Tag Archives: travel

On to Naples (and a recipe)

 

After the history and elegant pomp of Rome, Naples felt more real, somehow, and more gritty. The stylish and tasteful Romans made me wonder where those who weren’t so chic and slim were. Naples was bursting with exuberant fashion. Skintight, low cut, bright colors, sparkles, zippers, studs, snakeskin, leopard print and fur were on show and often many of those in one outfit. It seemed as if there were even more smokers than in Rome.

We stayed in the historic center, with narrow alleys and plenty of graffiti, something we didn’t notice in Rome.

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The entrance to our building was a smaller door cut into one of these enormous doors. We had to both step over and duck down going through the door.  You can see the outline of the small door in the lower right of the large doors.

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On our way to visit the Cimitero delle Fontanelle,  I saw this church and at first thought it was covered in mosaics. As we got closer, I realized the artwork was done in paint.

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The color scheme in the ossuary was more somber.

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Although it was cool and peaceful, I found it a little creepy.

Back at our apartment, I felt like a local, hanging our laundry out on the balcony.

Later we strolled Spaccanapoli and Tribunale, two long, narrow streets in the historic center of the city, tasting some of the delicious fried snacks as we went along. We saw a line at a counter like this, and joined it before we even knew what everyone was queuing for. The case seemed bursting with rice balls, potato croquettes, fried zucchini, fried eggplant etc. We soon learned everyone was waiting for a fresh batch of frittatine: deep-fried pasta formed into fat discs, stuffed with minced pork, bechamel sauce, and peas. Worth the wait.

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Our hostess, Maria, had encouraged us to visit her favorite pizzeria, stating it made the best pizza in Naples. She went on to say she believed Naples made the best pizza in Italy, and Italy made the best pizza in the world. How could we resist the opportunity to taste this amazing pizza?

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OK, the huge crowd outside Gino Sorbillo was a little disheartening. The wait for a table was over an hour. But we realized we could order it to go (or “take away”) and we had our pizza in about 15 or 20 minutes. It was a warm evening and we found a bench nearby to enjoy our traditional Neapolitan pizza all’aperto (outdoors). It was delicious and not at all like the the pizza I’m used to. The crust is quite thin with blistered, almost burned spots, the sauce on top almost soupy and the cheese was amazing. That doesn’t sound like much, but I wish we could have had it again.

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We finished the evening with gelato (of course) at Gay Odin, a chocolate shop and gelateria. They were closing up or we might have stayed to choose a chocolate or two. The pretty box, below, was part of their window display.

The next morning we couldn’t resist a return trip to Spaccanapoli for pastry, sfogliatella on the left and Baba au Rhum, on the right, two Neapolitan classics.

I discovered cannoli are not from Naples, but Sicily.  Lucky for me, some pastry shops had them for sale.  This crisp tube of fried dough was filled with sweet, creamy ricotta studded with bits of chocolate and candied orange peel.

Rem downing an espresso.

With our day off to a great start, we headed down to the waterfront and strolled along, enjoying the view of Mt. Vesuvius.

Eventually, we picked a seafood restaurant on a pier and had lunch here:

The waiter recommended pezzogna, a local fish, grilled with olive oil, salt and lemon, and a side of grilled vegetables.

In the afternoon we rode the funicular railway. Unfortunately, a taxi driver claimed that the two longest lines were closed until April (it was still March), and we didn’t know better. When I kept asking about the other two lines, he  finally said scathingly, “It’s a TOURIST train!” I responded with “And we’re tourists!” He did take us and then overcharged us but as we said at the time, it was all part of the authentic experience!

From the funicular we walked to Castel Sant’Elmo, a medieval fortress, and enjoyed the views.

That evening, our last in Naples, was the first time we cooked on our trip. We found some kitchens better equipped than others, but we took real pleasure in exploring grocery stores and markets and doing our best to create delicious Italian dinners.

I had downloaded Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, an updated combination of  her The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian, to my Kindle, so I was ready to go.  The small Carrefour grocery up the street was very well stocked with beautiful pastas, cheeses (I got a hunk of Parmigiano at a great price and carried it with us all the way to Venice) and produce, including the zucchini blossoms that I couldn’t resist.

Pasta with Sausage and Peppers

Barely adapted from Marcella Hazan

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

12 to 16 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 red or yellow bell peppers, diced (I bought a giant one, so only used one)

salt and pepper to taste

1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes with their juice

1 lb. pasta (she recommended wide pappardelle noodles, but we used orecchiette or little ears)

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, saute about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sausage and brown, breaking up large pieces as it cooks. After the sausage is lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes, add the peppers. Continue cooking another 6 to 8 minutes
  3. Add the tomato with juice, breaking up large pieces. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer watery.
  4. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.
  5. Drain pasta and toss with butter, sauce and cheese.

Big success. This is an easy and delicious recipe.

The zucchini blossoms were less of a win. I stuffed them with a little luscious ricotta cheese and planned to make a thin batter and fry them, but I didn’t want to purchase a whole bag of flour so fried them without any batter. Good but not what they could have been.  Still, it was nice to be cooking in our “own” place.

We enjoyed a good little slice of Naples but the next morning it was time to catch a train to Florence.

Thanks for coming along.

 

 

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First Stop: Rome

Rem and I went on an awesome honeymoon to Italy and I’m finally feeling caught up after struggling with jet lag and the mundane business of normal life when we returned. I’ve been wanting to share some of our photos.

I took a journal and some art supplies with me. I wasn’t planning on doing much crafting during the trip, but I wanted the option. It wasn’t until we were on the flight home that I actually put them to any use. Here’s my little mini crafting kit.

The first photo and this one, below, show my opening layout, done on the plane. I collected quite a bit of ephemera on the trip, and I’m using the bits of collected tickets, maps, postcards, candy wrappers, etc., that I saved to illustrate the journal.

Our first stop was Rome.

We arrived in the evening and crashed at our Airbnb.

The next morning Rem figured out the Moka pot, for his morning coffee, and we headed out early.

Everything looked amazing. The streets were sparkling clean, the window displays were colorful and amusing, the good looking people passing by were beautifully dressed (though many were smoking) and the buildings were grandiose or simple but all seemed to have lovely architectural details. It felt a little bit like we were in a Disney set version of Rome.

Even though the day was overcast, we were happy to be on vacation in a new place, exploring both the simple neighborhood flower shop, and the famous sites, like our selfie atop the Spanish Steps.

(I always forget where to look when I take a selfie).  You can see St. Peter’s Basilica behind us.

We walked for miles that day. We had Pizza Bianca: thin, chewy baked dough with oil and salt but no sauce or cheese, at Forno di Campo di Fiori, then walked through a small Farmer’s Market on our way to the Vatican.

It was a Wednesday, and the Pope had spoken to the masses, but was done and gone before we arrived.  Crews were dismantling the platforms where he’d been seated, and loading up the rows and rows of chairs.

We had our first pizza a taglio, sheet pizza, sold in squares by weight.  It was SO good! This pizza is usually sold at stands or small shops for take away or to be eaten at the counter.  Pizza at a pizzeria is usually individual round pizza and it is most often eaten for dinner, with a knife and fork.

We took care of the business of purchasing Italian SIM cards for our mobile phones, rode the metro, people watched and, later, went out for dinner at ‘Gusto Osteria, choosing several small plates with bread so we were sure to have room for gelato.

Tagliere di Salumi, 5 varieta (5 kinds of salami and other cured meats)

Fiori di Zucca, fritti (fried zucchini flowers)

Carciofi alla Giuda (Deep fried Jewish Style Artichokes)

The most amazing and delicious dish was the artichoke, which was warm, crunchy, salty and kind of nutty.

More walking so we could see the Trevi Fountain at night. We weren’t the only ones with this idea.

Gelato and then up the four flights to our apartment. Our first day had been a long one.

Our visit to Rome was brief, but we still had a few hours before departing. Breakfast, a visit to an art supply store so I could pick up an Italian glue stick, packing and more gelato. We’d seen an article listing top ten gelato’s in Rome and #1 in the story was actually the gelateria a few doors down from our apartment! We obviously couldn’t leave without a taste.

A quirky doll-repair shop and another beautiful produce stand.

Art store treats: washi tape, fat graphite pencils and a glue stick, all of which are perfect souvenirs for me.

A taste of honey-basil gelato (good, but didn’t want a whole scoop), then off to catch our train to Naples.

Grazie mille for your visit. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

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Central Coast Vacation

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Here are pictures from our recent road trip. As it included Rem’s birthday, we visited a few breweries so he could sample some beer. We drove south on Highway 101 and our first stop was at El Toro Brewing Company.  Rem tried their Ghost Chili Golden Ale, a hot, spicy beer after enjoying one on our last birthday beer road trip.

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They claim it is the hottest beer in the world. Rem said it was “insane” but I think he was glad to have tried it.

Speaking of insane, with Rem at Big 5 picking up new sneakers since he left his at home, I wandered through the BIGGEST craft store I’ve ever seen: Hobby Lobby.  There were aisles and aisles of different kinds of letters: metal, cardboard, acrylic, paper, etc.

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A huge selection of cabinet knobs.

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This cool dresser:

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And this cute pillow and poster, not to mention a LOT more stuff. It was staggering to just try and get an idea of all the crafting supplies they carried.

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I’ve since learned that I don’t see eye-to-eye with this company and some of their practices, so it’s just as well there’s not a store near home.

Next stop: Monterey Coast Brewing in Salinas. This is where Rem met up with a cute blonde at the bar.

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Well, to be honest, we brought her with us. This is Stella, my sister Kathleen’s long-haired dachshund. We couldn’t really bring her, so we did the next best thing and brought some cut-out photos of her, and had a great time finding new places for her to visit.

At Paso Robles, which was a toasty 103 degrees, we headed to the cool, foggy coast and our destination for the next three nights: Cambria and the lovely Olallieberry Inn, recommended by friends. The inn had a birthday special for a three-night stay: Stay over your birthday and pay the regular rate for the first two nights, and the rate for the third night is the year you were born, which in Rem’s case meant we paid $19.67.

We arrived just in time for the late afternoon wine and snacks on the deck.  An abundance of flowers in the back garden added to the charm of the inn.

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After dinner out, we fell asleep in our “Room at the Top,” with a chorus of frogs outside for a lullaby.

Rem’s birthday started with decadent French Toast Brûlée, olallieberry yogurt, homemade granola and bran muffins. I left the French toast for him to enjoy and was very happy with the rest of it. It’s a good thing, because on our drive into the hills above Cambria, we stopped at Linn’s Fruit Bin and shared a mini-ollalieberry pie. We didn’t see any olallieberries and the blackberries weren’t ripe but it was still a pretty place to visit.

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Stella enjoyed the scenery.

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We hung out in Harmony.

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It’s a tiny town, really just a few shops, a glass blowing studio and shop, and a small chapel.

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Back to the Inn for our evening snacks than a change of clothes before going out to dinner.  Robin’s Restaurant had been recommended by the same friends that suggested the inn, and we had a special meal, befitting the occasion. Rem chose a curried lamb dish and I had short ribs. Even though it was his birthday, he let me choose dessert and it was not difficult to decide on the Sweet Trio: strawberry sorbet, dark, dense chocolate mousse and excellent creme brûlée. We were both surprised when they brought a chocolate sundae for Rem gratis. A sweet finish for a nice birthday.

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The next day we drove back to Paso Robles for lunch at Firestone Walker Brewing Company in their Taproom Restaurant. It is a huge complex, much bigger than other breweries we’ve visited and they’re expanding.

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We did a little meandering on our way back to Cambria, stopping at a few wineries, but it was pretty hot and I was looking forward to the foggy coast.

This is the ceiling in a winery that looks like a castle; Tooth & Nail.  I was able to get a few of their wine bottle labels to use in collage projects.

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Back in Cambria, a full 44 degrees cooler than Paso Robles, we went to Moonstone Beach, pictured here at the top of the post. This photo is looking south and the other one is looking north.

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After some geocaching and window shopping in town, we had our last evening wine (Rem) and snacks (me) at the Ollalieberry Inn before a low-key dinner out.  Each evening and over breakfast we enjoyed conversation with the owners, staff, and other guests at the inn. I was also delighted to be able to spend some time crafting in the dining room and finished a collage-painting.

The last morning at Cambria had arrived but we still had a few more days of vacation, which I will share in a future post.

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Thanks for sharing our trip and thanks for your visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grand Canyon: It’s So BIG!

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Our first view of the Grand Canyon, at least the first view in the last about 40 years, was breathtaking. We went to the South Rim and had planned to go to Desert View first then make our way back to the more central Visitor’s Center. But when we drove from Tusayan into the park itself, and started to get glimpses of the actual canyon, we couldn’t resist pulling over for a good, long look.

It’s really, really big.

I was moved seeing it spread out before us. Tears sprang to my eyes as we stood and looked out over this amazing, vibrant sight. The size of it is so impressive.

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When we’d checked into our RV campsite the evening before, I was a little disheartened by the dreariness. We had road on three sides of us, the back of a strip mall in one direction and no picnic table. A path from the shops to the camp ground went right by our vehicle/home. The staff person in the office was grumpy and unwelcoming.

Rem wisely pointed out we would be spending our time at the Grand Canyon and only needed to be back at the RV campsite to sleep. So it was really wonderful to get our first view of the canyon.

We climbed back into the RV and continued on Desert View to the Desert View Watchtower.

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Each overlook provided new views of this magnificent chasm.

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Here you can see the Desert View Watchtower in the distance.

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Signs provided information about the canyon.

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We made sure all the critters had a chance to see from the window of the RV.

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Throughout the day, the sunlight and shadows on the canyon walls and rock formations changed.

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Looking over to people at another observation point gives some sense of the scale.

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I asked Rem to stay where we were and I walked to this point so he could take my picture.

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He also took these next two photos:

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This is our shadow-selfie (we’re waving).

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There’s just too much Grand Canyon to fit in one post.

Thanks for your visit – please stop by again when I have my next post with more Grand Canyon pictures.

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Home (on Wheels) Sweet Home

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Rem and I are on the road, vacationing in a rented Cruise America RV. We’ve talked about traveling in an RV and decided the time had come.

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This is in front of our apartment complex, after loading up the “rig” with our clothing, bedding, cookware, and other essentials for the trip.  As this was home away from home, we tried to think of everything we might need, without bringing too much.

We did a fair amount of research online, watching orientation videos, reading blogs, etc. so we had an idea of what to expect.  I had some concerns, including driving what still feels huge to me but and now as we are on the way back home I am happy to report that it has been a delightful adventure. That doesn’t mean it has been all sunshine and rainbows, but we will probably do it again.

Here we are, on our way!

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Rem didn’t mind driving through the busier city streets as we headed south. In fact, he also drove the RV from the rental place to our home so we could load up.

With plenty of room, we couldn’t resist bringing all our critters

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This is the bedroom aka as one of the back corners. Storage bins are overhead. The mattress is comfortable though covered in plastic so it is warm. Rem agreed to sleep in the corner because I get up more frequently in the night.  It means he’s more under the cupboards (more bumped heads) and must climb over me to get out.  It is also means making the bed is more of a challenge.

We originally wanted the compact size vehicle (19 feet long), which would have meant sleeping on a bunk over the cab. I’m so grateful that only the standard was available, which is 25 feet. For the two of us, it has been perfect.

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The bathroom facilities are adequate: this small sink and medicine cabinet plus a small space under the sink and through the door a toilet and small shower stall. We’ve stayed in campgrounds with restrooms and showers that are roomier and more comfortable to use.  Which means the shower stall is another space for storing things like my canvas toiletries bag, extra toilet paper, etc.

Here is the kitchen.

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A microwave, three-burner propane cook-top and a nice deep sink.  The morning I made pancakes I set off the smoke alarm, (no, not from burning breakfast), but most of the time I’ve cooked without too much hassle. A medium-sized refrigerator and freezer are behind you if you stand at the stove. We are not supposed to use the water for cooking or drinking, since you can’t control the quality, so we have been buying water in large jugs with spigots.

Counter space is quite limited as is storage space.  However, it is ok and I’ve been cooking most of our dinners. I miss an oven but the weather for much of our trip has been quite warm, so I probably wouldn’t have baked anything anyway. I don’t have a picture but there is a huge storage space under the vehicle that comes with a (not very good folding table), where we’ve put some folding camp chairs, firewood, extra water and a box of miscellaneous camping supplies. It would easily hold a large cooler and more.

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Rem is at the table which can convert to a bed, though I don’t think the seat cushions, which are thinner than the mattress on the bed, would be as comfy to sleep on.  The large window over the table is wonderful and our view for meals changes as often as we move to a new campsite. With picnic tables at most of the sites, we’ve often eaten outside.

All together, here’s the whole space.  Everything fits together like pieces of a puzzle. This size RV is listed as being able to sleep 5, but I think that would get pretty crowded and crazy.

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You can see the fridge behind Rem and beyond the fridge is a small closet and a few drawers.  We have actually kept most of our clothing on the bunk above the cabin the backpack and duffle bag in which we packed them.

Although it feels big to drive…

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you can see here it is not the largest vehicle on the road. (That’s a picture, by the way, not a real doggie in the window.)

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This is at a rest stop with some of the many, many semis we’ve seen in our travels.

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After a fairly easy drive to Fresno for our maiden tour, our first night out was at the curb in front of the home of friends, and we didn’t do the full hook-up. We saved that for our second night, at the KOA in Kingman, AZ, when we actually did it by flashlight. It went much more smoothly than I hoped and (lucky me) Rem is totally ok with doing the sewer hookup.

The landscape changed as we drove along and as we got closer to Arizona, it became decidedly more dry and sparse, with hills and formations out of a Western.

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We headed for our first destination: a section of U.S. Route 66. We started in Kingman at the Route 66 Museum. The location and characteristics of Radiator Springs from the Pixar movie Cars are a composite of many different small towns along Route 66.  We learned it is also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road,  and was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System.

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In the parking lot of Hackberry General Store we met several members of a group of 40 tourists from Germany traveling by motorcycle. They were en route to Las Vegas where one couple was planning to renew their wedding vows before an Elvis impersonator.

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Burma Shave signs liven up stretches of the route, including this group in Hackberry. You can find more here.

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Old cars dot the landscape and I imagined my dad would have found this amusing.  A few were beautiful, vintage autos but many were just old junkers but they added character to the various shops and businesses along the way.

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Behind Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive In, the garden is full of old signs, a collection of outhouses and other kitsch.

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After I enjoyed a snow cone and Rem had a chocolate milkshake, we got back on the road to continue our trip.

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Next stop: Sedona, Arizona.

Thanks for coming along.

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Art Journaling: Vacation Roadtrip

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I thought I was the only one who made a visual packing list until one day I saw this on Pinterest.

It just works for me to have a visual reference.  Now I can update the list: I crossed off a pair of  yoga pants I decided not to pack and I accidentally left the sports bra at home. Do you make a packing list? Have you ever sketched your packing list?

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I put this page together in our motel room in Ukiah.  I added color later. Even though I walked on other days, this was the last day I made note of my steps.

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I have a date stamp that has about a dozen phrases that I can stamp with the date.

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After the first two spreads, I didn’t manage to do daily journaling. I carried my (big) bag of art supplies into what ever motel we were staying in, but these were actually done during the second half of the trip when we were at Sea Ranch.

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I got the idea for this spread from an old issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.  Awas an article by Jacqueline Newbold described preparing a watercolor art journal before a trip. Lay artists tape out to divide your page, paint a background across all the resulting squares and rectangles and then when you are on your trip, you have a grid ready for both artwork and space for text.

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In my case, I’m journaling in a re-purposed book and I’ve used gesso to cover over the text and prep my pages. I used washi tape to make a grid and painted a watercolor background. But the washi tape pulled up the gesso in some pages.  I also need to do more research on what black pen will write on the gesso.

As we drove along the Avenue of the Giants, I was humming and even singing “This Land is Your Land.” So of course I wanted to include that in my page from that day!

In spite of the challenges, I was very pleased with how these pages turned out.  I collected free maps and newsprint guidebooks that are given away because they’re loaded with ads. But they’ve also got some photos that I was happy to use in my journal.

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This spread has some paper from my stash as well as washi tape.  I also used a new circular date stamp I picked up at Scrappers Edge in Eureka.

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I used some of these new materials from my shopping haul at Scrappers Edge on my next spread.

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These are my favorite pages from our trip.

I used ink sprays, embossing powder and gold Mica Gilded Fragments from the Stampendous Frantage Encrusted Jewel Kit, and some of the stencils.

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Heart Bead in Arcata has a beautiful business card that I used on this spread.  I didn’t find any new treasures but I enjoyed looking through the store.

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My last two-page spread represents an overhead view of a flight of beer, and the names of the different breweries we visited.

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There’s the new circular date stamp again.

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I stenciled the background and wrote in the names of the brew pubs.

Inexpensive number thickers from Dollar Tree and letters cut out from a travel brochure combine in the page title.

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Thanks for coming along.

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Sonora, California

Here are more pictures from our vacation.

Little Red Church, Sonora

This is the St. James Episcopal Church in Sonora which is also known as the Red Church or Little Red Church.  It is at the top of Washington Street which goes through the town.

When we were first strolling in Sonora, it felt very familiar to me.  Those of you from Marin may understand how this street reminded me of San Anselmo Avenue in the town where I grew up, San Anselmo, California.

Washington Avenue, Sonora

There’s something special about visiting a little town that feels familiar and welcoming yet is a new place to explore.  This particular part of the downtown area reminded me so much of San Anselmo that I looked up a little Sonora history.  It was a gold rush town that was established in 1849 by miners from Sonora, Mexico.  Later, after mining declined, logging and the arrival of the Sierra Railway in 1899 brought continued prosperity.

San Anselmo started to grow when North Pacific Coast Railroad completed a section of railroad in 1874 that carried passengers to and from San Francisco.  So though these towns don’t have the same background, they were both positively affected when the railroad came to their town.

Some of the brick buildings in Sonora are similar to buildings in San Anselmo and San Rafael, where I live now.

Old Brick Bank Building

Candy Store

There is a thriving Farmer’s Market in Sonora.

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On the day we visited, there was a special event: a Mural-In-A-Day was being painted on a brick wall adjacent to the market.  This is a banner showing the design of the finished 8 x 24 foot mural.

Banner of Mural

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Volunteers were busily painting – the outlines had all been traced and it was like a giant paint-by-numbers piece.

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We came back to see the finished mural another day.

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Finished Mural

Here is a picturesque little restaurant overlooking a creek, where we enjoyed lunch one day, but not the slow service.

Umbrellas on Deck over Creek

Rem & Margarita

Pictures from around the town.

Curving architechtural detail

Yellow and Blue Building

I loved this rusted-metal bear on a building.

California Bear

Old buildings often have beautiful details like the molding and the pressed tin ceiling tiles in this restaurant.

Pressed Tin Ceiling

This is a chalkboard menu in the same place, the Diamondback Grill.

Diamond Back Grill Menu

Horse Head Hitching Post

We stayed at the Sonora Inn which has recently been renovated.  It was very charming until the last night when road work, including jackhammers, started around 9PM.  Luckily, we had earplugs with us!

Sonora Inn

On our way out of town the last morning of our stay, we enjoyed breakfast at Cover’s Apple Ranch.  Rem was on a mission to get some good pie and when we asked around town, several people recommended Cover’s.

Covver's Apple Ranch

Even though we at a big, delicious breakfast, we got two slices of pie and an apple turnover to go and I don’t regret it.  Rem had apple pie and I had peach.

As we left their bakery/cafe, I saw this sign, and request, over the door.   That doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Apple Pie A Week

And, for stopping by my blog I say: thank you, please come again!

Rem and I

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