Kayaking in Morro Bay

Our original plan for an activity at the coast was a (half) day of sport fishing.  However, the company we were planning on going through received pretty bad reviews and the other company we found already had a private charter booked for Saturday and was not doing a fishing trip.  So, those plans fell through, but we decided to spend an afternoon in Morro Bay anyway because another review from Humber Sport recommended the activity in this region. Take advice from Jimmy John Shark, if you need fishing advice!

We arrived in Morro Bay around 12:30pm and immediately began looking for a place to eat lunch.  After successfully finding a place (our only real objectives were a place with oysters and without a super long wait) and enjoying a delicious meal, we walked around town a bit and ultimately decided to kayak.  It was cold, windy, and overcast when we arrived (you could barely see the famous Morro Rock), but it cleared up and was much warmer by the time we were ready to begin our kayaking adventure.

We stopped at the first kayak rental company we saw and after checking their prices, we decided to go for it!  The company was Rock Kayak Co., and it’s located pretty close to the tourist information center.  The prices are $12 for the first hour for single kayaks ($8 for additional hours, and more discounts for longer rentals) and $20 for the first hour for double kayaks.  Ryan, Ryan’s dad, and I each decided to go for a single kayak.  Since all three of us had been before, we grabbed life jackets, were set us up with kayaks, received a quick overview of the bay, and pushed out into the water.  The Rock Kayak Co. does offer first timer lessons for anyone who hasn’t been before.

The water was calm and we started out by heading across the bay to the sandy island.  Unfortunately, the sand dunes were all roped off so we were only able to walk around a little bit.  It was nice to enjoy the town of Morro Bay from across the bay!

SuitcaseJournal: View of Morro Bay, California

On the way to the sand island, we passed a platform in the middle of the bay full of sea lions.  We got pretty close and one jumped in right in front of me.  It was creepy because I didn’t know where he’d pop up (and I have no idea if they’re dangerous).  Luckily nothing happened, and I was able to get a few close-up pictures!

SuitcaseJournal: Sea Lions in Morro Bay, California

We kayaked away from Morro Rock and enjoyed the calm water.  We weren’t sure how long we’d been out, so at one point we decided to turn around and head back toward the rock.  It didn’t take too much effort to get over there, and we went around for a bit and eventually headed back to the starting point.

SuitcaseJournal: Kayaking in Morro Bay, California

Our adventure ended just over an hour after it began.  We weren’t charged for the extra 5-10 minutes, which was nice!  It was a great way to spend part of the afternoon and I would recommend it for anyone who wants to be a little active after a big lunch in Morro Bay.  No need to plan ahead, just go down to one of the rental shops and get started in minutes!

California Central Coast: A Relaxing Weekend Getaway

Central Coast Map

We just returned from a great weekend trip to the California Central Coast.  We spent Friday and Saturday nights in a house my parents rented just above Edna Valley, a wine producing region just south of San Luis Obispo.  The area has a lot to offer–probably one of the best year-round climates around, beautiful picturesque landscapes, an excellent beach, and amazing seafood.  It’s also a little hard to get to for most people (the nearest major airport is over 80 miles away), which might make it a little less touristy than other locations in California.  Still, there were plenty of crowds on the beach and at the wharf in Morro Bay.

The undisputed highlight of the trip was actually the rental house.  We choose the house after researching for a place to stay (a little bit last minute) on vbro.com.  Renting a place can be cheaper for couples traveling together.  Often times, rentals are especially attractive when the rental period is at least a week.  We found a great looking place that was competitive with hotel prices for just 4 nights (my parents stayed the other two alone), even after considering the cleaning fee. The house we rented was called Casita Las Brisas, and is situated above the Edna Valley. I included a snapshot below of the view from just outside the house.

Edna Valley from Casita Las Brisas

In the view from the house, you can see the Nine Sisters in the distance, a chain of volcanic peaks and hills in the area.  In the foreground is a sample of the many flowers that were planted around the house to attract hummingbirds.  I’ve never seen so many hummingbirds in my life!

During our short stay there, we managed to cover the area fairly well.  We started our first day off with wine tasting at Wolff Vineyards in the Edna Valley below our rental.  We were pleasantly surprised with their “Old Vine” Chardonnay, which is actually grown without irrigation.  

We then travelled north to Morro Bay.  We were very surprised by the large crowds at Morro Bay, but with the help of the local Tourist Information office, we found an excellent eatery in Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant.  They had plenty of local fish on the menu, and the Halibut Cheeks Picatta they served as a Special when we visited was very memorable.  Yum!

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2009 Europe Scrapbook: Colors and Creations

The following scrapbooking layouts are some examples where I was inspired by something – colors, an object, an idea.  Our trip to Italy and France brought us to so many different cities and sights, and as I put together my scrapbook, I wanted to incorporate as much of their unique qualities as possible.  Enjoy! 

On colors: In the first two scrapbooking layouts (Burano and Vernazza), the brightly-colored paper choices were influenced by the colorful buildings seen throughout the towns. 

The only “side trip” we took from Venice was to the nearby island of Burano, known for colorful buildings and delicate lacework.  The other option we considered was Murano (known for the glass blowing), but we opted to go to the less popular, slightly further island of Burano.  We spent our time wandering through the empty streets, admiring the colorful houses, and shopping in the many lace and souvenir shops.  I wanted to capture the fun, colorful aspect of the town in my scrapbooking page for Burano.  

SuitcaseJournal: Houses of Burano, Venice, Italy

Taken on our visit to Burano, Italy. A nice break from the crowded island of Venice!

SuitcaseJournal: Burano, Venice, Italy by Kristin

Vernazza was our home base for the three nights we stayed in Cinque Terre (the other four fishing villages in Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, and Monterosso al Mare – we spent at least a little bit of time in each).  All five fishing villages are known for their colorful buildings.  I wanted to construct the Vernazza scrapbooking page by capturing the dominating salmon and yellow colors of the buildings and the beautiful aqua of the Mediterranean. 

SuitcaseJournal: Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

A picture taken on our hike from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare.

SuitcaseJournal: Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy by Kristin

On creations: In Nice, we stayed at the Mercure hotel, which was separated from the Mediterranean only by the Promenade des Anglais.  This wide promenade was perfect for strolling throughout the day and one of our favorite routes to travel to different parts of the city.  I decided to recreate the look of the promenade by using gray paper for the aspahlt and white ribbon for the line separating the two sides.  While it isn’t a super accurate depiction, it’s a fun way to decorate this scrapbooking page!

SuitcaseJournal: Promenade des Anglais by Kristin

SuitcaseJournal: Close up of Promenade des Anglais scrapbooking page, made by Kristin

A closeup of the paper-and-ribbon Promenade des Anglais.

Finally, one of the last pages I completed for the Europe 2009 scrapbook was the Montmartre page, in Paris, France.  I wasn’t feeling terribly inspired, however I loved the Montmartre area and wanted to include the pictures and memories from that time on our trip.  I had a thought of using a chevron design for the background, but couldn’t find anything that fit what I was looking for.  So, I decided to make my own background.  I love this because it’s something anyone can do – I used a ruler, a pencil, and scissors.  No special scrapbooking tools.  Best of all, I was able to choose the colors and exactly how I wanted the design laid out on the page.

SuitcaseJournal: Montmartre, Paris, France by Kristin

I don’t always have a great idea or use the colors of the photos to influence my pages, but when I do, I generally love the results! My favorite of the above layouts is probably the Vernazza page – the layout is clean and those colors look fabulous together.

Relaxing at Our Casual B&B Wine Bar in Montepulciano, Tuscany

One of our favorite memories from our Greece/Italy Honeymoon in 2011 was the time we spent in the wine bar at Locanda San Francesco, our bed & breakfast in Montepulciano, Tuscany.  Check-in for the B&B was actually in the wine bar, and we were greeted with a complimentary drink and snack when we arrived.  The wine list at the bar features a selection of local wines, most notably the famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  There is an option to enjoy a glass, a bottle, or even a tasting flight.  We loved the wine, but the ambiance is what is most memorable.  We not only returned for the experience the night of our arrival, but also each of the following four nights.

Wine bar at La Locanda in Montepulciano, Tuscany

The wine bar includes a small bar as well as several tables, armchairs, and coffee tables. We usually opted for the comfortable arm chairs.  The bar’s clientele included guests from the 4 rooms at the B&B, other tourists visiting Montepulciano, and several locals.  Small snacks, such as nuts and olives, were served with each drink order.  There was also a small food menu served during lunch and the evenings.  We actually opted for dinner at the Wine Bar one of the nights, and were very satisfied with the quality of food. Continue reading

Looking Forward to the Food in Lisbon

Thinking about the food I will be able to taste plays a huge part in building my excitement for a trip.  I am so excited to spend 3 days in Lisbon – the sea-faring capital of Portugal – and indulge in some amazing foods that are hard (or impossible) to come by in Bakersfield. 

The top priority for meals in Lisbon will be the seafood.  I’ve heard about the bacalhau, or salt cod, which is the national food of portugal.  In my researching I’ve found so many different ways to prepare and eat bacalhau.  Perhaps we’ll try bacalhau com todos (with everything) or bacalhau à Gomes de Sã (with potatoes and onions, made like a casserole – pictured at the above, from here).  Ryan and I are both fairly adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, and one thing we will be seeking out is the barnacles – we love clams, mussels, crab, oysters, and other shell fish, so why not barnacles?  These gooseneck barnacles (called percebes in Portuguese) pictured below look strange, but if we’re presented with an opportunity to try them, we’ll go for it!  This picture was found on this blog, where she also talks about other “strange” foods in Portugal. Yum!

On some trips we plan ahead and come up with some ideas of restaurants we want to try, but in this case, we are going to trust the owners of Orange 3 House, which is where we’ll be staying.  We love getting recommendations from locals to increase the chances of an authentic and successful meal.  We’re looking forward to the salted, fresh, and grilled seafood we’ll be able to taste in Lisbon. 

For something sweet, we are excited to try the Pastéis de Nata.  The famous pastry shop in Belém, Pastéis de Belém, began serving these egg yolk custards in the 19th century after the closure of monasteries and convents in Portugal.  Since we’re planning on spending time in Belém, we might just make a stop here to try this delectable treat!  

And finally, to accompany our meals, or for sipping in between meals, we will be exploring the wines of Portugal.  Despite having “verde” (green) in the name, Vinho Verde actually means “young wine” and can be white, red, or rosé.  I’ve tried a white Vinho Verdo before and found that it was different than other white wines – it almost seemed semi-sparkling.  I found out that this is one of the characteristics of Vinho Verde wines, along with being light and fresh.  I can’t wait to try more!  We also can’t visit Portugal without trying Port.  Grapes used to produce this fortified wine are grown in the Douro region in northern Portugal.  A great option for trying Port may be the Port Wine Institute, where we can taste a variety of Ports at different price points. 

Left: the Douro region in Northern Portugal; Right: A glass of tawny Port
(both taken from Wikipedia)

 For the next couple of months, I’ll be dreaming of the seafood, pastries, and wine we’ll be tasting in Lisbon.  Hopefully we’ll have some great food and restaurant recommendations after our trip!