, where we could see some people sitting and quite a few surfers out on the ocean, was to cross the river but there was no bridge. It wasn’t very deep but quite wide and I could have done it as I had my walking boots on but Tom only had tennies on. One alternative was to take our shoes and socks off and wade across but there was a third option. Not too far back up the trail there had been a signpost to the Headlands Trail and I could see from the map that it would get us to the other side of the beach though not actually to the beach. I could see a bench on the far side and it looked very inviting, so back we went to take the side trail.

Pelicans gliding up the coast

Pelicans gliding up the coast

It was a fairly steep climb up a wooden stairway but we were entertained along the way by numerous lizards which darted off as we approached. If they had remained perfectly still, we would not even have seen them. The trail lead us down more steps and onto to path to the tip of the point and the bench. It was so nice to sit on that bench looking across at the beach and watching the surfers patiently waiting for the next big swell. I have a few favorite benches I like to sit on overlooking the ocean and this one has now joined the list. For half an hour we sat there enjoying ourselves and relaxing. Occasionally a line of pelicans would suddenly surprise us by appearing right under our noses. Just before we left the bench to climb back up to the headlands, half a dozen horses and their riders appeared on the beach – where they came from we have no idea.

Back in the car and still traveling south on Highway 1, our next stop was the Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant. By the time we arrived, it was nearly 12 noon and finding a car parking space proved to be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately they have an overfill car park and we found a place there. We followed a short part back to the bakery. I was really looking forward to a cool drink and a pastry of some sort but we were to be disappointed. A line spilled out of the door so we couldn’t even get inside. I did manage to have a quick look inside but there didn’t seem to be many bakery items on display. In fact it looked more like a bar. There was a printed notice saying that tickets were on sale for a BBQ which was to be held there at noon so I guessed the line was to buy tickets for that. We decided that perhaps this was not the best day to stop here so that will have to be put on the list for our next visit.

Instead we drove a few miles down the road to Nepenthe  which is always worth a visit anyway. Here they have a restaurant on the top level with marvelous views down the coast and on the middle level the Cafe Kevah which has a lighter menu and the same view as above. Tom had an ice tea and I had a hot chocolate and we shared a pastry. Unfortunately the fog had rolled in so the views were not spectacular at all but it was nice to sit under an umbrella and chat about everything we had seen and done that day. And then it was time to drive home at the end of another perfect day.

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The Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop in Carmel Valley

The Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop in Carmel Valley

We were heading out for a day trip to Big Sur and decided to stop for breakfast before we crossed the Carmel River Bridge. The Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop is roughly three and a half miles from Highway 1 so a wee bit out of the way but we thought we would give it a try. It is situated in a small shopping center, which is similar to the Barnyard Shopping Viallage on the corner of  Highway 1 and Carmel Valley Road, but on a much smaller scale. Just look out for the green awning with a wagon wheel on it.

The Wagon Wheel is a rustic little place with plenty of parking outside. It was not very busy at all, in fact there were just two customers sitting at the counter. It opens at 6.30 in the morning and we arrived just after 7. We chose a table by the window and we were warmed by the early morning sun.  It had been foggy in Monterey but here it was bright and clear. When the sun rose a bit higher it hit Tom right in the eye but immediately the server came over and dropped the blind. Our server was bright and cheerful and she soon took our order and gave Tom his coffee. Tom ordered one of the specials – Polish sausage and eggs for $9.50. As oatmeal was on offer, that is what I chose but instead of the regular oatmeal I went for the slightly dearer option – slow toasted, thick cut oatmeal. I also had a choice of a small or large portion s as I was hungry, I went for the larger size ($7.25). It included toast, so I chose the whole wheat.

It’s not called the Wagon Wheel for nothing because everything screams ‘cowboy’ at you as soon as you enter. The walls are covered in photographs of cowboys and horses and all sorts of tack hang from the rafters. Of course there are horseshoes on the walls. Even the mugs are decorated with cowboy hats, spurs etc.

My oatmeal came in a large, round, deep bowl on an oval plate, which had the same decoration round the edge as the mugs. The toast was on plate with the bowl. The sugar came in a pottery bowl but the milk jug was extraordinary. It was made out of white china and in the shape of a cow. It wasn’t immediately clear as to where the milk came out. At first Tom thought it was the rear end but I noticed the tail was curled, so obviously the milk came out of the mouth. The oatmeal was very tasty and hot – just how I like it. Tom enjoyed his spicy Polish sausage but wasn’t too impressed with the coffee as he likes it strong and bold.

The restroom  is outside, up a couple of steps. The key hangs just to the left of the door as you go out. The light didn’t work, which didn’t bother me as it was wasn’t too dark inside but might be a problem when the sun isn’t shining. There were two stalls inside, which I found unusual. The same cowboy theme from the cafe is extended to the restroom. On the wall were two wanted posters, one for Butch Cassidy and the other for the Sundance Kid. By the sink was an old sign showing charges to use soap, towel, water, etc. The total cost for using everything came to a few cents. A saucy photo of a lady getting out of a hip bath hung near the door and last, but not least, a sign advising you to squat when wearing spurs. The restroom facilities were clean and acceptable.

Overall we would recommend the Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop as a very pleasant little place to stop for breakfast if you are in the area.

The Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop
7156 Carmel Valley Rd
Carmel, CA 93923

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