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  • Tony

Family for the Holidays

December 2019 – Nothing like Christmas to drive our passion to spend time with family and friends. Since we are blessed with time in retirement, it’s our gift to ourselves to do the work required to ensure that we get to spend time visiting and catching up with those we love. We know that it's not easy for everyone to drop everything so we can share a few moments but feel that it's important to capture moments like these that we will all cherish forever.

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The Holidays started at home in Carpinteria, getting the tree from the local Boy Scouts’ lot, putting up lights, decorating the tree and sharing all the commotion with our little ones. Barney, Billie, and Sonny were all very intrigued with the decorations, tree and trimmings (Billie mostly annoyed as she doesn’t like change or commotion!)

We checked out the Holiday boat parade in Ventura with our friend and neighbor Paul and his daughter Jessica. A windy night at the harbor but fun to watch the festivities

Our road trip started on the 23rd heading south to Santa Monica where we met Mary’s brother Alex and his kids Jaden and Valerie. Kenia, Alex’s wife had to work so we missed seeing her today. Cloudy and raining off and on we grabbed lunch at the beach and picked up a few rental bikes for a ride up and down the promenade. Always great to see this group and watch Jaden and Valerie grow and mature into young adults.

On Christmas eve Mary and I drove to Monterey, a midpoint stop on our way to spend time with the Bondi’s at brother Mike’s home in Daly City. A mostly traffic-free drive on a cloudy day we made good time cruising through Central Cal making a brief stop in the SB wine country to pick up some wine for the celebrations. Arriving in Monterey in the afternoon we checked in to the Monterey Plaza Hotel, our favorite spot to stay in Monterey. Headed to Schooners Coastal Kitchen in the hotel shortly after check-in for a snack and cocktail. Walked along the water toward Old Fisherman’s Wharf listening to the barking seals and watching the sea life prepare for the night. After a walk around the wharf, up near the outdoor ice rink and through Old Town we made our way to Montrio Bistro for a festive Christmas eve dinner. A brisk but beautiful walk after dinner brought us back to the hotel.

Christmas morning, we set off on the next leg of our journey, grabbing a breakfast sandwich from the Bagel Bakery, then up the coast Highway through Seaside, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and Pacifica. Midday we arrived at Michael and Beth’s Home in Daly City. We were the first to arrive at what would soon be a house full of the warmth of family and friends. The kitchen filled quickly with people and the smells of a great meal being prepared with love. Michael made Boeuf Bourguignon, a tribute to our newly discovered (DNA) French heritage. Dee brought her famous pesto for the pasta and made fresh Antipasto. Amy brought stuffed mushroom caps, Mary and I brought the wine. The neighbors and friends joined just before dinner, filling the long table for 14. Great conversation and appreciation for Mike, Beth and Piper for hosting all of us for a wonderful Christmas celebration.

We stayed in the city Christmas night at our favorite Hotel Nikko San Francisco. Incredible views of the city from our room with clouds at night and clear blue skies in the morning. On the morning of the 26th Drove to Santa Rosa to spend the day with the Bondi’s, Lunch and afternoon spent with dad, Dee joined us after work and Michael and Amy joined us in the late afternoon for gift exchange and a beautiful Crab Feast for dinner. We drove around to see the holiday lights including Bastone ranch where one of the Vineyards was festooned with lights. Always cherish the moments that we can all spend together and truly enjoy every moment.

We stayed overnight in Santa Rosa at the Hyatt Railroad Square, grabbed coffee and breakfast with dad the morning of the 27th before heading back to the City for the day. Parked the car at the Nikko then headed out to explore the city. We hopped on a cable car down to fisherman's wharf. Wall to wall tourists today feels like people from around the bay decided to take advantage of the holiday week and sunny weather to enjoy San Francisco. We decided to take a boat tour out on the bay and selected the Bridge to Bridge trip. Not too crowded on the boat and a beautiful sunny but crisp day on the bay motoring out just passed the Golden Gate bridge, back around Alcatraz, under the west end of the bay bridge, and back to port. All the years that we've come here we have never taken this tour, glad that we finally did. For dinner tonight we walked over to Kokkari Estiatorio (one of my top 5 favorite SF Restaurants) taking a chance that we could get a table on a Friday night. The wait was long for a table but fortunately, a couple of seats opened at the bar while we were waiting so we decided to have dinner there. Our bartender/server was really great and suggested great meals and wine for us. We started with some amazing Feta, Olives and Olive Oil, I had the Goat stew and Mary had the whole grilled fish. Both were fantastic as usual.

On the 28th We met up with our great friends AM and Manny for the day. We walked down to the farmers market on the Embarcadero and wandered through the crowded stalls. Manny was craving tamales from Primavera so we grabbed a few and ate them while enjoying the sun, they were very good. We walked further down the Embarcadero and decided on brunch at Perry’s. Back to their apartment for a little football on TV. AM had invited us to join them for a Warriors game while we were in town so we headed over to the new Chase arena. The Nikko has season theater suite seats that are amazing. There is a common bar and huge spread of food and snacks, each set of four theater seats has a dining table in the food area and just adjacent to your table you walk out to four seats tiered above the basketball court. There is a massive screen over the court showing stats and video of the game below. It's hard to choose between the massive screen in front of you or the court below. I found my self alternating between the two. We walked around the arena after the game, it's impressive and a great addition to the area but I can imagine the traffic in and out will be an issue.

We met AM at the hotel before departing on the 29th for a quick goodbye. She came to pick up Buster and a Jeep for their drive to Tahoe. Never thought I would see her behind the wheel of a tricked-out four-wheeler.

We’re off to Sacramento today to meet up with the Smith/Hill side of the family to celebrate a late Christmas and Mom’s birthday together. I rented an RV space nearby for Mom and Gary to park their rig but had them stay at the Citizen Hotel with the rest of us. We checked in to the hotel then off to pick up Mom and Gary from the RV, Returned to the hotel just after the Hill’s arrived. We almost got everyone together, but Bill was under the weather so couldn’t come, Joni, Matt & His two boys Jasper & Felix, and Nathan all made the trip from Chico. We hung out together for some great conversation before heading out to dinner. We walked from the hotel on a brisk evening toward DOCO and decided on the Yard House so we could catch the 49er game too. Had a great time catching up with everyone over dinner, playing with the boys and loving the time spent together.

Mom’s birthday today (12/30) we grabbed breakfast at the hotel then headed to Old Sacramento, the train museum and later a little lunch at Railroad Fish and Chips. The boys had a great time with the trains and all the stimulation around them. Matt left from here with the boys, nap time in the car for the ride home. We took mom back to the RV and hung out there with Joni and Nathan. Getting late and we have a 6-hour drive home, so we reluctantly said our goodbyes and got on the road home. I can't say enough about how spending time with family fills my soul and appreciate that everyone made the effort to do this.

We say it often but need to act upon our intentions to see each other more often. Life seems to deter us from this but keeping the focus on what’s really important, family matters! The memories of our time together are priceless.


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