Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day +2 in Bisbee

Today was a truly perfect day. We woke up late (7-- ha!) got ready and ate breakfast at the hotel next door, the Copper Queen. After several coffees to get us going, Laura, Barb's daughter, met us. We followed her to Xo's property in the outskirts of Bisbee. Xo is an artist that Laura and her boyfriend, Timothy, know. They are interested in her property, and are here to see if they'd like to buy it. It's 40 incredible acres off the grid. Power is by solar panels and a backup generator, water from a well. It's quite rustic but charming. There are two houses on the property, one is a two roomed place now used for a guest room and studio (Xo is an artist.) It's a wonderful space with great light, and would be perfect for Barb when she retires. We were greated by dogs, as there are four here right now. Laura and Timothy's two, Xo's dog, and her partner, Rita's dog. All were really wonderful (and i have quite a soft spot for dogs!) I also love cats and there were two, including a feisty little calico, and a gorgeous, HUGE hunky orange and white tabby boy. Oh, my favorite!! Xo's dog, Roscoe, is a big hunky boy, and what i think is a rottie golden mix. He's gorgeous and really sweet. I'm wondering if I can sneak him away with me!

We were joined by another couple that live nearby, Marti and Larry. Jera, Timothy's mom, who lives in Tucson, also joined. It was one of those perfect meshes of people. Everyone was just wonderful and we had a really teriffic time. We all helped prepare either cooking, setting up, or whatever, drank wine, ran with the dogs and had a fun time. Everyone was really interesting and we traded stories.

Not much for sightseeing today, but a perfect Christmas here in Bisbee! It was just a perfect day!!

Did I mention the fabulous hippie mobile we saw last night? Oh my God, it was fabulous. A wagon that was painted from end to end, and covered with different colored bottlecaps. There were pez dispensers glued to the top, caps on the wheels, and stuff all over the inside too. Well beyond anything I've ever seen, and amazing. We saw it at night, so I'm hoping to see it again during the day. You certainly can't miss it!!!
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Day 3 started with a fabulous breakfast at the Bisbee Breakfast Club then a guided tour of Bisbee from Timothy, who grew up there. We saw another of the Bisbee Art Cars, which includes the fabulously funky car that we saw on our first day with the bottle caps all over it. Apparently there are around 20 around town, each unique. We drove by the big Lavender Pit mined by Phelps Dodge, and drove through each of the little neighborhoods that formerly consisted of the mine workers and their families. The supervisors, or bosses and their family lived in the larger homes by the mines, and each of the neighborhoods was named after the mine it was by. We saw the house Timothy grew up in, and the places he used to play as a kid. There are large canals by many of the roads that used to be runoff and pumped from the mines. The water once supplied the parks, which, in their former glory were full of plants and trees. The canals are now dry, as are the parks. We drove through these huge pipes that were the only way in and out from one of the mine areas.

On our way back into town we stopped at the Shady Dell, a trailer park consisting of an adorable tiny diner called Dot's Diner, and 1950's RVs. They were really incredible and we walked around a bit. The place had a tiki bus, and also a yacht that people can stay in! Many were tiny but the place was really quaint.

We then drove back into town, which is so incredibly quaint and well kept. Many of the houses are just propped on the mountains, and we parked and walked up a few of the large hills. Bisbee is supposed to have over 1,000 stairs, and we walked a bunch of them on our way up and up and up! It's amazing when you think that the stairs were put in over 100 years ago, before there were cars or machinery to do the work! Some of the houses towards the top were really cute, and many are brightly painted. We walked around above the town for a while, taking in the beautiful views carved in the hills and mountainsides below us. We went back across the town to the church we went to on Christmas Eve to admire the beautiful stained glass that was inside. It was really gorgeous. There is a little bit of snow on the ground-- I do love visiting snow, then leaving it!!

Timothy and Laura left us, and Barb and I decided to browse in the shops and galleries in town. It was surprisingly expensive, but a lot of fun to walk around. We had planned to go back to Dot's Diner for lunch, however, we weren't hungry after our breakfast until 2:30, which is when Dot's closes. So we found a cute little sandwich place called Cafe Cornucopia. I got a cup of soup and half sandwich and Barb got a salad and half sandwich. We got pots of tea, and split the most amazing lemon tart I've ever had!

We then decided to stop by the Bisbee Blue turquoise place on the side of the lavender pit. We had high expectations, as we'd heard that it was family run for several generations, but it was really small, not quaint at all, and didn't have great merchandise. So, we went back into town. Since we had dinner reservations for 6 and it was 4, it wasn't worth going all the way back to the house we were staying at for the evening. We decided to go to St. Elmo's, which is supposed to be the oldest continuously operating bar in the US (early 1900s), however it looked like a place of rather ill repute. So, we headed back to the Bisbee Grande Hotel and Saloon for some wine and people watching. We were joined by Timothy, Laura and Timothy's son, Bud, and headed over to Cafe Roka for our reservation.

Cafe Roka is a five star restaurant. It was beautifully decorated for the holiday, and we were walked up to the third floor. Dinner was quite good- Barb and I had duck, Laura and Timothy seafood (scallops, lobster ravioli, and sea bass) and Bud got short ribs. We got a gingerbread cake and tiramisu for desert. Wonderful dinner, great service and I'd highly recommend it!

We went back to Xo's house, where we stayed for the evening. The cats were bothering Barb's allergies, so we stayed in the guest house instead of the main house. In the morning, we got up and had a snacky breakfast, picking at fruit, cranberry bread, bagels, etc. We put food out for the birds in the garden, and watched them for a while. There were amazing colors in blues, reds, yellows, and lots of quail. Apparently the mountains we were looking at in the distance are actually in Mexico!! Xo came back at around 10 so we watched Roscoe, her gorgeous dog, playing with Laura's two, Karma and Ernie. They were so cute!!

Around 11 we headed out, with a stop in Tombstone. Tombstone, AZ is known for the OK Corral and gunfights with famous people like Wyatt Earp. I'll confess that the old western stuff doesn't really have much appeal to me, but it was cute, well kept and fun to walk around. There was the Shady Lady store, a house of 'ill repute', lots of fun little places and reenactors who were hilarious!!

It was a great trip, and Bisbee lived up to expectations! It's a very cute, quaint little town and worth the visit!! As much as I love traveling, I'm glad to be home with my furry critters.
Bye, until the next trip!!
Sam

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Will Santa find me in Bisbee?

It's been two whole weeks since traveling, so I was starting to itch for a trip. [you know me!] What the heck? Let's do some Arizona travel! So, instead of chinese food and a movie this year for Christmas, my friend Barb and I decided to do something a little different and took a ride south to Bisbee, AZ. It's a really cute little old town near the Mexico border.

We drove over three hours, passing some beautiful mountains and snow, and arrived late afternoon. We checked into our hotel right in the center of town and it's quite cute (San Ramon.) We're taking a short break, then walking down main street to check out the town and catch a bite of dinner at High Desert Market and Cafe. This down is just over 5,000 feet, which is much higher than what we're used to in Phoenix (which is at sea level!)

Looking forward to exploring a bit. We have Christmas dinner tomorrow with a friend of Barb's daughter's boyfriend. We headed out for dinner at a great little place called High Desert Market and Cafe. A cool chick in dreadlocks served up a fabulous feast! We got two dishes and shared: cornish game hens with polenta and broccoli and schnitzel with a cheesy pasta and veggies. yum! The polenta was the hit, for sure. They had a little market and we got a fabulous bottle of wine called Hey Mambo, which was great. It had an amazing little twist off plastic cork which was fun and interesting. The baked goods looks fabulous, so we had a decadent chocolate cake which was incredibly moist, with a banana peanut butter frosting. In a word: yum!!!

We left and saw a church across the street. Never one to pass up exploring a church (I know, I know!) we went in to catch the end of Christmas Eve mass. We joined in singing 'Joy to the World', kissed the priest wishing him a wonderful Christmas, shook a few hands, and left. Yes, two good jewish girls and all that!! ha!! We started walking back to the hotel and came upon what we thought would be the perfect follow up to going to church: a bar. We saddled in to the bar and got a drink from one of Santa's elves. She had a funky hat that twitched in a rather suggestive manner (added by my friend Barb as of course, I would never!!) and a great red jacket. Then, who do know think walks in?!? The big guy himself, Santa. Oh yeah. He came by and gave us each a candy cane in return for a kiss. Great deal, huh? I guess he found us in Bisbee after all.

Walking back to the hotel was a hoot, watching all the drunkards singing, yelling, and walking home. We found a fabulous hippie mobile, unlike any that I've seen. Now, at the shelter I volunteer at, there's a fabuloso 'Alice in Wonderland' hippie themed mobile. This one blew it away. It had paint all over it, bottle caps everywhere, and pez dispensers glued to the top. Every inch had a new special surprise. I took lots of pictures, of course.

Nothing like Christmas in a small town like Bisbee. Here, I thought I wouldn't have much to type about tonight. How wrong I was!!

Have a wonderful Christmas eve and Christmas. I've already done better than coal, I have a candy cane from Santa himself. :o)

Sam

Sunday, December 13, 2009

LA- pics and favorites

The Standard Hotel in downtown LA was absolutely fabulous and had everything you could possibly want. Great central location, nice amenities and very fun and quirky.

Restaurants:
Square One- breakfast
Sushi Zo
Casa Del Tacos- Whittier- great little taco stand
Don't remember the name, but there's a great and very nice Italian restaurant in the Promenade in Santa Monica

Things to do:
Getty Museum and Villa- both are really wonderful. The Villa is designed to be like an excavation site, and is packed full with Greek and Roman sculptures and reproductions.
-Watts towers- interesting and unusual artwork sculpture in the middle of a neighborhood
-LaBrea tarpits- amazing finds of ancient bones. Fabulous little museum with a great history lesson, and so very interesting!
-A trip to LA wouldn't be complete with a drive through the neighborhoods of where the other half lives in Beverly Hills!
-Exposition park Rose garden

Here's a great map that Jason created of our adventure:
http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=118147953410317060877.00047aa8690d53fc7c816

And of course, some pictures (unsure why they are out of order again, but anyways, enjoy!!):
LA

LA- Day 4

Day 4 started with a wonderful sight: sun! The ground was still wet but it was bright and sunny. Woohoo! I decided to search the room to see if I missed any of the funny and quirky things there. I think I mentioned the 'directions' on the toilet paper (of when to use it!) and the picture at the bottom of the trash can of a person with their head in it vomiting. Jason mentioned the pencil in the room, which I hadn't looked at. His said 'shave me' and mine actually said "@#$% me!" (including the symbols!!) I cracked up when I saw that. And did I mention the box of condoms in the room's food and convenience bar with the examples of when you may want to use them? It included three demonstrations which the writer of the Karma Sutra would have been quite proud of! Hilarious!

We ate breakfast in the hotel then headed out for greater adventures! First we stopped by this great little sculpture garden in the middle of a college campus. We wandered through it then headed back to Venice Beach to check out the scene. Quite a few more people today so great people watching!! They also have a great little skater park and it was fun watching the skateboarders making the circuits. We walked down the length of the beach checking out all the interesting people and shops. There was another great little place called the Kush Clubhouse CannaMerchant Inc. Lot's of dreads, tie dye, and a ton of people with pitbulls roaming the strip by the water! There was a guy with a great sign that read "Parents eaten by pigeons". When he caught my eye, he flipped it and the other sign read 'Why lie? Need a beer."

Last we drove over to the neighborhood where Jason grew up called Whittier, maybe 30 minutes east of downtown LA. It's a very cute middle class neighborhood with lots of families. We stopped by a taco shop (horsemeat taco stand, as he calls them) and got burritos. There was an older couple there- the woman took our order, and the guy was sitting in a chair by the register. He was very friendly, asked how our weekend was and we got to chatting with him. Apparently they own it and have been there since at least when Jason was a kid. I'm sure the guy has sat in that chair for a long, long time! We took our burritos to a park to enjoy the beautiful weather. I of course had to ride the swing, which was really high and quite narrow! We then played on some of the cool different things in this park then headed out for the ride home.

I've definitely gained much more of an appreciation of LA and had a really great time. This trip was really great too as we got to see so much, both touristy things and some others probably more known to locals. Thanks to my wonderful friend for such a great trip! Until the next..
Sam

LA- Day 3

We took a ride to go for breakfast at an amazing little place (which was in the Silver Lake neighborhood, I think.) We passed this huge smurf blue building which was the original Scientology building, not far from L Ron Hubbard road. On the way we saw a one legged cyclist whipping down the street at an impressive clip! It was raining steadily, though not too hard, which only made his balance more impressive. Square One is an amazing place! The ceiling is covered with large egg cartons, and the wait staff is kind of fun and quirky. We sat down next to Willis, who was hilarious and quite chatty. He apparently lives in the neighborhood and is a regular. He chatted us up for a bit, then settled in to make phone calls, and more phone calls!

The one legged cyclist made an appearance every 5 minutes or so, doing a circuit for a good half hour that we were there at least! It was truly impressive to see and I found myself watching out for him! We had an amazing and fresh breakfast- Jason an omelete and I got an egg dish cooked in a little cast iron skillet with chorizo, cheese, tortilla, peppers and onions. Willis had to leave, and the waitresses all said goodbye to him by name, thus cementing the mystique of Willis!

We made our way over to the LaBrea Tar pits, which included an amazing little museum showcasing the discoveries from the tar pits over the last almost hundred years. Apparently a man owned the land and came across this incredible discovery of these huge tar pits including the remains of animals from tens of thousands of years ago. He was rumored to be the inspiration of the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’! They had excavated several pits and had rebuilt the complete skeletons of mammoths, saber tooth tigers, bears, wolves, and many other animals in this cool little museum. It was so interesting! We watched the scientists work in the ‘fishbowl’ on Zed, a huge mammoth, and laughed at the funny things up on the white board. Those crazy scientists!! They had a block of the tar with bones sticking out everywhere on display, which was truly amazing. We then walked out to check out the tar pits, which you could really smell on the approach. They had marked and left some bones for viewing.

We then drove over to Exposition park, where we saw the huge swimming building which housed the swimming events at the 1984 Olympics. We walked past the USC Colliseum and then drove over to the other side of the park. We then took a walk through the huge and beautiful Rose Garden which used to supply some of the Roses for the Parade of Roses. There was a huge fountain in the center, and while the weather didn’t hold out for us, it was still quite beautiful.

The next adventure was to the Watts Towers, which has been one of my favorite things on the trip. In the middle of this now rough little neighborhood, is an incredibly unusual, quirky little testament to a creative mind. An Italian immigrant and day laborer built these towers out of .. trash, essentially. They are supported by metal, which he covered with mortar and broken shards and remnants of things that he found: bottles and broken bottles, pottery, pieces of plates, anything really! There are plaques up that describe his building process of the higher tower portions, where he literally built it one rung at a time. It is rather large and quite impressive, especially when you think of a man building it in the middle of a modest housing community ‘just cuz!’ The more you look, the more interesting things you find in the small, broken up pieces that make this sculpture so impressive! Across the street was a fabulous little house brightly painted with large colored flowers, adding to the ambiance of the place!!

Next we made our way to the Farmer’s Market and the grove to walk around and grab lunch. Jason ate at a little Cajun stand which is incredible Zagat rated! He got fried alligator there. An ice cream stand there had peppermint, which is one of my favorites, so I got a little cone. I wasn’t all that hungry so ended up just getting a croissant to snack on, and we walked around a bit to check out all the different places. We walked by a bakery and I saw red velvet cupcakes! I commented to Jason, and a woman walking by leaned in and said ‘don’t buy it from there!’ ha! It was a very compact little area that was mostly covered, and smelled delightful! There was a huge fruit stand, and every food you could imagine!

It really started to pour so we decided to just drive around for a while. We made our way through Beverly Hills looking out for some open houses, which sadly, we didn’t come by. Surprisingly, very few of the houses were for sale! I think we each picked maybe a dozen that we’d like to buy [in our dreams!] as we made our way through the neighborhood. We drove past the gated community of Bel Air, which put up the guard gate when they got tired of people driving through the neighborhood! We drove through Hollywood, past the start of the area at Hollywood and Vine, Kodak and Gromund’s (sp?) Chinese Theater. Jason was tired of driving, so we made our way down to Venice Beach to walk around and people-watch.

Unfortunately mother nature had other plans, and few people were around due to the rain. Most of the shops were even closed, but we walked a bit down the beach anyways. As we were walking, we saw a sign for medicinal marijuana, and right around then we heard a guy bellow out ‘Hey, does anyone have papers!?’ We saw several people smoking joints, right out on the walk. There were lots of little souvenier and tourist shops, a few of which were open. We decided to duck into a place to get out of the rain which was a bookstore and restaurant, and checked out the bookstore for a bit. They had some funny books, including a Twinkie cookbook, and a book of “Douchebag Quotes” which was much funnier in concept than the actual book!

I had met a gal from LA on my wine tour in Italy, and we had kept in touch when I got back. When we planned this trip I let her know, and she met us in the restaurant. We stayed there for a few hours talking with her, and it was lots of fun! She’s great! We then made our way over to a sushi place that she recommended for dinner. The first one she recommended, Fat Fish (where you can get a ‘fat ass’ roll!) was packed, with a line pouring onto the street. Instead we went to her second recommendation of Sushi Zo. It was a cute little place tucked right behind a strip mall, and delicious! They don’t have a menu but do a tasting of whatever they prepare. They ask what you don’t like, and then just keep bringing fish out to you. We had tuna, salmon, halibut, snapper, toro, and lots of other things. Jason had an octopus dish, as well as sea urchin and salmon roe, which I don’t eat and I had an oyster. The pieces were a decent size and so very fresh and well prepared. Nothing was really interesting, but all so very tasty! We left comfortably full and made our way back to the hotel. First, we decided to go to a bar across the street for a drink, called the Library Bar. There was an actual wall of books in it, and it was a cute little neighborhood place. Apparently the roof bar at our hotel was closed due to the weather, so it was a good thing we went the night before!

Fun-filled day. I was too tired to write this up last night, so posting today along with day 4. Sam

Friday, December 11, 2009

LA- Day 2

Lots and lots of coffee later, we headed out from breakfast in the hotel for the Getty Villa. Very nice place! It was a steep drive up the driveway, with a beautiful landscaped area surrounding the driveway. The villa has a good sized amphitheater at the entrance of what looks like a renovated villa. It was designed to look like an excavation site, and was gorgeously done! There were different kinds of stone everywhere, and the building was designed with an old villa in mind. It's packed with greek and roman antiquities and reproductions. When you walk in there's a gorgeous little pool surrounded by little sculptures. The gardens are gorgeous and there's a long, shallow wading pool on one side with gorgeous sculptures around it.

We spent a couple of hours and did a short tour, then headed over to the Getty Museum cafe for lunch. There were gorgeous views overlooking the gardens. The museum was just magnificent and huge, with huge limestone blocks creating the lower sides of the buildings, and some really magnificent pieces of art from the masters. What's truly amazing is this is J. Paul Getty's personal art collection. It rivaled some of the museums I've seen around the world, and this was funded entirely by one man. Pretty impressive!

We walked around the gardens a bit and checked out the sculpture garden but it started pouring pretty heavily and was getting muddy, so we decided to head out. By now it was already 4:30 or so. Traffic was pretty bad but we made our way over to the Hollywood area and drove up the steep hillside into Griffin park to see the overlook and Griffin Planetarium. What an amazing view of the city! When it's not cloudy you can easily see the Hollywood sign, and even with the weather we had an amazing view of the lights of LA. The planetarium was amazing as well, and I enjoyed exploring it a bit.

We decided to grab dinner, so we went to this fabulous little 70s style diner just down the street. It was complete with formica and a jukebox! We got total american comfort food (I got mac and cheese and Jason got meatloaf), and while I had big plans of a milkshake for dessert, I was too full after a little more than half of the dinner! We stayed a long time talking then made our way back to the hotel. I was really tired but splashed cold water on my face and rallied to make our way up to the roof bar at our hotel. What a blast! They had heat lamps, a cozy outdoor sofa, plastic chairs which were surprisingly comfortable, and of course, a pool, a bar and music. And a movie projected on a nearby building! It was quite funny to be watching a movie, which was the making of some campy 1970's style movie with robots. Hilarious!

Having a blast, so hey, I'm willing to give LA a nod. I'm not sure I'd live here, but I'm loving my visit and looking forward to the adventures of tomorrow!
Sam

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's off to LA we go!

I've been to LA a few times on business, but never really enjoyed it. So, when the opportunity arose to visit with an LA native, my friend Jason, I jumped on it. "Show me your LA!"

We headed out a little before 9 for the 5+ hour drive. It's a straight shot to LA, and we got to pass through this area with a field of windmills. It was quite cool! Traffic started picking up so I knew we were close. We arrived at the hotel, the Standard, and checked in. It's great! A boutique hotel, which I love. The rooms are really fabulous-- platform bed and a great open concept. The bathroom in my room is actually totally open and the shower is kind of in the middle of the room! Really different and fun, and the room has some great little touches including a well stocked snack bar including some fun things like cracker jacks, sake, beer nuts and gummi bears! The room also has some quirky touches. There's a sticker on the toilet paper that is an instruction (yes, on how to use the pot!) and in the bottom of the trash can, it shows a pic of a person with their head yacking in the can! Priceless.

The weather report called for rain but it was bright and sunny, so we decided to go for a walk and find some lunch. We walked down to chinatown and found a cute little place where I was thrilled to find had chicken pho, a fabulous vietnamese soup that I was craving due to the remnants of my cold. Jason got pad thai. There was a cute little kitschy area that we walked around with low, very asian looking buildings. Then we headed over to Olvera street, which is lined by carts of little things to buy. You know, fabulous hot pink dog sweaters, woven straw hats with a big flower, dia de los muertos memorabilia, etc.

We then walked down to the original site of LA, called El Pueblo. In the center there is now a cute little circular park called La Placa del Pueblo. In the center there was a huge manger scene, and some kind of flute music was playing. We walked past this great and huge post office, and did a quick tour of a cute old church called La Placita. We then started heading back to the hotel, but did a tour of a beautiful church called the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels. The street is actually named after it that it's on (Temple). We walked through the mausoleum underneath and saw some amazingly beautiful stained glass panels. Oh, and Gregory Peck's tomb! Jason picked his spot right next to it, being a fan, you know. The church was an interesting mix of modern and historic art, which was quite striking. Ah yes, a friend who is as obsessed with churches as I am! Go figure!

We took a short break then headed over to Santa Monica pier for *Cirque de Soleil*! Some of you may know of my Cirque fascination (obsession, really), and I was quite thrilled to find that it was here while we are! We walked around the promenade for a bit and found a fabulous italian place for dinner. What a find! I got sweet potato risotto, and Jason got boar tortelini with these sliced apples, which was amazing. We headed over to the big blue and gold tent where Cirque is housed, right by the beach. [sigh] I so do miss the ocean, and was looking forward to running through the sand after the show!

The show was just incredible, and one of my favorites yet! Everything was just perfect. We walked down the stairs to find an ocean at the bottom. Apparently it was raining, and hey, where did I leave the umbrella? In the car, of course! We trudged through three oceans, and after waiting a bit to see if we could outlast the rain (it got heavier!) we gave up and made our way. The walk was around 15 minutes, which seriously became much, much further! As we were dashing into the garage, we walked by a homeless person sleeping outside, barely covered by the roofline. Sometimes it just takes a moment to put things into perspective.

We finally got to the car and were soaked. Thank goodness for heaters! I didn't have anytime to tie my hair back to contain the water running down my back, but thank goodness for Lance Armstrong and his bracelets! It sure did the trick and I was thankful. It's the little things, I know!! I probably won't hear the end of this for a while, which is only fair. I'm not sure that an umbrella would have kept us dry, but I might not have had water running down my back from my hair!!

Figured I could sleep in until 7 today, however, the universe had other plans. I got a new phone and set the alarm, very proud of myself for figuring out how to already! Apparently I need to figure out how to get it to reset the time. It's 6 am now and I'm wide awake! Drat! Fun day planned, with a visit to the Getty Villa and Museum and I think a drive on the Pacific Coast Highway. And coffee, lots and lots, and lots of coffee. :o)

Sam