I’ve got so much to write about…Let’s start with some of the highlights while Melissa was here. This is just going to be a grab-bag of events as they come to mind.
San Francisco, Golden Gate, Sausalito
The first weekend (of three) together we went to San Francisco, driving straight to Union Square. After having a quick look at the shops we continued on to the Golden Gate, the Marin County (North) side where we shot a couple of touristy photos like this:
Spot the tourists…
We then headed down to Sausalito and had a nice dinner at the nice Italian restaurant Poggio (where Ben and I had lunch a couple of weeks earlier). Nice day. 🙂
Palo Alto/University Ave
While I worked Melissa would often head into Palo Alto by bus where she would look around University Ave and spend time at Stanford shopping mall. Some of you may be aware that my girl likes to shop. 😉
One night we went to Uni Ave and had dinner at Miyake. Pretty crappy food, totally unauthentic but memorable because it was exactly what you would imagine if you picture Japanese food done with American cheesey-ness. For example, at one point in our meal the lights dim before a multi-coloured disco light and loud music kicks in…the staff come wandering out with a little cake, sing a Happy Birthday to one of the patrons then disappear and the lights return to normal. It was just so over the top! And there were California rolls with names like “Microsoft roll” and “HP roll” etc (no “Agilent roll” incidentally), very geeky! Anyway it was memorable but I’m in no hurry to go back there…
Local Tour (including Villa Montalvo)
Another time we toured some of the nicer local towns, in particular Los Altos, Los Gatos and Saratoga and while near Saratoga we went to Villa Montalvo, a beautiful old mansion that was built by the very wealthy American Senator James Duval Phelan in 1912. When he passed away the Senator left the mediterranean style villa and grounds to the public “to be used…for the development of art, literature, music, and architecture by promising students”. Here’s a couple of shots of Melissa in front of the main house:
Whole Foods and Cosentino’s
At some point we ended up going to a Whole Foods, a supermarket chain here in the US. Boring? Not to Melissa: “This is the highlight of my trip!”. She actually asked me to get my camera out of the car and take photo’s…to which I gently refused.
Now, Whole Foods is pretty cool, they have a fantastic deli section complete with a huge variety of cheeses, solid slabs of chocolate, and fresh meats. You can buy hot soups, ready to eat. There’s a large selection of pre-made heat-and-eat meals that are decent. There’s a reasonable selection of wines and beer. The fruits are fresh and good quality. Actually, everything they sell is generally premium quality (and price). I understand why Melissa loves the place. 🙂
We also went to Cosentino’s, another supermarket in the area. It stocks a lot of Italian produce (a great mascarpone cheese, Lavazza coffee, fresh pasta etc) and wonderfully fresh fruit and, while it didn’t get the same reaction as Whole Foods (no requests for photo’s this time) Melissa also liked it. As do I.
Coupa Cafe and San Francisco part deux
We went to Palo Alto again, this time to go show Melissa one of my favourite cafe’s, Coupa Cafe. Like me, she felt very comfortable there – it could easily be located in Melbourne. Good cafe’s are hard to find here – much less good coffee! – and I try to regularly go to Coupa.
Afterwards we headed into San Fran again, this time starting near the touristy section, Fisherman’s wharf. We had the obligatory Sourdough-bowl clam chowder (tentative thumbs up from Mel) at the excellent Boudin Bakery (nice tip Kenneth!) and jumped on the cable cars (“They’re OK, I guess”) heading to Union Square. A quick look around and we headed back on the cable car, chatted to a friendly Canadian girl then headed home.
Clam Chowder at Boudin
One reasonably nice day we headed out to Santa Cruz. There’s a bunch of rides permanently running there – it’s like a scaled up version of Luna Park, a popular beach and the downtown is also pretty significant with a bunch of shops and restaurants. Santa Cruz was OK, but a little over-rated IMO.
Melissa gettin’ amongst the crowds
Rides in the background
Err…there were some seagulls
Action shot of total strangers
Carmel and Big Sur
The highlight of our time together would have to have been our trip to Carmel. Carmel is a lovely beach-side town known for being an arty area with ridiculously wealthy residents. We stayed two nights at the Carmel Valley Ranch, based on a golf course about ten minutes from Carmel’s downtown and generally had a relaxing, enjoyable time.
We had a great dinner at da Giovanni’s, a terrific Italian restaurant with delicious food and only a minimum of the Carmel pretentiousness. Also, just walking around the main strip of Carmel was great, it’s just a cosy, lovely town. BTW the Carmel Valley Roasting Compnay, on Ocean Ave, serves about the best coffee you’ll find here – but it’s only OK.
We also spent the better part of a day heading down the Big Sur region, similar to the trip Cam and Sashi took me on. It really is a great drive and I highly recommend it if you’re in the region. We went to McWay Cove waterfall and stopped at Bixby bridge.
Nice part of the world
Waterfalls are pretty
Very friendly birdlife – you could almost pet this one!
I like this shot of my girl 🙂