Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Dickens Christmas

November 30, 2010

While browsing the papers for all the sale ads on Black Friday, my husband chanced upon a FREE COUPON to the Charles Dickens Christmas Fair at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Regular price for adult entry is $25 - pretty steep, I thought.

I've always wanted to go to fairs like this where participants are gloriously garbed in period costumes. The coupon, however, was only good for one admittance. So we drove around town looking for newspaper box. Do you know that you can hardly find one nowadays - with the majority of people opting to get their news online? We drove around and around, to spots we knew had newspaper boxes. Until we almost ran out of gas and pulled up to get gas. Then my husband remembered that gas stations used to sell newspapers too. And voila, we bought a $0.75 papers for the chance to get the $25.00 admission free. We did good right?

Here's what the fair is all about, source here.

The bustling streets of London, immortalized for all time by the mighty pen of Charles Dickens, form the living backdrop of your excursion into Christmas Past. You are a living part of a Victorian Christmas card come to life!

Come wander the lanes of Victorian London, as the glow of twilight settles upon the city, with the scent of pine boughs & freshly baked scones floating in the air and the sound of carolers and holiday merrymakers accompanying your stroll.

Enjoy some of the photos I took. I was in Dickens heaven - a real treat for an anglophile like me.

We were driving down to the central coast for a post-Thanksgiving get-away cum hubs birthday treat, but a short 3-hour visit to the fair was first on the agenda.

What a Dickens welcome!

Upon entry, you'd be at the Grand Concourse.

The Cloak Check - leave your coats here for a fee.

There were a lot of things going on, stages all over, this one shows some singing. Really good singing too.

An accessories cart.

Rowdy drunk ladies on the streets.

The mannequin on the window is alive. This was a big hit with attendees. This window and the one next to it are not without any photographers taking a shot. [This is my entry for this week's Window Views and Doors too.]

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Another stage, another show.

We had haggis. Like most fairs, food are overpriced here. We got a small - very small - cup of eggnog for $4 and we smirked at Starbucks for the $4 venti, right?

People in costume talking with British accents are all over the fair, like they are going about their daily Victorian life. This group is posing for a portrait.

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As expected the bangers concession has the longest line.

I enjoyed this fair so much - more so because I got in for free. I told my husband the price for admission was set so high because I think they're paying all these people/actors/players. There were so many of them.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What Do You Want?


A new post from me, is that what you want? Okay, coming right up!

I miss you blogfriends :)

[First ever picture of Emma, the day after her adoption, she already staked out the guest room as her private quarters.  We call our extra bedroom, Emma's bedroom.]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Christmas (My World #100)

Look who's surprised that yours truly chalked up My World #100?????


Buster has been very helpful in his own way during all my preparations for Christmas.

Look he is making sure that all the bulbs in my tree lights is working properly :)

Outside, our neighbor's yards have been lit.




Happy Christmas every one. May you have a joyful Season with family and friends.


Friday, December 17, 2010

A Brief Pause - Will Continue With Cancun After New Year

Decorating the yard, putting up the tree, sprucing up last year's wreath, taking out the Holiday linens, changing the curtains and the beddings, writing down the menu, wrapping presents, and if I have a few minutes left go shop some more. It's the Holidays, and there seems to be chaos around me - every single year.

As I come up for air in the middle of gift wrapping, my mind wanders and my heart aches for a little alone time.

Artist rendering of Las Ramblas
[artist rendering of barcelona's las ramblas]

Okay so it's a little chaotic too, but this kind I can take and enjoy.

Or maybe a little alone time - really alone time.

Nah, Holidays is for family. I will just have to suck it up and enjoy. There's always some eggnog to put me in the mood :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hacienda El Mortero

We had an all-inclusive package in Cancun, which meant we paid one price for the room and the food, including all the drinks - alcoholic and otherwise.

Hence we were not able to scope out the dining scene. However, while out and about we did see a number of American franchises all over the Hotel Zone.

Our resort had a restaurant that catered to its guests' global palate; hence more of generic dishes, not completely "mexican" in nature.

Included in our package was a dinner at a nice restaurant a few steps from the resort. The only requirement before dining here is to make a reservation with the front desk before a certain time of the day, I vaguely remember the time limit to be before 5 pm. While we could have dined here every single day, we only went once, as we were out and about most of the time and would not know where we would be come dinner time :)

Hacienda El Mortero has a facade that pleases the eyes. Its cream exterior is a welcome sight after looking at rich colors of the surrounding hotels and resorts.

The vestibule opens into the bar area - where one gets a sampling of the decor inside the main dining area.

This is where people may have strong opinions for or against the interiors. Is it too much, too tacky, too over the top Mexican decor in your face or it's fabulous? I for one side with the latter. I thought the decor was enchanting, adding an ooomph to the ambiance and a little exclamation to the whole vacation.

Agaves lining the path.
Table for two?
The bar area.
The interiors with subdued lighting, so romantic.
The walls were adorned with religious statues.
The tiles were really nice.
But nothing compared to the ceiling.

And now for the food. Let's just say the food was fine, okay, higher than mediocre, but lower than superb. Or was I just expecting too much?

A few years ago I had a fabulous dining experience in Baja. So I ordered the same dish. It did not taste at all like the Baja version (pescado vera cruz), it lacked the freshness and lightness of the dish. Even the husband's dish of grilled chicken was just okay.

Vera Cruz, nice to look at but falls flat on the palate - IMHO.
Grilled chicken with the works.
To complete the Mexican dining experience,  the duo of oversized Margarita and a Mariachi band (I only snapped at the lead singer).

Cancun is a popular vacation destination.  I have seen people were split about this restaurant with almost the same number liking it and hating it.  What do you think? 

I love the ambiance, the decor, the service, the margarita, and the mariachi band.  The food however needs some improvement. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Some Kind of Holiday

This is our hotel where in the early days it was the site of many MTV spring break parties. When I was doing my research on the hotel, many former guests complained about the rowdy college kids who were drunk and partying all night on the beach and on the hallways. None of that happened while we were there. Of course we didn't go during spring break :)

All to myself, what a treat.

The palms are swaying to the drumbeat of a tropical storm wind.

Such is life.

My fave spot.

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Angry waves kept the guests in the pool.
It was a family friendly resort. There were many groups of college kids but there were as many families as well. Not many Americans though, mostly from Central and/or South America. I was told they get a lot of Filipino guests too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Beaching in Cancun

First time in Cancun. A vacation that I hoped would be filled with lazing around, sipping fruity drinks with umbrellas, and shopping. And of course walking up and down the beach. All those were checked off my list.

I had no clue that the hurricane season starts in June so I was completely surprised to learn that a hurricane just missed Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula. Instead we were greeted with furious winds and a downpour that I have never seen in ages.

The rest of our stay (6 days 5 nights) was marked with cloudy days and sudden downpours. The cloud cover had given us relief from scorching sun rays that I hear are the specialty of Cancun, aside from its gorgeous beaches. However, the high humidity and heat still persisted. So where to go when in Cancun? The beach.

I was mesmerized by the color of the water.
Plenty to see.
Blocks of cement as breakwater, pretty clever.
The rain just stopped when we hit the beach.
Our hotel was strategically located in Punta Cancun, towards the tip so we had the beach almost to ourselves. 
I was the only one beachcombing.  But after a few shrieks of glee from me, louder than I thought, I found others following suit.  The shells to be found are aplenty and are the kinds you buy in a gift shop.  I was told that locals come here as early as 4:30 am to wait for the big shells to wash up ashore and pick it up to sell in the markets. 

June-July 2010.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Better Late And Pretty

Just like on NY's eve, the west coast would have to wait for everybody else to finish dropping the ball, before ours drop and we click glasses.  I feel the same exact annoyance sometimes at having to wait for our fall colors to arrive.  And they don't all arrive the same time.  A few trees seem to be in hurry so they change colors in October.  In my neighborhood, the row of maples haven't turned their leaves yet.  Last year, they were at their peak on Christmas day :)

So I wasn't surprised when I was doing my running around town and nearby cities to see most of the trees were in the mid of their display of colors.  Bear with me as I share a few more of our late-arriving fall colors.

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And when you get indoors this is what greets you - a different kind of tree with its own guard.
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Sorry for the shoddy photography, but I was hiding. I didn't want anyone to know I was shooting at Santa, they might want me to pay the going rate of having photo taken with Santa.

I've been to the mall more times since Thanksgiving than all the other times this year. And was surprised to see that it's not crowded at all. I wonder if everyone had completed their list during the Black Friday extravaganza; hence the empty mall?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Lone Cypress (My World #98)

It had waited long enough. I waited long enough. Every time we were in the neighborhood, there seemed to be a more pressing thing to do or see. But in May we made sure we'd see what tourists and locals pay $9 to see. I finally got to photograph the Lone Cypress of Monterey :)







Isn't she a beauty?  Perched in her throne overlooking the ocean.

This is my entry for this week's MY WORLD.  See what people shared in their world, click here.