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Trip Report Trip to Northern and Southern CA late June of 2011, Part 1

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This is long (and maybe a little boring, but DH is off at a conference--on 4th of July week! :( and I am unemployed, so that is the caveat......)

I have not done a trip report before but will do a brief one--well maybe not so brief-- for our recent trip to CA.

We started out by flying to San Francisco. We always used to fly AA as a way of accumulating miles on one airline so as to maximize the possibility of free tickets. However, of late, we have been flying Jet Blue. More leg room, free snacks, more pleasant gate staff and flight attendants and little TVs. A very superior experience on every level.

We got a rental car at SFO, which in my experience is a much worse place to rent than O'Hare or LAX. All of the dragging of luggage up and down multiple escalators and on and off the trains is a pain. We always do Hertz Gold and there is nothing golden about the SFO rental other than not waiting in the line.

We drove to Berkeley and stayed for one night at the Doubletree Marina Hotel. Very nicely remodeled recently. Super comfortable bed and I had gotten a special rate that included free WiFi and breakfast. Lovely view of SF across the water on the Marina. We did not have a room with a view but as it was one night, I was fine with that. I am sure that there are charming, quaint places in Berkeley proper, but after a >6 hour flt that left Boston ~ 7:00 AM, I was in no mood to appreciate charming and knew that I would just want predictable.

Refreshed by a nap and a shower we were ready for dinner. An old friend who lives out there now, picked us up and took us to dinner at a lovely restaurant called Rivoli,
http://www.rivolirestaurant.com/ To anyone who lives in the area, I can recommend it as both being lovely and for its good food. There is a large plate glass window that forms the back wall of the intimately sized dining room and it looks out onto a beautiful garden. Very soothing to my jet lagged brain!

The next morning we took a short drive around Berkeley. I found the university campus to be very attractive but surprisingly urban in its architecture, lots of Gothic stone buildings that put me in mind of a European campus, or in this country, Columbia or even BU here in Boston, (altho BU is a long line of buildings and Berkeley has a traditional shape of buildings around quads.) I am accustomed to UCLA and it was just a surprise that UCLA, in a city of millions of people is pastoral, bucolic even and Berkeley in a small city is so urban feeling. Just an impression.....

We drove up to Richmond, crossed the bay there and drove up the 101 to the exit at CA Rte 12, towards Bodega Bay, What a lovely road that was for being able to see small town CA! I only wish that we had known to stop in the town of Bodega on the way, b/c that is where Hitchcock's film, The Birds was shot. By the time we had reached Bodega Bay down on Hwy 1, we were not in the mood to retrace our steps back up to Bodega.

We were very fortunate as there was no June gloom at all. Brilliant sunshine and balmy temps that every service person in the hotel and the little stores commented on. Bodega Bay is very pretty but it is good that we were only going out of curiosity. Not much to do, but that was fine as we were not looking to do much! The feeling of the boats and the water in the little bay we overlooked were surprisingly reminiscent of Woods Hole here in MA.

We stayed at the Bodega Coast Inn & Suites, which was fine but nothing special. I booked it b/c it was >$100 less than the more highly recommended Bodega Bay Lodge. Now this was for a Monday night, not in their main season, and when I called the Bodega Bay Lodge to see if they would match the price that Hotels.com was quoting, telling the woman that I always prefer to book directly with the hotel whenever possible, her response was ungracious to say the least. My only complaint about the place where we did stay, was that DH pointed out that the carpet was kind of dirty. I wish he had not told me, as I had not noticed, and then I felt a little skeeved and began to wonder about the cleanliness of the rest of the room! Oh well, it was only one night! The room did have a lovely view of the bay and the most wonderful breezes wafting thru the room!

We had dinner at a place that we could walk to from the hotel, down a little quiet road and then down a short hill (hard to picture, but more like the way it might be in a little European town) and it may have been one of the worst dinners ever! I just wanted a seafood "shack" so to speak, and this was a tad upscale from that, more like a regular seafood place I might see on the Cape or the Vineyard, but how can a place *on the water* ruin fried fish?? It was called Luca's and it looked like the right kind of place but it was not!

The only memorable aspect of this awful dinner is that on the walk back, we saw the most amazing display of birds on the bay outside our hotel. There were cormorants, pelicans, terns and a single heron. As we were still on east coast time we had eaten at about 4:30 and this show of birds was ~6 ish. The pelicans kept flying in in groups of about 5 that flew "squadron" style. The terns dive bombed the water from high in the air and the cormorants--whom we know well from the Cape---skimmed the surface or swam along intermittently bobbing down to catch fish. In all of this avian feeding and flying frenzy, the heron stood rooted in one spot right at the shoreline the entire time. Had we not walked to that terrible dinner, we might have missed all this!

OK, enough for this part of the trip! Next part will be Healdsburg and wine! :)

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