Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Menace Park, and a Dangerous Mexican Restaurant

Whew, what a day! Wednesday was a wonderful vacation day. We started off with an inspiring morning at the world-renown and impressive Monterey Bay Aquarium. I didn't know that sea otters were so important to Monterey; but they had a wonderful diisplay concerning their threatened habitats around the earth. There was a two-story aquarium with gigantic ocean sunfish, graceful sea turtles, massive tunas and many other beautiful fishes. The kids enjoyed the penguins and a play zone where they could draw and learn about sea mammals like whales, seals, sea lions and dolphins. The facility was housed in an abandoned cannery factory; the museum included many elements of the original slaughterhouse to educate us about the abuses of the ocean, its fragility, and the lessons we have learned.

Eva, Isaac and Levi are fascinated by sea lions - this particular kid section had lots of buttons to press, buttons that made loud animal noises.

Isaac the scholar, teaching his Daddy about the ocean!

Isaac the dess up dolphin. I'm not sure what they were supposed to do with that stuff, but whatever it was, we didn't do it...but the kids still liked using them.
After a great morning at the aquarium we wandered over to Jersey's Cheesesteaks restaurant; it is a sports bar with great cheesesteaks and fish. With lunch finished we got back to the hotel so the kids could get a nap. I sat by the pool and read for a couple of hours - ahhhhh. The kids woke up ready to go, so we headed down to the famous Dennis the Menace Park. It's a wonderful playground with inventive and delightful equipment for kids of all ages. The kids impressed me with their climbing abilities. We spent along time there, and then had to scoot to find a place for supper at 9pm.

Isaac has turned into a climbing machine. Up and down he went on all sorts of steps, chain ladders and curly poles. What a big boy!
Levi and Isaac both love slides, they couldn't get down them fast enough to climb up something in order to go down the slide again.

There is a local Mexican restaurant across form our hotel that we decided to try; it was mostly empty...which always annoys me about restaurants. But we were already there and thus took over the place. No sooner then we got the hands washed, kids sat down in chairs and mouths full of chips and salsa, we had a scare. All the kids were sitting on their knees, which is typical, but Levi happened to push back from the table for some reason, and he pushed the whole chair backwards. Since he was on his knees, he somehow landed on his feet, standing on the back of the chair. The fall frightened him, and he started choking on the chips in his throat. Between crying and gagging, we all were worried. The manager rushed out at the wailing sounds of our son, but there was nothing he could do. Eventually Levi calmed down, got a drink of water, and in a matter of minutes was munching on salsa soaked chips. We finished the meal without anymore scares, but we wondered what else Levi would do on the trip. He's already scraped up both knees and fallen out of his bed. But we're still having fun.

Now Thursday is coming to an end. Eva is over playing with Emma and Levi, Isaac is tearing pages out of his puzzle book, Eli just went down for a nap and Lydia is conked in her bed. We're waiting on pizza to show up, Jerm and Maria are out on a date celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary. Dad's already in bed and we're kind of wishing we were too! This morning we started off on a three hour tour of the Big Sur. Faye located a local guide who got a small bus for us to ride along the windy, hilly historic scenery. He took us by beautiful homes worth eight figure numbers; soaring cliffs, fog-soaked crags, and the deep blue ocean. It was a fun trip and it was nice to not have to drive - just ride and sometimes snooze.

Aunt Faye and Isaac laughed alot on this trip! She was excited for us to see Big Sur, and Isaac loved sitting in a bus with no car seat, no seat belt, snuggled up to his dear aunt!
As good Hallman's, we stopped for a snack; here Emma is trying to convince Eva that she really should eat this ygourt snack - it is good for her and tastes good too.

Beautiful Emma outshines all the glory of the gorgeous ocean shore.
Here's the Hallman clan at Big Sur!
Ahhh, how sweet!

We got back for lunch at Louie Linguini's, a great local place with fresh seafood, eclectic and funny decor, and slow service. It seemed to us that since Californians are relaxed, they don't rush with getting their food to you - but when they did serve it, ooooh it was so good. Isaac especially enjoyed his very fancy and very tasty Macaroni and cheese.
Eli stayed relaxed too, he'd pass for a Californian anyday!

After the meal we drove over to the Old Fisherman's Wharf to shop. We needed to get some sweatshirts with Monterey emblazoned on the front. Once we found what we wanted, we celebrated with delicious ice cream - kids got bubble gum ice cream, I got double scoop of banana nut and peanut butter fudge. Yum. Then we walked over to the beach - what soft sand and salty ocean. Levi didn't care for it so much, but Isaac did; we walked hand in hand along the shore letting the surf wash up over our toes and shorts. Uncle Jerm had Emma and Eva in hand, cracking jokes and enjoying the sunshine. Once we got back to the hotel I took E.L.I down to the pool for a refreshing swim - their getting really good in the water; Levi will now kick himself all over the pool without holding my hand! Now we're bathed, in our p.j's, snacking on pizza; parents are counting down the minutes till bedtime!

May our footsteps always follow the same way...

Papa Ger and the guys modeling their new Monterey gear.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Relaxing in Monterey

Yesterday was our first full day in Monterey; it was wonderful to relax, sleep in, play in the pool, and after naps take a big walk. Here's some pics of our day, starting with our romp in the water.

As we walked around, of course we had to note where the local Starbucks was located. Neat place.

We also found several used bookstores that caught my attention; I really liked the hours for this bookstore - I'm thinking of putting it out front of my church doors.

Here are some classic pics of Monterey; the famous Cannery Row fictionalized by local John Steinbeck, the Wharf where you find lots of shops and restaurants, and the famous harbor with all the yachts. What fascinated me was the history; hardworking families fished in the bay, but then greedy men set up cannery factories and drained the bay dry of sardines and other fish. The dozens of factories closed, leaving a desolated and dilapidated waterfront. Now it has been restored; even redeemed - the beautiful Monterey Bay Aquarium resides in one of the old canneries, inspiring children and adults to be wise and creative stewards of the ocean.

On Tuesday nights Monterey is famous for its Street Markets; dozens and dozens of stalls with delicious foods, tasty vegetables, flowers, baskets, clothes, backrubs, and lots of treats. Emma and Eva had their face painted by a kind lady - this is California style face-painting! Tara and I ordered a falafel - we haven't had one since Israel in 1997; mmmmmmmh! Fortuantely Emma and the kids didn't like it, so we didn't have to share the delicacy. The kids feasted on enormous, juciy, flavorfull (no spray) strawberries and powerful-tasting raspberries. It was a fun night out on the town.

Today was also Eli's three month birthday - which means we take the Bear Pictures. Since we didn't have much room for our long trip, Tara brought a picture of the bear to be included in the photo shoot. Clever Tara!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Good Morning, Monterrey!

We've arrived! Late last night we rolled on in to Old Monterrey, tired but ready for our ultimate destination. Yesterday we enjoyed lots of time at Yosemite National Park. What a beautiful, marvelous, spacious, delightful place of mountian rock, waterfalls, trees and fields. We spent a bunch of hours there - driving to the park, walking to two of the waterfalls, eating lunch, and leisurely meandering around the quaint village.

Now we're getting ready for breakfast, ready to drive around Monterrey and see what is here. Then we'll hopefully jump in the pool, get some lunch, and then maybe naps.

I can hear the seagulls, maybe we'll go for a walk along the ocean soon!


Here's some pics of majestic Sequoia National Park: they win the award for most artistic sign.

It was by far the most winding, slowest, breathtaking road we traveled yet. I was deeply thankful for the construction zone...I was so tired driving up that hill. The stop gave me a chance to take a snooze (with the van in park) while we waited our turn to drive a particular stretch of road.
It's really hard to comprehend just how are these enormous ancient trees. We gave up trying to photograph them, for one could only capture a fraction of the tree in any of the shots.
Eli and I take a rest from the climb up from viewing General Sherman, the most famous tree in the world. It is not the tallest tree, nor the thickest, but it is tall enough and thick enough to make it the tree with the most mass on the earth. What a gigantic work of art. I carried Eli the half mile down and the half mile up, he enjoyed the canter, and I enjoyed the fresh air with my son.


Here are some pics from wonderful Yosemite:
Somewhere along the trail Isaac picked up a walking stick. He was loathe to leave it behind, but we had to teach him that one must never take anything out of a National Park.

The river flowing out of the park...

The Happy Hallman's at our new favorite national park.

This is the first waterfall we stopped to view... quite stunning.

Emma and Eli take a break on daddy's lap...just having fun...

This is famous Half Dome one knows what happened to the other half.

Levi loves to learn more...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

California - Here We Are!

Tonight we arrived in Barstow! We're finally to California, much to Emma's delight.
The boys needed to blow off some steam once we got to the hotel, so they pretended to be monkeys in a cage. They are very good at that...almost too good...

The night before last, we arrived in late evening to Ruby's Inn for dinner. On the way we drove through Red Rock Canyon - which we stopped at the next day on our way out to get some stamps.
Emma enjoyed driving through what she called "donut holes".

This morning we left Ruby's Inn to drive through Bryce Canyon; we stopped by about five points to take in the amazing view.

Of course what is stop at a national park without the purchase of a souvenier or walk through the museum with Grandam Rozer!

Next was Zion National Park - absolutely stunning. We didn't know much about the park, but once in it we were immediatly blown away by the amazing stonework.

Once through Zion (which was very hot and dry, and included a wonderful and extensive visitor's center and recreation area which we all remarked we would like to return to someday) we started searching for a DQ. It was about 110 in the sun, a tad less hot in he shade - but we felt better having downed lots of ice cream.

Once we drove through, we made the long, long, long trek through Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. Amazing landscapes and lots of wind.

Now we're bedded down. Yes, it's late again. Last night it was too late and I was too tired. After driving through Arches National Park and Canyonlands, and then on through most of Utah, we were wiped out. But the sights were amazing.

The kids have been doing great, Eli travels well as long as he gets human interaction during our pit stops. We've learned not to give ELI crackers because they make a huge mess; nothing worse than a messy van on a long, long trip. I don't like messy vans.

We sing songs to pass the time away; Emma and I do a variation on the Happy Birthday song. She sings the song, and then at the part where you insert a name, I'm supposed to say some nonsense word like "river" or "dog" or "pen". Then Emma will exclaim, "a river doesn't have a birthday party!", then she'll giggle and finish the song. And then we'll do it all over again. And again. And again.

Levi sits in the middle, so he gets to play with Emma and Isaac; with Emma he follows her lead; which means she comes up with the game, and he must do what she says. Isaac is on the opposite side of the van, so he is outside of the "Emma Zone"; he and Levi will tug on each others blankets, swipe stuff from each other, and in general tease each other - it is delightful to watch, most of the time.

The other day I turned around and Emma had Levi's toes in her mouth. I asked what she was doing, "I'm eating Levi's toes." "Emma, don't eat your brother's toes." "Can I eat his fingers?" "NO! Stop eating your brother." "Well, can I eat myself then?" "Yes Emma, if you want, you can eat your arm." At that point Tara got in the van and looked back to see Emma "eating" her arm, and Levi "eating" his arm. Tara gave me an odd look; I tried to explain the situation to her...

Tomorrow is a long drive to Fresno, Sequoia National Park and King's Canyon. Then Monterrey!!!!


Here's some pics of Arches and Canyonlands

A tradition at each National Park is to get our NPPassport stamped. Tara and I started it in the summer of 1998 when we went to Mammoth Caves for vacation. Since then we've gotten alot of stamps. Now our children can start collecting stamps too! Levi and Tara love stamping!

Here's Aunt Shirley, Emma and Levi standing in front of the famous Windows Arch. I insisted that the kids be given a chance to climb up to it, so off they went with Papa Ger leading the way. I had Eli duty, so he and I tried taking the trail in a double stroller...we did about forty stairsteps and then turned around... I didn't want to break the stroller, even though Eli liked it.

After Arches we travelled to Canyonlands National Park. While there we stopped to picnic. There was this large bush just next to our table. It sat there, quite innocently. We paid no attention to it, and it did not bother us the whole time we ate. Then, after we ate and cleaned everybody up, we heard this wailing. Levi and Isaac had gone exploring into the bush - which had very very prickly stickers. They had them on their sandals, on their feet, their knees, their shorts, shirts and arms. Poor guys. We kept yelping as we pulled the stickers out of their clothes, they were prickly. Once we deprickled the kids, we took a picture next to the perpretrator and admonished it to never do that again.

This is stark, rugged, dry, captivating Canyonlands.