Tag - california

Life in the Rocky Intertidal Zone at Cabrillo

Cabrillo National Monument is a-must-see when visiting San Diego, but for me the most striking aspect is the tide pools located 500 feet below it. A thrilling, steep, downhill scenic drive from the monument to the ocean is breathtaking, with the air filled with that familiar salty ocean breeze.

The mesmerizing beauty of the jagged cliffs is Instagram worthy and a perfect getaway for any visitor. The calm waters are unusual, but the crashing waves on the rocks feel like smooth musical notes to the ears, with the humming sound awakening childhood memories at the ocean. The rocky Mexican Coronado Islands in the distance enhance the beauty even more. The kelp forest not far off shore is considered one of the largest in the world and protected by federal laws, as it’s home to some of the rarest and most endangered species. Here’s a fun fact: Not only does the kelp forest provide a safe home for animals, but it also produces most of the oxygen in the atmosphere we breathe. Hence, it’s worth taking care of our oceans’ health.

Upon arriving at the tide pools, be careful of the steep, rocky, and slightly slippery path to the pools. So, a good tip is to wear sturdy shoes that can support you well, or make sure your partner has good shoes and doesn’t mind helping you maneuver down. Flip-flops aren’t a good choice of footwear unless they have thick soles.

The smell is pleasantly pungent due to the abundant seaweed and kelp that washed ashore and bake in the sun. The small tide pools are full of life with small crustaceans and fish. Some of the mollusks are rock-bound and appear desperate for the next high tide to roll in. And when you gently touch the crustaceans, they move in a wave as if the wind were blowing them from one direction to the other. 

There are three different tide zones, and the high-tide zone is the one visitors first encounter. Muscles and barnacles, starfish, hermit crabs, and sand dollars are just some of the many sea creatures you can see on a good day.

As you approach closer to the rocky cliffs and sandstone walls, you may catch sight of large and small crabs, mollusks, and sea anemones trying to survive until the next high tide. It isn’t wise to disturb the animals because federal law prohibits anyone from moving, replacing, or taking any animal from the tide pools, not even to move them from few inches from the pool. The ecosystem is extremely fragile and any interference could kill them, but “it’s possible to touch them gently,” a park ranger informed me, who was always available for questions and watched that the tide pools weren’t harmed.

If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to pay attention to them. The area is rocky and slippery, making it easy to fall, get hurt, and get wet. Remind them several times (and a couple more times) not to dig or play in the tide pools. Of course, they’ll look at you oddly and think “are you crazy? This is perfect for that.”

The middle-tide zone is where animals can live in and out of the water. It’s an interesting area and the diversity is intense. Solitary, brooding, and aggregate anemones, scaly tube snails, and sandcastle worms are just a few examples of sea creatures you can spot. Some, such as anemones, can open up when the tide is high and close up when it’s low to hold on to the moisture.

The low-tide zone is only exposed during the lowest tides. Most sea creatures here, such as the California sea hare, kelp crab, and octopus, are underwater and like to hide in surf grass from predators.

The sea life in these tide pools is extraordinarily abundant, becoming an open-air aquarium and a wonderful, muddy puddle for kids. We were told that the best time to visit is winter, which is when the tide goes out the farthest and offers the chance to see a large variety of animals. Of course, it’s also the coldest time and not for everyone.

To find out what the best time is to visit the pools, check the tide predictor by clicking here.

Quicksilver Ranch: Miniature Horses’ Paradise in California

Located in Solvang, California, in the Santa Ynez Valley, this famous ranch holds a treasure of adorable miniature horses. Aleck and Louise Stribling, the owners of Quicksilver Ranch, have been breeding miniatures horses since 1983 and have made the breed famous. Their goal is to sell fully grown miniature horses as pets.

Quicksilver ranch

Quicksilver Ranch

To our amazement, this lush ranch of 20 acres, with enough room for those miniature horses to live in grand style like royalty, is free to visit. As a matter of fact, the only greeting a visitor receives is the whinnying of the stallion calling his fillies.

Quicksilver ranch sign

Life on the ranch

Swathes of green grass spread across the ranch, and we found ourselves going from fenced area to the next petting miniature horse of all shapes, heights, and color patterns. As we spent time with these friendly creatures, we quickly learned how each one had its own unique personality. Our daughter squeaked with delight when the horses begged her for more attention. She was a little disappointed that none of them were unicorns.

Miniature horses

Miniature horses

The more time we spent with these animals, the more curious I became to know more about them. By chance, we walked into the ranch office and met Maria, a charming lady who answered all of our questions with a smile, not letting us feel as if she had answered the same questions a thousand times from other inquisitive people like us.

Horses roam freely

Horses roaming freely

Interview with Maria

Maria has been working at the ranch for 16 years, and she gave us the story about the large ranch that was the dream of the Striblings, who opened the ranch. When Louise Stribling passed away a couple of years ago, the family decided to downsize the farm, reducing the herd’s size from around 75 head to the current 30.



We asked a lot about the health of the miniature horses, curious to know if they have the same health issues as their larger cousins. As it turns out, they do. She went on to say that most people often treat them like household pets, driving them around in the car, dressing them up for the holidays, letting them roam in the house or backyard, and teaching them to come by whistling at them like a pet dog.

The Grass is greener on the other side of the fence

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence

These horses are in demand. Depending on cuteness and coloring, prices for them range between $2,000 and $5,000. They’re ideal pets, but more importantly most of the miniature horses are used as therapy animals, working miracles with patients suffering from stress, anxiety, and PTSD. Despite their weight, about 100 to 200 pounds, they’re gentle, easy to handle, well-mannered, and are great playmates for kids as well. Maria also mentioned that some people use them to pull wagons, even up to ten times their weight, and, of course, they’ve been used in shows and circuses around the world.

Kids in love with horses

Kids in love with horses

Some people buy their horses and leave them at the farm to be cared for. Plus, it’s not allowed under California law to have a miniature horse in the backyard. Although Quicksilver Ranch is one of the biggest and most reputable in California, Maria told us that the biggest ranches are located in Texas and dominate the miniature horse business.


The stables

Worried about the safety of these animals, we had to know how they were protected at night. Maria assured us that all the miniature horses are brought back to the stables, so that they’re safe. The ranch has never had a horse stolen off the property, and Maria had to laugh at the thought of someone attempting to snatch one of these fast little horses. Apparently, they love a good game of chase with strangers. In other words, good luck trying to take one.miniature-horses

José, the guy who does everything

We met José, the extremely pleasant maintenance guy who started on the farm 16 years ago. He took it upon himself to learn how to take care of everything on the farm, including the horse and how to assist with their births.

This is a man with great passion and love for these creatures and the ranch. He explained in great detail how he takes care of all the horses, from bathing them three times a year to brushing them 2-3 times weekly to trimming their hooves and manes. He also told us that the horses don’t use horseshoes like their cousins because they just don’t need them. Each horse costs about $8 per day to be at the farm and taken care of, and that most of the owners visit and play with their horses a couple times a month. He continued to say that the horses are fun and eccentric, and he further emphasized how they’re therapy for kids and adults alike.



José also mentioned that they’re not tame at all when they’re born. It’s a work of art to domesticate and maintain that gracious attitude made famous by miniature horses. A fun fact about the benefit of their size: They love to lay down, which has caused many panic phone calls to to alert the staff of a sick horse. Laughing out loud, José simply tells them that “they enjoy sunbathing.”

Sleeping horse

A sleeping horse

All the miniature horses at the ranch seem happy and energetic. The two baby horses were running and playing and almost jumped the fence while performing their own version of “Born Free.” It’s a fun place to visit if you’re in the Santa Ynez Valley and visiting Solvang. Moreover, kids will always have a blast playing with them.

Address: 1555 Alamo Pintado Rd, Solvang, CA

Opening hours: Every day from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm, except on Sundays.

On Cannery Row, Keeping It Reel

“…fishing… occupied my mind every moment. Cares I knew not, and cared naught about them.” – John James Audubon 

This was the very sentiment of the men and women who worked the canneries and who braved the Pacific for its silver harvest. The sardine industry was established in Monterey, California, in the early 1850s and flourished until the late ’40s when, due to unfavorable ocean conditions, competition from other species, and over-fishing, the plunder of a seemingly inexhaustible natural resource—sardines—disappeared from these waters, precipitating the demise of this once major industry.


Eager to experience the area that John Steinbeck’s famous book Cannery Row features, I recently visited this section of Monterey and, though many of the old sardine canning factories are dead and gone, there’s been a renovation, indeed a rebirth of this entire area. Now many of the buildings are updated, shinier versions of those turn-of-the-century canneries. They house an eclectic blend of specialty shops, local artists’ galleries, and more than 25 restaurants and fun attractions, making this a top tourist destination.

Where Have All The Sardines Gone

Monterey caning Co

Monterey Canning Co.

Awarded the title of “America’s Happiest Seaside Town” by Coastal Living Magazine, Monterey is a city on California’s rugged central coast that extends 35 miles off-shore, covers 5,300 square miles, and possesses an astonishing array of marine life, including 26 species of marine mammals, 345 species of fish, four species of turtles, and 31 groups of invertebrates, not to mention hundreds of plant species. Though the sardines have disappeared, one wonders why. Where have they gone? Well, Ed Rickets, the renowned marine biologist, ecologist, philosopher and John Steinbeck’s collaborator, had a succinct and to-the-point response: “They’re in cans.”

Two Guys One Dream

Monterey biking trail

Monterey Recreational Trail

Although my visit was brief, I did have the chance to experience one of the true joys of living. What is that you ask? It’s fine dining, of course! (I know you’ll agree). And one of the best is the extraordinary Sardine Factory. Don’t be put off by this rather unassuming name because the restaurant is actually quite special. The Sardine Factory is included in a series of books titled “Great Restaurants of the World,” and it embodies the flawless standards that the title implies. This fine dining establishment is really the story of Ted Balestreri and Bert Cutino, a pair of former busboys whose dream of creating a great restaurant in a run-down section of Monterey resulted not only in their success as restaurateurs but also in the revitalization of historic Cannery Row. The evening I dined there, Mr. Piano Man tickling the ivories was Dave Conley; his great American Songbook, combined with my cozy table in front of a crackling fire, and swoon-worthy victuals all made this night one for the books—and I’m counting the time till I can open that book again.

The folks at Adventures by the Sea were patient with me as I checked out a variety of their bikes until I found one that was just right and off I went, zinging along the 18-mile Coastal Recreational Trail, photographing the beautiful seascapes, the sea crashing against boulders, and on the hilltops, wonderful breeze-sculpted Cypress trees providing an arresting architectural look to the land.

A reward after my long bike tour: A Taste of Monterey Wine Market & Bistro. At a table looking out to the sea, a glass of Pinot Noir, and some delightful appetizers, the afternoon spread out leisurely and golden before me.

The Endless Tide


Monterey-wild-blown Cypress

Ah, Monterey. John Steinbeck said: “The tide goes out imperceptibly. The boulders show and seem to rise up and the ocean recedes leaving little pools, leaving wet weed and moss and sponge. Iridescence and brown and blue and China red. On the bottom lies the incredible refuse of the sea, shells broken and chipped and bits of skeleton, claws, the whole sea bottom a fantastic cemetery on which the living scamper and scramble.” He paints a vivid picture, doesn’t he? Another take on the sea, this by Vincent Van Gogh: “The heart of man is very much like the sea. It has storms, it has tides, and in its depths it has its pearls, too.”  Monterey and Cannery Row: pearls by the sea.

If You Go: Hotels: Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, InterContinental Monterey | Restaurants: Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar, A Taste of Monterey, The Fish Hopper, The Sardine Factory | Bike Rental: Adventures by the Sea

The House that Lost Track of Time in Palm Springs

Imagine you accidentally find one of the best kept secrets, but you know its too good not to share. The other day, my husband and I came across  an open house in the Twin Palms neighborhood of Palm Springs. Once we walked up to the front door, we knew this was no regular house. This was a house that has stood still for nearly five decades.house

This house is more like a museum than someone’s residence. It’s a classic example of mid-century modernism that Palm Springs is so famous for. According to the real estate agent, the 3,300-square foot home was built in 1969, with minute details of the décor continuing to reflect that era. Everything in the house is original, from the carpet, to the furniture, pool, beds, televisions, radio, textured fuzzy wallpaper, glass door knobs, chandeliers, bathroom fixtures, even the bed spreads. As you walk through the house, you feel as if you’ve actually traveled back in time. It’s a must-see for anyone who’s a fan of the sixties or the Palm Springs lifestyle. If you’ve been thinking of taking a trip to Palm Springs any time in the near future, you must make an appointment to tour this house before its gone.

The Living Room, or as I like to call it the Great Green Room

great room

A large, round room boasts a subtle yet bright green with two sofas to match the shape, size, and color of the whole room. Floor-to-ceiling drapes hang graciously from the 15-foot-high windows, allowing the room to feel intimate and private. You also have a view of the entire pool area, including breathtaking panorama of the mountain range that’s just a stone’s throw away. It’s not hard to stop and imagine entertaining guests like Frank Sinatra or Marilyn Monroe here while they secretly admired the tasteful furnishings as the sun set.

The Den/Bar/Smoking Room

denThe new man cave has nothing on this masterpiece. It may be small in size but it’s huge in personality. It has a bar worthy of any mixed cocktail or fine Champagne, and the perfect soft sofa begging you take a load off and enjoy life for a little bit.16-978787PS_7c42181d-3017-4247-85d2-dccdf19ae4ad

The Kitchen

kitchenThis is the most understated room in the house. It’s immaculate counters and large open space lets you know that cooking is optional, but the cute, little breakfast nook, with windows overlooking the front yard, is begging you to sit down and enjoy your morning coffee while reading the daily news.16-978787PS_fd979a83-f115-4871-a268-f9f46362ea17

The Dining Room

dining roomTo enter this room is like stepping on to the movie set of The Wizard of Oz for dinner. The bright-green room, complete with a table big enough for your family plus Dorthy and her gang, appears even more impressive with a wall-sized mirror in an exquisite gold frame. I wonder what you eat in Oz?

The Blue Room

blue roomFor the person who likes life just a little quieter, or to be a little more introverted, then this room is for you. It’s simple and blue and an understated gem with a charm all unto its own.16-978787PS_f9f97ea1-ab7b-4897-ab58-96843a80ab19

The Green Room

green room

Tucked way in the corner away from the action of the house, this is the perfect kids’ room with two beds and plenty of room to fill with toys. With its own private, en-suite bathroom, it means that the kids can go straight from the shower to bed.

The Master Bedroom


Yes, this grand pink room shocked me at first too, but it quickly grew on me and it’ll grow on you as well. The room also made me understand something about pink. If your’re going to use pink as a room color, you need to go all out and do absolutely everything in it, Of course, don’t forget the gold trim to accentuate. This room comes complete with a television that has a zoom screen (not sure what that is actually is, but the realtor was super excited about it), and it actually goes into the floor. If you don’t want to watch TV, you get the perfect view of the pool. The en-suite bath has a unique, sunken marble bathtub in the middle of the bathroom, affording you views of the master bedroom. I swear I could fit my whole family in this tube at the same time.master1

The Pool

16-978787PS_6f28a8ff-9992-4443-a86c-039f528d27f4Complete with an attached hot tub, the large pool looks as if it were modeled from one in a bath house in ancient Rome. Every detail for this area was careful planned, from the patio with the view of the mountains to the plants. Plus, the area is completely private with tall fences on one side and the house on the other.pool

Don’t miss the extras:

1.There are two, life-size, Greek nude statues that must be seen to be appreciated.

2. The marble tiles in the house is to die for.

3. Many of the mirrors, which are everywhere, have gold painting on them, giving an elegant cracked appearance.

4. There are gold frames everywhere in the house, each one is hand carved with the finest details. The frames in the living rooms have the sweetest, fat cherubs on them you just want to pinch.

5. Placing your hand on front door handle is a must.

6. The house has several large citrus trees overflowing with fruit.

7. Everything comes with the house.

Chip Romero, Cell: 760-678-8994, E-mail: chipromero@bhhscaproperties.com

The Complete Guide to Palm Springs, CA

Nestled in a cozy oasis in the desert of Southern California, Palm Springs has a unique, cosmopolitan sensibility combined with an adventurous spirit. There are tons of things to do when it comes attractions and sightseeing. The city became a popular holiday destinations for the rich and famous in the 1950s, although its popularity slightly declined during the 1980s. Today, it’s just as popular among retired people and also among a younger crowd. It’s very hot in summer, averaging 105° degrees, and it can even reach up to 120°. Surprisingly, it’s also a popular weekend getaway from the much cooler areas of Los Angeles (about 90 miles away) and San Diego (80 miles away).palm springs guide
We want to provide a different perspective of Palm Springs with a unique guide to the city. We’ve visited and done almost everything the city has to offer. here is my perspective of the city guide to Palm Springs.


1.Visit San Andreas Fault. The world’s most famous fault line, where you can put one foot on both sides and enjoy the amazing views.wash

2. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. A place take in the stunning views of the Coachella Valley and the enjoy the only rotating cable car in the world that gives you a 360-degree view on the way up (1 Tramway Rd.)fig4_Tramway01

3. Palm Springs Art Museum. Enjoy the beautiful art work

Palm Springs' art museum

Palm Springs’ art museum

4. Agua Caliante Canyons. Get lost in nature with a hike through Desert Canyonland

Indian Canyons

Indian Canyons

5. Villagefest. The best festival in town takes place every Thursday of the year, from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. during the season, and 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. off-season.

Village fest

Village fest

6. Air Museum of Palm Springs. Named one of the best in the country and the best in California, it’s a great place to enjoy airplanes and aviation history at a amazing location.Air Museum

7. Star-Studded Streets. Follow the signs along the streets in downtown to find your  favorite celebrity’s humble abode.door5

8. Moorten Botanical Gardens and Cacterium. This is a one-of-a-kind, privately own location not to miss.20150328_105441

9. Visit the wind turbines. Palm Springs is the second windiest place on earth. Sign up with a tour company to see them up close.

10. Visit a city park. Recommended parks include Sunrise Park and Demute Park.

11. Self-guided tours of Hollywood Homes in the Movie Colony Neighborhood.

Mid- Century homes

Mid- Century homes

12. Organic Farmers Market on Saturdays. Check the opening times, as they change for peak and off-season.

You can find more in 101 things to do in Palm Springs.


By Plane: Palm Springs International airport (PSP) is fiv miles from downtown, connecting over one hundred cities worldwide. Location: 3400, E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springgs, California. Phone: 760- 318- 3800

Here’s a list of airlines that serve Palm Springs:psp

By car: From Los Angeles, take Interstate 10 east towards San Bernadino, then take the exits for Highway 111 or Indian Canyon Drive. Palm Springs is about a two-hour drive from most Southern California destinations when there isn’t much traffic.

By train: The Amtrak station is at 300 North Indian Canyon Drive.


Palm springs isn’t a big city. It’s easy to get around, and you won’t get lost. The downtown area is very pedestrian friendly with paths and walkaways.

Beautiful Palm Springs

Beautiful Palm Springs

Rent a car: at the airport or you want to visit the city as a vip, rent a Limo, there are several Limo companies available such as West Coast Transportation, Cardiff Limousine and A-1 Sahara Limo.

By bus: Use the city’s Sun Bus. You can also take the Buzz, a free shuttle service that runs every 10 minutes from Thursday to Sunday on a designated route.

Rent a bike: There are several bike rental companies, and most of them are open during the season from September to June. Summer months aren’t really a time to rent one in the city.


The Riviera Palm Springs is famous for its mineral spa baths and luxury rooms.

Rivera resort

Rivera resort

The Hyatt, Renaissance, The Willow Historic Palm Springs Inn, The Saguaro, The Colony Palm Springs,  Parker Hotel, Avalon Hotel, and the Hard Rock Hotel are the most touted hotels in town.

Budget hotels are: Best Western Inn, Motel 6, El- Rancho Lodge, Hotel California.

There are also hotels only for GLBT such as Barefoot Inn, Canyon Club Hotel, All World’s Resort, Helios, El Mirasol Villas, and La Joya Inn.


There are so many bars and restaurants available for anyone’s taste. Here are some locales that are great to take a seat and dig in.

The best seafood: Fisherman’s Market & Grill is considered to have the best and freshest seafood in town (235 S. Indian Canyon Dr.).

Fisherman's Market & Grill

Fisherman’s Market & Grill

The best pastries: Sherman’s Deli & Bakery (401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Rd.).

The best food: LULU’S California Bistro. It’s always busy, so make a reservation (303 N. Indian Canyon Dr.).

The best hamburgers: Tyler’s Burgers (149 S. Indian Canyon Dr.).

The best steak: Riccio’s Steakhouse & Seafood (495 N. Palm Canyon Dr.).

The best pizza: Bill’s Pizza (119 S. Indian Canyon Dr.).


Golf: The courses in Palm Springs are classified as some of the best in the nation. Although they’re busy in season there are great deals to be found  off season(summer). Here are the most famous and easily accessible courses in the city.

Cimarron Golf Course

Cimarron Golf Course

Cimerron Golf Resort, Tahquitz Creek Golf resort, Indian Canyon Golf Resort, Escena Golf Resort, PGA West

Tennis: Most city parks, such as Ruth Hardy Park and Dimuth Park, have tennis courts. If you want something prestigious, then play at the Racket Club Tennis Courts.


There are events all year round. Check out the event calendar on the Palm Springs city website for the latest.


1. Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain, Part II

Salvation Mountain

2. El Paseo shopping district

3. East Jesus

Entrance to east Jesus

Entrance to east Jesus

4. Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

5. Slab City

Slab city limits

Slab City limits

6. Joshua Tree National Parkjoshua tree

7. Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon

8. Dinosaures in Cabazon

Dinosaures at Cabazon

Dinosaures at Cabazon

9. Idyllwild

10. Living Desert Zoo

Living desert

Living desert

11. Noah Purify Outdoor art  Museum

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum

12. Desert Christ Park, Yucca Valley

Desert Christ Park

Desert Christ Park


Desert Regional Medical Center is the best. It’s located on Indian Canyon Way in the historic El Mirador Hotel.


Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, Indio, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Desert Hot Springs

The Inn Above Tide – Sausalito, California

I recently visited the Napa and Sonoma, California wine regions and sampled Chardonnays and Pinots, both Noir and Grigio, as well as a bevy of other varietals; it brought to mind what a wise sage once said: “The best wines are the ones we drink with friends.” Agreed! However, my wine country experience, albeit heady and delicious, left me needing a break. I longed to clear my head and instead feed mind and soul.

I wanted to be sittin’ on the dock of the bay – and there’s no better place to do that than in Sausalito where Otis Redding penned his famed song of the same name. Listening to the lyrics, his song is kind of sad. Redding sings that he’s traveled 2,000 miles from home just to sit on the dock of the bay wastin’ time. Sorry, I can’t relate to that.  The town offers many delightful diversions, not the least of which is a tour of its iconic house boat scene. Victoria Colella was my guide for her ‘Docks of the Bay” historic houseboat tour. This vibrant community of floating homes recently turned 67, but it remains as rebellious and funky as ever.  I saw original houseboats, art studios, wooden boat building shops and working boat yards.  Victoria told tales of the Beat Era, the houseboat wars, and showed us the boat where Sterling Hayden lived in his heyday.

InnabovetideinteriorSausalito is a charming village built on a Marin County hillside on San Francisco Bay. It is a mere hour’s drive from Napa, is home to historic sailing vessels and classic yachts, and is ranked as one of the top 20 destinations in the country with its small-town charm, Mediterranean character and awe-inspiring views of San Francisco, its sister city across the bay. One of the very best views to be had – anywhere – is from a small, chic and understated hotel with just 31 rooms: The Inn Above Tide. Built over the waters of the bay next to the ferry landing and at the center of Sausalito Village, the Inn is within easy walking distance to all that the town has to offer – wonderful restaurants, trendy boutiques and some very special art galleries.

InnfireplaceAs I waltzed through the Inn’s front door, I just knew that I’d found it: my relaxing, cosseted retreat. To be sure, Napa and Sonoma are set in wooded and charming towns, but it’s all that wine that can lead one astray.  Here at the Inn, none of that save for the sunset wine and cheese reception and a chance to mingle with other guests.  Then a stroll back to my pretty room with its soft brown leather chair pulled up close to the fireplace.

InnbathThis three-story, contemporary seaside structure ensures a flawless experience for its guests.  Each of the 31 rooms and suites has been custom-designed.  Mine was decorated in warm earth tones, my custom furnishings accented with vibrant reds and oranges. Earlier, General Manager Mark Flaherty gave me a brief history of the Inn, a labor of love for the McDevitt family.  It seems the building was originally constructed by William “Bill” McDevitt in 1961 as an apartment building that he redesigned in 1995 as a sumptuous boutique hotel.  Through the years, the family has continued to maintain the luxury property with great care and attention to detail.
InnabovetidesunsetAs evening crept in, I moved onto my private patio listening to waves lapping the shore and allowing myself to be wowed by views of the city skyline. I realized that from my vantage point, I was seeing San Francisco in an utterly unique way. Darkness fell softly over the bay as the lights of the city came alive before a backdrop of flaming orange. Granted, there are hundreds of hotels around San Francisco Bay- but there’s only one hotel on it – and that made all the difference.  Leaving all that wine behind, I had been looking for a genuine sanctuary for the soul.  Inn Above Tide: paradise found.

If You Go:

Inn Above TideSausalitoSausalito Wooden Boat Tour

Carmel Mission – A Peek into California’s Past

Founded as California’s second mission by Fr. Junípero Serra in 1770, the Basilica of San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission first had its roots in Monterey. It relocated to Carmel in 1771 after the city became the seat of the mission chain from 1770 to 1803.

The Mission’s name is in honor of St. Charles Borroméo, the nephew of Pope Pius IV. Borroméo became the bishop and cardinal of Milan in the 16th century and further played an active role in charity during the Black Plague of 1576.  The Catholic church declared Borroméo a saint 30 years after his death in 1584. Moreover, he’s the the protector of seminaries and patron saint of learning.


The Carmel Mission comprises a basilica, four museum galleries, a wedding chapel and cemetery, and masses regularly take place.  The present stone church was not the first to be on this site. Today’s place of worship was initially planned by Father Junípero Serra, but he never had the chance to see it built during his lifetime. Its construction and completion started under the supervision of Father Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, the successor of Father Serra, between 1795 and 1797. One of the two unequal stone tower supports a massive bell, and it’s one of the main attractions. These towers, however, weren’t completed until the mid-19th century during a period of renovation.

IMG_0840The Mission is also the location of the Junípero Serra School, a private Catholic school from kindergarten to 8th grade.


There are several cemeteries that hold the remains of influential people, such as Marbel and Harry Downie who helped restore and secure the Mission in the past. A plaque placed at the grave of Native American Indian Old Gabriél indicates that he was baptized by Fr. Serra in 1780 and was present during the first Mass in 1770. Though Old Gabriél’s age isn’t factually know, they say he died in 1890 at the ripe old age of 151.


A small house on the grounds is the Munrás Family Heritage Museum, which presents the five generations of history of one of the most important families in the Monterey area. The main exhibit, which includes several unusual tools and utensil from that 19th century, illustrates everyday life in California after the family’s arrival in 1806.


The Downie Museum, located in a small building next to the basilica, was dedicated to Sir Harry Downie in 1980 to commemorate his work as a renowned restorer of this California Mission.


The basilica, with high catenary arches that add depth to the structure, is the centerpiece and one the most beautiful of the Carmel Mission complex. To enter is to step back in time more than two centuries ago. The alter is decorated beautifully with statues of various notables alongside Jesus. This is also a functioning parish and Mass is celebrated here almost every day. Pope John Paul II visited the basilica in 1987 and laid a wreath on the grave of Fr. Serra. The Pope later beatified the Mission’s founder in 1989.

Historical records also indicate that up to seven large altarpieces had once lined the walls of the basilica and had nearly 20 statues. Unfortunately, all of these were lost in a fire while being housed at the Sacred Heart Church in Salinas in the mid-19th century.


Adjacent to the basilica is the Jo Mora Chapel Gallery, which houses the elaborate Serra Memorial Cenotaph that was sculpted by Jo Mora in 1924. This museum is also home to an art exhibit which changes periodically.

The Convoto Wing is where Fr. Serra and Fr. Lasuén chose to live. The rooms have been for the most part restored to their original standings and contain the kitchen, living room, guest dining room, sleeping area and refectory, while the reception room holds the Serra Sarcophagus. Also notable here is California’s first library, which Fr. Serra founded in 1770.

fountainThe courtyard is also the location of the Serra Memorial Wall, a focal point that reflects the restoration and preservation efforts of the Mission by the Carmel Mission Foundation’s Tricentennial Capital Campaign. It also honors Fr. Serra’s birth in 1713 and the 300 donors who assisted in the restoration of the historical buildings. Two plaques on the memorial explain who Junípero Serra was, what he did during his life and the goals he had for the New World.

The bell, named Ave Maria, was made in Mexico City in 1807 and placed at the Mission in 1820. It was removed due to the secularization of the Mission in 1834, but local Native Americans held onto it for safekeeping. Over the years, however, it was lost but later found and re-installed at the Mission in 1925.


A tall, weathered  wooden cross  stands 10 feet from the Serra Memorial Wall and marks where Fr. Serra first erected the Mission Cross in 1771. Near it is a monument titled “Españoles en América,” which commemorates Spanish missionaries in California. The plaque across it lists the first four in California.

IMG_0832California’s missions, 21 in all, extend from San Francisco Solano in the north to San Diego de Alcalá in the south, each reflecting their unique heritage and history from their founding centuries ago.


Scenic 17-Mile Drive

17-Mile Drive is one of the most scenic routes in the world, and it’s an absolute must when visiting Northern California. Our half-day trip led us through a stunning setting of natural beauty of cypress-filled forest and along the rugged coastline of the Pacific Ocean.


After paying the $10 entrance fee, follow the red line through the majestic Del Monte Forest.

Shepherd’s Knoll

Shepherd’s KnollThis point provides the best views of the San Gabilan Mountains and the beautiful Monterey Bay area. Despite the tall evergreens, we managed to see the Pacific after all.

Huckleberry Hill

huckbhillsNoted for its local huckleberry bushes, this is one of the highest elevation points in the Del Monte Forest.

Poppy Hills Golf Course

Poppy Hills, RTJII, Bruce CharltonThis is the newest golf course in Pebble Beach, and it’s also home to the Northern California Golf Association after undergoing an extensive, 13-month renovation.

The Inn & Links at Spanish Bay

The Inn at Spanish BayThis renowned resort, with its Scottish-style links course, is famous for the bagpiper that closes the course every evening. The inn is a perfect getaway on Northern California’s beautiful coastline.

Spanish Bay

IMG_0472In 1769, Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portolá and his crew camped at this point while on their search for Monterey Bay. This is also a great place to have a picnic and appreciate the seascape.

The Restless Sea

restless SeaThe confluence of two currents over the craggy, underwater terrain gives rise to the turbulent waters off Point Joe and its namesake as the Restless Sea.

Point Joe

point joeMany mistakenly believed that this point of Spanish Bay was the entrance to Monterey Bay, which is actually farther north. The errors in their navigation also led to the sinking of their ships off the rocky coastline.

China Rock 

china rockThis landmark honors the Chinese immigrants who settled here and in other fishing villages along the coast during late 1800s and early 1900s.

Bird Rock Hunt Course

IMG_0697Now used by the Monterey Peninsula Country Club as the shore course, the 11th Calvary trained here to hone their riding and saber skills up to the time of WWII.

Bird Rock

bird rock hunt courseIt’s the home to numerous seabirds, sea lions and harbor seals, each vying for a coveted spot on the rugged outcrop. During spring and summer, Brandt’s cormorants, pelicans and gulls cover the rock as they prepare to nest.

Seal Rock Picnic Area

seal rock picnic areaIt’s an ideal spot for lunch or a toast at sunset at the ocean’s edge.

Spyglass Hill Golf Course

spyglass hill golf courseDesigned by Robert T. Jones, Sr., this is one of the world’s most challenging, 18-hole golf courses. They say that Robert Louis Stevenson used to amble through the Spyglass area, collecting ideas for his famed classic Treasure Island. Hole names on the greens, such as “Billy Bones” and “Black Dog,” reflect the characters in his novel.

Fanshell Overlook

fanshell overlookHarbor seals gather here annually to give birth to their pups from April to June, at which time the area is closed to visitors.

Cypress Point Lookout

cypress point lookoutThis overlook awards visitors with dramatic views of the Pacific coastline, with the Del Monte Forest in the distance.

Crocker Grove

IMG_0606Named after the founder of 17-mile Drive, Charles Crocker, the grove is home to several species of native pines and Monterey cypress. Crocker was a railroad tycoon in the 19th century and founded the Central Pacific Railroad.

The Lone Cypress

IMG_0619This is one of California’s most beloved and enduring landmarks, and it has withstood Mother Nature’s forces for more than 250 years from its rocky perch. An average Monterey cypress can grow between 40 and 90 feet high and live up to 300 years.

The Ghost Tree

ghost treesThanks to the elements of Monterey Bay, these trees are famous for their gnarled, bleached trunks and ghostly appearance.

Pescadero Point

pescadero pointThis is a great location to see Stillwater Cove and the Carmel Bay area.

The Lodge at Pebble Beach

 lodgeBuilt in 1919, the Lodge is at the 18th green of the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. The shops have all the accessories avid golfers need for tee time.

Peter Hey Par 3 Course and 100th U.S. Open Monument 

peterhey par 3Named after native golf pro Peter Hey, this part of the course also boasts a 30,000-pound bronze sculpture titled Momentum, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Open Championship in 2000.

Pebble Beach Equestrian Center


Guide tours-(credit -writinghorseback.com)

Guided tours of 50 to 75 minutes take visitors through the Del Monte Forest or along the beach of the Pacific Ocean—it’s an unforgettable experience.

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A Stroll along Cannery Row

Carmel Mission – A Peek into California’s Past

Salton Sea – A Mirage in the Desert?

The idea of taking a day-trip to Salton Sea didn’t appeal to me at first, but my wife always insists on exploring anything and everything, because we might be pleasantly surprised by what we’ll discover.

Salton Sea from the campground

Salton Sea seen from the campground

Before arriving at the visitors’ center of Salton Sea, we stopped at a desolate campground along the shores of this vast body of water. The wind was blowing hard, as if an entity was pushing us to leave, and the foul odor of floating, dead fish emanated from the murky, green water. The shoreline was strewn with small shells and fish skeletons, which crunched under foot. Such a macabre atmosphere led us to wonder if we had accidentally arrived in a parallel universe.

Shoreline filled with fishbones

Shoreline filled with fish bones

Obviously, we didn’t stay long at the campsite and drove to the main entrance to pay the $5 fee to enter the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. The air remained heavy with the smell of fish, and the breeze off the water coated our tongues and skin with a veil of salt. Some visitors looked confused while wandering the parking lot amid a scattering of RVs, and it simply didn’t feel like a very happy place to be.

When we entered the visitor’ center, our two toddlers broke the silence with their animated voices upon seeing the small gift shop’s collection of stuffed animals, which they enthusiastically took one by one and handed them to the few tourists who were milling around. As I stood there, I wondered how it was possible for this Southern California lake to receive 150,000 visitors each year. Was it slowly being abandoned to the whims of the unforgiving desert?

Creation of the Salton Sea

Millions of years ago, the Gulf of California had extended to the current location of the Salton Sea, depositing silt and ultimately creating an inland body of water. The Sea also has mud volcanoes, which are a result of the very part of the earth that created the lake, and it’s possible to get up close and dirty in the healing, hot mud. Over the centuries, the fresh water from the Colorado River replaced the salt water and turned this area into Lake Cahuilla. Its fertile banks provided a place for the Cahuilla Native Americans to settle and flourish for generations.

About 500 years ago, the Colorado River shifted south and the water started to recede over time, exposing 15-foot thick salt deposits over 1,000 square acres. The attraction of such a landscape inspired farmers to put down roots in the area, construct salt mines and further create irrigation canals from the Colorado River to sustain the productive lands.

In 1905 and 1907, the Colorado River broke through diversion canals and flooded the nearly empty lake, thereby creating a 35-mile long and 15-mile wide body of water. To this day, irrigation from the river transports up to 600 tons of salt deposits each year.

Salton Sea Recreation

By the late 1950s, the Salton Sea State Recreational Area was quite popular among Southern Californians. Thousands of residents hooked up their boats to trailers and headed to the 360-square-mile lake for fun-filled weekends. It was so popular that it was necessary to create 15 ramps to load the boats in and out the lake. Although, all that remains of the The Desert Beach Club’s “Sunken City Yacht Club” are the ruins of its foundation at the water’s edge.

Today, however, it seems that this paradise for water enthusiasts has lost its appeal, with many parts of the Recreation Area closed to the public. Some reviews say that if you can get past the murky waters and the fishy smell, you’ll have Salton Sea all to yourself. There are several campgrounds, totaling 14,000 camp sites, but to our surprise most were lifeless and sad looking.

Salton see with the murky water

Salton sea with the murky water

They do say, however, that Salton Sea is the perfect location for stargazing due to the absence of light pollution in the area.

Salton Sea today

Dead fish along the shore line

Dead fish along the shore line

The Salton Sea is touted as a great spot for bird-watchers, as it’s a breading ground and migratory stop for many birds. It hosts one of the largest variety in North America, with 400 species and sub-species, such as brown pelicans, egrets and cormorants, which depend on the health of the water and a constant population of fish. In 1996 thousands of birds mysteriously began to die off, and it was later determined that the Avian Botulism was responsible for the fatal decline. Although scientists were confused by how the pelican population had contracted the botulism, they discovered that the tilapia fish, which was on the pelicans’ menu, had also been affected. Avian Botulism is common to saline environments, but it isn’t considered to be a huge threat. It’s extremely rare to contract the bacteria while swimming in the sea or from touching the fish.

Abandoned, salt-encrusted structures on the Salton Sea shore at Bombay Beach

Abandoned structures on the Salton Sea at Bombay Beach

The tilapia, which thrives in these waters, numbers up to 300,000, but it remains a mystery as to why thousands of them go to shore to die each year. However, it is important to the ecology of the area and offers a feast for the birds.

The evaporation of the water is also a critical issue in the desert, and maintaining a consistent level of it here is key to wild life survival. If the lake were to die, it would mean their extinction.

fish skeletons are everywhere

fish skeletons are everywhere

On a personal note: Albeit creepy, it is beautiful. The water is still and dreamy, with the perfect backdrop of mountains rising behind it. So little is known about this body of water in the middle of nowhere, but it is worth a visit: to understand the task it has in our fragile environment, and learn why many are fighting so hard to save this “engineering mistake.”

If you’re into adventure and exploring weird places, then go and check it out. Bear in mind that the smell of fish is overwhelming, and the beach strewn with fish bones doesn’t make for a pleasant stroll (it’s a must to keep your shoes on). If you do happen to go, please tell us about your experience.

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Folk art of the desert- Salvation Mountain
Folk art of the desert- East Jesus

Balboa Island – Great Things Come in Small Packages

As the locals say: “Welcome to Balboa Island, where cats are fat and lazy, dogs are spoiled and the locals live a creative and carefree lifestyle.” Stroll down the main street of Marine Avenue to check out the cute boutique shops and have a frozen banana—the island’s signature treat—and go for a walk around the island to see beautiful, bay-front homes.

Island-sized History

Balboa Island's boardwalk

Balboa Island’s boardwalk

The island is a mere 0.2 square miles and was literally erected from the sea. In 1906 a developer named William Steppe Collins, who made his fortune from oil, real estate and oranges, began dredging around a two-acre mud flat in Newport Bay. In 1913, he had another island created and pictured it to become a gambling resort complete with canals and gondoliers. Yet, the idea was scratched with only one canal today.

It didn’t take long for the L.A.’s elite to catch wind of Collins’ new island, and many arrived to buy up the small plots, seeing it as a retreat while others eventually settled down with their children. Today’s population numbers around 3000 residents, including an original few who grew up here as kids.

The Easy Life

St John Church, Marina Ave

St John Church, Marine Ave

This man-made island has become one of the most touted and expensive property markets in the nation. It’s also clear that homeowners take pride in their manicured gardens behind white-picket fences along tidy streets. Each home is unique, small in size and quite close to one another. Residents compromise to become friends with theirs neighbors, and the locals we met said that ”your neighbor knows all your whereabouts.” It goes to show that keeping a secret here would be difficult.

Marina Ave shops

Marine Ave. shops

Most residents also have a dock instead of a driveway, and it comes as no surprise that it’s the most boat-occupied island in the United States. The waters are always busy, with people using pedal boats, kayaks, boats, yachts and ferry traffic to the mainland. It’s a wonder that with all this activity, the water and beaches are pristine. Many residents have a small, private beach in front of their homes, making it ideal for sunbathing and swimming on beautiful, sunny days.

Obviously, it’s a great lifestyle for the select few who can afford it. Eating out is expensive but not all shocking. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and coffee shops on Marine Avenue and a small deli to buy some essentials, as there aren’t any grocery stores on the island. However, if you can’t resist a week of rest and relaxation on this quaint island, vacation rentals run less than $2000 a week.

It’s very easy to visit the entire island. The boardwalk, which is always busy with residents and visitors alike, wraps around the outer edge of Balboa Island, providing great views of the water, beaches, homes and the mainland just beyond the picturesque harbor.

Enjoying the day

Enjoying the day at the beach

The island simply exudes a festive atmosphere with people strolling down Marine Avenue having a great time talking, smiling, laughing and simply happy to be there—I’ll go back in a heartbeat.

Getting There

There is a small bridge and a ferry service connecting Balboa Island to the mainland. The ferry, which is privately owned and operated, takes 3 cars at a time, and the price is relatively reasonable: At $1 per person and $2 per car, it’s a quick five-minute trip.

Though this charming, carefree town offers a delightful atmosphere, the only few stressful things on the island are the narrow streets and crowded intersections and bad traffic. Visitors need to be patient and aware of how the simply island works.

For more information, visit the Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society: www.balboaislandmuseum.org

Here is a small video captured during the visit 🙂

California’s Most Unique Beaches

Do you think the vast majority of California beaches are simply tourist destinations with nothing extraordinary or interesting to offer? Many of them seem overrated, overcrowded and boring, but the state’s beaches are simply one of a kind and some are overlooked. Let’s see what you know about the most unique beaches in the Golden State. We have selected 10, and you are more than welcome to add your favorite California beach to the list.

1.Venice Beach, Venice

Venice beach, Credit-discoverlosangeles.com

Venice beach, Credit-discoverlosangeles.com

It’s a must-see when visiting Los Angeles. Noted for its soft sand and soaring palm trees, this sweeping beach stretches for over 3 miles—ideal for the essential three S’s: swimming, surfing and sunbathing. However, what makes Venice Beach unique is not just the beach itself but the activities around the Ocean Front Boardwalk—people come to walk and shop, see and be seen.

Venice Beach is famous for its open-air gym, where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained as a body builder for the competitions he later won as Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia. A stroll along the popular Boardwalk is one of L.A.’s most entertaining locations—grab a bag of popcorn, take a seat and watch the show go by. You’ll come across people from every walk of life, including singers, artists, contortionists, musicians, weirdos, jugglers, acrobats, fortune tellers, story tellers, CD vendors, sculptors, beautiful people and the beautifully challenged. To enjoy a day of sports activities, the beach is dotted with tennis and basketball courts, along with areas set up for beach volleyball. There are also bike paths and a skateboard park. Summers are festive and packed, and there are shows of every kind at each street intersection.

Tip: Beware of pickpockets and persistent CD vendors.

2. Bowling Ball Beach, Pacific Coast Hwy 1

Bowling ball beach, credit-reddit.com

Bowling ball beach, credit-reddit.com

You’ll discover a stretch of unusual beach just south of Point Arena in Northern California. What makes this location so unique is the series of giant “bowling balls” that the receding tide reveals at certain points along the beach. Hundreds of them have the same density, size and the volume, and geologists have named them “concretions:” rounded masses of mineral matter occurring in sandstone, clay, etc., that form in sediment before solidifying in concentric layers.

Animal life is also abundant, if you know where to look. From hermit crabs and snails, lurking in between the rocks, to the colorful red and green sea anemones and small rockfish in the tidal pools at low tide, children and parents alike will enjoy entertaining hours of discovery.

Tip: Don’t stray too close to the cliffs; the area is prone to landslides and rocks may tumble down without any warnings.

3. Glass Beach, Ft Bragg

Sea-glass-beach, Credit-onia.com

Sea-glass-beach, Credit-onia.com

The famous Glass Beach in Northern California was actually formed by the locals, who used to dump rubbish on the beach from the 1940s to as late as the 1960s. Over the decades, the pounding of the waves has transformed the glass remnants into something beautiful and unusual: perfectly smooth, pebble-sized pieces that reflect shades of white, red, brown, green, blue and amber.

Its uniqueness, however, is also becoming its undoing. Despite being a state park to ensure that Glass Beach remains for others to enjoy in the future, many visitors ignore the signs that prohibit the collecting of the glass and selfishly remove it by the bag-full.

Tip: Please be considerate and respect the beauty of the beach, otherwise there will no longer be Glass Beach.

4. Rockaway Beach, Pacifica

Rockaway beach, Credit-10formation.com

Rockaway beach, Credit-10formation.com

It’s the quintessential, sleepy hideaway on the gorgeous Northern California coast, and some say it’s the best-kept secret. Located in the town of Pacifica, Roackaway Beach exhibits an unusual yet beautiful, dark brown color. This natural occurrence is due to the erosion of the bluish-grey limestone that mixes with the volcanic greenstone around the beach. The views of the ocean are also breathtaking, and visitors can enjoy their beloved beach activities amid a serene atmosphere.

Tip: The rough waters off Pacifica also make it a surfer’s paradise.

5. Luffenholtz Beach, Trinidad

Luffenholtz beach, Credit-panoramio

Luffenholtz beach, Credit-panoramio

Luffenholtz Beach is a spectacular, rocky cove with numerous tidal pools and reefs to explore and discover the sea creatures within them. This living science museum will keep kids occupied for hours, along with Luffenholtz Creek, which flows into Trinidad Bay. The park also offers a sweeping panorama of the vast Pacific Ocean, with a look-out point at Houda Point for watching the sun set over Camel Rock offshore.

Tip: Trinidad’s Moonstone Beach is a favorite surfing spot among the locals.

6. Black Sand Beach, Golden Gate Recreation Area

Blacks and beach, Credit-pinterest

Blacks and beach, Credit-pinterest

If you don’t have a chance to make it to Hawaii, this is the closest you can get to a black sand beach. The reason for its charcoal color is due to the blending of a magnetite and a dark amphibole mineral known as “hornblende.” There are two other known black sand beaches in California; one is in San Diego and the other is two hours north of Glass Beach in Shelter Cove.

Tip: Keep in mind that it’s a steep hike up and down to the beach. Moreover, it’s not only a natural wonder, but it’s also a nudist beach. Don’t forget to bring sunblock if you feel the need to bear your skin to the wind.

7. Oceano Dunes Beach, Oceano

Oceano beach, Credit- atv1ryono.net

Oceano beach, Credit- atv1ryono.net

This beach is a one-of-a-kind because it’s the only California beach where you can drive onto it and actually park. There are plenty of sand dunes that make it easy and popular for off-riders to maneuver. There is also an array of activities to do, such as surfing, swimming, horseback riding and bird watching. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to drive on the beach, then this is the place to visit.

Tip: Passenger cars should stay at the northern end of the beach, and be careful of the ocean’s strong rip currents.

8. Piedras Blancas Beach, San Simeon

Piedras Blancas beach, credit edeltrips.com

Piedras Blancas beach, credit edeltrips.com

Piedras Blancas” is the most accessible beach for elephant seal watching. Mother Nature has provided these robust marine mammals with protection from storms, high water and sea predators. It’s really an experience to spend hours observing them swimming, doing flips in the waves, snuggling up against each other, chortling and rolling around on the sand. Males assert their pecking order with macho, chest-bumping zest, and you’ll quickly figure out who’s really boss when these big mounds of blubbery bodies quickly make room for Big Daddy to pick his spot.

Tip: Visit all year long except in August and September when there are hardly any seals.

9. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

Pfeiffer beach, Credit-tripcentral.ca

Pfeiffer beach, Credit-tripcentral.ca

The color of the sand is unique in that it reflects the watercolor hues of purple, pink and lavender. This unspoiled beach gets its particular shade from the abundance of manganese garnet particles washing down from the rocky hills. The rugged and dramatic offshore rock formations enhance the contrasts to this already unbelievably beautiful landscape. The further you walk down the beach, the denser the colors become. Virtually unknown to seasoned tourists, it’s very well worth the visit if you are in the area.

Tip: It’s a bit tricky to find. Look for the unmarked Sycamore Canyon Road. It’s the only paved, non-gated road that’s west of Highway One (between the Big Sur post office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park). Once spotting the turnout, make a very sharp turn and then follow the road for about two miles until it ends.

10. Silver Strand Beach, San Diego

Coronado Silver Strand-Beach, Credit sandiego.org

Coronado Silver Strand-Beach, Credit sandiego.org

Have you ever seen silver sand? This 2.5 mile beach gets its name from the silvery oyster shells that cover the beach and dunes. You’ll also discover many clams buried in the sand. The beach also offers overnight RV camping, picnic areas, bathroom and shower facilities plus fantastic shell collecting. Beach activities include surfing, swimming, body boarding, jet skiing, sailing and water skiing, as well as fishing and beach volleyball.

Tip: There are about 130 first-come, first-serve campsites.

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Content: Introduction to the art of living through Releasing

Vacation in Palm Springs? Absolutely!

Surrounded by the San Jacinto mountain range in the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs comprises around 60,000 permanent residents, of which 60% is gay. When winter is in full swing, the population grows to nearly 150,000.

Beautiful Palm Springs

Beautiful Palm Springs

Is Palm Springs the ideal getaway for anyone seeking calmness from the fast pace of everyday life? Let’s explore the city and highlight its great points of interest.

A Winter Wonderland

The locals will tell you that only a brave few come to vacation in the summer, when swimming pools feel more like hot tubs than a place to cool off. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like a dream holiday, it is, however, one of the best winter destinations in the United States. Snowbirds come from all over to escape from the frigid temperatures of the snow-covered north.

Livable and comfortable, winter is very pleasant with ideal temperatures that range from the mid-70s to mid-80s. At the same time, winter in deserts tend to be chilly at night—even Jack Frost will be nipping at your nose. Of course, there is the occasional rain shower to give the gift of life even to the harshest of places.

Take a Hike

Spectacular views of the Valley below from Mt St Jacinto

Spectacular views of the Valley below from Mt St Jacinto

Palm Springs isn’t ideal for outdoor activities in summer, but winter is the best time if you’re an outdoorsy kind of person. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with a hike through Taquitz Canyon. Admission is $12, which may sound like a lot for a one-mile hike, but there are fantastic points, such as Native American pictographs, hikers would never discover without the knowledge of an accompanying guide. There’s even a path that leads to a waterfall. Other great hikes include Indian Canyons — comprising Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon and Murray Canyon. Be on the lookout for resident bighorn sheep, mule deer and plenty of darting lizards. Bird-watchers will also enjoy getting a glimpse of the various species that live here. For spectacular views of the valley, take a hike on the San Jacinto Trail.

Regardless if it’s a blazing summer or a delightful winter, hikers need to keep the the following in mind:

    • Check the weather before heading out.
    • Most trails don’t have any shady areas or restroom facilities.
    • Dress appropriately and, most of all, wear a hat.
    • Bring plenty of water and some food. If you run out of water, turn around and go back.
    • Be careful where you step and beware of rattlesnakes. The landscape is remote and challenging, so it’s best to stay on the trails.

Some hikes are easier than others, but it’s still good to go with a friend.

Palm Springs Attractions

Palm Springs Air Museum

Palm Springs Air Museum

The Air Museum of Palm Springs: Listed as one of the best aviation museums to visit in the USA by CNN, the museum aims to educate the public about the role American air power played during conflicts of war. The cost is $10, which includes visits to three hangars and other outdoor expositions.

The Aerial Tram: This is one of the main attractions in the city. To escape the heat in summer, locals and visitors alike head to Mt. Jacinto, where the temperature is 25 degrees cooler.

Summer months are less crowded, but expect to wait in a long line during the popular winter months. During peak season, the tram runs every 15 minutes and transports up to 10,000 people per day for the 10-minute ride. Tickets cost $25 per person, depending on when you’re heading, and $60 for a season pass.

Rotting Aerial tram

Rotating Aerial tram

Once reaching the top, there are some easy hikes to do, places to rest for a picnic and enjoy the breathtaking view of the valley below. There is a restaurant from this lofty perch, but the wait time can   be long and the food isn’t worth it in the end.

Star-studded Streets: At one point, there were almost as many celebrities living in Palm Springs as in Tinsel Town. Fans of Hollywood can stroll down the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on Palm Canyon drive.

door6896Visitors can also go on tours through the “Old Movie Colony”, Las Palmas neighborhood and Racquet Club Estates, as well as other secret locations with some 50-60 beautiful homes to see along the way.

Entrance signThe list of famous residents reads like a who’s who from the Silver Screen. Legendary celebrities who had their hideaways in Palm Springs include Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the Reagans and even Elvis and Priscilla Presley. Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Dinah Shore were also frequent visitors to this desert oasis.

Wind farms of Palm Spgs, Credit-daryo.uz

Wind farms of Palm Spgs, Credit-daryo.uz

The Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium: This one-acre, family-owned botanical garden boasts 3,000 examples of cacti and other desert succulents that are grouped by geographic regions. The entrance fee is $4 for adults and $2 for children.

Visit the Wind Turbines: These sleek and towering beacons stretch along I-10 and rotate at a rapid speed, helping to generate one and a half percent of California’s electricity. There are 3,500-plus wind turbines in place and create enough energy to power nearly 200,000 homes. Some refer to the area as being the second windiest place on earth.

 Enjoy the Laid-back Desert Lifestyle

View from Ruth Hardy Park

View from Ruth Hardy Park

Relax at a city park: If you visit with kids, there are some nice parks for them to run around and have some fun. Located near Mt. Jacinto, the Ruth Hardy Park is one of the best in Palm Springs, with tennis courts, volleyball courts and a basketball court. Dimuth Park is also another option, but Sunrise Park isn’t recommendable.

Ride a bike: There are plenty of bike trails and rentals are affordable. Most bike paths are shared with pedestrian sidewalks, which may annoy some. Click on the following links for more details.

Let the festivities begin! Winter is also a time when endless festivals fill the city. The Palm Springs VillageFest runs all year in downtown on Thursday evenings; the Palm Springs Film Festival, founded by former mayor Sonny Bono, takes place in January, and the hot air balloon festival on 14 and 15 February. Along with art festivals on weekends, there’s the Tour de Palm Springs Bike Event in February, Gay pride in November and the Palm Springs Light Festival in December—just to name a few.

Village fest


Other attraction to visit may include Irwin Junior’s Robo-lights, which display the largest single-family home light display in California from November to the end of December.

A Night on the Town: There are plenty of bars and night clubs open until late, and there’s something for everyone. Why take a chance with Lady Luck at the the Spa Resort Casino? It also has one of the best spas in town.

Meet the Locals!

Palm Springs Charm

Palm Springs Charm

Palm Spring is diverse and exciting, with a population from all over the world. Don’t be afraid to chat with the locals—they won’t bite. Everywhere you go, people are simply friendly, helpful, fun and engaging. It feels good to meet people who love others and love to live peacefully.

Heterosexuals may feel uncomfortable to see gay couples holding hands and showing affection for each other on the streets just as anyone else would towards their significant other. However, don’t stare or say something inappropriate. Accept the indifference, be a tolerant and decent human being.

Eat and Be Merry

People love to shop at the local and farmers’ markets. Every Saturday, the organic farmers’ market (7 am – 12:30 pm) is fantastic for buying certified, organic food for reasonable prices.

There are also plenty of Palm Springs restaurants that serve up international dishes. For a taste of the Med, have a seat in the “Greek Island Restaurant;” Asian food-lovers will leave happy after dining at “Thai Smile,” and for authentic French cuisine treat your taste buds at “Atelier.” If you want to have your cake and eat it, too, you’ll find the best cakes in the Coachella Valley at Sherman’s.

Cimarran Golf resort Palm SpringsPalm Springs may not immediately cross one’s mind for a vacation, but it seems that’s the case for at least the one million who do visit each year. If you’re looking for adventure, recreation and relaxation, you can’t beat Palm Springs.

Read more:

101 Things to do in Palm Springs

How Green Are These Valleys- The Wine Country’s twin valleys – Napa and Sonoma

Getting Out Among The Vines

Napa Valley vineyards

Napa Valley vineyards

Just an hour’s drive northeast of San Francisco is one of California’s most visited attractions – the world-famous, vine-covered hillsides of Napa and Sonoma Counties. A recent visit took me to a region reminiscent of Tuscany with undulating, lush green hillsides crisscrossed with vines and awash in wildflowers – a dramatic landscape sprinkled with appealing small towns, world-class restaurants and 600 wineries and tasting rooms. Wine, wine everywhere and drops and drops to drink!

Glen Ellen, in the heart of Sonoma Valley, is a sweet little hamlet of less than 1,000 people. It is steeped in a blend of inspiring libations, local dining delights, and the region’s noble, natural beauty. Here the Benziger Family Winery is an 85-acre estate that has become a research and teaching center for the cultivation of grapes with more flavor and aroma. For more than thirty years the family has been singularly dedicated to three things: family, great wine and healthy vineyards. I hopped aboard a tram which took me through the farm’s vineyards, caves, and factories. The guide explained that Benziger wines are certified, sustainable and organic – not because they want to be known as “the green winery,” but because their experience has shown that great wine has green values. My tour ended in the Benziger tasting room. Did the wines I taste have more flavor, more aroma? I can only tell you that I left the winery a very happy camper.

Veni, Vidi, Vino!

Sonoma Valley vineyards

Sonoma Valley vineyards

While wine may be the main attraction, this region’s supporting cast—land imbued with dazzling beauty, a line-up of acclaimed restaurants, and a multitude of recreational and cultural activities—make nearby Napa Valley in the North Bay portion of the San Francisco Bay area a most desirable destination. In Yountville, I checked into my hotel and then quickly set out to discover this town that’s saddled with a rather unfortunate name. Actually, to give credit where credit is due, when one George Calvert Yount first saw the Napa Valley, he said, “In such a place I should love to live and die.” How’s that for a glowing stamp-of-approval? Mr. Yount settled here in 1836 and planted the very first vineyard in the valley. Today, wineries in Yountville include such well-known producers as Domaine Chandon and Robert Mondavi. And only in Napa Valley could a tiny rural village boast more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than any other place in North America. Yountville. The name sounds better already!

The town’s compact layout makes it great for wandering on foot or bike. To quote Michael Chiarello, chef at Bottega, “For those of us that have to commute or run to the airport and back, it’s nice to come home to a community that has almost everything you need within 300 yards.” I explored upscale, deluxe boutiques and checked out the Napa Valley Museum with its Warhols, Manets and the lively, off-beat diRosa collection. Before returning to the hotel, I just had to see the holy grail of gourmet dining – Thomas Keller’s French Laundry. It’s situated down a side street – a lane, really – and sited on what looks like an abandoned lot. I made my way to the front door ( fyi: painted navy-blue) flanked with pretty topiaries. Expecting grandeur, this citadel of haut cuisine appeared somewhat ordinary and unprepossessing; perhaps the magic lies within.

Wined and Dined-Out

Houseboats in Sausalito

Houseboats in Sausalito

My wine country experience, albeit heady and delicious, left me needing a break. I needed to clear my head and instead feed the mind and soul. I needed to be sittin’ on the dock of the bay – and there’s no better place to do it than in Sausalito, where Otis Redding penned his famed song of the same name. Listening to the lyrics, his song is kind of sad. Redding sings that he’s traveled 2,000 miles from home just to sit on the dock of the bay wastin’ time. Sorry, I can’t relate to that. The town offers many delightful diversions, not the least of which is a tour of its iconic house boat scene. Victoria Colella was my guide for her ‘Docks of the Bay” historic houseboat tour. This vibrant community of floating homes recently turned 65, but it remains as rebellious and funky as ever. I saw original houseboats, art studios, wooden boat building shops and working boat yards. Victoria told tales of the Beat Era, the houseboat wars, and showed us the boat where Sterling Hayden lived in his heyday.

Sausalito is a mere hour’s drive from Napa and is ranked as one of the top 20 destinations in the country, with its small town charm, Mediterranean character and awe-inspiring views of San Francisco, its sister city across the bay. One of the very best views to be had – anywhere – is from a small, chic and understated hotel with just 31 rooms: The Inn Above Tide. Each room comes with its own private deck and though it was chilly out there – and cozy inside – the view won me over. I realized that from my vantage point, I was seeing San Francisco in an utterly unique way. Darkness fell softly over the bay as the lights of the city came alive before a backdrop of flaming orange. Granted, there are hundreds of hotels around San Francisco Bay- but there’s only one hotel on it – and that made all the difference. California is a beautiful place, and the Bay Area is one of its shining gems.

If You Go:

Visit Sonoma Wine Country          Napa County                                  Sausalito

www.sonomacounty.com             www.napavalley.org                              sausalito.org

Olea Hotel                                    Hotel Yountville                                 Inn Above Tide

www.oleahotel.com                     hotelyountville.com                            innabovetide.com

Benziger Winery                  Pacific Blues Café                 Sausalito Wooden Boat Tour

 benziger.com                          pacificbluescafe.com                     sausalitowoodenboattour.com

The Fig Cafe                            Fish Restaurant

www.figcafe.com                              331fish.com

Catalina Excursion

Catherine Hotel, Credit-thelog.com

Catherine Hotel, Credit-thelog.com

It’s no secret, I live to travel. To experience new surroundings and cultures, food, wine, and everything in between, there’s nothing quite like it. When I’m prodded to go on a trip, I rarely turn down such an opportunity. And when that someone is my lovely friend Ms. Anthropy, an avid traveler herself, it’s a guarantee that I’m going to pack my bags come along.

It was on a Thursday morning when she picked me up, and we headed to Dana Point for the hour-and-a-half boat ride to Santa Catalina Island. Purchased in 1919 by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr, the island was so named by Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino in honor of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.

Catalina’s population is quite small, and the island remains virtually untouched. The main strip, Crescent Street, in the island’s town of Avalon contains shops and restaurants a few feet from the beach front, with the Catalina Casino as the prominent feature. This great building in Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival styles boasts a movie theater, the world’s largest circular ballroom and a historical museum.

After we checked into our hotel room, we had a quick glass of wine, since Ms. Anthropy was anxious to see the island, and then headed to the large rock dubbed ‘Lover’s Cove’, located south of Avalon Bay. We paused a moment and watched several seals frolicking in the water before continuing on to a trail called ‘Wrigley Road,’ which leads to the highest peak of the island: Ada Mountain Peak. The upside of the hike was the stunning visuals once we reached the top. However, the trail was over nine miles long and most of it was uphill. Therefore, it came as no surprise to me to see most people passing us by on golf carts—it’s the preferred method of transportation there.

On our way down Ada Mountain Peak, we came across a small graveyard, which was actually a pet cemetery. I  wanted to to go in, but Ms. Anthropy stopped me and said that she had something else planned for the evening. I complied, albeit a bit let down, because I was essentially along for the ride. In the end, we went on on a glass-bottom-boat tour for 45 minutes, traveling up and down the island’s coast with a first-hand look at various species of fish. Though I was disappointed not to see any seals or sharks, it was enjoyable nonetheless.

When we returned to the center of Avalon, it was time for dinner. We made our way to a local steakhouse and indulged in some of the best seafood I’ve ever had in my life. Once we paid the check, I proposed calling it a day, but Ms. Anthropy, once again, told me that the night wasn’t quite over. She took me by the hand and led me to the Catalina Casino. Within moments of our arrival, we were met by someone who turned out to be a tour guide. It seemed that Ms. Anthropy, knowing my penchant for the macabre, booked us on a ghost tour. I was pleasantly surprised, because I had no idea the island was haunted!

For a little over an hour, a small group of us walked to and fro on the backstreets of Avalon. While there were many strange tales, my favorites revolved around a grizzly murder of a young woman, Eva Weinfurter, by her boyfriend at the Casa Mariquita Hotel and a tragic scandal at the Catherine Hotel. It’s been reported that the ghost of a man by the name of Zane Gray has been sighted smoking a cigarette while haunting the corridors of the latter hotel.

The following day, we had 40 minutes before taking the boat back to the mainland and decided to return to the Casino again. During the ghost tour, the guide told us that a man plunged to his death during the Casino’s construction, and that a gambler, named W. A. Yeager, was supposedly shot during a heated card game. Some have even noted hearing phantom gunshots there from time to time. I didn’t feel any ghostly presence when we returned to the Casino’s museum, but I didn’t mind because the museum itself was very informative and interesting.

The boat ride back was pleasant, as was the whole trip. Hopefully, when Ms. Anthropy gets the urge to spontaneously travel again, she’ll know who to call.

Hearst Castle

I’ve been to Europe three times and have seen castles in Prague, Edinburgh and London, but a castle  in California? I would have never imagined it; so, of course, I had to see it.

I took a trip from San Diego to San Simeon, and I was more than excited when I finally came to what founder William Randolph Hearst referred to as ‘The Enchanted Hill’. After I purchased my admission ticket at the visitor’s center, I then enjoyed a scenic bus ride to the ‘Castle.’ During the drive, I was surprised to hear the recording by ‘Jeopardy’ host Alex Trebek explaining several facts related to the castle and its founder.


Hearst Castle

Born April 29th, 1863, to a silver baron father and a school teacher mother, Hearst spent the majority of his youth traveling the world with his mother. While doing so, he learned to appreciate the art and architecture that he saw there, especially in Europe. In his late 50s, Hearst, already a successful newspaper publisher, hired Julia Morgan, a renowned architect, to help him complete his dream of bringing the magic he encountered in far away places to his family estate. Construction began in 1919 and finished in 1947 at an estimated of 10 million dollars, which at that time was a fortune!

When I reached the Castle, I was taken a back by the similarities to those I had seen in Europe. The entrance to La Casa Grande, the name of the main building, had doors that looked as if they were originally intended for a cathedral. The fountains in front were also very impressive. Once meeting the tour guide, I eagerly entered La Casa Grande. Surrounded by eloquent art from places and time periods as diverse as ancient Greece and Rome to medieval Spain, France, and Italy, I listened as the tour guide told several stories and anecdotes and also named a who’s who of visitors to the castle. Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, The Marx Brothers, several presidents and foreign dignitaries were only but a few who visited regularly.

From the pool-hall lounge to the enormous dining room to every bedroom, which was the size of a small house (yes, all 56 of them), to say that Mr. Hearst had exquisite taste was a definite understatement. The ceilings of every room were custom made and some had to be flown in all the way from Europe—wow!

When the tour ended, I was free to explore the Castle’s gardens, tennis courts, and both of its swimming pools. The gardens were lovely, with several exotic plants from all over the world. The first pool I saw was the ‘Neptune Pool’. Complete with statues of the Roman god of the seas, several nymphs and swans—the view of the rest of San Simeon below was serene. I then followed my feet to the rightfully named ‘Roman Pool’. With the appearance of an indoor Roman bathhouse, it was the only portion of the gymnasium completed but was rarely used.

On the bus trip back to the visitor’s center, I wasn’t disappointed at all, nor do I believe anyone would be on a visit to ‘The Enchanted Hill’. One could experience the opulence of castles from overseas without the plane trip usually required to do so.

Solvang: The Danish Town in Santa Barbara County

Despite the premise of it being a Danish town in Santa Barbara County, the main reason people visit Solvang is secondary to its history and architecture. Truth is, most people come because of the food and the wine. I, myself, can also be included in this group.

Solvang, California

Solvang, California

Most famous for its appearance in the film Sideways, Solvang has a variety of tasting rooms that range from the casual to the refined and offer the best selections Santa Barbara County’s finest. If your preference is red, or white, there is something for everyone, with over fifteen rooms located throughout the town. I prefer the Syrah Rose from the Presidio Winery.

With regard to dining, there are as many different varieties as there are wineries. Many restaurants serve traditional Danish favorites, such as Danish sausage, red cabbage and potatoes, and, of course, the famous Danish dessert: Abelskivers. There are also Middle Eastern, Japanese and Italian eateries, but if your tastes are less sophisticated there’s always Dominoes!

Solvang also has its own piece of history: the Mission Santa Inés. Established on September 17, 1804, the Mission, which was the last to be founded in Southern California, now stands as a museum. Priest vestments, original bells and other artifacts are on display. The 18th-century Madonna Chapel, with its wood carving of the Mother of Sorrows, is a remarkable highlight. For the lovers of theater, the Solvang Theater hosts several plays each year, ranging from the comedic to the dramatic.

The Elverhoj museum showcases the history of Solvang as well as exhibits from modern artists. However, a trip here wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Hans Christian Anderson Museum. It’s a great place to learn about the life and literary works of this famous Danish author.

For a European flare during the holiday season, Solvang certainly decks the halls by hosting an assortment of parades and pageants.

If you decide to stay a night or two in Solvang, hotels vary from the reasonable to the lavish. Some accommodations even offer hot-tubs, which can definitely come in handy on rather chilly winter nights.

It is interesting to note that the majority of businesses, including many eateries, close shop at around 5 o’clock. Fortunately for me, my favorite restaurant, The Hitching Post, in nearby Buellton, doesn’t close until 9:00 pm. Also filmed in Sideways, it’s a popular steakhouse, and you can even watch them grill your order on an open wood fire. To compliment your meal, have a glass of their own house wine.

Aside from the obvious attractions of Solvang, there are also plenty of other things to do. Just outside of the town, there’s the Quicksilver Ranch, which is famous for breeding miniature ponies—a perfect place for  kids! The Alisol golf course is very popular with tourists and players alike. About 5 miles from Solvang, you’ll find the Nojoqui Falls. It’s necessary to hike over a mile to reach it, but it’s well worth it and the beautiful forest  is ideal for a picnic.

For those looking to experience Europe’s old-world feel and aren’t interested in a 17-hour plane trip from the West Coast, Solvang might be worth looking into. As an avid traveler, I’m usually attracted to a place that has a dark and twisted history. If a location is void of these two features, it’s pretty rare that I’ll visit, much less make it a regular stomping ground. Though Solvang doesn’t have a grim past, it does, however, have a surreal atmosphere that holds my attention and I love visiting there.