Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - 5-3-17 - MONTEREY AQUARIUM

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

10.14 p.m.  It is late in the evening now.  We have had a lovely time at the Monterey Aquarium.  Some of the things we saw were the birds in the aviary.  I remember these from our last visit.  They are all injured birds brought here to recuperate and if it is possible they will be freed.  There is an aviary cam which you can watch here.


This is a Snowy Plover 
(Charadrius nivosus)

The sign read as follows: "When a small, plump, sand-colored plover sits still, it nearly disappears into the dunes.  It's more likely you will see one when it starts to run - then watch for its sudden stop.


Not a very good photo but the bird on the hill is a Black-knecked Stilt.  You can read about him at this link.



Black Oystercatcher
You can read about him here.



An American Avocet
(Recurvirostra americana)


The sign read: "This bird's long bill curves up at the tip - a twist that helps it scrape up food.  As an avocet searches the mudflats and shallows, it sweeps its bill through the water like a scythe."

Not as close as I would have liked but this photo shows the curve in its bill.


We also enjoyed observing birds from the observation deck.    This one was right below us.  I believe it is a Gillemot.


There is a board where recent sightings are recorded.


We saw a Cormorant.


Lots of them.






These two were building a nest.


We watched as several of them scooted along the water and pulled tufts of seaweed, carrying them off in their bills.




Another Cormorant?  He went by in a bit of a blur but I liked the patterns the seaweed and water created.



As did this one.  A Pigeon Gillemot?



A young lady walked up to me.  She was one of the staff and she was eager to tell me what we were looking at.  I asked her about those birds. She seemed happy to be talking about them and said she was still learning.   

There were a few kayakers out in the bay.  Maybe one day we will try this?  They got up pretty close to the sea otters and the birds, and it looked very calm out there.



We could see the sea otters but they were a little bit too far for a decent shot.







There were other things to see besides the birds and the otters.



After this we left the viewing area and went inside.  There are always very interesting fish in the tanks.  





















I liked this particular fish.


Gregg took this short video of these small fish.

 


Checking out the information on sea otters.


A full sized Orca and a baby looking down.




We had lunch in the cafeteria, good but nothing out of the ordinary.  What really made me happy was seeing this.  Water in a box instead of a plastic bottle.



I noticed this as we left the aquarium and turned a corner.  I take pictures of anything to do with sea otters.


We took a short ride along Monterey's rocky shore.  Gregg and his sister got out for a walk.   I stayed in the car, as the beach looked very rocky and I didn't want to jinx myself by twisting an ankle.  


Gregg took this photo of his sister and the one below.  In fact, he has enjoyed taking many of the photos I have shared throughout our road trip.  


On our way back she took us to a great ice-cream shop called Icicles. It serves Thai ice-cream.  The video below shows you how its done.  


It takes a while because everything is made to order and the line is usually long.  My sister-in-law said when it first opened, the line was around the corner and way, way up the block.


Take my word for it, the wait is worth every minute.  It was the best ice-cream I have had in a very long time.



It kind of looks like mini jam rolls when they put it into the cup.  You also get your choice of toppings and 'drizzles'.  I chose strawberries and bananas, with a drizzle of raspberry sauce.  It was the most delicious ice cream
and we enjoyed eating it at one of the tables outside.  

Next stop was an Italian deli, a fun friendly place. Gregg's sister picked up a large sub sandwich to share, plus meatballs and also a caprice salad for us to take home for dinner.  (We ate very well that day, again.)

We walked over to Starbucks as I was looking forward to a venti and it wasn't too many shops away from the ice-cream store, just across the street.

And how does a pedestrian cross the road around here?   You grab a small, bright orange flag out of a container at waist height, which is attached to the pole right next to the crosswalk, wait for a safe gap between traffic and wave it at any vehicle that approaches after you have stepped out into the road.  Make sure that vehicle is slowing down to stop of course.  They are pretty narrow roads but busy.  Then when you are safely across you pop your flag back into another container on the opposite side and go along your merry way.  Gregg insisted I pick one up and try it out.  Pedestrians do have the right of way here but this is a good visual aid which I think is a great idea.  Gregg took this photo of his sister when they were out the day before.


Our last evening with the family and it was a lovely one as always. We will be leaving tomorrow morning at about 9.00 a.m.  It is time to head home via Yosemite National Park. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - 5-2-17 - NAPA VALLEY

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017



Gregg's sister drove us to Napa Valley today, where she treated us to a wine tasting and tour at Palmaz Vineyards.  She only lives a couple of hours away and has been there several times, with her husband when he is not working, occasionally on her own and also with family and friends.  Her favorite is Palmaz Vineyards, and I can see why.  It was a fascinating experience.  We were given a tour by a charming young man.  The winery is 18 floors underground and the building is built into the mountain. (Its owner, Julio Palmaz, is a doctor who invented the stint. He had a heart attack when he was 71 and it saved his life.   You can read his biography here.)



The tour came first and it was amazing.  The central feature of the winery was based on the old Roman concept that the best way to crush grapes was to use the force of gravity.  



We took the elevator to different floors, and were shown the fermentation room where 24 large vats were placed around a circular room.  He showed us a map of the property highlighting the 24 unique soil types present, and the 24 unique grapes growing on each of the soil types.  These end up in those 24 vats. On the concave ceiling above us there were projected statistics and visual data of each vat, state of the art that looked like something out of a science fiction movie.  


We walked through long tunnels full of wine barrels. The wood for the barrels comes from France and are assembled in California.  By doing it that way they could ship more wood at a more economical price. Along one of the tunnels was a bottling room where we were introduced to several of the staff.  The machinery used for the bottling process was surprisingly small.   However, giving the limited distribution of the wine, there was no need for anything larger.  Unfortunately, you won't find this wine in any store, and the distribution to restaurants is limited to just a few states.  The primary customer base for the wine are those people who join their wine club like my sister-in-law. 


  
The wine tasting came next where we we were taken to a room and treated to a selection of six delicious wines.  I couldn't remember each one so went to their website and found what you see below, though they do vary at times.  

Palmaz Vineyards Riesling "Louise"
Palmaz Vineyaards Chardonnay "Amalia"
Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Current Vintage
Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Select Library Release
Palmaz Vineyards Muscat Canelli "Florencia"



As we drank from each glass of wine we were told its history. Before we moved on to the next glass, we ate an hors d'oevre, also explained to us.  Placed behind our selection of wines was the hors d'oevre plate, and each delectable delight was a tiny work of art.  (On the wall is a projected photo of the Palmaz Family.)



Here are a few photos taken in the wine tasting room.













One interesting fact we learned was that many of the winemakers in Napa Valley are female, including the lady we met at Palmaz as we toured the tunnels.  He explained that the palate of a woman is more refined in general.  Well, there you go!

I was very impressed with our host.  He was excellent throughout this experience, very warm, friendly and polite.  At the end of our tour, as Gregg and my sister-in-law were talking to him, I excused myself to take some photos, and I thanked him very much.  I expected that to be the last of it but then as I had taken several photos, I turned around and realized he was waiting for me so that he could say a last goodbye.  He shook my hand warmly and said that he had hoped I had enjoyed myself.  I assured him I had, beyond measure.  



If you go to this page on YouTube you will be able to view several short videos on the vineyard.  I chose two, which can be found here and here.


I noticed that at the end of each line of vines, rose bushes are planted.  Not only do they look extremely pretty but they are put there for a reason.  If a sickness attacks the vines, the roses become infected first.  If the roses become unhealthy, then they know whatever is affecting them will attack the vines next.  This gives them time to doctor the vines before they too are infected.  



There are also falcons used to protect the vines, a scarecrow of sorts.  They are used as a deterrent to keep away the large flocks of birds, (such as the starlings mentioned in this article) who love to feed on the grapes as they ripen.  You can read about them here.



I was quite sorry to see the end of the tour as it was memorable.



We finished our trip to Napa Valley with a lovely meal at a restaurant called Bouchon Bistro.   



It was another very enjoyable experience.  We ate a delicious meal at one of the outside tables.  In the top left is Gregg's chicken dish, top right I had ordered rainbow trout, and the bottom two photos shows my sister-in-law's escargot encased in puff pastry and a small cheese platter.



In the photo below the waiter can just be seen on the left, clearing off our table which was next to the wall and out of sight.



When finished Gregg and I were sitting on a bench nearby and an Englishman started talking to us.  He was employed at the restaurant, one of the managers.  We had a very pleasant conversation and he told us he was from London-by-the-Sea (Brighton and Hove).

It is 6.27 p.m. and after a long but exceedingly enjoyable day Gregg is tired, I am tired. I think we will be going to bed early tonight.  

We are off to Monterey again tomorrow with my sister-in-law.  We are going to the Aquarium.