The Desert – A Magical Place

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

During Christmas week, I was visiting my USA family, the Polkinhorns, in El Centro, California, just north of the border to Mexico. El Centro is situated in the Imperial Valley, one of the agricultural centers of California. It is also part of the Southern Anza Borrego Desert, a vast expanse of sand and colorful rocks and mountains. During my stay, my hosts drove me to Borrego Springs, a mountain-desert village about 2 hours northwest of El Centro. It’s a quaint town in the middle of “nowhere.” There is a lovely hotel with cabins where you can truly unwind from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And the food, by the way, is excellent.

The most fascinating part, however, was a collection of steel sculptors in the area of prehistoric animals that have lived here eons ago. Here are a few pictures of these amazing works of art:

After leaving Borrego Springs, Bill Polkinhorn took us on a ride in his 4-wheel-drive van (thank God for that–a “normal” car wouldn’t have made it on this rough terrain) to a “secret” spot that he and some of his photographer friends discovered a while ago. After parking the car, we hiked up a small hill, keeping our eyes to the ground, until we arrived at a cliff with an absolutely stunning view of a desert where in ancient times water was flowing abundantly through the landscape and carved these works of nature.

And here we were, after an excursion in this truly ever-changing land,  back in El Centro, relaxing next to an open fire with a glass of wine and a cigar.


Los Angeles – a city of urban sprawl and the most exciting as well as quirky attractions! – Part Three

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

I’m obviously a slow blogger. This post is about the last day of Shawn and my Los Angeles city adventure back in October of 2017. This time, we ventured downtown again, to a historical restaurant/Tiki bar/almost a museum, called Clifton’s. Here is some information about the place:

But first we had to find parking and that’s one of the problematic sides of downtown Los Angeles. During the day I now take our new Metrolink train from Santa Monica to downtown. In the evening and at night, however, the car feels a little safer. Fortunately, street-smart Shawn was driving and we did find a spot close-by. Well done, Shawn.

And here we were, stuffing ourselves on an elaborate buffet-style dinner.



It wasn’t exactly “fine dining” but plentiful and there was an amazing variety of food! Having regained our strength after the hunt for a parking space, we ventured upstairs and checked out the mysterious and glamorous environment and the art works. Here are a few photos:





You can tell that Shawn was overwhelmed!

I don’t have more pictures of that evening. I had too much fun and forgot to take pictures, but Shawn did a better job of documenting this amazing place.

Hop on over to his blog!

Los Angeles – a city of urban sprawl and the most exciting as well as quirky attractions! – Part Two

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

My friend Shawn and I spent a weekend exploring Los Angeles, a city of many surprises. I’ve lived in the area for many years and I still discover new and interesting spots. Shawn was doing research for some articles for one of his freelance journalist projects and I was tagging along, having fun. While waiting for the Griffith Observatory to open
(see last post:,
we had breakfast in a nearby coffee shop and then checked out another quirky and very interesting place, called Wacko/Soap Plant in Los Angeles. This is a store that sells an amazing collection of magical and crazy stuff as well as sophisticated works of art and some splendid books.

But first we checked out the current art exhibition in the store. I knew of my friend’s love of Tiki bars and Tiki drinks and took it for just another one of his many quirks. I have to admit though I’ve acquired a taste for these Hawaiian inspired drinks myself. What I wasn’t familiar with though was the more serious aspect of this international movement of Tiki Art. The exhibition of paintings and sculptures was truly amazing. One of the famous artists among the group is a guy by the name of Shag. More about him here:

And here are a few pictures of the Wacko store and of the art exhibition. It’s located at the end of Hollywood Blvd. where it leads into Sunset. Here is the outside–you obviously can’t miss it.

And here the inside: paintings and sculptures, the true Tiki phenomena. I was really excited about it!

Above: This is the kind of crazy and magical stuff you can enjoy there.
Below: This is part of the exhibition

Our next stop after Wacko and the Griffith Observatory was Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. This part of the city, which is now mainly a tourist attraction, was founded in 1781 and has an interesting and at times controversial history and Latin heritage. More about this here:

We visited Calle Olvera October 21 and the street was already decked out for the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 2 and 3. Here are some pictures of the tourist attractions and the more historical buildings.

More follows–another fabulous Los Angeles highlight, Clifton’s Cafeteria. Stay tuned!

Los Angeles – a city of urban sprawl and the most exciting as well as quirky attractions!

Monday, November 20th, 2017

The week after Shawn and my research/fun trip to Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Cambria and Morro Bay, we explored a bunch of exciting places in Los Angeles.

I remember very well when I first came to the United States and traveled through part of the country eons ago, my initial thought was that Los Angeles was the one city in the United States I would never ever want to live in. Famous last words! I still don’t enjoy the urban sprawl and the impossible traffic congestion, but  I’ve come to love Los Angeles for its wonderful museums, concert halls, libraries, and its many exciting and quirky entertainments.

Los Angeles can be intimidating and I always dread driving in it. My friend Shawn, however, is much more adventurous and so I always love it when he visits because he takes me to places I either have never been to or don’t know very well.

Anyway, here we were and our first visit was to the famous and amazing Griffith Observatory.

For information on the history and activities at this world famous observatory, check out its website:

More to come!

Adam Cohen and Leonard Cohen momentarily forget their lyrics–it can happen to the best of them.

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

A fun and moving moment I had to share!


Research & Fun – Part Four: Morro Bay

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

On the last day of our fun research trip, Shawn and I headed over to the Central Coast again, this time to a typical tourist spot, Morro Bay. But aside from the purely entertaining–shops, bars, restaurants–we took a harbor cruise that was both fun and informative. I have to admit though, I didn’t listen too closely to the information the captain gave us in a fast and very repetitive voice (the poor guy must have told the same story hundreds of times). I just relaxed and enjoyed the landscape and the many sea birds and sea animals.

Let’s start with a few pictures. Well, actually, the first thing we visited was the Morro Bay Aquarium, which was going to be closed soon. Thank God, because it was a really sad affair. All these sea animals locked into these small areas. Too depressing, so I didn’t take pictures. Shawn, however, has some very colorful photos. Link at the end!

Here is the aquarium from the outside:

Afterwards, we needed to fortify ourselves with a delicious lunch; well mine was, Shawn wasn’t too crazy about his.

And here are the pictures from the harbor cruise. Below is Morro Rock one of 13  rocks in San Luis Obsipo county that are remnant necks of extinct volcanoes. More on that here, if you’re interested:

This bay is full of sea otters, sea lions, and all kinds of sea birds and sea animals.

 The captain of our boat.

It’s not easy to take good pictures on a boat full of people, but I’m proud of having caught a good shot of this royal bird!

All good things coming to an end. After Morro Bay, we separated, Shawn heading north and I south to Los Angeles. It was fun. Great time and great company!

During the coming weekend we explored interesting parts of Los Angeles. Stay tuned.

Make sure to hop over to Shawn’s post!

Research & Fun – Part Three: San Luis Obispo

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

I usually drive through San Luis Obispo on my way to Cambria or Paso Robles wine country. This time, I wanted to explore the city itself and what better guide than Shawn who has a knack for spotting interesting and quirky sites. Our first stop was the famous Madonna Inn. I’ve seen it from the road but have never been on the grounds or inside. What a crazy, more than slightly overdone but fun place that is! Now, if you have some extra (lots of extra!) disposable income, you can spend the night at this Californian symbol of craziness, but it’s quite expensive. Looking around, however, is free and the food at the coffee shop is reasonably priced. The food is okay, the coffee somewhat sub-par for my spoiled coffee palate but the scenery is well worth a visit.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of this amazing hotel.

A painted cow seemed a fitting object for this environment.

Our next stop was at the mission of San Luis Obispo, with its beautiful gardens, a lovely museum and those amazing three large bells. The full name is Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and it was founded by Father Serra in 1772 and named after Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, France. It was built with the help of the local Chumash Indians. If you are a mission fan, like Shawn, you can read more about it here:

Below are a few pictures of the mission:

The garden with the three beautiful bells and the small museum were particularly enchanting.

The next stop, an old library converted into a history center, was close-by.

There is a story to these bottles which Shawn describes in his blog (of course completely fictional).

Next, we took a quick break in one of Shawn’s favorite places–a Tiki bar (it’s a long story). I only have a few pictures, but on Shawn’s post, you’ll get more detail (link at the end of the post).

Next, we found a truly amazing place, another one which I’ve never seen nor even heard of. It’s called the BUBBLEGUM ALLEY. That’s right, only in California. It’s an alley where people over many years deposited their chewed bubblegum on the walls and created a truly Californian “work of art” and to this day people still add their own gums to the masterpiece.

Next we headed over to the coast to Cambria to check out the elephant seals and Ragged Point, the entrance to the mountain road to Big Sur, which is still closed.

This odd place in Cambria is called Nit Wit Ridge–there is a story to this as described in the next photo, which you probably won’t be able to read. Ask Shawn!

The last two photos are from Ragged Point, also called the entrance to the mountain road to Big Sur. Since I dealt with this and the elephant seal sanctuary at Piedras Blancs in former blog posts, I didn’t take many pictures this time around. Shawn has a lot more on his blog post.

There is more to come in my next blog post. But don’t forget to check out Shawn’s interpretation of this day–an absolutely fictitious SILLINESS GALORE! Have a good laugh and enjoy some great pictures!

Research & Fun – Part Two: More Fun than Research in Paso Robles Wine Country

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

On the second day of my trip up north, I met with Shawn, who does some research for several of his own projects. We stayed at the Adelaide Inn in Paso Robles, which has become one of my “homes from home” during my jaunts in the Central Coast of the California wine country.


As you can see, the motel was already decked out for Halloween!

Once Shawn arrived, we took off for a reception at one of the wineries for members of the wine club he belongs to. I had the honor and pleasure of being the invited guest. On the way there, we visited another winery. Here are a few pictures of the Pear Valley Winery and the Chronic Cellars in Paso Robles.

Now, don’t you get the wrong idea! It may not look that way, but this was by no means pure entertainment. After all, in order to write intelligently in an article or a book about wine, you have to be able to taste and investigate it. Okay? Never mind.

 Enough research. The wines were anywhere from decent to excellent. Mission accomplished.

In the evening, dinner in Paso Robles.

One of these four gentlemen I came across in Paso Robles must have imbibed so much that he forgot to put on his appropriate shirt. He was, in fact, Drunk 3.

My pal Shawn wrote his own blog post about this day and has a bunch of fun pictures as well.

To be continued.