One of my favorite things to happen during a trip is an unexpected stopover. While I used to plan out my trips so aggressively that I had a detailed itinerary for every minute away, I now have a loose idea of where I want to go, and try to just be in the moment. If I like a city more than I expected, I have the time to extend my stay there. If someplace is not living up to its hype, than I have no issues leaving sooner. However, there are those wonderful moments when you discover a place you did not even know existed, and your trip changes its entire course.
That was the story of how I came to visit Chala. During my 2012 trip to Peru, I was at the southern tip of the country, having completed the Inca Trail, and was ready to head back up to Lima. However, after my previous experience with a 20 hour bus ride I knew that I needed to break up the trip. After consulting several bus schedules, and numerous maps I found a tiny village that would give me a 12 hour respite from the stomach churning bus journey. It was Chala.
This tiny fishing village was so small, it is no wonder it escapes the well worn gringo path. The buildings are mostly dilapidated, there are no historic sites to explore, and speaking English is a huge challenge. Yet the quiet of this small town drew me in, and I found myself wandering the beach and admiring the strange patterns drawn by the seaweed washed ashore. The cluster of colorful fishing boats were a beautiful site, looking more decorative than you would imagine from the chief industry of a city. Finally, as I prepared to leave for the bus station on the second leg of my journey North, I watched a sunset so fiery and pure, that it looked as if it had been painted onto the sky.
Indeed, this trip out of necessity had turned into an indelible memory of simple joys.
I recently returned from a ten day drive up the California coast with my friend Annie. Highlights included Big Sur, Napa and Sonoma, and San Francisco. This post is a photo diary of the San Francisco portion.
I had been to San Francisco over ten years ago on a family vacation, but all I remembered was a blur of hilly streets and cable cars. This time, I ditched the tourist filled trolleys and set out to explore the city on foot. With the oldest ChinaTown in the US and a bustling Little Italy (known as North Beach) there was truly an ethnic buffet to choose from. As I strolled through the shops in China Town, I heard a voice calling out “free tea tasting.” It piqued my interest and I stepped inside the doorway of Ital Tea Leaf, a Chinese tea shop. The owner, known affectionately as Uncle Gee spent over an hour giving us a free sampling of the different teas in his shop and the uses for them all. By the end, I had resolutely decided to add more tea to my life. We then ambled on to the Little Italy section where pizza shops and gelato abounded. After a fabulous meal, one that definitely echoed tastes of Italy, we kept walking.
The next morning before we left to start our long drive back to LA, we headed to Golden Gate Park for a glimpse at the famous bridge and to catch the end of the Bay to Breakers race, a 12 mile boozy walk complete with neon, wacky costumes, and occasion nudity.
I recently returned from a ten day drive up the California coast with my friend Annie. Highlights included Big Sur, Napa and Sonoma, and San Francisco. This post is a photo diary of the Napa and Sonoma portion.
After speaking with a few California locals and doing my research, I decided to stay in Sonoma during the wine country portion of my trip. While Napa is the more popular choice, I could not have been happier with my decision. Sonoma is a tiny town (known to the locals as Slow-Noma) with a central historic town square. By staying on the square you are walking distance to all of the best restaurants, the local indie movie theater, and the free-standing wine tasting rooms. After driving over eight hours from LA through Big Sur to Sonoma, it was nice to step out of the car for a while.
We rented bikes and luckily many of the top wineries were located in a 13 mile loop that featured a rare car sighting with a breathtaking view of the grape fields. Each winery has a tasting fee, typically ranging from $10-$20 per person for a basic tasting. Tastings usually include about 5-7 wines with a detailed description of the flavor and notes. We started the day early and luckily on a week day, so we had many of the wineries to ourselves. A true standout was Scribe Winery, a $15 tasting that included outdoor seating, a personal wine master, unparalleled views, and two rope swings. As I wandered around the fields with the warm sun shining overhead and a few tastings under my belt, it was easy to see why this area is such a tourist hot spot.
We spent our last day driving through Napa and visiting some key wineries, but the quiet and tranquillity in Sonoma had already captured my heart.