It Never Rains in California…
The second half of this contract on the Celebrity Century is all in North America, mainly in the United States. After going to every continent in the world (except Antarctica) on ships over the past few years I have been looking to spending a few months docking out of the US. Unlimited cell phone use and microbrews, pretty much the American dream, right?
So far California hasn’t been quite as promised. Our turnaround day is in Los Angeles; well actually it’s in San Pedro, which is probably not what you think of when you think of LA. It’s pretty much an industrial port, which is no big surprise, they usually are. The bummer is that LA traffic makes it pretty tough to get anywhere cool and be back in time.
The real bummer has been immigration. Apparently a couple of people have jumped ship from Celebrity in recent years and now, as a result, CBP is super strict with Celebrity employees. Early all-aboards, restrictions on non-Americans, and late clearances are now the norm for us. In Los Angeles and Santa Barbara any non-American in their first contract or the first 3 months of any subsequent contract is not allowed off the ship. Indians are pretty much never allowed off the ship in California apparently. None of these restrictions apply to me directly but the ‘net effect’ still exists. Because there are non-Americans getting off the ship, we all have to be back on 2 hours before sailing. I guess the logic is that with the extra 2 hours they will know who isn’t coming back and who is. (and have time to hunt them down!) This is a big problem when all but 1 of the ports is a tender port…it essentially makes it impossible to get off the ship for more than an hour or two in most places. Our itinerary is Los Angeles (San Pedro), Santa Barbara, San Francisco overnight, Monterey, Catalina Island, and Ensenada, Mexico. Santa Barbara seems really lovely, though I’ve only spent about 2 hours there in 2 weeks. The weather here is great, often cold and rainy…very pacific, then suddenly sunny and crisp. I’m often envious of the sea lions endlessly barking and sunning themselves on the rocks.
Despite trying circumstances, we’ve been making the most of it. Luckily there is a truly great group of people here, always willing to make the most of an hour!
I’ll post again later with some of the things I’ve been up to but for now I just want to give two shout outs to two great people I’ve met in San Francisco.
The first is Daemon Morrison at Winery Collective. (485 Jefferson st San Francisco) The first day walking the streets of SF we stumbled upon a place offering wine tastings and good vibes just a short walk from fisherman’s warf. Inside we met Daemon who guided us through a tasting and showed us a few neat wine tricks. Daemon is a bit of a world traveler and knows how to say cheers in many different languages so if you come, make sure to tell him how you say it in your native tongue, or learn a weird one so you can teach him.
Winery Collective has some really nice wines on offer. Two of my favorites were the White Hawk Vineyard ‘Vie’ Syrah, and the Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Tastings at Winery Collective are quirky, informative, and lively to say the least. The White Hawk Syrah was described to us as a ‘blueberry cheesecake fruit-bomb;’ not exactly the sort of wine I usually go for but pretty unreal. [wine drinkers: Daemon claims that if you swirl a glass of wine clockwise it brings out fruit flavors, while if you swirl it counterclockwise it brings out earthy notes. He claims this is scientific and has to do with centrifugal forces. Anyone know if this is actually true?] My favorite wine that we tasted was the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. This one had strong hints of jalapeño and French oak. It was a complex and bold flavor that I have never encountered before and would strongly recommend. I know a little about wines but usually I find that the descriptions on labels are vague and don’t offer much as to what the wine actually holds in store. This one was spot on; literally jalapeño flavor, and not in a cheeky or overpowering way, just a subtle and interesting addition.
We had a great time with Daemon and were happy to have found the place. He recommended a late-night spot called ‘Madrone,’ which had a great Motown night and will be featured in a later post. If in SF and looking for something a bit off the beaten path near fisherman’s warf, I would highly recommend Winery Collective.
The second shout out I’d like to give is to Robert Lam, the owner of Butterfly. (pier 33 Embarcardero, SF) Butterfly is a restaurant just next to where we dock that I’ve passed a few times during early forays out into the city. Each time I’ve made a note to hit it later because the menu looked slamming and the location is prime for getting back in a hurry. We had a great meal and nice wine at a table overlooking the harbor. Pretty tough to beat. Garlic noodle stir-fry with shrimp, tomato salad with house-made ricotta, and cod cooked in soy sauce with greens were excellent choices. Several people at our table had decadent looking cocktails from a pretty interesting looking drink menu.
As often happens when hanging out in an international group, living large and having a great time, we got the attention of the owner, Rob. He came around to the table and had a lovely chat with us about our jobs onboard and general stuff. Rob is a big proponent of live music and had two Steinway grands in his restaurant before the economy went south. He mixed up a really interesting tequila shot for us that was sort of like a tiny margarita. I will be back for more. There are a lot of great restaurants in this area and great food is never far away in San Francisco. Butterfly is truly outstanding and I would highly recommend it.
That’s all for now…more coming soon about the bridge, SF late night, long days in Mexico, and other delights!