A day of Spanish missions, sketching and prayer 

A whole day and all I needed todo was drive 40 miles, so I opted to visit three old missions and spend the day sketching and praying.

First stop was the famous San Juan Capistrano, I would love to see the swallows return but I fear it would be crowded, today it was full of school children yet I found some solace nonetheless.


This is the tiny chapel for Saint Peragrinus. It was the perfect place to read the Morning Prayers.


Here are more from San Juan Capistrano, including the old chapel, and the living quarters for the priest.


Then I went to San Luis Rey, much smaller with  seminary and retreat center, nice place for Noontime prayers.


Last stop was in the foothills of Palomar Mountains, famous for the observatory. Mission San Antonio de Pala is much smaller but so enticing to set and do a mid day devotion.

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“With a flair for old romantic to the Orient he flew” – Off to Tokyo


After months of waiting, our trip to Japan, postponed from April to July, due to our flooded basement, has begun. Uber to the park and ride, bus to Seattle, Sound Transit Light rail to the airport, TSA Pre-check, and we are in the Delta Crown Club, sipping Moët. Thanks to my life of air travel we fly business class on the 10 hour flight – good food and service await, the seats recline flat so sleep is possible. When we land Saori, our friend and former exchange student will welcome us at Narita airport. Did I mention we are excited?

A Japanese gem in Torrence

Sometimes sheer luck brings us a gem in the midst of a otherwise less than non-descript travel day, a reminder that it is always worth it to travel and explore.
Today was my first time on JetBlue, my fourth flight in four days. You don’t expect a lot on discount airlines, and JetBlue lived up to that nicely. The Airbus was old, I have not been on a plane that old in some time, the attendant was so pleasant, he spoke Spanish to the elderly lady sitting next to me. But JetBlue is air travel at its most basic. Southwest may be discount air, but they do have a lot more class. 
I needed a treat, not something I thought I would find in Torrence, CA. This is an industrial area, headquarters for Toyota and some other big companies. My best hope was a sports bar with a game on and something deep fried. 

Thanks to Yelp I found Bistro Beaux, sounds French, it’s Japanese. Really small, industrial-modern decor, textured concrete walls, cyclone fence used as accents. When I went in, I was the only Caucasion in the room, a good sign. 

The bartender was a real pro, when he was not mixing or serving he was carving a spherical ice cube, chipping away with a Japanese knife, creating a perfect 4” ball. The food was not the stereotypical Japanese fare.

I started with Sauted Cod with a lemon butter and caper sauce. Cooked to perfection, the fish flaked without being mushy, the sign of an expert in the kitchen. The lemon and capers enhanced the fish, not overpowering. 

Having a weakness for Uni (sea urchin), the Eryngii Mushrooms Sauted with sea urchin was obviously next. I have never had sautéed Uni. When I have sushi, I usually have Uni with a raw quail egg for desert, so sautéed was intriguing. The Uni actually had just a hint of crisp, the Eryngii sautéed yet firm, with some delightful sauce and the Uni strips, wonderful.

This was the gem I needed to remind me why it’s worth it to travel, these surprises crop up when your least expect it, and deposite experiences and memories for the future.

Las Vegas, I won!

Thank you Las Vegas, I think I figured it out. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas – perfect, as there is nothing here I would want to take with me. Sitting in the noisy Southwest Airline concourse, eating a mediocre overpriced meal, something started to make sense – what makes me a bit different as a traveler and travel blogger.canstockphoto4511009-650x487

First of all, I don’t like Las Vegas, nothing about it has any attraction. The casinos are noisy, this place is decadent, being polite about it. Superficial would describe most everything, and so many people are here looking for some kind of fun, but it does not seem to work. If you ever get here, go down to the registration desk of the hotel in the morning, watch the people checking out, they are exhausted, and if you eavesdrop you will find many are hungover, not to mention that when they talk to each other it is about how much money they lost, or how drunk they got.

I am sure I am leaving myself open to all those who go there, “just for the shows and the food.” Yet when there are so many places to eat wonderful food, without having to traverse the profane, why would I want to. I would much rather drive through Sonoma to end up at the French Laundry, than face the crowd on the Strip to get to Keller’s Bouchon in Vegas. And most of the promotions for the shows appear to be produced by the same folks that gave Las Vegas the moniker of “Sin City,” do I really need to see all that?

When I meet people on my international travels they talk about wanting to come to the USA, and go to Vegas, I beg them to see the rest of the country, Vegas is not what we are, or at least I hope not.

When I travel I want to get away from the crowds, the Eiffel Tower was a disappointment to me because of the crowds. I love Paris, London, and Barcelona, but I go out of my way to find the quiet places and I shy away from the touristy. The best times are when we hire (rent) a car and then head for some remote village. Restaurants in a foreign language, with no English translation are the best. I want to blend in.

I want to go where the local people go. Yes, I do enjoy a high end restaurant, but because I like it not because it is THE place to go. Yet, there is something about a dive bar that never loses its attraction. There is this little place in Salem, Oregon called The Extra Point, a dive bar for sure. But always friendly bartenders, and they have Wimpy Burger night, and Taco Tuesday, old pool tables and darts.

Traveling with a checklist of places to see really does not move me. I honestly think I could go to Rome and never see the Coliseum and be just fine with that. A question I ponder is, “How long do you have to stand in front of some iconic location to say you have seen it?” The real question for me is how do you experience it? Many folks walk through Notre Dame in Paris, they saw it, me, I sat in a pew and prayed.

This is most likely why tours are not a big attraction. We have gone on only one in our life, in Bruges, it was a rainy day, we were bored. Thankfully it was a small tour, with an emphasis on history; enjoyable for sure. Yet when planning other trips we rarely consider tours, discovery and exploration are better.

Having identified all of this I need to be clear that I pass no judgement on those who like tours, tourist sights, and Vegas, it is just that they are not me.

I prefer a glass of wine and my sketch pad at a winery over a wine tasting. I prefer a good meal with Tricia at a small café (Marianna’s in Gourds, France) over a chain, or an all you can eat buffet. We spend as much time planning where to eat as we do what to see. Picnics with local confections are a priority. Local food is a doorway to the heart of a location, I want that.

A ramble through a Scottish countryside, or along a canal ending with dinner at a British pub is perfect. Quality over quantity, quaint over extravagant, quiet over a crowd, discovery over a fixed-itinerary – places that are sketch-worthy, voila, that’s it.

So I get it, I want to travel and write about places that move me to get out my sketch pad. I want to eat food at places that give me a glimpse into the spirit of a place. TheWinesketcher, off on another adventure, it can never be too soon. Thank you Vegas, I did win.

 

To the far side of the state


Sometimes the best therapy in the world is a road stretching out in front of you. The last month we waited for our new townhouse to close, the month before that we waited for the sale of our house of 16 years to close, the four and a half months before that we endure a flooded basement and the restoration work it brought.  
I must interrupt this to put in a plug for the best realtor there is, Kim Tornow. We could never have made it as easily as we did without her expert advice and attention to detail, thank you Kim.

We signed the-closing papers this morning, with our bags in the car. Now it is off to Prosser, WA to visit a new winery, Wit Cellars. It is the work of some friends, with a great track record in the wine world. Gina is meeting us at the tasting room, we get a private tasting, pick up our Founders club shipment, then off to a great meal to celebrate.

My stress level goes down with each passing mile, the warm Eastern Washington sun beats in the window, Earl Klugh and his guitar completing the prescription; restoration is well underway.

Travel never ceases to be full of surprises.

I am siting in the Admiral’s Club at Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Now this was not the original plan. I was booked on United out of Seattle at 8.00 am this morning, changing planes in Denver, continuing on to Cedar Rapids. The first flight had a mechanical, first one hour, then 2 hours – the plane was still in the hanger, that usually means a more serious issue. My connection was in jepardy so I called reservations for United. BTW you usually do better phoning instead of standing in the customer service line.

They changed me to American, yeah. American is a partner with Alaska so now I am getting Alaska miles. And thanks to nice relations with American and Alaska I can use the Admiral’s Club, so a glass of wine and cheese as I wait for the next flight. Sometimes things just work out for the best.

Getting through the chaos-food, wine, friends, and Tricia

Taking a break this morning to reflect on the things that get me through the challenges. I have been on over 20 flights in the last 11 weeks, thankfully none this last week. On the week-ends we pretend to be contractors, doing the repair work left us by our anniversary week-end flood in December – Wainscoting, painting, repairing sheetrock, installing a cabinet, ceramic tile, etc.

IMG_1947Two weeks ago I was in the Holiday Inn next to Disney, in Anaheim. It is a short walk to Downtown Disney, and Catal Restaurant. Upstairs at Catal is a quiet oasis in the chaos. A glass of wine, bacon wrapped dates, calamari, and of course pen, ink, and paint, made for a nice break from the travel.
IMG_1948The next week I had Asian Meatballs and broccoli, in Sirachi sauce at Niki and Joe’s in Newberg. We finished the evening with a we dram of Laphroaig, and my first game of Catan. I slept well on the hide-a-bed, visited by Nuli, their way too cute kitten.

Last weekend Tim came up, a good excuse to put the construction on hold, and instead too much food, some good discussions, and a bit of guitars and singing.

Thursday night of this week Tricia and I went to Daniels for Happy Hour. Just what we needed before this weekend of the final push in the basement.

These breaks make it possible to go on, food and friends have always been part of what we humans need for rejuvenation in the midst of challenges. I am so grateful.

Five Days on the Road, Day 3

Up again a bit after 5.00am, nothing new there. Another cup of Earl Gray tea in my ceramic cup with an elephant trunk for the handle. I got the cup a couple of years ago on a trip with Tricia and my mother to La Conner. There is a little shop there that has intriguing things from India and the surrounding countries, thus the elephant motif.

Spent most of morning reading and watching the Presidential race, I should tire of it yet it is addicting. Still not sure what to make of it all, but the people are speaking, for good or bad, we are seeing reflections of the populace in the candidates, a bit of a mirror on our society – that is sobering at times.

A good day at Starbuck’s a free drink on my iPhone app, so I had a short Latte Macchiato with an extra shot, in a real glass cup – yes I do have a thing about paper cups, its just not the same. Then I am off to do day two of the project management training I started yesterday, get to dance around management issues to a group that probably needs to hear them. I am looking forward to traveling to Anaheim tonight.

Made it through the seminar, great evaluations, yet glad to be at the airport. Turned in the rental car, rode the shuttle bus to the terminal. Now I am having a beverage and I already sent in an invoice, I do like getting paid.

It is 4.30pm, my flight for Anaheim boards in 2 hours. I am B33 for boarding on Southwest, that still gets me an aisle seat and overhead for my roller, so life is good. 

In Anaheim I am at the Holiday Inn next to Disney, a much happier place on earth than West Sacramento for sure. May walk tomorrow to Downtown Disney just for the diversion, and for a better meal.