Cali! – April 2016


The Bay area is one of our favorite places in the U.S. We always have a smile when we land in SFO.

We arrived on Saturday and spent the weekend in Palo Alto visiting family, taking their lead and enjoying the things they like to do. Our home for a couple of nights was the Westin Palo Alto, across the street from the Stanford campus – a very nice, comfortable hotel.


Stanford’s campus is lovely — as nice as any we’ve encountered. It’s worth a visit simply to enjoy the Mission architecture, palm-lined boulevards, and extensive gardens and walkways. The arboretum opposite the Westin is a great place for a walk or run. We opted for a quiet, early morning walk.


One of the weekend highlights was attending a Warriors game at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. The fan-base there is certainly crazy about Steph Curry and the Dubs, and the place was electric. As they do nearly every home game, the Warriors broke open a close game in the 4th quarter and won easily.

Our Palo Alto area restaurant recommendations (with a little help from locals):

Ann’s Coffee Shop in Menlo Park – a very busy, straightforward, local diner serving great breakfast for decades. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, particularly the specials. Be sure to start with the fresh-squeezed orange juice. 4*

Carpaccio’s, also in Menlo Park – a family-style restaurant serving quality Italian fare in a low key atmosphere with good prices. Very tasty. 4*

Big Sur Coastline

The next couple of days we spent on the coast, starting with a fantastic, slow-paced drive down the PCH in a convertible to Big Sur! Later in the day, we were fortunate to enjoy a gorgeous sunset on Pebble Beach in Carmel after a great dinner – it really doesn’t get much better than this.

Or so we thought until we took a breathtaking drive along 17-Mile Drive, followed by lunch at the Inn at Spanish Bay, and a walk along the beach. There are many beautiful coastlines throughout the world — Amalfi, for example — but we haven’t come across one that has more to offer than this part of the beautiful California coast.


Our very comfortable accommodations in Carmel-by-the-Sea were at the Carmel Country Inn. A modest, well-appointed and comfortable B&B with welcoming hosts in a great location and walking distance to the beach and the town’s many shops and restaurants.

Our restaurant recommendations:

Roy’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay – Maybe it was the wine. Or it could have been the delicious seafood fare. Or perhaps the great service. Or maybe the stunning view. Whatever it was (and it was everything) the dining experience was fabulous in every way! We most definitely will return. 5*

Flying Fish Grill – located in the small village of Carmel, this restaurant is highly rated for good reason, and we highly recommend it. The staff was very welcoming and attentive, the fish fantastic, and the California wines most enjoyable – after which we were happy to have accommodations within easy walking distance. Again, we hope to be back. 4 1/2 *

Hogs Breath Inn – nostalgic as it was formerly owned by Clint Eastwood. We dined in the courtyard on a nice evening. Good food. Great history. 3 1/2*

Mark headed back to Toronto after a couple of fun days in Carmel, and Dana stayed in Cali to attend a photography workshop with world-renowned nature photographer, Frans Lanting.

From Dana –

Frans offers a few photo workshops in Santa Cruz each year. I had the privilege to attend and work with his brilliant team, including Jason Bradley, Kevin Osborn, and Paul Zaretsky. In addition to Frans, each member of his team brings their own expertise to the workshop, and are readily available to work closely with each member of the small group of photogs.

The four-day workshop was challenging, informative, and exhausting as you begin each day shooting before sunrise, followed by instructional and interactive classroom sessions held at the UCSC Seymour Marine Discovery Center. Not to mention the ever important image reviews which provide very helpful feedback from which to learn and improve one’s skills.

Each day begins at Frans’ studio for breakfast, then off to any number of shooting locations. Field trips included Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, cruising in a pontoon boat photographing birds, sea lions and otters; a trip to the beach for some scenic coastal photography, including the tides lines; the UCSC Arboretum to explore the various collections of plants at the botanical gardens; and Henry Cowell State Park to photograph Fall Creek and the redwood grove. Truly an abundance of photographic subjects.

Cruising Elkhorn Slough –


At the beach –



At the Arboretum –


Deep in the Redwood Grove –


In the evenings, there is a Welcome Reception the first night of the workshop, one night the group gets together for pizza night at a local restaurant, and one evening Frans and Chris Eckstrom invite the workshop group to their lovely home. There a special dinner is catered by local chef, Jozseph Schultz, an artful chef with great command of the wok; he is sure to entertain. It was a special night to enjoy such great company and conversations in Frans and Chris’ comfortable home and picturesque garden.

From the garden –


If you are a photographer, I highly recommend attending one of Frans’ workshops (see the website for detailed information,

Safe travels!

… Mark & Dana …

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