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LEAVE OFF THE MASCARA
24 October 2006
"When you're out with Nora, you'd best leave off the mascara," laughed Kathy, dabbing at her eyes, desperately trying to stop the black from running down her cheeks.
We were finishing a bottle wine following a particularly lovely dinner at a local fish cafe in Monterey and we were, again, laughing uproariously at tales of Nora's antics.
It was good medicine, the previous couple of hours had not been quite so funny, so it was good to relax and just let it all go. The day itself had good points and bad points. We had laughed a lot, but we also had NOT laughed a lot.
We started with breakfast at our hotel and then heading off north and eventually west, with our ultimate mid-day destination Hearst Castle, that magnificent, garish salute to 1920s opulence, built by William Randolph Hearst, which sits high atop a mountain commanding a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean.
We ran into road construction which backed up traffic for awhile--they warned "up to 20 minutes," but I suspect it was more like 10, and we arrived at the center where you get your tickets with a full 20 minutes to spare.
We all piled in buses and drove waaay up to the top of the hill and began our tour. I had been there before, but still marveled at the excesses of the newspaper magnet and his Hollywood starlet partner. I guess it. Somehow having that much money just seems... wrong when there is such poverty in the world.
But that's a topic for another day!
After the tour, we sat through a 40 minute big screen movie about the life of William Randolph Hearst. The views were spectacular and it was quite a good movie, though I wondered how much of the praise heaped on the man throughout the tour and movie was deserved. I would love to have read a script written by, say, his household help!
After lunch, where I was gyped out of $1 by a guy who didn't put the requested cheese on my burger (it wasn't worth going back to ask him the remake it), we got on the road for our 100 mile drive up the coast to Monterey.
Our first stop was Piedras Blancas, a beach which has become a rookery for elephent seals. We were there years and years ago, when there was no walkway, no fences, and nothing to keep you from walking along the beach among the hundreds of sea lions sunning themselves.
It's safer for human and animal now, but I fondly remembered our first trip. We stood there watching them throw sand across their bodies, listening to their loud belches, and watch them lumber in from the ocean to plop down to the rest of the bunch. I loved it.
The ride up the coast is beautiful and harrowing. I won't do it down the coast where you are on the cliff side of hundreds of hairpin turns.
"Did you realize it was going to be so bad?" asked Nora. I wasn't sure if this was an indication of how much terror she was feeling about my driving or how much concern she was feeling for me having to drive the twisting road. I told her I had done it before and knew what I was in for. There were some harrowing moments when the sun was hitting that horrible pre-sunset angle where it blinds you and I lost sight of where the center line was. AFter that Kathy and I compared notes on freeway terror and she commented about how she always preferred to be the driver instead of the passenger. I was afraid I knew how she was feeling!
But, good or bad, there is no way to turn around and find an alternate route, so we were committed until we arrived in Carmel, by which time the fog had become quite thick, so there seemed little point in trying to do any sightseeing and we just headed for hour hotel, The Embassy Suites in Monterey. We only got lost once.
We pulled in and went to the desk. I gave my name and my confirmation documents.
"Oh, you've registered already," said the clerk, brightly.
I explained that no, we had not registered already, but had just pulled into the hotel this very minute.
"Oh...I see.. there is another Sykes here," she said, then, keeping a bland look on her face did some frantic searching in the computer and finally said "Oh yes! I see the problem. I'll give you your key."
She told us that we had an hour to join them in the lounge for complimentary drinks and snacks, at which all of our eyes lit up, and we headed upstairs to our room. That's when the problems began.
We had obviously NOT been given the room I had booked, which was to have had two double beds and a "chair recliner." In fact, this was what made me to pay extra for this hotel, since sleeping arrangements seemed to be perfect. Only what we got was a king size bed and no recliner. Nora and Kathy preferred their own beds, and, for this price, we weren't going to settle for less. I called the front desk and explained our predicament. They weren't going to admit they had given our reserved room to someone else, but after a long time they did say they would move us to a different room. It was 7 p.m. Still time to get some of that free booze and free food.
The key didn't come and didn't come and didn't come. I called down to see if I had misunderstood--was I supposed to come and get the key? No, I was told, it was "on its way." It still didn't come and didn't come.
Finally, Nora and Kathy went down to the front desk. At the same time, I was calling the hotel manager to complain, laying it on thick about how I had been telling these women from Ireland who were only here for a week about how wonderful the hotel was and how disappointed I was...etc. All true, of course. He was very apologetic and in short order, Nora and Kathy reappeared with keys to the room next door and a hotel employee also appeared with keys to the room next door.
We moved next door and hurried downstairs, in time for one drink, but no snacks.
The whole thing had been very unpleasant, but we were finally in a room and though what I have is really a couch bed (which I didn't open), it worked fine. Still, there will be a letter to the hotel when I get home. They should have, at the very least, comped us a dinner or something.
But things were brighter after our gin and tonics. Armando, a hotel employee who was standing outside the hotel, suggested we try his favorite restaurant and gave directions, which we tried to follow,but never did find the place. However, because of getting lost we found this gourmet fish place and my tilapia Cancun, their "award winning dish" was delicious.
By the time we got back here, I was so exhausted I literally could not move. I sat on the couch and thought about writing a journal entry and decided I couldn't even THINK about opening the computer. So I curled up on my short little couch and went to sleep instantly, not waking until about 6 a.m.
The Embassy Suites first impressed me years ago with their incredible breakfast, included in the price, and I hope that when we get downstairs it doesn't disappoint. And, of course, because this is an expensive hotel, telephone calls are not free, so if anybody has sent me an e-mail it will be another day before I answer it because I can't afford to spend that much time on line.
BUMPER STICKER OF THE DAY
This is entry #2399