Tag Archives: adventure

Los Olivos and High School Friends

Los Olivos and High School Friends

Left home at 4:30 on a Wednesday morning to bypass SF and San Jose rush hour traffic on my way south on 101 to Los Olivos, just beyond Santa Maria. Highway 101 is so much easier on my 1994 Volvo than Highway 5 (in gray) because on the travel speed is a temperate 65, not the 85 mph demanded on the 5.

As I approached Salinas, daylight was just cresting above the Gabilan mountains to the east, a silver ribbon outlining the gray ridge, then trimmed by overhead rows of gray clouds of varying stripes. The Coastal mountains on the right grew brighter as the sun rose and I pulled into Salinas to enjoy breakfast at Dudley’s.

Salinas at Daybreak

After breakfast I walked around for a few blocks and admired the creativity of the Hallowe’en decorations in a downtown alley.

At 10 am there was no one in my lane for as far and the eye could see, forward or backward. The drive was beautiful and meditative, and around noon I stopped in Santa Margarita, high in the mountains and still shrouded in fog, even though it is just 10 miles straight uphill from San Luis Obispo. At about 3 pm I met up with my friends at the VRBO in Los Olivos and we visited some of the shops and wine tasting rooms.

Rocking my Moroccan Bag in Downtown Los Olivos Which is Three Blocks Long

I cooked up a quiche for our first night, and on our second and final night we visited restaurant Bar le Côté.

At Bar Le Côté: Regina, Jane, and Moi

Shopping at Garden Supply in Los Olivos

We hadn’t seen each other in ten years, since the 50th high school reunion that we organized. It was such a pleasure to catch up and to fill in the blanks about how we got to where we were. They spoke about what they felt when they visited my house when we were in high school.

Jane: your mother seemed like a child.

Regina: your father was handsome but very scary. Manipulative.

It was such a relief to feel seen and understood. Because I departed at 10 am, the Friday afternoon trip took seven and a half hours but I enjoyed digesting all the insights and camaraderie.

Great trip.

RDS Visits Chateau d’Anet

RDS Visits Chateau d’Anet

I laughed out loud when I got to the end of the photos sent by Bob DeStefano, who I worked with at Grey Advertising in the 1960s.

RDS visits Anet, France, Home of Diane de Poitiers

Bob and his wife love to travel in “places where we don’t need inoculations or health insurance” referring to my recent visit to Morocco. He said:

We drove west from CDG airport and our very first stop on our first day was the très charmant village of . . . (drumroll) . . . Anet! Yes, a real typically French charmer about 45 miles due west of Paris. And it’s even pronunced with the “t” . . . Ah-Net. It has all the small village amenities . . . cafés, boulangeries, restaurants, quaint houses, hôtels, and a street-level, mostly-ruined château.

We planned for it to be our first stop and we were immensely pleased when we saw it. We stayed over in the hotel shown on the road sign. Needless to say, you MUST go there. Attached are some of the reasons why. You’ll love the last photo.

Diane de Poitiers in Aix en Provence

Chateau d’Anet was the location for the opening sequence in “Thunderball” and Bob and I had a lively Email exchange about Diane being a pistol. I shared that, about six weeks earlier, when I was in Aix-en-Provençe, I discovered this portrait of her, donated in 1860 as part of a private collection from Bourguignon de Fabregoules. It is of Diane as an “allegory of peace” and shows her holding the dove of peace in one hand and an olive branch in the other. Notice the shadows that the nipples create… The name of the painter is unknown.

Bob said, “There is a small museum across the street from the château where we got the full lowdown on Diane & Henri.”

Frankfurt – Getting Started

Frankfurt – Getting Started

Hauptbahnhof Train Station in Frankfurt

I arrived Tuesday 20 June 2023 feeling nervous. I had tried to memorize YouTube video on how to get from Flughaven (flight harbor) to Haupbahnhof on my own. The RMV ticket machines were not really in English but luckily I was right by a ticket office. S-bahn (suburban light rail) to Hauptbahnhof was easy and I went straight to Tourist Info office for good help and lots of brochures.

I had been fretting that the reservation that I had PAID for a month in advance would not be honored. 180€ per night 540€ total. Had to walk down Muchener Strasse narrow, dirty, crowded but room on top floor, delightfully chilly, interesting shower

I was so hot in the muggy June weather, schlepping the bags wearing long sleeves, a vest and two shirts. I took a cold shower and set out cruising for Euros, beer and dinner. Got 250€ from the train station ATM which perfectly charged my Wells Fargo savings account $332.51. Found a doner place with outside seating and sat next to Evan from Australia who helped me order a delicious meal and a lager beer. The restaurant only offers one kind of beer because muslims frown on drinking and it is called “pils.”

Frankfurt gets its name from being a shallow place to cross the river (a ford).

The weather was clear on Wednesday, the Summer Solstice, so I visited the top of the tallest building in Frankfurt, the Main (mine) Tower. Instead of taking Rick Steves walking tour through the red light district, I waited 25 minutes for hop-on/hop-off bus but gave up and walked the 15 minutes, past the Euro offices to Main Tower, afterwards visiting the lobby of the adjacent building to see the Bill Viola video artwork in the lobby.

Main Tower (Tallest) Römerberg center foreground, Big Red Paulskirche on right (stock photo)

Frankfurt is a Financial Capital

I was hoping to get a sense of direction from the top of the tower but I could not see Römerberg (center foreground in stock photo above) because it was blocked by a new skyscraper is being built, but I was happy to see the train station.

HauptBahnHof from Main Tower

From the Top of Main Tower with Main River in Background

I was surprised, when I was making lodging reservations for Frankfurt, that the price I had to pay was triple the going rate week before and for my visit few rooms were available. I am guessing what drove up the rates was the summer solstice food event at Opera Platz which I could see setting up from the Main Tower. I checked out Opera Platz t was still before noon when I walked through the fancy shopping district of Zeil or Hauptwache or Konstablerwache before took the S-bahn back to hotel for nap. At 3:30 took the hotel desk recommended taking the U-bahn (oo-bon, underground city metro) to Rómerberg which was efficient but traveling underground didn’t give me any orientation. My jet lag was kicking in despite buzzing from the strong, delicious morning coffee. I was disregulated and tired.

OperaPlatz was a Summer Festival

Kaiserdom – St. Bartholomew’s

I intended to eat at Kleinmarkthalle, but I didn’t realize it was behind me, across Berliner Strasse in Altstadt (New Old Town). The U-bahn put me in Römerberg, rebuilt in 1983 to look like the half-timbered houses of yore. It may have been intended as a gesture toward history but it is more like a purpose-built tourist attraction and I was overcharged 8,50€ for a curry-wurst.

Holy Roman Emperors were elected at St. Bartholomew’s, called Kaiserdom (Imperial Great Church) locally. Portable artwork survived the Allied bombing in WWII and I finally grasped that the very old, carved altarpieces were designed to be portable, painted on both sides so they are beautiful even when closed.

Römer is the Town Hall which faces central statue of the goddess of justice without her customary blindfold. This market square was the birthplace of the city where trade fairs were held as far back is the 12th century. Banking in Frankfurt dates back to 1405. Today the Römer houses the city council and mayor’s offices.

I also visited the big red St. Paul’s Church (Paulskirche) which was destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt. A smaller church told the story of Martin Luther in the 1500’s and is a stop on a Luther pilgrimage route. I was headed toward the river to cross Eiserner Steg footbridge. Looking back, I could see the Röm. I considered walking over to the area with the nice restaurants (Sachsenhausen) but I was tired and saved that for another day.

Römerberg – Justice is Not Blind

Plaque on Exterior of St. Paul’s [Paulskirche] Rebuilt in 1944

Eiserner Steg Footbridge with View of the Dom (two photos side-by-side)

I share the hope of many who venture across dark waters to meet people from different cultures and languages. This Greek inscription from Homer’s Odyssey might allude to Frankfurt’s beginnings as the furt (ford) where the Franks (early French people) crossed the river to reach the marketplace.

“while sailing over the wine-dark sea to men of strange speech.”

Greek Inscription on Eiserner Steg

Marseille – 2023

Marseille – 2023

At Bus Rest Stop On The Way from Lyon to Marseille

The Berkeley Folk Dancing group finished the boat tour in Lyon and took a coach to Marseille on Monday, 3 July and had a minute of trouble getting to the Hotel Mercure because of civil unrest troubling the city. Protests against police brutality in the Paris suburbs escalated to opportunistic looting in the commercial sections of Marseille and our hotel was right downtown in centre-vieux-port. The desk waved us away from the main Cours Canebière for the entire four-day stay. We were steps from the archeological site of the Port Antique and the adjacent Musèe d’Histoire, but they were closed down due to the unrest.

Marseille is the oldest city in France, founded about 600 BC by Greek settlers. It is today the second largest city in France with a population of nearly two million with a whopping 20% immigrants, half of whom are from North Africa especially Algeria, a French colony until 1962.

Camargue Marsh on Left, Dots Outline Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. To the right, Calanque Cliffs

Museum of Soap where Lynne Personalized Her Bar of Soap

About six centuries ago, Marseille was famous for french-milled soap and the second thing I did was visit the Musée du Savon. The first thing was to visit the Tourist Information and have them show me on the map the location of the two restaurants Google suggested for the best bouillabaisse.

Lynne from Canada joined me on the search for the best bouillabaisse, but the restaurants were reeling from the rampages the previous two nights. Not only had the storefronts of the luxury shops been vandalized, but also the glass wind barriers surrounding the bistro tables outside the restaurant. A shaken woman at La Daurade, 8 rue Fortia explained that while they served lunch, they did not know if they would open for dinner at 7 pm because the marauding gangs roamed at night.

We were too hungry to wait until then so Lynne and I had charcuterie at Pub Le Shamrock on the edge of the harbor and returned the following night to enjoy their bouillabaisse. It is just steps away from Chez Loury at 3 rue Fortia, also recommended by Google.

Bouillabaisse at La Daurade, 8 rue Fortia in Marseille.


Notre Dame de la Garde

The next day we set out by coach to visit the jewel Our Lady of Protection, the well-loved church of the faithful of Marseille which dazzles in comparison with the cathedral near the waterfront which is unadorned inside. As you can see below, the church nicknamed “Belle Mère” dominates the skyline.

Marseille sailboats

Harbor of Marseille featuring Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde on top of Hill

Berkeley Folk Dancing About To Visit Notra-Dame-de-la-Garde

Interior of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde with Hanging Ships as Prayers for Protection

The devotion in the south of France to the feminine face of God comes from the tradition that, after the crucifixion of Jesus on political charges, his known followers had to flee for their own safety. This is a detail of the mosaic over the altar that shows the small, single-sail boat that tradition tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene used to reach the area they call Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the dotted area in the Camargues marsh in the map above. There is a huge church in Paris, the Madeline, in honor of Mary Magdalene.

Detail of Mosaic over the Altar of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde


Walking Marseille

Here’s a quick zoom of some of the highlights. The city has an underground reservoir of fresh water and they show it off with this lavish fountain.

Marseille Fountain over City Water Supply

In the late 1800s an impressive cathedral was built near the waterfront so visitors could instantly be impressed with the power and wealth of the church and the city. Unfortunately, the cathedral is not popular with the people and it is unadorned inside.

Marseille Cathedral near Waterfront

Bougainvillea in Marseille Alley

One of the special treats on our walking tour was a visit to Cafe 13 (the number of the Marseille department) where our guide Dominique taught us the customs around “pastis” which is pronounced with the final S. The waiter put a bottle of tap water and two small tumblers in front of each of us and poured us a 1/2 inch of Ricard and Jayot. He showed us how to dilute it (3:1) and we had a taste test between the two top brands. Horrible both, Ricard less so, but I really appreciated learning about the custom.

There are many beautiful alleys and this steep one with stairs sported a magnificent bougainvillea. I could not resist a very-Marseille selfie.

We also visited the former poorhouse, a hospice for indigent women and children, La Vielle Charité which has restored its magnificent three-story cloisters. Part of it is now an art museum with separate admission so we didn’t visit that. I took a selfie in front of the building, too.

La Vieille Charité Cloisters

Hospice de la Charité

Dominique told us an riveting story about the prehistoric cave at the foot of a Calanques cliff with a below-water entrance that was discovered by the diver Cosquer. Because he tended to be a braggart, people didn’t believe his claims until he produced a photograph that showed a painted handprint on the wall.

Cosquer Museum on Marseille Waterfront – David Hillis photo

We were spellbound as Dominique told us that when the archeologists realized the magnitude of Cosquer’s find, they had to become scuba divers in order to visit the site. Cave diving is very dangerous and two divers lost their way and ran out of air, perishing. Many of us were so intrigued we visited the museum, and the next day Dominique revealed to me that she has written an novel about the cave called “La Main Immortelle” and she showed me on her phone a website featuring the book with the hand on the cover.


Lake Hennessey-2023

Lake Hennessey-2023
Lake Hennessey April 2023

I’m on the left, our leader Joachim Vobis is center. Photo by Howard Clair.

According to our leader, we had 10 kayakers, approx 8 miles, approx 3 hrs. moving time.


Liam joined on the paddle and enjoyed the much higher water. When we paddled Lake Hennessey before the water was so low we could paddle through a tunnel that went under the encircling roadway. This time, the tunnel was not even visible!

We stopped for lunch at our regular place with the nice dirt beach and the port-a-potty, across the lake from the put-in. The weather was cool to start for this mid-April day and overcast, but the sun came out before lunch and the day was superb. I enjoyed the vigorous lunchtime discussion of electric cars with engineer Joachim.

Is is bigger than a breadbox?

Justin, Frank, Joachim, Howard

Christmas The Villages 2022

Christmas The Villages 2022

Lily and her Christmas tree in The VillagesMary Rose picked me up at Orlando airport on Sunday morning, the day after my birthday. I had flown all night, more than 2,700 miles, so that I could meet Lily’s “parents” before they left on a cruise with several other of Mary Rose’s friends. About a month earlier, MR realized that she wanted all the dogs to be cared for but she could manage only three and there were four who needed looking after, so she sent an Email invitation to several siblings. I was the one who said yes and spent about $1,000 on r/t air tickets for the chance to spend two weeks at The Villages at Lily’s residence, with the use of a golf cart thrown in. Peggy sweetened the pot with a birthday gift of $500 to defray some of the costs, and the folks whose house and dog I was taking care of said they would offer some payment.

The house was really nice, walking distance from MR’s but overlooking a different lake — one with two fountains. The lanai was L-shaped, double-pane windows to the floor so Lily could look out to water on both sides of the lanai, nice privacy from neighbors on the other side of the lake. The home was a perfect constant temperature with no noisy furnace. (Mine sounds like a jet engine.) Granite-top decorator kitchen, nice television with Amazon Prime and PBS streams. I watched the first seven episodes of “The Periphal” on the first day of the temperature plunge.

The mercury plummeted in most of the country for seven days, cancelling all the outdoor events at The Villages including dancing, swimming and pickle ball. Mary took me to see a near-deserted Spanish Springs just as the freeze started.

Mary Rose Hated the Appearance of My Hair

On the night of the solstice we had a disastrous dinner, but the next morning we went to a party at 9 a.m. and to see ‘Avatar 2″ in 3-D, followed by a walk around another lake.

Don’t Feed The Alligators!

Lily got lots of walks: morning, afternoon, and I was surprised to discover I needed a flashlight at night because there are no street lights! She would get an early outing, breakfast, then a long walk, often all the way around the lake.

It would be hard to describe how quiet it was on Christmas morning at The Villages when the temperature was so low. Perhaps this image of one of the main lakes will tell the story. There are birds perched on the tops of the pilings of a long-gone pier that once thrust into the cold, silvery water.

Lily vigorously sampled the frosty scents, such a change from the normally redolent fragrances of other canine visitors, golf course, and gas-powered golf carts. Trotting around with her in the absence of other dogs was a pleasurable meditation.

Our solstice dispute meant we each spent Christmas alone, but we joined each other for Boxing Day Trivia Night where I met Ted’s son, Kevin, visiting from Rio de Janiero.

On my final day, Mary Rose and I enjoyed the Marketing Trolley Ride to all the new construction becoming available. I learned that more than 80,000 people live in The Villages which covers more than 70 square miles over three counties and boasts more than 700 holes of golf. Cait joined us for a sunset boat ride.

At 3:15 a.m. the next morning, the airport van collected me six hours before my scheduled 9 a.m. departure. The flight was delayed one hour, but it took a very long time to get through TSA. I got on line about 6:30 a.m. and MCO airport split the line at 7 a.m. as new TSA inspection stations were opened. The seven-hour daytime flight offered no food or alcohol, just some cookies. San Francisco experienced five inches of rain on the day we landed, but the landing was perfect. The wait for Airport Express was impacted by the rain, however, with some serious flooding in parts of the city.

I was very glad to see my neighbor Kiki at about 4:30 p.m. on the drizzly New Year’s Eve, picking me up at STS. I’m glad I got to experience The Villages. About a week later I was pleased to receive $350 and a nice note from the homeowners.

Asian Art Museum – 2022

Asian Art Museum – 2022
Bernice Bine Mural Asian Art Museum

Bernice Bing Mural with Dianne, Pat and Nanette

The OLLI Art Club visited the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on Saturday 19 November. Nanette collected us at Pat’s condo and drove us there on a beautiful autumn morning.

Jade Money Tree

We were delighted to find a Christmas bazaar on the ground floor with many wonderful textiles from around the world, but the exotic treasures on the third floor captivated us. We delighted at the sight of the rare 3,000 year old Bronze Age Chinese rhino, and I loved this jade “money tree” crafted from intricately carved wafers of jade. I wonder if the wafers themselves were used as currency?

We struggled with the audio app that we downloaded: it was hard to figure out how to use it, and the text was gray on a white background, typical design by young artists who don’t realize that aging eyes lose contrast (which is why you see Emails from your grandparents written in bold). The third floor has art from South Asia, the Persian World and West Asia, Southeast Asia, the Himalayas and the Tibetan Buddhist art as well as the fabled Chinese jade.

The architectural mash-up of the neoclassical library and the new museum is always a delight. I urged my friends to ascend in the glass elevator and descend on the semi-exterior escalators, then through the almost hidden doors to the magnificent marble stairway in the center of the old library and the stunning, renovated Samsung Hall.

Bronze Age Chinese Rhino Asian Art Museum

Bronze Age Chinese Rhino

We were able to get the $27 value tickets through Sonoma Library Discover and Go which was a learning experience. The tickets need to be reserved, and the reservation held until a day to two before the actual visit, when it needs to be cancelled or printed. If you print it at the time of reservation, you can’t cancel it and because there are limited number of spaces allocated, you deprive someone of using it if your plans change and you can’t go. Worse, you use up your own allotment of free tickets through the service. Nevertheless, we figured out how to use and it it was great!

Dianne had researched luncheon options and she chose Chao Pescao at 272 McAllister Street, just a few steps from the museum. The decor and food was wonderful! A very successful day.

Chao Pescao San Francisco

Dianne and Nanette at Chao Pescao

Walker Creek 2022

Walker Creek 2022

Justin organized a Walker Creek paddle because the optimum tides of about 5 feet would occur at about noon. This time Wayne joined us for his first paddle of Walker Creek.
walker creek put in

We pulled our boats to a small gravel island when we stopped for lunch, but they were nearly afloat when we returned.
Walker Creek Pt Reyes

We hiked up a hill to enjoy lunch, and checked out the trees on the river bank, some with sweeping arrays of Spanish moss.

Walker Creek can be truly magical with the sunlight reflecting off the water creating dancing lights on the tree trunks.

Justin brought his loppers and cut back many of the large branches to clear a way for us and for the stand-up paddle-boarders we saw. The large river otters were not pleased with our intrusion!

I brought hand clippers and enjoyed the stability of my wide kiwi as I trimmed the smaller branches in our path. The nimble kiwi was great maneuvering around the snags, but a lot of work to paddle on the open stretches near the put-in. Justin in his canoe was paddling two strokes to every one of Wayne’s in his beautiful, slim ocean boat, and I was paddling two strokes to every one of Justin’s! The sun came out and it was a beautiful day. I was surprised at how little birdsong there was.

Santa Rosa City Bus

Santa Rosa City Bus

About a month ago I got a special Bay Area clipper card and I wanted to make sure it worked, so I took the #6 bus by my house to Coddingtown Mall. I transfered to the #17 to get a ride to the SmartTrain, and I nearly missed the train! The conductor held it for me and I ran for it. Couldn’t figure out how to tag in, so I got off at central Santa Rosa expecting a return train momentarily. Nope. I read the schedule wrong. There would be a bus before the next train.

Nope. The return train came and went and I was still standing at the bus stop, watching in amazement as a “Not In Service” drove by at the scheduled time. Still, my chances of getting a ride to a stop close to home were with the bus so I waited for the next one. Learned about how wheel chairs and latched onto the bus. The driver has to unlatch. The wheelchair guy got off my bus in time to catch the 4 p.m. train to Santa Rosa North. I rode around to Piner High and another passenger and I unhappily discovered the “Not In Service” bus ahead of us, waiting at the bus stop just past the school entrance.

My bus pulled in behind, and the kids, approaching from the rear of the bus, all got on my bus. No one got off at my stop, they pretty much all went to Coddingtown Mall.

Number 6 Bus

What did I learn? The #6 bus drives back and forth between the two malls: downtown and Coddington, passing Oliver’s and Piner High on the way. The #15 bus is a waste — the stop is too far from the train station. It is easier to walk to the SmartTrain from Coddingtown through the apartments. I picked up bus schedules for the County buses to see if there is any way to park-and-ride to avoid $5 parking at SSU. So far, the schedules are impossibly difficult, arriving at campus 5 minutes after class start times.

I have been wanting to ride that bus for 20 years because I couldn’t figure out, by looking at it, what the route was. I’m glad I did it.

Moss Landing Labor Day 2022

Moss Landing Labor Day 2022

It was already getting very hot on the Sunday in Labor Day weekend, and temperatures of 115° were predicted for Monday and Wednesday in Santa Rosa.

Excessive Heat Warning – Santa Rosa got to 115° on two days

I did not want to attempt the 5 hour drive on Labor Day on two-lane Highway One, so I left a day earlier and on Sunday morning I drove through San Francisco and took the 17 through Los Gatos to Moss Landing which was hotter and slower than I hoped. A lot of San Franciscans were heading to the beach. I stayed at the Inn at Moss Landing Point, on the third floor overlooking Hwy 1. the double-pained glass tamed the road noise and the corner room was light and airy. Terrific comfortable king-size bed, $154 for the night.

Arrived at about 1 p.m., too early to check in, so parked in the shade and stowed my bags behind the reception desk and walked across the street to the Moss Landing Cafe for a delicious fish meal for about $25. It was so good I went back the next day for a sensational breakfast.

Great Fish Shack in Moss Landing

Before my yummy breakfast, I was treated to this beautiful sunrise over Elkhorn Slough, an estuarine wetland that I have paddled at king tide.

Moss Landing Sunrise over Elkhorn Slough

The drive to Esalen from Moss Landing was estimated at 90 minutes, but it was Labor Day and very hot, even for the beach. I stopped for a hike at Soberanes Canyon in Garrapata State Park.

Finding the turnoff was tricky and I made a dangerous left turn when I found it. The hike was hot at the start, but there was a wonderful cool redwood grove at the top, surrounding a creek.

Soberanes Canyon Trailhead