Frequently on our travels as we visit great cities around the country and around the world, we are struck by how dull DC is in comparison. Believe me this is not a revelation to us and there are indeed many fascinating and wonderful things about living in DC. But man, oh, man does it lack the creative heart of so many other cities.
In our wanderings around the Hayes Valley neighborhood, we came across Symposium Great Books Institute. It is one of the dozens of cool, creative shops you can find in Hayes Valley and no doubt one of the hundreds you find spread across the city. The stock and staff at Symposium focus on the Classics. (That's right with a capital 'C') Not only do the sell the Classics, but they hold discussion group classes on them as well. With space at the back of the store for a big table for folks to gather round, customers and staff come together for a little literary discussion.
It is the kind of place that you could imagine the legions of well-educated types who call DC home could really get into if they could only tear themselves away from reading politic science and political biographies. In fact Symposium is run by two graduates of St. John's College in Annapolis, just a hop, skip and a jump from Washington. Offering only one course of study and one degree, St. John's is a "Great Books" school where all students pretty much follow the same curricula of reading and dissecting the major works of Western Civilization. For the classics of Eastern Civilizations students can head out to the Santa Fe campus for a Master's degree.
After several days exploring the coast, we headed into the City for two nights at the Fairmont and two nights staying with friends. Besides taking in "Sex and the City" the weekend it opened, we spent most of our time enjoying the lovely, cool weather and the fresh breezes--all the more glorious to us because we knew the hot, humid, polluted air we would be headed back to in DC.
The first two pictures were taken from the ferry on our way across the bay to Sausilito. (As much as we love San Francisco, we had to admit that Sydney Harbour is more impressive.) The third picture is taken from a residential neighborhood in Sausilito. The final picture is the de Young Museum.
Unlike DC, buses in SF are actually convenient and rather pleasant to use. Not to mention the fact that most run on electricity which makes for a much quieter bus.
We didn't stay at the Post Ranch Inn, but we ate in their spectacular restaurant Sierra Mar. Whatever the past reputation of the restaurant, we had a truly spectacular meal. After a Black Sesame Tuna Tartar amuse bouche, I had the Kobe Beef Shortribs and Risotto, Curried Mussel Bisque, Deconstructed Beef Wellington, and a Chocolate Crepe Purse.
No doubt many of you know all about the Hearst Family Castle at San Simeon--it seems to be on A&E or one of those cable networks pretty frequently. What I didn't realize was just how beautiful the setting is. Rolling pasture land down to the Pacific Ocean. The Hearsts still raise cattle on 80,000 acres of the roughly 250,000 acres they used to own.
While in Big Sur we stayed at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. Built in the 1930s the place is cute and rustic. I hate to use this phrase but the place has a certain shabby chic to it--a charming little inn that time forgot. It also has extremely comfortable beds and a really good restaurant that lands squarely on the side of fine dining. It was a wonderfully cozy place to snuggle up on the cool May nights that we stayed there.
Pictures (top to bottom): 1. Somewhere near Pebble Beach, 2. the other Mr. MyPorch's penchant for succulants and gardening in general means lots of pictures like this one, 3. the beach in Carmel, 4. me eating something overlooking Carmel's beach, 5. coastline south of Carmel.
After leaving Santa Cruz we headed down Highway 1 on our way to Big Sur. The weather was clear and cool--perfect for traveling. The route has so many beautiful views it is hard not to stop at them all. But, being the goal-oriented person that I am I had to make a real effort to stop and smell the ocean from time to time. Sometimes I think if it weren't for the other Mr. MyPorch I would be like George Costanza--always in some imaginary race trying to "make good time." In addition to stopping at a few beautiful spots along the way we also took some time out to see Carmel-by-the-Sea and its beautiful town beach right at the end of the main drag. The term main drag is a little misleading, it is really a picturesque street lined with a whole lot of expensive boutiques and the overall visual effect at least is charming.
While we were in Santa Cruz visiting good friends, we stayed at the best B&B we have ever experienced, the Adobe on Green Street. Besides being a beautiful old adobe house set on a quiet street in the middle of a beautiful garden, the owner's of the B&B have created a space for people who hate B&Bs. This was our second stay at the Adobe and we had a great time.
If you are like me, you may like staying in a cozy house in a residential neighborhood, but dislike the quasi-parental eyes of the owners as you feel like you need to sneak in and out of your room so as not to disturb them. At the Adobe on Green Street you can stay for days and never even catch a glimpse of the owners. As far as I can tell they don't actually live on the property. We kind of wish sometimes we could meet them, just to tell them how much we love their B&B, but that would kind of defeat the whole groove that they have created.
We had a great time in Northern California last week. I want to write all about it, but I fear whatever gift of narrative I may have needs to be set aside for a less time consuming way of communicating my fond memories. So my posts will be a little scattered and uneven but I promise lots of photos.
First installment: Elephant Seals! These sleepy gals (and a few juvenile males) were on the beach just north of San Simeon molting. Taking a few weeks to lounge around while their old brown coat gives way to a silvery gray. Having grown up in land-locked Minnesota, I found the scene on the beach endlessly fascinating. The volunteer docent on the beach explained that the females and juvenile males hang out near Hawaii when not on the beach in California while the adult males go up to the Aleutian Islands. I guess they are good with long distant relationships.