Sacramento via Senoma and Napa to Portland OR

Despite not drinking alcohol, I decided to visit vineyards in Senoma and Napa on the way to Sacramento. 190   192 188 183 182 181They are famous for the most amazing vineyards with houses reminiscent of those in Italy and France. The first place I stopped at had, along with the wines I didn’t taste, very many amazing balsamic vinegars and olive oils, as well as beautiful gardens.196 197 199 200 201 202

In Napa I stopped with Alfie to have coffee and a muffin before setting off for Rella and Roger’s house in Sacramento. I met them on the Queen Mary 2 when Rella came up to visit the dog deck. A couple on their second marriages, they really love cruising and travelling and are the only people I know who have completed the Camino de Santiago from end to end in one go: so impressive. 211 212 209 Whilst with them, I watched the film ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen which really shows what it is like to walk the Camino. I would love to walk it with Alfie but, having done some research, I realise it is not a good idea.

Rella and Roger have a lovely spacious house painted in ‘Spanish sand’, and a very welcoming garden, that Alfie soon made his own. I relaxed with them in the garden in the shade of the intense sunshine that seems to be following us around.

The first evening we went out to a restaurant where I enjoyed a very healthy Cesar salad with prawns – such a welcoming meal after being on the road and snacking for the last couple of days.

I slept well, and Alfie, as usual, slept soundly on his bed and patiently waited for me to awaken. After a quick coffee we all went for a walk along the levy, Alfie chasing sticks and very appreciative of being able to stretch his legs.

Returning from the walk we had a lovely breakfast of Basque cheese, fig jam, marmalade and eggs with tomatoes with delicious bread.

Rella and I then went, along with Alfie, into the Centre of Sacramento, taking in the Senate and law buildings. Sacramento is the Capital of California – a fact I didn’t know until recently! It is quite a flat city and the small old section is interesting – not a place I would choose to live but nice enough. And where Rella and Roger live is very green and pleasant. Rella and I shared a pizza before returning to her garden (mercifully, as it was getting so hot) to relax.

Dinner was a delicious black bean soup – one of Rella’s specialities – along with a green salad with walnuts and my special salad dressing of mustard, honey, soya, balsamic, pepper, garlic and olive oil.

Before setting off North, having carefully planned the route, I enjoyed a breakfast of eggs with onion and kale and another walk with Alfie along the levy.

002Driving up the I-5, I turned left towards the coast as soon as it was possible. Driving in the heat, I started to feel tired and at Clear Lake, still in California, I saw a clump of houses by the water and headed down to have a break. 001The houses were in ‘Kono Tayee’ (‘mountain point’) settlement in Lake County. There I bumped into some lovely children staying with their mum and grandparents just by the lake. Carol, the lovely grandmother, offered me a cold coca cola and Kristen, her daughter gave me some ‘Mac and Cheese’ that the children (Mike, Jake, Page and Tommy) were eating. It was an unexpected and very welcome break.011 009 007

It took me 3 hours to arrive at Mendocino, a charming little town on the coast where Alfie and I had a stroll. We then carried on to ‘Eureka’ where, at 9.30, I luckily found a restaurant open – so useful to have an i6S telephone that you can interrogate to get directions to a nearby restaurant! – and Alfie and I enjoyed some chicken together – well, I enjoyed a chicken sandwich and Alfie enjoyed the chicken that I shredded and dropped into cold water for him to eat.

006 005 015 014It wasn’t a place to stay, so we carried on to a bay up the coast and into Oregon and then, driving through the redwood forest for what seemed like ages, at 3.15 a.m. we managed to get off the I-5 at ‘Canyonville’ and parked our car amongst others on the high street, sleeping until 7.30.

It was a misty morning that greeted us and so we walked around the one-horse town, played in the river a little, and, checking 019 034 033 032 021 022the guide book, rejoined the I-5, following a man on a Harley Davidson for a while (love those machines…) and made for a recommended pastry shop with good coffee in Eugene, Oregon which had a heart-warming message on the door inviting Muslims to use the cafe – a direct result of the racist rhetoric of the Trump bastard. We followed our coffee break with a walk in the rose garden by the river. 026 027 028 031The last time I was in Eugene was 2007, when I changed planes to take a 12-seater to Portland (I had to break my journey around the USA in order to get a cheap air ticket). At that time they had an amazing Harley Davidson historical exhibition.

036This time, I drove to Portland, taking in the lovely green landscape as I did. Driving through the town was easy, past the large modern buildings and wide river that one finds in many cities. Portland is a popular city with good reason.

Sue and Chris and their 2 lively boys Zach and Matts live in North East Oregon and moved into their lovely house less than a year ago. Flash is their adorable dog – probably a Bichon Frise Poodle mix (known as a Poochon!). He is a rescue, found wandering the streets of Los Angeles and enjoying his new family.004

003Flash immediately accepted Alfie as his new playmate and set to trying to get Alfie to chase him, with little success, bless him!

Sue and I have known each other for nearly 30 years – meeting as undergraduate law students in 1987 when Sue was 18 and I was 35 with my Ellie and Dimitri aged 1 and 5 at the time. There is 17 years between Sue’s mum and me, me and Sue, and Sue and Ellie – Sue & Jackie-Optimizedand we have spent some lovely times together.

It has been wonderful to completely relax and be with such a special friend and her family – arriving on Wednesday and leaving Tuesday 12th April.

Alfie has been the happiest I have seen him on the journey – eating and drinking well and playing happily with Flash in his ‘senior dog’ way!

And the days have been full of heat and sunshine, chatting in the pretty garden and really lovely vegetarian food – eating in the garden every evening – and many walks around the area, notably the ones after dinner to the frozen yoghurt or ice cream shops.

Sue and I have also had lots of fun visiting several huge Goodwill/charity shops and bought some interesting second-hand (though often new) clothes for a fraction of the usual price.

I also decided to go to an ‘estate sale’ where the contents of a house are literally sold off in one day. I didn’t find anything that I wanted (thank goodness) but it was interesting to see 006

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On Friday we drove half an hour along the beautiful Columbia river to the Latourell Falls, hiking to several waterfalls and picnicking in the meadow in the warm sunshine. Matts and Zach are lovely boys who throw themselves with gusto into everything they do, and Flash and Alfie enjoyed it too. Oregon is a really beautiful State.

001 002Sue had a voucher for ‘Sante’ – a spa in North West Portland so on Saturday we left home early to drop Zach at a chess competition (both boys are keen chess players) then had a coffee and delicious morning bun in a lovely cafe before making our way to the spa. Before having gorgeous deep tissue massages we luxuriated in the Jacuzzi, steam room and ultra violet ‘beach’ room where you lie on very warm pebbles and crystals, taking in the rays that help you get vitamin D into your body. We felt fantastic after our treatments!

Much to Zach’s delight, we bumped into a woman with THREE Pyrenean Mountain dogs – huge dopey things that they are!

005 032 040I took Flash and Alfie to the park while Sue and Chris tended their garden – the house-owners are responsible for all of the area outside of their houses so they are replacing the grass verges with mulch and lots of different plants.

With the weather still being unseasonably warm (it hit 28 degrees centigrade this week) we had a vegetarian barbecue on Saturday evening. Although the ‘old fashioned’ barbecues might be more authentic, these gas ones are definitely more efficient. The sweet peppers and sweetcorn were delicious.

003 029 039 016We have been enjoying smoothies for breakfast and I am feeling so healthy here.  On Sunday Sue and I met Nancy at the winebar and I enjoyed a delicious pannini with blue cheese, onion marmalade, pepperoni and arugula (otherwise known as rocket!). We walked it off with a visit to the dog park. Whereas Flash enjoys the interaction with other dogs, Alfie still cannot see the point of dog parks and finds the out of control atmosphere offensive to his organised collie nature. He much prefers the off-leash area of the local park.

Portland is full of beautiful gardens and some of the photographs here reflect the variety of plants that we can see. People even plant their vegetables on the verges outside their houses.

I tried Facetime for the first time with Ellie who is currently in Columbia but hoping to join me in New York. I don’t understand how it works but it seems to!

After another comfy sleep in Sue’s lovely bedroom, I awoke refreshed to yet another sunny day. After walking the dogs and Zach to school, I met up with Belladonna for coffee. She and I belong to the same group so it was lovely to catch up with her news and chew the cud.008 009 007

Sue and I then went for a swim in a very old-fashioned swimming pool. We were able to eat in the garden yet again, followed by a lovely walk around the neighbourhood with the boys on their scooters. I am feeling quite heavy-hearted as I leave Portland tomorrow morning and will really miss Sue and the family as Alfie and I have been so content and relaxed here. At the same time, I have 23 days until I hand the car back in to Alamo in New York and a lot of things to do as I move East.

While Sue and I were on our hike I couldn’t resist taking this picture of this MWB 015