Sunday, July 29, 2012

Take 12 - Day trips around the Bay Area

Day Trips around the Bay Area

In order to get to know our adoptive State and take advantage of everything California has to offer, we take Day Trips. Usually Saturdays or Sundays, with or without the pooch. San Jose is a great location to start from since it is situated about 1 hour, more or less (depending on traffic) from places like San Francisco, Berkeley, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and lots more. Now, David is not a natural born driver and neither am I a very comfortable rider. He drives very well but is not one of those rugged drivers who dive into traffic without a care in the world. So that makes him a careful driver (Thank Goodness !) while I sit nervously by his side. Terrified, not of his driving, but of the multitude of cars (and there are so many in California) and I do not often relax on a freeway. Nothing new, I have always been this way. I just breathe deeply and try to think of the place we are going to visit....... So let's get started.

Half Moon Bay

This is a small town located on the Coast, 25 miles south of San Francisco. There are lots of beaches along the Coast but not all of them are dog friendly. After trying several and being told dogs were not welcome, we finally found one where dogs could run free and swim too. This beach is called Poplar Beach and it is really fantastic. Heck, even horses are welcome there. Our dog Taylor had a great time and also feasted on the little gifts the horses left behind. But seriously...... back to the beach. Some of you might say.... A beach, is a beach, is a beach, well I beg to differ. To me a real beach is not the ubiquitous place where towels are lined up and oiled bodies of every size and shape are playing the toast game trying to get that perfect glow with a few sun burns in between. No. To me a real beach is a large expanse of sand where you can walk, barefoot (weather permitting) letting the foamy water caress your feet, wind in your hair and on your face a smile of contentment. Walking on a beach, I feel free, relaxed and totally grateful for the opportunity. That probably comes from having lived in Montreal for so long where most people have, pinned on the wall of their work cubicle, at least one postcard of a beach where they would rather be than in Montreal in the dead of Winter or the heat and humidity of Summer. So dreams do come true.......if you wish hard and long enough. We chose to have our picnic lunch on one of the cliffs overlooking the beach and with the magnificent view. Even a simple sandwich tastes much better in such a setting.

After our lunch, we drove on to Bean Hollow, another beach 17 miles South of Poplar. The South end is a typical beach but the Northern end is the interesting part and again dogs are welcome but this time on a leash. This is a different kind of beach made of pebbles. No towels here and no walk along the shore. Instead, a collection of Tide Pools and old rock formations creating small islands populated by seals. This place is unique and makes for an unusual panorama. Well worth the visit. Then it was time to get back on the road towards Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz

Another 30 miles South on a beautiful scenic Coast road and we arrive in Santa Cruz. Just the name brings to mind images of hippies and Love and Peace era and some areas of the town still have that feel. Santa Cruz also has a section of beach reserved for dog frolicking. However, by the time we got there (about 3:00 in the afternoon) the temperature had dipped down and the wind was so fierce, we decided to let other people brave the sand storms and the waves and headed back to San Jose to warm up. On a warmer day, Santa Cruz is great to visit, go to the beach and work on your tan (if that is your thing), take a stroll on the Boardwalk and perhaps have a bite to eat. There are lots of great small restaurants and caf├ęs to cater to every taste and budget. As we were making our way out of town, we stumbled upon a little hidden loft mall, made of mom and pop shops, at the corner of Swift and Ingalls, a stone`s throw from the freeway, where you can enjoy some bread, pastries and coffee at Kelly's Bakery and find some more gifts to send the family back East in other quaint shops, including a French importer.

San Francisco

This was our first time ever in SF with our dog. There again we headed for a beach (are we ever good parents,or what?), Ocean Beach - La Playa, and we let him run after a ball to his heart's content or rather until we could no longer feel our fingers from cold (yes, on the 5th of July) because here again, we had over estimated the temperature due to the sweltering heat of San Jose. San Francisco can be quite tricky in the summertime and have beach weather days in the wintertime so you have to be prepared for everything. Next we found Point Lobos, half a mile North, where we stopped at the Cliff House ( and found more nifty little gifts (for the family again) from a California State Park Gift Shop and walked up a hill to Sutro Heights Park where you have the highest point around overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Coast. Quite a lovely spot, again to picnic, if one chooses or simply to walk around and admire the view. Taylor on a leash was also welcome.

Next we drove to the SF pier and after ditching our car in an indoor garage (needless to try and park on the streets of San Francisco when for a few dollars you can park your car indoors, secure and without all of the frustration of parking in a big town) we walked along with the thousands of tourists in town for the July 4th weekend. We had been to SF several times in the past but this was different. This was new. No need to rush or to go buy a thing or two to keep the memory alive. We were not tourists, we were not staying in a hotel that night. SF was our neighbour. Our dog Taylor took to walking the sidewalks with huge crowds quite naturally and we even found a place to have lunch in the sun where he could sit under our table. Lots of dog lovers in San Francisco. This was a perfect day, strolling the streets, in the warm sunshine (Thank you very much) and later taking the long way home to check off our list a few of the smaller towns.


This time, on our own, thanks to our friends Jill and Steve who took on Taylor for the day. We had been to Berkeley in 2005 and had loved it. People here in the Bay Area call it Bezerkeley ! No one has a real explanation for the nickname except that, as one guy told David, ..... there are lots of crazies there. Heck, has anyone ever been on Main Street and Pender in Vancouver, British Columbia or on Sainte-Catherine street in Montreal, Quebec ? :-) Nowadays, there are crazies everywhere. Berkeley is a university town so there are lots of little shops, great inexpensive restaurants and several book stores worth visiting. The architecture is wonderful, with many streets that are hilly and winding with huge trees creating canopies of shade. Lovely ! We parked our car asap and walked all over, including the Berkeley Campus. For lunch, we went to our old favorite La Burrita, 1832 Euclid Ave ( for some great burritos as we had done 7 years ago. They are still wonderful and although more expensive than in 2005 but still a great bargain.

We have more town in mind for day-trips, so more of this in another post. Now, on to food.

Do you happen to love bananas ? Well,here is the easiest dessert you will ever make and requiring only one ingredient: bananas.

Banana Ice Cream

Plan for one banana per person
Peel and cut bananas in two inch pieces. Put in plastic bag and into the freezer for at least 3 hours.
Put frozen bananas in food processor and process for about five minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. At first the mixture appears grainy but suddenly turns into the creamiest dessert you will ever taste. Your guests will go Bananas and won't believe it's just Bananas. Trust me on that one. You could sprinkle it with nuts or chocolate bits, if you so desire but it is perfect on its own.

Enjoy !