California and Portland 2023

Portland, OR

    Kathy and I finally broke loose from the grip of Covid. We put together a west coast trip that included a stop in Portland to visit Kathy's sister, Susie, and family, a couple of weeks in Carmel, and a week in the wine country near Sanoma.  We enjoyed time with our son Brian and his sweetie Kristin, including a celebration of Brian's birthday and Mother's Day.  
    Susie treated us to a trip to the Japanese Gardens.  If you have never been to this place, add it to your bucket list.  It is huge and has some of the most elegant and colorful gardens we have ever seen.  The gardens include several Japanese homes that are very interesting.  We also enjoyed a stop at the teahouse.

Preparing the tea.



    The gardens are one of my favorite places to photograph and I had a blast!
    We also enjoyed a family reunion with Susie, her three kids, and her grandkids.  It has been over three years since we have seen them and they have all grown.  Some of the kids are approaching graduation from high school and driving (wow, time flies)!
    I enjoyed talking with everyone and in particular, I had a great time roasting coffee with Susie's son Adam.  His dad, Dave, bought a small coffee roaster several years before he passed away and taught Adam the ins and outs of roasting good coffee.  Adam roasted several pounds of coffee that we took home with us and that I use in my espresso machine.  This is the second time we have roasted together and I look forward to doing it again on our next visit.

Carmel, CA

    We spent two weeks in Carmel and finally got to use the gift certificate the kids gave us for Christmas over three years ago.  In March 2020, we had reservations at Passionfish in Pacific Grove for the night before we 'high-tailed" it out of California as Covid lockdowns were hitting.  We canceled that reservation and thought we would never get to use the certificate.  Well, Passionfish is still in business and we were able to enjoy a great meal on this trip thanks to the kid's gift.
    On the weekend in the middle of the two weeks, Brian and Kristin joined us for several fine meals and a whale watch trip in Monterey Bay.  We saw many Humpback whales and some porpoises.   It was a great time, the weather was good and the whales were active, so we saw them breach and splash on several occasions.  Check out the images in the link at the end of this blog for the Carmel photos, including a cool sequence of three shots as one of the whales breached and splashed.

Humpback Whales

Monterey Bay in Pacific Grove, CA

    During the two weeks, Kathy and I did two wine tastings in the Carmel Valley and had dinner at several of our favorite places.  We always try to have dinner at Mission Ranch (Clint Eastwood's place).  Clint wasn't there, but the meal was enjoyable.  One of the downers on this trip was Kath's failed attempts to find her favorite crab cakes.  Our go-to spot in Monterey, at the municipal pier 2 Sandbar Grill, no longer serves them and the Mission Ranch Restuarant (Mission Ranch) had mediocre cakes.  We never found good crab cakes!  The price has gotten costly due to the shortages of crabs, plus less crab meat is being used in the recipes. 

Crab cakes off the menu

Crab cakes at Mission Ranch


Healdsburg, CA

    Our last week in California was spent in the small town of Healdsburg.  It is located north of Sonoma, CA, and is part of the northern California wine country.  Healdsburg is a great little town with some excellent places to eat and a couple of fun coffee and breakfast places.  In particular, we liked Costeaux French Bakery for breakfast (Costeaux), Black Oak Coffee Roasters (Black Oak Coffee) for a morning espresso, and our favorite dinner was at the Matheson (Matheson).  Healdsburg has many wineries in the area; however, we didn't try any this time.  We did drive up to the Carneros area and enjoyed a wine tasting at Artesa, which was free because we belong to their wine club.  It was a pleasant afternoon and the wine, as always, was excellent.  Wine tasting has changed in California.  You need reservations for the wine tasting and the cost is generally in the $40 to $60 range.  We remember the good old days when you walked in and the tasting was often free, but never more than $5-$10.

Latte Art at Black Oak Coffee

Artesa Winery

We took a side trip to see the home of author Jack London, near Glen Ellen, CA.  As a kid, I loved Jack London novels.  He had an exciting life with a tragic end.  He died from mercury, an element in the drugs he had taken to mitigate tooth pain.  His wife Charmain, was also a novelist and lived a long life.  Their home and ranch is now a state park well worth the visit (Jack London Park).

Jack London gravesite

    On the way back to the kid's house we took a detour to the Muir Woods National Monument just north of San Francisco.  I love the giant redwoods and Muir Woods is a perfect place to enjoy them.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods

       Our last weekend was spent with the kids.  This was one of the only years since Brian left home that we were with the kids for both Mother's Day and Brian's birthday.  The trip concluded with a terrific tapas meal at Teleferic Barcelona in Palo Alto (Teleferic Barcelona).  We were joined by Matt Tsang, Brian and Kristin's college friend and our Minnesota "son".  We had lots of fun and many laughs, plus the best tapas we have ever had!

    As always, I put all the photos from the trip in Google Photos.  I made three albums that include additional images with the ones above.  Please click on the links and enjoy.  I would appreciate your thoughts, question, or comments.  Until next time, "happy trails".


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