Monthly Archives: January 2013

Diving Cozumel, Mexico

While in Mexico a few years ago we took the ferry over to Cozumel to do some diving. Cozumel is renowned for amazing diving and its incredibly clear aquamarine waters. It didn’t disappoint! If you’re thinking about learning to scuba dive or even snorkel while in Mexico, here’s what you might see…

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Moray eel

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Grouper

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Trunk fish

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Spiny lobster

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Muyil Ruins, Tulum, Mexico

If you are looking for an ancient Mayan ruin to visit in the Tulum area that is uncrowded but interesting, be sure and visit Muyil. Located about 25 kilometers south of the town of Tulum on Highway 307, (on the left side of the road), it is usually deserted. This is a great site to visit on a hot summer day as the entire site is in the shade. It would also be a good adventure for children and only costs a few dollars. You feel like Indiana Jones discovering a lost city in the jungle…

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As you’re walking down the stone-strewn paths, keep your eyes open for wildlife and birds. Don’t talk, and listen to what the jungle around you has to say… you’ll be amazed at what you hear.

And if you peek into little caves and crevices you might see… BATS!

(this one’s flying at us!)

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One of the other neat things about Muyil is the boardwalk path from the temple area through the jungle to the lagoon. The vegetation is amazing…

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These ferns were waist high!

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Along the way is a big tower you can climb (if you’re brave enough!) and look out over the jungle. Hmm. Since I don’t have a picture from the top, I think I must have chickened out!

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When you reach the lagoon, strip down and take a quick dip to cool off. You can also hire a boat to take you on a sight-seeing ramble around the lagoon area where you might spy some pretty birds and gators (sorry, but yes, there are alligators in these waters).

We walked out the car road instead of back-tracking through the jungle boardwalk. It pretty much parallels it, so you will end up back on the main road. There are some really neat Mayan rock carvings along the road if you are looking for them.

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This colorful display was at the road when we finally made our way out.

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Plan to spend 2-4 hours and wear good sturdy hiking type shoes. Put these items in your backpack: water (grande), snack or picnic lunch, tissues, hand sanitizer, mosquito repellent, camera, towel and bathing suit if you plan on swimming. I didn’t see bathrooms at the lagoon, so be prepared to go “local”.

Loco Gringo has an informative page on the history of Muyil and their boat tours – check it out at:

http://www.locogringo.com/past_spotlights/dec2002.cfm

That’s all for now ~ Off to the next adventure!

Categories: Travel: MEXICO | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Tulum, Mexico

We have been visiting Tulum, Mexico for the past eight years and I usually snap photos when downtown. An eclectic mix of Americans, Europeans, and Mexicans, Tulum is a colorful and interesting town. There’s a diverse mix of restaurants including Mexican, Italian, French, South American, Thai, Chinese and more so you can always find something new to taste.

tulum streets

The Tulum Ruins on the edge of town is a must-see but I recommend going early in the morning when it’s cooler and before the tour bus crowds start arriving  from Cancun. Pack a backpack with water and a snack, a towel and your bathing suit and walk down the steps to the sugar soft beach to rest and relax in the surf.

Tulum ruins, hori, from water

Here are snapshots from around Tulum “Pueblo” or town. Tulum Beach is about a mile or so away and offers boutique hotels, restaurants, spas and I’ll feature it later.

If you are looking for quality Mexican handcrafts to take home, be sure and visit Mixik on the right side of the road next door to Charlie’s Restaurant. Many of the other little shops have Mexican items that are made in cooperatives inland and then dispersed along the tourist areas. You will find some nice handmade items made by individuals here and there at the shops.

Mixik exterior

mixik blouses

Mixik dead:candles  mixik hori painting, head

mixik pottery

mixik sign corner, vert

mixik vertical pottery:painting

Around town..

pollo bronco sign

sombreros blankets & hammock

Mini super lupitas

Charlie’s Restaurant has been a mainstay in Tulum for years… They generally have local art displayed and a nice show on the weekends. I love their cilantro lime sauce for fish and the mole dishes are a favorite as well.

charlies sign

Charlie!

Charlie

charlie's bouys

Charlies angel face wall

Charlies art wall

charlies bottle wall

Charlies grotesque masks

Charlies guac, chips & tequila sunrise

charlies shell lattice  Corona extra cooler

fish market fish mural

fish market tulum ruins pic

If you see the big ice cream cone, head in for some yummy Italian gelato!

gelato cone

La Nave has also been in Tulum as long as we have been visiting. A year or two ago they switched sides of the street and are now on the right hand side of the road.

La Nave

We like their pescador pizza which has fresh seafood on a hand-tossed crust.

Le Nave italian pizza

Le Nave Pescatora pizza

leather woodburned hangings

medicine plant, serape

mexi blankets hanging

mexi pottery 2

mexi pottery plates

Tulum fruit stand

Tulum banana trees in yard

There’s a little park next to the HSBC bank with these neat Mayan carved statues.

tulum park 2 figure carving

tulum park maya child carving

tulum park maya calendar

tulum park jaguar

tulum park calendar, figure

Tulum, apartments, crazy wires

tulum souvenir shop

tulum ruins mural, tulum

Tulum pink and green house & bouganvilla

A typical Mayan/Mexican local home ranges from a shack to concrete block apartments.

Tulum, Liz & Nett, traditional Maya house

tulum, block apts

Look at those electrical wires! Cetli Restaurant is located a block of the main drag on the right side of the road. We haven’t eaten there but they are highly rated for their gourmet Mexican cuisine.

Tulum, Cetli corner

Urge Taquito is on the right side of the road as you get to Tulum. They are great to go eat at or to get an order to go – for cheap! Their fried fish tacos are great. A condiment bar is in the middle of the restaurant and you can load all your favorite toppings. They also have about six different kinds of sauces. I love their Caribbean sauce which is sweet and soury. Their ceviche is very good.

  Urge billboardUrge ceviche

urge fish tacos

Urge shirt back

Urge specials

Urge palapa tables

Ever wonder where all the old VWs went? To Mexico!

tulum, VW van

weary traveler sign

That’s all for now! Back to the beach on Soliman Bay at our favorite vacation casa, Nah Uxibal… www.nahuxibal.com

Nah Uxibal, Margarita, Canciones from water

red hammock wide view

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Massage by Lucia on Soliman Bay

A Blissful (or recuperative) Massage in Paradise

If you are visiting Soliman Bay, Akumal or Puerto Aventuras for your vacation and looking for a great massage, we have just the person for you – Lucia! We have been coming to Soliman Bay for eight years and met Lucia Perotta on our first trip. She lives in Puerto Aventuras and comes to Soliman Bay to give massages to the vacation rental guests several times a week.

She is Italian and such a joyful spirit, delivering hugs and kisses and “Ciaos” up and down the beach. (We’ve learned that “Ciao” means hello and goodbye). She speaks seven languages including Italian, English, French, Spanish and more so she can converse with most everyone and frequently translates for guests with the residents.

Lucia holding oil

She has a massage palapa located behind Nah Uxibal’s new house on Soliman Bay, or she can come to your house with her massage table or blanket and do your massage under a palm tree by the water. She studied physical therapy in Italy; Japanese Shiatsu and Swedish massage, along with reflexoloy in Cuba; Ayurvedic massage and yoga teacher training in India and Thai massage in Thailand. She is currently launching a “postureology” school in Puerto Aventuras to teach people how their posture affects their body’s health.

Lucia’s massage palapa behind Nah Uxibal’s Ka’an and Lu’um house on Soliman Bay

Lucia and hut, Ka'an wall

Depending on whether you just want a relaxing massage or if you have issues that need addressing, Lucia will use the technique that best suits you. I have heard so many people saying after her massages how much better they felt. My husband and I always have a massage with her when on Soliman Bay, and usually he is so relaxed he is snoozing by the end of his session.

Lucia and Wally

We always email her at luciasempre@hotmail.com the week before we go to Soliman to find out her schedule and let her know to work us in. You can also call her if you have Mexican free calling at: 0052 984 873-5505. Her website with more information and all her services is www.massagelucia.com and you can find and “Like” her on Facebook at “Massage by Lucia”

Lucia massaging wally, beach

Lucia massaging lady

Lucia massaging, water view

She’s like a mermaid in the water and will usually take a quick dip between massages to cool off and get refreshed. If you like to swim, go with her! It’s a treat to watch her in the water!

Lucia just out of water

She’s been doing massage in the area since 1989 and everyone knows and loves her.

Lucia clsup, hut door

Lucia flyers

Lucia’s massage clients usually become friends!

Lucia, Jamie, Wally, Pat, PA

Lucia, pat and jamie, roof

Ciao!

Time for my massage!

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Soliman Bay 2013 at Nah Uxibal

It’s always nice to escape nasty weather in Tennessee in January and we were lucky enough to get an opening at our favorite beach paradise getaway, Nah Uxibal on Soliman Bay in the Maya Riviera of Mexico. www.nahuxibal.com

This was our first time to stay in their new house next door to Nah Uxibal, and we have been enjoying our stay in the top level, Ka’an  (Mayan for Sky). The views are amazing out over the bay and sunrise one morning this week was breath-taking. I opened my eyes, sat up and looked out the window to this…

Soliman Bay Sunrise 1

I grabbed my camera and raced up to the top level and captured this…

Soliman Bay Sunrise pelican patrol

Soliman Bay Sunrise 3

Soliman Bay pelican Sunrise 1

Soliman Bay Sunrise 6

Buenos Dios! Time to wake up,  make the coffee and get ready for another relaxing day on Soliman Bay!

Nah Uxibal from water 7" Yellow hammock, Soliman Bay

Soliman view of beach from pt

Soliman poly palapas & hammock

Soliman footprints along water

Soliman Bay kayakers, sailboat 2

Soliman Bay pelican patrol, clouds

Soliman Bay, Ka'an view to Jashita

Soliman Bay, children in water, view  Soliman Bay sailboat passing

Smugglers Boat vert

Shot glass unfocused

Pelicans over beach

Palm and Palapa, golden light

Nah Uxibal Mimi & guest reading

Nah Uxibal in sand

Ka'an view, turq water, boat

Jamie at Soliman pt

Jashita palapas & roof

Iguana on Palapa top

Eagle Ray in bay by boat

Chamicos shack, smugglers boat

Chamicos palms & table, vert

Big brain coral

bees on chia blooms

2013 in sand

Soliman broken shell

Monkey in tree, vert

Wally walking past Jashita

Wally silhouetted in waves

Monkey in tree, Soliman Bay

red hammock wide view

Siesta Time!

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Yosemite National Park, Spinning Wheel Yosemite VRBO

The last leg of our California trip was a visit to Yosemite National Park. We have been ticking off the major national parks on our bucket list and Yosemite was next. www.nps.gov/yose/

Yose, jamie & wally, Yose falls

We left our friends in Sonoma County and drove Hwy 108 and 120  toward the park. I had investigated places to stay and reserved a VRBO cottage that looked pretty close to the north entrance, Spinning Wheel Yosemite. www.spinningwheelyosemite.com/

I loved this vacation rental complex and would highly recommend it to other travelers that don’t want to stay in the park. It’s about as close as you’re going to get outside the park, but be ready to drive about an hour on the curvy roads. Just so you know. When you turn off the highway to go to Spinning Wheel, it seems like you are driving into a field to nowhere.

We stayed in the Spinning Wheel Cottage, below, and it was perfect for a couple. I enjoyed lounging by the pool with some of the other guests as Wally napped after the drive. They showed me their house, which was really nice for two couples. There are lots of neat carved totem poles and artsy sculptures around the complex, along with a resident peacock that roosted in the trees.

Yose-Our VRBO, Spinning Wheel cottage

Yose-spinn, lion carving

Yose-spinn, metal art girl

Peacock totem pole…

Yose-spinn, peacock totem pole

Yose-Spinning wheel meditation room

Yose, spinn, cat post

Yose, spinn, flower pots

Yose, spinn, hot tub ext idea

Yose, spinn, meditation door

Yose, spinn, peacock:alarm clock

Yose, spinn, river house

Yose, spinn, sunshine house porch

Yose, Spinning, sunshine house

It was a pretty drive from San Francisco, and we passed through the little town of Groveland. There is a family-style diner at the edge of Groveland about 10-15 minutes from Spinning Wheel, and we ate there several times for breakfast and dinner. It was good food and reasonably priced.

When driving into and through Yosemite, especially early in the morning and in the evening, keep a lookout for wildlife. We spied deer and a bear! When we were there in June 2011, they had a record snowfall over the winter and so a record snow melt that spring. That meant the waterfalls were pumping an amazing amount of water! I happened to catch the stream when there was no wind and got a great reflection of Yosemite Falls.

Yose-Yose Falls Reflection

Yose-Wally getting on post

Yose-Wally on post, yose falls

Yose-squirrel

Yose-Wally in rock shrine

Yose-yose chapel

Yose-Yose Falls, first valley view

Yose-Yosemite Falls, hori

Yose-Wally on bridge, yose falls

El Capitan from the valley floor

Yose-Yosemite Valley, looking west

Yose, bees on lavender

Yose-Bridalveil Falls closeup

Yose-Bridalveil mist

There was so much water coming from the falls the path was flooding – this was Bridal Falls

Yose-Bridalveil path, creek flooding

This is one of my favorite pictures – these little girls were SO cute!

Yose-cute Asian girls, Yose Falls path

Yose-El Capitan, waterfall

Yose-Giants, Redwood & Ponderosa PIne

Yose-Jamie & Wally on bridge

Yose-Jamie by river

Yose-Merced River

Yose-moon over valley

There were stray little waterfalls everywhere!

Yose-new waterfall

Yose-another stray waterfall

As we were exiting the park, through one of the campground areas, look what was ambling across the road! BEAR # 1

Yose-Bear #1

Yose-bear crossing road

Yosemite Falls reflection

Yosemite-Sunset at Tunnel View

Sadly, the week we were at the park, three hikers were swept over Vernal Falls and died. They ignored danger signs, crossing the guard rail for a photo op and were swept over the falls and away by the river. It cost them their lives. There were several others that year around Yosemite that died as well in the rivers and falls. PLEASE EXERCISE CAUTION WHEN IN THE PARKS! A COOL PHOTO IS NOT WORTH YOUR LIFE!

Yosemite was our final stop for the trip so we headed back to San Francisco to fly home. We spent the last day driving and stayed at the Inn at Oyster Point just a few minutes from the airport. www.innatoysterpoint.com/ It’s really more like a hotel and offers great views to the marina and is reasonably priced. Our room was very spacious and comfortable, and the airport was five minutes away for our morning departure. We would highly recommend it for other travelers and they offer park and fly for residents.

They were holding a wedding reception the evening we were there so we didn’t get to try their restaurant. We ended up in a fabulous Italian restaurant just a few minutes drive on Grand Avenue – I just can’t remember which one it was! There’s actually several Italian restaurants, as well as others and shopping along Grand.

That’s all for California this time! WE’LL BE BACK!

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Mendocino, Glass Beach and town

Exploring Glass Beach was on my “to-do” list so we loaded up and headed into Mendocino to explore town and the beach. Years ago, town folks threw all their garbage into the ocean and the water eroded the glass items, smoothing and polishing into artful bits before depositing them back onto the beach. Blue and green are the most popular colors and they all make pretty jewelry.

Glass Bch-green glass

Glass Bch-more pebble closeups

This coast line is  spectacular with ice plants blooming and dripping everywhere, seals basking on the rocks and playing in the water and birds soaring about. It was so relaxing to spend a few hours scouring the beach for the pretty glass and enjoying the fabulous June day.

Glass Bch-ice plants dripping off rock

Glass Bch-Jamie and wally 2

Glass Bch-Jamie and wally

Glass Bch-kelp under water  Glass Bch-Net and dogs

Glass Bch-Net with glass

Glass Bch-pelicans going up coast

Glass Bch-pelicans v

Glass Bch-pink & cream ice plants

glass bch-pink ice plants 2

Glass Bch-pink ice plants

Seals! They were so fun to watch!

Glass Bch-seal climbing rock

Glass Bch-seals on rock

Glass Bch-seals on rocks 2

Glass Bch-view up coast

Glass Bch-Wally & Skip

Glass Bch-Wally, skip, net on rock

Glass Bch-Wally, skip, net

Glass Bch-anenomes & kelp

Glass Bch-birds coming over

Glass Bch-cream ice plant, fern

We headed into town to explore the petite historic little town that sits on above the ocean. There’s a road below town that leads out to the ocean’s edge with paths along the cliffs. This is a perfect place to watch the sun set with a picnic and cocktails. What an amazing place!

Mendo- storefront row

Mendo-church steeple

Mendo-church

Mendo-church:organic food

Mendo-butterfly bush-tree

Mendo-calla lily, ferns

Mendo-house & water tower

Mendo-Little River Inn

Mendo-Mendocino Hotel

Mendo-US 1, aqua water

Mendo-water towers

Glass Bch-closeup of pebbles, glass

Mendo-Wally & Skip on brdg

Next stop: Yosemite National Park!

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Mendocino: Tidal pools and abalone diving

Just down the road from The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek is an amazingly beautiful cove with wind and water eroded rocks. At low tide, it reveals a diversity of life amongst the rocks and crevices. It’s thrilling to see all the water creatures clinging to the rocks and the vibrant colors of starfish contorted in the pools.

The flowers along the road were in full bloom and so pretty!

Mendo-lavender & flowers

Here’s a view of the cove from the top of the hill…

Mendo-flowers on bank, vert

Mendo-flowers, scum line

Mendo-cove, tunnel rocks

Mendo-cove, wave coming in

Mendo-cove sand pebbles Mendo-cove with tunneled rock

Mendo-anenome gripping finger

Mendo-anenome, closed

Mendo-anenomes and moss

A heron was hunting for breakfast

Mendo-heron in tide pool

Mendo-jamie on rock, full view

Mendo-kayakers riding wave in

A kelp bed exposed at low tide. I tasted a bit – it was rather rubbery and salty and supposed to be very good for you to eat.

Mendo-kelp beds at low tide

Mendo-little crab on hands

Mendo-little red crab

A bright orange starfish clinging amongst the kelp

Mendo-ochre sea star and kelp

And here was a purple one!

Mendo-purple sea star, frilly kelp

Mendo-sea anenomes covering rocks

Mendo-sea kelp bulb

Mendo-sea kelp bulbs?

Mendo-sea kelps

Mendo-starburst anenome open

Mendo-starburst anenome partial open

Mendo-Wally in tide pool

Mendo-Wally next to tide

Mendo-Wally searching tide pool

Our friend free dives for abalones and had brought his gear along to see if he could bring up some big ones. You have to get a abalone permit and they have to measure a certain size to be able to keep them.

Mendo-Skip ab diving, got one

Mendo-skip diving, legs

  A keeper – we’ll be having fried abalone!

Mendo-Skip with abalone

Mendo-Wally & Skip with ab

Mendo-fresh abalone, 10+"

Mendo-trees on shore

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Russian River Valley to The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek, Mendocino

From Sonoma County, we took a road trip out the Russian River Valley and then north up the California coast on U.S. 1 for a few nights in Mendocino. Where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean there is a great overlook pullout and here’s what we saw – seals basking on the beach below! The flowers along the banks were glorious!

Russian Riv, purp lupines vert

Jamie & Wally, Russ River 2

Seals & birds, Russian River mouth Seals & lupine

Our California friends…

Skip & Jeannette, Russian River

orange flower

purple & white lupines

Jamie US 1 overlook

Calif coast, clear to bottom

U.S. 1, a nice beach cove U.S. 1, yellow lupines on coast

US 1, steep cove

Wally & Skip, US 1 overlook

yellow lupines

We arrived at our destination – The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek for our two-night stay. www.schoolhousecreek.com/

Mendo-Schoolhouse inn sign

Wally waving from our deck – the Captain’s and Whale’s Quarters

Wally, Schoolhouse inn rooms

red clematis

Our room – Captain’s Quarters

Inn at Schoolhouse Captain's Quarters

Schoolhouse, Capt, Whale Quarters

View from our deck to the ocean

view from our deck, schoolhouse

Their massage yurt and hot tub area

Schoolhouse yurt

Some flowers around the grounds…

calla lilly

fuschia shrub

hen and chick giant

bee on yell columbine

purp columbine

Sampling another wine… and it was very good!

Summers bottle, pink flowers Summers wine silhouette

Just outside the dining room window were stumps – before mealtime they would scatter seed and the animals would come a-running, hopping and flying! It was so entertaining to watch them while eating. The breakfast was really delicious and the view to the ocean was nice too.

Mendo-2 chipmunks, rabbit

Mendo-cardinal jay

Mendo, quail, chips

Next up, abalone diving and exploring the tidal pools in the cove down the road, then Glass Beach and Mendocino

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Wine tasting in Sonoma Valley, California

Along with good food, I love wine, and wanted to sample as many as possible while in California wine country. My friend that lives there said she had been wanting to try the Kendall-Jackson wine and food pairing, so we decided to start there.

Kendall Jackson, jamie no sungl

The Kendall-Jackson Winery is in the French Chateau style, and inside, they their wines are available for sale along with wine-related gifts and local art and jewelry. They have wonderful culinary gardens where the chef can gather fresh vegetables and herbs for their food pairing menu. www.kj.com/

Kendall Jackson ext

Here was our menu for  our wine and food pairing experience. Their patio was open for the tasting, so we headed outside to enjoy the California sunshine.

Kendall Jackson menu

What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon! Good wine, food and friends… Cheers!

Here was the lineup…

Kendall, jamie, wine lineup

Kendall-jamie & net 2

Kendall-reds & food

Our chef and wine serving gurus…

Kendall, Jamie and ex chef, staff

  Dessert with a delish riesling

Kendall, Riesling, Chard

Inside in the sales room…

Kendall, door knob stoppers

After our dining/drinking experience, we made a few purchases in the sales room and then headed outside to wander through the gardens.

Their culinary gardens, below

kendall-culinary garden

We decided to make one more winery stop and Paradise Ridge Winery was our next stop. They are a smaller winery and have a fabulous view over Sonoma Valley with some interesting sculptural art on the grounds. www.prwinery.com/

Our server guided us through a few choices to try and we really liked one of their reds.

Paradise wine master

The fabulous view from their patio and tasting room looks over Sonoma Valley. It was a bit hazy that day.

Paradise-vineyards, sonoma valley

Some of their art on the grounds…

paradise-sculpture art

Paradise-vineyard view

“We live here”

Paradise-net pointing to mtn

Me and my purchase for the evening…

Paradise-jamie with bottle, view

While we had been enjoying our wine country experience, the guys had been golfing in the redwoods. We were to meet them at a friend’s for dinner and some more local tasting. The main item on the dinner menu – DUNGENESS CRABS, fresh off the boat from Bodega Bay! Yummmm! And everyone brought things fresh from their gardens to complement the crabs. What a day!

Rons-sink of crabs

Ron with crabs

One of their friends has a small winery and olive orchard  and he brought a sampling of wine and olive oil for us to try. I LOVED their Nico Dolcetto wine…

Rons-local wine

Ron's porch art

One of the neighbors has a wonderful garden and they told me to go check it out before dinner. It was a bit early for her flowers to start blooming, but I enjoyed all of her succulents and all of the cool rusty bits and pieces.

Flowers, fish weathervane

Flowers, iron bed

Flowers, iron beds

Flowers, iron scraps, pots

Flowers, more iron accents

Flowers, troll, hens

Needless to say, with all that divine food and drink, I slept well that night!

Jamie, Kendall Jackson hori

Next adventure… road trip out the Russian River Valley and up the coast to Mendocino!

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