A Magical Last Trip of the Year

What a wonderful year for travel. Our final destination of 2023 was with our dear friends Marty and Lisa…the perfect get-a-way.

Lisa secured this beautiful Cabin at the Big Sur Lodge in Big Sur California. Big Sur is a famous enclave that boasts forests of majestic redwoods, streams, waterfalls, and of course the Pacific Ocean. Views from the not so distant cliffs afford the participant with an unparalleled panoramic seat to the vibrant sea below.

The Monterey aquarium was first on our list to visit. Each of us had been to the Monterey aquarium decades before, but not in the last ten years.  We were most certainly not disappointed by the colorful and creative displays. Each area presented different views of the tide pools to the deep ocean.

To think that all of this marine life was literally within a fingertips reach away was truly amazing. The coral reefs with their bright colored fish weaving in and out made for an almost hypnotic display.

Other equally interesting and vibrant displays involved the jelly fish. Their canopy of jelly floating effortlessly (usually back lit with a bright blue light), showcased their smooth transition from the top of the tank to the deepest recesses of their ocean water hide-outs.

The Sea Otters were in rare form as they look somewhat human as they groom themselves to the delight of the crowd gathered around their domain. Each area at the Monterey Aquarium is carefully designed to engage the guests and add a wonderful educational narrative.

After the self-guided Aquarium tour we ate at our favorite restaurant on Cannery Row. The Lalla Grill Oceanside is best known for Clam Chowder and other seafood delights. Marty and Lisa enjoyed the atmosphere, view, and of course the food.

Later that day we enjoyed dinner at Carmel’s Bistro Giovanni. Each day and night along the way led to wonderful conversations with Marty and Lisa and excellent culinary delights shared by all.

Our fourth day was wine tasting day. We loved the Bernardus winery with their focus being a Bordeaux blend, pinot noir and chardonnay. After about eight glasses of wine, we purchased the Bordeaux blend and were placed on the mailing list.

Then it was off to a French restaurant for lunch. Excellent sandwiches were enjoyed by all as they provided us with the fuel we needed to make our way to the next winery, Talbot.

Talbot was an exceptional experience with wines that accurately reflected the terroir of the region. After purchasing a couple pinot noir varietals we were off to dinner at Clint Eastwood’s restaurant, the Carmel Valley Ranch. This was like stepping back in time.

The Ranch offers a wonderful piano bar with guests singing to their hearts content. This was a sensory experience heightened by the topography of the land. The ocean air, exotic flowers, and a beautifully restored resort added to the excellently prepared food. Although it was cold outside on the patio where we sat, large heaters provided the warmth to make the outdoor space comfortable.

Our last day in the Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey area afforded us a memorable dining experience. We dined at the Sardine Factory, a world renown dining institution which has been a cornerstone of the culinary scene in Monterey since the 1960’s.

The four course meal met and even exceeded our expectations. The food, paired with a Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico and then a Gruner Veltliner white wine from Austria (with our entrees) enhanced the flavors of both food and wine.

If you have a chance to venture to this magical area, take time to enjoy the sunsets, vistas, and of course some of the best seafood in the world.

The Magic of Christmas

 

It is this time of year that we re-capture the spirit of what makes friends, family, and the community we live in so important. Each phone call, Christmas card, or email brings those connective salient points to the surface of our connection with those we hold so dear.

How can you not smile when you watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”? The story revolves around George Bailey. George has so many problems, he is thinking about ending it all… and it’s Christmas.

As the angels discuss George, George is about to jump from a bridge. He jumps into the river and  ends up being rescued by a guardian angel looking to do a good deed and receive his angels wings. Clarence, the guardian angel shows George what life devoid of his family, friends, and the town of Bedford Falls would be without him having been born.

This heartwarming story has so many positive messages that resonate with family, friends, and the community we live in. It is a story I watch every year, either on Christmas, or New Years Eve. The story of “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a timeless tale of victory, defeat, and the re-birth of faith. At the end of the story another message prevails. The angel, Clarence, receives his wings for saving George. George realizes at the end of the movie how precious life is.

How can the spiritual message of Christmas be ignored?  Then there is the beautiful site of Christmas trees lit with adorning colored lights, homes decorated to bring smiles to children and those that still have the spirit of the child within them.

I love this time of year. It is a time to let those you love and care about know how much they mean to you. Then there is the bonus of great food, beverages, Christmas music,  and of course presents. What about possible trips to towns that are decorated with all the love and spirit of Christmas that resonates with all those that view the spectacle?

Becoming a part of this celebration is a lightning rod to connect to the New Year. The spirit of giving, and with it the happiness that comes with the reward of a smile is most certainly a priceless gift.

Living in this moment surrounded by the love of family and friends (even if they are distant) brings us to the best of what humanity has to offer. The spirit of connection and that inner smile that radiates, lifting our soul to spiritual heights rarely experienced the rest of the year.

Of course it is only human nature to think of those that are no longer with us.  That is where our inner strength must prevail. Without the type of strength that transcends these thoughts we are lost in a quagmire of depression and anxiety.

The peacefulness that comes with bringing the most positive experiences we shared with those we miss, reinforces what they would want for us, peace, and tranquility.

As Santa climbs into his sleigh for another trip around the world it goes without saying, “Ho, Ho, Ho, and to all a Very Merry Christmas.”

Vacations that Broaden our Horizons Final

Our final destination was a four hour drive from Laufenburg Switzerland to a small town in Germany, Oberursel.

Our final destination was an air B&B located in the heart of the German town, Oberursel. What a beautiful place! The most spacious and well maintained lodging on our entire trip. A large courtyard with a Koi pond, patio furniture, and lovely plants adorned the entrance. The kitchen was large and modern as was the entire layout. The living room had a sectional couch looking towards another courtyard on one side and a big screen TV with all the channels on the other side, facing the dining room.

There was a king size bed and plenty of storage for suit cases and apparel. Also included in this magnificent space was a washer and dryer located in a secret floor panel that opened down to a basement. Everything in the air B&B was white which included The countertops, walls, couch, bedroom, everything.

The drive to Oberursel had been so beautiful. Small villages, stone churches, lots of different colored cows we’ve not seen before. The landscape was so green and rich with grass, trees, and flowing from one village to the next were fresh water streams. Needless to say the drive went by quickly.

We had left Laufenburg Switzerland around 9am and reached the town of Oberursel around 1:30pm. At that point we were very hungry, so we looked for a restaurant in Oberursel to satisfy our cravings.

We drove around the cobblestone streets finely arriving at a restaurant that came highly recommended by several travel sites. It turned out to be a Pub called the Oberurseler Brauhaus. I decided that since we were in Germany it was time to have sauerkraut and sausage. Nancy had a tender beef dish smothered in a home made gravy and a chardonnay while I had a house made beer (the best beer I’ve every had). We finished the meal with an Apple Strudel (of course).

This was the perfect introduction to Germany as this Brauhaus was a locals favorite. The food and beverages were exactly what I had hoped for. Oberursel was a quaint little town with lots of shops, cafe’s, and restaurants.

This was the perfect place to wind down our trip. We had been on a tour schedule and adventurous hiking regiment during the whole vacation. Now it was time to just hang out and enjoy a little wine and relaxation. Honestly it didn’t feel like a grueling march but rather a fun and exciting educational and entertaining entree into several cultures of Europe.

The places that are now etched in our memory are some of the bucket list destinations we may never see again. The Eifel Tower, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Abby Road, boat cruises down the Thames River, the Seine River , and a ferry ride across Lake Geneva to the magical town of Yvoire France were just a few of the most amazing places we visited. Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the square in Dijon (the capital of Burgundy) and the next day tour of my most favorite wine growing region, Burgundy.

Our last night in Oberursel Germany was a fun excursion to a little restaurant called Zum Schwanen. Nancy and I both had the rack of lamb which was substantial and delicious. The meal began with a shredded cabbage salad, home made dressing, and home made bread.

Our walk back to our domain was a relatively short walk rewarded with a glass of wine upon arrival. The next day was a simple drive to the Frankfurt airport, returning the car, and sending the luggage to our US destination, Seattle.

The flight back was much better than the arriving flight. Condor airlines was much better than United. Anyway, what a wonderful trip we will never forget. This catalog of events was somewhat abbreviated but I believe that the overall spirit of our adventure was conveyed.