Clamming )

We spent all day Tuesday at SeaWorld in San Diego after leaving our friends in Los Angeles. We would have liked to have stayed longer in L.A. but SeaWorld was amazing. When we arrived, we went to the otters, then the ray feeding tank, then the sea turtles, shore birds and tide pools near the grill where we ate lunch; then we took the Penguin Experience tour, where in a group of 10, we got to go into the penguin feeding area with an aviculturist and a Macaroni penguin whom we got to pet and examine, then we got to go into the very cold indoor penguin facility where there were King and Adelie penguins within touching distance had we been allowed to do so; the Emperor penguins were isolated on the other side of the exhibit because it's their breeding season and they were pairing off, and it's Antarctic "winter" meaning that the facility is kept very cold and dark, but it's still entirely awesome to be so close to the birds.

We saw several performances in the afternoon, including the Orca show Believe (younger son dislikes Shamu as a matter of principle because killer whales eat penguins, but older son liked it a lot); the dolphin and pilot whale show, with lots of jumping and spinning and splashing; the "Pets Rule" show in which rescued dogs and cats demonstrate some of the tricks they have learned while the keepers make a pitch for adoption of companion animals; and Sea Lions Tonite, in which various less-glamorous animals help the trainers poke fun at all the other shows in the park (their sense of humor about the Shamu-worship promoted all over the rest of SeaWorld is really delightful). We also visited the Arctic zone with belugas and polar bears, the sharks, the manatees, the fresh-water aquarium and most of the smaller exhibits, though we never managed to go on any of the rides. It was a really fabulous day and I could easily go back for another full day there!


SeaWorld San Diego )


Next up: the Maritime Museum and HMS Surprise!
In Otto's Basement )

We spent Monday mostly at the beach with my friend Lynda and her son Jonathan, plus my brother-in-law David and his wife and kids, though I barely saw the latter on the beach because I went with my kids and Jonathan to climb over Point Dume to see the tide pools and although it's probably a quarter mile if you could walk on the shore, it's about a mile climbing up the path and steps to the boardwalk over the dunes and then down the other side! Despite wearing 70 SPF, I managed to get sunburned again (as did Lynda, which made me feel marginally better since I'd been thinking I must be too stupid to live in Southern California). And we saw dolphins diving over the waves, seals out on a rock and various sea birds and mole crabs!


Point Dume State Park )


After we got back from hiking, we went out to lunch at Follow Your Heart, a vegetarian food store and restaurant in the Valley. It's been two days since I've had any meat, poultry, eggs or fish and all I can say is that if someone would cook vegan for me all the time like the food I've eaten this weekend, I'd be vegan -- yesterday we had about 10 appetizers, then I had "chicken-fried" saitan and potatoes with some kind of awesome gravy and we had chocolate souffle and some kind of creme caramel except of course not really creme for dessert, today I had red pepper soup followed by chicken-style tandoori and basmati rice. We came back to Lynda's house for swimming and showers, then the kids had pizza...I was still too full from the late lunch!
A Story About Chicken Soup )

We had a lovely relaxed Sunday first with my uncle Mickey and his family in Castaic, then with our friends the Foleys in Northridge who also have a swimming pool, and dogs (three Keeshonds) plus cats (two) and a parrot and snake, all of which are extremely popular with our kids. Plus they have an older teenage son who has Halo for the Xbox, which is equally popular. We had lunch and hung out at their house in the afternoon, then went to my brother-in-law David's vegan restaurant, Madeleine Bistro, where he fed us every appetizer on the menu, wonderful main courses and every dessert. *g* His four kids are vegan but neither my uncle's family nor our friends are even vegetarian, and everyone loved the food!


In and Around Northridge )


We are going to the beach on Monday, hopefully one with tide pools and waves that aren't too big to swim in (if the Pacific is not too cold to swim in near L.A. as it was in San Simeon). We are all looking forward to this!
In the Suburbs )

We spent all day Saturday with my relatives in Castaic, riding their horse and swimming in their pool, in a house surrounded by hummingbirds and finches, with two parakeets and two dogs. In the morning after Lesley made us pancakes, we took the kids to a Game Stop to replace younger son's Nintendo DS which died a couple of days ago -- there's no way we're driving home without two working game systems -- and had excellent frozen yogurt. Then we came back to Uncle Mickey's house, where my cousin Felicia and her sister Allison's husband Justin had just arrived with their three little boys (Allison, who is six months pregnant, arrived later after a baby shower, and, Felicia's husband Jason, an ER doctor, got stuck at the hospital so we didn't get to see him).

Our kids, Felicia's older son Benny, and Mickey and Lesley's son Garrett wanted only to swim, so Paul and I went with Felicia's son Aidan and Allison's son Zach to ride Lesley's horse, Bill. This is the first time I have been on a horse in more years than I can remember -- I had on a skirt and sandals, so it wasn't exactly a workout, but it was a lot of fun! We walked around the stables to see some of the other horses, then came back, went swimming and had barbecue with all the cousins and the daughter of one of Mickey's oldest friends, who is living in Los Angeles now. Afterward the kids played some more and I tried to read Lindsay's Tarot cards.


In and Around Castaic )


On Sunday we are going to stay with my friend Lynda and her husband Dan, and to have dinner at my brother-and-sister-in-law David and Molly's restaurant, Madeleine Bistro, with my uncle's family and Lynda's family. So we're not doing much sightseeing in L.A. but I am getting to see lots of people I get to see far too rarely, which is much better than Disneyland -- we saw Magic Mountain from the road today and even younger son, who loves roller coasters, was more interested in getting back to hang out at the pool than in looking at the rides.
Woman on Twenty-Second Eating Berries )

We woke up very early Friday morning so we would have time for a walk on the beach in San Simeon before our 9:20 a.m. tour of Hearst Castle. It was worth it: there were dolphins, a seal, shore birds and sand crabs just offshore and we were the only people around. We packed up and went to Hearst's ranch, accessible only by tour bus up the hills past his former private zoo (there are still zebras and other animals), which I last visited when I was in my early teens. The swimming pools were as spectacular as I had remembered, as were the tapestries and medieval art in the main house. We also saw the film, new since I was last there, where I learned a lot about Julia Morgan, who designed both the houses and the landscape.

We ate a picnic lunch at the state park on the beach across the highway, where there were dozens of elephant seals sunning themselves and playing in the surf. Then we drove to Solvang, the Danish town with windmills and a Hans Christian Andersen museum above a bookstore, where we bought pastries and presents for my cousins' children. We also stopped to see the Santa Ines Mission. In the car we watched the end of the Second Doctor "Mind Robber" episodes, which we started the night before -- Jasper Fforde definitely saw these!


Hearst Castle and San Simeon )


Tonight and tomorrow we're staying with my father's brother and his wife near L.A. They have a horse and a pool in addition to a son between my sons' ages, so the kids are quite pleased -- they went swimming this evening after dark in the lit pool and toasted marshmallows over the outdoor wood stove. We had a big spaghetti dinner and watched the hummingbirds and finches flit through the backyard. It's cool and gorgeous here right now!
To Boredom )

Our big stop for Thursday was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which we drove to directly from San Francisco after concluding that traffic into Santa Cruz made stopping there too long a diversion if we also wanted to have time to go to the beach in San Simeon before dark. We could see smoky haze nearly all day, briefly interrupted by fog off the water, though even the sea air smelled faintly of wood fires in the distance. The aquarium is fantastic; in addition to a large African penguin colony, which made it a must-see attraction for younger son, it has an enormous tank of local animals including schools of tuna and anchovies, sharks and sunfish, plus a big exhibit on jellyfish with Chihuly glass seaform sculptures for comparison, plus a bigger exhibit on otters which were playful and adorable, plus a wave tank creating a shoreline along which rescued seabirds live in an open-air cage like the one we saw in Torquay at Living Coasts, and just offshore in Monterey Bay we saw dozens of seabirds, kayakers, tide pools, sailboats and a colony of seals.


Monterey Bay and Pacific Ocean )


After the aquarium we drove to San Simeon mostly along the 101, since Route 1 is closed between Monterey and here because of the wildfires which turned the late afternoon sun sunset-red and made the air thick and unpleasant all through the wine country we traversed to reach the coastal highway. We arrived in San Simeon in full fog, barely 60 degrees compared to about 80 in Monterey at lunchtime and already heading into the 90s in Concord. We took a walk on the beach, but [livejournal.com profile] apaulled had not felt well all day which made dinner a rather chaotic affair and bedtime even more chaotic. So I am going to post this and get to bed in the hope that everyone feels well enough in the morning to go see Hearst Castle before heading to Los Angeles and my relatives for dinner.
The Star Market )

We spent all day Wednesday in San Francisco, which I last visited when I was two years old. We drove up the Embarcadero to Pier 39, where we went first to the Aquarium of the Bay, which has two large see-through tunnels through which one can see lots of fish and animals like anemones, starfish, anchovies, bass, sharks, rays and shovel-nosed guitarfish. It's a small but lovely aquarium that we got into half price because they swap with the National Zoo.

Then we met [livejournal.com profile] ribby and [livejournal.com profile] mrkinch at Pier 39, which is kind of like a big, all-outdoor Harborplace with sea lions, cormorants and pelicans! We ate crepes and chocolate and stopped in a magic shop, an Irish store and some other little shops. There was live entertainment and music, and did I mention the big lazy sea lions off one of the docks?

[livejournal.com profile] ribby walked with us to the Maritime National Park which has many historic ships from tugboats and trawlers to the grand Scottish-built Balclutha. Then she rode with us to Haight-Ashbury, where we saw the house where Jerry Garcia lived when the Grateful Dead lived in San Francisco and dragged our kids into Tibetan spirit and hookah stores. From there we headed to Golden Gate Park to see the flowers and bison -- the de Young museum's tower was closed, sadly.


San Francisco )


We had dinner with [livejournal.com profile] ribby and her husband at Pacific Catch, a very good and not at all expensive seafood restaurant near the park. The kids were getting rambunctious by the end, so we took them back to the hotel to swim before we had to start packing up to head south in the morning...route may depend on the Big Sur fire, though will certainly include the Monterey Aquarium.
Carp Poem )

It has been a long, good but tiring day so I will briefly outline the highlights. We got up early, ate a quick breakfast and took a walk from the lodge to Lower Yosemite Falls, about a mile-long easy hike to the boulders that lead to the falls and across the stream to the pine forest nearby, where we saw lots of white-shouldered California ground squirrels, crested Steller's jays and assorted other birds and little rodents. It's a short walk from the end of the trail to the Yosemite Valley visitor's center, so we stopped there to visit the exhibit on Yosemite geology and to watch the film about how the land became a national park. Then we took a shuttle bus back to the area near the lodge and drove to the picnic area beneath El Capitan for lunch, where we were joined by several more birds hoping for a bite.


Yosemite Valley )


After lunch we drove a bit through to Bridalveil Fall, which is on the opposite side of the valley from El Capitan. Then we headed toward Half Dome, which along with El Capitan is probably the best-known feature of the Sierra Nevada; you can see it on the California quarter. Soon after, we began the long drive out of the park toward San Francisco, which heads down winding mountain roads through dense forest to scrubby hills and almond trees. We had a small crisis when we checked into our hotel -- our room's air conditioner wasn't working, which in this heat was intolerable -- but we changed rooms and the kids had a bit of time to swim before we met Paul's aunt Sandra and cousin Jared for dinner at a Guadalajara Grill. We hadn't seen them since our wedding!
The Blue Terrance )

Monday was mostly a driving day, leaving Ashland early and getting to the lodge at Yosemite at dinnertime. We got to experience the long-distance effects of the California wildfires, and they were not pleasant; the particles in the air created thick haze on top of what would have been caused anyway by the dust and dryness in 100-degree heat, and between that and my immune system acting up from erratic sleep and travel, I had a migraine lingering from yesterday that didn't let up till evening at Yosemite in the cooler air of the mountains. Even so, I'm pretty exhausted and am hoping to see more of Yosemite tomorrow than I could manage tonight!


California Mountains )
At Pegasus )

We've left Salem, where Brooke and Jon made us a huge breakfast with sausages, eggs, cinnamon crumb cake and fried potatoes, then took us to Minto-Brown Island Park, a nearly 1000-acre park along the Willamette River with lots of birds and wildflowers. After a walk, we stopped at a local mall to exchange for a larger size an Oregon t-shirt they had gotten Adam for his birthday. Then we walked across the street to a nearby Thai restaurant for a late lunch. The food seemed very good, but I was so blinded by a migraine that I barely ate anything. I'm afraid I was a pretty dull guest, having had trouble keeping my eyes open for the past two days.


At the Park )


Now we're in Ashland, sadly without time to see anything at the excellent Oregon Shakespeare Festival so we can get to Yosemite by Monday evening. The weather is gorgeous and my head is somewhat better. We had a lovely drive past Mount McLoughlin with wild deer and domesticated sheep at roadside in various places, and since no one was very hungry after lunch out, we had sandwiches in our room while watching The Simpsons movie.
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