dinsdag 15 februari 2011

Wine Country and Point Reyes

The coolest thing about California is that some of the most beautiful things you've ever seen in your life are just around the corner. This, of course, applies to a lot of places, but how many places can you name where hiking, beaching and skiing are within feasible driving distance from one another? Where there's that, there's bound to be some spectacular scenery- it's simple math. Even a walk down Berkeley's University Avenue provides one with spectacular scenery, as you look out over the Bay towards San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. A drive up into the Berkeley hills makes that even more spectacular, providing an ab-fab view of the whole Bay in all its glory (if its a clear day that is... The infamous SF fog can put a damper on things). We've watched spectacular sunsets from the hills, the backyard, the marina, the BART (that's the train system for those who don't know) and even from our kitchen window...Ok, that's not really fair- sunsets are not inherent to Californian landscape in any way. But it does add to the experience.
We've been doing day trips up till now in the weekends, as we have full schedules during the week being arty and working on making a living, but have seen and done wonderful things nonetheless. After being subjected to our own enthusiasm for 9 weeks and experiencing new and incredible things every day, we've had to get used to the idea that we could be relaxing somewhat instead of our manic pursuing of the 5008 wonders of the world, and then using weekends for outings with gourmet picnics and guides. Definitely a laid-back approach to life, and judging by our chronic exhaustion we decided right. Besides, when there's beauty and the unknown right on your doorstep, there;s no need for big fancy trips all the time!
We spent one rather gloomy, grey Saturday up in wine country tasting Northern California's best Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Zinfandels (yummmmmm) and eating leftovers from Frances' cooking class (um, gourmet chef training left overs? Don't mind if I do!). Last weekend we went up to Point Reyes, a National Park (or Seashore I think officially) on a penninsula north of San Francisco. Many a baby/toddler photo of me was taken there, and it's a bit of a Visser-Wilson favorite. It might just be a bit of a Heikens favorite now too :) Besides the scenery being out of this world, we saw a WHALE (!!!!) and observed elephant seals from a safe distance (they're apparently quite nimble on their flippers when chasing you across sand, something which humans are NOT) during their mating season. We're going back mid-March as the whale season will be at its peak then, and we should be able to see them up close and personal! We also took a walk on Drake's Beach and saw a seal lying on the sand, and after some discussion as to how close you are allowed to get (and Daniel and Chris doing all sorts of measuring that looked more like the Ministry of Funny Walks than a serious attempt at measuring), we discovered the seal was no longer of this world and that the distance wasn't really important. And so we got to see a dead seal. I tell you, these are the things you don't wake up expecting to happen in the morning.