The French Laundry

The French Laundry

For my birthday this year, I said f*ck it and decided to indulge a little.

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To get a reservation, you need to be on your game.  They only take online reservations nowadays and release tables for a 2 month period at a time.  So, a few months ago I put on my calendar when they were opening reservations for May and June and hopped on the site when it opened.  I was amazed how quickly times and days booked up…within minutes of opening.  I managed to snag a Friday lunch time close to my actual birthday.

I’ve never actually dined at multi-starred Michelin fine dining restaurant before, so wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.  I specifically didn’t want to read too much about other’s experiences because I didn’t want to go into the meal with bias.  I read maybe 1 review but mostly for logistics about parking, etc.  Prior to this, the only experience at  Michelin starred restaurant was at one-starred Solbar in the Solage resort in Calistoga.

We have many numerous trips to Napa so getting there I was on autopilot and didn’t have to worry about directions and which way to go.  There was the expected traffic on a Friday morning so we had planned accordingly.  We arrived early to Yountville and sat on a bench in front of the French Laundry’s garden (across the street from the restaurant).  It was a beautiful day though a bit warm (still I am amazed at just how much cooler it is in Napa than it is in Sac).

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The French Laundry garden

Even though it was still a little bit before our reservation, we were anxious to get in and start the experience so we walked through the famous blue doors early.

Just inside the door was a small lobby that felt almost like a boutique hotel/B&B.  We were led upstairs to our table immediately.  The decor and feel of the place was much like you were eating in someone’s home.

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Laundry symbols on the lamps
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Art in the restroom

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Weekend trip – west Sonoma County

Weekend trip – west Sonoma County

Two weekends ago for the Cesar Chavez holiday, we took road trip over to the coast, north of SF.  We hadn’t been to the Bodega Bay before and thought it’d be fun.  We found a nice quiet Air BnB that allows dogs.  Since check in wasn’t until 3 pm, we woke up on Friday and did our normal thing and packed and finally left the house after lunchtime.  It was a relatively short drive that took us past Napa and Sonoma and through Petaluma up into Sebastopol, a small town about 7 miles west of Santa Rosa.  Our Air BnB was actually located a few more miles west of this area up in a little hill/mountain area.  I really liked that there was a grove of Redwoods right outside the getaway.

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After getting settled in, we took the dog with us to one of the dog-friendly beaches, Doran Beach.  This was basically a small finger-like projection from the land and was the southern border of Bodega Bay.  When we arrived, it was low tide in Bodega and it looked more marsh-like than an actual bay.  Later on when we drove by it another day, it looked more like a bay and ocean so it was cool to see the two different levels.  Along this litter sliver of land were a bunch of people camping right by the beach and water.  The last time I camped was in MI where you drive up to the camp area and set up a tent.  Most people on this beach area had trailers or campers but also had some tents set up.  Reminded me of a different life I had.

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Mt. Whitney Hike

Mt. Whitney Hike

***I wanted to document some past hikes/trips that I’ve taken.  I actually wrote the following shortly after the hike (way back in 2001).  I made some minor edits to the text but overall they are my words from 16 years ago. ***

It all started while I was still at school. During spring quarter of my freshman year at Northwestern University, my dad sent me an e-mail asking if I would like to participate in a hiking trip.  He informed me that the trip would be to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.  Other aspects of the trip comprised of the group being made up of five individuals.  I was the only one under the age of fifty.  The other group members included my father, my uncle, Mr. I-fu Shih, and Mr. Hsu.

To prepare for this hiking expedition, our group held practice hikes at a nearby mountain.  Mount San Antonio, a.k.a. Mount Baldy, is the third highest peak in the southern California area.  With a peak elevation of 10,064 feet, our group traversed this peak once as an entire group.  However, each member individually climbed the peak at least twice, sometimes three times, in his own separate groups.  These climbs were to help ensure that we would be in shape and ready for hiking the many miles of Mount Whitney.  There are four different trails one can take to reach the top of Mount Baldy.  I have taken two of the four routes.  The first route requires taking a chair lift to the start of the trailhead.  From the trailhead, the peak can be reached in 3.7 miles with an elevation gain of around 2,000 feet.  The other trail is considerably more difficult.  With an elevation gain close to 3,500 feet, the trail continuously climbs upwards, pushing my body’s limit.  That trail has a length of 4.3 miles.  A separate hiking experience I had to further my training occurred while on vacation in Alaska.  One of the expeditions offered at Juneau was a hiking trip.  I decided to take this expedition to help keep myself ready for hiking in the wilderness.  One other preparation tool I had been taking advantage of was that of running.  I would jog at least a mile everyday for a few weeks prior to our trip to Mount Whitney. Continue reading “Mt. Whitney Hike”

Miyajima Island, Hiroshima, and last day in Tokyo

Miyajima Island, Hiroshima, and last day in Tokyo

Even though I was under the weather and tied to being close to a bathroom, the show had to go on and our trip wasn’t going to just end (even though I had fleeting thoughts of telling my wife to go ahead and I’d just go back to Tokyo and hole up in a motel until our flight home).  I’m glad that I pushed forward and finished off the trip.

From Kyoto we hopped on the Shinkansen again and continued our trip westward.  Our destination was Itsukushima, or Miyajima Island, which is located just off the coast of Hiroshima.  We initially thought we’d stop in Hiroshima first prior to heading to the island.  However given the time of day when we arrived in Hiroshima, we altered our plans and decided to go to the island first and would check out Hiroshima on our way back to Tokyo the following day.  To get to the island you need to take a ferry.  Strangely enough there are two competing companies but they operate right next to each other at the ports.  One of the ferries is operated by JR and since we had the JR pass, we could ride for free.  It was a very short trip (10 minutes) to get across the channel.

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As we approached the island, we sailed right near the large Torii gate that sits in the middle of the water.  I managed to snag a few shots even though it was quite foggy. Continue reading “Miyajima Island, Hiroshima, and last day in Tokyo”

Kyoto Day 2-4 (Japan 2017)

Kyoto Day 2-4 (Japan 2017)

We awoke on our first full day in Kyoto with some big plans.  There were quite a few locations we wanted to tick off our boxes in Kyoto and we only had so many days to see them.  We decided to head over to the Imperial Palace as it was supposed to be prime sakura (cherry blossom) viewing.  There is a web site that lists the various locales within Kyoto and the status of the cherry blossoms in that location – ranging from peak viewing to not blossomed.  The Imperial Palace was a short subway ride and walk from our AirBnB.

The Imperial Palace actually sits in the middle of a very large park.  Upon first entering the park, you could see that others had the same idea of checking out the cherry blossoms.  With it still being mid-morning, the lighting was actually quite good for picture-taking and so we did like the other tourists and posted in and around the trees.  We didn’t actually go to the front of the Palace and elected to check out the Shirakumo Shrine, which is located towards the south-eastern portion of the park.

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