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Carmel-by-the-Sea Might Be Cooler than the Beach Town Where I Grew Up

I went back home this past weekend to a town I’d never actually visited. In other words, I went to a place that took me back to my childhood. It so happens that Carmel-by-the-Sea is similar to my hometown of Hermosa Beach, which means I felt right at home and nostalgic, as well as being transported back in time.

Carmel-by-the-SeaBoth are beach towns with lots of morning fog. Both are about 1-square mile big. Both are full of poets, painters, actors, writers and photographers.

plein air show in Carmel

A plein air painting juried exhibit in Carmel.

Carmel was incorporated in 1916; Hermosa in 1907. Both attract surfers, though the water is definitely colder in Carmel. And both have small cottages that were built generations ago sitting next to award winning, “to the lot’s edge” architectural wonders on every street. Don’t ask the prices unless you aren’t daunted by California real estate.

homes in Carmel

Old and New Carmel homes

As part of a bloggers’ weekend, I drove up to Carmel with the simple expectation that I would have a good time. Since so many of you are similar to me in that we like history and the personal touch, I’ll share some of the things I did and discovered that I think YOU might also enjoy.

Hofsas House
A gutsy, go-getter woman founded the hotel where we stayed – Donna Hofsas. In 1947 she lived in the cottage where I stayed while adding more rooms over the years. In a town that only allows two-story buildings, she talked the city planners into letting her build a 4-story hotel. How’s that for moxie? Then she commissioned the same female painter who did the fresco at Coit Tower, Maxine Albro, to paint several murals and other works at the hotel.

Hofsas House Carmel

The living room in Donna Hofsas’ original cottage.

Donna’s granddaughter now runs the bright pink Hofsas House  (as well as being on the city council), so ask her for the hotel’s secrets when you stay there. Hofsas House is on San Carlos Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue (see below to discover why I’m not giving you a numbered address).

bed in Hofsas House cottage

My cozy bed nook in the original Hofsas House Cottage.

On the details side, Carmel is more affordable than I expected. Even in high season, room rates range from about $150 – $275, with no stupid ***@** resort fee snuck in. Wifi, breakfast and parking are free.

Town Quirks
Did you know it’s illegal to wear heels higher than 2 inches in Carmel? You won’t get a ticket: the law was created in the 1920s to protect the city from lawsuits from people who tripped on the sidewalks. Great excuse to put on sensible shoes, eh?

Carmel shoe shop

These definitely count as sensible shoes. I should have gotten them.

The town has no street light or addresses. Walk around and you’ll notice that homes all have names. Keep in mind that the town was founded by creative types. They wanted a forested, European feel to the town, so bourgeois things such as number plates were verboten. Everyone has to go to the post office to collect mail. Certainly means all 3,700 inhabitants get to know each other.

home in Carmel

This is the “address” system in Carmel: all names; no numbers

For now, you can still have fires in certain locales on the beach too. This was exciting for me to hear, as we used to dig sand pits and have fires on the beach in Hermosa in the 60s. They were banned by the time I hit middle school.
No big box inns or stores are in Carmel either. It’s mom and pop all the way. Actually, the town is so friendly, even your dogs are welcome. Even in the inns, restaurants, wine-tasting rooms and shops, where you’ll spot water dishes and treats everywhere. Annnnnd, free parking.

dogs at the beach, Carmel

Dogs are welcome and encouraged in Carmel

Shopping, Hiking and Dining
Compliments of the Hofsas House, I received four Wine Walk Tasting tickets, each good for a wine flight at any of the 14 wine tasting rooms in town. Yup, I left Santa Barbara County’s wine country and landed in Monterey County’s. I also discovered two designer consignment shops, an Alice in Wonderland shop, a chocolate shop, and enough bakeries to keep my bread-baking, carb-loving self happy.

designer sunglasses in Carmel

I wanted these designer sunglasses from Foxy Couture soooooo badly

Alice in Wonderland store, Carmel

White Rabbit Store, where I bought a load of Christmas gifts. I was in this play as a child. And my late older sister played the White Rabbit. Very nostalgic store for me.

For lunch or a snack, I recommend Carmel Belle on San Carlos Street between Ocean and 7th (get the ginger apricot scone, stat!), or the Cheese Shop on Ocean and Junipero.

Carmel Belle, Carmel

Get the apricot ginger scone. And wine to go with it, of course.

For dinner, a friend and I went to Beach House Restaurant at Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove (an 8-minute drive). It’s right on the beach, and our service and food were excellent. Plenty of options for vegetarians, too. FYI, the portions are huge, huger, hugest, so come hungry.

Pacific Grove

The view of some lovers from our seats at Beach House Restaurant at Lover’s Point

mud pie at Beach House Restaurant, Pacific Grove

I only ate half of this mud pie – the half above the plate.

Hiking is my meditation, so I walked along the beach, around town on the residential streets, Point Lobos, Big Sur, and about 20 different pull-out stops along Highway 1 as I drove south. On my next visit I might take one of the History Walks, though I could also be persuaded to do the art walks or food tours. I also want to hike along the Mission Trail Preserve. For those of you into birds, one of the secrets I learned from Carrie (co-owner of Hofsas House) is that the Carmel River is the place to be.

Final piece of good news that you will never think about in advance, but makes a big difference – Carmel-by-the-Sea is a safe place for women to walk alone, day and night. I went walking early in the morning, and felt at ease and quite peaceful. Even though I had my iPhone and Canon out (major tourist alerts), the locals out running and dog-walking all said hello. I truly had to resist the urge to say, “I grew up in a town that used to be just like this. Can we please chat about the good ol’ days?”

I want to go back soon. Preferably on a romantic getaway, but another girls’ getaway would work too.

by Alexandra Williams, MA

Photo credits: Alexandra Williams – Canon and iPhone

9

Milan: The City of Beautiful Design

Two days in Venice convinced me that every single bit of it is photograph-worthy. So when I joined my fellow Design Hounds for the train ride to Milan, I was a bit afraid I’d be in for a letdown. My most recent visit to Milan was in 1973, so I was in desperate need of updated memories. And this time I had my very own credit cards. And camera.

Moss covered building in Milan

This building is across the street from Villa Necchi Campiglio, on Via Mozart in Milan.

garden in Milan, Italy

Bunch of talking heads, perhaps? These fellows were hanging about at Palazzo Clerici.

entrance to Vittorio Emanuele shopping gallery

Entrance to Vittorio Emanuele II Shopping Gallery in Milan, named after the first king of a united Italy.

Not only did the sun shine on us for the entire visit, so did the design gods, as I saw enough to keep my status as “She Who Pauses Every Few Steps to Take a Photo.” Luckily, my friends were good sports (and also camera owners).

Selfie at the Duomo

World’s best (or most frightening) selfie in front of the Duomo. Click on the pic to meet Mary, the woman to blame (credit) for the photo.

From big (the Duomo is so big I couldn’t get it all in the frame without serious distortion), to small (a Gessi faucet shaped like stones), I was just as happy to roam around all day playing looky-loo as I had been in Venice. In front of Biblioteca Ambrosiana just blocks from the Duomo, I came across a placard for a walking tour of the area’s buildings of interest. Now I MUST return, as I love walking, history, and “old stuff.” The tour looked like it could take several days, so maybe I should return in the Fall or Spring when it’s not too hot or crowded. No matter, as a friend and I spent the morning in the Brera district, which I totally recommend you explore when you get to Milan.

Duomo, Milan, Italy

The front of the Duomo. Look very, very, very closely and you’ll see people at the top left, climbing the stairs to the top. Those people are not us.

Gessi Equilibrium faucet

It looks like two river stones, but it’s actually a working faucet from Gessi

Miessen in Milan

My back patio (or a Miessen display in Milan). Whatever.

I was especially looking forward to our visit to sponsor Gessi because I’d heard their showroom was a former movie theater, with an underground secret garden. How cool is all that, especially when Gessi’s bathroom fittings and fixtures focus on private wellness and the in-home spa experience?

Gessi sink and faucet

I don’t understand how MY sink ended up in THEIR showroom.

After spending most of the day in the sun, my descent into the cool dark of the Gessi showroom was enough to make my shoulders relax. I might have sighed too. Italian hospitality is pretty darn good. I was ushered into a lounge area where the other Design Hounds were seated. The top management people all came out to introduce themselves, and thanked us for coming. Then we were offered coffee (Italian coffee, not vending machine swill that tastes like used motor oil), champagne, water, and prosecco.

lighted Gessi faucet

Anyone with vision issues need a lighted Gessi faucet? #HandGoesUp

This was followed by a demonstration by artist-philosopher Marsel Lesko. He balanced large stones on smaller ones. We also watched a video of Lesko standing in the middle of a river, surrounded by numerous stones that he had balanced. What did this artist have to do with the company, I wondered? As it turns out, this is how Gessi works. Their mission is “to make everyday life more pleasant with objects of extraordinary beauty and functionality.” They want their faucets to be objets d’art, aspiration and decoration, so they look to nature as a source of inspiration.

Marsel Lesko at Gessi, Milan

We held our breath as artist Marsel Lesko balanced a circle of large stones on smaller ones.

After the demo we had a tour of the Indonesian, Scandinavian, and Moscow rooms. My favorite (nope, not the Moscow one even though I did Russian Studies at university) was the Scandinavian because it had the simple lines that I like. Besides, the Scandinavians like outdoor exercise and spas; I like outdoor exercise and spas. They value simplicity; I value simplicity. They are all tall and good-looking; I’m… good at side planks.

Scandinavian bathroom, Gessi

The Scandinavian in-home spa is so nice, there’s no need to leave the room, even for side planks.

I considered hiding in the showroom, knowing they had snacks, drinks and running hot water, but we had a farewell pizza dinner to attend, so eventually I came out of the shower (did you know Gessi conceived the first ceiling-mounted faucet) and took the metro home, resisting the urge to slip my number to Marsel.

Duoma close-up detail

Close-up of some of the details on the Duomo. Look for the griffin’s expression.

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3

Two “Hidden” Spots in Venice, Italy

On my recent trip to Italy with Design Hounds, I got to visit two places that are hidden in plain view: one on the island of Murano to the north of Venice, famous for its glass-blowers, and the other on Giudecca, the island most people see when standing at St. Mark’s looking south.

view of Murano IslandThe Seguso glassmaking dynasty began in 1397 with Antonio Filux Segusi. Twenty-three generations later (with the 24th in the wings), they are still the premiere creators (and award-winners) of luxurious glass.Seguso Glass Factory, Murano

Our tour included a complete historical overview from co-owner Gianluca Seguso, followed by a visit to the workshop, where we got to see the craftsmen creating beautiful pieces, such as a plate that became a bowl as it was twirled in the air. One thing I learned (the easy way, not the hard way) is that even when glass looks cold, it’s hot. Glad I’m a good listener.Seguso craftsman

As a surprise bonus, we got to enter the private studio of patriarch Giampaolo, who read us a love poem he wrote that’s inscribed on the back of one of his art pieces.Seguso glass

While I can’t guarantee you’ll have a poem read to you, I can say that you can sign up in advance for your own private tour. Like a number of magical places in Venice, it’s a private-ish place that isn’t widely advertised, so you’ll want to plan in advance.

seguso glassAfter we left Murano, our water taxi took us to Fortuny on Giudecca, home to some absolutely gorgeous fabrics. As you get close to the island, look around and notice how the architecture is different from that of Venice. In 1919, founder Mariano Fortuny purchased the land (a former convent that had been closed down by Napoleon) from Giancarlo Stucky, a close friend and owner of the wheat mill next door. That wheat mill is now the very imposing neo-Gothic Hilton Molino Stucky.

Fortuny Door KnockerThe Fortuny property encompasses the fabric showroom and the gardens and home of the former owner, New York interior designer Elsie McNeill Lee, also known as La Contessa. The factory is also on the property, but visitors are not allowed entry in order to maintain Mariano Fortuny’s trade secrets. Fortuny home office

Fortuny gardensAgain, thanks to the prior reservation made by the Design Hounds organizers, we got to see both the showroom (open to the public on weekdays – weekends too in the summer), and the adjacent gardens. As a matter of fact, we came right after major restoration had occurred, and one day before the pool was to be opened. Dang, missed a chance to show off my new bathing suit. Curtains at Fortuny Fabrics

Even if you don’t have a BA in Medieval Studies due to a love of European history, or didn’t grow up performing in musical theatre, thanks to a mom who had degrees in dance and costume design, you’ll still love both Seguso and Fortuny for their aesthetic appeal. Look at any painting of upper class Venetians from a previous century, and you’ll see what I mean.Fortuny fabrics

Text and photos: Alexandra Williams, MA

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15

I Went to Italy and Fell in Love

I fell in love in Italy. Not with a gondolier or pastry chef, but with architecture, history, new friends, art, the streets and canals of Venice, good design, and a refrigerator.

gondolier in Venice

Can you tell he’s waving directly at me? Yeah, me neither.

Along with a group of designers, I was part of a group that traveled to Venice and Milan. Just to be clear, I’m not an interior designer in any sense. I decorate my home in Early Dust Kitty. But I do know a lot about bribing the organizers wellness, leading an active, healthy life, and travel.

This is my second trip to Europe as the oddball blogger in a group of designers organized by Veronika Miller of Modenus / DesignHounds, and it’s fantastic to see through the designers’ eyes. Our trip was organized around a visit to the Salone del Mobile Milan, probably the world’s biggest kitchen, bath and furniture show. But of course, we spent a few days in Venice, which I’m highlighting here. Stay tuned for an upcoming post with pictures of Milan.

Venice Italy

My first view of Venice from my private water taxi

As you vicariously travel to Venice by scrolling through my pictures, I’ll share some information about Liebherr, one of our trip’s sponsors, plus tell you a story about my attack freezer.

Venice, Italy fire station

This is a fire station in Venice. Look for the red boats.

Canal in Venice, Italy

Sunlight reflected on a canal in Venice.

My younger son and I moved into a rental home that we own a few months ago. As part of our move we said goodbye to our fancy, new refrigerator and hello to a fridge that has only wire shelves that don’t do a great job holding food in place. And anything put in the back of the fridge freezes. Not a winning plan for my Dutch cheese or the celery. But the fridge is still better than the freezer, which has NO shelves at all. This means everything is sort of stuffed in. Every time one of us opens up the freezer door, the contents fling themselves at us and onto the floor. Every. Damn. Time. I hate the freezer with a passion. The freezer reciprocates.

Liebherr wine cooler

The one-touch wine cooler from Liebherr. Waiting patiently for the sommelier.

Liebherr is a German company that makes refrigerators (I should mention the wine coolers too, knowing how much you all like wine). Roughly translated, Liebherr means “Love the Man,” so you KNOW I’m all over that.

Liebherr fridge

Come to mama. Glass shelves and BioFresh drawers. I hope it fits in my carry on.

dinner with Liebherr

Josef is head of sales for Liebherr in North America. You should insist on smoking a bread stick with him every time a fridge or wine cooler gets it wings. Photo credit: Veronika Miller

I found my next refrigerator. It has glass shelves (ooh, aah), is Energy Star rated, and (drumroll please) has BioFresh compartments that keep my fruits, veggies, cheese and fish fresh for days longer than a standard crisper. This last feature had me at “hello.” I’ve even downloaded the free Liebherr BioFresh app in anticipation of receiving this fridge for my birthday (hey, Liebherr, it’s in August). The app tells you how long something would stay fresh in a standard fridge, how long it stays fresh in either the BioFresh or BioFresh-Plus drawer, and how to store it. For example, I picked the Zander fish from the app because it’s similar to my family nickname – Alex-ZANDER-a – get it? The app recommends the DrySafe (low humidity) over the HydroSafe (high humidity) compartment. When it’s wrapped and stored in the DrySafe BioFresh-Plus drawer, the fish stays fresh four times longer than it would in the pitiful excuse of a fridge in my house (and probably yours). I also learned that Zander fish has Vitamins A, B2, D & E, and Minerals Flourine, Iodine and Zinc.

bridge of sighs, Venice, Italy

The bridge in the background is the Bridge of Sighs, as it’s the last bridge prisoners saw on their way to jail

Venice, Italy

This plaza (also known as a campo) was 2 doors from our Venice apartment. And your eyes are correct – the tower leans.

laundry in Venice, Italy

Venetians seem to do their laundry in color categories. Obviously, it was blue day.

Details abound in Venice, Italy

Every square inch of this building and bridge is covered in details.

head detail in Venice, Italy

Close-up of a head over the door in Venice

limoncello in many colors

Limoncello comes in many flavors and colors. Try them all! Not that I did. cough cough

Now I just have to figure out if limoncello counts as a fruit. If so, I can store it in the HydroSafe drawer. Or the wine cooler. Or, you know, drink it immediately. I hereby raise a glass to toast my happy memories of Venice and Milan, and to Liebherr for helping make my dreams come true (both the travel AND the plan to oust my attack fridge).

sunset in Venice

Watching the sun set in Venice, Italy

by Alexandra Williams, MA

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7

California’s Central Coast (with Elephant Seal Pups)

I was THIS close to seeing an elephant seal get born.

Elephant Seals CambriaDuring our recent trip to the Highway 1 Discovery Route along the Central California Coast, we stopped at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery that’s about 6 miles up the coast from Hearst Castle. As it turns out, January is peak birthing season, so we saw lots of pups. The docent (the volunteers are there every day) pointed out one female who was acting as if she were ready to give birth. How exciting.Pregnant elephant seal

I was so determined to get a photo that would make National Geographic beg for my private number, that I stood in the rain for about an hour, squinting through my lens at the seal as she flopped about trying to get comfortable. Watching her trying to find a comfy pose gave me flashbacks to my own birthing experiences, and I sadly saw the resemblance between me and a large “come on already, let’s get this over with” elephant seal.

Eventually she fell asleep. I checked back in with the docent, who said it could take anywhere from an hour to 24 for her to give birth. I guess she wasn’t imminent enough to comply with my schedule. Dang it anyway.Cambria-Rocks-1

I didn’t have any childhood memories of seeing the elephant seals during family travels, but I discovered that the seals didn’t start coming to the rookery until 1990, which explains why (I was a full-grown A-Dult by the 90s). Now you can see them year-round.

Hearst Castle

patio at Hearst Castle

Hearst indoor pool

pool detail from Hearst CastleAnd this was my first trip to Hearst too, odd as that seems for someone who’s lived most of her life in California. Coming in January was perfect, as there were no lines at all. I especially liked the exhibit at the visitor’s center. Lots of pictures and history. I love history, and actually have my BA in Medieval European History. My dad said it qualified me for government work (that was the early 80s).

We were THIS close to seeing an elephant seal pup being born. Click To Tweet


Sunset near Cayucos

duck at Moonstone Beach

Besides our visit to Covell’s Clydesdales (click to read about it and see the pictures), we also went on quite a few walks – Moonstone Beach and Boardwalk, Fiscalini Preserve, downtown Cambria, and Harmony Headlands. Our hotel was El Colibri, which sits in a quiet spot right at the start of Moonstone Beach. For pics of my sister planking on a Fiscalini bench in the pouring rain, read her post about our multi-generational travel experience.Moonstone Beach rocks

Beach near CambriaWhen you go to Cambria, try any of the restaurants we ate at – Linn’s, Indigo Moon, Robin’s, Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill, and Black Cat Bistro. All of them were fantastic, and had lots of choices for vegetarians. Really, really friendly staff too. Really. I also suspect that sweet potato fries are the official food of the Central Coast. This is a good thing.Evening sky in Cambria

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Alexandra Williams, MA

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2

Multigenerational Travel: Pack Nana’s Walking Sticks

Highway 1 in Central California – the Discovery Route to Getting Smarter, Healthier, and Wetter

Where do you go and what can you do when you have three generations, four days to travel, and a goal to achieve at least 10,000 steps per day? Let me rephrase that: what place meets the needs of middle-aged twins who want “active travel” options, a 19 year old who is game for whatever as long as heavy exertion is not required, and a mom/ grandma who needs to make decisions based on safety?

Click on all images to see the captions.

When Alexandra and I, both baby boomers, were offered the opportunity to head up the Highway 1 Discovery Route, we were all over it like elephant seals on sand! Wait, did I just compare ourselves to large, rotund animals? Moving on. (But first, we would like to thank, acknowledge, and disclose that our trip was sponsored by CA Highway 1 DiscoveryRoute (highway1discoveryroute.com). Local businesses and organizations teamed up to promote the many options the area offers and we were the lucky bloggers chosen to get spoiled.)

Turns out the Cambria/ Harmony/ San Simeon area (best known for Hearst Castle) is the ideal vacation destination for multigenerational travel. Even better, winter is an ideal time to visit this accessible section of central California. Crowds are down; prices are low; and the number of things to do and see is sky high. Seriously, I had thought of the area as “sleepy” but we could have spent a week and still not have exhausted the options. I might have started fighting with Alexandra after a week together. Willing to find out though!

Why fight when you can find Harmony? Home of 18 residents and the Harmony Glassworks Studio, this tiny “city” is worth checking out. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the exit. Whether you want to try glassblowing, shop for handmade gifts, or wait in the car while the crazy middle-aged sisters brave the rain to get some pictures, you’ll be glad you ventured here. Skin is waterproof, so bring on the wet!

A quick tour and interview of the Harmony Glassworks

Where do you go when you have 3 generations, 4 days to travel, & a goal to achieve 10k steps… Click To Tweet

New experiences and nature spark the brain. Great for our mom, who wants to retain her memory and cognitive skills. She loves to travel, though can no longer do so alone. Catching the elephant seals in winter is perfect as that’s when the pups are just born, so the rookery is chock full of new seal families. Super accessible and interesting for all ages. And we almost saw a seal give birth.

Cambria-mom-Aidan-1

I think my mom is pinching her grandson’s hiney. What else explains her expression? Photo credit: Alexandra Williams

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Walking and healthy foods enhance health. Say, that sounds good to all of us, including my 19 year old nephew. He was keen on the high quality restaurants and varied food choices. He fully embraced the antiquing, beachcombing, and massage at the El Colibri Spa and Inn, where we stayed.

Rain and mist (finally!) create gorgeous vistas and ideal hike conditions. For me this meant heading to the Harmony Headlands Trail, a 4-mile walk through meadows and rolling hills to get to rugged coastline.

Tree on Harmony Headlands trail

Opening to the coastline from my Harmony Headlands hike

Harmony Headlands Hike

My kind of hiking conditions. Cool, misty, and open. Harmony Headlands Trail

 

Mom on bench at Moonstone

Our mom warms the bench while we navigate the sands and tides. Photo credit: Alexandra Williams

My sister, mom, and nephew headed to Hearst Castle meantime. Hot tip to you baby boomers who bring a parent along — walking sticks will really help with steps, castle climbing, slippery streets, and strolls along the Moonstone Beach boardwalk.

Originally, I was scheduled to kayak with Cubby of Kayak Outfitters. But when the words “tricky” and “high surf advisory” came into the discussion, I decided to return in fall for this adventure. Apparently fall is the best time to paddle out.  So that’s when you can count me in. Yes, I plan to return as I enjoyed the area so much and have other hiking trails to check out.

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Visiting Covell’s Clydesdale Horse Ranch is another insider tip for those of you who want to step back in time when the land was pristine and undeveloped. You can read more about this unique, historic, and privately held ranch dedicated to conservation in this post my sister wrote. Great photos too!: Hidden Gem in Central California. Again, the set up appealed to all four of us, and the owner was very sweet and accommodating of our varied needs and interests. I am not normally a horse person (they scare me, ok?!). But seeing the Clydesdales up close was a once-in-a-lifetime, inspiring experience. What may appeal to some of you even more is getting access to this private and vast property. Being able to perambulate and drive through more than a thousand acres of “original” California coastal land is the tour to take advantage of while you can.

Another travel tip Alexandra and I figured out is that we can work in some hikes and walks while the generation above and below take a nap, fondle their smart phones in the hotel room, and get spa treatments. With the Fiscalini Preserve just a mile from our hotel, we braved the elements and had the coastline to ourselves.

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Got older kids and nana along? Wake early to catch scenery while they sleep in.

What’s left to say? If you want to start your day with beauty (see above) and end it with more beauty (see and sea below), then get yourself and family to Highway 1 in Central California. For sure in winter. Then again, who wants to meet me there in fall? We can double kayak and take a hike!

Sunset in Cambria

Every age can appreciate these kinds of sunsets and tidepools and sunsets, right? Photo by Kymberly who shows a modicum of promise here.

ACTION: Have you been to Cambria and the surrounding area? If so, what is one of your fondest memories? Comment below. Or lay some emoticons on us.

Photo credits: Photos of me taken by not me, aka Alexandra. Photos that look professional also taken by Alexandra. Photos that look pretty darn good for an amateur with little clue about lighting taken by me!  If you really want to know who took what, click on the images and all captions reveal themselves.

Kymberly Williams-Evans

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4

Covell’s Clydesdales: A hidden gem in Central California on Highway 1

Want to know about a hidden gem in Central California that is walking distance from downtown Cambria? You are probably already thinking “yes,” and once you read about it and see the pictures, you’ll be grabbing your phone to make a reservation at Covell’s Clydesdales. And yes, you can combine it with a trip to Hearst Castle, as they are both part of the Highway 1 Discovery Route.

Covell's Clydesdales rolling hillsWhen the tourism bureau booked the tour for us, we weren’t quite sure if it was a place where you ride the horses, ride a wagon behind the horses, pet them in a stable, or view them behind a fence. Turns out it’s none of these – it’s something way better.

two Clydesdale horses from Covell'sWe got a personal tour from Ralph, the owner of the approximately 2,000 acre ranch that stretches from the ocean to the mountains, and has over 80 (if I am remembering correctly) Clydesdales who roam the property. They aren’t exactly wild, nor are they tame – they are beautiful creatures with names who will happily come up to you (while you stay safely in the vehicle), let you pet them, sniff the vehicle hoping for hay, then wander off to roll in the grass or scratch their chests on a fence post.

Just a few bits of info about Covell’s:

pine conesIt’s one of five California locales for native Monterey pines and probably the healthiest, due to the care the owners took back in the 1800s.

The house Ralph lives in was built in 1860. When you take the tour, you’ll get a full history of the house, the horses, the property, the personalities of the various owners, stewards and visitors, and the legacy he is continuing forward. Along with the history, you’ll get quite a few entertaining anecdotes too, as Ralph is quite the raconteur.

Trees and hills at Covell's in CambriaExperts told Ralph he could take a portion of his ranch, turn it into 46 buildable parcels of land, and make a fortune. Something along the lines of $30 million. His reaction? He turned it into a nature conservation easement to protect it for future generations. The views will make you cry, they are so astounding, from pine forests to rolling pastures (and “rolling” really is the correct word). I swear you can almost see all the way to San Simeon.

Boy in Oak Tree, Covell'sWhen I went to Hearst Castle, I kept wishing I could walk instead of taking the tour bus, as the views were begging for me to photograph them. Even with a fast shutter speed, I was still frustrated, as the glare from the bus windows was a problem. But as soon as we got out on our first hillside stop at Covell’s, I got my wish. But better. I could have fit my whole family for a portrait onto one of the branches of the oak tree that my son climbed. I could zoom out for ocean and mountain landscapes, or zoom in for pine cone close-ups, and take my time.

Clydesdales horses at Covell's in Cambria

close-up of Clydesdale horseHorses!!!! These are champion Clydesdales, and it is obvious as soon as you see them. The horses know the sound of Ralph’s truck and come up to it when he arrives. Roll your windows down and keep your camera ready, as they will stick their heads in to check you out. I know nothing about horses, but for pure aesthetics and wonderment, these are the best (my favorite was Debutante, due to her freckles). And once Ralph tells you their stories you’ll be even more impressed. I took a quick 3-minute video that you’ll want to see (follow me on Periscope while you’re at it)

water barrel for horses at Covell's in Cambria

tree framing a hillFor various reasons, Covell’s Clydesdales isn’t easy to find on social media (and the website is temporarily down), but that just makes it easier for YOU to have it to yourself, because we know the secret to making a booking. You can call Ralph directly at (805) 927-3398 or follow the Highway 1 Discovery Route link. Once the website is back up, you can go to CovellsClydesdales.com too. Or email CovellsClydesdales@mac.com. A bit more work than a few computer clicks, yet that won’t deter you travel and nature lovers, right?

by Alexandra Williams, MA

Our visit to Covell’s Clydesdales was supported by California Highway 1 Discovery Route. We did a four-day inter-generational tour of some of Highway 1’s most stunning and accessible coastal towns in Central California. Contact them for suggested itineraries and all the other travel info that will make your trip as fun as ours was.

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Yosemite Wellness & Spa Retreat at Tenaya Lodge

Are you a fan of the two “S” words – Spa and Snow? If so, you might like to join us at Tenaya Lodge’s third annual Wellness & Spa Retreat near Yosemite National Park January 15-18, 2016.

room at Tenaya LodgeWe’ve gone for the past two years as presenters, and know that this year’s event will be the best one yet.

Want a few teasers?

  • The very popular Chef Sheamus is back and will lead an interactive cooking class.
  • Per overwhelming request from last year’s participants, the keynote dinner is a whiskey pairing dinner. Even if you’re not a whiskey drinker, you’ll love the other options and the food. Joe Sorbo from Southern Wine and Spirits will share the heritage and culture that is whiskey tasting.
  • You have your choice of nature hikes. Tenaya Lodge’s most requested hike guide Janelle Moisa will be leading at least one of the hikes down to Lewis Creek.
  • Keynote address from Abbie Kozolchyk, the beauty and travel director for Every Day with Rachel Ray. All participants get to hear Abbie’s insights from over two decades of writing about beauty and wellness.
  • During an interactive class with Slade Wheeler you’ll even learn to paint.
  • And because it’s a spa event, you’ll relax during your massage/ spa treatments. We have tried a variety of the options and cannot name a favorite. Well, yes we can – all of them.

spa treatment, Tenaya LodgeOh, yeah, you’ll also have four chances to get your fit on with Kymberly and me. Sis is teaching Abs, Butt, Core, plus hosting a seminar, How Fit Are You, while I’m teaching Drums Alive and speaking about Diet Saboteurs.

For some pictures and a look at some of the previous events, read our posts 3 Ways to Perfect Your Posture: Tenaya Healthy Living Retreat is One, and Global Wellness Day: Good Health is for Everyone.

Once you’re done looking at those, hop over to the Tenaya Lodge site and register.

It’s just a month away, and we are already doing anticipatory relaxing. Join us. You can even have our whiskey.

All photos courtesy of Tenaya Lodge. And this post is not sponsored. We just want you to join us.

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Who Wants to Wrangle a Balloon in the Hollywood Christmas Parade?

My son is getting a fun birthday present this week. We are going to be balloon wranglers in the 84th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade as part of a Hollywood Hotel package.

Chinese Theatre, Hollywood
Even though I grew up on a beach in L.A. County, I rarely went to Hollywood. Now I enjoy going to the area, as it has so much activity, energy, architecture, history, people-watching (and there are a LOT of quirky people there, believe me, especially those in costume near the (Grauman) Chinese Theatre), restaurants, nightlife and creativity.

I am going to figure out a way to hold my parade balloon (an elf or candy cane) with one hand while taking pictures and sharing real-time videos on my Periscope account while we march in the parade this Sunday, November 29 at 5pm. Then we’ll stay overnight at the Hollywood Hotel, which is over 100 years old.

Celebrities will be in the parade – Penn and Teller are the Grand Marshals – and celebrities have stayed at the hotel, so my fingers are crossed that Kristen Wiig and I will meet and become BFFs while clutching an inflatable elf (not Will Ferrell, though that would be good too). I wouldn’t say no to Aidan Quinn either.

entrance to Hollywood Hotel

Anyone who wants can get in on this adventure: Be a balloon wrangler in Hollywood. Click To Tweet

I’d love to say I’m special, but actually anyone who wants can get in on this adventure. Book a room at the Hollywood Hotel for a stay that includes the night of the parade, and you can walk the parade route with us (and the hotel team) for rates as low as $139 for two people. This includes hot buffet breakfast, Wifi, Hollywood Hotel t-shirt and holiday hat to wear in the parade and, of course, walking in the parade. You have to use the promo code XMAS to get the deal. Most hotel chains charge that much just for the Wifi and breakfast.

Hollywood parade floatsWe’ll be walking the world’s longest red carpet – 3.5 miles along Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Blvd, and Vine – all street names that visitors from around the world know and want to visit. So yeah, I’m pretty excited about letting my son know what he’s getting for his birthday. He won’t quite be 21, so we’ll skip the outdoor bar and lounge, but we’ll pack our swimsuits for the pool.

I love history, so maybe you will enjoy this tidbit that caught my eye – the original Hollywood Hotel was owned by H.J. Whitley, the man credited with establishing Hollywood. You know, BEFORE silent pictures were all the rage.

toys for tots hollywood paradeI’m really looking forward to our adventure as parade participants. We’re taking up one of the hotel’s 130 rooms, so if you want one of the other 129, you’d better hustle up. Hollywood glamour. Celebrities. A vintage, yet cosmopolitan vibe. Culture. And that other thing. Oh yeah, the parade!!!!

I’ll make it easy on you: For more information or reservations contact 1-800-800-9733; 323-315-1800 , or visit hollywoodhotel.net or on Facebook. The hotel is located at 1160 Vermont Ave., Hollywood, CA 90029.

photo credits: Hollywood Hotel and Hollywood Christmas Parade

I wasn’t paid to write this post. I was invited to stay at the Hollywood Hotel and participate in the parade, which I am REALLY looking forward to. Since you made it all the way to the bottom of this post, you might as well subscribe right over there ——–>

Alexandra Williams, MA

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The Perfect Getaway: The Oaks Spa in Ojai

Do you ever have the desire to go to a place where you can do nothing at all except relax, or perhaps do something active and enjoyable all day long? If you’re in California (or headed there), you may want to add The Oaks at Ojai to your plans.

Oaks at Ojai pool at sunset

We just spent a few nights there, and managed to relax and be active simultaneously. The Oaks at Ojai is a small, family-owned spa right in the middle of downtown Ojai. Does that mean it’s busy or noisy? Just the opposite, as Ojai is a mellow town of only 8,000 people. Our totally unscientific guess is that 5,000 of them are artists, and the other 3,000 are hikers and bicyclists.

Headed to The Oaks at Ojai? We may join you for a walk, swim, bike ride, massage, meal or retail therapy. @OaksSpa Click To Tweet

In just two days, we did the following:

Skin Authority Fit & Firm Treatments (Fit & Firm for Fun & Fit – perfect)
Bike Riding on a path that leads all the way to the ocean at Ventura

A sunset meditation on Mount MeditationMount Meditation, Ojai
Fitness classes (ever tried Glow in the Dark Qi Gong?)
Had 3 meals a day prepared to our specific diet
Walked downtown
Played Bingo (though we didn’t win the muffins, dang it)
Made new friends
Visited Bart’s Bookstore (which leaves books outdoors at night – you pay on the honor system)
Bart's Books in Ojai
Shopping
Lost a little weight
Relaxed
Hiked the Valley View Preserve (with absolutely stunning panoramic views)Ojai Valley midday

We even met a woman who was leaving after a 3-week stay. She said she wanted a place to recuperate and make new friends after going through knee surgery and rehab. Once she got there, she didn’t want to leave. So she didn’t.

We didn’t want to leave either, but it was time to go to L.A. to celebrate our mom’s 86th birthday. The drive to L.A. is just over an hour. From where we live in Santa Barbara it’s only a 45 minute drive, so we’ll be back. Heck, I need to put my brand new bike lock to use, though I never actually locked my bike while we were there. I just parked it in the private patio garden at our bungalow.Oaks at Ojai bedroom in bungalow


Let us know when you’re headed to The Oaks at Ojai. We’ll try to come down and join you for a walk or swim or bike ride or massage or meal or retail therapy. Bike riding at Oaks at Ojai

Alexandra Williams, MA

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We were not paid to write this post. We were invited guests of the Oaks at Ojai for 2 nights, and boy did we appreciate their hospitality. So much so that I even taught the guests the “Thriller” dance (insert wolf howl right here).

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