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Monday, May 29, 2017

California, here we come! Part Three

From San Francisco, we drove south to the wine country of Paso Robles, which also happens to be the area where some of my novels in my The Wine Lover's Daughter series take place and where I did quite a lot of research.

This time, however, we explored another venue. We drove east along Hwy 42 to the James Dean Memorial, the place where the young actor (only 24 years old) was killed in a car accident with his Porsche. There is a nice inn right next to it with memorabilia and photos of the actor. At the same time, a group of classic car fans were there as well. My nephew who is both a James Dean and a classic car fan was very happy about this.

The Paso Robles area has a lot of fun restaurants and shops and my relatives realized soon enough that clothes and shoes were quite a bit cheaper here than in Switzerland. So they shopped till they dropped, then relaxed in a restaurant or at the pool.

The following day, we headed south again to Santa Monica, checked out Hollywood (a must), and then drove to San Diego for a few days.

More to follow.

Monday, May 22, 2017

California, here we come! Part Two

The next part of our trip was a visit to San Francisco and then a drive south to the Paso Robles wine country.

For my nephew, Rico, and great-nephew, Muriel, this was the first time they experienced the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Most people probably don't know this, but one of the builders of the bridge was the Swiss-American structural engineer, Othmar Amman, who was also responsible for the design of the George Washington Bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Bayonne Bridge, and the construction of the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City.

A different Swiss is responsible for the design of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in downtown San Francisco. Mario Botta, from the south of Switzerland, is known for his  fascinating public and private buildings all over the world.

In fact, quite a few Swiss people made their mark in California, one of them being John Sutter (original name Johann August Suter), 19th century settler and colonizer of California. He fled from bankruptcy and financial collapse, leaving his wife and children in Switzerland, and tried to start a new life in California. After gold was discovered on his land, a turbulent personal and public history developed, which ultimately led to his ruin. More about him here:

I love the mixture of modern and old architecture in San Francisco, a Romanesque church in front of a ultra-modern building. Somehow, the old and the new coexist in peace here.

Onward: After letting the impressions of this magnificent city sink in, we drove south toward Paso Robles, the wine country, and the James Dean crash site memorial (the latter, a first for me too!). Stay tuned!

Monday, May 15, 2017

California, here we come! Part One

I've had two intense, exciting, and joyful weeks with my relatives from Switzerland who visited California. They were my nephew, Rico, my niece, Claudia, and her husband Alberto as well as their two children, Risayra and Muriel. For three of them it was the second visit to the United States, but two of them came here for the first time.

The week before their arrival, I was a nervous wreck, afraid they might have problems with the U.S. customs. I read and heard of people, even US citizens, being held back at the border for no valid reason at all. Luckily, they had no problems and arrived after a long flight from Zürich via Düsseldorf to Los Angeles. Here they are, and Auntie Christa is very relieved!

From left to right: Rico, Risayra, Muriel, Alberto, Claudia

The first few days we spent in Santa Monica, then drove up the coast past Malibu, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo to Cambria, one of my favorite spots along the coast.

In the small town of Cambria we stayed at the Cambria Pines Lodge on the hill above the actual town. I love this rustic place with the gorgeous gardens.

A "Place to Dream" indeed!

During our stay in Cambria, we explored the rugged coast, in particular Piedras Blancas in San Simeon, the place where the elephant seals come to rest, molt, give birth, raise their young and go back out to sea to gather food. It's a fascinating stretch of coast where you can watch the development of these amazing animals all through the seasons.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to visit Big Sur, another one of my favorite spots along the Californian coast, because of the damaged bridge and other obstacles. We did make it to Ragged Point though, the beginning of the mountain road to Big Sur. I've driven past this place many times when heading to Big Sur but never stopped and consequently missed a gorgeous area. This time, however, we took a break and admired the landscape, the cliffs, and the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean.

Risayra was so inspired that she greeted the location with a yoga pose.

Relaxing after sightseeing!

The next day, we went to San Francisco. Stay tuned, more to follow!