Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vacation days 4-whatever.

As I mentioned before, I am terrible at keeping things on schedule and doing things that I am "supposed" to be doing. Hence it taking forever to post again about my vacation. With several installments, and a set order, even a vacation is not random enough to keep me interested in writing about it!

But anyways, I did promise to at least write about the exciting part that happened the next day, so I guess I'd better do it.


Yeah. I can't really describe it here cause I need too many motions and sound effects. But if you ever have the chance to go, even if it means driving 2 hours out of your way - DO IT. Just a thought.

Then we drove to Eureka. Lots more windy roads and bridges which I actually didn't sleep through. Must have been too wired from the dune buggying. We crossed the state line and somehow thought that being in, you know, California, we might get some use out of all the sundresses and tank tops we brought, but no. Still cloudy and even a bit of rain this time.

Eureka is a funny little town. I can't really describe it any other way. It had a strange, almost eerie feeling to it. Partly it might have been our hotel which was straight out of the 1800's (ok, it had phones and a tv in the room) and almost dead silent. Maybe it was the gloomy weather, or the many closed vintage shops that made it seem out of another time, or maybe...maybe it was just weird.

But we had a good time, and I'd like to go back. Aside from the subtle strangeness, and maybe even because of it, Eureka is a neat little town. There was an old bearded blues band playing (surprisingly really well) for an old bearded audience that was grooving along outside in the town square. We saw a whole bunch of seals off the boardwalk and so many neat little shops we would have liked to spend some time in, had they been open. It was kind of good that they were closed, since we were going for a run through town to work off at least some of the absurd amount of dairy we ingested the day before.

Also cool was the little place we had a late dinner called "Bon-Bonniere". Really neat 50's diner kinda thing going on, excellent fresh food and (what looked like) killer desserts. Katrina and I even went all girly when we saw the Shirley Temples on the menu and had to have them. They were as sugary and pink and full of maraschino cherries as we expected. It was a good night.

The next day's drive took us through Redwood National Forest and we took the scenic route "Avenue of the Giants". Wow...I've always loved Cathedral Grove on the island, and this was...amazing. At Steve so succinctly put it: "Those are big trees." Walking through them and looking at some of the massive redwoods, I didn't wonder why things like dryads and ents are a part of our collective mythology. I wanted to stay all day and just sit there, but we were on a schedule...and the next stop was a big one.

The Napa Valley. It was what everyone (else) was waiting for. It was a heck of a long drive, with the last stretch being the slowest and most winding. I think our top speed for the last couple of hours was about 40km/h. But we made it and went out for a most amazing dinner at Zuzu Tapas. Again, the restaurants were the highlight for me. We did three wine tastings the next morning, and although I enjoyed that a lot, and the wineries and buildings were beautiful, my favourite part was dinner.

At one winery, the lady who was serving our wine also happened to be a chef, and was recommending pairings to us for each wine. For one of them she happened to mention Thai food and when all our ears perked up visibly, she told us of a restaurant we had to visit.

It was called Little Mango, and there was a sous-chef for another restaurant sitting at the table next to ours. You'd think a so-called amazing place where chefs eat would be expensive, but I think the special was 16 bucks. Most things were around 10. It was amazing...and I know I say that a lot, but when you have 4 talkative people at a table, not saying a word for 5 minutes at a time - you know it's good. We usually share our food around so that we can all try more things, but no one suggested it this time. We were too busy eating.

Phew! Almost done. Napa Valley for a day and a half, then on to San Fran! I slept in the car again, but only for an hour. It's apparently a short drive to San Francisco, and I woke up in time to see us getting on the Golden Gate bridge. It's actually kinda orange. Which I guess is a lot closer to gold than the black or grey that most bridges are. Our hotel was close to the bridge, but not ready for us so we parked the car and went to check out nearby Chestnut Street.

It was fun, some little shops for the shoppers to enjoy, teletubbies wandering for the...kids? to enjoy and just generally a good feel. As soon as I stepped onto the sidewalk I said to myself "Yeah, I'd come back here." We found another great restaurant called the Grove which was fast and furious and fun. You pay and get your number, try and find somewhere to sit then and wait until the servers find you. They've got a short menu of maybe 4 sandwiches, 4 salads, 4 mains but everything was excellent so there's something for everybody. Fresh squeezed orange juice made my day. They claim the best bacon in the world, and if they're not right, they're not far wrong...and they actually DO have the best macaroni and cheese in the world. Or at least that we'd ever had. Ok ok, I know, enough of the food!

Once we put our stuff in the hotel room, it was back to wandering. We split into pairs again since Katrina and I tend to travel in a very random way (surprise surprise) just picking a general direction, or having one goal in mind and then happening across whatever we happen across, while Steve and Karen are far more specific and want to get to the things they want to get to.

Anyways, our hotel happened to be on Lombard St which had the block known as the windyest street in the world. It took an hour to get to that section of it, but we didn't care and yeah. It was pretty windy. We thought our drive to Napa was bad! But this block was basically a car length and a half of straight road before making a switchback in the other direction. Yeah, it was a steep hill. Even the other side of it was a steep climb to get up to that point. Later, we checked out our total distance of the night (7 miles) and with the hills we considered it a workout.

Next stop was Chinatown! Well, we didn't really plan to stop so much as move with the massive flow of people down the street. Yup, sure was a chinatown. Lots of produce shops, fish shops, dried everything shops, tourist traps, take out food...etc. It was anything special per-se but it was just so...condensed! Like taking Vancouver's chinatown, multiplying it by 10 and putting it in a space maybe twice the size. We wandered into a dried everything store just for the heck of it (and to see if they had a specific tea I like) and one of those EVERYTHING IS HERE AND MOST OF IT IS A DOLLAR AND IF YOU EVER THINK YOU WILL NEED SOME KIND OF JUNK YOU WILL FIND IT HERE stores, since Katrina had never done that. Then we ended up having some really good really cheap dim-sum at another random shop.

After that, we headed down to Union Square, which would have been a shopping heaven had it all been open. As it was, we made it Macy's and Katrina nearly had a seizure trying to look in every direction at once when we got to the shoe floor. It's probably a good thing most things were closed, since she stopped at every other massive expensive name brand window on the way back, looking like one of those commercials at Christmastime with the kid looking in the toy store.

We went back to the other extreme of prices on our wander back through Chinatown. By this time it was dark, so we got to see the other side of it. Lanterns across the street, musicians playing "Yankee Doodle" on traditional chinese instruments, tourist trap shops brightly lit up with bright gaudy shiny things. I almost got sucked in by a nice sushi dish set. Glad I didn't because I saw the same ones back home.

Didn't make it to Fisherman's Wharf, since it was so dark and late and we needed more food. (It was sushi, and yes it was again, really good. Hey don't knock it - I have the most amazing instinct for finding good food on the road) We had been thinking about going for Karaoke, since we saw a place open on our way out, but I ended up being a little too tired at 10pm after those 7 miles, and a little too worried about finding a way to the airport for me to enjoy it, so we just went back to the hotel.

And that, my friends, is that. The hotel had an agreement with a shuttle service, so I had no problem getting to the airport for my 7am flight back home to Canada. My 2 bottles of wine also survived the trip in the cargo section and were enjoyed thoroughly by all who imbibed. My week in Vancouver visiting family and friends was excellent and now I am back in Victoria, hard at work.

Yeah, really hard at work. Played 5 games of pool this morning.

I love my job.

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