Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Half Moon Bay, South of SF

I can never leave California without making a quick post on Half Moon Bay, a delightful little town 30 miles south of San Francisco where we were taken by our hosts on our last day before flying east. After a scenic drive along the Pacific Coast when we actually slept from the exhaustion of the night before, we passed some pumpkin patches, a first for me! Apparently a pumpkin festival is in the works for October. I would have loved to taste authentic pumpkin pies, but sadly we didnt have enough time to stop.

Because we were famished and badly in need of a restroom break, we headed to the center of the town where we went to a small restaurant that looked promising called Lighthouse Deli and Cafe. And boy, were we glad we stopped at this restaurant even though we missed a seafood lunch as a result! They have the most amazing sandwiches, and the best Greek salad Im still drooling on until now! Be sure to put your pin on their map (to mark from which country you came from)! Quite a lot of people from the Philippines, Im glad to note :)

Next we drove around the scenic town and made a stop at the bay and marina, where we saw fishermen hauling in their fresh catch for the day. There was even a festival going on at one of the huge empty lots. We passed sidestreet stalls of families selling fresh vegetables and fruits! And I had my first glimpse of brussel spouts! Ooh, how I wish I could take it with me... Overall, I really like Half Moon Bay (I even like the name), and I wish we could have had more time to explore the place. It was a welcome respite from the bustle of San Francisco city and a good break of what was to come for the rest of our trip :)

Do you see those brussel spouts at only $2.50 for the whole stalk?!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

San Francisco

Of all the places we visited, San Francisco is perhaps the place where it would be so ideal to settle if we ever do decide to go that road. I can't get over how pretty the whole city is, just driving around is just so appealingly pleasant.

We were spoiled from Day1, as we were gifted with lots of different cheeses (aged cheddar, blue cheese, triple cream!) by Em's cousin who happens to be a cheese purveyor in SF.We would later on during the stay enjoy them in sandwiches with turkey breast, and as we would find out, San Francisco is a great city to have mini-picnics and our sandwiches came in just handy.

San Franscisco is a city where the words organic, sustainable, free-range and fair trade are more defined than any of the other places we visited.And for me, that forms a great part of the city's charm. Our SF highlights:

- the Ferry Building Marketplace, where I had my very first taste of figs!
- Ciao Bella gelato, from the same marketplace
- sampling the different oil dips in Stonehouse California Olive Oil
- Boudin Sourdough Bread and clam chowder at the Fisheman's Wharf
- more In & Out Burger

-Bi-Rite Creamery for luscious smooth ice cream. Worth a trip to 18th St, Mission District. The Bi-Rite Organic Grocery just across is also worth a visit.
- Rainbow grocery, I just adore this one! Apple butter, real maple syrup, thick yoghurts, I go nuts with the selections here. Im still dreaming of this grocery to this day, how I wish we have this at home.

- Other highlights are the touristy things: Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Twin Peaks, Palace of Fine Arts (wow!), shopping at Union Square, visiting Castro district, driving by Noe Valley and Haight/Ashbury, driving down Lombard Street, walking the Golden Gate Bridge (yes, we did!).

I love the laid-back feel of San Francisco, and the chilly weather is something I could get used to. I actually felt a pang of sadness saying goodbye to this city, even though I dont necessarily have family here. There's a certain charming eclecity tot he city that I never find anywhere else. We were walking in the Mission district late one night when we chanced upon this garage sign, and we laughed ourselves silly, Em and I. Such is the delight this city brings to us.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Four States, 8 Airports, 10 lbs Overweight

Our vacation started with a smooth landing in Los Angeles, and what follows are memories both Em and I are still giddy about. Three weeks of walking, eating, sightseeing can leave one's pockets bleeding, but it was so worth it we are already planning next year's trip, with the Little Bee this time around.
LA is great, but for now we are staying for just a night before heading to Las Vegas where our first meal was in In & Out Burger! It lived up to the hype, fresh beef that was never frozen and real potatoes cut in the premises. It's not hard to understand why there is always a line forming at the counter. We made sure we had our fix of In N Out as we were told we couldn't find it in the East - our next stop in the coming weeks.
Las Vegas was great, brimming with lights and enthusiasm. We did all the touristy things, saw the hotel lobbies (Venetian voted as the favorite), watched the Bellagio fountain show many times over, did the slots, sunk in the view from the Eiffel Tower in Paris Hotel, even did a day tour to the Grand Canyon (which by the way was really GRAND) and of course, ate the buffets - the one we like best being the lunch buffet of Mandalay Bay. After a particularly long night however, we found the best food we had in Las Vegas - tucked away in the farthest end of the Strip is a diner called IHOP (International House of Pancakes, as we would later find out and listed at the NYSE, as I would find find out much later at home) where I was to have hands-down the best pancakes Ive ever tasted (sorry Pancake House!). It was the big floppy kind of pancakes, and I could imagine all the butter that went into it. Their tag line goes Come Hungry, Leave Happy. Indeed!

While we very much like Las Vegas, what was to come in our 3-week itinerary are even better. On to San Francisco next.

PS. Thanks heaps to my bro and his wife for bringing us to LV, and thanks to my friend Banj too.