Cacti, cookies, coast and condors

I went down the coast again with the ladies, this time it was with my mom and the aunties.  Yesterday was one of my aunties’ birthday and so naturally we needed to celebrate.  The plan was to drive down the coast in the morning, to Big Sur, have a treat from the Big Sur Bakery, go for a hike and then have lunch at Nepenthe.

Well, we got a later start that expected – which is to be expected.  On the drive down, we stopped at Save-Mart, one auntie had forgotten her sunglasses and as she says “fashion first.”  She ran in and bought cheap-o sunglasses as my mom, other auntie and I plotted how we would liberate the tri-tip being BBQed on a grill outside the store, unattended.  Seriously?

We parked at Nepenthe, we were going to eat there after all.  But first we had to stop at the Phoenix Shop.  It’s a shop below the restaurant that sells great books, stationary, jewelry, clothing, cosmetics and all sorts of home accessories.  Sampling hand cream, leafing through books and perusing the clothes sale rack really works up an appetite so up the stairs we hiked to eat lunch.  So much for hiking…

We waited to be seated, admiring flowers and making quite the scene.  The weather was gorgeous and it was nice to see so many people out enjoying the sun and the scenery.

We were seated on the back patio, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  The view was breathtaking.  I have a picture below but it doesn’t even begin to do justice to the beauty that we had the pleasure of admiring.  We had a slow meal sharing each plate, family style.  A woman walked by with a baby on her hip, wearing just a onesie and had a fountain of hair coming out of the top of her head.  I stopped my story mid-sentence and began my well-versed baby flirtation.  Within minutes the baby was on my lap and she had all my attention, I was in heaven.

After our 3-hour meal, we decided we were tired and we should probably head to the bakery for birthday goodies before going back home.  The Big Sur Bakery is nestled in The Big Sur Spirit Garden. How beautiful!  We walked through the cacti and sweet peas, among other flora.  There was a man watering the garden and the smell of wet plants on a hot day is unmistakable – it gets etched in your scent memory pretty vividly.  It reminded me of watering plants in the summer with my uncle on his land, north of Damascus.  He taught me how to syphon water out of the well despite being on an uneven surface.  What nostalgia!  For a moment your psyche transports you to that time and place.  You are who you were when you were there.  The smell is the same in these two place, where you are in actuality and the place in which you have olfactory memories.  I guess your soul, if you believe in souls, is the same, but your body has changed; what we remember in our mind fails to point out the differences, the pain, whatever.  You are simply existing in two places at once – in your memory and in the present.  It’s truly phenomenal.

We were disappointed, as the bakery was in transition from lunch to dinner and there were no pastries left, it was 3:00 in the afternoon, after all.  As we piled back in the car, my aunt pulled out a little bag of coconut, apricot cookies and a bar of dark chocolate.  She is always prepared…take note.

While attempting to nap in the backseat on the drive home, I was startled by our abruptly pulling off onto the shoulder.  I naturally jumped out of the car as my aunties did – they were armed with a camera and binoculars.  After a great deal of binocular focusing and oohing and aahing we decided that we were in the presence of 2 California Condors and 2 vultures.  Cool!  We took turns passing around the binoculars.  One auntie is a naturally trained biologist.  And I mean naturally in the literal sense of the word, like in nature.  She explained the difference between a condor and a vulture and as she did, a third condor flew in and joined the other birds in circling their dinner – and putting a show on for us.  She explained that condors have up to a 9 foot wingspan and that they have white on top of their wings and below, whereas vultures are smaller and don’t have the white on top of the wings.  We marveled at their magnificence in the mid-afternoon sun until they were through and flew off.  It was really the perfect ending to our day.

cool picture from the deck of Nepenthe as we waited to be seated, not too patiently

view from our table…oak tree + Pacific Ocean + fog
deck at Nepenthe, sweet checkerboard that these kids were playing some form of hopscotch on 🙂

Grapes!

Cacti


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