Starrs' California coast trip report

Mar 18th, 2008, 05:52 PM
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When did Alice Waters enter my consciousness? I'm not quite sure. I had heard of her and CP. I think I really started paying attention when I attended my state's organic conference. One of my favorite authors was the keynote speaker so I signed up because of that. The conference was being held only a few miles away - out here in the middle of nowhere, so I said "Why not?". I really enjoyed the conference and became much more aware of organic options in my state. I enjoyed the farm tours and was amazed that the guy that pretty much started the most favorite metro Saturday market and started providing the Atlanta restaurants with the baby veggies, etc. was doing this just a few miles away. I was intrigued with the organic flower operation too and considered taking them up on intern opportunities. My land hasn't been "worked" in years and I'm reclaiming the garden spot this year (I hope). Then, Alice Waters came to speak nearby. My awareness grew. I REALLY wanted to eat at CP.

They couldn't seat the GTG group but I made reservations for a Saturday lunch just in case a Fodorite could join me before the dinner GTG. Then, I learned DF would be in SF too.

Let me tell you, his DD was THRILLED! Talk about a great place for a celebration. DF and I were chatting about our plans as we wandered Berkeley and TWO people that overheard us commented on how wonderful our meal would be - and one actually stopped us because we were crossing the street in the "wrong" direction. We shared that our reservations were hours away, and he was relieved. CP is much loved it seems

The meal was sublime. DF had entertained customers there years ago and he said it hadn't changed in the intervening years. Every taste seemed to be...vibrant.

I ordered the Avocado and Beet Salad and I don't remember a better dish - ever. The flavors and textures were incredible. DD anguished over her decision and ordered the rocket salad. She enjoyed it very much. DF didn't order a salad but our waiter brought a "mistake" endive salad to our table and asked if we wanted it. It was the other salad DD wanted and it was wonderful. If we had stopped after the salads, the meal would still have been memorable.

DF and I ordered the chicken. DD ordered the duck. Fabulous. I ordered the apple tart and DD ordered a wonderful unique dessert - but it's not on the menu online and I can't remember it exactly. We were also celebrating DF's birthday and although he declined a dessert the waiter winked and brought the chocolate cake/brownie anyway - complete with a candle. Of course, it disappeared quickly - but my dessert was by far the best on the table!

We ordered a wine I was unfamiliar with - a viognier. It was wonderful too, and seemed to become a theme of the trip to come.


And, now, completely full, we head for BART and the SF GTG!

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Mar 18th, 2008, 06:10 PM
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easytraveler was calling just as we started in the tunnel. LoveItaly wasn't picking up her phone. I know...I know... I'm late!

I was the first one there. Got the name tags out on the table. Ordered a bottle of prosecco for the table - to start the party - and because I promised LoveItaly a glass. Got an early start with Luigi and saw immediately what the others had raved about

We've talked about the GTG on other threads so I won't go into a lot of detail here. It was just a blast to FINALLY meet Fodorites that I already "knew" but had never "met".

Perhaps my favorite moment of the night was the expression on Mr. Deb's face when he realized he was steps away from City Lights bookstore. He had been such a dear, patient man. A real trooper in the midst of all the Fodors chatter. Near the end of the meal someone asked about "what's next" plans, and I mentioned that I was going next door to City Lights. The man quickly sat up straight with true excitement on his face. "You mean, FERLINGHETTI'S CITY LIGHTS?!?!" I pointed out the window behind him and the astonishment was apparant. He had been sitting with his back to City Lights all this time! Not long after, as we were mixing and chatting some more I realized he was no longer with us. Yep! He couldn't stand it! He was already across the street, happily browsing

easytravler offered us a ride back and offered to wait a bit longer. I bought Alice Water's book and the poetry book Mr. Deb recommended and we were soon set to go. easytraveler gave us the scenic tour "home". The phone rang and DF was calling. He had gone to the hotel to rest before the 7pm show and we were to go dancing with more of his family members to celebrate his birthday. They were headed to a restaurant instead for a late dinner. He told me the intersection and we were driving on Market...but I opted out of a THIRD meal in less than 12 hours even though "Home" was supposedly wonderful too. I was finally worn completely out!

DF was too. The dancing plans were cancelled.
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Mar 18th, 2008, 07:51 PM
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Travel tip 7a - rent the car at a non-airport location
Travel tip 7b - ask

We are headed to the wine country today. easytraveler told me about the Sonoma Barrel Tasting weekend. I'm pointing us in that direction, but then giving up control.

I'd read on this board the big difference in rental fees and the savings if one doesn't pick up at the airport. I priced the rental with a pickup at SFO and a drop at LAX and it was $900. I changed to a SF pickup a couple of days later and it dropped to a bit over $400. I called another agency (Alamo) and the total cost was less than $300. The pickup location was closer to the Monaco than the original hotel. All is well.

DF went with me and was concerned about our luggage fitting in the car I reserved (economy - the cheapest one possible). I laughed and told him he may have to sit on his suitcase on the ride to Sonoma. When we got to the counter, he pointed to a picture of a PT Cruiser convertible and said I needed to rent one of those. I asked the agent for the economy rate. We all laughed. I'm so funny! DF and I chatted as the agent completed the paperwork and radioed down for my car. He said we may have to wait just a bit.

We say the garage guy washing down a much larger vehicle and DF said "I think that's your car" - but I didn't believe it until it was driven up to us.

Here's what the agent gave me - a burnt orange Chevrolet HHR - with a sunroof. Not a PT convertible, but pretty darn close!

I loved driving that car for the next week. Loved the sunroof. Loved all the extra room.

We met DD and friend in Santa Rosa and piled in a much smaller car because I really wanted to enjoy the wine tasting. She suggested the Dry Creek valley. We agreed to whatever she wanted. She suggested picnic items from the Dry Creek General Store. My answer was the same all day - "We're following you...literally".

The sandwiches were great at the General Store. I ordered the BLTA. So sue me again (the A = IS California after all!) I ordered a deviled egg for each of us (refraining from that joke).

It was a magical day. GORGEOUS weather. Good wines. Great company. My favorite was a port at the Truett-Hurst (formely Martin) winery. The best pics of the day came from the creek at the end of the trail behind the winery. A picture perfect day.

We returned to my car and ventured on solo to Napa. I drove around Santa Rosa a bit, and was tickled to see the Snoopy sculpture -

I really enjoyed the drive, reliving previous visits to the area. Such a beautiful part of this country.

tripadvisor served me well this time - much better than Night 1 in SF - and I stayed a basic but nice motel.
You can see from the pics that it was and is a basic motor lodge layout, but the rooms are nicely appointed and very clean. It was a good find.

I called Ristorante Allegria and placed an order to pick up. The Napa Cabbage Salad was pretty good. The Pollo Ripieno was awful. Tuscany across the street looked very nice. I wish I had called them instead.

Time to crash and be ready to pick up LoveItaly in the morning.

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Mar 18th, 2008, 08:12 PM
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Dang, I'm too wordy. I was hoping to get out of SF tonight

I'll try to fast forward this. Left Napa grabbing breakfast to go at the motel. Left a bit late 'cause I had to take care of something important that popped up at work. Easy drive to pick her up.

What can I say about a day with LoveItaly? Lovely, just lovely. Lovely home. Lovely company. We talked non-stop on the way in to SF (can you imagine?! ). She navigated us into SF and a great parking spot. DF was waiting for us at the bar of John's Grill. Headed upstairs to meet the Falcon and the Fodorites.

I've been to several GTGs so far and this was the most FUN I've had. I think the pictures previously posted tell the story. It was just so much fun. It was a bit eerie how much Deb and Suki looked alike and their hubbys looked like they could be family too. Sweet Shanghainese came by just to greet us and take some great pics. Easy, fun conversation throughout the GTG and so much laughing! What a great day. What a relief - DF didn't think I was crazier than normal .

Afterwards, the three of us (DF, LoveItaly and I wandered up to check out the changes of Villa Florence. DF really wanted to find the rooftop garden of a building nearby, but we were a bit anxious to beat traffic out of the city. So, a quick good-bye and we were on our way.

Dropped LoveItaly off at home and headed south towards Carmel. My pillow for the night was at Doris Day's hotel, the Cypress Inn - and I made it.

I didn't do the usual SF things on this trip. I've done so much on earlier trips and been lucky enough to experience so much prior. So, although this was not the typical SF visit, it was the very best one (for me) ever!
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Mar 18th, 2008, 08:29 PM
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What a great report! Reliving a lot of moments - all that laughter - and enjoying other new moments as you drive around Sonoma and have your chatty mini-GTG with loveitaly!

Great job! Thanks again for sharing!
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Mar 19th, 2008, 09:10 AM
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Sweet Starrs -- What a terrific report and it was wonderful meeting you!
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Mar 19th, 2008, 10:06 AM
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Thanks, S. It was such a pleasure meeting you.

I'll do Carmel and the central coast trip report tonight.
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Mar 19th, 2008, 10:33 AM
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Hard to go wrong w/the Hotel Monaco...nice report, so far...waiting for the rest.
Mar 19th, 2008, 02:49 PM
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Okay, I'm not in the greatest of moods, but I'm going to continue with the TR.

Years ago, I heard about Doris Day opening a hotel - a NICE hotel - that allowed dogs. I told myself I would stay there "one day".

I made reservations at a great rate for the Cypress Inn. No pups with me, but that didn't matter.

LOVED the place. Would love to return. LOVED Carmel. I had blown through a couple of times and eaten at Hogs' Breath when Clint owned it. My only "must do" on this trip was the walking tour to see the Comstock fairytale cottages.

I called to make a reservation per the website as instructed and went to sleep very excited about the morning.
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Mar 19th, 2008, 03:02 PM
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I think TTess told me about this. In any case, I am very glad I found out about it. I really like walking tours (good ones) and I like cottages (am renovating one). This was going to be the highlight of "my" part of the vacation.

I was the only one that showed up at the meeting point. After the awful SF tour, I needed a good tour. So, I proposed an option. If she needs 4 people at $25pp for 2 hours of tour, would she do 1 hour for 1 person for $50? She accepted the offer. It was a great personalized tour. We saw a lot in an hour. I'm sure I didn't see everything the tour usually includes, but I'm betting I saw some unique things too.

I LOVED the cartoons by the local artist, Bill Bates. I've ordered a signed copy of his book from an Amazon dealer.

Gale is coming out with a book soon and I plan to buy that too. I just LOVED getting to know Carmel a bit better.

So, I'm back at the Cypress Inn and I'm tired. I'm beat. I'm whooped. I just don't want to go anywhere else right now. I call and cancel that night's reservation. The Cypress Inn is willing to switch me to another room at the great rate, but the new room still has occupants with a late checkout. I had noticed a Best Western on the hill during the tour so I called them. Yep, they had rooms, they had internet access and I get to stay in Carmel for another night!

The location was lovely. The flowers were beautiful. The room was nice, very clean and had a fireplace. The breakfast bar was fine. A good place at a great AAA price.

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Mar 19th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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Okay, so now I have a whole new, unexpected day in Carmel to go "Ahhhh!". What to do?

First stop was lunch at the Tuck Box, thanks to Fodorites' recommendations (BTW the breakfast bar was very nice at the Cypress Inn). Gale had pointed out a certain shop so I strolled to it.

Jan de Luz - gorgeous products
I say I'm not much of a shopper. A more accurate truth is that I try not to go shopping because I ALWAYS find something I want. Oprah's O List includes their heart shaped jasmine soaps. I so wanted to buy the boxed guest set. I refrained. What tempted my credit card out of safety? DISH TOWELS!

Yep, dish towels. I think I have a sickness. But, they are GORGEOUS French dish towels. I had two monogrammed/ embroidered and then felt a bit guilty. But, when I picked them up, I was so pleased. One I will keep and one is a birthday gift for my sister. She will appreciate it and will use it in her little Provencal-style getaway.

What next? Hmmmm....
I've needed a pedicure for a long time.
I called and booked an appointment for later in the day.
Now, time to head for the beach. GREAT pics, especially of dogs having fun on the beach.
Back in time to wash my feet for the pedicure, and then a true Carmel experience.

It was the best entertainment of the trip so far. They were running behind, so I read Hello magazines and could not avoid eaves-dropping on the conversation. One was the stereotypical, 90 pound "never too thin" horsewoman impressing her massage chair neighbor with the gorgeous accent. It was hard not to laugh. I was "reading" the magazine intently, but would sneak a peek for the Candid Camera. Then, the gorgeous, wealthy, totally bored young woman came in and huffed and puffed through her stack of Hello magazines as she TRIED to impatiently wait her turn. I'm sure she was Paris Hilton's BFF. Well, maybe not. She had no teacup dog in tow and this IS dog-friendly Carmel, after all!

The pedicure was nice. I was a bit surprised that the red I chose was not "in season". I always choose the clearest, reddest red I see from the choices. I was gently corrected and my toesies sport a more appropriate red now

Then, a big oops! They don't take credit cards. I don't have my purse. I just have my cc and debit card and a little bit of cash stashed in my jeans pocket. If looks could kill...

What to do other than to promise to return? I'm sure they didn't expect me too. I waddled in my plastic pedicure slippers to the car, drove around town to find an ATM, waddled to the walk-up ATM to get money, and returned within 5 minutes with the fee plus a 20% tip. I didn't even get a smile in return I am definitely not Carmel-material! LOL!

I had a lovely image of a picnic on the beach, so the next stop was the deli/ store/ wine store. But, they were about to close. Most of the deli items had already been put up, so I choose from what was still available. Little plastic containers of orzo pasta salad, artichokes, chicken salad, grabbed some cheese and bread and a red wine. Off to the beach with the makings of a picnic.

The beach is freezing! I snack on my dinner in the warm car, get out in time to take some really pretty shots, and then back to the hotel to snack some more on the picnic items.

I chuckle to myself for experiencing my second night of what I call to myself "NeoPatrick's Absolutely Depressing and Pitiful Dinner in the Room". It's good for a chuckle, but in truth, I really enjoy dinners this way. It's even better when someone's in the room with me, but a great way to dine (for me) when traveling on the road for work AND leisure.

I spend some time on the internet doing some work stuff and some email and Fodors posting and go to sleep absolutely thrilled with my "Ahhh!" day in Carmel.
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Mar 19th, 2008, 03:48 PM
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Fabulous trip report! I'm just loving reading it!
Mar 19th, 2008, 06:20 PM
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Do you ever have one of those surreal vignette moments? Almost like a few seconds of a movie moving in slow motion when you are hyper aware of small details - but you aren't really sure why.

At the dinner GTF, I saw a hand holding a black cirle studded with silver medallions dangling from a hand and moving slowly across my field of vision. All is slow motion. After a couple of eyeblinks, I come "back" to normal speed and watch Shanghainese finish the motion of handing a hatband to Mr. Deb. It had dropped off and she found it and was returning it to its rightful owner. A few moments but the image of that hatband was burned into this old brain.

1, 2, 3, 4 days later I'm returning from the point at Point Lobos State Park and as I near the parking lot I see...that headband. Seriously. Of all the details contained in the row of cars and their contents, I see that headband. It's on a hat on a man sitting in a car in the parking lot. Sitting next to the man is a lady who looks a lot like Deb. Could it be? What are the odds?

They are still sitting in the car as I near my car. I walk toward their car, and the passenger side window is open. I call "Deb? Deb?" No response. I walk to the other side of the car. It HAS to be the same hat. One more "Deb?". The woman in the neighboring car is watching me carefully. She hears me - but the occupants of the car don't. I'm afraid she thinks I'm a weirdo and I can imagine CHiPs cars or park rangers squealing in the lot to arrest the weird woman approaching cars in the parking lot. One more "Deb?" and I go to my car.

One more attempt. The space beside them is empty. Surely they will be exiting their car sometime soon. Another approach to the car and another "Deb?" Ta-da! I get her attention. It IS Deb! What are the odds. Now, really. What are the odds we would be at the same place at the same time days after the GTG? But, even so, what are the odds that I would have noticed them sitting in one of the many cars as I returned to my car. It was the glint of the hatband that drew my attention - and I probably wouldn't have noticed the hatband if it hadn't had dropped off Mr. Deb's hat and Shanghainese hadn't dangled it in front of my face.

I find the whole thing completely amazing. And, we got a couple of more pics out of it!

We REALLY do need orange label pins or SOMETHING to identify fellow Fodorites out in public.

On down the coast. Despite asking and listening to others' input, I still found my car turning into the Nepenthe parking lot. LOVED the lunch. Loved the view - nothing like it. Liked my sandwich very much. Had a neat conversation with the woman lunching next to me and she gave me some travel tips for further down the coast.

There is nothing like the drive from Carmel to Cambria. Nothing. It is as beautiful this time as it has been every time I've driven it. I am very, very happy. The Wicked soundtrack is blasting on the CD player, the sunroof is open and I'm getting a bit of sun and having a wonderful time, stopping to take some pics and just enjoying life.

I had cancelled my earlier reservation and so had to make new plans. I posted a quick question on the board. MarkVK had emailed me previously a suggestion. I almost randomly chose the next hotel - but not quite. A good internet connection was important to me. I didn't spend much time online, but it really helped to take care of important work issues as they popped up or to let folks know I'd respond next week in full.

Mark recommended the Best Western Cavalier in San Simeon but the website didn't indicate internet service. The one in Cambria on Moonstone Beach did. I called to confirm that the room had a fireplace, WIFI, AND a patio with an ocean view. All for an amazing price. Moonstone Beach (whatever you are), here we come.

Now, it's been a really good trip so far. One of my best ever. I'm very happy and appreciative. So, I'm not discounting anything that has happened so far when I say the FABULOUS part of the vacation is about to begin. My FABULOUS friend (to be called FF) was driving up from West Hollywood to meet me for a couple of days. We had no plans. It had been a few years since we had seen each other. We had never traveled together. We both had big ????s in our heads. The next two days were to be....

starrs is offline  
Mar 19th, 2008, 07:21 PM
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Great trip report Starrs! I am glad you had such a nice trip.

GSTRDR is offline  
Mar 19th, 2008, 10:53 PM
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Hugs to you dear friend as I am so enjoying your report!! And amazing, you and Deb and Mr. Deb being in the same parking lot.

And if you don't mind..I will share with our Fodorite friends your special gift that you brought from Georgia to give to me. I had broken a beautiful and sentimental plate that had been part of my paternal grandmother's china set. I was heartbroken. It was a "willow" pattern, an English company had produced it back in the 1800's.

Dear starrs brought me a plate that had belonged to her 106 year old grandmother, her grandmother who is still alive and well. It is the Blue Willow pattern produced in Ohio. Her grandmother's plate sits proudly on my coffee table and brings me a smile and much joy every time I see it. It is though a bit of starrs is still here and her precious grandmother's strong and lively spirit is also.

But I don't know what the IN red polish color is here in California, sigh.
LoveItaly is offline  
Mar 19th, 2008, 11:55 PM
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This is great. I'm hanging on every word.
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Mar 22nd, 2008, 08:12 PM
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Okay. We LOVED Moonstone Beach. Just loved it. We stopped to look at cottages and the desk clerk said this is "flyover" territory for Californians. I showed my pics to my LA friend and they are going there for a weekend getaway. I really don't know how to describe it. Just a small stretch of oceanfront hotels that are mostly small motel set-ups but most (all?) looked nice and comfortable.

The Best Western was very nicely appointed. Nice linens. Spa type toileties. Gas fireplace in the room. Waffle weave rooms. Patio seating area outside the slider. MUCH nicer inside than you would expect from the outside. Neat as a pin and a great breakfast bar with make-your-own waffles, hard boiled eggs and GOOD coffee - 3 types to choose from. Juice, bagels, etc. We had a wonderful breakfasts on the patio, listening to the ocean and visiting with our neighbors.

(The road does run between the hotels and the beach).

There is a very nice boardwalk running along the beaches and tidepools with benches and informative signs at the tidepools. I know. It reminds me of Jekyll Island, GA. Moderate accomodations. Nice waterfront (west coast vs. east coast beaches). But, no pretension. I loved it.

We walked to the Moonstone Bar and Grill and had a wonderful dinner. Steamers for appetizer and good entrees.

A short drive away is Cambria with two sections - East Village and West Village. There were some neat shops that we didn't have time to check out, but we did eat at Linn's. Great comfort food and wonderful pies, including their ollalieberry pie and drinks - a hybrid between a raspberry and a blackberry. I took some of the preserves as a hostess gift for friends down the road.

If I lived in CA, I would go back in a heartbeat for a weekend getaway.
If I were driving the coast, I'd stop there again.
We only stayed two nights, but we would have enjoyed more time there. Our neighbors considered staying another night...they just didn't want to go home. Just a very peaceful, pleasant place. (and we got a GREAT AAA rate).
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Mar 22nd, 2008, 08:20 PM
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I'm always intrigued when I read posts where the poster is wondering if Fodorites are being "themselves". I guess the alternative is assuming an alternate, imaginary persona for posting? Well, I go on the assumption that people are pretty much themselves on this board. For better or worse, I know I am. Kind of nice, kind of sarcastic, definitely opininated, but like to be helpful.

But, in THIS case, I did assume a new identity. Well, I was ASSIGNED a new identity. My FF decided that we were to be "Laurette and Didier Viognier" for the duration of our getaway. I'm not sure WHY...but the Viogniers we did become. Now, in emails he jabbered away in French that I didn't even bother to translate. I just trusted that all would be well. And, it was BETTER than "well" - it was FABULOUS!

Our neighbors became Ladies Pennington and Covington (no point in asking why - the names were probably pulled out of thin air by FF). They seemed to enjoy the craziness and would join us for happy hour and pistachios. Life was pretty darn sweet for the Viogniers.

I didn't have any plans for the next 2 days. FF didn't have any plans for the next 2 days. The lack of design...was FABULOUS. We spent a lot of time catching up and sharing stories.

The location would be fabulous for a visit to the Hearst Castle. The area is surrounded by the Hearst Ranch. I'd been before and so had FF. So, we laughed and ate and drank and laughed and walked until we decided it was Paso Robles we would go.
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Mar 24th, 2008, 12:34 PM
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starrs -- I like Cambria too when there are no crowds, it is so calming walking on the boardwalk and gazing at the ocean.
Shanghainese is offline  
Mar 24th, 2008, 12:52 PM
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This is so great! You really tell the story such that it is as if we were there with you. How do you manage such wonderful details but no tedium? I guess it is called being a gifted writer!
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