California Dreaming

November 7th, 2016Posted by Nancy

Not very original, but hey, I’ve been sick.  We spent 10 days in California and returned to fever, weird dreams about Escher bodies, architecture and Hillary Clinton.

First stop: San Francisco.  We went to a distillery in a old airplane hangar, to Alcatraz, to a free museum full of arcade games, to the Japanese Tea Garden, to Napa in a mini-van, and walked for miles up and down the hills. I kept imagining what would happen there if it snowed.  You’d step out of your house and slide six blocks down before you could stop…   I reread the wonderful Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber on the plane.  It was the perfect way to put myself in the mood for SF.



We rented a car to drive down Highway 1 from SF to Los Angeles.  First stop was the amazing Winchester Mystery House.  This place figures in Earthquake Weather by Tim Powers, but I did not have time to reread that before the trip. (And on the trip we were asleep by 10:00 every night so very little reading was done.)  Unfortunately they don’t let you take pictures inside but it was surprisingly comfortable, once you got around the stairs that ended in ceilings and doors to nowhere.


We had perfect weather for the drive down the coast, from Pacific Grove to Cayucos.  The driver in the party reports that the experience was quite satisfying – and not nearly as nerve-wracking as the unexpected drive over the mountains to Santa Barbara in the dark.  Note to self: Doublecheck the real names of the roads before following the Google map.  “Highway 154” seems harmless – “San Marco Pass” does not. Also, Santa Barbara does not believe in streetlights. Or pedestrians.

Hearst Castle was a “must-see” for the trip and we spent most of a day there. It’s grand, overstuffed, and weirdly impractical (those small, twisty staircases must have been fun after a glass of wine).  I’d happily stay in one of the “cottages”, though.  I especially liked that fact that all couples travelling together got two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a sitting room.  It was clearly assumed that no one actually slept together.


On to LA. We stayed just south of Wiltshire Boulevard, in an area of 1920s and 1930s homes. It felt very “LA” and actually allowed us to walk to LACMA, the LaBrea Tar Pits, and the Petersen Car Museum.  We also went to the Getty and the Broad, to make up for all the art we didn’t see in SF.

Below is a lovely diorama from the LaBrea Tar Pits, because it’s the dream of every fossil-loving child to see a sabre-tooth tiger killing a giant sloth. 


We had a great trip – but I don’t think I’d want to live there. It’s perilous enough in Canada.



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