Monday, August 29, 2011

Glamour, wine, and live large

Hearst Castle, Santa Barbara

Place to stay:
  • Montecito inn (It was built in 1928 by Charlie Chaplin. You can rent out Chaplin movies for free during your stay.)
Places to eat: 
  • Arigato Sushi
  • La Super-Rica Taqueria (It is a hole in the wall, but you can find authentic mexican food there. Be warned that you will definitely feel out of place there.)
  • Bouchon (Great "wine country cuisine")

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coastal drive, beauty, and be free

Monterey, Carmel-by-the-sea

I got to know Monterey through a Jazz station I used to listen to many years ago. Since then, I have always wanted to visit in person. We drove there from San Francisco along Route 1. It was an easy and relaxing drive. There are some view points and beaches to stop at on the way.

I will always remember the drive into town. The Bed & Breakfast place we reserved was pretty hidden from the main road. Somehow I drove pass by it. As I backed into the street it is located, I was pulled over by local police for backing up in the middle of intersection (Duh!) The police office asked me for my driver license and was really amused by it. Apparently he has never seen a PA license before and he really likes the reflections you can see on the license under the light. He was nice enough to let us go with a warning. I would never know that PA driver license could save the day! For the rest of the first day there, we went to check out Cannery Row and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium is not as big as the one in Atlanta but I really enjoyed my visit there. Plenty of interactivity and opportunities to touch various sea creatures!  
ocean view from the aquarium
In Monterey, you can get local artichoke and calamari. We ordered those for dinner one night. They were delicious.
The next morning, we went on the 17-mile drive along Pebble beach. It's the site of golf's some most prestigious tournaments, including U.S. Open. It's a good place to do house-watch and daydream. :) 
Afterwards, we visited the historical Carmel Mission. It was such a peaceful and holy place. Many were involved in its restoration and you can certainly see the authenticity that it carries out. 
We stopped by Casanova for lunch. It's one of the best French and Italian rustic cuisine I have had, without mentioning the unique deco of the restaurant.

After lunch, we continued our drive down south to visit Big Sur. It was a perfect day for this kind of drive. To this day, I still remember the contrast of deep blue ocean and green grass. As the road winds the cliffs, you cannot really speed up but slow down and enjoy being there. Many times I just wanted to sit on the bench by the road and look out for as long as I can. The view can truly take away all the stress from you and elevate you to an another state of mind.
I envy the cows there
It's been more than a year since my visit. I long to go back, away from this noisy city and the crowd. If I could choose where I want to be during last days of my life, it would be there.

Recently I have been thinking about the priorities we all (have to) set as an adult. Some work hard for their careers. Some save money so they can afford the house they want. Some want to settle down and have a family that they can go back to. I am sure there isn't any wrong answer here, as long as you know what you want and what's going to make you happy. I know I want many things but I am not sure if I can let go of opportunities to visit new places and experience the unknown before I get older. Sure, it will be nice to have a house that you can call your home. But you will need to live a few years of your life just so you can maintain your house and pay it off. Sure, it will be nice to retire early. But you won't be as physically capable as you could be when you were in your 20s or 30s.

If I were ask you if you have any regret on how you have spent your life if tomorrow was the last day of your life, what would you say?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cable car, hills, and outdoorsy people

Last April, we took a 9-day trip to the other coast. It is a partial road trip. The drive along the coastal route was certainly amazing. In the mean time, I learned how expensive it was to rent a car from one city and return it in a different one. In the next few posts, I will try my best to recall my experience there. Thanks to Google Docs and Map. I still have the agenda, map I created while planning for the trip.

San Francisco

April in California is still chilly and windy. I heard that the climate is similar to the Mediterranean. I packed for layering. A light jacket with hoodie is definitely the best choice. We arrived at San Francisco early Saturday afternoon. The line at rental car area was much longer than I thought. It probably took us at least half hour to get the key. Our hotel is at downtown. Throughout the drive there, I kept feeling going up and down. The famous hills in SF!   
The afternoon started at Fishman's Wharf. I have been craving for the fresh seafood and it was the perfect spot to go for that. You must watch out for the seagulls though. They get pretty aggressive when it comes to hunt for food.

Later, we jumped on a cable car to get on the Golden Bridge. It was my first SF cable car experience and it was pretty good. We visited Fort Point on the way and you can get some good shots of the bridge there.
There were big waves that day. Many people were trying to ride the wave. Unlike east coast, many wear surfing suits. I can only imagine how cold the water must have been. Many were laying on the grass and enjoying being out. Must be nice to have the ocean right by where you live. It reminds me the time when I was living at Westchester county in NY. It wasn't far to get to the bay in New Rochelle from our place. I miss being so close to open water. I have always been a "sea" person, rather than a "mountain" person. Ocean gives me the feeling of open and free, unlike the captive of mountain.   
We only stayed at SF for one night. For dinner, we tried out the crab at PPQ Dungeness Island. It was prepared in a very simple way with peppercorn but it was delicious.
Visiting San Francisco has always been a pleasant experience for me. It never gets old. Every time I go, there is always something new I discover. It has what a metro city can offer. At the same time, it's close to nature. I have always wanted to live there, but I haven't put much effort in making it happen. Maybe one day...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On travel

I have always had a passion for traveling. There is the excitement and uncertainty in going to an unfamiliar place. It's safer than moving. No long term commitment. You are just trying it out and see how it goes for you. After all, instead of its residents, tourists are actually the ones who would make time and effort to check out a place. The funny part is that I don't like to consider myself as a tourist. I don't need to go to the tourist spots, or snap a photo in front of the famous landmark. All I need is a taste of some delicious local cooking and the unique lifestyle. I have spent much time researching, or rather fantasizing the places I want to visit. Only not a year or so ago, I started making my way through. It has became an addiction. Planning out trips became the highlight of every new year.

Before, my career was the only thing that gives me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Now I have found another way. It is through getting lost in a place I have never been before, through discovering a hidden street garden, and through trying out a local dish. I want to write about these experiences as I go to places and share it with you. Keep in mind I was never trained as a writer. I could just be writing down the little voice in my head. But hopefully it will be some enjoyable reading for you.

P.S. B, thank you for the inspiration!