You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2009.

Steinbeck country is at its finest in springtime. The oak trees on the rolling hills around Salinas are surrounded by a haze of purplish blue lupin. March is probably the best time to see the wildflowers bloom. Take the Monterey-Salinas Highway, Route 68, which exits Route 1 and continues for 17 miles (27 km) to Salinas.  Get off the main road at Corral De Tierra or San Benancio, to get into the hills for sublime views. New golf courses and macmansions are invading the territory so enjoy while it lasts.

Fields of lupin near Salinas

Fields of lupin near Salinas

For local dining, several places come to mind. Contemporary American cuisine finds its home at Hullaballoo, on Main Street in Oldtown Salinas. A few doors away is Shogun Japanese Cuisine, always reliable for sushi. In hot, dry Salinas, it is easy to forget that fish is hauled in at Monterey Bay less than an hour away. For authentic Mexican, my favorite is Mi Tierra on E. Gabilan St. This family run restaurant serves a spicy, tender birria on Saturdays and Sundays. This traditional goat stew is made with dried chiles, tomatoes and oregano, ingredients that perfectly capture the essence of the local Mediterranean climate. Chips arrive at the table with 3 salsas. The horchata, a sweet and cold rice drink, is the perfect beverage for such a meal.

If spending the day at Kauai’s North Shore beaches like Lumaha’i, Ke’e or Ha’ena, you should get lunch in Hanalei or get provisioned for your own picnic. Kalypso Island Bar & Grill (Kuhio Highway at Aku Road) has a moderate priced-for Hawaii–menu. You can get decent fish and chips. This place is unavoidably touristy.

Basic fish and chips in Hanalei

Basic fish and chips in Hanalei

I prefer to get clever and delicious local inventions like Kalo Kooler (taro smoothie) and Taro Hummus at Hanalei Taro & Juice Company’s stand (on Kuhio between Aku and Ohiki Roads).

For fine dining, go to Postcards Café. It is only open for dinner so this casually elegant restaurant is a delightful choice for refueling after a day of swimming at the beach. They have a selection of fresh grilled fish and great taro fritters. Vegetarian and vegan choices are available. From their dessert offerings, the flavor of paradise is captured in their Lilikoi (passion fruit) mousse.

Bandelier has70 miles of trails across 33,000 acres of semi-arid canyons and mesa. Abundant and diverse wildlife can be observed in this spectacular region of the American South-west.

Cliffs with cave dwellings at Bandelier National Monument

Cliffs with cave dwellings at Bandelier National Monument

An added bonus is the excavated settlement of Ancestral Pueblo people at Frijoles Canyon. Some dwellings are created out of cavities in the ancient volcanic rock cliffs, and are reached by ladders. Other buildings are built of stones.

Excavated stone dwelling in Bandelier National Monument

Excavated stone dwelling in Bandelier National Monument

Asheville offers beautiful scenery. The nearby Southern Appalachians can be hiked even in winter. The Biltmore Estate on the edge of town features America’s largest home, built in the Gilded Age by George Vanderbilt.

The Biltmore Estate has 8,000 beautiful acres of land to explore

The Biltmore Estate has 8,000 beautiful acres of land to explore


The 8,000 acres of perfectly groomed grounds are a pleasure to explore. A large glass-roofed Conservatory with heated rooms provides Biltmore House with both exotic and native flowers and plants in all seasons. Horseback riding, biking and fly-fishing are among the many outdoor activities available on the estate.

This polo club has an unique setting. The polo field is across the street from ‘Anini Beach Park with its famous coral lagoon. Behind the field, the green forested hills rise to form a lush, tropical backdrop. Matches are played on Sunday afternoons during the season. As this is Hawai’i, spectators are dressed very casually.

Kaua'i Polo Club match in progress across the street from Anini Beach

Kaua'i Polo Club match in progress across the street from Anini Beach

For Valentine’s Day, I thought I would write about the romantic city of Santiago de Campostela in Spain. This city is the capital of the Galicia region, and is the famous destination of pilgrims who come to worship the relics of St. James, said to be kept at the altar of the cathedral built in 1078. The facade is in the Baroque style and built in the 1700s. Try to time your visit with one of the special masses when the great silver incense burner (Botafumeiro) is brought out and swung through the transcept by a team of athletic priests. This is aromatherapy on a grand scale.

Santiago de Campostela, Spain

Santiago de Campostela, Spain

Conveniently located next door is a luxurious Parador. Many of the rooms are furnished with canopied beds. As the city is on the western edge of Spain, close to the Atlantic Ocean, fresh seafood features prominently on local menus.

Some rare views of Molokai’s spectacular cliffs and waterfalls at sunset are only possible by sailing. Remote Keawanui is only accessible by boat for only half the year due to ocean currents.

Cliffs of Keawanui in Molokai

Cliffs of Keawanui in Molokai

Yosemite is only about 4 hours from San Francisco or 6 hours from Los Angeles. The towering peaks and redwood trees are magnificent. Well-maintained hiking and camping facilities are available.

Yosemite vista

Yosemite vista

Food should always be kept in a secure metal locker to prevent theft by marauding bears!

Ke’e is a spectacular beach on Kauai. A lagoon of coral reef protects the beach but powerful winter storms can create huge surf and dangerous currents. In good weather conditions, this is an ideal spot for snorkeling. Visitors can expect to see lots of colorful fish and green sea turtles, now a protected species.

Afternoon winter sunshine at Ke'e Beach on Kaua'i

Afternoon winter sunshine at Ke'e Beach on Kaua'i

One of the relatively untouristy areas of France is south of Toulouse, in the department of Haute Garonne. Many of the towns and villages in this region have dramatic southern views of the Pyrenees which remain snowcapped even in summer. Although many communities produce cheese, wine, and foie gras, many residents have had to leave for cities like Toulouse to find work. Many of the farm and village houses are unoccupied and some are left to crumble into ruins. Native French people also seem to prefer to move into newly constructed villas rather than old buildings when they choose to settle here.

View of Alan, in the Haute Garonne, seen from the hamlet of Labarthere

View of Alan, in the Haute Garonne, seen from the hamlet of Labarthere

Photo shows view towards the village of Alan as seen from the hamlet of Labarthere. The highest building complex on the left side of the hilltop village is the winter palace of the Bishops of Saint Bertrand de Comminges. The oldest parts of the building date back to 1270.

February 2009
M T W T F S S
    Mar »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
232425262728