Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The National Steinbeck Center

John Steinbeck was my first.

My first serious read that is. My first author to take my mind some place new. My first transporter.

 I don't know why I thought to ask my mother what to read before we traveled west to Monterey, CA. It seemed like an offhand under my breath type of moment.

 She didn't even blink or need a moment to think before she handed me the worn but loved book from the bookshelf. Tortilla Flat. Hmm...I liked tortillas. Yet I was confused. Why would she give me a book about tortillas when we lived in Texas and had many in abundance?

I read the book.  I loved the book. I wanted more - stories not tortillas.

Next Cannery Row. Wow. Loved. Laughed. Felt really sorry for Doc.

Then the Red Pony. Never had a book made me cry so hard. Never had anything made me feel for something that wasn't real. Not until JK Rowling came along and killed some lovable characters did I ever feel that way again. In fact I think the Red Pony prepared me for some of those deaths in the various Harry Potter books - but that could be a whole other story!

It was amazing where Steinbeck was taking me. I had never been so enthralled with any author before. Reading at that point in my life was something I thought I did well and often. Then I realised I was ready to dump Sweet Valley High and get stuck in with the big boys.

After reading the three books I felt ready to travel west and experience John Steinbeck's Monterey. Well of course by the time I got there things had changed. It was more of a jet set crowd  than the migrant farmers he was so good at telling their tale. Yet the scenery. It was gorgeous. I knew this hadn't changed. I felt I was seeing it with John Steinbeck that it was something we were sharing.

On that first trip to Monterey there wasn't a museum or hardly any mention of John Steinbeck other than the words from his books that lingered in my mind.

That is why on my most recent trip to the Monterey area I made it a point to visit the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA. Finally a place to honor my favorite writer!

The center is arranged and decorated by each one of Steinbeck's books. It is very visual and charming how you walk from Jody's room from the Red Pony into Doc's lab from Cannery row.

Along the way there are movie posters and props to set the mood. Plenty of placards to read and audio clips that play overhead (which do kind of annoy me as I tend to hear more of the audio clips as I am try to read).

The Red Pony posters. Oh that poor pony!!!

The invite to Doc's party. Those boys really did mean well!

I picked up a copy of Travels with Charley in the bookstore. I can't wait to read it.
I don't think there is anything better than just travelling around with your dog.
Actually I am procrastinating on reading it a little bit because to me it signals the end.
One less new book to discover. One less new Steinbeck to discover.
I am torn.

I believe this quote sums up why I really like Steinbeck's writing.

This is a mural on the side of a building next to the Steinbeck Center.

It was with that first trip to Monterey when I was a kid that I started the tradition of reading books from authors from the region I was about to visit. None have ever taken me quite like John Steinbeck, but like I said he was my first serious read. And you never forget your first.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Zoo Atlanta

Well, I finally made it. After three years in the ATL and numerous visits to the Grant Park area I finally made it to Zoo Atlanta. It is a small zoo, but I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed my time there.

I have been fortunate to visit a lot of really great Zoo's including the National Zoo in DC. The Atlanta Zoo doesn't beat DC, but the ATL had numerous types of animals on display and all co-operated on this trip. Which never happens!

This by far was the most interaction we had with any type of animal.
It was a really nice experience. Once you coax the bird onto your stick they just sit and eat.
It does take some effort and your arm may start to tire, but it's worth it!

Warthogs - I kept calling them Hogwarts!

This guy was so sweet. He was practically in our face chomping away.

Lots of birds at Zoo Atlanta.


The Panda exhibit was very crowded and it was hard to see. Yet it was the funniest.
The children had lots of things to say like -
' I can see his penis!'


'He must be looking for the China Panda Buffet!'


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Canoe - Atlanta, GA

What is your 'special' occasion place? Since moving to Atlanta I really haven't found that special go-to restaurant to celebrate life's achievements.

While I have been keeping my eye out for that hidden gem that only locals know about - since I still don't feel like a local in the ATL - I decided to give up and book us into the top rated restaurant in Atlanta.

Canoe. It's called Canoe and funnily enough I didn't see one canoe while I was there. Go figure.

We drove for about 20 minutes from the North Atlanta area to - heck I don't know where because I had never been that way before. Apparently the restaurant is located in the Vinnings area which I believe is a neighbor of Buckhead. With that knowledge I was ready for a pretentious evening of 'oh look at me I dine in Buckhead' which has been my pretty much my dining experience while trolling through the vast restaurants of Bucklandia.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with Canoe.

Located in a strip mall next to the Chattahoochee River Canoe is blessed with ambiance - inside and out.

Outside patio and garden.

The inside is quite nice - yet we only sat at the bar while we waited for
our table. Maybe that is how I missed the canoe?

Bartenders were really pleasant and friendly. Great service.
We started off with a glass of champagne from Epernay -
a tradition as we have visited Epernay twice.

A really good beer list as well. A good mix of domestic and imported.

This was the view from our table!

Garden area.

One great detail about Canoe is the little bar area that sits away from the
main building right next to the water. So inviting!

And there are lots of chairs to sit and enjoy your drink, relax and enjoy the lake view.

Okay - dinner! Food was really good and service was very nice.
We started with the House Smoked Salmon.

Next - mains. I had the Lamb Sirloin and the hubby had the Slow Roasted Beef Short Rib. 


Lamb Sirloin

Short Rib

I would say that Canoe was a success. It is expensive so it will not be a place we frequent weekly.
Food was good, but I would say it was not the best the ATL has to offer. I am still trying to find that place!