A couple of recent trips, and a backlog of interesting material from friends, moved me to push out a brief column.
When we stayed with friends in Nevada City, they mentioned a farm in the area that had u-pick blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. I love all berries (also including boysenberries and ollaliberries), so I promised myself I would brave the two-hour drive up to the Sierra foothills so I could pick my own berries (store blackberries are inedible black rubber balls). I hate driving, and I especially hate driving by myself, although I had plenty of podcasts to keep me company.
By the way, the last time I wrote up a Nevada City visit, I mentioned a bakery but wasn't sure of the name. It is the Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Company, and it is amazing, in a town with a lot of amazing food.
I could have chosen a bed and breakfast, or stayed in a modern motel outside of town, but chose instead the National Hotel, the oldest hotel west of the Mississippi, located in the heart of downtown. The idea for Pacific Gas and Electric was hatched in this hotel in the 19th century, The A/C was out in my room, but the public spaces of the hotel are interesting, there is a balcony over the main street, and the restaurant is quite nice. You want quiet, ask for a room in the back. I think I noted this in my last Nevada City writeup; this is NOT an early to rise town. I wanted to have breakfast before I left at 7:30 for the 8am start of picking. The only two places that were open were Three Forks (but the didn't really have breakfast ready until 8) and The Curly Wold Espresso House, which had a lovely breakfast burrito, and newspapers for sale in honor boxes out front.
I had a wonderful lunch at the New Moon Cafe, where I ran into Carol, a long-ago girlfriend, who now lives in Nevada City. We had a lovely chat.
So, I left town at 7:30 for the short drive to Riverhill Farm, on Cement Hill Road. They had strawberries, but those bushes are low to the ground. I picked strawberries with my grandmother near Salem in the 1960s. I hated it. I hated squatting. So I wouldn't pick strawberries now on a bet. But blackberries and raspberries grown on bushes. There are two kinds of blackberry bushes, with thorns and without. The people on the farm said the berries with thorns were sweeter, and that's as may be, but I tried both, couldn't tell much difference, and spent most of my time picked the no-thorn blackberries. I gained a real insight into why grocery store blackberries are so awful: it is REALLY hard to tell when a blackberry is REALLY ripe. Still, I came out with a dozen pints, plus a half-dozen pints of raspberries. The raspberries in the stores are huge and plump. These were small and delicious. It was already hot as heck at 8am; I can't imagine having gone to the 2pm u-pick the day before, when the temperature was in the 90s.
My other recent trip was to celebrate my wife Vicki's birthday; we are starting to develop a tradition of celebrating that natal event with a visit to Carmel. We have been going to the area for years. We have become regulars at an oceanside Band B called the Sandpiper. We ate sand dabs (my favorite fish, after sturgeon) two days in a row, at Anton and Michel and The Grill, two sister restaurants in Carmel-By-The-Sea. For the birthday dinner itself, we went to the Lucia restaurant at the Bernardus Lodge and Spa. It was breathtaking to look at, and the food was amazing. Vicki said it was literally one of her favorite restaurant experiences ever, and she knows the meaning of the word literally. We also had soft-serve frozen yogurt, my favorite dessert.
The Carmel beach is not really long (like, say, Ocean Beach in San Francisco, or the beach at Bodega Bay), but it is long enough for a nice hour-long walk, and it is well-maintained. OK, there was a lot of seaweed on the beach this time, but we could walk around it. Not too much wind, except a gentle cooling breeze off the ocean. Our daily walks were a highlight of the trip. The beach was kind of crowded, and too many dogs for my taste, so it isn't my favorite beach, but having a room only 100 yards from the beach can compensate for a few small picked nits.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: there are ocean people, mountain people, and desert people. I am blessed to be an ocean person married to an ocean person. My late father-in-law was a desert person, but thankfully did not pass that on to his daughter. I spent a day in the mountains at Nevada City, and it was all right, but Carmel... that is heaven on earth.