Family, Home and Wine

Yesterday I sort of detailed the first two days of our SoCal trip to see my brother Steve, my sis-in-law Jamie and their awesome family. Here’s the balance of the week. As I am writing this I am sitting at the gate for our flight home to Everett at John Wayne International. I won’t post it until tomorrow because I have never done two posts in one day and I don’t want to start now 😜.

Day 3–Family Day

Jamie has a BIG family. Beside their daughter and son, her Mom Pat lives with them. And then she has two brothers and a sister and all are married and have lots of grown kids. We have traveled with her sister and her family and will again in 2022. I have booked travel for her brother and his wife and they were supposed to join us on our river cruise that was cancelled last year. Saturday Jamie invited all these folks to dinner. Mind you, her brother who lives in Fresno and his family didn’t come down but her sister and her family from Huntington Beach and her brother and his wife from Poway were there as well as another of the cousins and our niece Cassie’s boyfriend Omar.

Food was outstanding as Steve grilled chicken and steaks and Jamie did her usual awesome job of making every side known to man. Her mom Pat (who I mentioned yesterday) put together one of her world famous cheese platters and others brought dessert and lots of wine. We all ate and drank and had an awesome time. I can say that I truly enjoyed myself, even helping Jamie’s sis-in-law Jill wash dishes. I think everyone had an absolutely wonderful time—I know we did!

Day 4–The ’55 to Laguna and back

Sunday was listed as a day of lounging around the house on our itinerary but since one of the places I really wanted to go was Crazy Shirts in downtown Laguna Beach (just up the coast) Steve rolled out their 1955 Ford Fairlane Sunliner and we set off on a drive from San Juan Capistrano, through Dana Point, Laguna Beach and almost up to Newport Beach. It was a great drive, the sun was shining and when you are in a car like this you get a lot of looks from those on the sidewalks. I do have to say though that sitting in the back of a 1955 convertible at highway speeds is an experience in wind velocity I am not quick to repeat 😀.

Day 5–Home and Wine

My sister-in-law Jamie was our travel agent/tour guide on this cruise 😀. She had texted us about a week before we were to come down with a complete itinerary with all kinds of things for us to do and see. Today was road trip day. First we were heading to my brother’s and my hometown, Palm Springs. We had two goals: to see the house we grew up in (which has been REALLY changed by the present owner since we sold it to them after our Dad passed a few years ago) and to have lunch at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, The Blue Coyote.

The house looked fine but quite a bit different. Lots of new growth around the front yard. We had a kind of funny experience with the house. When we got to the house we parked in front to take a look and the current owner drove out of the garage and as he drove by us he gave us a real good and long look. Like this bunch of almost senior citizens was going to burglarize his house. After he left we drove up to the other end of the block and turned around to back past the house again.

In the meantime he had driven up the street but came back and drove into the driveway of the people across the street to tell the neighbor to keep an eye on us (criminals that we are 😜). We (Steve and I) got out of the car and went back to talk to him and the neighbor who is someone who has lived in the house since 1961 and had been our neighbor since then. He told the current owner he had nothing to fear as we had grown up in the house and had a valid reason for stopping. We hoped he would then invite us in but he had an appointment and hurried off after he knew his house was safe.

Then it was off to lunch at Blue Coyote where the food was great, the service superb and the margaritas…AWESOME! We have been there more than 10 times over the years and I think this was the best yet but that just might be the margaritas talking. A very nice couple from University Place (about half way between our place and our grandkids in Olympia, WA) took our photo for us.

After lunch and a quick turn around the town we were off to our final destination for the day—South Coast Winery in Temecula. It was much more than we expected. A really nice place where Jamie had arranged a really nice one-bedroom villa for both of us set amongst the grape vines. The place was very reminiscent of Tuscany and we arrived just in time to catch the last wine tasting of the day. We did five different wines including a port and to be honest, I wouldn’t buy any of them again. Pretty run of the mill. Nothing even close to what we had in Walla Walla when we went with our neighbors Jayesh and Lisa two summers ago. When we did that trip we ended up joining three wine clubs but I don’t think I would join one at South Coast.

But their rooms and the restaurant where we had both dinner and breakfast were excellent. After a quick dinner we both retired to our respective rooms, watched a movie and basically passed out after this VERY busy day.

I was up early the next day for my usual pre-dawn photowalk and WOW, was I rewarded. Not only did I get some really nice sunrise pics from the vineyard, just as I was about to head back to the room to shower and change for breakfast I saw ten hot air balloons launch from near downtown so I had to wait to see what they would do. What they did was to come right at us. Within 20 minutes I was literally surrounded by hot air balloons as you will see in my photos below.

After this excellent photo experience we were off to breakfast where they had some of the best chilaquiles I have had since New Mexico. Truly delicious. One of my favorite breakfasts. After breakfast it was back in the truck for a quick tour of downtown Temecula. It’s a historic city from the 1800s and we spent about an hour walking around. Saw a pretty awesome old Chevy too.

From there we headed south and then west so we could stop in northern San Diego County to see the blooming ranunculus. Now I had never seen ranunculus before but these (from somewhat far away) were nice. Nothing like the tulips in Skagit County (north of Seattle) but still nice. Then it was home to S&Js place so we could fly home on Wednesday (yesterday).

Since we had a 6:25 pm flight we got to spend the day with S&J before we headed north to the airport and a late lunch/early dinner or as we like to call it, dunch. And because we had LOVED the food at Houston’s on the day we flew in, we decided to stop there again. I mean it was THAT GOOD! And guess what we ordered? The exact same thing—artichoke appetizer and fried chicken sandwich. And they were still as great as I mentioned in my last post except that this time I remembered to take a photo so you could see them. The artichokes are grilled on a wood fire. When mine came to the table part of the stem was still burning. They are amazing. And what makes the fried chicken sandwich so good is the slaw that sits on top of the chicken—amazing.

After lunch S&J dropped us off, we waited the prescribed two hours, boarded and took off right on time, landed almost 20 minutes early, found a Lyft in less than five minutes and were home and turning off the lights by 10:15! Whew, I got tired just thinking about that.

To sum it all up, we had an AWESOME time. It felt so amazing to be traveling again. My sister-in-law Jamie is a fantastic SoCal trip planner and we ate and drank a lot more than we should. Oh, and we would do it all over again in a minute.

My ideal travel companions are my family.

Pharrell Williams

OMG! We are traveling!

It’s true! We are traveling. In fact as I write this we are headed for home later today after a six day visit with my brother Steve and his wonderful wife Jamie (S&J). We have been wined, dined, toured and traveled all over Southern California.

Day 1—Flying South

Let’s start with the flight south from Paine Field in Everett. Never had a flight that went so well. Just a dream. We did have a little bit of a hard time getting a ride to the airport. We tried Lyft first and no dice at 5:45 am. There was a guy at Bellevue who we thought was coming but then he found something closer. Finally we got a superb Uber driver who got us there in no time. And he drove a car with a stick shift. Shocking!

Once at the airport it was about seven minutes from the time we got out of the car until we were sitting at the gate. That’s the wonder of Paine Field. You can see the inside of the lounge between the two gates in the pic above. Boarding was beyond easy and the flight itself was about one third full.

We had paid a little extra for Alaska Air’s premium economy seats and on the Embracer jet we flew on, they were amazing. I am six feet, two and a half inches and I could fully stretch out my legs or cross them without a problem. So much so that I sent photos to my brother and other tall friends to say, “check this out!” See what I mean?

We flew into John Wayne International Airport in Orange County and Steve and Jamie picked us up. Another smallish airport (lots bigger than Everett but MUCH smaller than LAX). We were off the plane and out the door and in their truck within 15 minutes of landing. See what I mean about a great flying experience. We will find out if this continues this evening when we fly home.

After we were picked up we were headed out to lunch. Jamie had made reservations at a restaurant near the airport thinking it would take us a while for us to get our bag and find them but we were out so quickly,  we ended up sitting in the parking lot of the restaurant until they opened. We didn’t mind the early lunch since we had been up since 4:30 am and had coffee and some yogurt at 6:00 am at the airport. There is currently no food service on the plane if you are in economy.

The restaurant we went to was new to us but they had tried to take us there a few years ago and we had to leave because we didn’t know you needed reservations for lunch. We weren’t that worried about going there because it was “just a restaurant.” But then I started my pandemic walking and listening to Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast and he went on and on about the chicken sandwich at a small chain of places called Houston’s and that was the same place we hadn’t gotten into. So this time we really wanted to try it.

We were so glad we did. If you ever find yourself in a city with a Houstons, go there. Order two things—the fried chicken sandwich and the artichokes if they are available. Later that day I said it had almost a perfect lunch because not only had I eaten the best chicken sandwich I had ever consumed, I had also eaten the most amazing artichokes I had ever scarfed down as well. How much did we like it? So much that we are going back for a late lunch/early dinner today before we fly home. What am I going to order? The artichokes and the chicken sandwich. 😀 Maybe I will remember to take pics this time.

After lunch it was back to their house to rest a little, have a little dinner and just get a chance to catch up with them and our niece Cassie and Jamie’s mom Pat (who we love—my brother has the best mother-in-law ever!). It was a great start to what would be a great trip.

Day 2—Doheny Beach and San Juan Capistrano

On Friday we pretty much stuck around the town where they live, San Juan Capistrano (SJC). You may have heard of the town—it’s where the swallows return every year in March. I started the day with a really long (for me–8.9 miles) pre-dawn walk that took me down to the world-famous Doheny Beach (The Beach Boys sang about surfing there). Got some great pics as I hope you will agree.

After a quick breakfast we were off to downtown SJC to tour Mission San Juan Capistrano, one of the 21 California missions that stretch from San Diego to San Francisco. It’s a beautiful historic building with gorgeous gardens so it was great for photos as well.

After the Mission tour we met up with some cruising friends, Eileen and Bob, who live in nearby Cypress. They had journeyed about 30 minutes south to visit with us and it was great to see them and compare travel plans, past travel (we sailed with them to New England in 2018) and just generally catch up. It was a great meal except for the service. Suffice it to say that after complaints to the management while we were there and a blistering letter to the owners by Kathleen after we got back to S&J’s, the manager fired our server. That’s how bad it was. It’s a story best told in person so ask us the next time you see us. The restaurant is called Mayfield (so if you come to SJC, give it a pass). Food was fine but to me that’s almost a negative.

After lunch it was more rest, relaxation, catching up and food back at S&J’s. One thing about going there is you get fed very well. The next day would prove that true beyond a shadow of a doubt. Come back tomorrow to find out more. My fingers are tired now 😀.

We live life in restaurants, it’s the center of social life, where we celebrate with family and friends, make new friends, travel without traveling, and of course, eat.

Philip Rosenthal