Sunday, September 28, 2008

Labor Day Weekend, Part Deux

As the sun came up in Big Sur, we began to stir. (Well, I'm sure Jamie did - it takes more than a sunrise to get me up.) The first of Sonya and Jeff's Wedding Weekend activities was about to begin, and we needed to head to Point Lobos in order to partake.

As we pulled into the parking area, it looked like an Edelman-Szuchman family reunion! Aunts and uncles and cousins and moms and dads of the bride and groom were hugging and smiling and, dare i say it, plotzing, as everyone arrived for the "Pre-nuptial Hike." Though it was overcast, we still had wonderful views of the water crashing into the rocks.

Once everyone was ready, the whole bunch of us headed out on Bird Island Trail. This was a mile loop that took us high above two white sandy beaches - China Cove and Gibson Beach. China Cove was closed that day due to a, shall we say, stair issue...

...but we were able to get down to Gibson Beach and hang out for a bit!

Jamie even went hunting for shells, and found this!

Oh, i kid. That's Malcom!
We had a lot of fun with him and his parents all weekend!

We finished up the hike by noticing just how many people among us had braces (at last count it was upwards of six), checking out Bird Island, and looping around Pelican Point.

As we were
leaving the hike.... someone mentioned that the entire path had been lined on both sides with poison oak.

So we promptly baby wiped all of our exposed skin as if our lives depended on it!


If you know any locals in Carmel, please do not mention to them that we found a quiet street off the beaten path where we took off our potentially-contaminated poison-oak-clothes. In someone's front yard. It had to be done. Thanks for your discretion.

Anyway, once that problem was solved, we were in need of a good breakfast! We tried the historic Tuck Box, but it was past noon by this time, and we needed more than tea and biscuits.

We asked a [very proper] lady -- who brought her own plates into the small shop and ordered her 'usual' -- where we might find a hearty brunch at this time of day. She [very properly] advised us that the locals enjoy a place called the Little Swiss Cafe over on sixth. Man, oh man, this for me was the find of the century. I am looking forward to going back to Carmel for many reasons, not the least of which is to eat here once again. The food was terrific, but there was something about the atmosphere that I really enjoyed. The small diner had a mural on the surrounding four walls that depicted the Dutch countryside in all four seasons. Behind me you can see the end of winter blending into the beginning of spring...

And as you can imagine, spring blended into summer, etc. What you can't see here are all the hidden, humorous characters and scenes the artist Andre Balyon incorporated into this amazing multi-paneled painting. (The perspective was perfect!) The restaurant is on 6th between Lincoln and Monte Verde. Order the blintzes and bring cash. Cash is king in Carmel.

After some art gallery window shopping (and giggling),

... and trying to find a friend's house without an address -- they don't use street numbers in Carmel -- it was finally time to check into our bed and breakfast!


Our bed and breakfast, the Old St. Angela Inn, was in Pacific Grove. Everything (and by everything I mean Monterey, Cannery Row, Fisherman's Wharf, Pebble Beach, and the 17-Mile Drive) was in our backyard!

Old St. Angela Inn

The view from our Cape Cod Room

The weather was gorgeous, and we were unpacked - so we decided to jump back in the car and hit the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach (yeah, we never stopped during these four days!). Here are some of the points of interest!

Jamie at Point Joe
Early mariners often  crashed upon these rocks after mistakenly setting their course for this point, believing that it was the entrance to Monterey Bay.

China Rock
Here and at Point Joe, Chinese fishermen built lean-tos against the rocks for their homes in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Bird Rock 
(wide lens)

Bird Rock
This stately landmark is home to countless shorebirds and groups of harbor seals and sea lions.

We could not believe what we were seeing - and how very loud this spot was!!

Cypress Point Lookout
For over 100 years, this point has been a preferred view of the dramatic Pacific coastline.

The Fake Lone Cypress
(We didn't actually stop at the Lone Cypress... so we're pretending that this tree is the famous landmark.)

The Ghost Tree
With a trunk bleached white from wind and sea spray, the remains of this unique Monterey cypress has a sinister silhouette worthy of examination.

I think this looks like a chess knight.
Anyone else see it?

My favorite photo of the trip,
near the Ghost Tree.

After returning home from the drive, we took a stroll through Cannery Row on our way to the Fisherman's Wharf. We were determined to have a delicious seafood dinner at this end of this magnificent day! If you're ever doing Monterey on the cheap, just head to the Wharf -- each restaurant is so determined to get you in to eat their "best clam chowder in Monterey," that you'll be full of free samples in no time! It was tough, but we finally chose a great restaurant: Old Fisherman's Grotto, where Jamie discovered her love of abalone.

Spotted this guy (and many others) on our way to dinner.

On the Wharf

And finally, at the end of the day, Jamie had the opportunity to rock out with the art that adorns the warehouse walls along Cannery Row. Now, if that's not a lovely Steinbeck-inspired swan song, I don't know what is.

The weekend's not over folks - stay tuned for Jamie's blog about the big wedding day... DAY THREE!!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Labor Day Weekend, Part I

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The most recent Labor Day holiday was celebrated from August 29 through September 1, 2008, along the central coast of California, in accordance with the plans of Jamie and Jen.

Jamie and I set off for our adventure on the last Friday in August. We had quite a weekend ahead of us: our friends Sonya and Jeff were getting married up in Monterey and Jamie was turning 32! We had booked places to stay and discussed a few stops along the way we wanted to explore, but for the most part, we were gonna wing it.

Day One
The plan: Drive up the gorgeous southern and central coast of California and take in its stunning, awe-inspiring beauty.

What happened: Up and at 'em at 6 in the morning, Jamie and I jumped in the car and headed for the Pacific Coast Highway. It was an overcast morning, but we were sure the marine layer would burn off in no time. We stopped in the small military town of Lompoc for a bite to eat and some much-needed coffee.

And then we were off again!
As we continued up the coast (waiting for the pesky fog to burn off), we began to see signs for Morro Bay. Jamie said there was a rock there... and i really like rocks... so we thought, "Why not?!"

Along the way, we came across the North "T" Pier, home of the $1.25 barbecued oyster. The very, very delicious $1.25 barbecued oyster.

After some pelican watching, we bought some fudge from the boardwalk's candy store, and headed to Morro Rock.

Yup, there it is... right... there.

After playing on the rocks for a bit, we hopped back on the PCH... patiently waiting for that fog to dissipate. As the hours and miles went by, it was still a bit overcast... which was fine, because we had plenty of things to pass the time.

Next stop: Hearst Castle! Hearst Castle is actually a giant museum, but California State Parks strives to keep the estate looking like a private house. They offer five different tours everyday, and Jamie and I got there just in time for Tour 2, the Casa Grande Tour.

Jamie loved the Gothic Study

I loved the library

We both loved the artwork and ornate architecture

And the insane indoor pool

We were positive that after all the time we killed at the Castle we'd be welcomed by sunny skies and a crisp view of the coast... but alas... it was past lunchtime, and it appeared we were destined to drive through fog the rest of the day. As we were discussing this misfortune (and deliberating about driving down the coast on Monday), we saw our first of many elephant seal hangouts.

But we were starving, and were eager to get up to Big Sur... so through the clouds we drove... and drove... and drove...

we were above them!?!?!?

no joke, folks, here we are, above the clouds!

After a gorgeous photo opportunity,
we were Big Sur bound!

Jamie found this terrific spot for us in Big Sur called Fernwood Resort. This place had it all: tent camping, cabins, motel rooms, a tavern, a restaurant, a general store, hiking, and the Big Sur River! We opted for a tent cabin - something we had never done before - but will certainly do again!

We attempted to find a hiking trail, but ran into a few problems with the map... 

But then we found this terrific natural amphitheater in the woods and decided to get our dance on...

All that hiking and dancing definitely began to take its toll on us (as if our daylong drive didn't wear us out enough!), so we headed up towards the tavern for some dinner. We didn't go far before hearing someone shout, "Jamie!" (Small world, no?!) And wouldn't you know it, there at Fernwood was Jamie's friend Kris, along with her husband and adorable son Malcolm (more on these guys later!!). We chatted fireside about Sonya and Jeff, our Republican neighbors at the campsite, and what we each had planned for the rest of the weekend. 

And finally, after some cocktails, fish tacos, a smoked salmon quesadilla, and a gaze at the stars,
we were ready to call it a night. 

Check back soon for Day Two of our Labor Day Weekend!!!