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Letters from California

Hi Mommy!

Well here we are in Monterey and since we have free wireless internet, I thought I’d drop you a line and let you know how the trip has gone so far.

After dinner we went to see the Bellagio fountains which were my favorite part of Las Vegas.  The fountains played every 15 minutes to a different song, it was really neat and the water shot up so high it was beautiful and amazing.  When we were walking through the Bellagio and there were big atriums there were these cute little hot-air balloon replicas and in one place there was blown glass all over the ceiling kind of like the blown glass at the symphony but not that shape. They were all different colors and they looked more like that crazy tree fungi that grows like a disc out of the tree like we’ve seen in Ohio.  I wished I hadn’t forgotten my camera but by the time we had gotten to the cool stuff my feet were hurting and I didn’t want to go all the way back and get it.  When you were outside you couldn’t look down at the ground while you walked or you saw nasty pictures and at one point there was this whole line of greasy looking guys pushing flyers into peoples’ hands to advertise their yucky business.  Andrew said he’s always impressed with Vegas because it is a machine that runs exactly the way their owners want it to.  People everywhere were wearing what looked like the skankiest things they could have found in the store and most of them were rather unsteady on their feet.  Such a nasty place filled with people at their worst.

We woke up early Sunday morning and started driving down towards The Hurst Castle.  This drive was longer.  We started at about 8 and arrived at the castle at about 4 in the afternoon after a short lunch break at midday.  The castle was crazy: out in the middle of nowhere on the coast.  The visitors center where you check-in was 2 miles below the castle and we all got on a bus to go on a guided tour of the place.  It’s hard to describe how it was because it was just so… crazy!  We learned that at the beginning there was a natural zoo and he had zebras, African goats, sheep, polar bears, antelopes, and all sorts of other animals just roaming free on his land (the meat eaters were caged though)  Today they still have the goats, zebras, and cows.  Everything in the castle was imported from Europe from different time periods.  I liked all the tile work.  This time I didn’t forget my camera and took lots of pictures of all this opulence.  He had the fanciest guest houses I’ve ever seen and the tour guide said there were three swimming pools (we only saw the third-built outside pool and the inside pool with the diving platform) we also saw the dining room with a huge long dining table and a few of the rooms inside one of the main houses.  The walls were covered with monstrous hand-woven rugs depicting famous historical events and old chapel benches.  The place was crazy and apparently Mr. Hurst loved it.  Oh yes, and there was a pool room (as in Billiards) and a movie theatre room where we watched old family-made videos.  It was pretty cool to tour the place and apparently there are four different tours.  When we got back down to the visitors center one of the employees said that all the other employees were up at the pool swimming and they did that every week.

Then we got back in the cars and drove for about 2 ½ more hours to Monterey; we arrived at 9:40 and luckily the restaurant we stopped at still gave us a table.  The drive to Monterey was really neat because we were on a highway that twisted along the coast (which made Andrew carsick).  The views when we came around bends were really neat because you could see how the coast curved around.  If I hadn’t been driving at that point I would have taken pictures.  We checked in and got to bed and sleep around 12.  We woke up at 10.  It was lovely to sleep in.  The place we are staying at is right next to the ocean, it is literally right outside our door and the waves rhythmically crashing last night lulled us all to sleep even though it was so loud.  We might stay here a day longer than we first intended because it’s so relaxing.  So far today all we’ve done is play in the ocean and on the beach.  It has been so much fun!  And!  Even though the sun has been totally obscured I am BURNED!  What is up with that?  Anyways, it was really fun to body surf: just ride the waves on your stomach when a big one comes up.  And then we would just jump as high as we could when a smaller one came.  We buried people in the sand and Bert got some nice accessories (seaweed skirt and necklaces).  We also searched for sand dollars and found a few of those and Emilie found some neat rocks.  When we finally came in and had some lunch I went to go rinse off and sand was everywhere.  My swimsuit has this pocket at the bottom that a ton of sand was piled in (no wonder my bum was so itchy!) I had to pull it inside out to get it out and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it all.  The suit looks pretty hashed too, with all sorts of little holes where I’m sure the sand has cut it.

We were playing in the water for about 4 hours …lol which probably explains why we are all super sore and achy and took that long nap.  Oh yeah after we were done playing in the ocean because the waves were getting bigger and coming more often and we were getting tired we went and sat in the hot tub.  It hurt at first because we were so numb from the cold and these people from Britain said they had been watching us and we were crazy for playing in the ocean because it was so COLD!  In fact when we came out of our room wearing just our swimsuits, the old guy and his son were coming out of their room and they were wearing wetsuits and the old guy was all, “Well we were smarter than you!” and we laughed and said, “Yup!”

This evening we went to Cannery Row and ate a place that had live jazz and blues music; that was cool.  We didn’t have much time in the main part of Monterey because we took naps and rested after playing in the ocean for so long.  So we were only downtown after about 7:20 and other people wanted to eat so we only went to one or two shops before sitting down for dinner and when we got out most things were closed.  However, a bunch of people got some fun hats to wear.  Daddy would have liked some of the hats we saw at the store.  We tried on all sorts.  Andrew got one that looks like an Indiana Jones hat: leather with a big brim.  Apparently you can fold it up and travel with it pretty easily, it even came with a special bag.

Anyways, we are having fun and taking lots of pictures, I love you and miss you, hope you’re having a good week!  -Kiersten

We stayed just one more day in Monterrey and left the following morning.  Our last day in Monterrey we spent at the aquarium that is right on the bay looking at all the native fishes and aquatic life.  There were some neat jellys and sharks, cute otters, and funny looking fish.  We ate at “on the bay” restaurants and walked through cannery row into and out of a lot of the little touristy shops on the street.  One was a sock shoppe and I seriously considered getting a pair of wool argyle knee-length socks until I saw the price: $22.  Oh well.  That night we ate dinner at the hotel we were staying in (Best Western) and watched a whole bunch of dolphins and seals jump around in the water just off the shore of the hotel.  It was an incredible amount of dolphins and seals.  Sometimes they would jump out of the water and make an arc in the air and at other times they would just bob along with just their heads sticking out.  The two groups of animals were even mixed together: traveling buddies I guess.

The next day we got up early, much to Andrew’s displeasure, he wanted to stay at least a day longer because he’s not a big fan of San Francisco, and left Monterey.  We stopped in San Jose to visit an old (200 years old) Catholic mission museum. It was pretty dinky and seemed to be full of artifacts that didn’t necessarily go with the mission.  Then we finished the drive to San Francisco and arrived last night.  We rested for a moment in our rooms and then set off to find a Chinese restaurant they had eaten at before.  But we couldn’t find it!  Bert insisted it was “in this exact area” but he wasn’t quite sure which side street it was on, so we wandered around for a long while and ended up walking all the way to China town up and down long streets –some very steep- and finally ended up at the restaurant his parents had had their very first date at: Cathay’s.    After dinner we looked in at some of the shops that were still open in Chinatown and looked a lot at fun little purses.  There were some that looked like owls that were really fun.  I think I’ll get some souvenirs in Chinatown because they’ll be so inexpensive.  Then we walked all the way back to our hotel and took a break and then walked up the hill a couple blocks to Ghirardelli Square.  Just the main shop was open, but we got sundaes again and they were decadently delicious.  Today we’ll be going to a science museum.  I’ll report later!

So the science museum was called The Exploratorium and it was hundreds of big and professional science fair experiments on all sorts of things from land erosion to water funnels to how sounds work, the eye ball, perspective, magnets, friction, illusions, and all sorts of crazy things.  We spent about three hours playing around with all the stuff.  It was pretty fun.  When we finished there we ate lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf.  After lunch we took a break up in our room while everyone else went window shopping at the Wharf.  Next we walked down to the nearest trolley boarding station and got in line to ride the trolley up a few hills to Swenson’s Ice cream shop where we got small double cones (and Andrew got his in a cup) it was good ice cream.  Bert said there used to be one in Salt Lake at Trolley Square.  I got turtle caramel fudge and cookies and cream in my cone.  Mmmm!  It was cold as we walked back towards our hotel in the dark eating our ice creams and then we went over a street and there we were at the top of Lombard street so we decided to walk down this steep little walkway next to that crazy windy street.  And that was last night.

Today we woke up early and actually got the car out of the garage to take a drive to the Tea Garden and the King Tut Exhibit.  The garden was very pretty and we took a few pictures there.  Then we walked back to the car and had lunch; Andrew attempted to eat a roast beast sandwich with rice krispies as the bread.  He just told me it was really gross so he just ended up eating them separately.  Lol.  It was his mom’s suggestion.  We forgot to bring the gluten-free bread this particular outing.  Andrew sees “a lot of potential in the bread.” LOL.  I’ve told him that when we get home I’m going to experiment with bread recipes that have more flavor in them; it’s pretty good bread, just not very flavorful, you know?  Anyways after lunch we went to the museum where they had some artifacts from King Tut’s tomb.  The exhibit was pretty cool, but we were a little disappointed there wasn’t more and that it was so crowded.  Our tickets were even for a specific time to go inside so we were surprised there were so many many people. So it was kind of hard to even see the stuff, but the things we did see were pretty neat.  They didn’t let us take any pictures though.  Lots of gold and intricate carving.  It struck me while we were walking through that it would take a long time to make all this stuff to put in the tombs with the kings so I wonder if it was this huge process like months-long to fill up the tomb with all those things or did they embalm the fella and then wait until everything was ready before they put him in?  Hmmm.  When I asked Andrew about it we thought maybe they started to make all this stuff when they became king so it would be ready for them when they died.  I guess no one really knows.

After the exhibit we did a driving tour and saw the “painted ladies” houses and then we drove back towards the hotel and to the top of Lombard Street and then we drove down it, it was pretty exciting to drive down the curves.  It’s hard to take pictures of Lombard Street.  At that point we were pretty tired and took another break.  Then Andrew and I danced around.  Not really, he just told me to say that’s what we did next until I could remember what we actually did next.  Oh yes.  Then we caught the trolley again and this time we got outside seats and rode it all the way to the beginning of Chinatown.  This time all the shops were open and we spent more time inside.  I found some cute outfits for Emma and Leah.  I hope they fit ok.  Maybe they’ll be too small.  I hope not.  Andrew’s mom bought me a nice turquoise scarf and I got a neat square blue plate.  After that Andrew and I got dinner at Boudin Bakery where Andrew got some really yummy roasted chicken and we ended the night with everyone at Ghirardelli Square again –I’ve never had so much decadent icecream so many nights in a row.  We had all been sharing sundaes before, but tonight we all got our own and I had a Butterscotch Fudge sundae with pralines and cream icecream.  It was delicious.

Well we are headed back Saturday: driving all day until we get back that night. Can we come to dinner on Sunday?  I love and miss you!  See you soon. –Love, Kiersten

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