Happy Easter, Happy Spring!

Whether you celebrate Easter as the most religious of Christian holidays when Jesus rose from the dead, or celebrate the season as a pagan with the renewal of the earth (in the northern hemisphere) after a dormant winter and the coming of new life, it is a time of joy, rebirth, and color, after the darkness of winter.

From my grandmother’s post card collection, here are a few old Easter greetings:

This post card is post marked March 9, 1918, 99 year old. Sent from my Great Grandmother to my Grandmother when she was 22.

I love that the sheep in this post card have natural tails.

This old post card was sent from my Great Grandmother to her son, my uncle, when he was young.

Posted in Seasons & Holidays | Leave a comment

Napa Valley to the Russian River Valley

Domaine Carneros, Napa, California

Finding myself in San Francisco on a Friday night, and with no immediate need to get home and back to work, I decided to spend the weekend in Napa Valley.

All the flowering trees were in bloom

Past experience has taught me to keep the tastings to a maximum of three per day.  Calling ahead for a reservation was required at only one of my stops on Saturday, but it is helpful to check to see if reservations are required.  First stop for Saturday was Domaine Carneros, for a taste of sparkling wine.  Their tasting area is a large and impressive chateau with a very grand staircase.  I ordered the tasting that compared four sparkling wines.  Two I liked, two I did not, but the price of the one I liked best, Blanc de Noir ($39), seemed excessive and why wouldn’t I just buy Veuve Clicquot?

Domaine Carneros sparkling line up

My second stop at J Vineyards, inspired by the WOPN sparkling brunch in Santa Barbara the previous weekend, was in the Russian River Valley.  It was over an hour drive from Carneros to J, but it is beautiful in places.  I had really enjoyed their Brut Rose and wanted to try more of their selections.  There is still ongoing construction at the J vineyards tasting facility, so a temporary area is set up outside.  I did the $20 Signature Tasting, 6 wines, but it did not include the bottle I ended up buying.  A good wine steward will offer something off the menu if they see you have a preference, and look like you may buy a bottle or two.  I ended up with two bottles of J Vineyards Estate Grown 2013 Robert Thomas Vineyard Pinot Noir.

J Vineyards in the Russian River Valley

J Signature tasting menu

J’s Brut Rose. They were sold out of the sparkling I had tasted at the WOPN

J Pinot Noir

The Camaro SS, my rental for the weekend, was oh so much more fun than the Mustang of the previous weekend and sported 455 hp.  It was quite thrilling on the back roads, and made it easier to make the tightly booked 3 pm appointment at Gary Farrell, stop number three.  Tastings are by appointment only at Gary Farrell so I had emailed them with my interest, and they called me back with time options.

The 2017 Camaro SS I had over the weekend. I was impressed with the car.

Gary Farrell tastings are set up in private tents.  Two other guests were scheduled for the same tasting as me and we had a fun time with Mario, our charming Italian wine steward.  Mario had good stories and pulled out some special wines, and I walked out with two bottles of Gary Farrell 2014 Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyard – Dijon Clones   Pinot Noir.

The tasting tent at Gary Farrell

 

With dinner recommendations from my two tasting partners at Gary Farrell, I headed to Healdsburg in search of the Italian restaurant that was mentioned.  I’d never been to Healdsburg before, and it’s a cute little town.  I’d like to go back some time to take a closer look.  The original restaurant recommendation did not work out, but I was sent to a sister restaurant, Campo Fina.

A street in the cute little town of Healdsburg

After dinner I made the drive back to Napa and the beautiful little boutique B&B in Napa I had found, Milliken Creek Inn and Spa.  I would recommend it.

Miliken Creek Inn and Spa lobby

A room at Miliken Creek Inn and Spa

Miliken Creek Inn

I had no planned stops for Sunday, but had been emailing Maggy Hawk, another discovery from the WOPN weekend.  My sister and I had tasted their Pinot Noirs and out of the over 80 vendors present, Maggy Hawk stood out to me.  Through back and forth emails, I came to understand that Maggy Hawk does not have its own tasting room, but is part of the Spire group.

Quintessa’s gate

With no particular vineyard in mind, and no agenda other than good photographs, I headed north along the Silverado Trail.  The trees were all flowering, and it was a beautiful day, but the vines were all in their winter dormant stage, so not terribly photogenic.

The dormant grape vines this time of year. Pruning will be done soon, and the ground cover will be cut back

Still, when I saw a winding road going up a hill, I turned onto the drive and headed up to Rutherford Hills Winery.  This vineyard and tasting room has a gorgeous view and guided tours of the ground, caves, and tank room.

The Rutherford Hills facility. The flowering trees are ornamental pears.

The view into the valley from the Rutherford Hills Winery

I arrived just in time to join a guided tour and tasting for $40.  The Italian heritage of the owners is evident in the antique Italian chandeliers in the caves and the stylish accouterments.  The tasting I enjoyed the most was their blend, Episode.  I did not purchase any wine here though.

Rutherford Hills tasting room

The doors to the wine caves at Rutherford Hills. The caves are on the tour

The chandelier is an Italian antique, inside the wine caves

A closeup of the Rutherford Hills antique Italian chandelier

There were three of the chandeliers

The Rutherford Hills wine I liked the best was a blend called Episode

After completing the tour at Rutherford Hills, I decided to stop at Hall Vineyards, a short distance away on St. Helena Highway.  I’d recently read Craig and Kathryn Hall’s book A Perfect Score, and had enjoyed a bottle of their 100 point Cabernet.  It seemed fitting to visit the tasting room and I wanted to see the art collection the Hall’s mentioned in their book.

Bunny Foo Foo greets guests at the entrance to Hall Vineyards

The tasting room at the Hall facility

There are many wines to taste at Hall

Pouring Jack’s Masterpiece

The Hall tasting room was beautiful, the view was great, and the wine samples were never ending.  At some point I had to stop and give myself a break, as I was beginning to get taste overload.  While at Hall, I got another email from Spire saying there were no tastings available for Sunday.  Not five minutes later however, my phone rang and they said I could “Come on up at 4:15”.

Hall tasting facility

Less than half an hour later I was being greeted by Estate Host Sam at Spire.  It is a “by appointment only” tasting room, owned by the Jackson family.  They own quite a few high end wineries and vineyards from several countries.  Maggy Hawk, the wine I was there to taste, is just one of the names.

The Spire tasting building;   http://www.spirecollection.com/

The three Maggy Hawk Pinot Noirs I tasted at Spire

I tasted the three Pinot’s I remembered from the WOPN and also tried a 2015 Galerie Naissance Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  The tasting room was awesome, great views, and wide open doors to enjoy the fresh air and see vines.  I ended up joining the club and ordering 6 bottles.  Sam was very gracious to accommodate my last minute request late Sunday afternoon.

Sam also gave me another recommendation for dinner on my way south, Farmstead.  I did have dinner there and it was good.

Farmstead;   http://www.longmeadowranch.com/

My observations from the weekend include:

  1.  A reinforcement of the three tasting maximum per day
  2. I loved the Camaro SS and would buy one if I already didn’t have too many vehicles.
  3. I would highly recommend Miliken Creek Inn and Spa.  https://www.millikencreekinn.com/
  4. Don’t miss out on the tasting experience at the Spire Collection, http://www.spirecollection.com/
  5. Hall Vineyards has a LOT of nice Cabernets.  http://www.hallwines.com/
Posted in California, Food and Wine | 6 Comments

Black Sand, Cowries and Turtles, or, Just Messing Around

It should come as no surprise that there are many black sand beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island.  Driving the main highways (11 and 19), you see vast areas of lava flow fields cutting a wide swath from the flanks of the mountains all the way down to the sea.  Where the lava flow meets the sea, the hardened lava has been crushed into sand.  Some of the beaches are well known tourist spots, but many are unmarked.

I heard of one unmarked black sand beach from three different local people.  It was just south of where I was staying, and because I was headed south towards Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge) I looked for the landmarks as described by two of them.  One person said to look for a lone palm, another said a group of palms, one said 10 minutes drive and another said 15.  There was no sign or marking for the beach I was looking for, and I did not find it on my first attempt.

Daylight Mind Cafe

Eggs Benedict Hawaiian style at the Daylight Mind Cafe

After breakfast at Daylight Mind Cafe in the Queen’s Marketplace, my first stop was the Kekahakai State Park just north of the Kona airport.  It looked like an interesting road, and it was more than that.  The sign warning of “unimproved roads” was an understatement.  I saw some people turn back.

The unimproved road to the state park

Kekaha Kai State Park

After investigating the State Park, I continued south towards Pu’uhonaua o Honaunau, a National Historic Park and sacred place.  Here the bones of ancestral chiefs lay protected in a temple and priests could save the lives of those facing the punishment of death.  I took an unplanned less than direct road to the site, but it was interesting.  Instead of taking the 160 off 11, I turned too early and zigzagged my way down a hill, passing small farms on steep terrain and older homes, ending up on a single lane road.  At about the point I was questioning my direction, I saw a handwritten sign nailed to a fence pointing the way to the Place of Refuge.

The Visitor Center at the Place of Refuge National Historic Park

The most enthusiastic person on the island, a park ranger manning the gate, took my fee and directed me to a parking space.  The Visitor Center tells the story of the migration of the Polynesian people and their way of life.  A map guides you around the Royal Grounds and replicas of original structures.  The most stunning building is the Hale o Keawe, the royal mausoleum, and the massive wall that surrounds the entire area.   The wall is up to 12 feet tall, 18 feet wide, and over 950 feet long.  It was built over 400 years ago using dry set masonry (without mortar).  It was impressive.

Hawaiian Gods surrounds the temple building

The wall

Hale o Keawe at the Place of Refuge

The best part about this visit for me was the green sea turtle (Honu) I saw feeding in the Keone’ele, or protected cove where only the canoes of the chiefs (ali’i) were allowed to land.   The water was so clear you could see the colorful fish from standing eight feet above the water.

The first turtle I saw in the Royal Lagoon of the Place of Refuge

The turtle feeding

This place had special spiritual powers to the ancient Hawaiians, and today is protected as a National Historic Park.

Heading north again along 19, I searched for the landmarks denoting the trail for the black sand beach.   Two likely spots emerged, and I decided I would check them out the following day.

As I handed my keys to the valet parking person, she inquired about my day.  Here was another opportunity to get a third set of directions to the unmarked black sand beach.  She was very helpful, and not only gave better directions to the beach, but also gave me tips on where to find sea turtles.  She said her father was pure Hawaiian, and when his family had cast her grandparents’ ashes into the sea, two sea turtles had come up, leading the family to believe that her grandparents’ spirits had returned in the shape of turtles.  She gave me directions to the spot where this had happened.

Turtle motif gate at a house along Puako Bay

First thing the next morning, stopping only for a café latte, I headed to the area where the woman had reunited with her turtle grandparents.

As you drive along the waterfront homes, many had beautiful gates with turtle motifs.  There were public access trails all along the stretch of ocean front.  Where the land meets the sea, it is mostly lava, coral, and rocks, with only small beachy areas.

Here I saw the turtles I had been hoping for.  The natural pools were filled with turtles feeding and I saw more than a dozen in one pool.  Two turtles were sunning themselves on the small beach, where signs warned people to keep their distance.

There is a turtle on the sand in the lower left hand area of this picture

Feeling pretty good about following the directions to the turtle pools, I headed south again for another shot at the unmarked black sand beach.  With the updated directions I found what I was looking for.  Not far south of Waikoloa, (between mile markers 78 and 79) there is a wide spot next to the highway where you can park.  This area is a lava flow field and quite treacherous when not on the worn path.  Just off the highway a gate blocked a rough road.  I parked, walked around the gate and started the 20 minute walk to the beach.  The first portion was pretty easy along a lava road, dark and hot, but not tough.  Where that road ends at a locked gate and fence topped with barbed wire, you must follow a trail cut through the lava.  This was tougher, and was wearing inappropriate shoes, the ever present flip flops.  But the searching and the walk were worth it.

The easy part of the trail to the black sand beach

The black sand beach was stunning, and an added plus were the many cowries on the shore, just waiting to be picked up.  The beach had a steep grade and the surf was pounding, so I did not swim.  I had the beach to myself for a bit, before a few other people showed up.  I found at least 20 shiny cowrie shells, and one live one.

A cowrie on the sand, waiting to be found

The only live cowrie I have ever seen.  It was attached to a limpet.

I felt the day to be a complete success, which was topped off with a late lunch of grilled freshly caught Mahi Mahi, which was the best fish I have had in quite a while.

 

 

Posted in Hawaii | 1 Comment

Exploring Hawaii’s Big Island

Hawaii’s Big Island has a lot to offer besides warm water and sandy beaches.  As a matter of fact, beaches is the least of what this island has to offer.  How often do you get the chance to see volcanoes spewing lava, black sand and turtles?

I chose to visit Hawaii’s Big Island exactly because I wanted to see something different.

Waipi’o Valley

On my first day of touring, I drove from the west coast of the island, Waikoloa Beach, via 19 towards the east coast.   My first stop was the Waipi’o Valley Lookout.

My rental Jeep

From there I continued along the Hwy 19 scenic drive toward Hilo.  This area is not only scenic but also has a lot of agriculture.  Second stop was Akaka Falls State Park.

Akaka Falls

A lizard on a Sweet Banana plant along the trail to Akaka Falls

My destination was ‘the end of the road’, Volcanoes National Park and the current lava flow, which everyone was talking about.  I was told to park at the end of the road and walk the 4 miles to where the lava hits the sea.

By the time I got to the parking lot it was about 4 pm.  Sunset was 6:30.  I was unprepared for the walk over the lava, in the heat.  Luckily there were about 15 bicycle rental tents.  For a negotiated $15, I got a bicycle, a backpack, a bottle of water and a headlamp.  At the time, I didn’t think I’d need the headlamp.

I don’t think I could have done the walk out and back, but it was possible on the bike.  The “trail” out to the lava flow was actually a gravel government road over lava, but with road blocks.  The Volcanoes National Park border was marked with a gate.

The lava road out to the lava flow

Ropes keep tourists at a safe distance

There are ropes and danger signs keeping tourists  out of the danger zone.  To get a really awesome view, it would be best from the water.

Crowds gathered at the edge of the ropes and waited for sunset.  I watched as the light faded, and with it, the glow of the lava became ever more evident.

Where the lava hit the sea, during the day

Where the lava meets the sea, as the sun set. You could see the bursts of molten lava

I wish I had packed a tripod.  Many had.  As darkness fell, the lava flow became more and more impressive.  As I climbed onto my bike to pedal the 4 miles back to the parking lot, I could see the rivers of lava flowing down the side of the volcano, which I could not see earlier in the light of day.

Returning to the west coast, I drove the shortest route back, Hwy 200 over Mauna Kea.  Mauna Kea’s elevation is 13,796.  I’m not sure of the pass elevation, but I navigated through clouds, heavy rain and lightning as I made my way westward.

As I was leaving the ‘end of the road’ parking lot at about 730 pm, I saw people just then mounting bikes with headlamps headed to the lava flow.  I understand now why they left that late.  The temperature was much more manageable after sunset (the path was all black lava), and the most spectacular views were in the dark.  You live and learn.

Posted in Hawaii | 1 Comment

World Of Pinot Noir, Day Two

Bacara from the ocean side

Having made rather merry the night before, we were glad for a later start on Day Two of the WOPN.  It also happened to be my birthday.  A walk on the rocky beach produced a few shells and some nice looking rocks as souvenirs.

Bacara pools

Our first event was the Sparkling Brunch at the newly completed Angel Oak dining room.  This new restaurant to the resort has a stunning view.  A selection of six sparkling wines was offered, one of which was an old Oregon favorite, Argyle 2013 Vintage Brut, plus a second Oregon sparkling, Anne Amie, 2011 Marilyn Brut Cuvee.  One of the ‘new to me’ sparkling selections I liked quite a bit, was the J Vineyards, NV  Blanc de Noirs.

The patio and view from Angel Oak

The selection of sparkling wines at the Sparkling Brunch

The first course of Baked Oysters Arcadian Style was served on a bed of beach pebbles, garnished with seaweed, a truly beautiful presentation.  The second course of Chicken And Waffle was easily modified to a meatless buttermilk waffle.  The third course, dessert, was House Made Root Beer, Vanilla Ice Cream and Double Chocolate Fudge Cake.  We spent a delightful two hours at brunch enjoying the views and the sparkling wines.

Baked Oysters Arcadian Style

House Made Root Beer, Vanilla Ice Cream, Double Chocolate Fudge Cake

Having learned a lesson from the night before, we got in touch with the chef for the evenings dinner to give them a heads up on some meatless options.  They had accommodated us as best they could the previous night with no warning.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

With a good long afternoon to explore before our 7:30 pm dinner, we headed out to find the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.  For two months only, the museum is hosting a special exhibit; Design by Nature, Four Centuries of Botanical Illustration.

The special exhibit, Design by Nature, Four Centuries of Botanical Illustration. It runs through April 2, 2017 at the SBMONH

Botanical Illustrations at the SBMONH

I am crazy for historic botanical prints and it was a very nice collection.

Jane Webb Loudon’s illustrations

The museum was a nice size, small and well done, and brought some rescued raptors out for display and a question and answer period.  It was a lovely afternoon.

A red tailed hawk

Great horned owl

Back at the WOPN, as we headed to our room, the line for the Saturday afternoon Grand Tasting / Pinot Noir by the Sea snaked out the door and half way to the first set of buildings.  We later learned that an estimated 900 people attended the Saturday afternoon tasting, a tight squeeze for the ballroom.  So we did the tastings right by attending Friday instead.  Our Saturday pace of, brunch, relax, then dinner, was more to our liking and we were able to enjoy the dinner and wines much more than the night before.

The Saturday dinner was in honor of local wine celebrity Merry Edwards.  We had to confess to not being familiar with her name, but the local people were very familiar.  Each course of the Rock Stars of Pinot Noir dinner was paired with two wines, a Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, and a Pinot Noir from a winemaker inspired by Merry Edwards.  Ms Edwards herself was there to recount her memories with each of the other wine makers, who also gave short speeches on how Ms Edwards had inspired them.  They were enthusiastic and obviously honored to be at this dinner.  It was interesting to me to compare two different pinot noirs at each course, and I found this type of tasting to my liking.

The winemaker from Fiddlestix Vineyard came around to each table to chat

The first course of the published menu was Duck Leg Confit En Miroton and Foie Gras.  The chef had graciously prepared us a beet salad instead.  The two pairings for this course were 2014 Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir by Merry Edwards, with 2012 Fiddlehead “Lollapalooza”, Fiddlestix Vineyard.  The winemaker of the Fiddlestix Vineyard stopped by each table to chat.  She was engaging and excited to be there.

Beet salad, our substitution for the Duck Duck’en first course

All nine guests at our table agreed that the second course was the best of the night.  The Pan Seared Scallops were tasty, and the Lobster Red Wine Reduction was elegant, accompanied by Celery And Turnip Millefeuille.  The two wines were 2014 Meredith Estate Pinot Noir by Merry Edwards with 2014 Hartford Court Seascape Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

Second Course

Pan Seared Scallops, Lobster Red Wine Reduction, Celery And Turnip Millefeuille

My sister and I had to laugh as the winemaker from Seascape introduced himself from the Sonoma Coast and described that as “far north.”  Hmm.  We wondered if these people hadn’t heard of the incredible Willamette Valley of Oregon, where some of the best all time Pinot Noirs originate.

Our chef’s substitution for us for Course Three was a quinoa dish, replacing Prime Strip Loin.  The pairings were 2014 Coopersmith Pinot Noir, with Brewer-Clifton 2014 Hapgood Pinot Noir.

Course Four, the dessert of Pavlova:  Orange Blossom Water Bavarian, Blood Orange Sorbet and Kumquat Confit was paired with a Merry Edwards 2012 Late Harvest Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  I am generally not a fan of dessert wine, but this was a really awesome pairing.  It was perfection, and the bottle was a piece of art.

Merry Edwards 2012 Late Harvest Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc

 

We learned a few things this weekend, as we always hope to.  If we attend this event in the future, we will again purchases tickets to the Friday tasting which was far less crowded than the Saturday Grand Tasting.  I would skip the Friday night dinner, with only a one hour reprieve between the tasting and the dinner.  The Saturday schedule of brunch at 11 am, a bit of a rest, and then the 7:30 pm dinner was much to our liking.

Upon checkout from the Bacara we asked how long the WOPN had been held at their resort, and were told for the past four years.  This year was the 17th for World Of Pinot Noir.  Now if we can get our WOPN logo glasses back home without breaking them, it will be the perfect end to a lovely weekend.

Posted in California, Food and Wine | 1 Comment

World Of Pinot Noir, March 3-4, 2017, Santa Barbara, CA

wopn-welcome

This past weekend, wine geeks, wine makers, and wine consumers gathered at the Bacara Resort & Spa to celebrate my favorite wine, Pinot Noir.

Bacara Resort & Spa

Bacara Resort & Spa

My sister and I met in Burbank, and drove Hwy 101 north to Santa Barbara.  We were lucky to get rooms at the resort, a truly convenient way to attend the gatherings.

Santa Barbar Harbor

Santa Barbar Harbor

Our arrival on Thursday gave us that evening and Friday morning to explore Santa Barbara before our first event, Focus Grand Tasting / Pinot Noir by the Sea at 4 pm on Friday.

For our first venture into Santa Barbara (the resort is actually in the town of Goleta) we drove the 20 minutes from the resort to the Santa Barbara Harbor.  There we found Brophy Bros. Clam Bar & Restaurant right on the pier for a fresh seafood dinner.

Freshly caught Sea Urchins

Freshly caught Sea Urchins

Sea Urchins being loaded onto a truck on the Santa Barbara pier

Sea Urchins being loaded onto a truck on the Santa Barbara pier

truck-and-urchins

sea-urchin-boat

While walking the pier at dusk we watched as workers unloaded tons of sea urchins from a boat into a truck.

My fish stew, Cioppino, was topped with parmesan cheese and very good.

Fish Stew at Brophy Bros.

Fish Stew at Brophy Bros.

Friday morning

Friday morning

Friday, the first day of the two day event, we had the morning to return to the harbor area before our afternoon tasting.

Our rental car

Our rental car

We drove onto Stearns Wharf and parked the rented Mustang.  The wharf is at the end of State Street which made for a good walk.

Stearns Wharf with Santa Cruz Island in the background

Stearns Wharf with Santa Cruz Island in the background

Questioning several locals, they all recommended the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company restaurant at the very end of the wharf for lunch.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. on Stearns Wharf

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. on Stearns Wharf

sign

It’s small with very fresh shellfish, and counter seats overlooking the kitchen.

santa-barbara-shellfish-co

We were talked into Uni Shooters, raw sea urchin served with a raw quail’s egg and lime.  I ate it, a first for me.

lunch-menu

lunch-menu-2

Uni Shooter

Uni Shooter

Back at the 17th annual WOPN (worldofpinotnoir.com), we joined the other guests in line at 4 pm for the general admission Focus Grand Tasting.  Wine Makers from California, Oregon, France, Chile, Australia, and a few other countries offered tastes of their finest Pinot Noir.

k-and-l

wop

With more than 80 vineyards represented, we had to be a bit selective.  We were drawn to the Oregon wines, but we were here to try new things, so we walked around the Bacara Ballroom and tasted wines unknown to us.

Inside the Bacara Ballroom

Inside the Bacara Ballroom

The wine maker poured her own wine at the Ground Boots table

The wine maker poured her own wine at the Gypsy Canyon Winery.

The wine maker told us that some of the proceeds of the sale of her wines go to a dog rescue charity

The wine maker told us that some of the proceeds of the sale of her wines go to a dog rescue charity.

One of my new favorites, Maggy Hawk Vineyard, Mendocino

One of my new favorites, Maggy Hawk Vineyard, Mendocino

friday-tasting-l

The Sommeliers were easy to spot, carrying blue plastic cups and spitting, while the novices/consumers were all swallowing.  The tasting ended at 630 pm.

Domaine Chanson, from Burgundy, France

Domaine Chanson, from Burgundy, France

Our next event was at 730 pm, the Anderson Valley Wineries Dinner.  This dinner was a 5 courses with wine pairings.   My favorite wine of the dinner was Waits-Mast Deer Meadow Vineyard 2013.

The menu from the Anderson Valley Wineries Dinner

The menu from the Anderson Valley Wineries Dinner

In hind sight, we found the 2 1/2 hour tasting followed by the dinner a little more than we needed.  Coming back again, we would do the Friday tasting (smaller crowd than the Saturday tasting), no Friday dinner, and the Sat. brunch and dinner, which we did.

Posted in California | 1 Comment

Sightseeing Barbados

The Sunbury Plantation House on Barbados

The Sunbury Plantation House on Barbados

For our last full day on Barbados, we jumped into one of the many minibuses headed to the airport, and from there got a cab to the Sunbury Plantation House, better known on Barbados as The Great House.  The plantation house being a bit off the main roads, our chances of getting the $1 minibus all the way to the plantation were small.  We had asked our 82 year old cab driver Jack to drop us at the plantation house, but he had nothing better to do he said, so waited for us and then drove us around for more sightseeing afterwards.

The main room of the plantation house

The main room of the plantation house

main-room

Plantation house dining room

Plantation house dining room

The Sunbury Plantation House is over 300 years old and had been a working sugar estate in the 18th and 19th Centuries.  When Thomas Daniel bought it in 1835, there were 244 slaves working the land.   Slavery was abolished in Barbados in 1834, but it took another two years for them to get their freedom, and were then referred to as slave apprentices.

We asked many questions of our guide, which she answered as we toured the house.  The house is full of antiques, but the original furniture was destroyed in a fire in 1995.  The house was meticulously restored and re-opened in 1996.

The basement was filled with horse buggies and gear

The basement was filled with horse buggies and gear

A collection of miscellaneous antique jars

A collection of miscellaneous antique jars

Only the house and the basement full of carriages and horse tack are available for touring.  With the current interest in retelling historical stories from all perspectives (not just the privileged white ruling class) it would be nice to see some representation of the lives of the slaves that worked the land for so long.

The public access walkway to Crane Beach with the Crane Resort on the far cliff

The public access walkway to Crane Beach with the Crane Resort on the far cliff

After touring the plantation home, Jack drove us out to Crane Beach.   We had a fruit smoothie at the very posh Crane Resort (which reminded us of Disneyland) and then drove to the public access road to the Crane Beach.  The Crane Resort is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the beach, and we could have made our way to the beach through the resort if we had known about the stairs, but we reached it anyway from the opposite end via a more scenic series of stepping stones.

Crane Beach

Crane Beach

Public access stepping stones to Crane Beach

Public access stepping stones to Crane Beach

Jack drove us back to our hotel entertaining us with local stories and history, and dropped us at Turtle Beach.  He charged $50 US for the three hours of driving, touring, and story telling.

Colorful houses along the road near the airport

Colorful houses along the road near the airport

The local fish market in Oistins.

The local fish market in Oistins.

fresh fish

fresh fish

It was Friday night in Oistins, which means one thing; Friday Night Fish Fry.  Another $1 minibus hop of just a few minutes brought us to the very popular food and entertainment venue.  It was a pretty even mix of tourists and locals, plus the ever present roosters.

Colorful boats off Miami Beach in Oistins.

Colorful boats off Miami Beach in Oistins.

Cruising market stalls

Cruising market stalls

A rooster among the stalls

A rooster among the stalls

We walked through the fish market, along the beach and cruised the little stalls.  We found a spot at the crowded picnic tables at the vendor recommended earlier by Jack, and ordered grilled flying fish, the island specialty.  It was delicious.

Friday night fish fry in Oistins

Friday night fish fry in Oistins

Packed picnic tables at the Friday night fish fry. This photo looks like mostly tourists, but the mix was pretty evenly split.

Packed picnic tables at the Friday night fish fry. This photo looks like mostly tourists, but the mix was pretty evenly split.

The local specialty, grilled flying fish

The local specialty, grilled flying fish

Sunrise the next morning

Sunrise the next morning

 

Posted in Barbados | Leave a comment

A Stellar Find; The Cliff Beach Club

One of the many free range chickens

One of the many free range chickens

The local transportation is cheap and plentiful, so we took advantage of it.  For $1 US ($2 Barbados) we took the bus from Dover Beach to Holetown.   Holetown is on the west coast and has some high end shops, including Cartier and Louis Vuitton.   We walked through a small shopping center called Chattel House, which was very pretty, but very expensive.

Chattel House shopping area in Holetown, Barbados

Chattel House shopping area in Holetown, Barbados

dsc_8543

dsc_8548

Many of the local houses are brightly painted

Many of the local houses are brightly painted

We had packed our backpacks with swimsuits and towels.  We headed southbound along the beach from Holetown.

We made our way southbound along the beach starting in Holetown

We made our way southbound along the beach starting in Holetown

The boardwalk area had some high end restaurants right along the shore

The boardwalk area had some high end restaurants right along the shore

A restaurant along the boardwalk

A restaurant along the boardwalk

The beaches here are not long stretches of white sand, but rather short sandy crescents, divided by rocky outcrops.   As we made our way southbound along the beach, we navigated through sand, the boardwalk, rocks with barely any sand, and then a few wide beaches.  The waves were stronger so the surfers were out.

dsc_8575

The beaches we walked along in sequence southbound were: Folkestone, Sandy Lane, and Payne’s Beach.  The west coast was definitely more ritzy than the south coast.

Sandy Lane Bay

Sandy Lane Bay

dsc_8606

Some of the coastline we walked had barely any sand at all. The beaches and coastline are all open to the public, although some large homes' seawalls reach right to the sea.

Some of the coastline we walked had barely any sand at all. The beaches and coastline are all open to the public, although some large homes’ property reaches right to the sea.

dsc_8595

As sometimes happens, out of pure good luck we stumbled upon a true gem walking along the beach.   Feeling the need to stop for lunch, we found The Cliff Beach Club.  It has one of the best views I’ve ever seen (rivals Two Oceans at Cape of Good Hope) and was the best meal so far of the trip.   I would not miss this if I ever return to Barbados.

We stopped for lunch at The Cliff Beach Club

We stopped for lunch at The Cliff Beach Club

All the tables have a spectacular view

All the tables have a spectacular view

The best meal so far

The best meal so far

View from the bar at The Cliff Beach Club

View from the bar at The Cliff Beach Club

bar-glasses

 

sisters

After lunch, we hopped another bus for $1 US back to the south coast.

The colors of the sunset

The colors of the sunset

dsc_8518

dsc_8513

 

 

Posted in Barbados | 2 Comments

Barbados

Turtle Beach, Barbados

Turtle Beach, Barbados

My sister and I arrived in Barbados on Valentine’s Day.  Yet another romantic destination with my sister, oh well, no romance but a few days of relaxation.

This is the first time I have booked an “all inclusive” resort.   There is no end to the number of resorts here in Barbados, so we just picked one.   We are staying at the Turtle Beach by Elegance Hotels on the southern side of the island, an area called Dover Beach.

Turtle Beach looking west

Turtle Beach looking west

“All inclusive” is not my usual style (I prefer small boutique B&B’s), but we thought we’d try it for a change.  We found out upon arrival that the all inclusive is indeed truly all inclusive.  You can’t turn around without a staff member pushing a rum drink into your hand.

Me on Turtle Beach shortly after our arrival

Me on Turtle Beach shortly after our arrival

We made ourselves at home on the pretty beach, with some fairly large waves and endless rum drinks.

Getting close to sunset

Getting close to sunset

One of the many rum drinks we sampled.

One of the many rum drinks we sampled.

Our first full day we were up early and decided to walk along the beach towards St. Lawrence Gap.  We ended up walking almost three hours, the distance from Dover Beach to very nearly Bridgetown.

Very cool tiles inlaid into the side walk.

Very cool tiles inlaid into the sidewalk.

Sidewalk tile closeup

Sidewalk tile closeup

We couldn’t stay along the beach for the entire walk, but followed the beach where we could, along the roads when we had to, and then walked the boardwalk when we reached that point.

St. Lawrence Gap early in the morning.

St. Lawrence Gap early in the morning.

Me on Carib Beach

Me on Carib Beach

Barbados, to my eyes, is a lot like the other Caribbean islands I have visited, (loose chickens everywhere, rusted rebar protruding from abandoned half completed building projects, and very friendly people) but with fewer stray dogs.  We saw quite a few cats, but only two dogs.  I was surprised to see some run down and abandoned properties along the beach front, beside very expensive hotels.

A pretty fence along the road

A pretty fence along the road

We ended up walking what we think was about 2 to 2 1/2 miles.  We started out in a light rain, and ended in bright, warm, sunny weather.

Near Worthing

Near Worthing

We saw turtle signs but no turtles

We saw turtle signs but no turtles

Pretty private homes along the beach near Rockley

Pretty private homes along the beach near Rockley

An unlikely bus stop

An unlikely bus stop

We ended our walk at St. Ann’s Fort right outside the Bridgetown Hilton.  From there we jumped into one of the many local minibuses (collectivo) and got a ride back to Dover Beach for $1 US each ($2 Barbados dollars).

The boardwalk ran along the beach from about Accra Beach to Hastings Beach

The boardwalk ran along the beach from about Accra Beach to Hastings Beach

St. Ann's Fort just south of Bridgetown, Barbados

St. Ann’s Fort just south of Bridgetown, Barbados

All the local people we have spoken with have been very friendly and kind.  The stray cats are all friendly, unafraid, which means no one is harming them.  People offer help even when not asked.  A guy with dreadlocks in the local market proffered a fist for a fist bump and said “Chill out man, you’re in Barbados.”   We are taking his advice and are chilling out.   Just what my sister needed, coming from the frosty NW.

 

 

 

Posted in Barbados | 2 Comments

A Pagan Looks at Christmas

dsc_7775

Even though I do not consider myself a religious person, (spiritual but not religious), I do enjoy the Christmas season.  As are nearly all Scandinavians, I was baptized a Lutheran, and attended Sunday School as a child.  But today I consider myself a Naturalist/Pagan, (I believe in Science, the power of nature and Mother Earth.   I also like the idea of Evolutionary Humanism, which requires people to consider their moral principles free from religious beliefs.)

This is the first time in the past ten years that I have been able to travel home to Oregon for the holidays.  It was very nice to be home with family and in cooler temperatures than Florida for this time of year.

dsc_7636

I’ve always maintained that Christians stole a great pagan holiday and turned it into Christmas.  In a book from my mother’s collection, The Book of Christmas, a Time-Life publication from 1986, I have found a description of the history of Christmas in a comprehensive and entertaining way, and with great illustrations.  The quotations below are all from that book.

dsc_7910

My holiday card says “Happy Winter Solstice”, the turning point of winter when the days become longer once again.  “Solstice” means “sun stands still.”  In the time before Christ, the winter solstice celebration wasn’t just a party, as I have liked to imagine.  Thousands of years ago “…people knew the sun as a god, the provider of light and warmth and life.  In late December, the god offered only a brief daily showing…yet in the days that followed, the god fought back against the encroaching darkness, slowly winning through to the midsummer months, when the sun’s golden brightness blazed high in the heavens.”

Until quite recently in human history, people didn’t understand the rotation of the earth or the changing of the seasons as we do now.  The people believed they had a part in the entire process and “… that the sun and light were truly endangered at the solstice.  The earth trembled under the footsteps of the dead, and unless the living offered prayers and performed ceremonies, death would triumph:  There would be no return of summer.”

So in the north – the Celts, Scandinavians, etc – performed rituals “…to ensure the rebirth of the sun.  They adorned their houses and themselves with holly and ivy and mistletoe and evergreen – all of the plants that withstood the death of winter and so were charged with enchanting power.”  These early survivors believed not just that the sun may not return, but also feared that the dark held evil creatures such as witches, spirits, and demons.  So they used fire to fight the darkness.

“Fire was at the center of all the winter festivals.  It was the brother of the sun, calling out to the heavens.  Great bonfires blazed on the hills of Ireland and Scotland, on the mountains of France and Germany and in the halls of the Norse kings.”

There were many festivals in the darkest time of the year; Brumalia, Saturnalia, Samain and the Yule of the Norsemen, originally in November.  Saturnalia ended on December 24th and December 25th was the birthday of the god Mithra.  All of the ceremonies “…were intimately concerned with the great natural crisis that reached its acme on the day of the sun’s shortest and feeblest appearance.”

The story of the birth of Jesus, the miracle of the star, the angels descending from the heavens, was “…the whole of the chronicle.  The rest is garlands, added by subsequent ages – by monks, scribes, priests, wits, storytellers and common people – to adorn the source of the faith that was their life’s greatest treasure.  Nothing from the time portrays Joseph, the shepherds, the inn, the innkeepers.  The year itself is in doubt, and the time of year a topic merely for speculation…It would be some three hundred years before the date of the birth was fixed by the elders of the new religion and Christmas was set at the 25th of December.  The reasons for the choice are not difficult to discover:  Even a brief glimpse at the stories told about Mary shows how the event was to become the crowning symbol of a thousand years of ritual and custom.”

“All of these rites were gathered at last under the mantle of the Christian celebration and while the origins were forgotten, traces of the old ceremonies remained…The child who was the Son of God and called the sun of righteousness promised delivery from darkness and the hope of everlasting life.”

As we bring in our Christmas trees and decorate with lights, we are hearkening back to the days before Christ.  But don’t call a Christmas tree a holiday tree around some uptight folks.  They say “keep the Christ in Christmas”, even though to me a Christmas Tree isn’t as accurate as holiday tree.  But to truly celebrate Christmas (Christ’s Mass) in the original sense of the powerful and consequential event of the birth of the Savior, the son of God, (in my humble opinion) there would be no trees or gifts or the buying frenzy we see so much of today.  It would be a solemn, contemplative celebration, a time to relive and revive faith in a miracle.  Today’s commercialization of Christmas is tragic, and I feel that most people in the US are not celebrating it in a religious fashion.  It seems to be a mix of many traditions, which is why I claim to celebrate the older customs, the changing of the seasons, and the return of the sun.

Saint Martin as depicted by Michael Hague

Saint Martin as depicted by Michael Hague

There were many Christian saints who had magical powers.  One of those was Saint Martin, whose saints day is November 11th.  Saint Martin was the patron of wine and of vintners, who rode “…across meadows and fields on his white horse, releasing from the folds of his cloak the first snow of the season.  Saint Martin’s Day was one of feasting, when the first of the new wine was drunk.  And in memory of his patronage, German children placed vessels of water on the doorsteps with the plea that the water be changed to wine.  On the morning of Martinmas, the water would indeed be wine, beside it would lie a special cookie, shaped like a horseshoe to show that the saint had ridden by in the night.”

Michael Haute's version of Odin from the book The Book of Christmas

Michael Hauge’s version of Odin from the book The Book of Christmas

Another Christian Saint, Saint Nicholas, also has roots in the ancient gods.  Santa Claus’ origins can be traced to Odin the All-father, who rode through the skies in winter with a crowd of elves and spirits.

A Winter Solstice dance interpretation by Michael Hague

A Winter Solstice dance interpretation by Michael Hague

December 21, The Winter Solstice.  “From time before memory, people danced to make magic, and throughout Europe, they danced at the solstice as a defense against the dark.  The recollection of those early ceremonies lived on in the form of village sword dances, performed on the shortest of days, December 21.  Clothed in elaborate ribboned costumes, men would circle sunwise – from left to right, in the apparent path of the sun – using the swords they bore to form patterns in the air.  The most important pattern marked the climax of the dance.  It was a six-pointed star, the earthly symbol of the longed-for sun.”

 

dsc_7779

 

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Russell Sadler and printed in the Daily Astorian, possibly as long ago as a few decades.  My mother clipped it out and saved it all this time.

Our traditional view of Christmas comes from our English roots and our nation’s New England beginnings.  Christmas is enduring images of snow-covered countryside dotted with evergreens and horses drawing sleighs over white and drifting snow.   Grandmother’s house is over the river and through the woods.  Christmas is no place like home for the holidays by the hearth of a New England farmhouse.  A log fire blazing in a rock fireplace is required equipment.  Town is a country cross-roads with white clapboard churches whose spires reach toward the sky and snow-covered red barns in the background where the cattle are lowing.  These powerful images are perpetuated by the illustrations of the English emigrant artist Reginald Birch, illustrators Currier and Ives, painter Norman Rockwell and generations of artists at Hallmark cards.   But the most powerful influence on our traditional view of Christmas is the English journalist and author Charles Dickens.  The Christmas Americans find familiar and export to the world is not an age-old tradition.  It is only a slight exaggeration to argue that Charles Dickens invented Christmas in 1843 when he published A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.  To put the event in perspective, Dickens published his influential story of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future the same year Jesse Applegate’s wagon train arrived in Oregon with 900 souls over the Oregon Trail, doubling the Oregon Territory’s European-American population overnight.  A Christmas Carol introduced Scrooge and Marley, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit and Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig to the world.  On its pages we still find the Christmas we know and celebrate.  It is the Christmas of blazing Yule logs under cozy rooftops, the Christmas of plum puddings, smiles, gifts and happiness.  All the modern commercial Christmas glitz would have baffled Tiny Tim.  In Dickens’ pre-Christmas Carol England, Christmas was primarily a family feast at home on Christmas Day.  Dec. 25 marked the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas and the beginning of the celebration.  Gifts on Christmas morning were few and limited to the very young in all but the wealthiest Victorian families.  Christmas in Dickens’ day was followed by 12 days of exchanging small holiday notions, visiting, feasting, family games and joyous Christmas dances.  The emphasis was on people being together.  Today’s emphasis on ostentatious commercial consumption was conspicuous by its absence.

Norman Rockwell's Santa

A Norman Rockwell painting of Santa Claus

 

Of course things change with time, but I think it is past due for a return to a simpler and less commercial celebration, whether for religious reasons or others.  My family generally tries to get together for a meal, and does not go overboard with gifts.  My mother bakes traditional Scandinavian cookies and puts up a real Christmas tree.  This year the tree went up on Dec 23rd.  The days after Christmas, the traditional 12 days of Christmas, are quieter and more peaceful than the buildup to The Day.

Christmas dinner or salmon, potatoes, carrots, green beans and of course an nice Oregon Pinot Noir, Four Graces.

Christmas dinner of salmon, potatoes, carrots, green beans and of course a nice Oregon Pinot Noir, Four Graces.

dsc_7662

An old ornament

An old ornament

Another old ornament

Another old ornament

dsc_7713

 

 

Posted in Seasons & Holidays | 2 Comments