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No snowballs

There's an ordinance on Mount Palomar making it an offence to throw snowballs at cars or their occupants. It's sensible given the swooping hairpin bends on the lovely drive up to the observatory, but it wasn't going to be a problem yesterady when it was 106 leaving Palm Springs...

It was so hot we were glad to sit inside at Shermans, where the menu continues to delight (Tongue sandwich - we haven't had any complaints, Chopped liver - try it, you'll like it). Stopping only for necessities (wasabi seaweed tempura crackers and tea lemonade from Trader Joes) we headed up into the mountains hoping for coolth. The road went from prettily landscaped with desert plants, just unusually neatly laid out, to swooping from side to side up the slope of a hill so much tht it looked like a mess of tracks in the distance and turned out to be *all one road*. We looked back on the loops from the Coachella Valley Vista, which reveals a flat, scarily green and developed swathe between dry, dusty, rocky mountains. But as you head further in to the San Jacinto mountains (the rhythm of the heat provided with nominative determinism by Heat FM), things get greener; there's an abundance of shrubs and yuccas and flowers and smoke trees and ocatillos and bushes. We stopped at a trail designed to explain the resources used by the Cahuilla (and how the last 500 of their 2,000 years in the US have been plagued by the loss of a huge fishing lake and the arrival of settlers) and saw a foot-long lizard. We drove generally up and over and over and up until the mountains climbed up enough to no longer be desert and then over the ridges of olive trees and vines into Temecula. Well - through the malls and enclave-burbs of the Greater Temecula Shopping Plain and into the quaint preserved street of downtown where they were having some species of town fair. This had stagecoach rides and miniature pony carriage rides and a Wild West play (I spotted the sheriff, bandit, schoolmarm and varmint characters) against cardboard cutout buildings. The olive oil tasting room was tempting - pomegranate balsamic vinegar is rather good and could work in a cocktail or a white sine spritzer, I think and it had the pink peruvian salt I shall have to explain in another post - the water misting sprays around restaurant patios were as welcome as in Palm Springs (and maybe a fraction more sustainable) - and the Starbucks was icily air conditioned and dispensed banana chocolate smoothies with a shot of espresso.

We looped around towrds the freeway and fled civilisation to drive up the slopes of Mount Palomar. The GPS suggested veering off through the orange groves and avocado trees; we followed the 'main' road and found hairpins bends galore - and the snowball diktat. The observatory is on a second ridge and closes to visitors at 4; you can see the dome as you drive up but not once you arrive. The state park is on the nearer ridge and gives a stunning view down the slopes - mountains, valleys and a huge casino stuck in the middle of a valley.

We headed in to Oceanside where hair cuts include neck shaves and Pier View Drive gives you the advertised view of the pier, followed the coast until the evening got too grey and took the fast roads to the motel and the In-N-Out (for which the slow road would have been far faster). Today we had a mix of meetings and demos at Qualcomm and finished up on the beach at La Jolla (pretty but grey), in the pelican-festooned bay at La Jolla (which scores points as another Veronica Mars location but loses them because pelicans are stinky birds with no sense of personal hygiene; it's all the fish says himself). The La Jolla travelodge is a bit pokey and the pool and jacuzzi are small and the booking had been mixed up and we shall Discuss whether they are charging us for two nights but the little Italian in town, Cafe Milano, is well worth a visit. The basil has a lovely aniseed edge, the pinot grigio was round and somewhere between fruity and fresh, the bread and bruschetta and risotto and pasta are good and the chocolate mouse is a huge glass of chocolate heaven. Maybe we'll do the animal park tomorrow...

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full steam ahead
marypcb
Mary Branscombe
Simon & Mary

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