Las Vegas to San Francisco 2018 (Part 1)

The family were celebrating 3 ‘significant’ birthdays this year and instead of 3 big parties it was decided that we would have a Family Road Trip. California was the chosen destination – we would travel from Las Vegas to San Francisco via Yosemite and Napa Valley. This route would enable each of the birthday people to visit an area of interest to them whilst providing adventures for all of us. The eldest daughter undertook the role of ‘Project Manager’, and a great job she did – even coping with a last minute change of route and accommodation as a result of the fires ranging through the Yosemite area as we left Britain.

I had never travelled to this area of the USA before, so it was to be an adventure for me – I was especially looking forward to San Francisco as it always looks good on travel programmes and in travel guides.

Our first stop was Las Vegas, this I was not looking forward to and glad it was at the beginning of the trip. But – what a surprise. Yes, it is all noise and ‘razzmatazz’ yet there is so much more – you just have to set aside reality and join in the spirit of the city. The casinos are open 24 hours and you do not have to walk any length to arrive at one. The machines are all computerised – even the roulette – so images of weary gamblers holding onto cups of coins or leaning expectedly over tables whilst the ball spins are out of date. I could see how easy it would be to lose your life savings.

Another thing I was not expecting was the heat! It remained over 40C all the time we were there, stifling. I had been aware that August is a hot month so was prepared for it being in the mid-30’s, no one told me that there was a heatwave.

The day trip to the Hoover Dam did not offer any relief from the heat although it was good to be away from the city and see some of the surrounding area. The low water mark demonstrates the level of drought in the state and their worries are understandable, apparently there is only enough water for the next 2 years so rain (and snow in the hills) is needed desperately.

The Las Vegas hotels themselves are worth a visit – and we walked through many of them to see what all the talk was about. The Wynn is quieter than most and has an air of class, we had Sunday Brunch there which I would recommend. The Bellagio is well known and a visit to the Fountains in the evening is a tourist must. We stayed in The Venetian which offered a true Las Vegas experience. You could, in fact, arrive there and not leave the building for your whole trip. As well as good sized and decorated rooms there is a gym, swimming pools, restaurants and cafes, shopping mall and of course, the casino. And, not forgetting the canal and gondolas. https://www.venetian.com/

Outside the hotels there is plenty of entertainment – from street buskers to world renown performers, a huge variety and everyone’s tastes are catered for. We went to see La Reve ‘The Dream’ at the Wynn.  https://www.wynnlasvegas.com/Entertainment/LeReve

An amazing mixture of dance, acrobatics and diving. The circular setting meant the action was visible irrespective of where you were sitting. The use of a water pool as both a scene set and exit/entry portals for the performers added to the fantasy of the story. The trust the performers had in each other and the technicians is obviously high.

Overall Las Vegas was busy, busy, busy and hot, hot, hot.

I would visit again, having had my ‘rabbit in the headlights’ experience I would be more prepared, so able to visit museums etc. Just avoid July, August, early September.

Our next stop should have been to Yosemite to hike in the hills, due to the residual smoke and smouldering fires we had to change plans and instead headed to Lake Tahoe. Leaving Las Vegas, we first headed north to the town of Bishop, (having calculated the length of the drive an overnight stop had been planned).

The drive was straight forward on easy roads (well, it was for me as I sat in the back gazing from the window). The countryside, I noted, was dry and dusty with only occasional siting of homesteads, bringing home the realisation that you are in a desert.

 

 

Grass, cattle and farming became more common as we climbed upwards. 4,700 feet was the highest reading I noticed, then descending on windy roads making it more interesting for the driver – I just closed my eyes at the scary bits.

 

 

The town of Bishop was a nice surprise. As we drove into town we noticed a small diner, then even more interesting as we parked – it was also a small brewery. So, alongside our very nice lunch of typical American fare there were new beers to quench some thirsts (I had soda as beer is not my drink).

I had anticipated a small motel, similar to the UK style Travelodge, so the Creekside Inn was a pleasant surprise and was exactly as it looks on its website. Once checked in we found the swimming pool where we were joined by a group of hikers resting their legs after completing one of the many trails in the area and we had a relaxing time listening to their adventures.

The motel is a popular ‘stop off’ point for many – hikers and tourists alike. I was also impressed that breakfast was included as this is uncommon in the USA.   www.bishopcreeksideinn.com   

The town itself is small and with its picket fences and vegetable patches looks how ‘Smalltown USA’ is depicted in films. There is a good-sized public park and swimming pool along with a Coffee Roaster, cafes and shops. As well as being popular with walkers the town was the main route north from Nevada and Death Valley for truckers and I enjoyed watching the large trucks – gleamingly clean and individually adorned – as they drove up Main Street.

The Inn did not do evening meals so we ate at a family run Italian/Pizza restaurant, very friendly, good service and the pizzas were excellent (and enormous!)  http://www.uppercrustpizzabishop.com/

We were up bright and early next morning and back on the road. As much as I had been looking forward to hiking in Yosemite I think Lake Tahoe Vista worked out very well. There were plenty of watersports on offer. Paddleboarding and Kayaking were popular with the family. We enjoyed the ‘Street Food’ stalls at the Truckee evening market (held weekly during the summer). The weather was still hot enough in the evening to be out in the garden enjoying BBQs and the Hot Tub.

We did manage a short hike to Cascade falls. Although at the height of summer it was more of a trickle. (Go in Spring is the advice if you want to see the Falls in full flow).

All too soon it was time to pack up and travel on.

 

Clothing

Fashion and clothes have never rated highly on my priority list. Neither could I claim to have any style, I can quite happily pair a Jaeger dress with a cardigan from H&M alongside shoes so old that even I have no idea of their origins.

I just had categories – Formal, Work, Casual (very). My dilemma (I know, minor issue!) is what to do with the ‘work’ clothes. These mainly consisted of Dresses, Jackets, and Black Trousers which could all be co-ordinated and, if required, become ‘a suit’.

In the 2 years leading up to retirement I did not replace any items that looked ‘worn out’. I naively thought such a plan would weed out ‘stuff’ I would no longer use. Was not the case!

Alongside the black dresses & suits I had failed to recognise the amount of smart chinos and blouses I used – mainly in the summer – when just spending the day in the office.

The obvious answer was – make them casual day wear. Yet I struggle, I open the wardrobe look at the clothes and think ‘Oh, I cannot wear that around the house’.

As a consequence, I have clothes just hanging there unused. My challenge is to change my mindset, so I have become a woman who ‘dresses up’ when leaving the house. They have become my ‘going out’ clothes.

My ‘clothes shopping’ mindset also needs to change – I am still drawn to the racks of smart simple dresses. Who know that clothing was to become such an issue.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by Lauren Roberts on Unsplash -featured Image

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash – wardrobe

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash – fashion models

Photo by Prudence Earl on Unsplash – end photo

 

Posh Omelette

Having accumulated a good pile of eggs as a reward for taking care of the hens recently (http://perpetually49.com/clucky-day-care/) I thought I would cook something ‘up market and posh’ to recognise the privilege I felt making their acquaintance. In Jamie Oliver’s book ‘15 Minute Meals’ I found a suitable recipe ‘Arnold Bennett Frittata with Focaccia & Emmental Waldorf Salad’.

It soon became apparent the 15-minute challenge was not going to happen when I could not buy Focaccia, ready made or in a packet, in either of the two supermarkets nearby. (Not mentioning any names – the one at the edge of Stockton and the one at the edge of the village, you know who you are!) so I hot footed it home and made my own.

I used a recipe from the Hairy Bikers ‘Big Book Of Baking’ and it was very easy. Their side note informing the reader that they had made it by the side of a canal in Venice was slightly depressing as the weather here was damp and drizzly and I sooo love Venice.

The frittata was quick to make and tasty as was the salad. I felt that I was eating two meals – the omelette would have been fine with a green salad and the Focaccia went well with the Apple and Cheese salad .

(Note- this was a post on my FaceBook page but as I am having issues uploading to it I thought I would reproduce it here)

In Only 15 minutes …. Really?

Having fallen for the promise of tasty nutritious meals in 30 minutes and discovered that it is more difficult than that, you would have thought I was wise to Jamie’s promise of meals in 15 minutes but no – I once again heard but did not listen.

I have watched his programmes, I see the clock ticking as he gallops through the preparation and cooking, and I know he can do it in 15 minutes but me – I either have a malfunctioning clock or my kitchen is without elves because I just cannot do it!

I have reconciled myself to accepting that the 30-minute meals will take at least 45 minutes and the 15 minutes meals (from start to finish) a minimum of 30 minutes.

The reason I would advise persisting is the tastiest of each of the recipes, the recipes are easy to follow, if you have a ‘missing ingredient’ it is easy to substitute something else from the cupboard and the portions sizes are good.

The Chicken Dim Sum is one that I have made more than once – although I do need to allow 40 minutes as I have slightly changed how it’s cooked. By following the book instructions I found my chicken was always dry, so I now cook the chicken and accompaniments in a separate pan rather than using a second steamer.

The coconut buns are delicious and spread with a jam such as Lotus jelly make an easy dessert.

 

 

 

 

The Grilled Cajun Prawns was very tasty and went well with the Sweet Potato mash. Due to the number of vegetables needing chopping this usually takes around 30 minutes. 

The Crab Bolognese with a Fennel Salad was a nice surprise – crab is not a meat I usually eat. I could not obtain fresh crab meat so used tinned, the meal was very nice, so I guessed it worked. Will make it again when fresh crab available.

The Beef Chimichurri was another success and one I would recommend although the portion of steak was small if you are feeding young men, especially athletic ones, so would suggest altering that according to who will be at your table.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Seared Asian Beef was a surprising favourite (not really a beef person) – again, such a lot of ingredients just gathering them up takes 15 minutes but so worth the effort, and so pretty on the plate.

 

 

 

Certainly a book I go back to frequently.

Photo Acknowledgements:

End Photo  – Photo by Tristan Gassert on Unsplash

Featured Image – Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

Clucky Day Care

I have been learning a new skill this week whilst helping out a friend.

Looking after hens is new to me – (although I have helped pluck them ready for market when I was young).

Visiting daily to ensure food and water are in good supply and the coop kept in reasonable order was more interesting than I thought it would be.

 

The 4 ‘ladies’ are named after members of the Spice Girls and very apt that turned out to be. Posh Hen just ignored me, Ginger Hen was very ‘chatty’ and likes company – she would be the one I could hear as I walked down the garden and was happy following me when I went inside. Baby Hen is obviously the smallest although did lay an egg every day, so I guess she is also the most productive. Her eggs are blue so it’s easy to identify.

Scary Hen was just that – moody and had a certain look that said ‘don’t mess with me’, so it was difficult every day trying to explain to her that she could sit on the eggs for a month of Sundays but not one of them would hatch. I felt my dialogue with her was more that of a counsellor than a Coop maid.

I undertook a ‘clean out’ session at the end of the week so obtained the assistance of my son, a little apprehensive at first he quickly warmed to them and happily kept them occupied whilst I replaced the bedding and straw. Although he was surprised at the amount of ‘droppings’ they produced!

 

My reward was the daily eggs (average 3 per day) and very nice they taste too.