Tag Archives: Honeymoon

The Honeymooners – From the Streets of San Francisco to the Hills of Tennessee

24 Jul

Normally, I wouldn’t write about the return to Tennessee, but a couple of things happened that I found interesting. We scheduled an early flight home in order to arrive at a decent hour. Necole had to go to work the next day, and both of us were anxious to see her daughter. We missed her and everyone else back home.

This meant that we had to wake up 3 o’clock. That’s 5 o’clock in our time zone, but, by now, we had adjusted to San Francisco time. Getting up that early is never fun. We got into the car at 4 o’clock. It was dark, and we were fuzzy on the details of the route. I studied the route the night before, but I don’t think clearly before daylight. This meant that we needed the lady inside Necole’s phone – the one that tells us which way to go.

She took us through the heart of San Francisco. It was dark. The traffic lights were blinking. It was us and a few taxis. One of America’s major cities was deserted. In a few hours, these same streets would be packed with traffic and pedestrians, and we had them all to ourselves. It felt surreal. On some level, I felt like Robert Neville.

We didn’t run into any mutants wearing sunglasses and got to the airport in plenty of time. On the way, I said something about the flight not being delayed because it was one of the first ones out. I was wrong. This meant that the connection a Midway in Chicago was going to be tight.

At least, we thought it was going to be tight. After we boarded the plane for Nashville, the vehicle that pushed the plane away from the gate slipped a break and slammed into it and cracked the nose. Yep, our plane was in a head on collision while sitting still. We sat on the thing until a maintenance crew replaced the nose.

What’s interesting about that? Although the pilot tried to reassure everyone, it’s a strange feeling to go up in a plane that just had a new nose put on it. What if the workers didn’t tighten the bolts? What if the new nose fell off? All kinds of stuff goes through your mind.

Well, the nose job worked, and we made it back to Tennessee. My mom picked us up at the airport and had a big homemade meal waiting for us. We had drank wine, eaten fancy meals and had a few ordinary meals. Now, it was time to get some southern food and get ready for the rest of our lives.

I can’t have a post without a picture, so here is the last one I took. It is the view of San Francisco from Alcatraz.Honeymoon 043

Thanks for reading about our honeymoon. Regular Surrounded by Imbeciles stuff will return in the next post.

The Honeymooners – We Made It In-N-Out of Alcatraz

23 Jul

The last full day of our honeymoon had arrived. At some point, we needed to pack and get ready for the flight home. However, we had something to do before that – tour Alcatraz. I was definitely excited about it because every trip needs to include a historic site. Necole said she was excited about it. At first, I thought she was saying that for my benefit, but, as time passed, I started to think that she really was fired up for this.

We had tickets for the 1:00 tour and needed to kill time before loading onto the boat. Walking out of our hotel, we instinctively looked for a place to have breakfast. All we saw was a Mexican restaurant. This wasn’t Santa Fe, so we weren’t down for that. Just as we were about to go back and talk to the concierge, I saw it. Angels sang as I looked upon an IHOP. Pancakes. Eggs. Hashbrowns. Here we come.

When that was over, we walked a block to the wharf. Sunday morning is a lot less hectic than Saturday afternoon. People strolled along peacefully. Others jogged from one end to the other. Up ahead, Necole saw a guy who looked just like Marlon Brando. I mean a living Marlon Brando, not the skeletal version. In all, it was a completely different atmosphere.

We took advantage of this and strolled hand in hand to the site of the Louis Vuitton Cup.Honeymoon 038

It is a preliminary round for the America’s Cup and was being held in San Francisco Bay. I’m not sure how someone watching a sailing race, but there was a lot of other cool stuff to do.

Finally, it was time to go to Alcatraz, one of my favorite places to tour. It’s amazing to walk through the prison and wonder what its inhabitants went through. This was definitely the end of the line in the prison world. Being sent here meant you were the baddest of the bad. From the island, the sounds of the free world can be easily heard. In some ways, that had to be the hardest part.

The prison wasn’t that large and didn’t have as many guards as one would think. The water was the ultimate guard. Although land is a short distance away, the waters are too treacherous to swim across. A few people tried to escape. Most never got off the island. Those who did have never been heard from again.Honeymoon 040

We escaped the island and found ourselves back on a crowded wharf. However, we weren’t wandering around not knowing where to go. We had a goal, and it was In-N-Out Burger. Everyone told us about the greatness of these hamburgers, and they weren’t lying. Necole and I both agreed that it was one of the most awesome hamburgers we have ever had. After lunch, we planned on riding a trolley, which would have been our second visit to a piece of preserved history, but the line was an hour long. After an entire week of eating, drinking and sightseeing. We were ready to pack it in.

There was one other thing to do, however. We asked the concierge if there was a place to have dinner that wasn’t touristy and wasn’t seafood. She led us to an Italian restaurant on the non-wharf side of the hotel. It was quiet and peaceful. The type of place we needed to have the first argument of our marriage.

The Honeymooners – “This Isn’t a Restaurant! It’s a Lobby!”

22 Jul

We were in no hurry to leave Sonoma, but it had to be done. First, it was to Carneros for breakfast, which wasn’t as good as the dinner we had there. Then, it was on the road to San Francisco. We had a room reserved on Fisherman’s Wharf. I know that it’s a tourist area, but sometimes you just have to do tourist things. Necole had never been there, and we thought that she should see it.

We retraced our trek and returned to the city by going over the Golden Gate Bridge. Necole put on Facebook that it wasn’t really gold, and one of her friends said the name had something to do with the type of paint they used. That’s not exactly right. The bridge spans over a waterway that is known as the Golden Gate. You have to watch out for those Facebook facts.

After crossing, we headed toward the wharf on streets that were filled with traffic. They were also filled with pedestrians, bicycles, trolleys and other untold transportation methods. Sometimes, I think that Necole is not impressed with my driving. On this day, she thought I was doing an excellent job.

We made it to the hotel, got into the room and said, “What the heck? Let’s go out amongst them.” Let me tell you, there were a lot of them. People were everywhere. Necole said that it was worse than walking in New York City. Crowds gathered around street performers and blocked the sidewalks. Bicycles whizzed by. People were wandering around and not looking where they were going. It was chaos. It was also linguistically chaotic, as we heard dozens of languages.

Anyway, we went to Pier 39, the heart of tourism along the waterway. This is where you can find the Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company and a guy pretending to be Jack Sparrow. It is also where you can find the sea lions that are always hanging around. Except, they don’t hang around this time of year because they are busy repopulating the Earth with more sea lions.Honeymoon 037

There was one guy swimming around. I didn’t see a pocket protector, so I don’t know why he couldn’t get a girl.

By this time, we were becoming overwhelmed. We probably saw more people on the wharf than we had in Half Moon Bay and Sonoma combined. We were tired. We were hungry. It was time to find some food and some relaxation. Taking the advice of our bellhop, we went to Scoma’s. That was crap. He probably got a cut for sending people there.

We sat at the bar to wait for a table, and this crusty old bartender asked what we needed. She looked older than the wharf. Necole wanted something specific, and they had a little go around before coming up with a drink. Necole wasn’t happy and spoke in hushed tones about the bartender’s attitude. When we got up, she said, “That’s what you call a broad. Not a woman. A broad.” I was so proud of her. That term hasn’t been used since the days of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. Necole went all historic on me.

The waiter was nicer, but I didn’t think the food was any better than the bartender was. After that, we walked some more and made our way to the hotel, which had some fire pits set up outside. Having some of that good Laxton wine with the twist off cap, we decided to take a bottle street side. That’s when Necole got into it with another broad.

Apparently, there is a $20 bottle fee at the fire pits, and the woman working in the deli shop inside was going to get her $20. We paid it but not without getting our money’s worth. The lady was told in no uncertain terms that we had paid hundreds of dollars for a room and should be able to drink our wine anywhere we wanted. She retorted that no restaurant would allow us to do that. That’s when Necole replied, “This isn’t a restaurant! It’s a lobby!”

Some guy from Los Angeles was sitting with us when that happened. We found out that his father used to be the mayor of Los Angeles, and that he was in San Francisco with a bunch of buddies. They were going to show up at any time. They never did show up. I think he was he San Francisco by himself.

Oh, I forgot that a homeless man was sitting at another fire pit when we sat down. They didn’t charge him a bottle fee for his tall boy.

Eventually, some people from Seattle sat with us. They were interesting and taught me a lot. Namely, the South does not have the monopoly on rednecks.

The Honeymooners – Flanagan, then Begin Again

21 Jul

This is the day that we had been waiting for, the day for our big wine tour. I had scheduled a driver to take us to different wineries in the area. This way we could taste all we wanted. The plan was for the driver to pick out some places for us, but the first one was somewhere we had discovered through some friends.

When we were planning our honeymoon into wine country, some people in town said that we had to check out Flanagan Wines, a small vineyard that required a recommendation to visit. A few weeks earlier, I contacted the winery and received permission to visit. We fooled the driver on this one. She had never heard of it and, honestly, had a hard time finding it. However, we made it to the gate, of which I had the security code, and we drove up the hill to our destination. This is the view from the front door.Honeymoon 025

During the tour, we saw the wine-producing area and walked through the caves filled with barrels. It was a true learning experience because we had the place to ourselves and could ask any question. To me, the most fascinating information was how the weather changes from valley to valley. This means that each valley is better at producing a different wine. After the tour, we had a tasting while we looked out toward the rolling hills.

From this point, the tour belonged to our driver, and her best destination was a small market that made fresh sandwiches. Her winery choices left something to be desired. Laxton was the first. It was in a metal building and not as picturesque as the ones we had already seen. Flanagan had a modern feel while Inglenook was historically beautiful.Honeymoon 022

Laxton had a warehouse feel. By this time, we were pretty well buzzed, and that means my wallet will loosen up. I bought a t-shirt, and Necole bought a couple of bottles of wine. The wine maker, who used to work at the national laboratory in Oak Ridge, signed the bottles. It was later when we realized that they had twist off tops instead of corks.

We went to a couple of more, but I don’t remember their names. I remember that they were very touristy and that I felt bad for people who went to these and thought they were getting the wine country experience. I know that there are others, but nothing we saw could compare to Inglenook and Flanagan.

Upon our return to the hotel, Necole and I went to the pool. I chose the shady nap, and she chose the sun. At one point, we had a very deep discussion about human behavior. While people watching, I wondered out loud why women wear cover ups at the pool but tan in their bikinis. I thought about this as I watched several men walk by a young woman on a deck chair. Each one of them stared at her as he walked by. What’s the point in the cover up if it is going to be taken off?

Necole said that the men shouldn’t have been staring at the woman. I replied that she didn’t know men very well, then. Since men are going to stare at a woman who is asleep on a deck chair, then she may as well leave the cover up at home.

Eventually, we got up and readied ourselves for dinner at Carneros. The dessert was so good the night before that we decided to try the other food. It was great, too.

The Honeymooners – An Offer We Couldn’t Refuse

20 Jul

Day 4 of the honeymoon was supposed to be a day of rest. I promised Necole that we would have some pool time, and this seemed like the right place. The weather was warm and the pool chairs looked comfortable. However, plans changed when one of Necole’s friends suggested a winery for us to visit. Luckily, we were able to get a midday tour and tasting.

We drove to the Inglenook Chateau, owned by Francis Ford Coppola, and it was what one would imagine when they think about a winery. Of course, our idea of a California winery comes from Falcon Crest, the old television series. Walking up, I expected to see Jane Wyman at any moment.Honeymoon 017

The tour guide took us through the wine making process at Inglenook. He also took us through its history as one of the area’s great vineyards until it fell into decay under corporate ownership. Coppola saved it with money from The Godfather and has spent decades bringing the estate and wine to its former glory.

After the tour, we tasted fantastic wines and spent a few dollars shipping some of it home. The tour and tasting whetted our appetites, and the guide suggested the Rutherford Grill, which sat across the street. When Necole and I sat down, we both commented that the restaurant reminded us of Houston’s, a place that used to be in Nashville.

Later, I found out that the Rutherford Grill and a lot of other restaurants in California are owned by the Houston’s corporation. It began and was headquartered in Nashville until the owners decided that they were too good for us. They would probably find it interesting that Nashville has one of the nation’s best food scenes and has dozens of restaurants better than the ones they own.

Anyway, I am getting off track. We returned to the hotel and made it to the pool. I got under a cabana and took a nap while Necole got some sun. It was late in the afternoon, and we learned from experience that the Sonoma temperature changed quickly as the sun goes down.

Soon, it was time to eat again. As you can tell, we did a lot of eating on this honeymoon. This time we wanted some casual and laid back, so we went to Mary’s Pizza Shack on the plaza. It was as good as any other pizza, but my focus wasn’t on the food. My mind kept going over the history that was around me.

I had read that this plaza was an important part of the Bear Flag Rebellion, when California declared its independence from Mexico and asked to become part of the United States. That’s the simple version. Like all things, reality is a bit more complicated. I won’t use this post to provide a history lesson because that’s not what I was thinking about while eating pizza.

I was thinking that President James K. Polk, from Columbia, Tennessee, wanted to bring California into the fold and used every means necessary to get that done. I was also thinking about Peter Burnett, native Tennessean and California’s first governor. I was wondering if the people of California realize the role Tennesseans played in the history of their state.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and found ourselves wanting more. With this in mind, we went to Carneros, a place that was recommended by one of my Twitter friends. We sat at the chef’s bar and watched them work in the open kitchen. Necole had an awesome creme brulee, and I had a so-so cookie concoction.

The day was great, and I realized that the Tennessee guys who moved Houston’s could not have gone to California if some other Tennessee guys had not gotten it in the first place.

The Honeymooners – The First Tastes of Sonoma

19 Jul

And on the third day, we left Half Moon Bay. However, we didn’t leave before having lunch at an awesome sandwich shop. All of the ingredients were fresh, and they put a bunch of them on the sandwiches. After lunch, we drove up Highway 1 toward San Francisco. We had no idea what we would see along the way, but we knew it would be different from what we saw going south.

The road had a little more traffic, and the coast had a little more development. Before we knew it, we were on the coastal edge of San Francisco. It was like driving anywhere else, but I noticed something strange. You couldn’t turn left at any intersection. Necole and I had a whole conversation about how you can get anywhere without turning left.

Some of the neighborhoods we went through looked somewhat rundown. But, we also passed a mall with a Nordstrom, which I know is fancy because Necole and I saw Nicole Kidman at the one in Nashville.

As we went further up the road, Necole was getting more nervous. Once, she had panic attack going over a bridge in Florida, and this road was taking us over the Golden Gate Bridge. She asked if it was a suspension bridge. When I said yes, she began to squirm. As it turns out, Necole did great. She busied herself by taking pictures and felt better when she saw people walking a riding bicycles next to us. Unfortunately, she took those pictures on her iPhone, and I don’t have any to put in this post.

Crossing the bridge took us into a completely different place. We went from city to suburb, and it must have been a heck of a suburb. We passed a Ferrari dealership and a Bentley dealership. We also passed another Nordstrom. Nashville thought it was a big deal to get one, and we saw two on the same road.

We took this route because our next few nights were going to be in Sonoma – Wine Country. Here, we would see fields of grapes and wineries around every bend. We saw those things, but some other stuff surprised. The land without grapes reminded me of Montana. Also, we passed a race track. Somewhere in my mind, I recalled that NASCAR has spent time racing in Sonoma. There’s just something not right about that. The people I see at Talladega don’t seem to be the Wine Country type. In short, NASCAR needs to run where they make whiskey, not wine.

We made it to the city of Sonoma and our hotel, The Lodge at Sonoma. It was not the Ritz, but it was an alright place to stay. The put us in a dinky room, so we had them swap us to a bungalow. This room was better but not great. However, what we found around us was awesome.

After checking in, we went to the Sonoma Plaza. This thing was huge and dwarfed the plaza I have visited many times in Santa Fe. City hall sat in the middle. I thought it was interesting and took a picture of it.Honeymoon 014

I wonder if I am the only person who ever took a picture of city hall. Anyway, we immediately went to a wine tasting. After all, that’s why we drove all the way up there.Honeymoon 015

After some wine, we walked around the plaza, ventured into some art galleries and had dinner at this cool restaurant. Then, it was on to another wine tasting. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of our tasting experiences.

We went back to the hotel and found a spot in a bar/coffee shop/cheese place. I had beer and cheese. Necole had wine and cheese. The beer was good. The wine was good. The cheese was awesome.

The Honeymooners – From Pebble Beach to Pasta Moon

17 Jul

Day two of the honeymoon brought a trip down California Highway 1, which follows the coast. This is a road that I have long wanted to drive, and I was about to hit a short stretch of it. We left out in the morning with the fog still covering the coast, and Necole kept talking about how different it was from the beaches that she was accustomed to seeing.

Around here, most people go to the beaches on the gulf coast. To me, they look like any other beach. Flat. Sand. Small waves. Hotels and condos everywhere. This coast was different. Cliffs dove into the water. Beaches formed between cliffs and were guarded by rock outcroppings. It was completely different, and, in my opinion, more beautiful.Honeymoon 005

I was not surprised by the cliffs. However, I was surprised about the other things we passed. Vegetation went to the edge of the cliffs and the beaches. Crops grew and livestock grazed on the left while the ocean was on the right. I really didn’t anticipate seeing that much agriculture. Some people were picking berries. Others were selling their products at roadside stands. It was really interesting to see.

We also passed through a few cities. The road cuts through Santa Cruz, and Monterey in larger than I had imagined. For some reason, I wanted to be transported back several decades and walk up to the music festival to hear Jimi Hendrix.

We got to our destination in time for lunch, and, for us, eating is very important. Our plan was to dine at Pebble Beach, the famous golf course community. My brother and his family had eaten there, and we were hunting for the same place. We happened upon it and dined while overlooking the famous 18th hole.Honeymoon 007

It is a beautiful place, and one that every golfer should get the opportunity to play. It would be a cool experience, but I would rather be at Pebble Beach for its annual car show. Classic automobiles line the fairway in a contest to see which is the greatest of them all. Millions of dollars worth of vehicles are brought to the competition. The Best of Show gets the crystal trophy that is third in the row. The closest one is given to the winner of the U.S. Open or something.Honeymoon 009

After lunch, we bought a few souvenirs and drove the short distance to Carmel, famous for being the home of Clint Eastwood. Once again, what we found is not what I had imagined – a small hamlet by the sea that had a few art galleries and restaurants. It had those things but also had a tourist feel. I thought of it as Gatlinburg with a little more class. Hopefully, some of you will know what I mean by that. We strolled through the shops and had a snack at the bakery. I bought a John Wayne pen set that was way too expensive.

After some time, we decided to head back for our last night in Half Moon Bay. We were determined not to repeat our dinner from the night before and found Pasta Moon, an Italian restaurant on Main Street. I would recommend it to anyone. The atmosphere was low-key, and the food was great.

We also noticed what was around the restaurant. There were shops, galleries and a few other restaurants. For some reason, I kept thinking that this was what Carmel used to be. It turns out that we went to Carmel looking for something but actually found it in Half Moon Bay.

The Honeymooners – Puttin’ on the Ritz

16 Jul

Necole and I just returned from our honeymoon, and I know everyone is anxiously awaiting a detailed report of the trip. At least, I am anxious to let everyone know what happened on the trip. It was a completely new experience for me. I had never been to the places that we planned to go, and I had never been a honeymooner before. These were uncharted waters.

We flew Southwest to San Francisco, and that meant a couple of things. First, we had a layover in Las Vegas. I must say that it felt funny flying in Las Vegas without plans to gamble. Necole and I planned a trip there a few months ago but couldn’t go because she bought a local business. I really want to take her there and just hanging out at the airport was not enough.

I hate connecting flights, but the man we were sitting by on the plane had a real connection story. He had been in Florida for a funeral, and this was the second leg of his journey. It went from Florida to Nashville to Las Vegas to Tucson to Amarillo. Then, he had another 90 miles to drive to get home. That means that he lives in the middle of nowhere.

Second, we were going to be delayed a little heading into San Francisco, which was probably because one runway was closed. As the world reported, there was a tragic plane crash there a few days before. We wondered if we would see some remnants of it. In fact, we landed on the neighboring runway. It’s a weird feeling to land in a plane while looking at a crashed plane out of the window. Literally, it was right next to us. It was also weird to see people moving around an airport like nothing had happened.

We got our stuff loaded into the car and headed to our first destination, Half Moon Bay. Along the way, we passed orchards, fields of flowers and greenhouses. It was truly an agricultural area. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were going to spend a lot of time in agricultural areas.

Half Moon Bay in a small town on the coast, and we had no problem finding our hotel, the Ritz-Carlton. Hey, I figure it’s a honeymoon, so we should stay at a nice place. The lady at the guardhouse greeted us by congratulating us on our marriage and wishing us a great honeymoon. The people at the desk did the same thing. The Ritz-Carlton really knows how to treat guests.

After unloading in the room, we went outside to see this.Honeymoon 001

I have never been to Scotland, but I have imagined that it would be something like this. To get a good view of the coast, guests can sit here.Honeymoon 002

Not knowing where else to go, we dined at the restaurant inside the hotel. The Ritz-Carlton is fancy, and that means they have fancy food, too. Small portions. Artistically placed on the plate. Pretty to look at but not very filling. We knew what we had to do. We went to the concierge and inquired about the nearest Baskin-Robbins.