Thursday, January 11
We had breakfast today at Sear’s, on Powell St., Union Square. We started with a “Fruit Bowl”, large pieces of fresh fruit, completely unadulterated. Cheryl had eggs, and I had the house specialty, 18 Silver-dollar pancakes. We each had country smoked sausage, which
is made especially for Sear’s. This was followed by home-made coffee cake. We were quite full when we left. We then reserved a rental car and purchased Hearst Castle tour tickets in preparation for our weekend trip, and took off for the Palace of Fine Arts.
The Palace of Fine Arts, despite its name, has no art exhibits. But it has a wonderful Science museum called the Exploratorium, where you play around with all the exhibits (in the new jargon, these would be called interactive exhibits). We saw lasers, optical illusions, TV sets you could distort with magnets (don’t ever try it on your own set– you’ll ruin it), an echo tube (you clap into it, and the echo sounds like a bullet ricocheting), a lot of exhibits on music, and much more.
A short walk from the Palace took us to the Kichihei, a Japanese restaurant where we placed ourselves in the owner’s hands and were served a six course authentic Japanese meal. First course was small shrimps, cucumber, and bean sprout salad. This was followed by a steamed custard with chicken, shrimps, and other unrecognizable things in it. Then came a gourmet delight I had rather looked forward to, raw fish, which you dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and horse radish. You mixed the horseradish in yourself, and we were warned to be careful about it, which we were. The fish was so tender it melted in your mouth. Next came broiled eggplant topped with a sweet bean barbecue-type sauce. For the main course, chicken teriyaki with rice,
carrots, spinach and a pickled vegetable salad. We finished with a desert of orange slices. The restaurant was lovely. It had western style tables on one side and Japanese on the other. The dining room overlooked a lovely garden with a fish pond.
After dinner we went back to Oakland, where I played guitar with John, Mary and others.
Friday, January 12
We headed downtown for breakfast at the Vienna Coffee House. Their reputation is founded on their pastries, which were delicious. We headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf to take the Alcatraz tour. The weather was beautiful as we headed out on the ferry to “The Rock”. Cheryl and I were locked in solitary as part of the tour, which was not pleasant. But we enjoyed the tour.
Back at Fisherman’s Wharf we picked up some more sourdough bread to take with us to San Simeon. Then we went to Gaylord’s, a northern India restaurant, where we had a lunch of various Indian dishes, many of which were quite hot. The Indians use spices for everything, but
with a great deal of taste and balance. The Tandoori chicken, which was marinated in yogurt, was quite nice. The deserts were nut cakes, only slightly sweet, and several spongy things soaked in honey. I would describe the meal in more detail, but it consisted of small portions of a large number of dishes, each with a complex description. We did some shopping along Beach Street, where a flea market is set up by various peddlers, and bought a nice prism.
We went back to Oakland, where we met Mary and John, to go to dinner at La Pena in Berkeley. La Pena is a Latin American cultural center that includes a restaurant serving dishes from the various Latin American countries, Cheryl and I had a Chicken casserole from Chile, served with fresh fruit.
We then met some friends of Bill Wilson for a very pleasant visit. We were offered a ride home by one of them, Ed, who is a gold miner. He showed us his dredge, and explained how it worked, and then kidnapped us to Fenton’s. Fenton’s is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in
Oakland that used to be a side line of a Creamery. They got out of the creamery business and concentrated on their ice cream, made with real cream. I had a Black-and-Tan (of course!), and Cheryl had a parfait with ice cream and sherbet. We had so much to eat today, with three
big meals and the ice cream, that we were afraid of exploding. It will be diet time for sure when we get back to Boston!!!
Saturday, January 13
We got up early and went downtown to pick up the rented car. We stopped at a supermarket to pick up cheese and fruit, and took off down Highway 1 to San Simeon. The first half of the trip, from San Francisco to Monterey, was rather non-descript, somewhat like driving along Route 3
from Quincy to Braintree. We pulled off at Monterey, and had a lunch of soup and enchiladas at Casa Maria, overlooking the bay. While we were eating, so were some seals just outside our window. I’d seen this on Jacques Cousteau, but this was the real thing. They grab a clam and a
rock. Floating on their backs, they put the rock on their belly and smash the clam against it, breaking the shell, and eat it.
After lunch we took the seventeen-mile drive through Pebble Beach. Some of the sights included the Lone Cypress and the Ghost Tree, which were very interesting. But what I enjoyed most was a private home across from the Ghost Tree. We took some pictures of it. It was a
stunning example of the Spanish type of architecture in California. We also saw a spot where two ocean currents meet. The two sets of waves come into shore at right angles to each other.
We then began to drive the Big Sur. It is one of the most striking examples of the Western coastline, which is quite unlike the east. Mountains come right up to the water, and sandy beaches are a scattered few. The waves are much bigger, and come crashing in on the rocks. The Big Sur is a stretch of mountains some seventy miles along the coast, and Highway 1 is cut into the sides of the mountains. The view of the Pacific coastline is magnificent, and so are the mountains themselves. The pattern of light and dark green is wonderful. Unfortunately, we had dawdled enough earlier that it got dark for the last hour of our drive through Big Sur.
We came out of the mountains into San Simeon, which is located on a fairly level coastal plain surrounded by mountains. We met Jennifer at the San Simeon Resort Pines Motel, which was a very comfortable and simple motel by the beach. We went out to have a non-descript but edible dinner, which was as much as one could hope for in a town where the night life consists of four or five motels at a single intersection. We then took a tour of downtown Cambria, killing another
47 seconds, and went back to the motel for conversation before going to bed.
Sunday, January 14
We had breakfast at the local pancake house, and took off for Hearst Castle. I scarcely know where to begin to describe this place. Where you and I might use paneling on our walls, William Randolph Hearst used 17th. and 18th. C. antique choir seats. Virtually everything you see is
a work of art, antique or a copy. The ceilings are mostly antique carved wood from European castles, monasteries, etc. Most of the room dimensions were dictated by the size of the art works furnishing them. In one room, the height of the ceiling was the sum of the height of the choir benches and the height of the tapestry hung above them. In another, the length and width of the room were determined by the size of the antique ceiling installed in it. The castle had at one time the world’s largest private zoo, and deer, himalayan goats, and zebras still roam the grounds. I could go on and on without ever knowing where to end. The point is that the estate is so overwhelmingly ostentatious that you have to see it to comprehend it. I will, however,
mention the Celestial rooms, atop the twin towers, named for the Celestial glass in the windows. They were Cheryl’s favorite, and while quite elegant were also quite livable.
Between our two tours, we lunched on the fruit, cheese, and sourdough bread we had brought from San Francisco. After finishing our tours we headed back to San Francisco, this time taking Highway 101 through Salinas and the Central Valley, which is almost entirely agricultural, and the source of many of our winter vegetables. It was not a particularly scenic ride, but it had the virtue of getting us back to San Francisco in five hours.
In San Francisco we headed for a restaurant I had wanted to try, and for the first time on our trip, could not get in. This points out the advantage of traveling in the off-season, since during the tourist season advance reservations are imperative almost everywhere. We deemed it a blessing, however, after a truly lovely meal at the Mandarin in Ghirardelli Square, where we had fried dumpling appetizers, mu-shui pork, and mongolian beef with fried rice. This meal is memorable for more than the food: while waiting for our appetizers, Cheryl and I became engaged.
After dinner, we turned in our car and returned to Oakland.
Monday, January 15
Our last day in San Francisco began with a return engagement at Sear’s, where the country smoked sausage and homemade coffee cake proved too much to resist. We then went shopping at Cost Plus, a big import store with great bargains. We got a carved wood tray with inlay for $4.79!!! We then met Lynn for lunch, and got a picture of her sitting at her desk at Macy’s, trying to look busy.
After lunch, we went to see St. Mary’s Cathedral, which is truly awesome. It is an enormous vault, with an incredible chandelier over the altar. We then returned to Oakland, and as a farewell to John & Mary we prepared a dinner of Onion soup gratinee, salad, zucchini almondine, broccoli with cheese sauce, and sparkling apple cider. John’s horne made banana cream pie was a fitting climax to the dinner. After dinner it was off to the airport, and our return to Boston.