Saturday, 9 June 2012

Santa Catalina and Ensenada

My 70th birthday arrived on February 17, 2006. Ric flew me out to the Bay Area to celebrate and I opted that we go to a restaurant that I had gone to with Ric and people who worked with him on a few occasions. The restaurant is called Pasta Pelican and it is located in Alameda along the shore facing Jack London Square in Oakland. As the name indicates, the basic food is pasta and it is served with absolutely delicious sauces.

That was on Saturday evening and, on Monday, we went to Oakland Airport to catch a Jet Blue flight to Long Beach. Jet Blue is/was the latest discount airline to begin service across the continental US. The aircraft that we  were to board had flown out from Miami to Los Angeles and then north to Oakland. During the night before, the jet stream over North America was beset by very strong winds flowing from west to east. This made flying in the opposite direction extremely taxing so our flight was a couple of hours late.

Jet Blue aircraft are decorated in blue - both exterior and interior - so the signs in the cabin were quite amusing (e.g. 'You look lovely in Blue!').

We were quite a bit later in arriving at John Wayne International Airport than we had counted upon so we jumped into a cab and had rather a wild ride out to the San Pedro pier but made it safely.

Once again our ship was tied up behind the venerable Queen Mary. This is a better photo of that beloved older ship.

Ric had booked a cabin in the stern of the ship and that was a mistake! The distance from San Pedro to Santa Catalina is 26 miles - thus the ship's captain dallied during the crossing and, every time that the engines were slowed or sped up - or the anchor chain was let out - it sounded like everything was just beneath the cabin floor. Maybe that wouldn't have been so bad on a longer cruise but we certainly did not get much sleep that first night!

This was the cruise where we experienced the 'cabin steward from Hell'! We saw him when we went to our cabin initially but not again during that cruise. If we needed something, we had to hail the steward assigned to a nearby cabin. Fortunately, he always responded - and so it was to him that we passed our tip at the end of the cruise.

On Tuesday morning I was up relatively early, grabbed a coffee, and went up on deck. The ship was idling just off of Santa Catalina, the sun was shining and the sea was blue - and there was a moocher waiting hopefully on the ship's rail. 

The town on Santa Catalina is Avalon and the bay out front is too shallow for a cruise ship so - just like in Cabo San Lucas - we had to transfer to a lighter for the trip to the Green Pier near the shore.

The yellow craft beside the pier is a submersible - some of our fellow passengers had opted to go on an undersea tour on that vessel. Naturally, it was named 'The Nautilus'.

When we reached the road that parallels the bay we found a jitney bus waiting for us. We boarded and went on a tour of the lovely town of Avalon.

The first stop was up on the ridge to the south of the town and in front of what was the mansion that Mr. Wrigley -  of chewing gum and Chicago Cubs fame - had erected. On the slope across the bay was another famous individual's home - the Western author, Zane Grey. Both his and Mr Wrigley's home are now Bed and Breakfast houses.

In the heyday of Santa Catalina being a 'party place' for younger mainlanders, Mr. Wrigley had a grand ballroom erected which is now the home of a casino. People would come over from Long Beach and other south of Los Angeles suburbs for the dance parties. I understood that balls are still held there from time to time. 
                                                           Mr. Wrigley's Ballroom.

No cars are allowed on Santa Catalina so the only motorized vehicles that we saw were jitneys (like the one we were riding in) and service vehicles. If the locals want to drive somewhere in the town and/or on the island - they use golf carts. We saw a number of those.  

When Mr. Wrigley passed away his widow engaged an architect to design a mausoleum to be erected at the head of the valley which lies just behind the town site. Ric and another passenger from the cruise ship are strolling up towards the mausoleum.

In the meantime, Mr. Wrigley's blood relatives had his body whisked away to the US East Coast so nobody is actually buried up there - not even Mrs. Wrigley!

                                    I am standing in the arch at the top of the mausoleum

 If this photo were clearer, you would be able to see the town of Avalon down there by the ocean.

Our jitney was waiting when we arrived back at the bottom of the roadway from the mausoleum and we were driven down into the town. We visited some of the shops (where I purchased a lovely tile of a butterfly - Avalon is noted for the tile work carried out there) and had lunch then lolled about until it was time to catch the lighter back to the ship.

Avalon is a remote town - but a very pretty one. 

Autos are not allowed on the island so two anomalies are shown in this photo - one car is directly ahead and another can be seen in the street to the right.
                                          The shopping area is not large but it is charming.

Between the ballroom/casino and the pier there is a beach that looked very inviting.

                                           Our ship - the Paradise - is in the distance.

One more photograph from Santa Catalina - a shot of the Nautilus and the Paradise.

When we awoke the next morning we were back in Ensenada. Fortunately for us, there are two shore tours offered and we chose the second one. At dockside we boarded a bus for a half hour drive out to two wineries. We traveled north in the direction of Tijuana for a couple of miles and then the driver turned east on a secondary highway. The road was paved and there were two driving lanes - but no shoulders. That was exciting as there did not seem to be a speed limit either!

We were taken to where two vineyards are across the highway from each other. The first was the L.A. Cetto Winery and that was where we met Maryanne - our tour guide with a tremendous sense of humor.

When we alighted from the bus we were to the east of most of the vineyards and the winery.

                                     The Cetto vineyards with bougainvillea in the foreground.

                                     Ric admiring the view. The tiered seats are for the bull ring.
Just below where we were standing - and above the bull ring - is a shrine to Our Lady of Guadeloupe.

Returning to the winery we went into  the building seen in the background where Maryanne explained the process of turning grapes into wine. At the L.A.Cetto Winery we were told about the growing of the grapes and the harvesting. Once that was completed we re boarded the bus and were driven across the highway to the Domacq Winery where the bottling, the storage, and the aging processes were explained.

In there we were shown this sign in the Spanish language which - I understand - explains that good wine needs a cool dark quiet place in which to age.

As she neared the end of her spiel, Maryanne tried to talk her audience into buying bottles of the vintage. As sales were not going all that well, she tried a ploy, - she said $10 for a bottle of wine and me!" I shot back with, "How much without the wine?" Everybody laughed (the lad who was working with her was splitting his sides) and - as Maryanne blushed - I felt embarrassed!

                      The Domacq Winery with some of the Cetto Winery in the background.

A photo of Maryanne - our very funny hostess.

We rode the bus back into Ensenada and went into a cantina for lunch and a beverage. After eating we made our way back to the ship.

                                           The Mexican flag flying proudly over Ensenada

As when we returned from the Mexican Riviera cruise, we were treated to a lovely sunrise as we approached Long Beach the next morning.

It took longer for the ship to dock and for us to disembark than we had counted upon. However, we were at John Wayne International Airport in Long Beach before the early flight left but it was full so we had to wait another four or five hours.

The airport is not prepossessing in any way and, at first, we thought that we were forced to wait inside the somewhat dingy building - that is, until we discovered a balcony off of the restaurant which was upstairs. While sitting there and playing numerous games of cribbage we were entertained by activities on the ground and in the air. Especially by a 'blimp' that seemed to have been leased to take school children for rides over the Los Angeles basin (it was Spring Break). Here is a photo of that blimp - rather colorful, don't you think?

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