As it happens, I work with a lot of vegetarians. And all of them sang the praises of Field Roast sausages. Specifically the Smoked Apple Sage variety (they cautioned that the chipotle was very spicy). This week, I took a look at our local Wegmans and sure enough they had a big selection. It was pretty expensive, around $6.50 for four sausages, and I don’t think that calorie/protein wise these are any leaner than actual pork sausages. That being said, they were fantastically delicious and will be occasionally making their way onto my table.
Today we drove up even farther north to Redwood National Park. A friend of Brendan’s brother’s has recommended that we check out Fern Canyon. I’m glad we took his advice. The park is about 50 minutes north of here. Instead of hiking 8 miles from the park offices, we decide to drive to a point that’s less than a mile from the canyon. It’s this little gravel road that winds around and down to the shore and down to the canyon. Did I mention we’ve rented a Seabring? It takes a minute for me to get my eyes used to the woods once we enter them. I’m startled because it looks like a black and white photo. It takes a moment to realize that the road kicks up so much grey dust that it has covered the ferns and the trees on the edge of the road. They are so thickly coated that everything is in shades of grey.
We make it to the end of the road and set off to first explore the beach. It’s much flatter here and more like the beaches that I am used to on the Atlantic. We walk down to the water and take a few photos of the birds there. I am leading us on the way back and out of the corner of my right eye I see them: three elk, just hanging out. They weren’t there when we started. I take a few photos, and as the shutter clicks as I’m taking one of the male, he turns, looks at me and takes a few steps. We were far enough apart that I wanted to switch to the zoom lens, but I thought twice about it as he moved towards us slightly again. I was satisfied with our Nature moment.
Then we hiked into the canyon. It is so beautiful. I know the photos won’t do it the proper justice. As we rounded each bend it got more and more beautiful. We headed up a trail up a ridge and walked for a while. Once we got to the fork we had to make a decision: hike for 5 more miles and get back to town at about five or six, or go back the short way, maybe a mile and get back around two. Since we hadn’t seen any of Eureka, we opted for the short route and made our way back to the car. The elk were still hanging out where we left them, and so I switched lenses and took a few more shots. The male was still posing for me (and the others who were even closer). A man getting into a car near me muttered something to his wife like, “People are more interested in the elk than they are in Fern Canyon!” I turned and said, “Oh, we’ve already done that.” Plus, there aren’t elk in our part of Virginia!
Back in Eureka, we decided to have a big lunch at a brewpub and skip dinner for the most part. Afterwards, we headed into Old Town Eureka. It’s not really what we were expecting. There were a few blocks with a few shops, but not really much going on. There were a few coffee shops, a bookstore or two, a Restoration Hardware that seemed out of place, and a whole lot of scraggly, homeless looking people. The boardwalk was even more depressing. Evidently there are grand plans for shops and whatnot along it, but right now there isn’t anything, just some buskers playing bad, loud guitar. It kind of reminds us of Sharon: once a big milling town and now sort of struggling. Admittedly, we’ve only seen a small part of the town.
Tomorrow we’ve got a long drive ahead of us. There probably won’t be any more posting until we get home. Right now, we’re borrowing access from someplace else (we thought we were going to have wireless here, but apparently there’s not). We’ll be in the middle of nowhere tomorrow on our way to Lassen Volcanic National Park.
We stopped at the park before we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. We’ve been lucky with the weather in San Francisco; it’s been sunny every day. Whenever we’ve looked towards the bridge however, the clouds have been low and rather dense. Today the skies were clear. There wasn’t a cloud. We had a couple take our picture at the highest point of the park, but I decided I wanted one of us at the bottom, with flowers and not metal bars, in the foreground. The people we choose at the bottom weren’t the best photo takers. Ah well.
As soon as we went over the bridge and down the mountain, the temperature shot up about 10 or 15 degrees. It was practically instantaneous. I had always heard about the Marin effect, but I didn’t quite believe it until I actually experienced it.
The drive was relatively easy. We planned the trip well in that we weren’t coming to wine country on a weekend. There are still crowds.
We decided to take a tour of a winery, and were told by the nice lady at the Visitor’s Center that the Benzinger tour was quite good. They have what is called a biodynamic winery. “A step above organic,” is what people say that it means. Not only do they not use pesticides, but they also have a healthy ecosystem within their winery. The tour was good — worth the $10 they charge a person. Included in that is a tasting of four wines. All pretty good. Of course, I liked the most expensive red reserve the best. But we’re on vacation, so what the hell. We bought a bottle.
Benzinger is at the northern part of the valley, and the farthest away from our hotel. We worked our way back from there. We stopped at two wineries on our way here, and were not treated as well as we should have. At one, the girl working would just pour it for us and say “and this is our 2003 cabernet” and leave it at that. But she would take care in explaining the tasting notes to everyone else there. We didn’t buy any wine from her. Of course, it wasn’t all that good either. The next winery was a little bit of the same. The gentleman taking care of us did start out explaining the wines to us but he became distracted by some other customers who were apparently getting some wine shipped. We were left at the counter alone and unattended to for quite a while. Another guy came buy to see if we wanted a second tasting. We told him no, we just needed to pay for the one we had. But he couldn’t ring us up for whatever reason. Eventually, the other guy came back. He was very apologetic and gave us an additional tasting of two wines that were not supposed to be available to taste. Both were very good and we decided to take a bottle of the Saryah (which we just discovered we like). The last winery, Charles Creek, which has a small tasting shop and gallery in Sonoma was our last stop. The girl there was very attentive. She treated us spectacularly, explaining the wines, telling us the little stories behind them. We also bought a Chardonnay from her. All in all it was a good experience, but I felt like we weren’t taken seriously by some people. Lord knows why. Everyone here is a tourist.
Sonoma is very quiet. Especially on a Monday. We did a little shopping in town — I bought 6 bars of olive oil soap (most of the wineries also have olive trees). We made it back to the inn in time for their daily wine and cheese reception in the main lobby. The wine wasn’t anything particularly special — just your standard red and white — but still good. I don’t think they make really awful wine here. Anyway, this group of older people (in their 60s probably) came down. There were three couples. A few of the women were really complaining about the quality of the wine. Brendan and I are sitting there thinking, it’s free people, get over yourselves and enjoy it. One woman in particular is pretty vocal about it, making sure to talk to each of the others to say how the wine isn’t bad; it’s just not to her taste. Of course, everyone knows that she really means it’s bad.
After a dip in the jacuzzi, Brendan and I headed back into town to the Irish pub for dinner. After all the wine we’ve had today, a pint (of Boddington’s) sounded really good. We had just finished talking about how the old people at the hotel were slightly rude when they walked into the pub. The men came first. They were perfectly happy with the choice and were scoping out the room for a place where all of them could sit. Then in came the women. One of them seems pretty easy going. She would have been fine. The other two however, were awful. One asked the owner of the pub what the best restaurant in Sonoma was. The other said she could manage to find something that would do. After a whole lot of hemming and hawing they left. Thank God. I can’t wait until we see them again at breakfast!
The landscape here seems strange to me. Except for the grape vines, everything is brown. The grass in the square here is green, but that’s it. Mostly it all looks very dry and very, very brown. It should get greener as we go north towards Eureka.
We did Alcatraz today. Awesome tour. It may be one of the most cliche things to do in San Francisco, but I think it’s a good thing to do. After that we had lunch at Pier 39 and walked around. Nothing too exciting. We stopped at a shop on the pier where you pick an oyster out of a barrel and they get a pearl out of it for you. Jess got one and had it mounted on a ring. It felt like a total scam, but it was fun. The woman even gave us an extra pearl because we told her we are on a trip for our anniversary. Very nice Asian women worked there. I got Steelers underwear for game day at an NFL shop. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s actually very exciting for me.
Had dinner at an Italian place where the food was excellent, but the service was horrible. We probably sat for 25 minutes waiting for our plates to be cleared. We had a bottle of wine to get through to pass the time, though.
Sorry, but today just wasn’t as exciting.
Except for when Jess blew up the hotel hair dryer, and clogged the toilet. Although the toilet wasn’t her fault. It was just a coincidence, but a funny one. A repair guy was here for about 30 minutes trying to fix it. We’re fine now.
I believe this negates me being wrong earlier in the trip. The score is now 0-0. Jess loses two points because of destruction of property, etc.
The shower in this hotel is ridiculous. When standing there, the shower head is at nose level. When turning it on, the water hits at the neck — and that’s only when pointing the shower head straight out.
Also, cherry limeade = crack.
Yesterday we started with the changing of the guard. It doesn’t officially start until 11:30, but we were there early — maybe 10 o’clock, to get a good spot. It was actually cold yesterday, so we stood freezing for half an hour and then the ceremony started. There were a lot of people — they only do it every other day in the winter. As we were standing, some Brits wandered into the crowd and wondered aloud what what going on. I thought only Americans stood around with other people not quite knowing what they were waiting for. When we first arrived, we had a spot right on the fence on the left hand side. I had the bright idea to move back towards the fountain, so that we could see the whole width of the palace. If we had stayed there, he would have gotten some good video. Oops.
In the front of the palace there’s a circle fountain and a statue of Queen Victoria. There are three gates to the palace. The old guard lines up at one gate, and a pipe band comes through that gate. Then, on the other side, the new guard and a marching band march in. Then two guys stand at the center and exchange keys.
Next, the band forms a horseshoe and played several tunes — a march a burlesque-ish one and something else… then at the end, the old guard and the piped and the band all march out.
I’d say, you don’t go to London to see the changing of the guard, but when in London, it is something to see.
Then we had lunch at some pub. Any pub. They’re all the same. They have the exact same menu. The same.
The next stop, and the last stop, really, was the British Museum. The best thing there was the
Rosetta stone. So amazing.
There were a lot of very cool, very old, things. And we were allowed to take video and photos of everything. Everything (can you do that at the Smithsonian?). Things from the very start of civilization. There were so many people from all over the world there. When I thought about it, it made sense. There were relics from Egypt, Persia, Asia, Africa…Things that aren’t in their “home” countries, so people have to travel to see them.
The very, very last thing we did was to go to a bar and watch the Steelers game. Yes, that’s right. We watched the Steelers. Brendan packed his shirt and his hat and everything. We met another fan or two — some Americans and a British Pats fan. He was nice. A bit shy and a little odd, but nice.
On the plane now. Since it’s January, they switched up the movies a little. The guy in front of me is ruining my viewing experience. He keeps throwing himself backwards and pulling the seat up and just being a fidgety pain in my ass. I was a little disappointed to find out that i (heart) huckabees was showing on US to London flights and not the other way around, but there was a problem with one they were meant to be showing (Alfie) so we’re getting to watch it. (Garden State, too, but my TV doesn’t like it.) I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about huckabees, but I like it. I like it a lot. I’m watching it for a second time.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
We are totally exhausted. It’s only 17:23 and both of us could certainly fall asleep right now. We’ve been walking a lot the past few days.
Yesterday, we started at St. Paul’s. After we saw the crypt and the church, we climbed almost 600 steps to the top of the dome. My legs still burn.
The views were worth it,
I forgot my little schedule, so we missed going to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square as I had planned. After St. Paul’s we went to Covent Garden for shopping (20-quid for a pair of fab pants at Monsoon) and wandering in Soho and the West End/Picadilly. We ate at an organic grocery store with a disorganized staff. It was crazy. No one was in any hurry. The food was good, though.
Then we made our way to Buckingham Palace. Evidently, the state rooms are only open of tours in August and September, but we did see an exhibit on King George III and Queen Charlotte at the Queen’s Gallery.
After that we did more walking in Picadilly and came across a Waterford store that was haveing a sale on the Lismore patters — so we got 8 claret glasses. Nice. At 30% off, too. Then we came back to the room and decided to try and get a head start on the crowds and head down to Trafalgar Square a little on the early side.
We got lucky and snagged a table at a small Italian Ristorante (where the staff were actually Italian). Afterwards, we went on a quest to find a bar where we could get just one dring. After a lot more walking, we found a random, same as all the others pub, where we had just one drink and then split. It was then to Trafalgar Square to stand and wait for the New Year.
All-in-all, it was completely anti-clamactic. The fireworks were actually on the Thames, but there were hundreds, dare I say thousands, of people at the square watching music videos on two massive screens. Once 11:00 or so rolled around, the coverage on the BBC started. It was no celebration. Instead, it was 40 minutes of tsunami coverage. Granted, a lot of Europeans take vacations to Asia or have family there, but 40 minutes of devastation and death and sad story after sad story was just not fun. I found myself wishing for some Ashlee/Lindsay/Brittney pop princess crap instead!
Then, when the countdown started at Big Ben, the BBC showed the countdown which was projected onto a building. At about 20 seconds, they cut away! Eventually, in the distance, bells rang and people cheered. Um, OK. There could have been some sort of countdown from 10 or something.
And then the fireworks started. The did show those on TW and some of them were visible over the buildings between the square and the waterfront. Since there were so many people there (the Tube was free), Bren and I decided to make our way out — towards any Tube station, anywhere. The coppers were everywhere and they had everyone corralled in — with maybe a few places where we could get through. there were some semi-scary moment were there was a whole lot of pushing, a lot of people, and nowhere to go. But we made it. And after a while, we found ourselves at an Underground station. We managed to be in bed at around 1:30 or 1:45.
This morning it was difficult to get up, but we managed to be out the door before 10:000. Today, we had a quick bite at the local McDonalds. Our price at the hotel didn’t include breakfast. We found that out yesterday morning. The food there was OK, nothing special, and it takes awhile; hence, McDonalds. However, they seem to have a more varied and healthy breakfast menu. I had coffee (which was actually good) and a bagel with jam and Brendan had porridge.
Our first stop was the Tate Modern. They have some good stuff. It wasn’t terribly crowded until after 12:30 as we were leaving. I know Brendan didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, though. They did have this one sort of interactive piece that consisted of a huge cabinet full of things that were found on the banks of the Thames. They were all organized by object and color. There was a drawer full of soda bottle caps, and glass bottles and what not. Everything was meticulously labelled. I wanted to take it home with me. We did end up missing the parade (oops) but weren’t too disappointed.
After the Tate, we went shopping (again) in Kensignton. I got the cutest purse. And it started raining. Today is the first day we’ve had with rain and wind. We made our way from Kensington High Street to Holland Park and onto the edge of Notting Hill to Portabello Road. It was just about closing time for the shops that were open, though. Still, there were loads of people.
After we walked the length of the street it had gotten dark (at only 4:00, 4:15 or so) and we were completely spent, so we found the closest Tube station and came back. We’ll stay close by for dinner and go to bed early. In fact, Brendan is asleep right now.
There isn’t a whole lot on the schedule for tomorrow: St. James’ Park in the morning, changing of the guard at 11:30 and the British Museum, maybe to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.
Last night we had the most wonderful dinner at Chez la Mere Michel. We were lucky in that they had a table for us since we didnt have a reservation. We were tucked away in the smoking section. For a while, the rest of the restaurant seemed empt, it looked like they just hid all the Americans in the back! At the table across from us sat two women in their 40s. They drank a lot of wine. By the glass, too — thw would have been better off ordering two bottles — a white & a red. One stumbled on her way out. At the table next to us was an “interesting” couple from South Carolina. Brendan’s theory about old southerners being the ones who travel still holds. She inspected the art — touching it – and he was a little bit gruff with the waiter. I have to say, we were the waiter’s favorites. She swiped an ash tray saying, “I collect,” and shrugging. Shortly after she slipped it in her pocket, the waiter walked in the room. I thought perhaps he caught her. That would have been so funny. The food was so nice, so good. I had a souffle du fromage wih Swiss cheese and a light, perfectly flaky pastry, and the coq au vin which just fell off the bone and was very tasty. Bren had the filet and a strawberry dessert that was so light and so delicious. We were so exhausted when we got back (at about 9:30) that we were in bed, asleep at 10 or 10:30. Soon we’re leaving for Parc Olympique.