Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Highlights and Lowlights

It hasn't been a very busy travel year for us as we've had other, real-life issues to deal with but we did get some in.  Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the year.

AIRLINES: We did not have a bad flight this year. Southwest and Alaska both took very good care of us and we had very enjoyable flights. Hard to say which one is a better bet this year but Alaska is getting very aggressive with their pricing and destinations as we head into the new year. Look into it if you'd like to get away to a warmer climate for awhile.

On the other hand...

AIRPORTS: Have nothing good to say about three of the four airports we transited through this year...LAX, BWI, and LIR...but ONT still is a pleasant but very dead place to fly in and out of. Maybe now that the city of Ontario is taking over the reigns from LAX, they can revitalize this very convenient and much underused facility.

HOTELS: Shenandoah Inn, the mom and pop motel in the Motherlode that could, is still one of the most enjoyable and relaxing places we've ever stayed. Located in the heart of California's Gold Country with friendly and competent owners Ken and Marie, I can feel my stress melting away as soon as I hit their driveway.

We had a so-so stay at the Springhill Suites in Baltimore but found a fantastic Courtyard by Marriott when we moved over to nearby Washington D.C. We also had a pretty miserable, and cold, night in another Courtyard in San Diego at the beginning of the year but a couple of stays at Homewood Suites completely made up for that, a very nice and consistent brand (four stays at four different locations with four very nice experiences).

And I'd be remiss to not mention the very nice and understated Borrego Springs Resort, an oasis of relaxation in the middle of Anza Borrego Desert State Park in California.

RENTAL CAR: We don't rent cars very often but when we do, we usually have a good experience. Not really posted for 2015 but coming up very soon on this blog, we had an absolutely nightmarish experience with Alamo in Costa Rica who tried to gouge us out of another $600 for insurance on arrival. Put a shadow on the entire trip.

FOOD: This one's easy. Two outstanding restaurants encountered on our journeys this year, I don't even have to bat an eye over trying to pull them out of my memory...Supano's in Baltimore and Taste in Plymouth, California.

Supano's is like dining with your Italian aunts and uncles, you know, the ones who make the most exquisite dishes you've every tried and ladle it out with friendly banter and converstation with the ever-present Sinatra soundtrack in the background. We absolutely fell in love with this place and their staff.

Taste is one of those great California restaurants that take their food to another level of taste and refinement. It's located in the most unpretentious location and the atmosphere shows it. Great, relaxed, and friendly service with some of the most delicious, handcrafted entrees you'll ever have.

Both restaurants are expensive but worth every single penny, and more.

If you want good, cheap food, our champion is still Los Tacos de Huicho, the best little taco shop in the world way, way off the beaten path in Bakersfield, California or the very good (and cheap!) steakhouse at Molino Viejo in San Quintin, Baja California.

So there you have it, the highs and lows from...what for kind of a quiet travel year. Next week, we break out the new posts for 2016 so be sure to join us for another year of fun and accessible travel adventures.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All rights Reserved

Sunday, December 20, 2015

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Cranberry Margarita

This one's short, simple, sweet, and delicious. What we're drinking this week is a variation of the traditional margarita on the rocks, substituting cranberry cocktail for most of the sweet and sour.  We're using Fresh and Easy's cranberry cocktail, which has no added colors, so ours comes out pink.  If you use Ocean Spray's, it comes out redder.  If you want a really red drink, add a splash of grenadine.

Watch the Video!

INGREDIENTS - two drinks

2 1/2 oz. tequila
1 1/2 oz. triple sec
juice of one small lime
1 oz. sweet and sour
3 - 4 oz. cranberry cocktail

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker half filled with ice.  Shake and strain into margarita or cocktail glasses.

We don't salt the rims on these and the final tally is about 200 calories.



Friday, December 4, 2015

TRIP REPORT: Monterey and Pacific Grove - Part 2

We've had a great, first day in Pacific Grove and Monterey (see Part 1 here), it's time to complete the trip.

In the morning, we went to First Awakenings for breakfast.  It’s nice that the inn has a continental breakfast, but we want the full meal.  This spot, in an old fish cannery just around the corner from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, really hits the target.

We have some really superb omelets, along with their great bacon and sourdough toast to start off our day.  This gives us some good nutrition and energy for our next activity, a hike across the bay to the 17-Mile Drive.
There’s a nice, wheelchair accessible boardwalk across the sand that bisects the beach from The Links at Spanish Bay golf course.  It’s about a half-mile walk across till you get to a little point where the 17 Mile Drive comes out of the woods and a vista point is available.  Since it’s a drive, you can take your car here – for a fee – but it’s an easy walk from our inn and we get some exercise along the way.  It’s also a great way to get up close and personal with the ocean.

At the vista point, we marvel at the view and have fun watching the many chipmunks that scavenge the area for food before walking back.
In the evening, we head over to Carmel to window shop and have dinner.  We’d never been to the Hog’s Breath Inn, formerly owned by the former mayor of Carmel…Clint Eastwood, so we thought we’d try it out. 
Underneath a jazz radio station and music shop, the restaurant has a large dining room and a pub, separated by a really nice outdoor area with multiple fireplaces, free-form tables, trees, and a large, painted backdrop on the building next door.  Way out back is the very cozy pub that looks like it was lifted from a Tolkien book.
This looks like the perfect setting for dinner!  We tell the maĆ®tre‘d that we’d like to sit out here and have dinner but he tells us that this is only the bar and just appetizers are served here.  If we’d like dinner, we’d have to eat inside in the dining room.
In we go.  As lovely as the outdoor area is, the indoor dining room has all the charm of a high school cafeteria.  I don’t care how good the food is here, I can’t believe it’s served in such an austere setting so we go back outside and just have a few apps and a couple of drinks.  It turned out very nice but, really, either redo the dining room or ditch the silly “no dinner outside” rule.
The next morning, we get in the car for a drive up the coast.  We head in the general direction  of Watsonville to see what we can find. 
Past the navy’s language school, you come into Marina where you can learn how to hang glide.  Continuing on we get to Moss Landing.
We stop to take a look at this beautiful fishing village.  There are a couple of restaurants and some antique shops but it’s mostly a working fishing fleet here so our time is short-lived.  Eventually, we make it to Watsonville where we buy some freshly picked strawberries to take with us and head back to Monterey.
Back in town, we walk along Fisherman’s Wharf and have free samples of the clam chowder that each restaurant is giving out.  It’s good but I remember coming here in the past and having one of the worst dinners in my life.  After the wharf, we go over to Cannery Row where we have a cocktail at a waterfront lounge with a friendly bartender.  Unfortunately, it has since closed.
Dinner tonight is back in Pacific Grove, this time across the street from Passionfish at International Cuisine where we have a couple of very good pasta dishes along with some good red wine, but still not as good as Passionfish, which will go down as the best place we saw on this trip.
Another sunset with our Watsonville strawberries and champagne, another night in our cozy little inn, and then it’s back to L.A. where we have a couple of days to rest before we pick Tim up from camp.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved