Our trip to California was a massive success. As much as I fretted about cramming into the plane, it went totally fine. We had a quick turn in Atlanta on the flight out, but ultimately, we arrived in time to meet my sister and brother-in-law for lunch at the Millbrae Pancake House near the airport. If you're ever in San Francisco - they're the best pancakes I've ever eaten. And I've eaten a lot of pancakes.
After that, we made the long and winding journey to the motel in Inverness about an hour and a half away. We took the Seacoast Highway - which was lovely. We saw all kinds of gorgeous seascapes, mountains, flora and fauna. The funniest was a pair of coyote, one of whom was pooping. They looked at us like, "Take a picture - it'll last longer!"
Our motel was charming - there's a large common lodge at check-in that featured a pool table and a deck to the bay, where you could birdwatch. The owners upgraded our room for the weekend. It was lovely, and we had a little deck of our own which had a hummingbird feeder. There, we watched a bunch of Anna's Hummingbirds divebomb us and each other in pursuit of their dinner.
Now, the purpose of this trip wasn't just birds and pancakes - we were there for our friend Suzie's wedding.
We met Suzie and her bride, Beverlee as well as some of their friends and family at a little cafe for dinner. I had a goat cheese and beet salad, having partaken of a large omelet and pancakes for lunch. Matt had some mussels in a coconut curry sauce. We were both quite happy. But the main event was all the people. Parents, siblings, in-laws, friends... we met a bunch of them. We stayed at the cafe so long we greeted some late arrivals - Iris, Laurie, and Robert. We found out that Iris was staying at the same hotel as we were, but had ridden with Laurie and Robert so we gave her our info so that she'd have a way to get places. We called it No Iris Left Behind.
We slept like dead people, and got up the next morning. Iris, Matt and I went into town to have breakfast at a bakery they had recommended, called Brickfire Maiden - I bought us all breakfast - basically ordered a little of everything, plus coffees. Then we did a little tour of downtown Point Reyes Station - walked into the shops. I got my daily Coke Zero.
The wedding started at one, but Matt wanted to take photos at the beach, so we went back to the hotel, got dressed and went to the beach. I put my feet in the ocean - it was cold, but not miserable. It was actually warm, and the sun was out.
The wedding was perfection - the actual ceremony was mere minutes. It was performed by a man who owns a distillery and was ordained online. There was a warm-up from their yoga instructor that ran a few minutes. Robert had gone to the beach early to reserve our spot. He set up an altar with driftwood and a blanket. It was really gorgeous and happy. I cried early and often. I'm a sucker for a good wedding.
The reception was held at the home of a friend - the husband works in music production - he and Matt had a great conversation. I had a great time talking with one of Beverlee's in-laws who works in the promotions department at Fox. Like, the network. Loved talking television with him.
I met Suzie's tennis partner, who, though in her sixties, looked like she could kick ass and take names. Her name was June. Then I met Liz who does interior landscaping for commercial spaces. She and June learned that they were from the same obscure Long Island town.
There were Morgan, Ella, and their baby Mabel, who was luminous. The kid smiled and took it all in the whole time.
Dan met Iris, Laurie, and Suzie in Mississippi. He's originally from India and is thinking of moving to Murfreesboro.
We met Suzie's sister-in-law, father and step-mother, Beverlee's father and step-mother, plus her step-father, his new wife and their son.
There are others, I won't beleaguer you with all that.
The people were amazing. Then there was the food.
Suzie is a vegan who will occasionally bend for cheese. Beverlee will eat a little chicken. They hired a woman who did things with kabocha squash that elevated it to a new level. There were soup shooters garnished with a garlic/nut crunch. Corn zucchini fritters, chicken bbq sliders, tempura kabocha with chili oil. Biscuits with honey butter or pimiento cheese. A mezze board with olives, pita bread, and all the dips. Hummus, some kind of beet dip - I honestly didn't even get that far into the dips.
They had a bar set up - beer, wine, and a specialty cocktail - a quasi-portmanteau of Beverlee and Suzie:
It was ginger beer, whiskey of some sort, basil and balsamic vinegar - shaken/served with a giant ice cube.
Iris and Matt were our designated drinkers. Me, I am a designated driver type - so I opted for their non-alcoholic option. A strawberry kombucha which I cut with sparkling water.
All that kabocha and kombucha - my gut biome was fabulous.
The cake came from a San Francisco bakery called Miette - the Tomboy Cake:
It was all some of the best food I've eaten. I thanked the chef and her assistant. I thanked the host and hostess.
It was a beautiful and affirming night. We ate and grazed and talked.
When the party ended, some of us went to the bar - the only bar - in Point Reyes. That's when my stamina started to flag. I sat and watched the partiers dance to a great band called The Receders. My sister sent a text inviting us to see them at their house before we flew out the next morning - noting that my nephew thought it would "be sick" to see us. Say less.
Matt, Iris, and I went back to the hotel and crashed. Iris was going to borrow Suzie's car for the remainder of her trip. We were all set. The next day, we left to see Tom, Laura and Henry. We saw their house, ate donuts and caught up. I was delighted to see that the hand towel in their guest bath was one I gave them as a wedding gift. It's funny that I remembered it, and funny that it has stayed viable since 1997. Go, me. Laura had left it in there rather than put a Christmas one in because I had given it to her.
We headed to the airport, flew to Seattle, laid over long enough to see the fish on the floor and grab a quick bite at a burger place - I had a fish sandwich, but you get the idea.
The flight home was not full, and Matt and I sat with a middle seat in between us.
On the flight there, I was able to catch up on movies - saw Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret and You Hurt My Feelings - I recommend both.
On the flight home, I mostly dozed, but did watch the Christmas Story Christmas - that takes place in 1973, with Peter Billingsley reprising his role as Ralphie. It was cute - not as good as the original - but cute enough. And Peter Billingsley looks great - not all botoxed to death, so good for him.
It was the best vacation I've had in many, many years.
We saw quail, deer, a western bluebird, a scrub jay. Pelicans, gulls, herons, and egrets. To say nothing of sparrows, crows and vultures.
We saw love, kindness, friendship, patience, generosity, and beauty.
I came home exhausted, but completed sated.
It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of trips. Which all started when in October, Suzie said she knew it was last minute, but she was getting married - could we come?
My advice to you - when someone gives you a gift like that, accept it. With pleasure.