Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mendocino via Vintage 911

This weekend was the first time in two years that Sumie and I slept under a different roof than our children.  They remained at home, kindly, and excitedly, watched over by Grandma.  Sumie and I blocked off a luxurious 30 hours of "us" time and fled to the north coast of Mendocino.

Looking back over nearly 5 years with kids so far, I think it's safe to say that Sumie and I still travel quite a bit, but it's always as a family.  Christopher, in his first year of life alone, logged more airline miles than I did in my first twenty.  Traveling with young kids can be a lot of fun, but it's never quite a vacation, so this was a real treat for the two of us.

Our trip began with a quick drive up 101 and then crossing over to Bodega Bay.  From there, we drove up the remaining 100 or so miles to Mendocino along Highway 1.  We marveled at the scenery and completely different pace of the small towns through which we passed.  This is perhaps the only place in the world in which it takes 15 minutes to toast a pizza bagel.  And when it finally arrives on the counter, it's a pesto bagel.

We arrived at our bed and breakfast, The Agate Cove Inn, in the late afternoon.  The setting had looked fantastic on the website, but was even better in person.  Quiet, serene, with just enough ocean roar to calm the senses.
The inn even matched our car!  Upon arrival, I put the top back on the Porsche.  It did not come off again on our trip.  I love a targa or a convertible, but Sumie is not a big fan.  "You can't talk!"
While unfolding the roof, I brilliantly managed to pinch my ring finger in the hinge mechanism, resulting in a nice, steady stream of blood.  Sumie, always the doctor on call, quickly responded with a very manly Dora the Explorer bandaid, which I wore proudly through the rest of the trip.
Despite the somewhat humbling arrival, we were quite pleased with our room.  Gas fireplace, a soaking tub big enough for a moderate-sized high school swim team, and a supple leather couch with an amazing view out the front windows.
This is the basic view we had from our sitting room and the front porch.
Back in NYC, Sumie and I ate out all the time.  We reveled in good food.  Today, it's an exceedingly rare treat that the two of us can enjoy a good restaurant.  Young kids have a way of keeping fancy food at bay.  As such, our trips as a couple often center on good food, and plenty of it. For our first meal we had reservations at Coq au Vin, a country-style French restaurant in Andersen Valley.  By the time we headed out (top on the car, and Sumie much happier), it was already dark.  Now, anyone who has driven through the Northern California coast knows that cell phone reception is, at best, spotty. And anyone who has driven a stock 911sc at night knows that the factory headlights are about as bright as a 1 watt bulb hooked up to the exercise wheel of a lethargic hamster with emphysema. This delightful combination resulted in us overshooting our hard-to-see 14 miles. But, thanks to my German obsession with being on time, and a similar German obsession with fast cars, we still made it.

Coq au Vin is by no means fancy.  It's a favorite of the locals and the decor and comaraderie matches the laid-back atmosphere of the north coast.  The food, however, is first rate.  We started with mussels and an order of French onion soup.  Sumie pronounced this soup the best she has ever tasted. I heartily agreed (and nearly ordered a second cup).
Sumie followed with the cod...
...and I tucked into the roast tenderloin with Normandy sauce.  Both were simple, but wonderfully done.
The next morning we enjoyed a breakfast at the inn (which had the best muffins I've ever enjoyed) and pottered around the grounds.
 Upon check-out we made the very short drive down to the town of Mendocino proper.
 The downtown was very cute, and also very dangerous.  Well, at least for my wallet.  We found a little shop that specialized in jams and jellies, and another in Belgian chocolates and automobile memorabilia.  We even came across a man who ran a perfume shop and built custom speakers.  This, for me, was perhaps the most dangerous.  Sumie, however, had the strength to pull me out before I could be led to the listening room and a potential purchase that definitely would not have fit in the back seat.

Our last stop in town was Cafe Beaujolais, a California-French restaurant (heavy emphasis on the California).  Sumie and I split crab cakes, and then she tucked into her fettuccine.
I had a bacon and chicken sandwich, Frenched up with the addition of brie and served on a baguette. Mine was great, but Sumie definitely won the lunch food round.  Her leftovers are still in the fridge as I'm writing this, but may well be gone by the time she gets home with Mimi from shopping.
 Our drive home on highway 128 took us through dense redwood stands.  It was gorgeous.  Sumie mentioned that she saw an Ewok or two.  We'd had a remarkable time.
We'd also made it home quickly, safely, and comfortably in a 32 year old car with over 200K on the odometer.  Our little 911, which I'd equipped with a spare battery, jumper cables, and a set of tools, saw us through and helped to make our little road trip a bit of an adventure. I can also proudly say that not a single person passed us on highway 1 or 128, despite our keeping, for the car at least, a rather leisurely pace.

After 30 hours away, we returned home to two very excited kids.  They had been amazing for grandma and we couldn't have been prouder of them.  That night, Mimi snuggled into her favorite spot on Mama's lap for a story.
The next morning, I cuddled my two munchkins.
After this weekend, I've realized that a night or two away isn't simply about spending private time with your spouse (though that's much appreciated).  Perhaps the greatest benefit of a weekend away from the kids is remembering just how much you love what you left behind.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Breakfast for Three, Headlands for Four

This past weekend was the first in about two months that we didn't have a fully packed schedule.  It wasn't entirely free, though.  Sumie had to work Saturday and I had a full slate.  The day began with taking Sumie's car in for service at 8:00am.  Thankfully, they had a loaner car as I had two kids with me.  After transferring both carseats, and then both children, we were ready to go.

I told Mimi that the three of us would go out to breakfast.  Normally, going out to eat would send her into rapturous joy, but Saturday morning was gymnastics morning.  As such, Mimi was concerned she'd miss it.  I ensured her we'd make it on time (not fully sure, but pretty sure) and made the concession to eat near her gym.  This seemed to satisfy her.  At least for the first ten minutes.

We went into Novato and ate at the Rustic Bakery, which has wonderful croissants and sandwiches. They also have tables spaced far enough apart to navigate a stroller.

Kuri was, as always, fascinated by his older sister.
Upon finishing, I dumped the 1,400 raisins, which Kuri had spilled, out of the stroller, fed them to the birds, and took the kids for a quick walk while waiting for Mimi's gymnastics class.  Once again, Kuri couldn't look away from his big sister.  I sometimes wonder what he's thinking, and if there isn't a hint of horror.  
A very lazy Sunday morning bled into afternoon.  It wasn't until 3:00 that the whole family roused itself for an afternoon drive.  We headed out to the Marin Headlands for a peak at the Bonita Lighthouse.  Kuri approved.
We missed the lighthouse by about 10 minutes (they close the tunnel at 3:30), but still hiked down the trail.  We were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Golden Gate on a spectacular, fog-free afternoon.  
We hiked back up and briefly explored Battery Mendell on the hill.  I was saddened.  As a kid, I had stayed at the hostel here and the rooms of the battery had been open.  It was fascinating: a memory I have kept the past 30 years.  Today, they are closed and barred, I suppose for safety.  I can't help but feel it's a loss.  I wish the forts and bunkers could be opened for us to explore, at least once in a while.

Mama and Mimi cuddled on a tree...
...and then hiked up one of the many underground bunkers, now covered with ice plant.  
 Mimi loved running down the hills...
 ...and then down the road, despite calls from her parents.
By the time it was time to go, Mimi was fairly worn out.  Kuri, however, was still up for fun.
With the sun starting to go down, we headed to dinner in Tiburon.  We explored the downtown and settled into a little Italian restaurant with great food and semi-behaved children.  We made it through half our entrees before I had to leave the restaurant with Kuri for some distractive sightseeing.

It wasn't much of a weekend, but it was the first time in ages we didn't have a schedule.  I loved it. Why is it that everything is so much more enjoyable when you're not forced to do it?  Perhaps I should take this into consideration at dinner time with Mimi. Nah, she still wouldn't eat.