The Neon Boneyard | Las Vegas, NV

There is something so exciting and glamorous to me about Las Vegas in the 1950’s and 60’s. The glitz and glamour of the fancy hotels, the celebrities that would party there and even the stories of mobster activities intrigue me. So when I had the opportunity to set up a photoshoot at the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas, I didn’t hesitate.

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The Quaint Charm of San Juan Bautista

Located just an hour south of bustling Silicon Valley, CA is the quaint city of San Juan Bautista. This charming little town has managed to maintain its humble origins and has respectfully preserved its history and authenticity.

You won’t find trendy stores and Michelin Star restaurants but you will find a town steeped in history, filled with heart and reflective of the people who live here. Small antique stores, art galleries, gift shops along with a few restaurants line the half~mile long main strip of town.

One of the main reasons why this town holds a special place in my heart is because of the historic Mission San Juan Bautista.

@2016 Susan Edel

I adore the California Missions and this is one of my favorite missions because much of the original structure remains and it is the largest California mission church and the only one with three aisles.

@2016 Susan Edel

Musical arts were taught here and the mission owned many instruments. As you tour the mission, heavenly monk style music is piped throughout the corridor creating a serene ambiance. {Click on first image to see slideshow}

A little fun fact: In the fall of 1957, scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1957 production of the movie Vertigo starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes was filmed around the mission.

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Story board rendering for Vertigo.

When in town, be sure to have lunch or dinner at Jardines de San Juan Mexican restaurant. If you’re a fan of beef burritos, their “People’s Choice” burrito is a must!

@2016 Susan Edel

I come to this town sometimes when I want to feel grounded, grateful, and connected. This is the type of place that feeds your soul, not your ego…and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

Exploring The Russian River Valley

Napa Valley and Sonoma are world-renowned for its wines, fine restaurants and luxury accommodations. A person could spend weeks and weeks exploring this region and only scratch the surface. So with as many times as I have been to the Napa Valley wine region, it was refreshing to discover yet another sector that I have never visited…the Russian River Valley.

On my drive to the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville (see here for the full review), I drove through the town of Sebastopol and stopped for lunch at The Barlow, a 220,000 square foot culinary and art center. There were many intriguing choices but I went with the Zazu Kitchen+Farm recommended by a friend. It was an excellent choice with unique menu items, open air seating and surrounded by fun and funky art sculptures.

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The Russian River Valley is in the heart of Sonoma County and has become most well-known for producing world-class Pinot Noir wine. Although Napa Valley is the more popular and polished destination, the historic RRV offers a rustic charm with an exciting incoming infusion of sophistication, fun and funk.

On the concierge’s suggestion at the Farmhouse Inn, I drove the proposed route going through several charming towns, some so small if you blinked you would miss them, but full of character just the same.

The town of Graton, now well-known for its Casino* (see hollyhan77’s comment below) seemed to be a pit-stop for cyclists who wanted to take a break at some of the coffee shops, there are a few antique and art stores and the Paul Mathew wine tasting room.

Unfortunately the Bambú Tea House wasn’t open, but it sure looked full of personality.

Freestone was one of those “don’t blink” towns but the colorful market and beautiful landscape are sure to catch your attention.

The largest (in relative terms) town on this route is Occidental. This bohemian town offers several restaurants, shops, a church, market and a hotel. I stopped for lunch at the Howard Cafe and the food was fresh and tasty…just keep in mind, you’re on “bohemian” time here so sit back and relax. 😉

It’s always a fun journey to discover new and unexpected places, and I’m definitely feeling the love for the Russian River Valley now.

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17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach

@2015 Susan Edel

In my opinion, I think everyone should take at least one trip to Pebble Beach in their lifetime, it’s the most gorgeous place on earth! Pebble Beach is a gated community on the central coast of California with a rugged, rocky shoreline highlighted by white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters. It’s a beautiful sight.

@2015 Susan Edel

There is a $10 per car entrance fee if you are not in possession of the coveted badge that residents flash when they enter, however, you can get in without paying if you have reservations at one of the luxury hotels or restaurants within the gates.

You ask “why would I want to pay $10 to enter these gates?”…because it costs less than a movie and the scenery is out of this world! $10 will transport you into a fairytale setting that will stay with you for a lifetime.

@2015 Susan Edel

Once you enter the gate, all you have to do is follow the red-brick (lined) road called The 17-Mile Drive. The 17-Mile Drive is…well, a 17-mile long scenic loop through the very affluent community of Pebble Beach. You are given a map at the gate and the wonderful aspect of this is you can sightsee at your leisure and stop at any or all locations you want to.

The road meanders through neighborhoods with mansions whose driveways cost more than the total value of all my belongings…

…follows the stunning Pacific coastline…

…and passes many famous sites such as the Lone Cypress (the iconic symbol for Pebble Beach),

@2015 Susan EdelBird Rock (hard to see the birds on the rock but they are there),

@2015 Susan Edeland the world-renowned golf course, Pebble Beach Golf Links.

And these guys may not be the most affluent residents that reside in Pebble Beach but they certainly are the cutest! How adorable is that family of Geese?

While in the area, I highly recommend stopping by one of the three luxury hotels, The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay and/or Casa Palmero, for a meal or better yet, an overnight stay. During my stay at Casa Palmero (post here), I took advantage of the Lexus test drive vehicles on property. I reserved the convertible model and let me tell you, there is no better way to see the stunning homes and all the beauty of Pebble Beach than in a convertible!

@2015 Susan Edel

This is a great way to spend the day!

Monterey, CA: Whale Watching

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Sailors enjoying the day.

Spring in California is an incredible time to go on a whale watching excursion. The whales are still migrating at this time which makes for an active outing.

It’s a misconception that if you don’t go at a certain time of year that you won’t see a whale. As a matter of fact, the company I usually use for whale watching, Sanctuary Cruises, guarantees you will see one any day of the year or your next trip is free. I can attest that I have gone at different times of the year and have seen whales each time. It’s the type of whale you see that will vary during the year.

Sanctuary Cruises heads out from Moss Landing in the Monterey Bay Area, CA. This boat is a smaller vessel than what some of the other tours use which allows you a closer, more intimate view of the animals and enhanced experience.

The boat takes off from the Moss Landing Harbor.

The greeting committees…

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This area is great for kayakers, one side is the Elkhorn Slough Reserve where you can see sea otters, tiger sharks, birds and so much more; or you can be a little more adventurous and head out for some ocean paddling where you will see otters, sea lions, dolphins and whales (yes they do come in close to the shore line at times).

It doesn’t take long once you’re out of the harbor to start spotting whales…

…and pods of dolphins.

This has been an amazing experience every time I have gone out and I highly recommend it any time of year.

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Bodega Bay, CA

If you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, a fun little road trip is to head north on Hwy 1 to the small town of Bodega Bay. Many of you will be familiar with Bodega Bay because of it’s Hollywood history. This small town is where Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic movie The Birds was filmed with Tippi Hedren.

DSC_7090The original schoolhouse and church still stand proudly in the midst of town.

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This tiny town now cashes in on its Hollywood legacy and you will find fun references to the movie throughout town.

Tippi Hedren comes to town every Labor Day and will sign autographs for a small fee that go towards her exotic animal sanctuary, The Roar Foundation Shambala Preserve. The County Store sells many signed photos and I found some great reproductions of Edith Head’s costume designs for the movie. I’m really kicking myself for not purchasing one now.

If you’re feeling adventurous, continue heading north on Hwy 1 along the stunning Pacific Ocean. It’s a fun drive on the windy road and you will see such beautiful landscape.

And who doesn’t love coming across old barns?

If you drive north to Jenner, you will spot a huge Totem pole and I highly suggest stopping at the Timber Cove Inn for lunch, you may even want to make this a pit-stop for the night…however, let me make this very clear – ask for a renovated ocean view room – trust me on this one! The view is spectacular from the dining patio…

…and you may even spy a movie star. Kathleen Turner sat at the table next to me, no mistaking her with that sexy, deep, raspy voice.

If you take the time to explore this area, you will be surprised at how much history there is in these tiny little towns and the original structures that still stand. There was a time in the late 1800’s that these towns were thriving communities and it’s fun to discover the history of the area.

Explore. It’s good for your soul. Happy traveling!