Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pt. Reyes' Oysters

One of our stops, while visiting Marin these past ten days, was for some of Pt. Reyes' famous oysters. After our Drake's Estuary hike we stopped in at the Drake's Bay Oyster Company for a looksie.

Besides having a small shop where one can buy fresh, raw oysters and other seafood, the farm also has picnic tables just outside the shop where several families hauled coolers filled with picnic supplies and BBQ equipment for onsite Oysters-on-the-Half-Shell. We stepped around back to watch the possible pearls being brought in.

Go to Drakesbayfamilyfarms.com for more information about their oysters and other farming products.

Our hearts, however, were set on Tony's Seafood which came highly recommended!
(18663 Hwy 1, Marshall, 415.663.1107~about 10 minutes north of Pt. Reyes Station)

Family-owned and operated for 60 years, Tony's is famous along the coast. So after hiking one of the Five Brooks trails one gorgeous afternoon, we drove back up the coast and pulled in for a table looking right out over Tomales Bay.

I can remember sitting outside at a famous place along the water with my mother years ago during a drive up the coast and while I'm not sure if it was Tony's, I am fairly certain that I ordered a hamburger! Teenagers!

At this stage in life however, I've learned to love the little critters, doused that is. While Partner's favorite is the raw oyster (a wee bit slimy and tasteless for me)...

...the barbecued oysters with a little hot sauce and a dab of horseradish are My Thing!

I have to admit, we came to partake more than once during our stay! And while the fish tacos weren't the best I've ever tasted and a little skimpy on the fish...

...the oysters rocked!

If you plan on going, remember that Tony's is only open on weekends (Fri-Sun. Noon-8pm) and only accepts cash. No checks, credit cards or reservations.

This past week was spent doing all the things I love, including reminiscing about weekend car trips with my mother.

I promise, Mom, if we ever get another chance together, I will laugh with you more, try to understand you more, give you less grief, have more patience and be more accepting. Missing you...the Good, the Bad and the Snuggly!
Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pt. Reyes Station

At the bottom of the hill from where I'm staying is Pt. Reyes Station, a quaint-yet-hip tourist town with plenty going on paricularly on sunny weekends when it fills with San Francisco's weekend warriors, bikers and upwardly mobile looking for something simpler.

When "partner" walked into town the other day to let me finish my word count, we decided to meet in front of the old character tree near the Palace Market at a particular time but a few minutes before appointed time, I got a call. "Change of plans. A singing minstrel has taken over the tree so we'll have to meet down the block."

Toby's, a local all-in-one hosts an art gallery, fresh produce stand and gift shop as well as yoga and meditation classes and even a Saturday night Barn Dance!

The Cowgirl Creamery in the old Creamery building (what was once an old barn) features locally-made organic artisan cheeses and gourmet foods as well as organic produce. Besides their original location in Pt. Reyes Station, they maintain a shop at the Ferry Plaza in San Francisco as well as a second store in Washington, D.C.

Can't wait to check out the local bookstore and bakery!
Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen

Marin Wildflowers

Hiking through Marin's Drake Estuary takes me back to my teenage years; the sights, smells and sounds of a childhood long gone yet still alive in the warm breezes tickling my memories. My mother's favorite weekend pasttime was to drive from our San Francisco residence to Marin's many wildlands. Sunday was "Family Day" and somewhere in Marin was where you could find us nearly every single weekend.

When I return here, I remember where I got my love for all things of nature's blues and greens. My favorite colors are pine forest and mint field greens against indigo oceans and baby blue and midnight skies. Marin is all about these colors in every direction.

The wildflowers of Marin are bursting forth after a recent hint of rain (luckily having misted the forests and fields before we arrived)!

The forests are teeming with new growth...

...and the poppies astound with their ability to cling to life in the most unlikely places

...except in my soggy front yard at home where I've tried to cultivate them for two years in a row.
Here I am breathing the smells my mother so loved, taking in the sights that filled her soul as they now fill mine. And every so often, as I gaze out on what a friend recently called "God's Country", I hear and feel the sigh of my mother's contentment breathe past my shoulder like a kiss~ kisses in whisps of cut grass, hot pine needles and hearty sunshine caressing spring blooms. I turn hoping to catch a glimpse of her face but am reminded once again, she is gone. But only as far as the next view, the next sweet scent, the next happy giggle that erupts from me but sounds startlingly like her!

Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen

Personal Writing Retreat in Marin!

Just a brief note to say that I am on a personal writing retreat at Pt. Reyes this next week so while there will be upcoming photos in the near future, here are a couple just to show the view from my writing corner.

The weather has been perfect, with writing and meditation filling the mornings and sightseeing, picnics and postcard-perfect walks gracing the afternoons.

More to come!
Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Let's Dance in Antwerp for Easter!

I'd been searching for an appropriate Easter picture, a feel-good photo of beauty and cuteness to make one swoon, gush or generally giggle. The search has ended! It's 4 minutes of your time and I promise, you won't regret missing those 4 little minutes from your otherwise hectic or peaceful day. Click the pause button on the MixPod Playlist at the bottom of the page and enjoy the video!

Happy Easter to all!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay

One of my favorite spots outside Paris is this 12th century Cistercian abbey (founded in 1118) located in the village of Cernay-la-ville in the Yvelines Departement of the Ile -de-France (about 30 miles west of Paris).

Now a luxury hotel in the Rambouillet Forest region with 60 guest rooms and The Prior's Table Restaurant, it is a scrumptiously decadent place to have lunch, tea or simply walk the lush grounds. Join me for a quick tour!

From the parking lot we enter through here.....

...and are greeted under these divine gothic archways.

The walls of the entryway are playfully adorned

with vibrantly-colored knights and damsels.

La Table du Prieur Restaurant menu has several price-fixed options to choose from (The Conver's Menu~50 euros, The Prior's Menu~60 euros and the Pére Abbé Menu~88 euros)

each designed and attended to by Chef Xavier Désiré (gotta love the name!)

One of the sites of my novel in progress (as well as one of my short stories), my protagonist is having lunch here

when her future date arrives in a helicopter on the lawn.

After lunch, dessert and coffee are served in the Music Salon and Smoking Room

Where one can sit by the fire

while spooning tasty French desserts and sipping one of these libations.

If curious, (like I was) the guest rooms rest above this stairway.

Restroom at the base of the stairs. (I snuck upstairs on my trip to the restroom to see if any maids were cleaning rooms and sure enough, found a door open where I could peek in to see the lovely accomodations!)

After filling one's self beyond capacity, a walk around the grounds and the lake aids digestion and fills the soul.

A visit to the cathedral ruins inspires awe and the informative plaques piece together the history of this magical place.

Now you have some idea why I have returned here more than once (literally) and haunted the abbaye and grounds in my fiction (and fantasy)! Can you not picture your life here during another time and slice of reality?!

Visit their website at http://www.abbayedecernay.com/ for more photos and information as well as a true virtual tour.

Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen