Sunday, May 31, 2015

Onwards to the California and the Bay Area

April 4: Onwards to Carmel CA
The drive to Carmel was broken up by a stop at Tobin James Winery in Paso Robles for a tasting. We encountered several 30-somethings celebrating a B’Day. We lingered talking to one who teaches yoga in Mexico - Baja Norte. The wines and conversation made for a good break in long drive.  The weather in Carmel was a little chilly and windy. The seafood at Flahertys, Scallops & a Lobster Melt, was quite enjoyable.

Here are a few shots of some of the scenic highlights of the drive...

An Oil Farm
A Wind Farm - a cleaner look for a cleaner source of energy
Mission San Miguel - to help us deal with being away from SMA for so long

April 5: Hanging Out

Happy Easter! We spent the day strolling around town and shopping. The lunch break at Little Napoli included roasted artichoke and gnocchi and a bottle of Primitivo. We especially enjoyed returning to Demetra's (after a few years) for a "mediterranean dinner", in our case with an emphasis on Greece and a fine Agiorgitiko (Greek red wine).

The Beach at Carmel

April 6: Onwards to Los Altos & the Bay Area

We headed "home" to Los Altos by way of Capitola, a favorite stop of ours. We wandered around the shops and enjoyed lunch at a seaside restaurant. A great thing about this route is the that there are several farm stands that carry strawberries and artichokes. We topped and loaded up on both.

Visiting with Friends in the Bay Area

It was amazing how many good friends we managed to visit in our short time in the Bay Area... a group from Apple, old friends from Stanford Business School, and more. 

In our brief visit with the Albrights we enjoyed some amazing wines.
The Heitz is 1984, the BV is 1978 and the Unico is 1970. Wow! We also enjoyed sampling some Chartreux!

On a visit to Half Moon Bay (actually El Granada) we visited Grant & Su's new home where Tom & Monica joined us for dinner.  We arrived early and shopped a bit and then hiked along the "Devil's Slide" area.  The last time we were there it was the Coast Highway. Now the highway is diverted through tunnels (due to the many issues with landslides in the area.)

Pat Li came down from the city to explore with us and then have dinner with Fred & Sue. Before meeting up with Pat we wandered around Palo Alto.  And we almost missed the new Apple Store there because the glass front makes the space almost seem like just open space.

The new Apple Store in Palo Alto

The primary trigger for our US Roadtrip was the fact we planned to move to "Permanent Resident" status in Mexico and as such we cannot drive a US plated car there. Since our car was made in Japan (as opposed to a NAFTA country (ie Canada, US or Mexico) we could not "nationalize it" and get Mexican plates. So we need to sell the our 10 year old Honda CRV which had around 24,300 miles on it when we left Mexico. This just seemed a sacrilege. So we devised a plan (a US Roadtrip) to add miles before selling. 

To become Permanent Residents, we needed to return to Mexico while the paperwork was processed. So we left our car in the good care of Patty & Matt in Los Altos and returned to Mexico.  

Friday, May 29, 2015

Las Vegas

This is being posted in late May. We wrote the notes in April but apparently never quite completed the posting. Maybe we are finally getting our priorities right???

April 1: Grand Canyon to Vegas

We started our 4 hour drive from Tusayan (by the Grand Canyon) to Las Vegas after breakfast. The terrain along the highway was interesting but not very photogenic. We passed by Hoover Dam at the Nevada border with thoughts of stopping for a tour. The traffic line stretched several miles from the highway to the viewing point. We’ve been there before and we don’t like long waits, so we passed by. 

Vegas during the day is fairly acceptable. Vegas after 8pm (at least during Spring Break) is pretty crazy. The Grand Canyon was extremely busy but thinking back about it while in seems pretty calm (compared to the frenetic Vegas life.) Where do all these people come from? Well we know they come from everywhere. Native languages seem to span the world.  In fact we heard far less English than we expected. 
New York New York Resort - Note Rooftop Roller Coaster
The Paris Resort
When we were last in Vegas (maybe 1998) we really enjoyed life on the Strip. We don’t gamble but with the new Resorts (Mirage, Bellagio, Venetian, Paris…), the great shows (Cirque du Soleil, the Blue Men, David Copperfield, …), the great new restaurants, and the relatively calm Strip, we loved Vegas.  Now every square inch is filled in with more Resorts that are equally large.  And they are all busy.

We know it’s a crazy place but still the city is a work of art. Everywhere, inside and out, the Casinos, Hotels & Restaurants compete for your attention. It takes a lot to get more than a brief glance, so they put amazing effort into design.  

A Crystal Forest at "The Shops at Crystals" 
Flowered Parasols celebrate Spring...somewhere in our wanders
We arrived in the early afternoon and went to lunch at the Venetian. The Venetian, like most of the resorts spans acres.  And there doesn’t seem to be a Google Map for traversing the resort, so we were on our own.  We realize that the idea is to have the Casino areas catch your attention but we managed to find the signs for the Canal Shops & Restaurants. We found our way to Trattoria Reggiano and enjoyed our Gnocchi with Pesto and Spaghetti Carbonara as well as our artichoke appetizer …all accompanied by a very fine Super Tuscan wine.
The Grand Canal (Vegas style, ie not Venice)

After checking into our hotel we picked up discount tickets for the Zarkana Cirque du Soleil show at the Aria. 

This is nothing, she can juggle at least twice as many balls.
Yep, it is a guy on a ladder holding a gal on a ladder.
I can't recall how the piano fits in...

On the way back we stopped at the Bellagio for the fountain show. Somehow we ended up with this great shot with some key Vegas landmarks (Bally's, The Flamingo, and The High Roller Observation Wheel) in the background. 

Walking the street was a challenge with folks stopping for photos and grouped around street performers. Others were walking along with beers or with Yard Glasses of ale or cocktails.  This is either the new Vegas (the one we like less)… or it is just Spring Break.

April 2: Laundry, Shopping, Art Galleries & Tapas

Next morning we decided it was time to catch up on the laundry. From the laundromat we headed over to Fremont street. Normally Fremont Street is associated with it's casinos and it's nighttime lightshow. But we were headed to the Container Shops, boutique shops all housed in shipping containers. To our surprise, the first one to catch our attention was "The San Miguel Collection". It was the grand opening of a store featuring products from San Miguel (and other parts of Mexico.) 

Later we checked out another recently opened shopping center, The Fashion Show. It has it's share of luxe shops but there are high-end shops galore in Vegas. So to get your attention they have a "space ship".  It does nothing. It just sits there but it does catch you eye.

Later we checked out the Faberge exhibit at the Bellagio. No photos allowed, but the adjacent shops featured elaborate eggs (with either a Faberge or Easter spin in mind.)

An Easter (or Faberge) Egg

Then went to Julian Serrano's latest restaurant,Tapas, at the Aria where we had a fine Rioja and...drumroll...tapas! 
Huevos Estrellados Tapas (chorizo, fried potato, egg) — quite yummy!

April 3: Outside Vegas (and back)

We spent several hours at the Devine Springs Reserve, home to the Nevada State Museum and a fine nature preserve. We had a late lunch at the cafe (pretty decent). Enroute back to the hotel we were finally able to get our car washed...but somehow they seriously damaged our wheel covers...something we only noticed MANY miles later. 
Ocotillo in bloom
A hummingbird that posed so well and so long you just had to take a photo
For dinner we were drawn back to the Aria & Julian Serrano for Tapas & Paella, this time with Priorat.
The sauteed padron peppers were slightly piquant and basically amazing

Next: Onwards to California