February 26, 2008
Well, there is a Bellagio in Italy, so I had to specify. I like it. Not the hotel for I haven’t stayed there, but the greenhouse or orangerie – where they always have the most beautiful flower displays themed by the time of the year. Here is last year’s (2007) Christmas display:
The only positive outcome of my late arrival from Lithuania this year (the flight was stopped in Denver for 4 hours because of crazy reasons) was that at 5 am Utah time there is noone in Bellagio “decorated hall”. So we could fully enjoy the Chinese New year theme. Usually the crowds are very dense, it is hard to take a proper picture.
And it is Rat’s year!
This rat is grown as a topiary of some special moss. They try to make most of the decorations of natural resourses.
Those are real rocks, I have no idea where they brought them from, but they look like a small replica of those famous mountains in China. A variety of orchids are blooming from crevices.
February 24, 2008
We went to Yosemite NP during our December California trip – not the best time of the year…it was very cold over there and parts of the road were icy. I am sure it is so much better to see Yosemite in summer when the rest of the US is in sweltering heat. But we run a B&B and we have irrigation to do, so summers are not free for travels. And not only that – when I saw how small Yosemite canyon is, how crowded the traffic may get there in season because it is advertised as almost one of the wonders of the world…no, I don’t want to go there in summer. Getting there is such a long drive…At least two hours after you leave civilization on a winding road where you have to be really careful – parts of it are icy and the big trees are so close on both sides…We drove into the park on Rt. 120. On the way, more than 2 hours before the Yosemite Village – the views were much better, with a Tulloch lake in between rolling hills:
So much of beautiful views…Then for two hours – only big trees and dull mountain slopes. And at last – we saw those so photographed peaks, but the waterfalls were “shut off “- because of shortage of water…We did two rounds in the canyon with the expectation that we are missing something, that such an advertised park should have so much more to offer, but no. We left very disappointed, sorry for ourselves to again have to drive such a long trip from it…Besides the big trees and those 2-3 well known peaks that the park has, it has nothing extraordinary, more than our Zion NP has, and it has twice of the visitors than Zion has. Zion is a longer canyon, and it has so many more beautiful picture perfect views from any part of its scenic drive. Driving to Zion is so much shorter and much more spectacular. Oh well, the power of advertisement! At least – driving back to the central valley was much better because we took Rt.140 which took us by Merced river and it was much more pleasant.
My advice: unless you have several days to spend and a reserved room or tent in Yosemite, it is not worth going there for a short one day trip. Consider Zion NP . Unless it is mid summer and it is really hot.
February 23, 2008
I will write this for those who need an idea of how long it takes to drive from L.A. to San Francisco mostly on the coastal Rt. 1 and see something interesting on the way. We started in L.A. day 1st. and visited Simi Valley during lunch time, then reached Santa Barbara, spent some time there and came to Solvang around 4 pm CA time. I remember that because at 5pm they close all the little stores in Solvang, but they keep the wine tasting places open till 6pm, so we had a chance to taste some 9 sorts of wine. The next morning we spent a couple of hours in Morro Bay, then stopped in Cambria and reached Hearst Castle around 2 pm. Each excursion there takes about 2 h. So after watching the big screen movie they show in the visitor’s center we rushed out to drive as much as we could in the daylight. The sun was setting down pretty fast, remember – it was mid December…So by the time we reached Big Sur – it was totally dark. Ant it is not advisable to come to Big Sur in the dark – hard to find a place to stay. On day 3 we spent some morning time hiking in the State Park by Big Sur, then had lunch on one of the Piers in Monterey, had no time for the Aquarium…Drove to Santa Cruz and walked a little in its Downtown, the Pier and by the time we finally found the Mystery Spot in the redwood forest by SAnta Cruz, it was getting dark. We reached the Lodge on the North side of SC in complete darkness. Good that the lodge had a sauna and a jacuzzi tub, it helped to relax after this hectic trip. On day 4 we enjoyed some morning sunny time on the rocks by the ocean on the northern part of SC and then drove towards San Francisco with short stops. We reached Golden Gate Park around lunch time and had some of our food in the beautiful settings of the park on a table by the lake. After looking around the park we reached the Chinatown area and found a parking there around 4:30 pm. So we hade some daylight still. The next morning it took us several hours to investigate the Piers and Ghirardelli Square and then the Golden Gate bridge area. After driving north and turning East towards the wine country we reached Napa Valley in twilight. On day 5 we drove a lot, in the fog at first and then in the sun until we reached Yosemite NP, spent there a couple of hours and reached Bakersfield for supper and night.
The next morning we drove through the Crookedest street, through the Russian Hill down to Fisherman’s Wharf and stopped at Ghirardelli Square. it was Sunday ant there were plenty of spaces available to park the car for it was not a late morning. Later those spaces disappeared. There were historic ships on that pier, the views were beautiful, no rain, lots of Chinese jewelers selling their creations for good prices by the cable car stop, what else can one wish for. Yes, and SF has skyscrapers, I guess built in special way so that they’d not be knocked by the first strong earthquake…
You can see Alcatraz in the distance. It is on an island, maybe that is why no one has escaped this prison, ever.
Golden Gate bridge from different locations:
After we passed Golden Gate bridge, which was quite an impressive drive, we came to Sausalito on the other side and had lunch in a nice restaurant sitting outside in front of thousands of “parked” yachts:
Then we drove winding roads towards the ocean again and here is what we saw:
And yes, I like plants. No matter how little time I have at the moment – I can’t go indifferently by them…
February 22, 2008
We reached San Francisco around lunch time and found ourselves directly in Golden Gate Park, the largest man made park in the world! It is 3 mi long and .5 mi wide and has plenty of parking places as well as big trees, ponds, lawns, flowers and also the de Young Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, the Botanical Gardens and The Conservatory of Flowers. They are all worth visiting. The Nature museum is being restored and is coming soon. It can be seen in the picture in front of de Young museum behind the big square. Here is the very modern de Young museum with its observation hall and the views from it:
On the right side looking from de Young there is the Japanese Tea Garden. It is small, old, very well taken care of and has several Japanese pagodas inside.They charge entrance fee. And while there you can also taste teas and participate in a tea ceremony.
The Botanical Gardens at Srybing Arboretum are like the extension of the park , except that they have little names under each tree. The trees are tall, beautiful, some are peculiar, never seen before. There are a lot of squirrels under one of them, they are making a show there while running around guests and asking for a treat. But only under one tree…There were not too many flowers in December. Actually, here is the only area we found densely blooming and this only purple flower smiling at us from high up in the green growth.
Then we drove to Downtown SF and after several rounds around Chinatown, for joy for joy! we found a parking spot on Vallejo st. by Grand ave. Here on the corner we found a cozy Thai restaurant to be really tasty! And we went around in Chinatown but it was getting dark. Here is the last view that day – taken from our parking space: