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San Diego 2016: Old Town San Diego

After we left the Mission San Diego de Alcala we headed downtown to Old Town San Diego, located adjacent to Presidio Hill, underneath the bluff. For the first several decades, residents preferred to live within the Presidio walls or just outside, for protection from other Europeans or hostile Native Americans. By 1820, the threats had decreased, and San Diego residents were choosing to live at the base of the bluff in what is now Old Town San Diego.

The problem with the site of Old Town San Diego was that its location was several miles from navigable water, so supplies had to be brought overland from Point Loma several miles away. In the 1860s, residents began abandoning Old Town in favor of New Town (where the current downtown is now) because of its proximity to shipping ports.

We were hungry when we arrived after touring the mission, so we found a Latin American restaurant called Berta’s which offered cuisine from several Latin American countries. Renée had a wonderful Mango Avocado salad, a Chilean empanada and a glass of sangria, and I had Chilean Pastel de Choclo with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The sun was shining and it was warm – we enjoyed just sitting outside and having our meal.

Me sitting at Berta's among the Hibiscus flowers

Me sitting at Berta’s among the Hibiscus flowers

 

Renée's Mango Avocado salad at Berta's - YUM!

Renée’s Mango Avocado salad at Berta’s – YUM!

 

The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta's

The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta’s

After lunch, we walked across the street to the San Diego State Historic Park – a collection of historic buildings built between 1820 and 1872, when New Town took over in dominance. The park contains five original adobes, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and a stable, among dozens of other buildings. Some are reconstructions. We enjoyed wandering around in a rock shop that was originally the Assayer’s Office, and toured some of the different displays in one of the adobe homes and other buildings.  We even sat on a wooden donkey!  The real donkeys didn’t want to come over and talk to us…  The entire park is free to visitors, and there are living history demonstrations too.

The Assayer's Office - there was a wonderful rock shop inside

The Assayer’s Office – there was a wonderful rock shop inside

 

One of the original adobe homes at Old Town

One of the original adobe homes at Old Town

 

This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

Nearby, there are other historic sites that are not part of the San Diego State Historic Park too. I could have spent a couple of days just wandering around Old Town San Diego, checking it all out. I wish I had more time! It is nice that Renée has a similar appreciation for historic sites, so I didn’t feel like I needed to rush. I would have loved to have seen the Whaley House Museum that is nearby. I will certainly have to return…

The Old Town General Store

The Old Town General Store

 

One of the shops at Old Town San Diego - an interesting combination of items.

One of the shops at Old Town San Diego – an interesting combination of items.

 

The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego

The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego

 

Renée posing with the jail - they didn't let you go inside though...

Renée posing with the jail – they didn’t let you go inside though…

 

Renée had to be back at the hotel before 2:30 that afternoon for a meeting for her conference, so we left Old Town San Diego and headed back to the resort. I took the opportunity to get in some pool time. Angela and Allysa had to head out to the airport to fly home, while I was staying one more day. I enjoyed some time just laying by the pool with my book and my travel journal. And then I spent some time walking along the beach and collecting some shells.

That evening Renée and I went out to dinner at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop with a coworker of hers (my former coworker) who had also flown in for the conference. We had lobster lumpia, fish tacos, and beer. I swear I would be there all the time if I lived there…  It was all so delicious!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop - to die for!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop – to die for!

Hess 2014 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc

I was looking for some whites the other day at the grocery store, perhaps to pretend that the winter has given way to spring.  That hasn’t happened of course, but a girl can dream…  I saw this on an endcap, and it ended up in my cart, without so much as a read of the back of the bottle.  I know.  I live dangerously.

2014 Hess North Coast Sauvignon Blanc (this pic is from a 2012, but you get the idea...)

2014 Hess North Coast Sauvignon Blanc (this pic is from a 2012, but you get the idea…)

This wine has a lot of lemongrass on the nose.  On the palate, there is more crisp lemongrass, with citrus and tropical fruit, but it also had something I wasn’t expecting.  There was a lingering flavor of barely burnt caramel – a good burnt caramel.  It was intriguing – different.  It certainly tasted like a New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc, with the exception of that hint of toasty caramel.

The Hess website’s description didn’t mention burnt caramel, nor have I tasted that in other Sauv Blancs.  It was aged in stainless steel, so where the flavor came from will remain a mystery.  Flaw?  Happy Accident?  Intention?  Who knows.  At any rate, it was a great, affordable wine at just $9.  And I would drink it again, not only just to discover whether the burnt caramel is a fluke.

Happy Wednesday!

 

 

Colorado 2015: Florissant Fossil Beds!

Day 7: August 7, 2015

Did you know that the Redwood tree, now native to only a small part of coastal California, once lived in Colorado?  We were about to go see some! But first, we were going to see the homestead of a very strong, independent woman.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, in Florissant, Colorado

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, in Florissant, Colorado

We got to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument just in time to catch a ranger led tour of the Hornbek Homestead. We were pretty lucky to get the tour of the homestead, because it was only open for an hour! Adeline Hornbek put in a homestead claim on land in the Florissant Valley in the 1870s.  Adeline was a single woman living on the prairie – certainly an unusual arrangement at the time. In fact, she had some difficulty getting her land deeded to her after homesteading it for the requisite number of years under the Homestead Act, due to the fact that she had no husband.

The Hornbek Cabin - larger and nicer than most during the period.

The Hornbek Cabin – larger and nicer than most during the period.

On the tour, we were able to go inside the two story cabin that Adeline Hornbek built for herself and her family.  The cabin was larger than was typical homestead cabin at the time – a two story, four bedroom home with over a dozen glass-paned windows.  The ranger also told us about Adeline’s life, which was pretty interesting.

The cooking stove inside the Hornbek Cabin

The cooking stove inside the Hornbek Cabin

She was married three times in her life – her first husband died in a flood, her second disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  It is still not known whether he walked away from the family or died.  After moving to the Florissant Valley and establishing her homestead, Adeline Hornbek married a third time, to a man who is thought to have been her employee.  The last husband outlived Adeline when she died of a suspected stroke.

The Hornbek Homestead

The Hornbek Homestead

We weren’t allowed to go into the root cellar and one of the original cabins (now used as a barn) because they have dirt floors, and Hanta virus is present there. Hanta virus is a respiratory disease caused by exposure to mouse urine and/or feces, and actually has a decently high fatality rate, so that was just fine with me. We also heard that around the time we were in Colorado, they had two deaths from the bubonic plague, probably contracted through exposure to prairie dogs. All the more reason to let wild animals be wild!

The root cellar at the Hornbek Homestead - you can't go inside due to the risk of Hanta virus

The root cellar at the Hornbek Homestead – you can’t go inside due to the risk of Hanta virus

I was also excited to get some great photos of some Wyoming Ground Squirrels (I didn’t touch or feed them!) and a Female Mountain Bluebird.

A female Mountain Bluebird at the Hornbek Homestead

A female Mountain Bluebird at the Hornbek Homestead

 

Two adorable Wyoming Ground Squirrels at the Hornbek Homestead.

Two adorable Wyoming Ground Squirrels at the Hornbek Homestead.

After the Hornbek homestead, we visited the Visitor’s Center and the fossil site and walked the 1 mile Petrified Forest Trail.

The site has several Redwood trees that were fossilized after they were killed during a volcanic eruption and its subsequent lahar, a mud flow that quickly buried everything in its path. It is fascinating to think that there were once Redwood trees in the plains states, now known only in a small area on the California Coast.

We saw several of the giant Redwood stump fossils that were so prominent here. Unfortunately, during the late 19th century, fossil hunters carted off many of the fossils at Florissant, both for research and for personal collections. One tree stump fossil even has two metal saws embedded in the stump, where fossil collectors were trying to cut the stump into more manageable pieces.

One of the petrified Redwoods at Florissant

One of the petrified Redwoods at Florissant

A petrified Redwood stump, with two saws embedded in it.

A petrified Redwood stump, with two saws embedded in it.

Other fossils of interest at Florissant include a small three toed horse, a tse tse fly (which currently only lives in Africa) and many types of plant and insect fossils. Some of these fossils can be seen in the Visitor’s Center – they keep the fossils out on the site covered to protect them.

A petrified trio of Redwoods - these three trees were clones of each other.

A petrified trio of Redwoods – these three trees were clones of each other.

The trail also showed the sites of two competing tourist lodges; one was removed by the Park Service after the monument was designated on August 20, 1969. Apparently the owners of the lodges had a passionate rivalry; there are stories of spike strips to flatten guests’ tires and at one point the two owners were shooting at each other!

It was beautiful! And a great walk to cap off our day.

We also made a quick visit to the Florissant School, a historic schoolhouse built in 1887.  The building is now used as the local Grange.  Our last task was to finish the drive to Colorado Springs – about an hour from Florissant; we stayed at the La Quinta Inn there.

The historic Florissant School, in Florissant, Colorado

The historic Florissant School, in Florissant, Colorado

For dinner we went across the parking lot to the Caspian Café. Jon and I split an avocado, orange and almond salad, and a Caspian Kebab Platter. It had both beef and chicken kebabs with broiled tomatoes, grilled pitas, greek yogurt, onions, sumac, and parsley over basmati rice with saffron butter and lemon. It was delicious! My mouth is watering again just thinking about it now…

Our Avocado, Orange and Almond Salad - Yummy!

Our Avocado, Orange and Almond Salad – Yummy!

To drink, I had the Kunde Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc (delicious!) and Jon had a California Pinot Noir.  My mother-in-law Linda got the tzatziki and shared it with all of us, and the same salad that Jon and I had. Robby had a Mediterranean salad – they were all great meals.

Our Caspian Kebab Platter - it was so delicious!

Our Caspian Kebab Platter – it was so delicious!

The entertainment for the evening was a belly dancer, and she was quite good. She balanced swords everywhere during her performance, including her head, shoulders, hips and belly. I only dream of having that kind of talent – she was a very beautiful dancer.

And with that we turned in for the evening; and Jon and I quietly watched a thunder and lightning storm in the distance from the hotel balcony outside our room, before settling down to sleep.

Total driving distance on Day 7: 134 miles – Leadville– Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Colorado Springs

Hotel for the night: La Quinta, Colorado Springs South AP, Leadville – The hotel was nice, but a bit of a maze with all the rooms opening to the outside in their “courtyard configuration.”  The rooms were great though!  Breakfast was really crowded, and they were out of caffeinated tea.

The Wine that Time Forgot…

I found this bottle on the bottom shelf of the wine fridge yesterday.  I don’t remember ever having seen it before.  My mom recently brought me some Michigan wine, but this isn’t from Michigan, so I don’t think that’s it.  It is the D’Arenberg The Stump Jump White 2011, a South Australian wine.  It is a blend of Riesling, Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc and Rousanne.

D'Arenberg The Stump Jump White - Vintage 2011

D’Arenberg The Stump Jump White – Vintage 2011

It is only a 12 bottle wine fridge, and I rummage around in there quite often, taking bottles out to drink and putting new ones in.  It isn’t like a bottle is likely to get lost in there.  It is a 2011, so it’s likely I’ve had it for awhile…  Maybe Jon found this one on the rack in the pantry and put it in there, but it wasn’t dusty, and most of those bottles are dusty.  Jon isn’t likely to wipe or rinse a bottle…  So, I’m confused.  I suppose I might have picked it up at the grocery store on one of those nights we stopped by on the way home from doing wound care with my horse.  Those were long, tiring days…   But surely it is a better story that that!

I popped open this alien-delivered bottle to find a nose of lemongrass, and flavors of pineapple and lemongrass.  It has an initial taste of butter on the tongue, giving way to a mild acidity at the back of the palate.  A great summer sipper to pair with lazy summer weekends inside (because it is too smoky outside from the wildfires east of the mountains), folding laundry and watching reruns of M*A*S*H.

Hope you had a great weekend as well, and perhaps found a mystery bottle in your wine fridge!

 

Two Wines for Scorching Hot Days

The last several days have been scorching hot.  The lowest highs have been in the low 80s.  The highest have been in the high 80s!  As we generally only get a few days in the 80s all summer, this is very unusual, especially so early in the summer.

To keep cool, we have had our fans going all day long, and are trying to strategically open and close windows and blinds to let in cool air and keep out the heat.  It is only sort of working.  The first floor of our house was 80 degrees when we went to bed last night.  Our bedroom was several degrees hotter.

All that heat means summer whites!  I found a great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  The Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc It is a pale straw yellow, with crisp acidity, and flavors of grapefruit and lemongrass.  It was so good!  A perfect patio sipper, and a steal at less than $10!

A couple days later, I opened the Evolution White by Sokol Blosser.  A kitchen sink blend, with Pinot Gris, White Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Müller Thurgau, Semillon, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, and Chardonnay, this wine has nice tropical flavors of peach and citrus.  Though not as crisp as the Monkey Bay, it is a great summer white with its crispness balancing out the sweet, tropical notes.

Now if only I were on vacation!

Bad Luck in Yakima

Jon and I had big plans for some wine tasting in Yakima in January, but they got derailed, as you will soon read…

Owen Roe:

It started out well…

Jon and I have purchased a couple of their everyday wines from Costco and liked them, so it only seemed natural to check out their tasting room. The tasting room is located only a few miles from Yakima, and it is in the middle of their large barrel room, a space delineated with a small tasting bar, a couple of tables, and some portable shelves for wine.

It was a cool atmosphere, being able to look at all those barrels being stored; the only drawback is that we were in a warehouse – in January, so it was pretty chilly. We tasted through their line up and I liked them all, with the exception of the Chardonnay – it just wasn’t really my style.

The Owen Roe Tasting Room - in the barrel room.

The Owen Roe Tasting Room – in the barrel room.

Owen Roe has a large production – they have a tasting room and production facility in the Willamette Valley too. They are currently in the process of expanding their facility in Yakima, so they won’t have to store barrels in their production facility, and they are building a new event space on the property to host concerts in the summer. Sounds nice!

Our server was very friendly and gave us lots of suggestions on where to go, including other wineries, restaurants and breweries too.  This would certainly be a great place to visit in the summer, when you can sit on the patio or take in one of the concerts they have when they finish their expansion.

Treveri Cellars:

And then it went downhill…

Treveri was next on my list, and the winery I was most excited about visiting because they specialize in sparklers. But when we pulled up – closed! There was no mention of this on their website (I had checked that morning), but apparently (as I found out later from a blog friend), their Facebook page had a post about it. Hmm… not cool.

Treveri being closed began a trend that just continued into the afternoon. Others that were closed included Cultura, Dineen, J. Bell, Knight Hill, Severino, and Two Mountain. Apparently people don’t taste wine in Yakima in January – lesson learned, loud and clear.  I can’t blame them, I guess, but I had never really thought about it.  I hadn’t checked all their websites individually, but the wine magazine I had didn’t mention winter closures – I guess they assume that everybody knows.  We have been there in February and not had this problem, and I don’t really think about January being that different…

Hyatt Vineyards Winery:

Finally we made our way to Hyatt – there was a truck outside and the lights were on and the door was unlocked. I thought our luck was swinging up, but it turns out, it was just going from bad to worse…

As our server set up our tasting I mentioned being a little surprised about all the other wineries that were closed, and she said (snottily) she was closed too. WTF? Umm… then why have the door open? She said since she was working on resetting the décor in the tasting room, she figured she might as well serve if anybody stopped by. Which would have been fine, but sadly, her demeanor was not welcoming.  In fact, it was really off putting.

She sullenly poured the wine, and then stared at us while we sampled. If was REALLY uncomfortable. To the point that we were trying to rush through the tasting to get it over with. UGH! Then another woman came in and we were relieved – perhaps it would break up the tension…

As it turns out the second lady was the tasting room manager and she was quite friendly. We started to talk and the server immediately corrected her attitude. She knew exactly how rude she was being and didn’t want her manager to know! But the lasting impression was already made.

Hyatt Tasting Room - isn't it cute?

Hyatt Tasting Room – isn’t it cute?

The wines at Hyatt were ok – not bad, but nothing spectacular. They are decently priced, most between $10 and $15 per bottle, with a few in the $20 range. Perfectly acceptable for a weeknight wine. But I would only go back if I knew that server was no longer there. It’s too bad, because I have so few unpleasant experiences while wine tasting, but this one will go down in the memory books.

So after Hyatt, we figured there would be no other wineries that were open, and we were burned out by our failed attempts.  So, don’t do what we did – there is no wine in January in Yakima…

2013 Corvidae Wise Guy Sauvignon Blanc

I’m chilling at home with Oliver, after working all day and going for a nice walk with friends after work.  I opened a bottle of the 2013 Corvidae Wise Guy Sauvignon Blanc.  Corvidae is a second label of Owen Roe, a winery with production facilities in Washington and Oregon.  We had it for the first time when we visited Owen Roe’s Yakima tasting room in January (they were one of the few that were open!).

2013 Corvidae Sauvignon Blanc - Isn't this an awesome label?

2013 Corvidae Sauvignon Blanc – Isn’t this an awesome label?

The wine is a pale straw color, with a crisp nose of lemongrass.  On the palate this wine is crisp and clean, with a slight tartness and flavors of lemongrass, lychee and pineapple.  It is a great wine, and retails for only $10.  At that price, I should have purchased a whole case!  It looks like the Sauvignon Blanc is sold out at the winery, so be sure to snatch this wine up if you find it out and about.

Oh, and they totally get bonus points for the label!  Check out the crow’s legs!

Happy Tuesday Everybody!