Friday, December 28, 2012

Holidays at the Cabin in Mendocino

December 26, 2012

As I sit down to write this, I can see the ocean from my window, and I can hear the waves roar as they roll in. We are still at a cabin in Gualala, where we came to spend a week and to celebrate the holidays together.

The cabin is next to the town of Gualala, an unincorporated town in the Mendocino coast, very close to the border with Sonoma County.  We had never heard of this place until we booked the cabin some months ago, so we were curious to see what the place had to offer.

During our stay at the cabin, the weather has been quite variable, with rainstorms rolling in and out all day, pretty much every day except for the day before Christmas, when it was sunny and warm.

The rain hasn’t really been much of a problem. Every time we got a break from the clouds, we headed out to explore the many beaches that exist around here, to play frisbee with Bomber, and to check out neighboring towns like Point Arena and Anchor Bay.

Most small towns in California are simple fabulous! They usually have a natural foods store, a good coffee shop, and a at least one great restaurant! Gualala is one of those towns. In fact, one thing that we have really loved about Gualala and the surrounding towns, is the fact that we haven’t seen a single chain store. No, not a McDonalds, not a Wal-Mart, no chains at all. Just local businesses and small town stores!

The word Gualala means “water coming down place.” And once you visit the town and the area, you see why it was called that. All over the coast, every beach sees one or more streams drain their water into the Pacific Ocean. With the rain over the past few days, all those streams have grown, making some beach inaccessible to the public, carving new courses, and even knocking down paths and stairs.

One place that we haven’t been able to see as a result of the rain (because the stairs leading down the beach were washed away by the rains) is Bowling Bowl beach. This beach has rocks that look like bowling balls lying around everywhere, or at least that’s what it looks like from the photos!

Cooks beach is only a mile away from our cabin, and we have been going there pretty much every day. The beach is dog friendly and we can get there in no time. On Sunday or Monday, I can’t remember, we went down to Cooks beach to play frisbee with Bomber and ended up encountering one of the ocean’s biggest creatures: An elephant seal!

After we were done playing with our dog, we decided to walk to the end of the beach and, suddenly, we realized that one of the many tree trunks that were scattered on the beach, was not actually a log, but an elephant seal! Both our hearts stopped for a second as we realized we had been throwing the frisbee right at it moments before.

When we lived in Santa Barbara, we took several trips to Piedras Blancas, a beach these seals have claimed as their habitat. At Piedras Blancas there is a board walk and you can get pretty close to the seals, without risking getting too close to them. But, despite having seen these animals several times before, we had never been on the same beach as one of them!

We got a bit closer to it, to take a better look, but we still kept a healthy distance.

At some point, the seal made a move towards us, and we immediately started running towards the path to go back up to the road. Shortly after, the seal stopped moving and got back to its sun tanning ritual, resting before mating and fighting seasons begin soon.

We also walked down to other beaches in Sonoma County. They were fun but lacked the “wild” feel of those in Mendocino. It’s funny to say that, because the counties are right next to each other, but that’s how it felt. During one of our walks to a beach in Sonoma county, we walked pass a group of sheep that was kept on a piece of land by the ocean. It was fun to see them!

One of the best parts of our cabin has been the view. We are right on an ocean cliff, overlooking the Pacific. From our porch we can see endless miles of ocean, several kinds of birds flying by and, in the afternoon, we have witnessed some amazing sunsets.  In general, we have seen our view constantly change from one set of colors to another, depending on the light, the time of the day, and the elements. We have seen storms roll in and roll out, and have seen lightning strike far in the distance and right by us.

Because we are located behind some trees, our sunsets have been framed by those same trees, which I personally think have made our views more beautiful. I mean, we are in Northern California, land of giant trees, so it makes sense to be surrounded by trees and for the trees to be a big part of our experience here.

Gualala is supposed to be a great spot to do Whale Watching. We haven’t seen any whales yet. Fingers crossed.

As I mentioned before, one day we headed 16 miles north to Point Arena, a small town where we bought amazing pastries at Franny (, a fabulous coffee shop in town. Here we also visited a light house, which has apparently become an obsession of mine. Well, let’s put it this way, if there is a lighthouse in the area, within driving distance, I really make an effort to go see it or, in this case, I really express my desire to go see it and ask Joe to do the drive there! He is the best!!!

The lighthouse was very fun to see. We didn’t go inside but just looked at it from the outside, surrounded by storm clouds and rough seas. We learned that you can actually spend the night on the premises (, which sounds like a fun time!

I can’t believe our time in the cabin is almost over. Seven days have really gone by quickly! Today we were treated with about 3 rainbows, as the rain made its way through. Maybe later we will be lucky to see whales go by but, if we don’t we’ll still be very satisfied with our time here, in our cabin getaway!

I hope you enjoyed the photos on this post. I sure had fun trying to capture the beauty of this part of the Mendocino coast, but there is still so much more to see here! For more fun photos, visit my Etsy store at:

Happy holidays to everyone who reads this blog. I hope 2013 is a wonderful year for all of you and your loved ones! I know that 2013 is looking pretty good in many ways. Hopefully next year will bring many trips to faraway places where I can try to capture some images with my camera!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Traveling for Christmas

This year will mark my third Christmas in California, making it an official tie with the number of times I actually spent the holidays in Minnesota.

I lived in Minnesota for almost 8 years but, because winter breaks were so conveniently timed around the holidays, Joe and I always took advantage of the month-long break to travel somewhere. As a result, we ended up spending Christmas in different places around the world, like Peru, England, Tanzania and China.

Every place we’ve been to had a very different Christmas spirit. Some places feel like they came out of a movie about Christmas. One such place is San Francisco, where the streets are nicely decorated, the sound of carols come out of every store, the cable cars are covered in lights and other decorations, and the streets are buzzing with amazing energy as December 25th gets closer and closer.

Yes, not everyone celebrates Christmas. In fact, many other holidays like Hanukah and Kwanza, happen around the same time, but the holiday spirit, regardless of your religion or set of beliefs, is strong everywhere, I think.  In my case, I celebrate Christmas and that’s how I interpret the joy of this season!


Around mid and late December, everybody seems excited about the end of the year, and the cheer of the holiday season. I personally love the energy that emanates from people around this time of the year!

In San Francisco, I have really enjoyed admiring the larger-than-life decorations that adorn most buildings downtown. I also love the ginormous tree in the middle of Union Square, right next to the large Menorah, right next to one of the ice skating rinks that open for the holidays. The other rink is on the Embarcadero. At the entrance oft eh Golden Gate Park, one of the large trees has been covered with lights and a sled pulled by reindeer adorns the grassy area underneath it.

All the lights, all the decorations, they all add to the celebratory feeling!

Fancy hotels, like the Fairmont, put up incredibly decorations. The Fairmont, in particular, creates a gigantic ginger bread house every year. It’s so big you can walk through it. There’s even a small train that runs through the entire house!

Christmas in San Francisco is so much fun. Another place where the Christmas energy really captures you is London, England. In fact, one of the main reasons why I love the tree at Union Square in SF is that it reminds me of the even larger tree in Trafalgar Square in London.

We visited London for a couple of days on our way to Tanzania, and we ended up spending half of Christmas day there, before flying out. The days leading to Christmas, we walked around London and loved the spirit of the season there!

Arriving to Tanzania in Christmas mainly meant that everything was closed. In London we encountered this same (totally understandable) problem when we attempted to visit the National Gallery.

Because most things we closed, we visited a church in Dar Es Salaam that was nicely decorated for the holidays.  Because Tanzania is a religiously diverse country, Christmas decorations were not something we saw. This sure was a different Christmas, but we still loved being somewhere else, celebrating in different ways!

The Christmases we have spent in Peru have been with my family. The one thing that is unusual for U.S. people about Christmas in Peru is that it happens during summer time. To me, having Christmas during winter was very strange at first too, which shows how we simply get used to what’s around us!

Our Christmas in China was also the result of a month long trip during winter break. After spending a few days in Hong Kong, on December 24th, we took a train to Guanzhuo in China, and then took a bus to Yangshuo. It was on this bus that we welcomed Christmas.

We arrived at Yangshuo around 4 in the morning on Christmas day. The town was very quite, everything was closed, even our hostel. We walked around for an hour or so and found a bakery where we saw two women making bread, both of them wearing Santa hats!

There were some Christmas decorations in Yangshuo, however, the day went on as any other travel day. At random times, we would look at each other and remind ourselves that it was Christmas!

This brings me to the last random place where we have celebrated the holidays: Santa Barbara. Like San Francisco, Santa Barbara goes all out for Christmas. They cover all their palm trees with lights, they put up a giant tree, and all the stores do their part in adding to the holiday spirit.

While in Santa Barbara, we learned of a hidden street that gets all decorated for Christmas and we decided to drive there one night to take a look at it. The street was so much fun! Most of the houses were fully decorated from their yards all the way to their roofs! What an incredible oasis of holiday cheer!

This year, we’ll be spending Christmas in Gualala, a small town located on the border of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. It should be lots of fun! We have booked a cabin for a wee. Our cabin is right no on the ocean cliff, which should be fun for watching the massive storm that is approaching this part of the country.


I’m very excited about the down time up in the cabin, but I’m also really looking forward to some good photo taking!

I hope you enjoyed my photos of the holidays. For more fun photos, visit my Etsy store at:

Check out my blog next week for fun photos of Gualala! In the meantime, happy holidays to all of you!!! And may all your dreams come true on 2013!