Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dreams inspire trip, tattoos; roadies set off with a poem

     This week, twin dreams came down to us
     with travel forecasts bold.
     Our vision puts us on the road
     (We're doing what we're told.)

     Midlife crisis?  Call us nuts.
     For sticks and stones don't phase us.
     We're grabbing gusto, bucket listing,
     singing, playing, praise us!
     We've bought twin Harleys, new tattoos
     so on the road we're speeding.
     Cookie's hair is nice and big
     (We don't plan too much reading.)

     By trains, boats, planes we'll navigate
     We'll waken when it pleases.
     We'll order well from room service,
     take Cs to stave off sneezes.

     From San Diego, up the coast,
     Montana, 'round the planet
     we'll feast on mangoes, lambchops, jam
     perhaps a pomegranate.

     Kel's fishing pole and Cookie's sax
     will add to our diversions.
     We're doing all the things we want,
     please spare us vexed aspersions.

     We've said so-long to work-aday
     with all its cares and worry.
     We're going where the sun is bright
     and do not plan to hurry.


     Our Yorkie kids are all packed up.
     With kibbles, toys and sweaters.
     We've tossed their leashes in a bag
     so they, too, have no fetters.

     Our gigs are multiple and fun,
     some big fish in our calling.
     Some bands, some dancing, gambling, too.
     Some wagons off we're falling.


     We'll grab some shows: jazz, classics, blues,
     Predictable?  That's just not us.
     We're kicking up our heels!
     Sexy Marlon Brando
     looked so handsome in his shirts.
     But so does Keller -- check it out --
     And he can sleep in yurts.
     Paris beckons, London woos.
     We've booked two top Ritz Carltons
     In case you're wondering "what the hell?"
     Beware of springtime charlatans.
     So Carpe diem, have some fun.
     Get out there. Shake that bed.
     Come travel armchair or for real.
     For soon we'll all be dead.

    Next blog up: Europe through the eyes of our spirited travelers.
    Next Wednesday, our roadies take us to Portugal, Italy, France and the Canary Islands, with a nod to fountains, harbors and house wine! Then Saturday next, a treasure trove of orchids in La Jolla Shores hotel basement.  Meet the magicians behind the blooms. We post on Wednesdays and Saturdays at:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bring on the blooms: Flower power dates back to the Greeks

Pansies are perennial favorites in Ashland, Oregon, and this one was part of a shop windowbox display. 
 STORY by Christene Meyers
    PHOTOS by Bruce Keller
    Acres of ice plant are creeping down the hillsides of southern California, turning the countryside lavender, pink, yellow and purple just in time for Easter.
     During a frenetic 22-lane freeway foray from Los Angeles back to San Diego yesterday, we admired section after section of brilliant, budding erosion-controlling color. It was the drive's saving grace.
California's ice plant is abloom now!
     Ice plant is hardy and easy to grow. Certain varieties even look pretty in bouquets.  I love watching it frame the freeways and creep toward the beaches. My state of near iceplant hypnosis prompted my wondering who first had the inspiration to "harvest" flowers and bring them inside.
    The art of flower cultivation is time honored.  Uses of floral beauty are as many and varied as the petals on posies.
     Greeks staged banquets featuring a floor covered with a foot of flower petals on which honored guests entered the feasting room.
       The monks of the middle ages were the doctors of their day, growing and harvesting flowering herbs to treat whatever ailed the multitudes or their fellows.
      Egypt, China, Japan and India have rich flower-loving traditions.
      Paintings of exaggerated floral arrangements have been popular in Europe for centuries and the Italian Renaissance helped give flower arranging extra spark. By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, floral displays were commonplace among the upper classes.  A wide variety of materials were used to make containers -- marble, heavy Venetian glass, and bronze, many gracing the world's museums today.
This bouquet was delivered to our cruise stateroom, fashioned
from flowers grown in the Canary Islands. 
 It was also during the Renaissance that tropical fruit began to emerge on vases and even in some floral bouquets.  In art, fruit was often paired with popular flowers such as narcissus, pinks, iris, jasmine, pansies, French marigolds, cornflowers and rosemary.
      In England, fruits blossoms and leaves were woven into garlands to decorate walls and vaulted ceilings. On festive occasions, petals were piled into baskets to sprinkle on the floors, a custom which probably spawned our present-day "flower girl" wedding tradition.
A hike in Stillwater County in Montana's
Beartooth Mountains shows a stubborn
little wildflower growing from rock.

      While flowers were used by the gentry for centuries, large numbers of average people began to appreciate, grow, pick and arrange flowers in the 18th Century.  This was when flowers began to be fashionable around the globe. The Victorians loved color and relied on flowers to help counteract the unfortunate odors of the horrible hygiene of the day.  "Tuzzy-muzzy" bouquets were used to eliminate odors and many believed the aptly named "nosegay" helped counteract disease. (Also spelled tussie mussie, it has some vulgar connotations..... but that's another posting!) Today's millions of gardeners worldwide enjoy flowers.  They range from ranchers and farmers in my native Montana, whose iris and peony will be shooting up soon, to my neighbors here in San Diego, whose pots of tomatoes, lemons, basil, rosemary and even figs are lovingly tended on tiny townhouse patios.

A California poppy brightens up a La Jolla garden.
        Whether flowers are in your world to attract birds and bees, provide shade or color, or simply because gardening relaxes, we salute these faithful floral friends.  Their presence provides soothing beauty and often fragrance.
     Flowers announce the arrival of spring and the presence of love.  Flowers are food, medicine and peace of mind! Flowers say "forgive me, I love you, be my friend, in sympathy and thanks." They are also inspiration for this humble writer and her photographer partner, whose favorite pictures of posies appear here! Enjoy!
A dahlia blooms in a garden at High Chaparral in Montana.

      In a few days, we plan a little unorthodox fun -- maybe hit the road on  our Harleys, get a tatoo or two, haul out the saxophone, dust off the fishing pole, and say good-bye to our decorous past!  
     In the spirit of carpe diem, watch for the revels  Saturday, March 30.
Fighting middle age, raging against
the dying of the light, Keller and
Cookie plan a little fun!

    We are happy to be hearing from readers Singapore to Sidney (both Sidney, Montana, and Sydney, Australia!). Today, we received a message from South Korea and heard from a man in Miles City, born in Baghdad. We post Wednesdays and Saturdays at:
    Please tell those persons who might enjoy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rome inspires, Italy enchants as new pope takes throne

The Colosseum remains one of tourism's most visited sites.

     Story by Christene Meyers
     Photos by Bruce Keller

     "Rome doesn't compete. Rome just watches all the fussing and striving, completely unfazed. I am inspired by the regal self-assurance of this city, so grounded and rounded, so amused and monumental, knowing she is held securely in the palm of history. I would like to be like Rome when I am an old lady.”   Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love"
      The sights, sounds smells and tastes of Rome linger long after one leaves her.
     Is there a city more unique? Some might say New York, London, Stockholm, Rio, Bangkok or Paris.  All have their graces and enticements.
     Is there a city more exciting?
I've been around the block and most of the world, and I can't think of one.
     Rome's mix of decorum and cutting edge, excitement and calm, hipness and history holds it dear to my heart and the hearts of thousands of other poets, painters and tourists dating back hundreds of        years.
Pope Francis now calls Rome home.
Rome's stately buildings
inspire and fascinate,
here against a perfect summer sky.
       All roads lead to Rome for her grandeur and gaudiness, her enticing ethnic mix, her intoxicating blend of elegance and bawdiness. Here is a city which hosts the Pope and more women in tight pants than anywhere else in the world. So a salute to Francis and sexy women.  Why should they be mutually exclusive? Where else can you admire hundreds of statues and monuments paying homage to the human form, then round a corner to come face to face with a $12-shop-window apron sporting a decal of a fat, happy man flipping a pizza. Oh, yes, he's buck naked!
Cookie and Keller at the Trevi Fountain, before the coin toss which guarantees their return!
     Rome remains vibrant while historic, trendy while old-fashioned.  There is no other city remotely like her. Once one has strolled the boulevards of Rome, savored her gastronomy, prowled her ruins, there's no looking at other cities in the same way.
     Rome endures, literally layering the old upon the new.  The original city is 25 "layers" beneath modern Rome.  One looks down a several-story excavation to see the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
      I try to get my Rome hit at least once a year.  I'm always reminded of her constancy and her ability to adapt and embrace the new.
           I remember having my fanny pinched in the early morning hours when my girlfriend Susan and I hopped off in Milan for a slice of pizza.
Rome's architecture continues to change and grow,
as ruins are discovered and old buildings restored
      It was fun!  I hope I never stop having my fanny pinched, nor appreciating "fun" when it presents itself. Back then,  I was a cute little teen-aged girls and the pinchers no doubt had had consumed copious amounts of vino.
Ice cream in Rome
is simply a must.
     Rome has changed with me  from puberty to menopause.  Still today, the allure of Rome and all of Italy has never abandoned me.  Through several decades and a couple dozen  visits, I've never stopped loving the country and wanting more.  It is an addiction, not unlike the one I've developed for gelato!
 A buggy driver pauses to go on line.
      Rome remains a wonderful starting point from which to head south or north, exploring the rest of Italy.  From the cypress groves and vineyards of Tuscany to the canals and bridges of Venice, the villages of Sicily and the picturesque fishing town of Portofino (founded at least 1,200 years ago), Italy will not disappoint.
Pause in a Roman holiday.
      We once rented a villa half way between Sienna and Florence.                                                                                                                               "How old is this building?" we asked the owner, our host, Gulia.
      "Not so very old," she said. "It is only 14th Century."
      Recently, we stayed in a lovely harbor suite at Hotel Martini in Olbia, Italia, on the island of Sardinia.  We'd flown from Atlanta to Roma, then spent six hours touring the grounds surrounding the Colosseum with old friend Lucilla, who has her doctorate in ancient Roman history. Back on the plane to Sardinia, with a quick shower and dinner in the old center. Finally we slept after 36 hours, enjoyed a restorative breakfast of cheeses, prosciutto,  brown bread, yogurt, figs and cappuccino. A couple museums, a stop in a local market, pasta in the piazza and plenty of red wine.
Rome's museums, fountains, squares and government buildings are legendary.
       The next day we rented a car to explore the island's east coast.  Again, we were surprised and delighted: lunch of freshly caught squid, a soak in the sea and  vespers in a 14th Century monastery.   We'll return to Italy and Rome, to toss a coin over our shoulder at the Trevi Fountain.  Lore says that means                           we'll return. So far, it's worked
Hollyhocks in their glory, at High Chaparral in Montana.
  COMING WEDNESDAY:   Flower power! What would the world
be without the wonders of flowers? We'll share some of our favorites
from Montana to California, islands, and other continents. Please
tell your friends about
and sign up if you have not yet done so.  Grazie.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Feathered friends in flight and repose ground this pair

 A flurry of birds is caught in motion at a feeder at High Chaparral 
on the West Fork of the Stillwater River in Montana.

     Story by Christene Meyers
     Photos by Bruce Keller

     AS LONG as I can recall, birds have flitted around me, delighting and entrancing. In the mountains of Montana, the countryside of Tuscany, hiking trails in Ireland and Scotland, desert treks in Arizona, rain forests in Costa Rica, Peru and Brazil, I've always stopped to look, admire and appreciate them.
     I don't pretend to be a specialist, or as knowledgeable as many of my cousins -- particularly Betty, who is internationally known for her birding accomplishments and knowledge.
     But I enjoy. I savor. I am grateful that these creatures with an ancient past still visit our modern world.
The Cosgriffe clan has a special
connection to the chickadee,
here painted by Misha Minesinger.
    BIRDS ARE as much a  part of my life as the dogs, flowers and family who befriend me and buoy my spirits. They are a grounding, steady presence in my life.
     Birds can take our breath away with their extraordinary beauty, their nesting instincts, their eating habits, parenting skills and their intricate "homes." I've admired bird condos in the cactus on the Arizona desert, and birdie single-residence dwellings in the hills of Ohio, the California and Oregon coasts and my native Montana woods.
This hummingbird's wings can be seen
in the blur of motion as he
readies to take a drink of syrup. 

 This woodpecker finds tiny bits of
food in a telephone pole or tree trunk
in the Montana countryside.
I've watched the faithful chickadee take a single sunflower seed in a Big Sky snowstorm and patiently crack it on a branch, munch, then daintily take another.  The chickadee was my mother Ellen's favorite bird and my sister Misha made me a gorgeous painting of this  beautiful bird.  His black and white uniform blends in snow or trees, and is his constant formal dress.
    I've watched the sparrows and finches converge, a dozen on a single feeder, batting their wings for balance, to keep their place at the food trough. I've been visited three years running by the same stellar's jay, who last spring took a snack of nuts from my hand.
   I'VE BEEN thrilled to observe migrating grosbeaks and orioles, have admired nuthatches and towhees. I like to think that the hummingbirds I'm watching now in La Jolla will follow me north to the Rockies when I go to Montana to spend summertime.
    In Phoenix, the cactus wrens and flickers vied for space in the saguaro out my back door.  And when a group of African parakeets descended -- in green and pink glory -- I photographed them so cousin Betty could help me identify them.  She surmised, after some enthusiastic detective work, that they were descendants of escaped "pet" birds who tripped their cages to breed into the hundreds in the Phoenix area and parts of southern California.
Tropical birds fascinate, like this parrot
 in the Canary Islands.
     My grandpa Gus had a friend named Tom who loved his pet  parrot.  He claimed Lucy was nearly 80.  The two old pals taught her to say, "Where you going, you sonofabitch?" to customers at granddad's lumber yard.
     Here in San Diego, we see pelicans, egrets, herons, seagulls and hawks daily.   I recognize delicate yellow and black canaries and the same red house finches that I see in Montana.
     I'VE COUNTED four varieties of hummers here in California, one more than I've logged in Montana.
   On the Amazon, I've been surrounded by a cloud of blue and yellow macaws. And I've been lulled to sleep by the sweet "who-who," of the barn owl who hangs out at High Chaparral.   
A trio of pelicans takes sun and does some grooming 
not far from us in the Children's Pool in La Jolla, California. 
     I'm far from a bird nerd -- I don't have expensive binoculars or designer bird-watching togs.  But I keep my eyes wide open for my feathered friends, including the much maligned crows, who can tell individual humans apart.  And right up there with the chickadee -- in the Cookie pecking order, pardon the pun -- is the magpie.  I see them daily on my way to exercise in Montana.  I respect these clever, persistent birds, for their endurance.  Are they the coyotes of the bird world?
    FINALLY, the turkeys.  They come tentatively into my Montana yard, three, then four, then eleven, gaining courage in numbers as they sweep in to feast on the spills from the bird feeders. They cover the territory, checking out the lawn for  fallen bits of barbecue, sandwich, granola or the treasure of a discarded apple core.
     Both of my grans loved birds and I thank Olive and Annie for turning me, my siblings and many cousins, into lifelong aficionados.
A stately egret eyes his photographer, Bruce Keller,
in the waters of San Diego Bay.
     One spring morning back in the 1950s, Gran Olive rescued a fledgling robin, fallen from his precarious perch about the same time her large tabby cat, Taffy, rounded the corner.  It was a race for the bird and Gran won.  We tried to set him back on the branch, hoping his mother would return.  But as night fell, the bird grew quiet and seemed to be giving up. So we brought him inside, made him a bed of fine leaves and grass, and put two lit flashlights on either end to keep warmth in the shoe box.  For nearly two weeks, we kept him alive and watched him grow, nourished by tiny pieces of worm delivered to his mouth with tweezers, drops of milk and water, ants and a couple flies.
      Saturday morning, the bird's second weekend with us, I was allowed to carry the box outside for his release.  We had moved it closer to the sun and door each day, in preparation for the happy exodus. He was moving about, flapping his wings.
       GRAN PLACED him in my hands.  We both stroked him gently with our pinky fingers. "Be well, little bird," gran whispered. "Fly high, stay safe." She nodded for me to lift my hands up.  The robin looked at us, took a large breath and flew off -- I felt his tiny wings meet the air for a moment. Then he disappeared into the trees and life on his own! I'm hoping his descendants are keeping an eye on me today.
 Let's let Keller's magnificent photos round out my tale of appreciation.
The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican will be crowded with worshippers soon.

COMING SATURDAY: Easter approaches, with all eyes on the Vatican and the Pope, so we take a look at the cathedrals, ports, countryside and other charms of Italy, a country we both love.  Please share this website with like-minded folks:
Remember to enjoy , learn and live and watch for a new post each Friday as we deliver our spin on travel, the arts, family and nature.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

French born sculptor's gift enhances Escondido park

Queen Califia's Magical Circle offers a colorful escape.
Story by Christene Meyers
Photos by Bruce Keller

     Days ago, we went down the rabbit hole.
No, not with Alice, but with Niki.
     It was marvelous! Part of me is still there.
     We happened upon Queen Califia's Magical Circle on a driving trip. The magnificent creation of the late French artist Niki de Saint Phalle is quietly dazzling.
      Picnic and puppies in tow, we were looking for a place to lunch within an hour of San Diego.  We found it in Escondido's beautiful Kit Carson Park, named after the famed frontiersman.  We strolled the grounds with the Yorkies, passing two guys playing frisbee golf.
   They paused to pet the pups, chat and reveal that they lived nearby.
        "Are you going up the trail?" one asked. "It will blow your mind.  Some eccentric French lady did this crazy sculpture thing. It's a trip. Just follow the trail."
The African queen Califia, at top and back, inspired
Niki de Saint Phalle's sculpture garden in Escondido.
    "Crazy sculpture thing" hardly describes Saint Phalle's magic. Queen Califia's Magical Circle is through the looking glass and beyond.
     Named after a legendary black Amazon warrior queen, it is a treasure not to be missed.
     Saint Phalle obviously was a smart, dramatic and inspiring artist.  Her California garden tells a story -- of California's mythic, historic and cultural roots.  Nine large-scale sculptures surrounded by a serpentine wall and maze entryway entice the stroller inside. Appropriately, the amazing creation stands on grounds originally inhabited by Indians of the acorn culture. Surely the artist knew this!
     Once you're in, you'll want to spend a couple hours studying this brilliant and colorful gift.  It incorporates women, jungle creatures and other elements, with thousands of precisely placed tiles, stones, pieces of glass and breathtaking mosaics.
Cookie delights in the garden, patting polished stones 
of an intricate mosaic. It's impossible not to want
to touch! The garden is both sensuous and tactile.
     It is obvious that the artist inhabited many worlds.  Like many creative people -- artists, musicians and writers -- she was part mystic, part realist, part mature woman and a bit of a tease.  She also had the capacity to live in a child's orbit, an enviable talent.
       Despite the sophisticated nature of the work, there is a childlike wonder to the place which makes me wish I'd known her.  Ron McPherson's company, La Paloma, fabricated many of the lush, large and evocative sculptures which were attracting old and young alike the day we visited. They invite touching!
 Keller, Nick and Nora relax below
the entrance to the sculpture garden.
     A little homework provided me with these facts:
     She was born in France in 1930, became a painter and sculptor in her youth, married twice and never lost her passion for art. By her twenties, she was gaining fame with her "Nanas," spectacular solo exhibitions celebrating happy, content and free women.
     Internationally known and a member of the influential Paris group, "Nouveaux Realistes," she designed major exhibits in Tuscany, Germany and France, including a world-famous fountain in the Georges Pompidou Center in her beloved Paris.   Lucky California was the beneficiary of her genius when her doctor advised moving to a mild climate in 1994.  The artist was ailing from the emphysema which took her life in 2002, but during her eight years in La Jolla, she designed the spectacular gift to southern California and the world.
      The gift lives in Escondido, a North county town that most San Diegans don't know well.
Niki's sense of the magical and mythical delight, flanked
by native trees and shrubs which the city planted. 
      I had no idea that this wonderful sculpture garden is tucked away in the nearly 300-acre park.  It's a wistful fact that Saint Phalle did not live to see its completion (she died before its opening in 2003) but it's comforting that she was involved in its installation from 1999 until her death. Her San Francisco based granddaughter sits as a trustee of this marvelous gift.
     "The artist donated it to the city," says Kristina Owens, Escondido's public arts administrator.  "She always wanted to have a sculpture garden in the U.S., and she loved southern California."
     It's ironic that these vibrant sculptures reside in a town whose name means "hidden" because the garden is not splashily advertised. Do people realize how extraordinary it is? How lucky we are?
          When one considers the fame and influence of the "new realists" and that Saint Phalle was one of this prestigious group, we should consider ourselves lucky to be within driving distance of her gift.  I was reminded of Gaudi's creations in Barcelona, or some of the imaginative projects of her contemporaries -- Christo, Yves Klein, and Jean Tinguely, her second husband.
 Ruth, left, and her daughter join Cookie -- new friends,
drawn to the Magical Circle by a talented French-born artist.
     Her sculptures make me smile -- and will you, too! The Escondido garden also makes me want to visit her European installations.  I will.
    Meanwhile, we can enjoy her buxom, colorful figures, her playful animals, joyous flowers and flirtatious snakes in the lovely environs of Kit Carson Park.
   The area is graced by native trees and shrubs.  Niki herself designed sculptural bench seating where one may enjoy the art and truly let it "sink in." Sadly, vandals have chipped away at some of the beauty and time has taken a toll. Some repairs are in order. And the vandalism has necessitated fencing.
  Niki wanted her creations to be viewed as "happy and free" and the garden inspires these feelings. While paying homage to imagination, California and the natural world, the garden also encourages discussion and family visits.  Escondido school children make regular pilgrimages, arranged by art teachers. We shared the space with a romancing couple playing classical guitar, and a grandma and her children. "This place is simply amazing. Amazing," she repeated. "Wonderful!"
    An endowment has been established to help maintain the gift.  Call 760 839-4331.  To donate, plan your trip, or learn more about Niki, go to:  
     Kit Karson Park also includes a wonderful aboretum and Iris Sankey Garden, an amphitheater, baseball field, picnic areas, tennis courts, ponds, hiking trails, a golf course and more. Truly a treasure for us all, a thoughtful mix of developed and natural land. Find the magic at 3333 Bear Valley Parkway, heading east then north off the I15. Good mojo awaits!
     Coming Wednesday: Birds, birds, birds. Whether on road trips to Montana's Beartooths, a picnic on the beach or hikes and sails around the globe, the feathered friends keep Cookie and Keller 
An egret poses behind ducks at
Kit Carson Park in Escondido.
company.  An homage to these feathered, winged tetrapods that surprise, delight and calm us.
 Please tell your friends about us.  Our blog is now being enjoyed on five continents! And keep the comments coming:
Remember to explore, learn and live!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pet friendly hotels beckon these road-tripping dog lovers

Story by Christene Meyers
Photos by Bruce Keller
Cookie and Keller  enjoy sunset. 
    IF THE airlines awarded miles for doggie travel, Nick and Nora would have logged over 50,000 miles each in their action-packed seven years. Mostly, they go where we go, by plane or car. They're happy little road-trippers. So we've started keeping track of the best of the "dog friendly" hotels we've visited recently.
    We estimate that Nick and Nora have bedded down with us in at least 50 hotels, motels and inns, besides their relatives' homes and their auntie and uncle's place in Georgia. Here are a half-dozen places we endorse and recommend, for their personality, dog welcoming spirit and proximity to fun events, scenery and history. Nick and Nora give them paws up!
Nick and Nora atVagabond's House Inn
in Carmel which loves its pet guests.
     * Vagabond's House Inn, Carmel by the Sea, Calif.
Doggies and humans enjoy spectacular Santa Barbara coastline.
     This artfully designed country inn is dog friendly from the get-go.  The charming hostess offers a little neckerchief and a doggie treat for your pet, and there are plenty of other enticements, including sherry or wine in the afternoon on the patio, and wonderful proximity to the village.  In fact, Vagabond's House is right in the center of things, but provides a peaceful oasis with plush and private rooms and a welcoming courtyard.  Thank dog lover Doris Day, longtime Carmel resident, who pioneered the "dogs welcome" spirit.  The lifelong dog advocate and defender lives in Carmel and co-owns a popular inn and eatery, Cypress Inn and Terry's.  Locals credit the "Que Sera" Queen for embuing the town with its contagious, pet-friendly atmosphere.  All throughout Carmel and its marvelous eateries are convenient doggie water bowls, doggie gifts and signs welcoming your pet.  We dined at several excellent eateries and the dogs were welcome to come in and sit under or beside the tables.  We kept ours leashed, and brought a cushion. Some places provide beds or blankets! Good idea to call ahead to make sure your dining choice is indeed dog friendly, but we'd be surprised if not.  Meanwhile, Vagabond's is peaceful, prettily appointed and immaculately bedecked with pots of flowers and well manicured trees.
 A fine choice for dog lovers.  All the dogs we encountered during a several-day stay were well behaved and polite (and so were their owners!)
     * OMNI LOS ANGELES Hotel, Los Angeles, Calif.
Nick enjoys the calming balm of the Omni's grounds and pools in Los Angeles.
  It's a haven for arts-minded travelers, close to theaters and museums.
     This elegant hotel at California Plaza is in the heart of bustling downtown Los Angeles.  So you're right in the middle of the cultural action.  The Omni provides a restful and distinguished four-plus-star diamond resort with plush and serene guest rooms, fine restaurants, a state of the art fitness facility and beautiful landscaping, pool and spa.  We like its proximity and its quiet -- it's just steps from the Music Center and Ahmanson Theatre -- both just a couple blocks away. To sit in one of the many quiet spots to enjoy wine or tea, you'd never know you were in central L.A.  The Omni puts its own spin on "dog friendly" as a cheery hotel host knocks on your door and delivers a little package of treats to your pup!
 THE HOTEL has all the bells, whistles and amenities of any fine upscale hotel but many such hotels still do not welcome doggies.  So bravo, Omni! You're set the barre high!  Nick and Nora love the grounds, which include carefully tended landscaping and a long, relaxing water sculpture with a soothing sound as you stroll by or walk your pup. The Contemporary Art Museum is out the door, too, another enticement.

         * Ashland Springs Hotel, Ashland, Oregon.
Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort
offers ocean views and a
pet friendly ambience.
     This 1925 property is the crown jewel of lodging in southern Oregon.  The former Mark Antony has been beautifully transformed into a small European-style boutique hotel with a friendly staff, Waterstone Spa and Salon and a lovely restaurant, Larks, which specializes in Oregon's bounty of produce -- vegetables, fruits, wine.  All entrees are served with "from scratch" aplomb and a lovely breakfast is included in the room charge.  The Ashland Springs exudes charm, from the display cases of sea shells and stuffed birds as well as world-class drawings of plants and birds.  Ashland is a foodie's town -- from Pangea to Sesame and Martino's. But its greatest pleasures for us are two-fold:  the dog friendly feature and the proximity to Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
  Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort
features artwork and homage to the
late actor's career. He lived in Santa Barbara
many years and his hotel celebrates
a beautiful setting and welcomes
pet lovers. A winery and inn are nearby.
Santa Barbara's gloriousscenery is one enticement to Fess Parker's.
*FESS PARKER'S Doubletree Resort, Santa Barbara.                                                                 
     Fine restaurants, ocean view, museums, history and gardens, this place has it all. Named after the "Daniel Boone" actor who lived in Santa Barbara for many years, the Parker family created a gorgeous first-class hotel which embodies the Doubletree themes: pleasant and beautiful rooms, attentive service and full-service offerings from spa to fitness to dining and special events.  We have stayed several times and are always welcomed with a warm chocolate chip cookie and a pet-friendly room.  The Fess Parker Winery, Inn and Spa are worth a drive.  You'll learn more about the actor, who is lovingly remembered throughout the town known as the "American Riviera."  You can also spend a fun afternoon on a wine-tasting tour of the town, or whale watching.  Santa Barbara meets all of our "must haves" -- chardonnay, pinot noir, beauty and pet-friendliness.  And tip your hat to the actor who made this Doubletree Resort unique.
       * Harrah's Rincon, Valley Center, Calif.
 Harrah's Rincon near Valley Center is a hop, skip and jump
from San Diego and has a lovely, convenient dog-friendly wing.
     The Garden Villa wing of this pretty hotel, about an hour from San Diego, welcomes pets and you can enjoy the restaurants and gaming plus fun hiking and driving options nearby.  We ventured out one afternoon and with help from the concierge, found Hellhole Canyon Preserve. Harrah's is undergoing a major addition and the new tower is going up.  Despite that ambitious construction project, the grounds are kept clean, well landscaped and free of dust.  The Garden wing is prettily kept and you'll run into other dog lovers who have discovered that pup can come along while you play the tables or machines.  The concierge is also helpful in directing you a few miles down the road to beautiful produce stands or Hellhole Canyon Preserve, with its hiking trails and botanical wonders.
Ocean Beach's Ocean Villa Inn welcomes pets and has
special doggie runs with ocean views and Dog Beach.
      * Ocean Villa Inn, San Diego, Calif.
      This hotel is well known in San Diego's Ocean Beach and beyond for its proximity to Dog Beach, where people have come for years to play with and walk their pets.  The Inn's patio rooms face right on the ocean and beach, and there are little doggie runs in each "back yard" so you can sip a cocktail of coffee, watch the waves and let your pet enjoy.  It's an older, well established part of town and a fascinating cactus garden is among the delightful surprises.  You can take a pleasant palm-tree lined walk and socialize with your pet and other pets and dog owners -- lots of doggies in the area -- or you can just enjoy your own little patio and run by yourself, whatever's your pleasure.  Located on Point Loma Blvd., the motel is walking distance or a short drive to several of the legendary eateries and fish places in Ocean Beach. One of our favorites is Nick's at the Pier.
     This motel is a favorite of my Arizona "Zoni" friends who escape the sweltering heat of the, pardon the pun, dog days!
Stearns Wharf in lovely Santa Barbara welcomes Nick and Nora.
     At all of these diverse and pet-welcoming venues, it goes without saying to leash your pet while promenading, and bring a stash of "doggie bags." Savvy dog lovers also rely upon Eileen Barish's wonderful dog friendly books, including "Doin' California with your Pooch." You'll find that some hotels have designated areas and rooms for pups. In other properties, dogs have greater freedom.  It is also common practice to walk your pup frequently and not leave him unattended in the room for long.
     Finally, our doggie carry-along bag includes their toys, treats, sweaters, food and water bowl.   Enjoy your travels with pup.

A weekend road trip yielded this amazing sculpture garden.
Read all about it and its creator this coming Saturday.
  Coming March 16: If you've never experienced Queen Califia's Magical Circle Garden in Kit Karson Park in Escondido, you are in for a mind-blowing treat! We post our adventures Wednesdays and Saturdays. Don't forget to tell your fun-loving friends about: