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Detour – COVID Update

Dear TravelSips Readers-

Like many, I’ve been working remotely since March and traveling via my chaise lounge- so no posting here.

My personal Instagram account is @KrisButler6;  Twitter is @TravelSips. My map-related posts can be found on Instagram @Boston_Map_Society and on Twitter @BosMapSociety. My puzzles are on under the name “Beer & Maps.”

COVID silver lining: I have time to finally write the drink map book I’ve been researching for the last 15 years! I have a UK publisher, and they suggest I not post about it until we have a pre-order link and the cover design, which will be in 2022. Meanwhile, I wear a mask with a drink map on it.


Home office during COVID.

A little wine while visiting the French Riviera in October 2018.

A little wine while visiting the French Riviera in October 2018.

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Views & Booze (Greece)

Through a train strike, distractingly delicious white wine, and climbing 48 floors in one day: beer in Athens and Santorini.


My travel planning is simple: find a beer destination, then find an Airbnb nearby. In Greece, this worked beautifully in Athens. Not so much in Santorini.


It was only after I booked my accommodation that I realized how far it was from the Acropolis- the only other place I planned to see on my two day visit to Athens. Thirty minutes by train. I worried briefly about figuring out the trains (Athens does not have Lyft or Uber; details below about specific train stations) – but it turned out to be the best choice for a beer traveler like me. In spite of a transit strike.


Note the symbol for the Athens Metro

The Local Pub is an English-style bar (meaning dark wood, real ale in casks, and football on the telly) with a lovely outdoor beer garden. Not only were there many good local brews served on engine, but just the week before the tiny pub had opened a brewery next to it called Anastaeiou ((Ζυθοποιία Αναστασίου). I thought the beer was fine, but I kept going back to the rye pale ale made by Satyr Brews. 


I opened a dialogue with the bar keep by handing over my US beer gift: Cambridge Brewing Company’s Flower Child. (Good choice, as they already had empty Tree House and Alchemist cans behind the bar.) They told me about their sister pub called the Lazy Bulldog which is on the way to the Acropolis, and also about a food festival- Athenians are very enthusiastic about their town, and it’s infectious. 


I assumed I would not be able to find the festival (there was a lot of “keep walking past the red sign and take the third…”) so I stopped listening. But the next day I ended up stumbling right into it. Havana Club Rum- distributed to 185 countries but not the US- was the official sponsor. I had already been thinking that Athens reminded me of Havana, so it was a bit eerie. 


I spent the rest of the day on foot. It was hot and I had been walking a lot- I passed one of many outdoor seating areas and ordered the local white wine and chatted with another beer-loving Athens newbie from Slovakia-via-London. I clued him in to The Local, where he showed up later- I found myself a drinking companion.  


After my proud work figuring out the trains, it turned out there was a strike on the day I was to leave and I had to figure out how to get a cab from my residential neighborhood to the airport. (by residential I mean- no English.)

And here is my favorite story of Athens, and of traveling on my own for that matter. At the end of my block was a small store that I hoped would call me a cab. But as I approached, the sunny porch next door caught my eye. Not a restaurant exactly, but not a house either. A few old men were sitting at tables chatting, reading the paper, and playing games- and my inner old man was drawn to them. (I am catching up to him. I first became aware of him when I was six years old; he doesn’t age, but I do! Damn- we are almost peers.)

Do you know this kind of old man? He may not have all of his teeth and his clothes may not match, but he sits up straight, is groomed, and clearly cares about his appearance in the sense that everything is tucked in. He is respectful (if curious) towards a solo foreign woman. He may attempt to flirt, but if it actually went somewhere he would be mortified. (Or grateful? I’ve never tried to find out.) These are my peeps! 

Inside was a hurried, friendly man in a long white apron, a boy-child trying to help him, and a refrigerator. No oven. No microwave. Not even a cooktop. But a sink full of glasses. I asked him to call a taxi to the airport, and – um – may I have a beer? It was 10:30 in the morning.

A beer was delivered. Readers- when people ask what my favorite beer is, I can’t give an answer because to me it’s about context. And this was definitely one of the best beers I’ve had, even though the taste of the beer itself was not memorable. Ordering the taxi was clearly a project. I was in no hurry- I read my clothbound Treasure Island, and faced the road from the deck sitting at one of the square tables, sun on my face, lilac-scented breeze swishing my short hair around. More old men joined the porch- they all knew each other and were speaking Greek- dotted with the English word “taxi”. Through their joint efforts, and the passing of a portable landline phone around several times, it was explained that a cab would arrive shortly. I raised my beer glass, and everyone responded in kind: we drank together. When the cab arrived, my new crew on the porch clapped and waved (would we meet somewhere, someday, to play bocce with grappa-spiked coffee?) they said “bon voyage” and “have a nice trip” (and a lot in Greek I did not understand.)

I am so glad there was a train strike. 


In between Athens and Santorini, I spent a week on Crete for a friend’s milestone birthday (see previous post). When I reserved the ferry from Crete to Santorini, I sprung for the extra 10 Euro for business class. Do this- I had the floor to myself and a waiter who catered only to me! I could crawl all over the exterior decks like everyone else- but I also had views on both sides of the sea, plenty of room for my bags and a comfy sofa to spread out on. For three hours. 


I did not really plan my arrival- I assumed I could get a cab and head towards my lodging. But the chaos of the port has its own system. Someone (actually- several people) approach and will ask if you need a cab; then you follow one, wait in line to pay, wait in another line for a little bus, (“I thought I was getting a private car that would take me directly to my place?” Suddenly no English.) Then get dropped off last. 

No matter- I still had an hour to kill before checking in. Which is how I stumbled upon Artemis, a fantastic winery and restaurant, because I needed a place to plant myself while I waited for the 2:00 check in for my Airbnb. It was noon, and Artemis does not open until 1:00. It had a shady spot to sit outside, which I planned to do until they opened. But a nice man, a server called Fortis, saw my suitcase and apologized for not being open for food- would I like a glass of wine? 

Oh. Yes. Please. 


A glass of wine overlooking the vegetable gardens that service the restaurant

This fortuitous find ended up being the center of my trip- where I would dine, take my friend for a birthday cooking class and dinner, and head back again for more wine.

IMG_7488The map did not reveal something important about my Airbnb: it was half way up a cliff. After two glasses of wine and some roasted sesame crusted warm local cheese, a tour of the winery, and securing a dinner reservation and cooking class for the next day, I dragged my suitcase up the hill to my abode. It was so steep that at times I was reaching for the wall in front of me- which was actually the road. 


The view from my Airbnb. Worth the climb. 

At the bottom of the cliff was Santorini Brewing Company- the reason for my location selection. But it turns out you can’t really hang out there. In fact you can’t even get a full beer- it’s three tastes and you’re out. I had read this but I did not believe it. Believe it.

I stopped to rest a few times on my way up the hill. And had to rest for a while after reaching my cute place before leaving it again. But I was determined, so I washed my face and went back out (sans suitcase, which changed everything) and followed a zig-zaggy labyrinth of stairs up up and up. To a bar overlooking the sea. 


Served at every table when you sit down: olives, cheese, and raki. 

In the morning I checked my device- I had climbed 48 floors the day before.


On Santorini, I did visit infamous northern town of Oia, and it was – too beautiful. I saw someone actually washing a white roof, a gazillion selfie sticks, and overheard servers’ disgusted comments about tourists- which I agreed with. I did not see anyone who seemed to actually live there. Visually stunning, but just too much. Glitter. Gold. Neon white. Turn it off!


I preferred Pyrgos, the island’s highest village. Where I wandered around, up and down different paths, few people around (but a priest in long robes!) and stopped by the terraced restaurant on top for a Santorini Brewing Company beer. I knew I was going the right way, because I followed the signs:


As I made my way back down I found a shady patio, and again ordered a Santorini Brewing beer- this time the Crazy Donkey IPA. I think it’s their best beer, but it only comes in giant bottles. Fortunately my walk home was all down hill. 



Athens- From the airport to The Local Pub is a quick walk from the Agia Paraskevi Metro stop (blue line from airport; and blue line in the other direction from the Acropolis) NB: The Local Pub is closed on Mondays.

Next post: What Austrian beery thing does Havana, Santorini, and Ulan Bator have in common? 

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One Night in Istanbul (Turkey)


Istanbul may not be the first place you think of to search for beer, but when Turkish Airlines offered a 30 hour layover on my way to Hamburg for a much lower fare than any other airline, I jumped at it and started my beer hunting plan. I also watched Kedi, read Fare cover to cover, and ignored the news. NB: An overnight requires a visa, easily obtained online for $20.

img_3353And in fact the first thing I saw when I emerged from my hotel was the first of many well-cared for cats (kedi) outside of a salon.

My cab driver from the airport was both Turkish and Australian- we talked about Melbourne where he grew up and I had had a lot of beer (see earlier post). When I told him my plan for the evening (to essentially walk around by myself with my loosely mapped out beer pursuits) he recommended doing pretty much anything but that. Of course I did it anyway. But I also arranged for him to pick me up the next morning at 7:00am. It felt good knowing someone would realize it if I weren’t there!


He drove me over this famous stretch of fishermen along Galata Bridge. Even overcast, it provided a beautiful view of Istanbul- both the European and Asian sides of the city. I asked him how to say “thank you” and he tried three times to teach me the five syllable phrase before giving up and saying “you can say sol for short.” “Sol sol sol!” I replied.

I checked into my hotel and began my search of Kantin, a restaurant featured in Fare with a firey red-headed owner (red hair being something, like one-off beers and cartographic book signings, I’ll walk the extra kilometer for. Or three.) I found an excellent Kolsch and lovely view and dance party at Populist (home to Torch Brewing), a crowd of young people all joyously belting out a song I’d never heard at Joker #19, and a mystery beer at Beer Hall. But neither I nor any cab driver or local could tell me how to find Kantin. Apparently it moved last year but forgot to tell Google or any local drivers.


Enough! I felt like something was missing but popped into a Tekel Shop for a Gara Guzu to drink alone in my hotel room. Sniff.

On the way to my hotel, almost across the street in the opposite direction from where I started out, I saw backlit books. A library? A classroom? I peered over the wall to a courtyard- lordy, it was a bookstore.



It was a beautiful evening. Did I mention that? Too early to tuck in for a solo beer. And when I looked over the side of the bookstore courtyard, I saw people at little tables. Drinking Turkish tea. And beer.


Book stores are a weakness of mine the way that Oxycontin is to others. Not making a joke- I become impulsive. I make bad choices. I rationalize spending like this: If I don’t have coffee for three weeks on the way to work- this book is free! My attraction to book stores, especially ones with- I almost can’t write it for believing such wonderful places exist and half believe they’ll disappear if said out loud- craft beer. My obsession has all the marks of addiction, but only hurts my wallet and may make my brain healthier.

Once inside and surrounded by books in English as well as Turkish, and believing I had already stumbled into the most magical place in Istanbul- I spotted a brown cardboard box. It was facing me, calling to me in small print: “Maps of Istanbul”. What? How did you know I was here to bring you home? Inside the cardboard box was another box- glossy and black, and inside that a rare, gorgeous, and affordable (at least in my thinking of that moment) book. Of maps. Of Istanbul.


The secret bookstore is called Minoa. I bought the book and a beer and sat outside. I lovingly turned its pages and read of Constantinople, of Istanbul, even of the locations where Anton Melbye (the painter whose show I was heading to in Hamburg- next post!) drew and painted from various vantage points as he broke from his precise Danish teachings and brought emotion to his work. To my right was a couple flirting quietly over tea. I ordered a real Turkish tea and asked my waiter how the locals drank it. “With sugar- I will bring it.” I ordered a craft beer back, of course. Once the tea cooled enough for me to pick up the glass, I sipped the intense bitter yet honey-sweet heat. Oh now I get it.


When the tea was finished, look at the surprise on the saucer!

While fully aware of what an ugly American I was about to sound like, I asked my waiter if I might buy the tea glass and adorable saucer. He said he’d check, and came back apologetically suggesting I try the markets in the morning. Completely self-conscious, I thanked him and said, “Worth a try it’s so cute!” and forgot about it.

I had a final beer and continued to read my new book before asking for the bill. It arrived, along with both waiters and a little bag.


“You may not buy the tea glass. Because we give it to you.”



Here are the details:
Minoa (bookstore, bar, and cafe)
I can’t find a website; this Tripadvisor review is the closest I could get:
Suleyman Seba Cad, Park No. 52A
34357 Besiktas Istanbul Turkey

Populist (Torch Beer)

Joker No: 19
Again with the TripAdvisor review site, as they don’t seem to have one:
Besiktas Cd No: 19
Besiktas, Istanbul, 34435, Turkey
+90 212 227 9395

Beer Hall
I thought I’d found a website but it brought me somewhere odd. So TripAdvisor again:
Visnezade Mahalessi, Suleyman Seba Cd. No: 46, 34357
Besiktas, Istanbul Turkey
+90 212 219 6530

Gara Guza
This is more a local brand of beer to look for than a place. It’s fairly easy to find in Istanbul, and good. In the airport, seek the upstairs bars- there is one that carries this in several varieties!

NB: Other airlines that offer one-night layovers include Icelandic Airlines (Rekyavik), Aer Lingus (Dublin- I did this once heading to Prague), and TAP (Azores).


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A $1,600 Beer (Or- a beer worth a trip) Brazil


I have a personal judging scale for beer. It goes like this: I sniff it, I take a sip. I decide whether I will finish the sample. And then I consider- would I drink a whole glass? If it’s a real competition I think- would I pay for it? Seek it out again? (As in, drive across state lines.) And finally- would I get on a plane for it? (Note that nowhere in that beer judging description was there a “check social media or beer forums to validate or second-guess my taste” step.) Which I suppose is a funny thing to point out in a blog about beer. So warning- consider the source! Because I am going to tell you about a buy-the-plane-ticket beer I found in Brazil.


I went to Brazil for a cartography conference. The International Conference on the History of Cartography, which takes place every other year in a different location. It was my first time in Brazil so I tried to learn some Portuguese but as usual figured out just enough to ask questions yet not enough to understand the answers. I read a bit about craft beer starting to take off in Brazil- but the breweries are all in places far away from the Belo Horizonte-based conference. I resigned myself to a week of non-beer imbibing.


Brazil is known for this- cachaca. Like rum, but distilled differently. Not my thing but gladly accepted as a gift. Context makes it delicious.

A few days before I left for the conference I read somewhere – and I wish I could remember where- about a brewery called Evora. I decided to visit. Which turned out to involve significant obstacles. A 30 minute taxi ride away from my hotel to a residential neighborhood where no cabs would be around to get me back; the guy behind the desk at my hotel told me quite forcefully not to go; no wifi or cell service to call a cab or Uber (even if I could speak the language) once I was there. So as I turned in for the night I made other plans to explore the hip Savassi neighborhood.


But I woke up the next day determined – after all, would I ever be here again? Since when am I an intimidated traveler? How could I travel all the way to Brazil and not visit a single brewery? No- I would go! After practicing how to insist on my plan to the hotel’s naysayer of the previous evening, he was not even at the desk that morning. I easily convinced his more accommodating replacement to ask one of the cab drivers parked out front to drop me off and pick me up three hours later from one address. (I did not meet a single English-speaking cab driver in Brazil, by the way. But if you’ve been to China, you know what to do.) This took a bit of back and forth- it was arranged. I grabbed a beer present, and off we went!


Evora is in a house on a hill in a residential neighborhood with a locked gate at street-level. The building numbers are not in order, so even the local savvy cab driver had to ask for directions. He let me out of the car facing a locked gate with no one else around. And drove away.

[Older readers- picture the scene in Madeline Khan’s debut movie “What’s Up Doc” where she is left at an intentionally wrong address- thinking she is at a secret party. And the taxi speeds away…] If you have not seen this movie- do. Your life is not complete.

As I watched my driver turn the corner out of site at the end of the street, I still had not found a way to open the gate. I said “hello?” as loud as one does among a bunch of homes on a quiet street- nothing. As a mild pre-panic warmth went through me and I imagined standing in that same spot for three hours hoping the cab would really come back, my eye caught a small blue bell and I pressed it. A head popped up at the top of the hill, and a buzzer released the painted metal mesh door. I was in!


Just as I swelled with relief that I was in, I saw a fast furry flash coming towards me from the left- a massive dog! Before I could freak out he was greeting me in that way that dogs do with humans they intuitively trust.

Who needs language? I was at ease from that moment on. All doubt, all fear left me. There is something of home in this place.

I went around back to the tiered informal patio to find people preparing to hang a pop-up art show. They were the only others outside. It was a brilliant blue sunny day. I sat on one of the half kegs that serve as chairs, pulled out my sketch book, and pointed to a beer on the menu – the house lager. I figured in a country known for serving lagers it was a good choice to start with even if I am biased against them- having grown up in the states where they’ve been ruined. Lagers are hard to do well. Nowhere to hide. It was a bit of a test- and I was pleasantly surprised. Crisp and quaffable with no off flavors. Subtle floral aftertaste. Reminded me of the pilsners of southern Germany with a bit of Czech Saaz lingering. Nice!


It was good enough for me to ask questions – which made the server quite enthusiastic. In between his broken English and my non-existent Portuguese I learned that some test batches of beer are made there, but most of the beer is brewed at a different production facility. That day they had a few on tap- including a Tripel he was keen for me to try (I usually do not care for them- too sweet for me).

These were solid, well made beers. But nothing to get on a plane for. I was enjoying that perfect early buzz- taking in the sunshine and the azul sky, watching the art show as it was mounted along the outdoor walls- maybe I was glowing. My glass was empty and the server pointed to another beer on the menu. I like to follow server recommendations and accepted before I read the description: a Rauch IPA. What? Gross! The very idea was almost a buzz-kill. Plus it was a bottled beer- ?.  He poured it for me.


Beer drinkers- remember with me. Think back to that first sip of a truly special beer. When your head tries to catch up with your mouth; when your mind is racing and your lips are smiling and all previous experiences are eclipsed. It’s a lot like falling in love. Well except for the mouth part. And you think- did that really just happen? You look around to see if the rest of the world is hip to what’s going on. You want to tell someone, but are conscious of that being silly. You stammer. Your eyes well. And you drink some more. Oh. Yes.


I did not see it coming. This part is a blur- I’m pretty sure I said something inappropriately gushy because the server went to get the brewer (who I did not realize was there) I launched into further gushiness. We talked for a while. He let me write on the chalk board when he saw my sketch book.


Between my literal beer buzz and the high of unexpected pleasure I was flying. I talked to all the people hanging the show, met the artist, and bought one of his paintings. I took pictures of everything and drew a few myself. The brewer recommended a local dish called Tropeiro, an absorbing combination of beans, cornmeal, a fried egg, and pork cracklings- and I devoured it, wiping the last drops off my elated face as I was told that the taxi had returned for me.



The first thing I asked the driver was if we could do the trip again in a few days.

Which we did.

Evora’s posted hours are more like office hours than brewery hours. Which should have been a clue. My first visit was on a Friday afternoon- lots of people around. I didn’t realize it at the time- but the owners were just being nice to me showing up in the middle of the day while they were working. My second visit- to pick up my artwork and more beer- was in the middle of the week and the place was quiet. No regrets! I drank more amazing beer, got more bottles to take home, and picked up my art. And- got a local’s welcome? Local cheese was involved. And a special last beer.

Which is to say this beer – the Rauch IPA- must be drunk in context. It is extraordinary on its own- a gold medal in any competition. (Heads up, 2018 World Beer Cup!) But to get the full experience you can’t just have it anywhere- you must come here – to Brazil. There is something extra – some mysterious enhancement to the flavor when you drink it with a rescued and grateful dog, an expressive young artist, a sincere and passionate brewer, a sky this blue, a new lover… it’s a sensory overload rush in every sip. And there you have it. A beer worth getting on a plane for.

Below are the details of this and other places to find beer in Belo Horizonte. If you go, they’re all good- but only one is worth the price of the plane ticket from Boston.

Evora (Their website is annoyingly only on F book, which I will not promote)
R. Carlos Frederico Campos, 170 – Ouro Preto
Belo Horizonte – MG, 31310-400, Brazil
Twitter: @cervejariaevora
Instagram: cervejariaevora

They suggested I go to this place, which had okay beer.

This place was in walking distance of the conference and had perfectly good beer.

And finally, the best bar to gather – where professional map geeks from Amsterdam, England, Colombia, New Zealand, China, Sweden, and more- drank ALL the beer each and every night that week, is a place that is everyone’s fantasy: A book store that is also a bar. Cafe con letras.

(No photos because of course everything that happened there stays in our heads, not on our phones. I hope.)






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Travels with Cindy

San Francisco to Carmel on the Pacific Coast Highway


Driving a convertible along the Pacific Coast Highway. That’s all I cared about for the second half- the California half (see earlier post for the Alaska portion)- of the trip I took with my Mother who others call Cindy. Regular readers know how much I love to drive, and I was not even discouraged when I found out that leasing a stick shift was not an option. (Unless you go with a vintage car- old Mustangs, Triumphs, Alpha Romeos and such- starting at $5K for 3 days.)


I found an relatively inexpensive VW Beetle Convertible through Hertz (~$300 for 4 days) and was elated- until a friend in San Francisco sent me news that the Pacific Coast Highway south of Carmel had fallen into the ocean after all the rain they’d had. So. With an abbreviated coast to see and already being a frequent traveler to San Francisco myself for work, I decided to let Mom call all the shots for this part of the trip.

Here was her wish list:

1. Watch the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf.
2. Eat fried oysters.
3. Visit Alcatraz.
4. Drive over the Golden Gate Bridge.

And here is how it went:


1. As we approached the sea lions, the scent of their natural evacuation process was so strong that we decided to just get a photo in front of the statue and watch from afar.

2. I didn’t really get the oyster wish. Is the west coast known for fried oysters? Fried anything? But it was my Mother’s desire- so of course I did what I could. I asked a friend and lifelong local where were to find the best fried oysters. He told us to go to the Swan Oyster Depot. Turns out they only have raw oysters. But we ended up having such a great time that my Mom didn’t mind at all.

3. The ferry ride to Alcatraz  should be its own destination. They serve alcohol on the boat- not that we had any. No – truly – we did not. But I keep track of these things. Alcatraz is on a steep rock, as you probably know. If you have trouble getting around, as my Mother does, you get to take a painfully slow (walkers were passing us) but adorable golf-cart-train all the way to the top. This is the way to go. Once there, they provide an excellent tour with good stories, including about the inmates in the cells facing the city who could hear party revelry across the bay on weekends from their tiny cages. Ouch!


4. The Golden Gate Bridge. We drove over- twice! Let’s face it- bridges are thrilling to cross. We did it once on the top of a tourist bus, and then again in our Beetle convertible. On the way to… you guessed it. Russian River Brewery.

You know I had to get in that beery destination in. And the 3.2% Endurance is a driver’s dream.

After that we visited some wineries in Sonoma, which is much more our speed than Napa. More rustic, less attitude, less corporate feeling. On Mom’s list was a winery I went to years ago and had brought back one of her and my Dad’s favorite wines that we drank together on his 70th birthday trip in Camden, Maine. She has been looking for it ever since, but could not get it. Well- it was there! We helped ourselves to some at Ledson Winery, and arranged for some to be sent home.

By then we were hungry, and I was delighted to discover that our hotel was up the road from an In-N-Out Burger.


I don’t care much for burgers or fast food- but my Mom is from Ohio, where part of the DNA is craving cow in all forms. I told her how lucky we were! People rave about this burger and travel from all corners of the world to get it! Let’s go! I texted a friend to find out what to order: the Double-Double, Animal Style. That’s just fun to say. We were excited and ready to love it! Here is her reaction:

Unlike Peter Luger, a meat place that somehow manages to surpass its hype, it was disappointing. Sorry In-N-Out fans- she hated it. I confess I would not go back either. The burgers were greasy, the fries nearly raw, and the taste nothing special- especially after a Craigie burger. My many friends who are fans of this place are so devoted- in such denial that not everyone loves it- that they believe she is overjoyed in these pictures. What? No. No- this is my Mom’s “ick” face. She’s such a sweet person that maybe you cannot see displeasure in her- but trust me. We went out to dinner elsewhere after this.

Summer of Love Anniversary


Did you know it’s the 50th anniversary of this special year? I also turned 50 this year. My parents claim to have missed the wilder part of the 60s. But I was adopted. Do the math- SOMEONE was having a good time that year! I like to believe I am the product of this uninhibited, rowdy, deliriously affectionate time. And then raised by rational, drug-avoiding people. The best of both worlds!


We were meeting some friends for dinner, so what did we do on the way? We got a snack, of course. At Zuni Cafe. It is so much more fun to travel with an eater and drinker than – um – other kinds of people.

My Mom still talks about this as her favorite place to eat in San Francisco. Well, this and the impromptu evening where we were too exhausted to leave the hotel and ate in the lobby of the Marriott. Where they knew how to make her favorite cocktail- a chocolate martini- AND they had a lovely local IPA. This is California, after all.

Monterey and Carmel

Things kind of changed at this point. We had spent over a week together and were not just still speaking, but experiencing that gravitational pull that happens when you realize you travel really well with someone. (see Mongolia with Vera post.)


When the chocolate croissants arrived warm in the basket and the Bloody Mary was made with beer we knew we would be returning the next day to this little Carmel restaurant La Bicyclette. We only wished we had found it sooner.

Pacific Coast Highway


I thought my Mom would be disappointed that we couldn’t take the PCH all the way to Big Sur. As I read the guidebook entry to her of alternate views, I mentioned the 17 Mile Drive around Pebble Beach golf course. I explained why I thought the toll was worth it. Silence. I looked up to see her eyes welling- crap! But it wasn’t for something so silly as not being able to drive further south. Instead, she was remembering that she and my Dad, avid golfers since they met in college in the early 60s, had always wanted to play this course- or at least see it. They never did. Oh yes indeed – we were going to drive all over it!


Every stretch of the PHC has gorgeous views. But frankly, unless you have a helicopter following you taking pictures, the purpose of the open top of a convertible is rather lost. The best views (and scents and sounds) of this wild coastline are visible along the plentiful pull-over parks and stretches.

The secret thrill of the convertible was not along the ocean at all- but instead within the Red Wood forests. And thank goodness we drove among these green giants on a weekday during shoulder season, because looking up while driving (as I often did) meant a lot of swerving and breaking along the dizzying switchbacks. We gasped a lot- but at the views straight up, not my driving. Do this!


Salinas and John Steinbeck Museum

John Steinbeck and my inner old man are good friends. The Wayward Bus. The Grapes of Wrath. East of Eden. When I mentioned the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas (via another redwood forest drive) Mom was game!


We loved the exhibit- it has a lot of maps and clever word-play, which John would have approved. At the end was a bookstore, of course. This clever place has an area where they sell vintage books- and here is where one can buy his works in hardback. Secretly my Mom selected Travels with Charley (our favorite part of the exhibit- plus we shared a dog called Eliot for 15 years, each of us for half his lifetime- and we were feeling it). She presented it as we left.


She downloaded it so we could read it at the same time. My Mom prefers to read on her handheld device. Okay? It’s lighter than a paper book, has text size she can control, and is backlit- so she can see it. I get this.

Mother’s Day

Are you surprised that the next day- and the last of our two weeks together- was Mother’s Day? I know what my mother likes to eat, and I had researched where to take her in Monterey.


She adores Prime Rib. “Mooing” is her doneness request to servers. She never gets it rare enough. My Dad loved steak too- and as we ate our (for once!) perfectly cooked slabs we were remembering our visit to Peter Luger’s in New York for his 60th birthday.

Which led to other memories- and with the wine expanding the joy of our time together and also the impending sadness of separating the next day- we finished the evening, and the trip, with a thought we expressed many times over the years: a shared wonder of the three of us finding each other.


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