Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sightseeing in Northern CA

Don't think you'd want to rent a car in CA and drive 500 miles from LA to Sacramento and beyond?  Think again.    I'm going to tell you a few things you'll miss if you don't consider it. 

Like driving through the Grapevine which I'd never done before.  And luckily the snow that had it closed earlier in the week was gone from the pavement and only to be found in the shaded areas of the mountains on either side of the curving highway. 

Also saw wind turbines in great clusters.  Farms they call them.  Wow. 

Pyramid Lake.  Astounding.
Last Thursday we set out with my sister-in-law, Patty, for a day of shopping near her home in Rancho Murieta.  First stop was in Amador City.  Their tourism department calls it  "the essence of California gold and wine country".  Tiny little winding road.  Just one block and then the road curves on out of town.  Simply pulled over in the curve and parked the rental car.  Not a parking lot or meter at the curb.  Nope.  Just a paved spot to pull off in front of the bakery's new home, which was getting a face lift while we shopped.

At the Kitchen Store I got a mortar and pestle (been needing one of those) and the sweetest little hand-carved ladle you ever saw, with a hook at the top of the handle for hanging on the edge of your pot.  To think someone took the time to whittle that just for me.  Quite pleased.  Lots of the shops were only open Friday-Sunday, so next time I need better planning on my schedule of shopping excursions.  We did find a few antique shops open so we could wander around and browse.

Next stop: Sutter Creek.  Oh my, this place is truly the Jewel of the Mother Lode as their tourism department describes it.  Patty steered me right into the Fine Eye Gallery, telling me it was the best shop in town, and have mercy, she was right.  In fact, after dawdling in there forever, touching everything I could reach twice, we continued working our way up and down the street, and I had to go back to make my purchases.  (Should never have doubted her.)

We weren't hungry yet when she suggested lunch, but off we went to Susan's Place.  (Sigh)  Note to self:  no french toast for breakfast next time if we're headed out shopping in Sutter Creek.  Just plan on brunch at Susan's.

Now if you've met me and spent any time at all with me, you know I'm prone to either love something or hate it.  Fell in love.  Still in love.  Can't wait to visit again.

When the waitress brought out my lunch, I oohed and aahed over the presentation.  Picked up one half of my sandwich and took a bite.  Then set it aside, grabbed my camera, and began taking photos.  Seriously.

But that's not all.  I then asked her to bring me back the menu so I could copy the description of my Cranberry Turkey Sandwich:

A chutney of cranberries, blueberries, walnuts and green apples, layered with roasted turkey breast and fresh greens.  Served on a Telera roll with a garlic, feta and cream cheese spread.  And all sandwiches and wraps are served with a side salad of mixed greens.

Have mercy.  If I've eaten anything prettier or tastier, forgive me, because it's gone right out of my head now, replaced by this masterpiece.  I never even touched the salad.  Couldn't even eat the second half of my sandwich.  Make a note:  don't eat french toast 9ish if you plan to dine at Susan's 11ish. 
Just saying.

More shopping after lunch in Sutter Creek took us into the Gallery 10.

They had some pottery that sent me over the edge.  Fat, naked chicks with mouths wide open.  A huge, heavy vase with one of those fat chicks, complete with pearls.  Couldn't even lift it to get the price.  And then knew I couldn't carry it back in my luggage, or afford to have it shipped.  Would worry it would get broken, or the freight charges would bankrupt me.  But, oh, I wanted one of those pieces and still do. 

And then we arrived in Jackson.  

May I just go on record now as saying that the last time I tried to parallel park with any degree of success was during my driving test in 1970?  Unless there are 2 or preferably 3 spaces in a row that I can pull into, I keep driving.  Patty is pointing out spaces.  Ha!  Seemed insane in a rental car with no backup camera.  Oh, how I missed my Lexus on this trip. 

We cruised through town, through a valet parking lot, back onto the open road to circle back around and try again.  Finally found one (or two or three in a row) I could manage.

Now she was thinking it was time to head home for cocktails before heading off to the country club for dinner, but we couldn't be rushed.  We just had to check out the National Hotel which had been newly renovated.  Simply marvelous!
And do you see that red building in the photo above?  Just to the right of the hotel?  I found a goldmine of old photos in there and nothing could prevent me from looking at every single one.  Seriously.  Found quite a stash I couldn't live without for upcoming classes.  Just you wait and see.
And just to the right were 2 more went to another antique shop upstairs while one went down a very cold stairwell to the downstairs shop.  Handmade pillows were tempting, but required far too much real estate in my luggage for the trip home.  Pity.

Wandering back up the street we peered in the window of yet another shop, only to be waved in by the friendliest gentleman ever.  Turns out he wasn't the owner.  He and his wife were friends of the owner, sitting on a bench inside for a bit of a chat.  And of course hubby stayed up front swapping stories while we shopped in the back.  An afternoon of delight.  I thanked him for encouraging me to come on in.  Quite neighborly.  And we encouraged them to come on down to NC for a bit of antique shopping since they'd already been to Maine.  If you're coming to the East Coast from California, why not come on down?

Then it was back to Patty's for appetizers and cocktails, before heading over to the club for steak dinners.  And then we put on our jammies and watched "Undertaking Betty" with Alfred Molina, Christopher Walken and Brenda Blethyn.  Help me Rhonda, we all laughed our way through it, which set off my coughing and sent me racing for my cough syrup with codeine so I didn't have to miss a single second of the frivolity.  A real hoot!

Friday morning we were off to San Francisco, but of course that's another story.  Now aren't you glad I rented that car and made that drive? 

Knew you would be. 
Just knew it.