We started out on Thursday evening going together to a friend's birthday party at Amira, the bellydance restaurant on Valencia in SF. It was great to see friends - I knew almost everyone there - and the bellydancer was lovely. I particularly enjoyed tOaD singing "happy anniversary to you" to us behind his hand (so as not to steal the thunder of the birthday girl) and chatting with Peter about Fire Island (where he has been, so he has some context for my stories) as well as shocking him by inadvertently making him think I had become a stripper - I said "I work in a strip club now" (meaning DJing for Miss Kitty's Scratching Post) and he made a rather shocked expression! I caught it and said "here's my flyer" so that he could see that it was a *DJ gig*. Had to laugh. I know it was out of concern for me, but still it was too funny.
The next morning we went to collect the rental car (as Jovino put it, "if we took my car I'd have to do all the driving (it's a stick shift) and if we took your car we'd be singing to each other!") We'd reserved a convertible and I was so excited to finally get to drive one! After a few last minute errands, we hit the road. One of the errands was stopping by my place to pick up CDs and my favorite Zia sunblock which isn't hard on my skin. ; )
We hit the road and headed south on Highway 1, going down the coast. It was a beautiful day and feeling the air all around us was delightful. We stopped in Monterey for a bite to eat. Not knowing any restaurants there, we wound up in a place that was a bit too touristy, although the waitresses were nice. (Three of them complimented me on my pirate hat, and one then went on to ask, "do you go to burning man?" which entertained me greatly.)
The coast was especially foggy that afternoon, so we decided to head inland to 101 in the interest of keeping the top down as long as possible. Now it was my turn to drive. I was rather intimidated (the car was both wider and longer than mine) but also excited. It was FUN!!! It had power everything (including seat and mirror adjustment) and was a true pleasure to drive. As a kid I remember wanting to move to California and have a convertible. Driving one was quite a thrill and it was fun to realize this part of my dream - even temporarily! I repeatedly thanked Jovino for suggesting the rental.
After a while it began to get dark so we traded back and he drove the rest of the way. We'd reserved the Pirate Suite in the Union Hotel Victorian mansion - an amazing theme BnB that Jovino had discovered. We were arriving later than planned so we called the hotel to let them know. A charming woman assured us that it was no problem for us to arrive later, and asked if we'd had dinner. Since the town of Los Alamos was too small to have late night restaurants, she suggested we stop along the way. She asked "have you passed the Madonna Inn yet?" just as we were approaching it. What a great coincidence. We had to stop.
I'd heard of the famously kitschy Madonna Inn, but never been there, and was happy to finally get to see it. We grabbed a table in their cafe and ordered food. Postcards for sale there showed the various theme rooms, and I became even more excited about staying at the Union Hotel as their rooms are amazing environments created by artists, not just kitschy hotel rooms, though I did enjoy peeking at the Madonna's rooms. We ate, laughing about how my baked potato came with so much butter that *I actually scraped some of it off*! (Those who know me, know I love my butter... until recently I could be heard to say "there can never be too much butter in mashed potatoes" and suchlike. Well, so much for that theory!) The best part of stopping at the Madonna Inn was discovering that they sell Joseph Schmidt chocolate truffles at the cafe counter! Yay! We picked out two each and got back on the road.
Finally around 11:30pm we rolled into Los Alamos. It was quite dark and we had to call the hotel a few times to figure out how to get there. Finally we received a warm welcome from a friendly and enthusiastic woman (who could be played by Lily Tomlin when they make the movie about our lives.) She gleefully informed us that a bottle of chilled champagne awaited us, and went on to say. "everything is hidden! The bathroom is hidden, the champagne is hidden! You have to find it all!" (She also said we could call her if we got stuck.) We hit up the bathrooms in the lobby (just in case) and headed to the room.
Exploring the Pirate Suite was a lot of fun, and we eventually found all the secrets... or, so we think! We settled into the hot tub with our champagne and truffles. Yum.
The next day we had a leisurely pirate breakfast in bed and then decided to go exploring. We checked out the nearby town of Solvang. Supposedly a Danish town, Solvang was by far the biggest tourist trap I've been in for years. It was actually quite entertaining, in an odd way. We stopped in for a champagne tasting at Alisal Cellars, then went to get manicures and pedicures. My nails (all 10) are now an iridescent bright pink that perfectly matches my hair. The manicure lady recommended a restaurant, Cafe Angelica, that served the best food we had the entire trip. I also had an absolutely delicious glass of red wine, Mandolina Toccata, which completely knocked my socks off. It's from a Santa Barbara winery. Must figure out where to get it around here.
Watching the tourists pedaling those multi person bicycle carts around prompted us to speculate on whether the police would pull you over for DUI if you rented one and went to too many wine tasting places. I'm guessing they'd let you get away with it, unless you actually ran into something. Seems like further research is required the next time we find ourselves in Solvang with some time on our hands!
The people watching vied for our attention with the excellent food. Finally we had some dessert and headed back to the Union. A hot tub was sounding perfect just about now. First we picked up a bottle of champagne, ice, and of course the requisite Solvang-wear for the ultimate dorky matchy tourist look. Hee!
On our way back home from Solvang, Jovino remembered that we'd left the bag with the two remaining truffles in the Pirate suite. Damn! Upon our arrival we discovered that someone had moved our truffles down to our room - another example of what a rad place the Union Hotel is.
We had a lovely and romantic evening in the Gypsy suite, including a bellydance, candlelight, and of course a soak in the hot tub. We even paid a visit to the saloon in the main building so that the hotelier could see our costumes. She was delighted!
The next day we both were sad to have to pack up and leave, but it was time. We had a good talk in the morning and enjoyed some breakfast before hitting the road.
The main feature of this day was the drive itself. We took Hwy 1 up the coast and I drove over 100 miles in a day - a first for me! This trip was a big one for driving firsts... first time renting a car, first time driving a convertible, first time sharing the driving on a long road trip and first time on twisty turny Highway 1! It has certainly earned its reputation. I was really proud of myself for navigating it without freaking out (somehow I was behind the wheel for the twistiest bits!)
We made it back to Oakland, returned the car, and cuddled up at the warehouse for the night. What a treat, to get to travel together and have so much time for just the two of us. It was the perfect anniversary weekend! I am so happy to have Jovino in my life. He is a wonderful man. I love him so much!