Saturday, July 30, 2011

Because it's Market Day!

Every Saturday while Colleen was in California, if we weren't doing tourist things, we would head out to Murphy Avenue downtown Sunnyvale to one of the greatest outdoor markets we've ever attended.

We arrived a little later than usual today but it was still as packed as ever. There are various selections of peaches, nectarines, strawberries, blueberries, white corn, and more - all local, all organic, and oh so affordable.

Murphy Avenue is the main downtown strip of Sunnyvale. It's cobble stoned and lined with fabulous buildings and restaurants.

 In the past few weeks we have discovered the honey stand where we can buy honey-raspberry wine (grape free so Colleen can consume it), and flavoured honey like sage and orange. Colleen has become a honey snob and regular honey no longer suffices.

A trip to the market is not complete without buying Steve's favorite flavoured honey sticks. We have already consumed four out of the six of the honey sticks by the time I thought to take this photo. Ruby is exhausted after her market morning adventure.

Ruby enjoyed making friends with some local dog enthusiast and really enjoyed nuzzling her face into said enthusiast' beard. She was a little disturbed but tolerant of the lady who shoved her own face against Ruby's nose.

Viewing photos is only a small portion of the Market Day experience. To truly appreciate Market Day you must be emerged with all the sights, smells, tastes (there are lots of samples - and home made chocolate!), and very importantly, sounds. There are always two local musicians playing in two different locations. The guy today was fantastic. Also notice how sunny it is? It's that sunny everyday, but not brutally hot - bah ha ha Ontario, I haven't sweat in the sun for weeks!

Colleen is sad to be heading back to Ontario. She will miss Saturday Market Day a lot.
(she will miss Steve too)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Must Stop Shop in San Jose

Seriously Colleen? A Blog Post About Shoes?
Steve and I are taking dance classes with a private instructor to choreograph our first dance.  It's been fun and our instructor is fantastic, however I have been without proper dance shoes. I injured my knee before I began my Gypsy Tour and it still hasn't healed properly. I have been having some difficulty on some of my turns in dance class and in practice due to torquing my knee.

I mentioned at the dance studio that I was looking for a place to buy some ballroom dancing shoes and we were given the business card of a place in San Jose that sells the appropriate shoes for less than $50 (typically they run over $100 as they have a fabric type covering the ball of the bottom of the shoe to move better across the dance floor)

The business on the card was called "Khai Hoan II" and it's description claimed "souvenirs, shoes, cosmetics, laquers, CDs, Videos, DVDs, toys, cellular phone, electronic dictionaries, and health care products.

A description like that made us suspicious and I checked online to see if this magical place had a website - it did not, however the promise of cheap dance shoes was enough for us to plot out a transit route to the store to check it out. Now you are probably asking yourself why I am writing a blog post on our travel blog about this obscure hunt for ballroom dancing shoes - you have no idea -THE SHOES!

I have recently begun to appreciate shoes though most of my appreciation is from afar on the internet as I do not want to part with my money when I have a perfectly good pair of shoes for "x" event already. Take for example these amazing shoes from IronFist.

This store in San Jose however, could break the bank and you'd have tons of shoes to show for it!

A Mecca of Shoes
We got off the bus at a strip mall with lots of Asian writing on the signs, food places, water purification - it didn't look very promising.  We saw a two neon signs of high heel shoes in the window of "Khai Hoan II".
(Not the actual sign, photo taken from this place Google image search found for me)

As we walk in, it's hard to describe, there was literally a pyramid of shoes, all on boxes, floor to ceiling (wish I had my camera with me). Within seconds of entering the store I was asked if I needed any help, I mentioned we were looking for ballroom dancing shoes and within 30 seconds I had about 6 different shoes in my hand.

I chose two I wanted to try on, told my size to the lady helping me and she called a child over. The child leaves the store (to I assume a larger warehouse or back area) for about 2 minutes and comes back with my size. 

In the end I chose the pair of shoes I liked best and could wear at our wedding for dancing - $35. That's it. I had a hard time not choosing a second or third pair of shoes at that price.

Understand that this place does not just have ballroom shoes, they have all kinds of fancy shoes, and all for under $40 as far as I could tell. I'm certain the platform shoes with the bullet for the heal probably cost more but it is a shoe mecca, hence my need to write this post for any potential tourists.

 If you are visiting and you want to go shoe shopping for some dress shoes, I know the place, oh yes I know the place!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Beach Day

Thems Some Big Waves
On Saturday we planned to take Claire to the Twin Lakes Beach in Santa Cruz. One thing we have learned here is you don't plan an alternate beach day due to rain. One aspect of beach going we did not anticipate however was wind.

We arrived early at the beach, and were terribly excited about the size of waves we were seeing. Steve and I have been boogie boarding enough now that we were up for the challenge, however we lamented that these waves were not conductive to instructing a new person how to ride a wave on a boogie board.

Not to be deterred (or perhaps naively ignorant of the power of such waves) we stuffed ourselves into our wetsuits and Claire was very eager to learn to ride her first wave.

 She boldly charged straight into the water, eager to receive her instruction.

"Like Flying Through the Air"

We quickly encountered a problem. How does one catch a wave before it crests when you can't reach the point in the water before the wave crests without being beaten down by the wave before?

After a couple of failed attempts to get through the large waves, Colleen decided to try an experiment. She discovered that since the waves were so large, it was possible to ride the wave after it crested and crashed back down. 
 After some instruction of how to hold and get on top of the board, Claire was ready to ride.

 And ride she did - like a Boss.
(Colleen didn't time this wave right and you will notice she doesn't make it that far)

A successful venture.

Face-Plant on Ocean Floor
The more experienced Cameron's had mentioned vague reasons why it wasn't smart to attempt to boogie board on the crest of these waves. Colleen obviously didn't take them seriously and decided since she had boogie boarded twice before, it was worth a shot.

She caught the 12 foot wave as it was beginning to crest and for a brief moment in time was insanely proud as she rode at the tip of the wave as it curled beneath her. As the wave continued to roll forward Colleen learned first hand why you do not boogie board (nor surf) on large waved close to shore.

 As the wave curled and gained height, her board pointed straight down and she plunged 90 degrees straight into the waver - in front of the wave. She forced her body to go limp, (the proper defense of being rolled in a large wave) as she was rolled head over heels, a mixture of salt water and sand filling her nose. As she finished her second rotation her chin slammed straight into the sandy ocean floor. Pushing upwards with her hands she surfaced, skinned chin but conscious and feeling mighty stupid for the attempt.

This is not the first time Colleen has attempted such things beyond her skill level *cough* skiing in the winter resulting in head injury *cough*, you'd think she's learn.

Boys and Their Large Toys
After attempting to play in the large waves with Steve and Gord without a board, Colleen decided she was tired of having sand shoved in her ears and being rolled by the waves and left the water to get some photos.

 These waves were massive,


and full of sand
Yet somehow Steve and Gord managed to successfully body surf a few.

It was fun day regardless of the lack of warm sun - the large waves were an experience in themselves.

By the time we left for delicious food at the Cameron's parent's place, the waves were getting larger and the red "Danger Rip Current" flag was displayed on the life guard hut.

Friday, July 8, 2011

San Francisco with Clarmstrong

This weekend Motel California had it's first guest - Steve's sister Claire.

On Friday, Claire and I took the CalTrain into San Francisco for a day of exploration and shopping.
We of course had to stop for the obligatory photo moments with the local cactus fauna that is bizarre for anyone from Canada to experience.

The Lesser-Known Bridge
We took the CalTrain to it's last stop in San Francisco and somehow ended up walking on the wrong street towards transit. It worked out for the best because we ended up walking right under The Bay bridge.

The Bay Bridge is the less famous San Francisco suspension bridge that spans across San Francisco bay to Oakland.
I'm not terribly sure what's so popular about the Golden Gate Bridge except for historical significance and that it's painted red, but this lesser known bridge is just as picturesque.

Attack of the Seagull

After donating to an initiative for gay and women's rights and equality (seemed like an appropriate thing to do in San Francisco which is known globally for it's large gay population), Claire and I made our way to Pier 39 where you can see Alcatraz and California sea lions.

We were suppose to be taking a tour of Alcatraz this day however, tickets sell out super fast and Steve and I did not buy the tickets far enough in advance (we tried to buy them on Tuesday of this week). It was probably for the best because a tour of Alcatraz takes up most of the day (unless you plan on an evening tour which I hear are the better tours anyway).

This is the third time I've been to San Francisco and I have yet to see the Golden Gate Bridge in anything but fog. My camera's autofocus was having a conniption - "you crazy lady there is nothing there to focus on, what do you want from me!"

At this point we were hungry and decided to get some fries and watch the sea lions who gather near the pier to sun themselves.
 While enjoying our massive amounts of fries and ketchup that tasted more like tomato paste than ketchup, we were entertained by a show of the most epic sea lion truffle shuffle.

It seemed like a great idea - get some sightseeing in while filling the belly. Unfortunately other ravenous creatures were about and decided to attempt to intimidate us to abandoning our fries by launching themselves from Claire's head.  That's right, a very bold seagull used Claire's head as a launching platform and while we were still in shock, returned again, then again another 30 seconds later the same seagull buzzed our heads.  It kept returning and it got to the point that people with small children were backing away from us like the plague. We ultimately decided to abandon what remained of our fries into a covered garbage can out of spite - screw you sea gull.

Paint Your House Funky - Tourists Will Gather and Gawk

After buying an outrageous amount of salt water taffy between the two of us (it wasn't worth it, flavors like candy apple are not good and the coconut tasted like sunscreen), we boarded public transit with the help of a very friendly and helpful local. We made our way through the city's extreme angled roads and left our friendly transit operators behind when we saw some houses we could not resist.

 We were creepers photographing these people's houses without shame.

 Though we did make a quick exit when a home owner from the blue house started to stare back at us.

Shopping and Exploring Haight-Ashbury

 As we explored we got perfect views of typical San Francisco townhouses and some great views of the super hills that are this city's trademarks.

The Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood is a very interesting place filled with hippies, vintage clothing, costume shops, and steampunk/vintage bizarre trinkets and hats.

It was a fantastic place to shop, just ignore all the bizarre shops FULL of bongs (unless that's what you are shopping for)

A Dose of Culture

We finished our day in San Francisco, meeting up with Steve and attending a play at the Exit Theatre not far from Market Street. The play we attended was titled "Left-Handed Darling" which I'm not even sure if I can summarize properly.

It was an entertaining play, about circus side show "freaks" and we all thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the play - the second half got a little confusing and odd.

This alarming balloon sculpture of Medusa was outside our theater room and was for the opening night of another play shown in the same theater.

Tips for Future Tourists

Claire and I learned some important things about San Francisco during our adventure:

1. If you want to go on an Alcatraz tour, book far in advance and take the night tour if you only have one day in San Francisco. If you take a tour in the middle of the day expect that tour and Pier 39 to be all you see that day.

2. Don't load up on salt water taffy. It looks delicious and everyone else is doing it but don't fall for it. All the flavors outside the traditional flavors were either disappointing or gross.

3. Take time to talk to the locals. The United States has introduced a lot of alarming legislation this year with regards to setting back women's rights and gay rights movements. Did you know in 33 states you can get fired for no reason other than your sexuality and with no repercussions to the employer? Absurd!

4.Ask the transit operators for directions. All our experiences were extremely positive and they were all super cheerful and willing to help the Canadians girls.

5. Haight-Ashbury is a must stop shop for people who love fashion, you can find some unique cheap buys at the vintage clothing shops and some very pretty jewelery.

6. Market Street by Powell is full of homeless people - and they are aggressive. Be on your guard for pushy beggars with no regard for personal boundaries. Don't make eye contact.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Welcome to the Motel California

This post has been long in coming. Firstly it was delayed because I borrowed a camera and kept forgetting to get the photos from Gord when he was not at work, and secondly because there is so many other exciting things to do!!

Building and Plant Shock (not really culture shock)
The next 4 months or so for Steve, this is home. For me, this is home until I come back to Canada the beginning of August. 

 There are quite a few little oddities to get use to when living in California. Prepare for caplocks throughout this post because sometimes my mind is just blown. In the previous photo notice the stairwell behind the sign? 

Notice anything odd?

After being here for a month it still blows my mind that you do not need to concern yourself about winterizing things. It's rained twice in the month that I've been here, and even that wasn't anywhere nearly as impressive as the downpours we had in Ontario all April and May.  Here you will be walking along a hallway between apartments and BAM - outside!

 This is a hallway on the second and third floors between some apartments. Insanity I say!

Another thing that takes some getting use to is walking down the street to a store and...

And they certainly aren't the size of the ones we in Ontario buy in pots at the grocery store. We pass this one on our way to the market on Murphy street on Saturdays and it gets pretty flowers!

This is a parking lot at an apartment building. Everything here is so pretty, but none of it holds a candle to the excitement of...


Welcome to the Motel California

Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Motel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here

Anyone coming to visit in the next 4 months will experience our first place here shared with Gord and Lex (and the Rublet). 
 We are still mostly living out of boxes - or not opening boxes we don't immediately need because Steve signed a 6 month lease when he arrived from Canada with no place to live,  $4000 in his pocket, and only a couch to crash on. 
Yes that's a giant TV box covered with a sheet acting as a shelf.
Regardless, where ever we live in California will be called Motel California - our friends and family now have a free place to stay to explore the west coast.
 We moved Steve and Gord's stuff in the smallest U-Haul truck you could get. Gord drove (with Lex and Ruby) with the few belongings worth packing up to make a cross continent trip.Hence the lack of seating and well - stuff.

Our kitchen is actually kind of snazzy. 

The cupboards are really tall though so we don't keep much on the top shelf.

This is how the bathroom typically looks. Sunscreen on the counter for daily use, and bathing suits drying on the shower rod from the night time trips to the hot tub.

Living here feels a lot like living in a resort

I assume at some point palm trees will stop exciting me. If it makes you feel any better they aren't native to this area but have all been introduced. But still - PALM TREES!

 It's odd that every night we are the only ones in the hot tub until it closes.  I wonder when I'll start taking it for granted like everyone else who lives here.

Ruby also enjoys her life of leisure, sleeping on her make shift bed of an old duvet and cover, she stares longingly out the window awaiting the next squirrel to dare set foot in her tree (or for her favourite person Gord to come home from work)

They livin' it up at the Motel California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise)
Bring your alibis 

Some Recent Additions
Today is Gord's birthday. His parents came to the house after he left for work to set up this present they bought him. 
This is how the dining area looked before Gord left for work.

 And this is how it looked after Gord's parents left. 

Pretty fancy. It's like we are growing up...or something

I don't want to ruin the surprise. So when this is posted online, assume Gord has seen it - though I'd probably be safe because he doesn't read the blog unless I force him to read something I wrote about him, but I will error on the side of caution. Ruby has likes this new table a lot. I rarely saw her go over to the other one, even when we dropped food.
The addition of a real table means that Steve and Gord can set up their work station for their electronic experiments. 

Or whatever mad plans they are hatching.

I wonder if I should be worried... 

Maybe it's not the table Ruby likes, but figures she might as well practice her duck and cover for emergencies.

'Relax,' said the night man,
'We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!'