Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pelican Inn

Had a wonderful time at Muir beach the other day and after hiking around the beautifully rehabilitated beach- it’s been brought back to it’s original state, no more alien plants- we decided to take a 3 minute walk up the dirt road to the charming whitewashed Pelican Inn for lunch. 
The Pelican Inn is a charming old British Inn, bar,restaurant and hotel. It really does a great job of capturing the spirit of 16th century England's west country. It has the old beams, stone floors, roaring fireplaces, old equipment and pictures  adorning the walls. There’s a low ceilinged small Tudor Bar there to have to have your Guinness and play some darts. The staff there are very friendly and it’s a good place for a stop.
For lunch we had the choice of the charming dining room or the equally nice patio. Since the day was nice and clear we picked the sun filled patio where we chose from authentic Shepherds Pie, Bangers and Mash, Ploughman’s Lunch with Stilton and Cheddar cheese, Fish and Chips, Loch Duart Salmon and all sorts of local seafood. The ploughman’s lunch, Bangers &  Mash and local mussels we had were quite good but slightly under spiced and since this is english style food after all, we throughly enjoyed it.
Muir Beach
After lunch we went out to the beautiful front lawn with our dog along with a glass of wine and enjoyed the sunlight. While there we met a British couple who said that the Pelican Inn is far more authentic than many of the plastic, chain pubs found these days back home in the UK. The beautiful Muir Beach and the Pelican Inn are great  places to go. The Brits think so too!
Highly recommended.
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Yellowstone Winter

We wanted to see Yellowstone National Park in the winter and from our base at Amangani, outside of Jackson, snowmobiling sounded like a good way to do it. The concierge made the reservations so we were set to go the following day.
Bright and early the next morning we drove up to the park entrance and met with our snowmobile guide. He equipped 
us with the warm suits, helmets, gloves and new Arctic Cat snowmobiles. After a little instruction, we started up our snowmobiles and away we went.
The plan was travel through Snow covered Yellowstone and get to Old Faithful and see it in action. Along the way there was lots to see, Hot Springs, Elk, herds of Buffalo, Wolf tracks, beautiful vistas and much more.
Resting Buffalo
The snow covered roads in Yellowstone Park are wide and nicely groomed. They’re the main roads that all vehicles use during the summer and are the snowmobile trails during the winter months. The speed limit is 45mph.
The first main area you come to is the West Thumb junction. This is about 29 miles from the south entrance. Continuing on for about another 17 miles you get to the world renowned Old Faithful Geyser.
Old Faithful

We parked our snowmobiles and walked to viewing area. The guide timed it right and as predicted, Old Faithful erupted in all its glory. Quite dramatic in the winter due to the large amounts of steam produced in the cold air. In about 2 minutes it was over and after a hot drink at the lodge, it was back to the snowmobiles.
During the drive back we stopped at the Continental Divide. We then pushed on and got back to the car before dark for the drive  back to Amangani.
All in all, we had a fantastic time and this is a great way to see Yellowstone National Park in the winter. It was quite a treat, highly recommended!

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Sunday, January 22, 2012


St, Mary's circa 1867

Tucked away, among the rolling hills of West Marin County California, sits the quaint little village of Nicasio. Nicasio is a town that’s unspoiled and has not been changed too much by time. Nicasio was once home to the Coast Miwok village of Echatamal and likely named for the Tamal Indian leader, Guequistabal, who according to records at Mission Dolores, was baptized as Nicasio (for St. Nicasius) in 1802.
Nicasio school 1871
The early beginnings of Nicasio were led by European settlers that established dairies, saw mills, and fishing as the top industries. Soon a town square began to take shape, complete with a merchandise store, a butcher shop, two saloons, a racetrack, a livery stable, a Catholic church, and the luxurious three-story Hotel Nicasio, that was built in 1867 to accommodate the influx of new settlers and vacationers from San Francisco that arrived by stage coach. 
The Hotel Nicasio burned down in 1940 and a year later the Bar/ Restaurant Rancho Nicasio was built on the site of the old Hotel. Today, Rancho Nicasio is the focal point of the town square which now is left with only Old St. Mary’s, a general store, post office and a volunteer fire department. That’s all that's left for old Nicasio.
Drake's Bay Oysters with Asiago Cheese
Brisket Sandwich
The Rancho Nicasio is a happening restaurant-bar scene that features fantastic music in a fun rural atmosphere along with good beers on tap and outstanding local bands. It's worth getting on their mailing list, and it’s a great location to stop at as a destination or while traveling through West Marin. The crowd is mostly local and the Sunday afternoon shows in the summer are held outdoors with fresh barbecue and live music. It's a great place!
The Rancho is a destination not just for a drink, but an experience. Come alone, bring a date, bring a group of friends, but come… you can enjoy an adult beverage along with some good food and great entertainment. It’s an incredibly cool, hidden, off-the-beaten-path restaurant and nightclub. Check this place out. 
Highly recommended!

Tsukemono Pickles

Lately we've have become fascinated by pickles and food preservation and thought we could try a few recipes and look at how different cultures process and preserve food. Of course, food preservation and pickling came out of a need to keep food edible for long periods of time before refrigeration but it's interesting how it is still an important part of food tradition in all our cultures. We tackled a fairly easy but delicious version first, the Japanese quick pickles called Tsukemono.
The entire preparation time for all three of the recipes below was less than two hours. We're really happy how delicious they came out. The next day we had more for lunch and added the carrot, radish and garlic tsukemono to our dinner salad which added a tasty spice to our meal.

These recipes are meant to be eaten within a couple days. 
Rutabaga-Mango Tsukemono
1 - 2 cups rutabaga sliced into sticks
1 - 2 cups diced mango
1 dried chili pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

  • Put sliced rutabaga in a non-metallic bowl and sprinkle with the salt. This will pull a lot of moisture out of the rutabaga. Stir and drain about every 5 minutes for twenty minutes.
  • Put the diced mango in a separate bowl with the vinegar and cut up chili paper. Remove seeds and any remaining membrane. I use scissors to cut the pepper.
  • Once you have drained the Rutabaga several times pour them into the bowl with the mango. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour before serving.

Cucumber Tsukemono
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 dried chili pepper chopped up (use scissors)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (or so) of English Cucumber sliced and in quarters
1 sheet of nori (Seaweed sheets used for sushi)
  • Mix all the ingredients, except cucumber and nori, in a non-metallic bowl. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. 
  • Add the cucumber and stir covering all the cucumber pieces. Crumble the nori sheet into small pieces and sprinkle and mix into the rest of the ingredients.  
  • Cover and and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. These should be eaten within 2 to 3 days.

Radish, Carrot and Garlic Tsukemono
1 cup radishes cut in rounds and halved
1 cup carrot peeled and cut in rounds
4 large garlic cloves peeled and sliced in flat pieces
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • Put radishes and carrots in a nonmetallic bowl and sprinkle with salt. This will pull a lot of moisture out of the vegetables. Stir and drain about every 5 minutes for twenty minutes.
  • Once you have drained the vegetables add the garlic and vinegar and stir. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. Should be eaten within 2 to 3 days.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Right down the street from The Clement Hotel, where we stayed, was the fantastic Monterey Bay Aquarium. For us, that was the perfect location, just walked to the aquarium itself, which is a beautiful usage of the old cannery buildings and has incredible displays of the wonderful sea life of Monterey Bay. The Aquarium is clean, beautiful, and spacious with light filled halls and gorgeous views of the bay.
We made sure to see the sea horse exhibit first, which was awesome. Other aquarium highlights are the kelp forest, the otters, the jellyfish exhibit, the open ocean exhibit with 50 year-old sea turtles, oceanic sunfish, and huge full size tuna.
The vastness of the large open sea kelp forest exhibits is amazing and the jellyfish exhibit is almost unbelievable with the beautiful jellyfish looking like they're from another dimension. 
Of course, the sea otters are as entertaining as you’d think and a definite favorite for everyone. It does get crowded at feeding times, so it’s good to arrive early to stake out a place to see them in action.
It helps to plan your trip carefully, such as which hotel to stay at, parking and dealing with the crowds. Parking can be a expensive and a bit of a hassle. The Aquarium can get super crowded with tons of people milling about and taking pictures on their smart phones at the exhibits. It’s good idea to plan your visits around these issues if you can.

This is easily one of the best aquariums in the country. Along with the history of old Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a very a interesting part of Monterey to to visit and enjoy. It’s a must see when in Monterey.

Yosemite and Chateau du Sureau

A wonderful place to stay, and a base for exploring Yosemite, is the Chateau du Sureau in Oakhurst- about 15 minutes from the south entrance of the park. The beautiful villa has 10 rooms and a wonderful 5 star restaurant Erna’s Elderberry. For dinner the restaurant has an ala Carte Menu and a very well planned 5 course-tasting menu with an excellent wine pairing.  It’s like staying at a private European villa with wonderful warm, and perfect service.

The drive on Hwy 41 from Oakhurst into Yosemite Valley is an experience in itself; you can see some of its wonders while traveling into the valley. Stopping at Inspiration Point gives the world-famous overview of the entire valley, including El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls and Half Dome. Inspiration Point is an awesome and inspiring sight.

When reaching the valley floor below, there’s the sight of the entire valley stretching into the distance. It is an incredible view where El Capitan can be seen, the largest sheer face of granite in the world.

There are many other things to see in the valley but don’t miss the famed Ahwahnee Hotel for lunch or a drink in the magnificent Ahwahnee Dining Room. The dining rooms 34-foot beamed ceiling complement the room’s granite pillars and floor-to-ceiling windows Known for its magnificent façade, and architecture, the Ahwahnee was specifically designed to highlight its natural surroundings, featuring Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point.

Yosemite is a wonderful place to see and staying at the Chateau du Sureau is a good base for seeing it.

Sausalito - San Francisco Ferry

The Golden Gate Sausalito Ferry that goes between village of Sausalito and San Francisco is an exciting and beautiful trip. Actually, it’s the second most exciting ferry boat trip in the world, just behind the Star Ferry in Hong Kong according to The Society of American Travel Writers.
The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the world's largest organization of professional travel journalists and photographers, recently polled its members to come up with the Top 10 most exciting ferry rides in the world. The Sausalito Ferry is number 2!
Here's what one of the travel writers has to say: "Crossing San Francisco Bay on a sunny afternoon, with Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge to the right, the Berkeley Hills to the left, and that glorious San Francisco skyline looming ahead; all that's missing is a bar of Ghirardelli Chocolate and a warm loaf of sourdough bread." Eric Lindberg - freelance travel writer/photographer.
We take the Sausalito Ferry as much as possible and find it to be an exciting and beautiful way to get to San Francisco with world class views. Wonderful ferry ride that has a full bar on deck that shows the locals and tourists in action.
It’s a great half hour trip from Sausalito to the old SF Ferry Building which is loaded with great restaurants and an outdoor Farmer’s Market. A big Plus, the ferry Terminal is at the foot of Market Street and all of downtown. The California Street Cable Car line is right there too. 
Shelter Cove, Sausalito
The cherry on top is taking the ferry back to the quaint, bay side little town of Sausalito. 
Highly recommended!

Hong Kong Star Ferry

The Star Ferry that runs between Hong Kong Central / Wan Chai to Tsim Tsha Tsui is an exciting and beautiful trip. Actually it’s the Number one most exciting ferry boat trip in the world, just ahead of the  the Sausalito Ferry to San Francisco according to The Society of American Travel Writers.
The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the world's largest organization of professional travel journalists and photographers, recently polled its members to come up with the Top 10 most exciting ferry rides in the world. Here’s what some of them had to say:
“A ride aboard Hong Kong's Star Ferry is crammed with views and people to create the cheapest multi-cultural, multi-sensory cruise experience in the world." Chris McBeath, guide book author and freelance travel writer

"The view from Hong Kong's Star Ferry at twilight is one of the best in the world." Catherine Watson, freelance writer/photographer

"Hong Kong's Star Ferry provides great views of the city skylines and a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Hong Kong people for under a buck." Robin Robinson, Toronto Sun travel editor

"Star Ferry is the perfect introduction to the controlled frenzy that is Hong Kong." Fred Gebhart, freelance travel writer.
We try to take the Star Ferry as much as possible when we’re in Hong Kong and find it to be an exiting and beautiful way to get from Central or Wan Chai to Kowloon with beautiful world class views as you pass everything from Junks to freighters to cruise ships. 
It’s a great 20 minute ride across Victoria Harbor and only costs between 2- 3 Hong Kong Dollars which is .25 - .38 USD. What a deal. The ferries themselves are fantastic and look like they’re from the 1800’s but are all modified with diesel-electric engines.
The Star Ferry is one of the greatest things to do in Hong Kong and can’t wait to get back there and ride one. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cannery Row

Modern Hotel Crossover Bridge

We had a great weekend at Cannery Row in Monterey CA. We stayed at the Intercontinental, Clement Hotel which is right in the middle of the historic Row.

We were very impressed by the the Clement's european style and elegance. Service was courteous, professional and the rooms were clean and tastefully decorated. Had great views of the Bay and enjoyed the sound and smell of the ocean while drinking nice glasses of wine and watching the wild otters play on the surface of the bay. Fantastic!.

Cannery Row is the waterfront street in the old fishing area of Monterey. It is the site of a number of now-defunct sardine cannery factory buildings. The last cannery closed in 1973. The street name, formerly a nickname for Ocean View Avenue, became official in January 1958 to honor John Steinbeck and his well-known novel Cannery Row and his long time friend, "Doc" Ed Ricketts.
Ed Ricketts Lab
Pacific Biological Laboratories, Ed Rickett's biological supply house, was located at 800 Ocean View Avenue (now Cannery Row) from 1928 to 1948.The laboratory is still there.
The canneries failed after the collapse of the fishing industry in Monterey Bay by the mid-‘50s from overfishing. Before the collapse, the fishery was one of the most productive in the world due to the cold, nutrient-rich water from the bottom of the Pacific funneled to the surface along the vast underwater Monterey Canyon.
Cannery Row is now a major tourist attraction with many restaurants and hotels, some of which are located in former the cannery buildings. There’s also an incredible Aquarium which deserves its own blog, which is coming soon.

Last Original Sardine Factory Crossover Bridge
In recent years, Cannery Row has become increasingly popular among sport fishermen due to extensive public fishing facilities. Nearby San Carlos Beach is one of Monterey Bay's most popular scuba-diving spots.
Cannery Row is somewhat touristy but it is a very interesting and historic part of Monterey to to visit and enjoy.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Bolinas is a quaint little town that is somewhat hard to find. On purpose. The town’s residents regularly take down the the highway direction signs to keep it hidden.They want to keep the tourist crowds away, so you have to do a little research on how to get here. 
Bolinas originated as a Mexican land grant that included Stinson Beach, the surfing mecca on the other side of the Bolinas lagoon.
Now it’s a laid back surfer-hippie kind of town off of Highway 1 in Marin County. The drive up from SF is a bit of a windy road, but does offer some great views of the coast. This spirited community of surfers, poets, artists, writers and aging mavericks is still quite a place to see.
A historic Bolinas landmark is Smiley’s Schooner Saloon and Hotel. The 150 year old place has a past as notorious and entertaining as the town itself. The California Historical Society lists Smiley’s as one of only fourteen bars in the state that has been in continuous use for over 100 years. The saloon is believed to have been built in 1851 by  Captain Isaac Morgan. Bolinas was called Jugville then.
Smiley’s Saloon dealt with prohibition in an interesting way. It didn’t close. The windows were painted black but one window remained clear where people could see a barber chair and other barbershop implements. Customers would enter the barbershop then go through a second secret door into a busy bar. Business was good. Old timers remember the rum runners roaring in and out of town in their fancy automobiles. Legend has it that Al Capone spent a summer in Bolinas.

Now an unincorporated village (population about 2,500) without a mayor or a city hall, Bolinas has a long history of not only tolerance but also environmentalism. The Bolinas people waged a successful campaign to control town development. Richard Brautigan and the Jefferson Airplane have lived here and the town still maintains a live and let live attitude.

If you can find your way here, it's definitely it's worth the trip!