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Journeys, California: San Francisco, Carmel, and Big Sur

San Francisco streetcar

“Make voyages. Attempt them. There is nothing else.” – Tennessee Williams

Two weeks ago, I had the great privilege of traveling for work to California. Since I live in Ohio, and the ocean and coast is my favorite place to be, I ventured out a day early to spend some time along the coast.

Pacific Coast Highway, California

Big Sur and Highway 1, California
Near Big Sur and Highway 1, California

Many years ago, I drove the length of Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles for the first time. The drive is incredible, with dramatic drops to the Pacific on one side, and steep rises up mountains on the inland side. Highway 1 is an adventure in itself.

On that same trip, I stopped in Carmel-by-the-Sea and took in the surroundings, an artists’ colony nestled into a bay near Pebble Beach. Two weeks ago, Carmel-by-the-Sea was the same charming village I remembered it to be.

Hat Shop, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Hat Shop, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Wine crates as wall decor, La Bicyclette

Wine crates as wall decor, La Bicyclette Restaurant

The perfect garden entrance, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

The perfect garden entrance, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Where to Eat, Carmel-by-the-Sea

There are many quaint restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea, but one is definitely a must-do: La Bicyclette. I had the Eggplant Casserole and it was out-of-this-world good. And look at the messages left at each table (definitely my kind of place!):

La Bicyclette Carmel message

What to Do, Carmel-by-the Sea

If you follow the narrow and steep roads through the town, continuing West, you will eventually hear the waves crashing along the shore. Carmel has a beautiful stretch of beach, gorgeous even on a stormy afternoon. A perfect place to dip your toes in the ocean and walk along the surf.

The beach and coastline at Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

The beach and coastline at Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

On the way back to San Francisco, rain blew parallel to the ground, flooded freeways, and uprooted ancient trees. I stopped to see another favorite stretches of coastline, in Santa Cruz. This tree has long been a favorite.

Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California

My camera got a bit wet when capturing the image, but I love what resulted.

San Francisco

Every time I travel to San Francisco, I fall more in love with the city, its hills, and its architecture.

San Francisco architecture

We don’t build buildings like this one anymore…

San Francisco architecture

The lines and angles, curves, shadows, and light — all of these make San Francisco its own.

San Francisco architecture

Frills and arches, shadows and light

San Francisco architecture

Inside Neiman Marcus, the beautiful ceiling

The angel at Union Square

The (angel) statue on Dewey Memorial at Union Square

San Francisco streetcar

My favorite site, the San Francisco cable cars

Where to Eat, San Francisco

This trip, I had the privilege of tasting many great restaurants, but one I returned to because I liked it so much: Bouche. Thoroughly French, the food and wine there go perfectly with the casual, intimate atmosphere and French-accented servers.

Bouche San Francisco

California, I love.

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Destination Coastline: Sunsets, a Photojournal

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida's Coast

“The sky broke … into full sunset and the water caught fire.” -Pamela H. Johnson

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida's Coast
Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida's Coast

As I type, I sit below a large canvas painting of a coastline sunset where the water reflects so much citrine color it looks as if it is on fire. I painted it several years ago, and it is my personal favorite. In the center of the painting, a girl stands in the lapping waves with her skirt hiked up, askew, as she stands transfixed.

In the same way that some of us can’t stay away from a sumptious chocolate or a handful of vine-ripened raspberries, I am drawn to the coast. And in particular, I love coastline sunsets. There is something about the way that the earth meets water, and then touches sky, that grabs my heart and keeps hold. Every time we are near an ocean or the sea, as time approaches for the sun to dip to bed for the night, I find myself standing along the shore, rapt by the sun’s grand color show.

This week, passing through photos, I caught a glimpse of a photo I took along the Florida coast just over two years ago (above). And I knew I had to share it. To me, there is something about the colors which won’t let go, about the vibrant light which boldly says “I am alive.”

In the past few years, we’ve been able to see many coastlines on different parts of the world. Here, four of my favorite sunsets from four different Seas:

Sunset over the Adriatic Sea, from Coastal Croatia
Sunset over the Adriatic Sea, from Coastal Croatia
Sun Setting over the Mediterranean Sea, from the coast of Tuscany, Italy
Sun Setting over the Mediterranean Sea, from the coast of Tuscany, Italy

 

Sunset Color in Maine, Lands' End Harbor of the Atlantic Ocean
Sunset Color in Maine, Lands' End Harbor of the Atlantic Ocean

 

Florida Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico
Florida Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

Do you have a favorite place to watch sunrises or sunsets? One particular time you remember?

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Holland and Belgium through My Lens: A Photojournal of Coastal and Countryside Beauty

A Canal in Holland leading toward the Sea

There is scarcely any writer who has not celebrated the happiness of rural privacy, and delighted himself and his reader with the melody of birds, the whisper of groves, and the murmur of rivulets.  ~Samuel Johnson

It is true: I love the countryside. My family came to America in the early 1900’s and settled in the wide stretches of land in the heart of the United States. The more I travel and the longer I live, I believe that we naturally migrate toward our roots and that our hearts feel most at home in places like our heritage. There are so many similarities in land and weather patterns and people between Western Europe and much of the United States. And we’ve never seen it so clearly as driving across middle Europe into the Coastal lowlands of Belgium and the Netherlands this past week.

For hours, we drove through checkerboards of farms, fields of golden colza, and hills of soft green meadows. Following, several photos that to me describe the staggering beauty of the coast and countryside in Belgium and Holland– the view through my lens:

Fields of Golden Colza
Fields of Golden Colza

a Windmill in Holland
a Windmill in Holland

Another Traditional Dutch Windmill
Another Traditional Dutch Windmill

Bikers in Holland
Bikers in Holland

A Typical Dutch Countryside scene
A Typical Dutch Countryside scene: I had heard how the Dutch prefer bicycling ...

A Canal in Holland leading toward the Sea
A Canal in Holland leading toward the Sea

Zeebrugges Beach on the border of Netherlands (Holland) and Belgium
Zeebrugges Beach on the border of Netherlands (Holland) and Belgium

Can you see in the photo above the people in the far distance standing near the surf? The beaches in low-lying Belgium and Holland go on forever!

Quiet colors of the North Sea from Zeebrugges
Quiet colors of the North Sea from Zeebrugges

Every boy's dream--an endless beach of sand
Every boy’s dream, an endless beach of sand: My 3 Boys on the Belgian Zeebrugges Beach

I loved getting to see the region of so many of our closest friends here in Europe. It’s beautiful!

In what ways do you appreciate a break from the city by escaping to the countryside? Have you been to Holland and / or Belgium?

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Croatia, Dubrovnik, and other Related Travels

Dubrovnik

“Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik and find it.” -George Bernard Shaw

Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik
Last week, our family of five packed our suitcases, mounted our Chica (Garmin), and followed the Winding Road to spend a week in Croatia. As it turns out, our trip meant far more than a “beach vacation”, and the places and things we saw will linger in our memories for many years to come. Croatia and its neighboring countries are quite unique.
Croatian Coast
Bordering the Adriatic Sea almost the whole length from Trieste, Italy, to the NorthWest coast of Greece, Croatia consists of a tireless strip of coastline. For much of the stretch, the Croatia-Bosnia border is only a few miles from the water, and at one section on the road South to Dubrovnik, the traveler by car must cross Bosnia for a dozen miles.

 

Bosnia

 

Our destination, the near-ancient and historic town of Dubrovnik, proved to be the jewel on the sea as Croatia says it is. If there were ever a “Pirates of the Caribbean” like the movies and Disney’s setup, it is Dubrovnik. Consisting of multiple bastion-type forts and a continuous city wall stretching two kilometers, Dubrovnik has fought its battles for centuries, and won. The most recent battles fought there were in the Croatian War for Independence, 1991-1995, with lingering battles in Dubrovnik into 1996.
With such a recent devastating war, you can imagine the sites we saw–simple and humbling remnants from this nation who gave so much for freedom. Fresh cemeteries with uniform headstones seemingly stood in every village we passed. Buildings demolished into dormant ruins, mortar marks, bullet holes– all serve to remind only years later of the war.
Reminder of Recent War, Croatia

As the Croatian people forge ahead, FREE, and they create the alluring accomodations and roads to host visitors from all over the world, we can cheer them on. We felt quickly at home–their smiles are gracious, their English impeccable, their hospitality warm. And their country is beautiful beyond mere words.

Endless green-blue Sea

 

Coastal Charm, Croatia

What leaves the indelible impression upon me is the need for government and people to find a harmonious path, and to give each other the grace we all need in return. For without a doubt, when too much is taken, the human spirit will rise up and embrace freedom.

Starting the Conversation: Croatia has countless islands capped by mountains jutting skyward from the sea–a radiant and unique coastline, dotted with mini-lighthouses and sailing yachts. What is your favorite coast along the sea–any sea?