Wednesday Postcard: Sea Otter in Monterey Bay

a sea otter in Monterey Bay

Hello! This week’s carte postale features a sea otter swimming in Monterey Bay! In 2015, my family and I got to watch sea otters swim and play at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

In a previous Wednesday Postcard post featuring Cannery Row in Monterey, I had mentioned that I’d love to visit the central coast city again once it’s been deemed safe to travel. The State of California officially reopened on June 15, 2021, so my family and I decided to visit Monterey last Saturday!

Driving south along Highway 1 (California State Route 1), you know you’re getting closer to Monterey when you start to see sand dunes in the aptly-named town of Sand City.

Sand City | June 26, 2021

Face masks are still required here.

Monterey | June 26, 2021

My younger daughter was more than happy to pilot the paddleboat we rented at El Estero Lake.

Monterey | June 26, 2021

In the middle of the lake, there’s a tiny island where pretty birds like to hang out.

Monterey | June 26, 2021

Dennis the Menace Playground includes an actual locomotive. Until 2012, children were allowed to play in it.

This low-rise building was built in 1843 to become the first French Consulate in Mexican Alta California. Today, it’s the Monterey Visitors Center.

Monterey | June 26, 2021

Although the pieces were small (and pricey), I couldn’t resist trying the rose-flavored Turkish delight and the traditional honey and pistachio baklava by Troya, a small shop on Cannery Row.

A serene scene in Monterey Bay…

sailboat in Monterey Bay
Monterey | June 26, 2021

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, take care!

Over the years, I have accumulated hundreds of postcards from around the world, which I’ve either purchased from my local antique shops or received from thoughtful jet-setting family and friends who know I collect them. When I travel, I also like to send myself a carte postale just for fun!

I hope these postcards will make you want to revisit a favorite vacation spot or to embark on a journey to the destination of your dreams (when it’s safe to travel freely again, of course!)

If you’ve been to the destination featured, tell me about your experience there – I’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday Postcard: The Exploratorium in San Francisco

©️1983 The Exploratorium

Hello! This week’s postcard features “Words and Colors” from the Illusions and Other Surprises Postcard Exhibit at The Exploratorium, San Francisco’s Museum of Science, Art, and Human Perception.

Instructions:

“Read this card aloud — but rather than reading the words, say the color of ink that was used to write each word. It’s not easy; the written words have a surprisingly strong influence over the actual color. The Exploratorium’s Language exhibits let you explore some of the patterns of meaning you make with words, sounds, and symbols.”

San Francisco (2017)

I enjoy visiting museums and I’m glad to see many of them gradually reopening after being closed since the pandemic began.

From 1969 to 2012, the Exploratorium was located at the Palace of Fine Arts. In April 2013, it opened its doors at its new location: Fisherman’s Wharf at Piers 15 and 17.

The Exploratorium is a popular school field trip destination, too! I went as an elementary school student, and in recent years, my daughters have gone there with their classes. I was even a chaperone for one of their field trips to the interactive museum.

There are hundreds of educational, entertaining, and hands-on exhibits at the Exploratorium. My favorites include:

  • Sip of Conflict (video)

Over the years, I have accumulated hundreds of postcards from around the world, which I’ve either purchased from my local antique shops or received from thoughtful jet-setting family and friends who know I collect them. When I travel, I also like to send myself a carte postale just for fun!

I hope these postcards will make you want to revisit a favorite vacation spot or to embark on a journey to the destination of your dreams (when it’s safe to do so, of course!)

And if you’ve been to the destination featured, tell me about your experience there – I’d love to hear from you.

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, stay well!

Wednesday Postcard: Gilroy, California

Photo by M. Hawk

Bonjour! This week’s carte postale features the Old City Hall in Gilroy, located about 79 miles/ 127 km south of San Francisco, California.

The Old City Hall is located at 7410 Monterey Street in Gilroy. The “1905” on the building represents the date construction began. It was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but it was renovated in 1994. Today, it’s a restaurant aptly named Old City Hall Restaurant.

Known as the Garlic Capital of the World, Gilroy hosts the popular 3-day Gilroy Garlic Festival that takes place every year during the last weekend in July.*

Their famous garlic ice cream is my favorite! When served in a chilled cantaloupe bowl, it’s refreshingly sweet, with just the right amount of kick from the savory garlic! 🧄

For more information:

Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park

Gilroy Garlic Festival *(returns July 2021)

Gilroy Welcome Center

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, à bientôt!

7 Words Francophiles Never Want to Hear

“Your flight to Paris has been cancelled.”

These are words that Francophiles, like moi, never want to hear!

Due to Storm Dennis, my connecting flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Paris was cancelled.

Safety first, my head says.

Think about the people who are experiencing strong wind, heavy rain, and flooding, or worse, my head says.

Yes, but my aching heart cries, Oh, c’mon! What a letdown!

In addition, LHR was experiencing technical issues so they put out large white boards to communicate flight information! Not a good travel day.

airline’s website on 16 February 2020

Because of severe weather conditions in the area, I had assumed other carriers were also grounding and canceling flights out of LHR that day.

I was terribly disappointed.

Reluctantly, I accepted the airline’s offer of a new flight to Paris leaving the following day. While I was happy to be rebooked, this new flight gave me only about an hour to catch my flight from Paris to my third/final stop on my journey.

Per their policy, the airline gave us weary, stranded travelers the following:

  • a voucher for a one-night stay at an airport hotel, breakfast included
  • vouchers for light refreshments from airport concession stands and restaurants
  • vouchers for shuttle rides to/from the airport

It was windy and cold at the shuttle stops. Add frustration and confusion and you get a chaotic scene!

For instance, a few shuttles didn’t stop at their designated spots so people had to sprint back and forth. Some people boarded a shuttle only to be told they were on the wrong one. Still others had to wait for the “next one” as each shuttle filled to capacity quickly.

Seize the Day

Eventually, I accepted the fact that my plan to visit Paris (for a few hours, at least) failed.

Perhaps spending a night in London instead was meant to be! Going with the flow, I decided to make the most of my impromptu layover in London!

Picnic By the Pond at Marin French Cheese in Petaluma

the locals call it simply “the Cheese Factory”

The Marin French Cheese Company is located on a dairy farm in Hicks Valley, near the city of Petaluma, California, about 40 miles/ 64 km north of San Francisco.

a bridge over Sonoma Creek

Since they have been at this location since 1865, Marin French Cheese has earned the distinction of being the longest continually operating cheese company in America.”

If the circular red and black logo looks familiar, it’s because Marin French Cheese was the producer of a variety of premium, hand-crafted French cheeses sold under the brand, “Rouge et Noir” which means “red and black.” They started using the name, “Marin French Cheese” in 2013.

Their award-winning creamy Brie, earthy Camembert, and savory Schloss (with a light orange-colored rind) can be found in many major grocery stores in the United States, as well as online.

My family and I recently enjoyed a picnic by the pond. We purchased everything we needed for an easy picnic from their deli: an 8 oz. wheel of their traditional Brie, salami sandwiches, mini plastic bottles of wine, pasta salad, and a bag of baguette slices.

We found a picnic table in the shade! We were close enough to see these three ducks attempt some synchronized swimming:

For more information and to watch their 4-minute video, visit the Marin French Cheese website. 🧀

Good Vibes Only at the Seaside Town of Capitola

In Capitola, California, a seaside town about 76 miles/ 122 km south of San Francisco on the coast of Monterey Bay, you can imagine you’re somewhere in the Mediterranean! Look at these colorful houses!

I’d love to learn how to Stand Up Paddleboard, like this girl on the creek

This picture was taken from the Capitola Wharf. The colorful houses are on the left.

Only a few steps away from the beach, you’ll find boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants in Capitola Village. For example:

You can feast on the freshest seafood! Enjoy outdoor patio seating while you have lunch at Zelda’s On the Beach:

fried calamari and fries

A trip to a seaside town wouldn’t be complete without some saltwater taffy. I like maple bacon flavor! Pick your favorites from the over 70 flavors at Carousel Taffy & Treats:

Remember your day trip to Capitola and pick up some souvenirs from the cute shops in Capitola Village, like this shirt from Capitola Reef:

Positive message: Good Vibes Only

… or this postcard from a boutique called Sea Level (which the shop owner confirmed was located at actual sea level!):

I can’t get enough of the colorful houses! Here’s another look:

Tell me in the comments below: What’s your favorite seafood? What’s your favorite saltwater taffy flavor?

Salesforce Park: San Francisco’s Newest Rooftop Park Reopens

In August 2018, a four-block long rooftop park above the Salesforce Transit Center in downtown San Francisco welcomed its first visitors, but had to close several weeks later when they found some structural damage. After about nine months of repair work, Salesforce Park reopened on July 1, 2019.

You can ride the gondola UP to the park:

…But to go DOWN, take the elevator or escalator:

Here are some plants and flowers at the Park:

Manzanita

Agave: the source plant of tequila

Alstroemerias

Dragon tree at Salesforce Park in San Francisco

Fun for the family:

It’s actually a Starbucks!

Free yoga, guided meditation, and cardio exercise classes are held on the grass in front of the amphitheater:

Building segments are connected by seismic separation joints like this one, which will move during an earthquake

What kind of bird is this?

This cute bird was near the aloe plants:

If you know what kind of bird this is, please let me know in the comments below!

Watching Apollo 11 on the Moon Landing’s 50th Anniversary

Today, July 20, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. Many celebratory events are happening this weekend, including special screenings of the 2019 documentary, Apollo 11. I’m not sure why, but coincidentally, the three theaters near me had the same showtime of 3 in the afternoon. Could it represent the three astronauts: Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins?

My family and I went to The New Parkway Theater in Oakland, a quirky, but cozy place filled with mismatched sofas, couches, and chairs. They claim to be one of the greenest movie theaters and I can see why.

For example, if you buy tickets online, they discourage you from printing them. At the concession stand, they serve popcorn in reusable plastic bowls. If you order Italian soda or kombucha, it’s served in a glass. They offer cloth napkins that were likely washed in unscented and organic laundry detergent. My Starbucks in a paper cup felt like contraband, which I managed to smuggle in without incident, thankfully.

quirky, yet cozy seating

When the movie ended, we were inspired to see the USS Hornet (CV-12), the actual carrier that recovered Apollo 11 (and later, Apollo 12) astronauts from their lunar capsule that safely splashed down near Hawaii on July 24, 1969.

Alameda, California

After having watched some conspiracy theory videos, which suggested the moon landing was a hoax, I was skeptical for many years. However, after watching Apollo 11 today, I’m a believer again! The never-before released footage and audio from the 1969 space mission erased any doubt from my mind.

If they can put a man on the moon…

…then each of us can achieve anything with courage, determination, and focus!

For more information:

Tell me in the comments below: What are your thoughts about the first moon landing? 🚀🌝

Wednesday Postcard: Solvang, California

Bonjour! (Or should I say, Hej, goddag?) This week’s carte postale comes from Solvang, a Danish village located in California’s Central Coast wine country, just north of Santa Barbara.

My family and I spent a weekend in the little town in 2014. On the way over there, I recall suddenly feeling under the weather. Fortunately, I was still able to enjoy the following in Solvang:

Food

  • Breakfast at Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery
  • Æbleskivers (pancake balls) from Solvang Restaurant

Family fun

  • Hans Christian Andersen Park
  • Sunny Fields Park
  • Big red clog in front of the Solvang Shoe Store

Shopping

  • Jule Hus, a year-round Christmas store
  • The Mystic Merchant (At the time, I was exploring the healing qualities of crystals and gemstones. I wrote a post about it here.)

For more information:

Solvang USA – official website

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, à bientôt!

Tell me in the comments below: Have you been to Solvang or other themed towns? If so, which one(s)?

Treasure Hunt in Paris

Do you enjoy playing travel games?

I like “I Spy” because it makes me look around. I love checking things off my To-Do list, too. Then I thought it’d be fun to combine the two, so I made this treasure hunt list for my recent trip to Paris to help me keep an eye out for cultural details beyond the major landmarks.

Making this list also reminded me to keep my stereotypes in check. We all have over-simplified and preconceived beliefs about people and places, after all!

For example, the fact that I didn’t see a mime (usually characterized as a lithe male wearing heavy makeup and gloves trying to get out of an imaginary box), dispels the notion that mimes are everywhere in Paris! It’s not always like it is in the movies!

Are you ready? Let’s go on a treasure hunt in Paris (or, as the French call it: chasse au trésor)!

  • Rooster
  • Fleur-de-lys ⚜️
  • Sparkling water refilling station
  • Croissant 🥐
  • Macaron:
  • Baguette 🥖
  • Orangina 🍊
  • Café ☕️
  • Sugar cubes
  • Crêpes 🥞
  • Fromage 🧀
  • Éclair:
  • Crème brûlée 🍮
  • Wine 🍷
  • Lavender
  • Triple-milled soap
  • RATP Bus 🚌
  • Monoprix 🛒
  • RER 🚊
  • Métro 🚇
  • Béret
  • Tabac
  • Pharmacie
  • Poodle 🐩
  • Marianne:
  • Blue street signs
  • Accordion
  • Bridges
  • Balconies
  • Newspaper
  • Jam
  • Bicycles 🚲
  • Green garbage bags🚮
  • Shutters: As the saying goes: The best things in life are free. It’s the little and simple things. And sometimes you don’t need to travel far to enjoy them! When I got home, I tried using my tourist eyes while traveling through my city. I was amazed at all the things that seemed new to me.
  • What travel games do you like to play?