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The Grand Southwest Adventure

ThelmaLouiseCar

First day to hit the road on the Grand Southwest Adventure! I’ve chosen to head to Barstow, about 325 miles away – the hotel prices are low and there are some museums and Route 66 things to do for Wednesday and Thursday morning, then I’ll leave to head to Las Vegas…then, on to the southwest for the Grand Southwest Adventure! I’ll keep you posted… 

Heading out from San Francisco through the farmlands – near Gilroy and Watsonville. The hills are alive – with poofy plastic poly tunnels covering strawberries and raspberries. Like a puff quilt of plastic, they follow the hillside’s terrain on either side of the highway. There are large farms ringed with cars and trucks, transportation for the many hunched over workers picking the berries in the open fields. Gilroy is known for garlic – hence, the annual Gilroy Garlic festival. One of the many delights of traveling solo is that I get to stop wherever I wish, without comment or discussion. The many fruit stands and produce markets along the roadside beckon and I hold out until I see…

The Casa de Fruta! It has a grand complex, filled with tourists and school groups and KIDS – a tipi, farm tractors, a merry go round, hay bales, animals and of course, a largGSWA_004e open market with fruit (naturally), nuts, grand bulbs and wreaths of Gilroy garlic, classic junk food treats and bins of salty & sweet goodies. Unbelievably, I resist the sweets and settle for some lovely fruit, some GGSWA_005ilroy garlic and a bag or two of seasoned almonds. I’d be tempted to get a big pumpkin to take to Las Vegas to carve – but I imagine with their temperatures, it’d look like a shriveled raisin in days.

Not too far down the road is a more rustic mom & pop fruit stand and while getting gas, I pop in there, too. There’s a vast selection of seasoned almonds, pistachios, dried fruits, pomegranates and other seasonal fruits. Deciding between tequila pistachios and garlic almonds – well, I went for the garlic and some rosemary pistachios. I’m stocked for the season! Spending the night on Route 66, in Barstow, California. More on that tomorrow!

 

 

HOLI – the Indian Celebration Day of Color

holi-fest-india-590x442

Holi, the Indian Celebration of Color!

Holi commemorates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the demoness named Holika. This was enabled through unwavering devotion to the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu. Holi got its name as the “Festival of Colors” from Lord Krishna, a re-incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors. The festival marks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season.

California Avenue of the Giants

Massive Redwood Giants!

Avenue of the Giants Day Trip
Giant Redwoods – Wine & Cheese Tasting – Victorian Architecture – Museums – Tourist Kitsch!
http://avenueofthegiants.net/Zoom/map.htm

Get an early start around 8 a.m. if you can! Heading north on highway 101 from Fort Bragg, California we hug the dramatic Pacific coastline and pull over a few times to marvel at the crashing waves. About 10 miles north of Fort Bragg is Ten Mile Beach, which during low tide is a great place to hike around.

A day long drive up the coast

Mendocino county coastline

A few miles more and we pass Pacific Star Winery on the left, a great spot for enjoying a wine tasting or just to take your binoculars and look for migrating whales. It was a bit early for a wine tasting, but we went on another day and saw gray whales in the distance.

Wine Tasting at Pacific Star Winery

We follow Highway 1 a bit longer and turn northwest towards Leggett, the home of the Chandelier Tree, a drive-through Redwood, a classic tourist stop. For $5 a carload, you can experience the thrill of driving THROUGH a grand old Redwood tree. The tree above seems healthy and unaffected, but it does seem rather awful to imagine someone hollowing out a living tree for our amusement, but indeed they did.

Drive-through Redwood tree

So, we slowly drove through and the path (of course!) leads right to the gift shop parking lot. Here is where I teach our international visitors a new word for their American vocabulary: “Tacky”. There are goofy hats, toys, souvenirs galore including candy Squirrel droppings, Big Foot postcards, even a fake Raccoon skin cap complete with the tail!

Move over Davy Crockett!

Back to Leggett, we head north up highway 101 toward the Avenue of the Giants. Just south of Garberville, look for the Benbow Inn, a beautiful old resort which sponsors an afternoon tea, should you be back by here later in the afternoon. Near Phillipsville, look for the signs for the Avenue of the Giants; which was the old highway before they rerouted highway 101 away from the Big Trees. There are several groves of giant Redwoods along this 31 mile stretch so pull over and point your camera UP. While you´re at it, just try to hug a tree – all five of us could barely cover the front of the trunk, fingertip to fingertip.
In Myers Flat there is another drive-through tree, look for the signs. Signs touting the Amazing Eternal Treehouse peaked our interest, so Redcrest was out next stop. Tucked behind a dinky café on the left was a little parking lot in front of the tree. It was just a tree that had been hollowed out at its base! The tree had managed to survive and you can walk down a few steps and stand in the center of the trunk base. I don´t think this was the kind of tree house we had all imagined, but it was a nice stop to stretch our legs!

Eternal Treehouse

Just another few miles and you´ll find the Immortal Tree, 33 feet in girth! Hug this big boy…
Exiting the Avenue of the Giants, we head further north on highway 101 towards Fortuna. About 4 miles south of Fortuna on the left side of the road is another great stop – Chapman´s Rock & Gem Shop and museum. The museum itself is really outstanding (free) – with gorgeous redwood and rock carvings, jewelry and other area memorabilia. Don´t miss it!

A rock for your finger

Just past Fortuna, we head west to the Victorian village of Ferndale. The setting for several Hollywood movies through the years including The Majestic with Jim Carrey, this little town is a wonderful place to eat, browse and shop. This town is so cute you just want to pinch it!

Ferndale Victorian

A walk down Main street isn´t complete without stopping at the Golden Gait Mercantile, full of reasonably priced gadgets and goodies from years past. If you have a hankering for a cowboy hat, classic candies, regional sweets and savories – here´s the place. They also have the displays done to resemble an old time mercantile, the packaging all a part of the charm. Upstairs, they have whole glassed-in rooms with the real deal – shop displays set up with turn-of-the-century goods including a Millinery shop, a Grocery, a Hardware store and more. There are also some good values up there in antique furniture to be had, including board games from days past.

Ferndale Mercantile

Another great shop is the Blacksmith Shop – (www.ferndaleblacksmith.com) which is a unique gallery of hand-forged delights including sculptures, lighting, furniture and anything else you can imagine.
If you have time, stop in Loleta – a tiny town on the way back towards Eureka. There is little to do in town but one thing – CHEESE. The Loleta Cheese factory is the only place in town to go – samples of a wondrous selection of cheeses await you! www.loletacheese.com

Mike´s Garlic Fries – Eureka, CA

North again on Highway 101 towards Eureka now, we pass an unlikely stop, but if you have the munchies, STOP at Mike´s Garlic Fries. It´s a little divey, but it´s been in business since the 1940´s . The Garlic Fries and chocolate malts are to-die-for. However, suffice it to say that the whole carload should indulge because of the lingering fragrance! The inside is worth a peek also as the owners are die-hard Republicans and proudly post classic Republican paraphernalia on the walls, including a Palin-McCain calendar front and center.

Republican Fervor

Drive by the Carson mansion, (M and Second street) probably one of the most elaborate and notable examples of Victorian architecture in these parts. The neighborhood surrounding it also has more homes to admire – most now B&B´s or owned by businesses or groups.

Carson Mansion – Eureka, CA

If you still have some walking in you, a trip to the Clarke historical museum in the old downtown district features displays from the Victorian period and a great Native American wing with collections of baskets, stoneware and other regalia. It is open until 5 p.m. daily. www.clarkemuseum.org
One final stop for us was the American Indian Art & Gift shop, downtown Eureka at 241 F Street. They have the real deal – jewelry, gifts, paintings, baskets and other goodies made by the area Natives. www.americanindianonline.com
If you have any time left, stop for a nightcap at the Benbow Inn before heading south back down the coast. www.benbowinn.com
Here are a few good guides for activities, maps, attractions and events –
So there you have it – a taste of Humboldt county and the Big Trees!

Just a Taste of Humboldt County, California!

Animal photos

Mlle. Penelope LePew! Our blue Russian with enough tolerance to wear this silly Diablo pet hat I found at the Goodwill. (for about 30 seconds!)

Lucy is a rescue dog – lab and setter mix, I´d imagine. She has a special talent – she plays a toy piano!

Sweet little Annie dog is a mix – I found her this funny pet hat at the Goodwill and she was the belle of the ball at her mom´s halloween party!

Our other cat Tigger – who managed to get himself caught with a plastic shopping bag around himself. Being a cat, and of course being TOO COOL – he just walked around in it for awhile!

Flower Festival, Spain Style!

Girona Flower Festival 2011

Rambling all day until dark through the streets, cathedrals, plazas and hills of Girona for the annual Flower Festival…
Click here to join me for a walk through the festival –
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150232262261869.371599.756531868&l=6dad7b24b9

1929 World Exposition site – Barcelona, Spain

Poble Español on the site of the 1929 Int’l Exposition, the home of one of my other fav attractions, the Magic Fountain. Poble Español was made as a “Disneyland-esque” representation of the various cities and regions of Spain – you can wander through the Plaza Major in Madrid, see the Moorish tower of Zaragosa, the streets of Seville.

The Magic Fountain built in 1929

 One day, I went for a walk. Just above the main Palau are two gated entrances, but that day – they were surprisingly open! A new adventure awaits! The entrance leads past a guardhouse and into the grounds of the Palau Abeniz, which apparently is another building created in 1929 for the Expo – a palace, really – that now only houses the King & Queen of Spain when they’re in town. The grounds are peppered with statues, mostly of women in common poses, but not just typical statues – these gals have curves! (like me!) The grounds are lovingly cared for, with fountains gushing and flowing similar to La Granja.

This “remnant” of the 1929 Int’l Expo reminds me of why I lived here. When I lived in SanFran, it was always my obsession to imagine myself walking through the 1939 Expo on Treasure Island, and it made me sad to look across the bay at the island which had been denuded of nearly all of the trappings of the Expo – destroyed or removed by the Navy once they took over the island in 1940. But this Expo lies just across the road from me, and it’s buildings, sculptures, gardens – its essence – is still there. This is the attraction to this lovely city, this beautiful place. The romance and draw of the Expo and the energy of its past is still alive there, and it is magical to me. The wonder of seeing the Magic Fountain (an amazing techno wonder of its time!), wandering the hillside gardens, enjoying the tucked away delight of the café at the Font del Gat – it is all still alive to me. Now I am two blocks away from the site of the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition, held in the (then) newly created Balboa Park.

It makes the Time Traveler in me DREAM… I walk back home, sort of in fog of imagination wondering what it would have been like to have been here in 1929. How funny the circle of life is! To go from living just across the San Francisco Bay from Treasure Island, to this amazing place where the buildings, the wonder, the essence of a World Expo still lives. What joy! It makes me ponder if I indeed will ever need move again. I love to travel, but the connection to this place is ingraining itself more and more each day.

 

 

Glimpses of Spain

Click on the first image for full screen viewing! Enjoy…

Beautiful Aveyron region in southern France…

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Sketching All Over Spain

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Ireland – rambling around Dublin

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