RETURN TO MONTREAL.

The return cruise was NOT as enjoyable as a solo traveller. There were large family groups of assorted ages who did not feel the need to communicate with a solo Australian and so I found it isolating. Normally I am very confident in these situations, and there were very few Australians on board, but lots of Southern Trump voters, not perfect sailing conditions. These are the last group of friendly Ozzie travellers on the first cruise.

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Strangely enough there were few solo men who were widowers, but they kept crying into their beer, and were Trump voting right wing Christians, so not a lot of magic there. I also had huge computer hassles as Microsoft thought my new Macbook Air had been stolen as I kept logging in at different locations on dodgy public wifi. So I had to repeatedly change my password using phrases like’ thisgivesmetheshits etc’ until they totally denied me access!!ahhhh. It is impossible to contact Microsoft personally..there is just a computer on the phone or online..a quick visit in Halifax to the Apple store seemed to resolve some of the issues.

fullsizeoutput_173The weather had become cold and wet after we left Bar Harbor in Maine and Halifax -and me with 2 suitcases, one filled with summer clothes which I hardly wore. the other filled with evening wear- and the dress code on the boast was very casual, but it was supposed to have 2 formal nights. I could have managed with 1 suitcase, but I still have another 6 weeks of travelling!! But I dressed for dinner every night!!I showed them thar Southerners a thing or two.

In Sydney Nova Scotia, which still retains strong Scottish/Celtic culture we went to a Highland Village past the Bras d’Or Lakes on the Cabot Trail. Gaelic is still spoken. this part of Nova Scotia is very beautiful.

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Then onto the town of Baddeck where Alexander Graham Bell did his thing and rang a few bells. Hi wife was deaf (her name was ding dong) and he was also involved in inventing phonics for the deaf and building other strange machine and planes. A very interesting man who loved the Bras d’Or Lakes and the town of Baddeck, as it reminded him of Scotland. It was a bit windy by the lake.

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There was a huge POW WOW in Charlottetown. It is always fabulous when you accidentally find these happenings..the drums were beating all day. There was a sense of pride which has just resurrected after the scourge of the Residential Schools where their culture was beaten out of them.

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In Quebec I visited the Wendake First Nation Reservation our guides were blonde haired and blue eyed. I wanted my money back! What sort of Injun are ya? They lived in long houses and were allied of the French.

 

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Quebec was warm  and not so crowded as on my first visit. i was delighted that the cruise was over..I am definitely not a “cruise’ person. I was the first one off the ship and onto the train to Ottawa.

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QUEBEC in PARTY MODE.

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It was hot in Quebec and this would be the coolest bar I have ever seen right next to the cruise ship. It was a Sunday, the last day of the 17th Century Festival celebrating the founding of Quebec. Three cruise ships were in town and the streets were crowded, a bit like Barcelona!I had my doubts about doing another cruise but this one is calling at all those difficult to get to places,of Prince Edward island and Nova Scotia. It seemed an easy option.

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My fellow passengers were mainly American many of them quite frail and old.-lots of walkers and gophers.. I think they keep nursing home hours.there were 2 medical evacuations. A smattering of French Canadians, Latinos and so far 3 other Australians. As a solo traveller it is easy to become invisible in these large crowds.

The morning before I left I visited the remaining Leonard sights including his home in Parc de Portugal which was a very bohemian part of town. Certainly not at all upmarket. I had a bagel his favourite bagel shop and having ticked off my bucket list of Leonard things I was ready to cruise.

The first couple of nights at the one dining was a trifle painful as I was placed at tables with right wing, Christian, Trump loving, gun toting middle Americans.. To add insult to injury they did not understand my accent or my witty repartee…To my delight I discovered they had Henkell Trocken on board, so I quietly got pissed why they sipped on water. Guns and alcohol do not mix.!

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Quebec was certainly a great city and very very quaint and picturesque. In the morning I did a trip out to Montmorency Falls and Islands of Orleans. It was delightfully French Provincial with tiny villages and sweet house painted in red and white with curved sloping roofs for the snow. They have deliberately discouraged development to keep its provincial identity. We also visited a Sugar Shack where they harvest maple syrup and tasted Maple Taffy on ice. The Montmorency Falls were supposed to be 1/12 times the size of Niagara Falls, but not in width.

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The festivities in Quebec were intriguing  and the most fascinating story was about The Daughters of the King who were given a dowry by the King to go to French Canada where there were way too many men..the old beaver hunters!! Apparently these women had a lot of power ..all about supply and demand-many remarried 3/4 times as the beaver hunter was not to their liking! They looked like they were out of a Handmaidens Tale and they walked through he old town singing old French songs.fullsizeoutput_12b

The were off to Prince Edward Island to see Anne of Green Gables..imaginary house. or the house that was the inspiration for the story by Lucy Maud Montgomery..very very crowded. Of course raspberry cordial was being sold by the bucket loads. Charlottetown itself was quite quaint named after George 3rds consort rumoured to be of African descent. Move over Meghan.

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St Louisbourg was a living history museum which was huge. It was built by the French and retaken by the British several times before being burnt to the ground. It has now been painstakingly recreated with costumed actors and military parades and local First Nation people.

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Lunenebourg was also picturesque and we feasted on the local lobsters which were delicious. this town was very colourful and everyone is decked out in costume for the tourist season..a bit like the lobster season.fullsizeoutput_165

Finally Peggy’s Cove probably one of the most popular and visited sites.  It was covered in a heavy sea mist and fog which gave it an eerie vibe, and the iconic lighthouse was shrouded in mist.

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Now I am sitting in Boston where it is cold and wet, to do the return journey.

THE MASTER..

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Finally arrived in Montreal after a 4 hour train trip from Toronto. My fellow passengers were part of a Jewish Wedding party who felt I needed to know the details of their lives and wedding plans-not that they talked to me,, it was just that they yelled. I ended up moving into economy to get away from them..that really miffed me because I had paid huge amount to get the last business class seat on the train-and ended up sitting backwards in economy-but at least economy was quiet. The Hoi Poloi did not talk.

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The taxi drivers and Uber drivers have no idea about Montreal and it was pure luck that landed in the right hotel. I had changed hotel at the last minute as the one I had booked proved to be out in the sticks and not downtown. None of them had heard of Leonard Cohen-despite the fact that he is Montreal’s most famous son and has a huge mural hanging downtown; but they were mostly born overseas.

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We breezed through Westmount the very affluent and leafy suburb that Laughing Lenny grew up in. We were accosted by a large group of drunken youth who claimed the Uber as their own-but they soon dissipated into the bushes; ruined my photo shoot of Leonard’s childhood home. Then after a lot of confusion we arrived at the cemetery  with the taxi driver wondering why this crazy tourist wanted to visit a Jewish cemetery. The Shaar Hashomayim Congregation.

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I placed my stone from the beach in Australia, precariously above the hundreds already there- I was tempted to knock all the others off , but I knew Leonard was watching..  It is an ancient tradition, with various origins, but  flowers are not left -although I did notice some dead pot plants and a biro-to help him with another song.

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After my commune with Lenny I foolishly caught another Uber to the murals with a driver who had no idea where we were going. That was fun. A very helpful lady off the Leonard Cohen Facebook page had told me the murals were in Crescent Street but the driver had never heard of it..anyway I eventually arrived .I asked where the cafe Antisanale was which has the best view..of course no-one had heard of it. Undeterred I found it across the street ..and yup, it had a great view. There was lots happening in the street but everyone seemed oblivious to the great man beaming down on us from above. After a forgettable meal-the price to pay for a good photo position I was shocked to discover that my bloody Australia Post Sim, had run out of credit again because I had used Uber-it has been quite useless. I think a local sim is a better  option.

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The friendly Vancouver vibe has disappeared to be replaced with a not so charming Gallic flare and tomorrow I am starting my 2 week cruise to Nova Scotia and beyond so I will not be blogging. Wifi and booze are what they make their money from-so I am buggered.

Today I will visit his house near Parc de Portugal and leave tea and oranges, and I will have to add other photos later when the cruise is over.

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I’M a LUMBERJACK!

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The Lumberjack Show on Grouse Mountain was quite entertaining and skilled..’them thar’ lumberjacks were quick with the axe. We had been shipped up in these huge gondoliers over the top of the pine trees. There were screaming zip liners and helicopter rides, further hiking trains and and a second chairlift to go even higher.IMG_7558

The view from the top of Grouse Mountain overlooked Vancouver and everything was green and lush. They were up those logs in seconds.

I really came up to see the bears before they had their midday nap-or I has mine.now I understand why tourists in Australia go crazy over our koalas and kangaroos. I spent hours searching them out in the forest.

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Then it was on to The Canadian, the train from Vancouver to Toronto which I only just managed to catch. The timetable had changed for the summer as the train is usually hours late because the freight trains have right of way. instead of leaving a† 8.00pm it was leaving at 12 noon-so I had to get up extra early to catch the ferry and bus back from Victoria on Vancouver Island and pick up my lost iPhone on the way.

I had forgotten that trains can attract the train ‘nerds’ as the cruise ships down the rivers catch the ‘lock’ nerds. There was a large group of men swapping train stories and noises. There was a very unbelievable man, with his carer, with 3 large dinosaurs on his luggage who was going for a Guiness record for catching this train. I silently prayed that I would not be sitting next to him.

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As luck would have it most of the travellers were quite interesting and friendly..lots of Australians. I met up with Mary Beth and Preacher Chuck from down South-who ..wait for it..loved Trump and hated Obama. Every time I sat at their table I was half way through stuffing food in my mouth when they would ask for a blessing -and me with lettuce dribbling out of my mouth!! That American habit of serving the salad first.

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The train was very run down and falling to bits in places. They had a permanent handy man fixing things with sticky tape.. we were moved 3 times. First the air conditioner broke down, then the beds broke and finally we were given something that worked. The single berths had a toilet that was covered at night, by the bed-so there was a midnight dash down the rocky hallway to the facilities. Most of the passengers got off at Jasper and Winnipeg- so I think t may have been running at a loss. However the food was quite reasonable and served on linen tablecloths with silver cutlery.

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By the end of 4 days I had had enough, the scenery was spectacular and the journey pleasant and relaxing..a SLOW journey. The Train Driver was either driving the train like he had just stolen it, or it was at a complete standstill for hours. But I have 1 more train trip tomorrow to Montreal..the home of LEONARD.. I have a hotel right next to Union Station for an early exit.

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NO UBER.. in VANCOUVER!!

Vancouver was crowded and hot, I guess all the tourists who pissed me off in Europe last summer decided to co-ordinate their holiday in Canada with mine..it was as bad as Havana airport without the chaos. Then when I finally burst through the customs and the eternal queues-there was no Uber because it is not allowed..just an hour’s wait for a taxi. It was a enormous queue of epic proportions that spread both sides of the street. If the taxi drivers allowed Uber it would have been easy peasy.

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My BnB is on a very noisy street which makes sleeping hard, and it is some distance from the action, but it was the only one I could find at such late notice. At breakfast time a sweet little old grey haired woman was also complaining about the street noise, but then she finished off the conversation..” But of course I just take some medical cannabis, and then I sleep like a baby!- You can get it legally anywhere in Vancouver.”

The BNB strangely called Granville BNB is at the end of Granville St and so of course I headed off to the Granville Island Markets and was blown away by the stunning harbour, and some fabulous food. The sun sets quite late and so the locals were just getting into the late night party when I arrived.

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Canadians are so polite, it is hard to believe we come from the same stock. Everyone thanks the bus driver personally and the bus drivers are so pleasant and helpful in return. And they politely queue, like they used to in London decades ago. No pushing and shoving allowed. AND…cars stop and give way to you when crossing the street, ( and I am like a dorky tourist looking the wrong way-I now look in every direction twice..) one lady offered me a ride downtown and turned out to be a another Leonard Cohen fan..coincidence or not! No road rage at all..back in Australia they would run you over, beep their horn, punch you in the gob and swear at you!-and that is just for starters. They also appear to be very tolerant and accepting of all races and creeds -it is very multicultural, and successfully multicultural. I am super impressed.

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The vastness is overwhelming-the harbour is vast, the city is huge and when I decided to visit the Museum of Anthropology. I assumed it was almost walking distance-it took an hour in the bus and another 30 minutes to find the joint in the sprawling University of British Columbia Campus. It looked so close on the map! That was one day gone. It would have been more efficient to UBER.  Great Museum obviously focussed on the First Nation People, and the totems of the  Haida Gwaii but there were other exhibits

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Ventured up to Grouse Mountain about 30 minutes out of Vancouver to see the bears and the Lumberjack Show! Huge gondolas of Skyride shuttled us up the last part of the mountain, with stunning views down over the lakes and the city.

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Finally left the noisy airbnb but not before I mislaid my iPhone which I did not discover until I was on the ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island.- I blame it on the Lunar Eclipse! It caused a massive panic attack. The worst aspect of travelling alone is when things go wrong..it is up to you, alone to sort it. My iPhone is my lifeline and holds all my photos and Uber details..which obviously is linked to my accounts..so it was a major drama resolving that one.

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The other drama involved the train across Canada.   Apparently the trains are regularly late because the freight trains have priority. So this weekend -the weekend I am travelling across Canada they changed the departure by 8 hours, to have the train leave earlier. Therefore I have to leave Vancouver island at 5.00 am to manage the 12 noon departure from Vancouver as well as pick up my lost iPhone, in a taxi as there is no Uber…I love travelling!! Not at all stressful!

Victoria is very British. Brass bands were playing on the lawns outside the parliament next to the statue of Queen Victoria, herself. They even serve High tea at the Empress Hotel. The ferry trip was pleasant-90 minutes over relatively calm waters which imagine are not always that calm, through pine studded bays and coves.

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I would probably skip Victoria if I had known how small it is; but very picturesque. I had such a short time there that I didn’t venture far away from the city. It is much cooler than Vancouver in fact I was shivering in the early morning Hop On Hop Off bus, on the way to Craigdarroch Castle which was a bit underwhelming for me-too long in Portugal has ruined my taste in stately homes and palaces.

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While the rest of Victoria parties on a Saturday night, I will be putting on my Jamies for an early 5.00 am bus/ferry trip back to Vancouver to pick up my iPhone and catch the overland train to Toronto.

 

 

SANTA ‘CRUZING’ at CARMEL by the SEA.

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A girls’ weekend by the sea..Oreo (the dog) Phoebe and I spent the weekend in Sant Cruz and Carmel by the Sea battling the intense Californian traffic. I was startled to learn the California has the entire population of Australia!- no wonder we were stuck in traffic jams, in the middle of the summer school holidays.

The last time I visited Santa Cruz was in just after Christmas 3- 4 years ago, in their winter and it was empty-this time it was PACKED in an overwhelming manner. However I still think you can not beat the Australian beaches-for beauty and lack of population pressure.

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My daughter had arranged some stunning restaurants-all farm to table-and it was fabulous to eat healthy organic gourmet food, ( in this case it had to be vegan as well) something you do not always associate with the American diet-but that good coffee is still so elusive.

Carmel by the Sea was inundated by tourists -including us. In the frenzy we lost the car keys which are now still marooned at Carmel., never to be seen again. Thankfully we were able to open the car with an ‘APP’ to retrieve the other set. Who knew you could do that? I have only just mastered the art of Uber, as we do not have it in the small town where I live. A big milestone for me.

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There was a sizeable population of homeless next to our hotel, which as usual I find very confronting and disturbing. A homeless man on a walker stumbled and fell in front of us-and we were at a loss as what to do. Some workers across the road refused to come and help us lift him up, and then his vodka bottle fell out of his coat -so we left him to his own devices and as we looked back he had lifted himself up-we were frightened that he may have pulled a knife or a gun on us. The incident left me feeling very confused about the morality and the correct, caring manner to deal with these situations. What would you have done?

We stopped at Capitola Beach which was a mini Cuba or Mexican village-again packed to the gills, and the weather for mid July was not even that hot. The little section of the seaside village was painted in bright, bright colours, matching my dress.

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On our way back to San Fransisco we stopped off at the local farmers’ market- which was old hippy central. I am so glad there are people living in the 60’s in Santa Cruz. Everything was organic and vegan and the produce looked wonderfully fresh and healthy. An Appalachian band entertained the crowd of alternative lifestyles of all ages- and now I am back in a totally opposite environment, fast food land at Millbrae near the airport-ready to fly to Vancouver tomorrow.

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Just loved this guy dancing on the roof of his van in Santa Cruz.

 

 

CALIFORNIA DREAMING.

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The Cannabis Emporium underneath the apartment in The Mission/ Castro..goes by the fancy name of APOTHECARIUM. Now that it is totally legal, I went in for a peek-it was like a packed waiting room for the dentist.. Everyone looked a bit uncomfortable and a tad guilty-sadly I declined their offer of a free consultation. Then I had a manicure next door- and I was the only female, but at least Bob, Chad and Steve were wearing clothes-it was cold. It has been very chilly for July- a reminder of Mark Twains words..

“the coldest winter I ever spent , was a summer in San Fransisco!”

The flight over was fabulous and I am now a converted business class customer and it is really worth scouring the the internet for a good deal. Darling ..I can only fly BC.

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Visited the new MOMA in San Fran with a significant slab of jet lag and even though I was overwhelmed by it all it was worth it.. some amazing work as well as specialty exhibitions; Rene Magritte being one.IMG_7344

The first day disorientation soon kicked in, and soon I was walking the wrong way, turning left instead of right, then I tried to catch the BART instead of the MUNI..ahhhh. I am sure I was heading to Google Headquarters…all roads lead to Google in Tech City.

Beach Blanket Babylon has been on my list every time I have been to San Fran-the longest running revue in the city. It is a political satire with ‘stunningly gorgeous’ hats-as you would expect for this city. Of course Trump was top of the list for the skits but both sides of politics copped it-it was hilarious.

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The food has been superb but I still have trouble with the American version of coffee, even though more Australian run coffee outlets are popping up around the city,  ‘a long black with hot milk on the side ‘still is met with a blank look! I tried the all time favourite of waffles with fried chicken with chilli maple syrup, which was interesting but nothing I would queue for again.

Ended up in an amazing jazz bar on Saturday, near the dodgy part of town-The Tenderloin-at the back of a sleazy pub with famous singers and musicians popping in for quick drink and performance between gigs. We had found out about it through Phoebe’s contact who was a performer. Fabulous night, served my a very grumpy gay guy who only served me-couldn’t be bothered with the young millennials.

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The San Fransisco Botanic Gardens held a Piano in the Gardens performance where pianos and jazz musicians were scattered throughout the shrubbery-free for local residents, but I managed to get my seniors’ discount without asking..how rude!

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We decided to stay for a week in Mountain View right in the heart of Silicon Valley, the complete opposite to The Mission/Castro area where my daughter lives. The CAL train out to Silicon Valley was full of TECH nerds who stared at their devices for the entire 1 hour trip.; mainly male and under 30. While it is touted as being sterile and full of GOOGLE employees which some equate with suburban ‘beige-ness’, it is nice not to be stepping over the bodies of the discarded homeless and filth and junk, of the inner city-and no noise! No wailing and midnight screaming or sirens blaring.

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A GOOGLE bike that should not have left the Google compound..

Mountain View’s main drag is Castro St which was surprisingly buzzy for a Monday night- all those wealthy Techies with no cooking skills were filling all the restaurants and bars.

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San Jose is not too far away from Silicon Valley-so when I flippantly asked the train conductor ” Is this the way to San Jose?” he nodded at me and I hopped on the light rail. BUT I should have hopped on to the CALTRAIN which also goes to San Jose in 10 minutes with a bullet train. Meanwhile I spent an hour and 15 minutes on the light rail which did a circuitous route through Silicon Valley and stopped at every TECH Company known to the world, and more! Boring is not quite the right word to describe that adventure.

I had come to San Jose to visit the WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE built by Sarah Winchester the widow of the Winchester Rifle magnate. She spent 38 years building 160 rooms with bizarre stairways and doors to nowhere-some say to appease the spirits of those who were killed by the Winchester rifles.. as long as the renovations kept going the spirits were appeased or kept at bay.

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It was a creepy experience and as much as I hate tours it would have been impossible to navigate the house solo with all its weird twists and turns-stairs to nowhere and doors on blank walls. I will now have to watch the movie.

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Mountain View has not been as vanilla as I thought it would be-a decent coffee is impossible to find- it is predominately young male driven. Next stop is Santa Cruz and Carmel by the Sea.