Category: Places (Page 2 of 5)

Watercourse Way

Last night Mike and I went to Watercourse Way, an amazing spa and hot tub place in Palo Alto. We’ve been there twice before, but only because it’s so far away from us (it took about an hour to get there, more to get back due to an accident in the freeway), that it’s hard and expensive to do it when we have a babysitter at home. But the kids were away with their grandparents and we had the time.
Watercourse Way is without doubt the best hot tub place in the Bay Area. We have explored those in the East Bay, and while we like Piedmont Springs, it really can’t compare. Watercouse Way rooms are incredibly beautiful, somewhat reminiscent of ancient Roman baths, and extremely relaxing.
This time we had the six drangonflies room, which we’ve had before. It has a wood hot tub – 4 feet deep -, a cold dip well, and a large shower with steam. In addition there is a single bed, with new white linen, to rest from the heat. I think the hot tub has six jets. Sitting there you feel all your stress disappear. I hadn’t tried the steam bath before, but we also found it very relaxing and just fun (though the steam is pretty hot). The shower is big enough that you can hide in the back and not be able to see anything at all. The room has light peach walls and a small wall water fountain, which I think help make it even more relaxing. I’d highly recommend this room.
I think the time before we went to One Pine, which was larger, but not as beautiful. It also had a wood hot tub, but it had a sauna instead of a steam shower.
There are several rooms that have large (perhaps six feet long?) tiled tubs, very reminiscent of ancient roman baths. Unfortunately the rooms are pretty small, and they don’t have a cold plunge or steam or sauna. They are still beautiful, but I think I prefer the larger rooms.
Next time I want to try the nine bats room, which also has steam.
Watercourse Way
165 Channing Ave
Palo Alto, CA

Getting lost to Tomales Bay

I think one of the reasons why I married my husband Mike is his sense of direction. When we were young, he could get us anywhere we were trying to go often on the first try. And he would even remember how to get there the next time around. Sure, he got us lost in Bilbao, but that was the exception rather than the rule. His general sense of direction gave him such an aura of competence that I found terribly appealing.
My friend Lola and I, on the other hand, are like that museum curator from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who once got lost in his own museum (not such a difficult task, mind you, some museums are virtually labyrinths). So it came as no surprise to anyone that when we decided to spend the weekend at Tomales Bay – a narrow stretch of water an hour north of San Francisco – it took us practically the whole day to get there.
To be fair, we started out late (that’s a Lola trait, I may be many things but I’m very timely) and then of course we were starving so we stopped by Joaquin Deli for lunch before we headed out of town. And I had to return some books, buy some cat food and get some $$$. But anyway, it couldn’t have been after 2 pm when we finally got on the road.
We decided to go through the East Bay and take the Richmond-San Rafael bridge ’cause I usually like to avoid driving through San Francisco. It’s waaaaay too easy to get lost there (and yes, Lola and I spent an evening driving through the city trying to find the Bay Bridge once). And the maps (damn maps!) showed that there were roads heading west from 101 to 1 both in San Rafael and Petaluma. Ha! Yes, I’m sure the roads are there. But where? where? Mike, in his ugly Americanism, cursed at how badly marked roads and streets were in Salta and Jujuy – but that cannot compare at all with the lack of signage in Petaluma. We spent 45 minutes driving through town trying to find the road to Tomales. Twice we got off the freeway at the “Bodega Bay” exit, it did us little good, that road is very well hidden.
So we continued north, managed to find the road to Sebastopol – from where we knew we could head southwest to Tomales – and drove through the town. We must have been at least half an hour past it when I thought of asking Lola if we might have possibly passed the town. So we turned back and after an expressing stop at a McDonalds and at a supermarket for some drinks (Lola was paranoid that we wouldn’t be able to find any food on the coast), we headed out of Sebastopol again. Or we tried. Here the confusing roads and lack of signage got us again. But it only took a couple of circles around the town before finding the correct road.
Amazingly we made it to 1 and Bodega Bay without further mishap. Of course, we didn’t know that, so we stopped at a mini-market to find out how to get to 1. The guy looked at us like idiots when he told us we were on 1 and then proceeded to give us directions for Tomales. He told us about a shortcut. We thanked him and got to the car and laughed. A shortcut, yeah right. I had images of Wrong Turn in my mind. If there was something of which I was sure is that if we took a shortcut we’d get lost. Maybe not raped and killed, but definitely lost.
Fortunately, a guy who was at the store when we were asking for directions came to our car and told us that the shortcut directions were actually wrong and told us how to get to Tomales. That involved pretty much staying on the road, not too surprising as Tomales is on Highway 1 after all.
The rest of the trip went well, we arrived at Valley Ford, had dinner at Dinucci’s Italian Dinner (Lola, once again, was afraid there would be no food in Tomales – alas, she was wrong, they have their own, albeit more expensive, Italian restaurant) and then made it to Tomales before 10 PM.
In Tomales we stayed at the Continental Inn (review to follow), a very nice B&B.
The next day we *amazingly* managed to not get lost at all. We spent the morning walking through tiny Tomales (Lola is a photography frenzy so this took longer than it should have), and then stop by a quick stroll at Dillon Beach. I could go on about how beautiful this area is, but in reality all of western Marin county is so unbelievably beautiful that there isn’t much of a point in comparing one beautiful spot with another one.
We stopped at Hog Island Oysters for Lola to feast on tiny, live creatures (or, as she puts it, to give meaning to their deaths) and then drove around the bay to Inverness where we had lunch at Priscilla’s. I had never been to Inverness before (though I must have driven past it) and was amazed at how small it was. I’d heard about Manka’s, the famed lodge and restaurant, and I expected it to be in a somewhat larger town. Alas, it was pretty – as was the drive to Point Reyes and the beaches around there. We spent quite a bit of time at the beach, looking at the stones. Unlike at Dillon beach, parking here was free.
Then we headed home, an espectacular drive, yada yada. We found the bridge and, most amazingly, we made it from the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge without getting lost ONCE (though once again, the 101 could be better marked). OK, so we had to change lanes at the last minute a few times to get into the right freeway/exit, but we made it!!!!
A brief but great and so very relaxing holiday. We finished it off by going out to dinner at Vo’s and then chatting away the evening in front of a fire at home.
We’ll definitely have to do this again – and now that I know Mike can handle both kids by himself we can šŸ™‚

Kalaloch Lodge

Last September we spent a couple of days exploring the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. After spending an afternoon exploring the Enchanted Forest we headed south looking for a beach where to watch the sunset and a place to stay for the night. Kalaloch Lodge offered both and much more.
The lodge has a central building with a foyer, a restaurant and a gift shop downstairs, and several rooms downstairs. In addition, they have 44 cabins, many of them with gorgeous views of the beach. The hotel itself is practically on the beach, though you do need to walk about a hundred yards from the lodge to find access down to the water. The beach itself is beautiful, filled with large white logs which have drifted in through the years and tide pools with sea urchins, star fish and other little critters. Even though it was cold at that time of year (you can light a fire if you are so inclined), it was absolutely beautiful. I had the best time walking on the beach, seeing the immensity of the sea and the sky reflected on the wet sand, looking outwards and inwards.
We stayed at the Becker

Olympic Peninsula

Before our trip to Seattle last month we spent a long weekend in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. We had visited the area exactly thirteen years before, on the labor day weekend of our first year of marriage. We had loved it then, and figured it was time to return.
We flew in a Saturday afternoon, and after getting a car (more about that in the next post), we headed to Port Townsend where we’d decided to stay the night. We all enjoyed taking the ferry ride, specially Mika for whom it was a new experience. She’d been on boats before, but probably too long ago for her to remember.
The drive to Port Townsend was pretty nice, so much rain makes for a very green scenery. The town itself is very pretty. Nested in a hilly site next to a harbor, Port Townsend bloomed almost overnight into a beautiful town sometime last century on news that the railways were coming to connect the town and the port with the rest of civilization. On news of the railway, there was a building boom in the town and many large and beautiful Victorian mansions were built, it’s fun to just drive through the town and look at the houses from the outside. Many of these have been converted to B&Bs, and they offer a cozy place to stay (with two little kids alone, we stayed at the Harborside Hotel instead). Downtown Port Townsend, on the lowest street by the water, has been converted into a swank shopping & dining district with boutiques, restaurants and tourist-directed shops. It’s quite pleasant to stroll through the whole area. The harbor itself is also pleasant, so in all it’s a good place where to stop for the night. For dinner, we went to the Surf Restaurant, which if nothing else was quite child friendly.

Our first stop on our second day of the trip (after driving around Port Townsend looking at the houses again) was Olympic Game Farm, a large facility where they keep and train wild animal for use in Hollywood movies. You can take a car tour of the park ($9pp) and see the animals, There are two kinds, deer, elk, llamas, bisons, etc. which roam free and will approach your car, and bears, rhinoceros, etc. which are behind electric fences. You can buy sliced bread at the gate ($2 a loaf) to give to the animals, while I have to wonder how good a sliced-bread diet is for wild animals, no one can argue with the fun factor of having the animals come to your car. Mika needless to say, loved it. While the bears are behind electric fences – and a close look at those incredibly long claws make it clear why – most of them are trained performers and have an amazing ability of catching bread thrown at them on mid-flight. Again, a great show for the kiddies.
Of course, in retrospect I’m not sure about the ethics of visiting that sort of place. As much fan as we had, I felt guilty about supporting an environment where wild animals are trained – in the case of wild cats & dogs, are confined to small cages – and eat so much bread. I don’t think I’d go again.

After the park both girls fell asleep, and our moto is that as long as they are sleeping, we won’t stop, so we were able to make it all the way to the Enchanted Forest at Olympic National Park. This forest, on the west side of the park, is the only temperate rain forest in the world. When we visited thirteen years before, the place had reminded us of a fairy tale forest, a place where at any moment you could run into a fairy or a leprechaun. Trees fall on the ground, and new trees grow from the fallen trunks, while moss hangs from evey available surface. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. This time around, it was much less exciting. Apparently the forest is going through a dry spell (who knew a rain forest could be dried?) and the little moss hanging on the trees was pale brown rather than bright green, many fewer trees seemed to be growing on top of others. It was nice, but not nearly as beautiful as we remembered it. Mika, however, had a blast. She loved climbing the trees, hiding behind them and playing hide and seek and looking for leaves and other things (don’t worry, we didn’t let her remove anything). The forest is mostly stroller friendly, too, which helped with Camila.

We didn’t have a place to stay that night, and we decided to see how far we could make it. However, as we started to drive south, the sun started to fall and Mike wanted to stop somewhere to see the sunset at the beach. I suggested that we drive on to the Kalaloch Lodge, a resort located at the beach. When I’d check out their website online it seemed that it was sold-out (that tells you, don’t trust their website) but once we got there we found out they had a room, so we unpacked and headed to the beach. The beach in front of the hotel is beautiful, there is a lot of driftwood (large, white, dried trunks) which gives it kind of an eery feeling, and large rocks that make for tide pools full of sea life. Alas, the beach is very popular but large enough that you can find some degree of solitude. It was great to be there.
The next morning we took a free guided tour of the tidepools a few kilometers north of there, and while the tour guide left much to be desired in terms of knowledge and ability to present material, the tide pools were great. We saw dozens of star fish, anenomes, tube worms, razor clams and sea snails, and again, Mika had a blast. If you can afford it, it may be worth staying in this area for a couple of days.

After a big breakfast back at the lodge, we made our way back to Seattle – a long 5 hour drive. We took the southern route, so we got a quick view of the lake and of a couple of lumber towns before taking the hour long ferry ride to Seattle. The girls both cooperated by sleeping and generally being quiet (it wouldn’t happen now), so in all it was a pleasant drive.

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