We spent several days in a B&B in Carmel by the Sea, just south of the Monterey Peninsula. It’s a charming place, full of cottages and gardens in idyllic nooks and crannies. The beach was fabulous, and dogs accompanied almost every local everywhere they went. We loved walking on the beach in the morning and watching all the local pooches run, chase each other, and literally frolic in the surf. You’d be hard pressed to find happier dogs. Life is good.
However, I won’t miss the oppressive traffic everywhere we went, the difficult parking and the lack of sidewalks which make walking hazardous.
Despite all that, the scenery is spectacular and well worth a visit. We drove from Carmel to Big Sur, about 30 miles to the south. We stopped many times along the way, including at Point Lobos State Reserve. There’s no way to describe the beauty, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I took dozens, and I had a very hard time paring it down to the ones below. I blame it on the abundance of wildflowers : )
We’ll start with Point Lobos. It’s a relatively small area, but it has several trails and Bob and I covered most of them over a couple of days. I probably walked about ten miles all over this park.
Point Lobos is on a small peninsula, so three sides jut into the ocean. Here you can see the fog (not smoke!) rolling off the land and out to see.
Anther view of the small bay.
The wildflowers were stunning. Yellow seemed the dominant color, but there were also purples, oranges, pinks, and reds.
If you look closely, you’ll see a number of harbor seals.
More of the fog.
And a close up.
Here we are 🙂
More from Point Lobos.
Remember those happy California Cows from the commercials? Here’s where they live. On the Big Sur coast!
There were several places to stop and explore the coastline on the drive to Big Sur. Here’s an idea of what some of it looked like. The problem was always the parking. We often parked a quarter to half a mile away on the side of the highway. The walking was treacherous, but there were tons of people doing it and the traffic could only move about 25 mph.
Here are some of those orange wildflowers.
The coastline was stunning.
So were the wildflowers!
This is us at Julie’s wedding 🙂
Here we are with the Garcia’s and the father of the bride!
These next pictures are from the second day we spent at Point Lobos. Some of the rocks have the craziest patterns in them.
This whole bay intrigued us. The rock and the erosion made us feel like we were in an amphitheater honoring the ocean. In the crevices were tide pools full of interesting critters.
Maybe I’m dense, but I’ve never thought about where blackberries come from. Here’s the life cycle of a blackberry in a single photo!
I love the color! It makes me crave apricots. 🙂
This is a bit of an illusion. The seagull is on the mainland, the nesting birds in the background are on Bird Island.
I loved these strange little red-stalked things. Kinda felt like they were alien plants.
Look close! There are at least ten harbor seals on that little island!
I went to college in Omaha, Nebraska, where I discovered one on my life-long obsessions–Napolean Torte. It’s not much to look at. As desserts go, it’s pretty humble. Don’t let the visual throw you. It’s 20+ layers of pastry, butter, and apricot goodness. Those who’ve tried it know–this is the best dessert you’ll ever have. I promise.
If you’re curious to try one, you can order one from the Lithuanian Bakery. If you live anywhere near Omaha, make it a point to stop in and pick one up. If you don’t, it’s worth the money to buy one (or two, or three . . . ) and have it shipped. The tortes can be frozen and I’ve never had one spoil in the freezer, even after months and months.
However, if you want the experience of making your own, it’s a great holiday tradition that is best done with help.
First, you have to prepare the dough, then roll it into about 20 tortilla-sized rounds that are baked individually. Once done, they look look like large crackers.
Next, you’ll need to make the filling. I can’t decide if it’s more pastry cream or pudding, but its fabulously rich and decadent.
To assemble, layer the crackers with the pastry cream and on two of the layers, include several tablespoons of apricot jam. Once the “cake” is done, frost it with the left over pastry cream and cover it with the crumbs of a couple of extra crackers.
As I said, it’s not pretty, but it is the most decadent thing you’ll ever try. It’s the basis for my firmly held belief that the uglier the dessert, the better it tastes. The pretty, fancy ones are so often disappointing.
Anyway, if you’re interested in making your own torte, the recipe is here. I believe this recipe is close to the one used by the Lithuanian Bakery because it was first published in The Melting Pot, an ethnic cookbook that solicited recipes from different ethnic communities in Omaha.
I made 4 batches of the dough and 2 batches of the cream and ended up with 5 tortes. I did it all in one day, but it about killed me. The good news is we’ll have tort for months and plenty to give as gifts, as well. Enjoy!
I have to be honest, I’ve never been all that interested in Madrid, or Spain for that matter. There are so many other places I would have chosen to go first. Boy, was that a mistake. Madrid is a unique and beautiful city, full of wonderful people, and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. In most big cities, there’s a feeling of crowding, some dirt and grime, and a sense that things are just a little worn. The opposite is true of Madrid. It has wide, open streets with trees everywhere. The buildings are well maintained so nothing feels tired or in need of a face lift. It’s like a city would be if it was run by the people at Disney. It’s clean, fresh, vibrant and varied. And it’s like that block, after block, after block. We walked all over the city and never found a place where we felt uncomfortable, where things were run-down, or you got the sense you were in a “bad” neighborhood. It is a truly wonderful city. Another interesting thing is the people of Madrid don’t seem to stay home. The streets are FULL of them. And they aren’t rushing around like the people in New York. They are out enjoying the day, interacting with each other, and spreading good will. It’s hard not to be happy in Madrid, even if it did rain on us several times. My favorite thing about Madrid is Abby was there! We finally caught up with her and she looks fantastic. I have to say, her host family is taking excellent care of her and I can’t thank them enough, especially Cristina. If you ever see this, Cristina, muchas, muchas gracias! And, I want all your recipes, especially for gazpacho! Okay, here’s some of the millions of pictures I took : )
I know, strange picture, but it reminds me of something. The ground floor of buildings in both Italy and Spain is always 0. So, if you’re looking for street level, punch the 0. If you want the second floor, that would be 1; the third floor, punch 2, etc. If there were floors below ground, they were simply -1, -2, etc.
Here begins general pictures of beautiful Madrid. Unlike other cities, there weren’t any iconic sights that everyone photographs. Instead, everything was beautiful.
I thought this was interesting. Most of the highway-like roads in the city are underground, kind of like the Big Dig in Boston, only more so. This isn’t a picture of a bridge. This is a glimpse into the underground roadway where it emerges. The part of the picture loaded with plants is ground level and there are buildings, sidewalks, roads, etc. up there.
This may seem like a simple square, but the building on the right dates back to the 15th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the city. The one in the middle is 16th century, and the one on the right is 17th century. It still amazes me that such old buildings can look so fresh.
A beautiful church near the Prado.
Puerto Del Sol, one of the hearts of the city. Abby described it as Times Square, and I think she’s right. It was full of people at all hours of the day and night. When I took this picture, it was near midnight.
We found her!!! Our dinner reservation wasn’t until 10, but we ate at the oldest continually running restaurant in the world. It’s been open for business since about 1720. The food was good, but nothing too fancy.
A view of a street at midnight.
This made me laugh. The Ham Museum was actually an everything-ham store. There were even hams hanging from the ceiling. I think ham must be the national food of Spain because it was everywhere. One of the things Spaniards like most is jamon Iberia, or Iberian ham. It’s a lot like proscuitto, only better.
More random street views. Beautiful, everywhere.
This is Plaza Mayor, the site of the Spanish Inquisition. Today, it’s a favorite gathering place for Spaniards.
Umm, Spidey might need a diet.
More random views we found just walking around. Actually, the bottom picture here is the same as the night one, above, just from a different angle.
One of the joys of Madrid is the churro. It’s often a breakfast food in Madrid, but more likely it’s where the kids go when the clubs close. (By the way, clubs in Madrid don’t open until 1 am, and they close around 6 am.) The churros are often served with chocolate for dipping, or somethings they have a little sugar sprinkled on them. I didn’t see any with cinnamon sugar, like at Costco. : )
Mickey better watch it, Bob might want to steal his girl.
More of the beautiful streets.
This is the Institute where Abby has her Spanish classes.
While many people speak English, translations can sometimes be amusing. Abby said she’s seen several t-shirts around town where schlocky translation made the slogan awkward. Here, the Gaspacho is described as “could soap.”
I think this is more what paella is supposed to be, but the menu referred to it as a rice dish. Bob and Abby loved it, even the little tentacles and black-eyed shrimp.
After lunch, we just wandered the city and ended up walking through the equivalent of Central Park. It’s called Parque De El Retiro.
More of the Parque De El Retiro and the Crystal Palace that’s there.
Everywhere we went, people were out enjoying the day. Of course, this weekend was also Columbus Day. I never thought about how that day might be celebrated in Madrid, I assumed it was just an American holiday. But I’d be wrong. It’s actually a really big deal in Madrid. There was a huge parade with the King, and everything. More on that later.
The park was very pretty.
This is the Prado. We really enjoyed wandering through, but no pictures were allowed.
More of beautiful Madrid.
Now this was interesting. It’s a vertical garden. It appears they were replanting the right side, but he left side was well developed.
So many of the streets looked like this. Wide, open, lots of trees, clean.
This is the parade I mentioned above. It was in honor of Columbus Day. We waited for it to start, but decided to move on to the art museum instead.
Apparently, the donuts don’t go over so well in Spain so they focus on the coffee instead.
More of the parade. These guys were all lined up and ready to start. I have no idea who they are, but I’m assuming they were police, branches of the military, things like that. There was lots of chanting, singing, and cheering going on.
Okay, time to talk about the hours people keep in Spain because they’re weird. First, you have to know the sun didn’t rise until about 8 a.m. When we left the hotel to catch a tour bus at 7:30, it was still dark outside. I think that’s why typical things for Spaniards are skewed. For example, breakfast isn’t until about 9:30, if they eat it at all. Lunch is from about 2-4 p.m. and its the main meal of the day. This is also the time they take siesta, if they want to. Dinner doesn’t start until 9 p.m.
While most stores stay open all day, many other businesses still close from 2-4 p.m. During that time, everyone actually goes home for lunch. That means there are several “rush hours” in Spain because people come and go to work two times a day. The same is true of school. The kids go from about 10-2, then they return at 4 and get out around 7.
Abby was always amazed at how late the Spaniards stay out. She said the main squares, like Puerto Del Sol, are swamped at 3 a.m. and there are many families still out enjoying ice cream and strolling around at that hour. That includes babies in strollers and toddlers on their parents’ shoulders.
In the picture above, we were starving at 1:30 in the afternoon. We stopped in this place, that had just opened, but it was as deserted as a lunch place that opens at 10:30 a.m. in the US. It was beginning to pick up business at 2:30 when we left.
This is Puerto Del Sol on Columbus Day at about 3 in the afternoon. Very crowded.