California Road Trip ~ with the family, with Ponyo…

“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations
than a moving plane, ship or train.There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes
and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads:
large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places.
Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape.
The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.”
~ Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel


photo 4We were headed to Big Sur. I wanted to spend Sunday evening, June 15th under the stars at the Henry Miller Memorial Library listening to the Kitchen Sisters with their sonic surprises. But it didn’t happen. We couldn’t find a room close enough with a days notice, and only made it to Carmel. Nonetheless, it was a spontaneous adventure that reminded me that this type of travel, even with kids, could still happen. It made me happy. What I also realized is what travel can do for a relationship ~ with my daughter Royal, my son August, with my husband of 13 years Lloyd. It slows us all down and allows, at least me, to focus… on them, on myself. There is nothing that we have to do at a particular time, which has sadly become our lives as an East Bay family ~ driving kids to school, classes, recitals, friends’ houses, juggling appointments, fighting traffic. It’s monotonous and depressing. But each day I enter the world with the idea that things will change.. and they did, for one whole week. Below, are some of the highlights and reflections, and links to cool spots we made it to, others we didn’t have a chance to and will next time, and some of the thoughts and new people that entered into my world when i finally got to rest my mind and watch the world go by traveling down Highway 1, and then back up Highway 5…

Day 1, Father’s Day, June 15th, SUNDAY / WHERE: Carmel Mission Inn… on the edge of the city. Great sense of color, with mostly blues and greens, and a fuchsia backdrop behind the jacuzzi. The kids loved the place. Lots of families, not too expensive ($175-200), 5 minutes to downtown.

WHAT: First stop, the beautiful Point Lobos Park and Whaler’s Cove.. August and I talking about Mac Barnett’s Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem and wandering amongst the bones and baleen on display… For dinner, a little stroll downtown, looking for a place to eat, I wanted to go to Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch for a cocktail, but the kids were hungry. So we tried La Bicyclette which had a wait of 2 hours, and ended up at the sweet (and yummy, family-friendly) Cantinetta Lucca. We got a negroni, mescal sour, kids got pizzas, and Lloyd and I shared a “tricolore” salad and “Caserecce” with clams, calamari, and spicy calabrese salami. Simple and Good. We made a separate stop for dessert ~ a dolphin cookie, lemon cheesecake and handmade cannoli at Carmel Bakery on Ocean Ave, started in 1906. And a late night walk on the beach.

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Day 2: Monday / After a grande Americano at the large, very social, and strangely elegant Starbucks across the street from our hotel (and a few moments alone), and very Parisian baked goods at Lafayette Bakery, we departed for Highway 1, making our way through Big Sur, with a stop at Big Sur Bakery. Disappointing baked goods, maybe we were too late? But excited to see a bottle of Guido Porro on the counter, an Italian wine-maker we visited a couple years ago driving through Piemonte. Many of my friends seem to love this place, so I’ll give it another try, maybe when I finally get to Esalen, and get to spend time at the Henry Miller Library. Onward for a quick stop at Nepenthe and then to Ragged Point for fish & chips and a burger for Royal and I, overlooking the Pacific. Lloyd naps, August on his loom making bracelets in the car.

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Truly spectacular drive, with me reading Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch and Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur ~ excerpts, evoking the area we came to visit, but then pass by. We stop in awe of the molting elephant seals (above) that arrive twice a year to shed their skins. An hour later we arrive at the bottom of San Simeon, aka Hearst Castle… The kids and I take the tour, I imagine a salon dinner in the “informal” dining room, watch clips of movies of Charlie Chaplin and others visiting the mansion for their two week sojourns. We linger by the outdoor pool, August in charge of getting us to the mosaic indoor poor which is just as beautiful as I remember, and we descend the hill imagining the polar bears and giraffes that used to be roaming the land before being sold to the San Diego and SF zoos… We move on, and I make a reservation at the old school Santa Maria Inn. Our goal is the Hitching Post. It has been stuck in my head since I kind of planned a dinner around it back in December with wine-maker Raj Parr. Raj met his fiancé there and it was where a few of the scenes in Alexander Payne’s Sideways took place. It was memorable, seemed like a perfect destination, so I make a rez, pick a hotel nearby and we arrive. The hotel evokes The Shining, but in a good way. Hallways that zigzag and intersect and seem to circle around a central space that doesn’t quite make sense. My kids love it. Old fountains spouting water, a jacuzzi and pool perfect for a film shoot (there are location scouts there). We depart for the Hitching Post after a quick swim, only for me to read that I booked the wrong place. We were headed to Hitching Post 1, the original that opened in 1952. Alexander shot his scenes with Paul Giametti and Thomas Haden Church at Hitching Post 2 in Buellton. We were heading to Casmalia, a cow town with the population of 100. So I decide it’s best to go to the original first, then I can return someday on a wine adventure and visit my original destination…

Casmalia is a cowtown. We are detoured around fields and end up in the middle of nowhere. The restaurant is dark, simple, with animal heads staring down on you as you enter. It’s also excellent, all of it ~ my Honig white, Hunting Post Pinot Noir, quail, ribs. I even leave with a glass. We return to the hotel, watch The Day After Tomorrow, a film I’ve seen a handful of times, that continually gives me anxiety. For some reason I want to watch it even more. Maybe it’s Jake Gyllenhal. I’m not sure.

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Day 3: Tuesday ~ The next morning August and I head to the pool and I begin a sweet facebook exchange with an old friend from NY C in the 90s ~ poet and musician David Greenberg. I begin to read his blog and am taken back to the East Village, that moment in time. I also connect with another friend Isaac Salchow, a bowmaker… and here I am by the pool communicating to NYC about Allen Ginsberg, Howl, Kill Your Darlings and the connections that bring us together. I also get to swim laps with August, who makes me laugh. He likes things when he can win. There needs to be a goal. if you give him the possibility of winning, finishing, eventually selling something he’s made, he’s all for it. Whether chess, ceramics, loom bracelets and now swimming.

We head for Santa Barbara to meet Raj (and owner Eric) at the super cool Les Marchands wine bar which is part of a larger block of wineries and eateries including The Lark and Pretty Penny. My kids meet Raj, who arrives with his fiance Jessica and her niece ~ by bike. We sit on the patio drinking rose, salads, lentils, marinated tuna and pizzas from Pretty Penny. Les Marchands is the kind of place I would love to create ~ with different spaces to convene in, a gorgeous interior, and some of the best wines ~ locally produced, and from abroad. It’s where I would spend my early evenings, every night, if we had a place like this in the East Bay. Why don’t we have a place like this in the East Bay?  I think there needs to be one (a subject, much discussed last week at Donkey and Goat’s Bastille Day get together a few blocks away from my studio in Berkeley). We wind our way up the hills to Raj’s Zen-like house which over-looks the ocean. August points out he would someday like a backyard, and i promise him one, someday.

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Above ~ from Santa Maria Inn to Les Marchands in Santa Barbara ~ food, wine, books, space. August with Musigny.
Later that evening, August’s hand-made deck of cards.


We arrive in Eagle Rock to a dinner made by friends Anthony who works at JPL (NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and Simone, a cellist. Ant is one of my oldest friends in California. We go way back to University of Reading during my JYA when I was 19 years old.

Day 4: Wednesday ~ We head out to Burbank to go to Porto’s Bakery, a place that Lloyd goes to when he comes down to LA for work at Disney, to go over the Ratatouille Paris ride project he’s been working on. Porto’s is huge, cheap but good, efficient and Cuban. Next ~ to the Science Center at Exposition Park to see the Endeavor shuttle and IMAX’s Natural Disasters movie (a continuation of The Day After Tomorrow that we didn’t finish). Then ~ to Intellegentsia in Pasadena for coffee break. The last time we had that coffee was oddly in Tokyo; and Vietnamese at Lemongrass that evening.

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 Above collage ~ Porto’s Bakery, Space Shuttle Endeavor at California Space Center, Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall,
Intelligentsia’s Pasadena Cafe, Simone’s vintage shoes, Royal’s flipflops, August’s drawing of Ant.


 Day 5/6: Thurs/Fri ~ Up early to go downtown to Eggslut in Grand Central Market to see my old design assistant Katherine Summer who has been working at Halston in Downtown LA. Back to a preview of our friend’s CHROMA performance; and then we head out.. Last stop Los Pinos before hitting our stride on Highway 5, making it home to rest for an evening, wine dinner the following evening… And then Saturday morning to Sebastopol, for part 2 of the adventure.

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Above ~ From Eggslut to Los Pinos on Highway 5 going north, and in-between Simone’s CHROMA classical music ensemble…
Wine dinner at Sue and Chad’s, with a moment for a rest.


Day 7/8: Saturday/Sunday ~ Onward to our friend Ene’s 50th in Occidental, exploring Sebastopol, Freestone and Bodega Bay.

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Above collage ~ Scott and Ene’s downstairs with our friend Kathleen Henderson’s drawing. Wildflower Bakery, and a run on the Doran Beach/Bodega Bay with Ponyo. August and Ponyo with Patrick Amiot’s “junk art,” which lines a whole street in Sebastopol. Aubergine Vintage Emporium, Ene with her cupcakes. Last memory, twilight ~ August on Carmel Beach the first evening of your road trip.


Favorite things ~ Hitching Post, Casmalia. Santa Maria Inn, Santa Maris. Indoor pool and main dining room, Hearst Castle. Les Marchands, Santa Barbara. Wildflower Bakery, Freestone; Aubergine Vintage Store, Sebastopol.

Things to see next time ~ Henry Miller Library, Big Sur. Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. Hitching Post 2. Osmosis Day Spa, Freestone. Just One Eye, West Hollywood. A’maree’s in Newport Beach. Suzanne Goins’ AOC (which I haven’t been to) and Lucques (which I went to 10 years ago). Maxfield’s (haven’t been in years!). Vodka infusions at Chateau Marmont (it was the first bar I went to in LA, 1996). Take Lloyd to Church and State, and finally try Alma, Bestia and Animal…all in Los Angeles.


“A danger of travel is that we may see things at the wrong time,
before we have had an opportunity to build up the necessary receptivity,
so that new information is as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chain.”
~ alain de boton

1 Comment

  • Reply July 23, 2014

    Cynthia Bennett

    Cari, very well done, almost felt like I was there, sounds like a grand time was had by all. The children are getting so big, especially Royal, looks so much like you. Really enjoyed the pictures, glad to see you all looking so well.

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