Carmel and a couple of rest days in Los Angeles

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Friday, April 7, 2006

Awoke to a lovely sunny day. Got my early morning exercises by walking around the twisty Lombard Street and cable car turn around parts of San Francisco. A good test for my quads going up that hill. Must have been close to straight up hill. I left SF about 8:00 and headed south on I-5 and Interstate 101. I was determined, since I had missed the 17 Mile Drive at Carmel the last time I was down that I would go there this time. It was a bit of an uncertain drive as parts of the road are closed due to landslides. Somewhere along that road I was able to take a few shots of the lovely rolling green hills which always surprise me about this part of California, which I imagine to be either huge cities, desert or huge mountains. I suppose this is an area which is leading into a mountain range and these are the foothills.

Made it in to Monterey and then Carmel about 10:30 or so. As with other parts of the California Coast it is all rocks, greenery on the shore, rolling waves and sunshine with the human touch always encroaching. On the Coast road from Monterey were runners, walkers and artists in great display. The 17 mile drive was lovely. No wonder they charge $8.75 to drive it. One of the coastline markers says "Granite marks most of this coastline. Granite begins as magma deep beneath the earth's crust. Over time the magma slowly cools into crystals creating granite's speckled appearance. The Rocks here formed over 65 million years ago near what is now Southern Californis. Since then the land has inched north along the nearby San Andreas fault forcing the granite to the surface. Sea spray and waves slowly wear away at the exposed granite eventually creating coarse beach sand."

Passed by rocky outcroppings and windblown trees vaguely reminiscent of Yugoslavija years ago. At one stop the squirrels, seagulls and blackbirds were amazingly friendly - wondered briefly whether I was going to suffer a squirrel attack. Cormorants nesting on small Islands off shore.

Further along the views changed to cypress trees and sea views. The trees are lovely and are very old. They occur naturally only in Monterey and in the Pt. Lobos area and are nearly 300 years old. In their natural range, the Monterey cypress stand gnarled, sculpted by the wind. The whole drive was a very refreshing breath of change.

I stopped off briefly in Carmel for lunch and admired the tidy and charming village of Carmel. It apparently was formed about 100 years ago with an "artists-colony sensibility" with over 100 art galleries within the confines of its one square mile. Even today it is quite eclectic and "neat" with paintings in oil, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, drawings and engravings, photographs, sculptures in stone, wood and mixed media, even wearable art. Monterey County is well known for its award winning chefs and fine dining spurred, as they say "by the oceans bounty and year round produce. A huge number of different styles of restaurants are available from sushi, barbecue, fresh fish to bistros, Indian tandoori, vegetarian only cafes. All, of course, have their prize winning wines. The buildings are equally interesting though most are newish looking. The art, clothing and restaurant offerings are superb; the prices are rather more than I was willing to pay.

I headed south; however, was turned around at a state park due to the landslides further south. At that point I got somewhat lost and, while trying to get to the I-5, managed to get lost along the El Camino Real (which I believe runs between San Francisco and San Diego). Vistas are still rolling green hills; however, somewhat more treed. At one point came through a pass in the mountains to a rest stop I had seen in 2004. they were still mopping up from a forest fire. This year I can see, though it is only a couple of years later, that the vegetation is growing up quite nicely leaving very little evidence of the fire.

I was a bit concerned I would not arrive in Santa Monica by dark so did not spend a lot of time sight seeing. About 5:30 I came speeding through Santa Barbara and managed one photo with the San Rafael Mountains in the background. One day I will be able to stay longer.

Finally arrived in Santa Monica about 8:30 after somehow getting off the 101 and winding up on the 405, which was not a way I had ever come into LA before. Fortunately my friend, Diana, told me this was the right road and I would eventually make it to Santa Monica, which I did.

As her husband and son were out at coffee shops, we went out to join them but not before ordering a delicious couple of pizza which formed dinner much later in the evening.

We had a wonderful time, the three of us, chatting (our online group calls it piffling) over the next couple of days. Many of my following notes are taken from Diana's online note and I can do no better in my journal than to refer to her words. We spent some time at the Novel Café with another friend, Mary Katherine, who treated us to four supremely delicious and different kinds of desserts. Our conversations were quite wide ranging, from scattering ashes of suicide victims and New Orleans. Strangely it was a delightfully jolly time. As the Novel has wireless availability, simultaneously we were chatting with other online friends in Australia. They showed us photographs of increasingly strange-looking parrots and twenty-eights they had seen today (Friday) and wanted to show bird-loving me, who will be there in a few months.

April 7 we started the day with lunch at a delightful Italian family run lunch place on Santa Monica's boho Main Street, Amelia's, where we had delectable homemade mushroom soup and cappuccino. The coffee cups say "For music, Puccini - For art Bernini - For espresso, Pasquini". After a wander through a lovely bead shop (Ritual Adornment) and little laze at the Novel, it was such a picture perfect day - high sixties, pouring sunshine, a ruffly little cool breeze, the first golden California poppies popping - we wanted to see some nature, so we went for a hike in Temescal Canyon where we had to park and give our money to a "iron ranger", a metal post into which you put your parking money. This was Diana's *very* first exercise since her knee cartilage repair surgery in January, and she says "OH how glorious it felt to put on those hiking boots, grab the hiking poles, and cruise uphill under a blue downy sky, through woods and by stream! My [her] knee is like a reborn springy new knee and I [she] bounded (carefully). A mild twinge or two from the bursitis as we came down again, but basically it was borne in on me [Diana] ecstatically that *I will hike again.* I was so happy!"

Then we had dinner with another friend in a Middle Eastern restaurant in the neighborhood (the Sham) The meal took its time getting to us but it was really wonderful. I had, as my liquid accompaniment, a Middle Eastern version of the Greek lassi. It is made with milk and, I think, rosewater, salt and garlic. While it was palatable, it certainly would be an acquired taste. Maybe it was my imagination; however, it made me very warm - must have been the garlic. After dinner and an agreement to meet tomorrow to go to an art exhibit, we dropped Cathy off home and saw Herbert briefly before heading out again.

Saturday, April 8, 2006. Woke up at about 9 and worked on my journal until about 11 when we went out again to Amelia's for brunch. We rather expected to have a sausage soup (I think it was) but as they did not have that we had an absolutely delicious tomato and roasted red pepper soup and roll. My word - what a meal and what an agreeable place. The owners and family come about to deliver food and clean up with no fuss at all. People from the Santa Monica and Venice Beach communities drop in in colourful and relaxed Saturday dress both alone and with friends. They quietly go about their business in a very laid back style leaving others to do the same. I would go back to that restaurant in a heartbeat. Lovely coffee as well and we chatted on about all kinds and manner of things.

After going to the Novel to collect email, we called Cathy about 1 and agreed to meet up about 2:30. The exhibit we saw was called "Ashes and Snow" by a Canadian artist named Gregory Colbert. The brochure indicated that "it is an ongoing project that weaves together photographic works, film, art installations and a novel in letters. The artist has made, over about 14 years, more than 30 expeditions to India, Egypt, Myanmar, Tonga, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Kenya, Antarctica, the Azores, Borneo and many other locations to photograph and film unscripted interactions between man and nature's living masterpieces. His 21st century bestiary includes more than 40 totemic species from around the world. His work is the result of an unswerving commitment to the expressive and artistic sensibilities of all animals. ... While Colbert uses both still and movie cameras, the printed images are not stills from the film. [They are printed] in a distinctive, encaustic process on handmade Japanese paper. The artworks are mounted without explanatory text to encourage an open-ended interaction with the images."

The still and film images, primarily in umber and sepia tones include young children, monks, dancers in white, swimmers, beautiful people in boats, a very old woman as well as about 30 different animals from Asian elephants and African wild dogs to saltwater crocodiles and tapirs. The artist used the camera "to explore extraordinary interactions between humans and animals and aims to lift the natural and artificial barriers between humans and other species, dissolving the distance that exists between them without imposing a style. " His intention was to film the animals in their native habitat in an effort to be true to each animal's voice and create a film that can be viewed both as a work of art and a poetic field of study.

The presentation was quite beautiful, particularly with the hauntingly foreign and jungle like music presented by artist Johann Johannsson. However, at the same time, I found the project rather disturbing - too much human/animal interaction without meaning or margin. For example, a young boy reading from a book (maybe praying) and an elephant immediately in front of him down in a kneeling position with his trunk wrapped around his front legs; a young monk with eyes closed and a huge eagle or some other kind of raptor sweeping right up over his head with wings stretched exactly over the boy's shoulders like wings of an angel; a simply dressed woman all in white with a feather in her hand dancing in a pattern and the same huge bird flying exactly over her head - wings wide equally on either side of her; an elephant swimming in a river or ocean above a man swimming in a circle beneath him; various huge jungle cats riding in jungle canoes both with each other and with humans who, for all intents and purposes were oblivious to the other. It was incredibly surreal. If the project was done "in their native habitat", there was certainly a lot more interaction between human and animal than I think is actually present in native habitat.

The exhibit was shown in something called the nomadic museum and is constructed of 152 steel cargo containers stacked in a checkerboard pattern 34 feet high to form the walls of the three wings of the Museum and the openings between the containers secured with a diagonal, fabric-like membrane. It also had triangular trusses of paper tubes resting on further 30 inch paper tubes from which were hung some of the exhibits. During the hour or so we spent looking at the photos and films, the wind picked up tremendously to the point where I was not at all comfortable under the structure and left Cathy to watch the film on her own and went and stood next to a more sturdy metal structure.

After that we went for a walk along the Santa Monica pier, which I had never been before. Colour, food, kids running about, carousel, roller coaster, artists, musicians, displays, noise. It was all an amazing contrast to the "Ashes and Sand" exhibit and was a display all its' own.

That night Diana and I went to the best Japanese restaurant I know. It is called Hide Sushi and offers fresh fish, good portions, and is cheap. It does not have a great presentation but is clean and offers fresh food and large portions. They have been in business for about twenty years and the quality is good. It does not take reservations or credit cards. We expected to (and did) stand (sat) in line for about half an hour. It has a number of staunch regulars who keep coming back. The gal who served us was incredibly harried but still managed to give us a great meal. We ordered 'way more than we could eat and took the balance back to Peter and Paul for their dinners.
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roffatsea on

California is a kind of drug ...
and I am enjoying it through your experiences. Thank you. Wish I were wandering myself.
The photos have been wonderful! I sense that one's 'eye' improves with use and that the more photos we take, the better they become. Nice work.

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