Sunday, February 23, 2014

Old West Town

Wickenburg Arizona is real 'old west' style town a little way northwest of the Phoenix area.  I used to drive through Wickenburg on my way to Yarnell when my friend had the cabin up there.  Every now and then we would stop in town and explore a little bit.  Above is the Wickenburg train station.

On the main street, most of the buildings have been built in a traditional western style.

The streets are full of wonderful antique stores, colorful gift shops, and many sandwich shops and restaurants.

And, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum tells the story of this area from it's mining history all the way up to it's more recent background as a mecca for Dude Ranches.  The statue pictured above sits in front of the museum and is named "Thanks for the Rain" by Joe Beeler.

The town water tower has since been replaced by a much more modern facility but, the original still stands near the center of town.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Returning to a favorite restaurant

When I was working in Chicago, I got to try a rich variety of restaurants from the ultra-gourmet to the hot dog joints that could only be classified as "dives".  Don't get me wrong, one of those dives was an all-time favorite and I'm still searching for a Chicago style hot dog as good as Gold Coast Dogs.
As a short term resident in temporary housing, I ate out a lot and I got to experience the exquisite food and elaborate showmanship of the late Charlie Trotter and on the other end of the scale, I ate once at Gino's Pizza where tourists line up around the block in the dead of winter to get a seat inside graffiti covered booths to be served their pizza.  My review of the two places is easy, Trotter's was well worth every penny of the outrageously expensive tab and Gino's was well, I only ate there once, enough said.

But my favorite Chicago Restaurant is one most people have never heard of, Bistrot Zinc.  Bistrot Zinc is a classic French bistro that serves that same classic neighborhood style French food that you would find in Paris.  You know the kind, things like Steak Frites or Steak au Poivre and Poulet Grand Mere (grandmother's chicken).  It is also the restaurant that introduced me to one of my favorite dessert treats, Crepe a la Banane et Nutella (crepes with Nutella and sliced bananas), YUM!  I love those so much I make them at home now.

But, I don't love this place simply for the food, I also love the atmosphere.

The traditional Zinc bar, and the equally traditional bistro decor, and a front window that opens up when the weather permits all contribute to an elegant yet homey feel.

(I took the above photo early one morning to give a better view of the decor.)

I love the way this place makes me feel when I eat there.  I feel like I've been transported to Paris and that I belong there.

Of course there were other favorites.  My friend David and I loved going to Spago where the bartender Spiros knew us by name.  And, Le Colonial was one place I always took out of town visitors.  I've actually been to all three Le Colonial restaurants, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco and all serve fantastic French/Vietnamese food in 1920's Southeast Asian surroundings.

But, my heart belongs to Bistrot Zinc and it's the one place I always stop on every visit to the windy city. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A different kind of library

There is one place in Southern California that I just have to visit every time I find myself in that area.  It's called Sherman Library & Gardens and I was introduced to the place by Julie & Dave who have the Scottsdale Daily Photo and the Tamarindo Costa Rica daily photo blogs.  The place gets it's "library" name from its collection of books about the Pacific Southwest.  It gets its "garden" name from the gorgeous grounds and greenhouses that are overflowing with incredible plants and flowers.

The garden is located in the heart of Corona del Mar right on the Pacific Coast Highway.  It's hard to tell what awaits you when you are standing at the entrance.  In one step, you will leave the busy street behind and be transported into a beautiful, peaceful oasis.

You will see dahlias bigger than a dinner platter and…..

…..exotic red ginger blooms.

Stop at the garden pond and see my favorite garden ornament, this cute little patriotic otter who holds onto the watering hose.

In addition to the flowers I've pictured here, there are also roses, orchids, ferns, cactus, and succulents and much, much more.

If you are going to visit, make a reservation at Cafe Jardin, the restaurant located inside the garden.  You can sit on the patio with a view like that pictured above and enjoy a gourmet lunch or brunch that I guarantee you will be pleased with.

The menu changes often and features fresh and local ingredients.  You might get a tasty crab cake sitting on top of creamy risotto.

And you could finish the meal with a chocolate tart.  Then walk it all off while you explore the beauties of the garden.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A taste of the old West

Heading south from the Phoenix area opens up a multitude of opportunities for things to see and do.  On one such drive into the southern half of my state, I stopped in the city of Tombstone, the "town to tough to die".  It was monsoon season in Arizona so occasionally the clouds opened up to bless the desert with some much needed moisture.  When that happened, I just ducked into one of the many gift shops lining Allen Street and had a look around.

While inside the shop looking at some interesting antiques, I heard the clip-clop of horse's hooves and looked out just in time to see a stagecoach making its way down the street.

With a speed to rival those quick-drawing cowboys of Tombstone's past, I swung the camera up and took the shot.  Whew!  Got it!

A little further down the street, I took a peek inside Big Nose Kate's Saloon just to see if anyone I knew might be hanging around.

I didn't recognize anyone but, I did admire that gorgeous long bar. The bar is the original from the Grand Hotel that was destroyed by a fire in 1882.  Luckily the bar survived to live on at Big Nose Kate's Saloon.

On the other side of town, a visit to the OK Corral is a must.  There you can witness a reenactment of that famous "gunfight at the OK corral".  The good thing is that all the victims get up and walk away after the show is over.

As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed that someone had left the laundry out in the rain.  They might have to scrub those with the old washboard a second time.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A bit of a pilgrimage

Around four years ago, quite by accident, I discovered the Abbey Road webcam focused on that famous crosswalk outside the Abbey Road Studios.  I quickly became a fan of the site because the webcam is active 24 hours a day and there is almost always a variety of people gathered at the site.  You wouldn't believe the crazy antics I've seen when those enthusiastic fans run out into the crosswalk to capture a photo in spite of the fact that the road is very busy and impatient commuters are honking their horns.

Yes, I was a fan of the Beatles but, truth be told, it never occurred to me to search out the studio on any of the many previous trips I've made to London.  However, that all changed after I discovered the webcam.  I've had so much fun watching the crazy hijinks there whenever I'm tuned in to the site that on my recent trip to London I made a point of going there for an in-person point of view.

When I arrived at the corner I've seen so many times on my computer screen I found about 30 people standing around and a huge truck in front of the studios.  On the side of the truck it says "BBC Concert Orchestra".  I'm guessing there was some recording going on inside those famous walls.

The wall in front of the studios is adorned with all kinds of comments and tributes made by adoring fans.  Periodically, they paint the walls so that it becomes a blank slate again but, it quickly fills up with more graffiti-like praise.

I loved the giant "Help" at the bottom.  I could almost hear that song playing in my head when I read it.

In the above shot I caught one guy taking some large steps in the crosswalk while his pal was taking a photo.  I didn't partake in the crazy photo taking but, I did walk across it three or four times while I was there looking around.

To the left is a photo of the camera that captures all the action.

When I told my friend David that I was going to visit here, he asked me to text him before I went so that he could get the computer turned on and tuned in to the web site.  So, I planned my trip to Abbey Road at around 3:00 PM so that it would be around 8:00 AM at home.  I texted when I was on my way and when I arrived at the corner, my cell phone rang and it was David saying "I see you"!  That made the experience even more fun!