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An Afternoon in Los Alamos, California

It was a warm, sunny Saturday, and we decided on the spur of the moment to drive up to Los Alamos in the Central Coast wine country of California.

It’s a tiny village caught in a time warp with an assortment of vernacular architecture,

yet it boasts a Michelin star restaurant, Bell’s, and a marvellous pizza bistro, The Flatbread Kitchen. I’ll let you guess which one we patronized! 😊

The weather was much warmer than on the coast but still pleasant, which meant we could sit on the spacious veranda to enjoy our lunch, which was delicious.

I was intrigued by the artichoke plant in full bloom beside the Kitchen, and wondered why the chef didn’t harvest the flower buds before they bloomed and went to seed. It was alive with dozens of bees harvesting the nectar from the thistle-like flowers. (Artichokes are, indeed, a type of thistle and belong to the Asteraceae family which includes sunflowers!)

Los Alamos seems to specialise in rusted iron, whether it be sculptures, planters, or assorted objects at the kerbside recycling shop with its cheerful, striped umbrella.

It's such a privilege to explore the countryside with my friend who knows it well. I love looking at villages and rural houses, wondering who lives there ... wondering about their lives. Have their families resided in that area for generations, or did they drop by one day and decide to stay? Do they enjoy their lives in these out-of-the-way corners of the country, or do they have little choice?

Curiosity about the world and its citizens keeps me travelling and opening my mind to other ways of being. It reminds me that mine are not the only struggles, and that dogged determination to carve out as good a life as circumstances permit is a defining characteristic of humanity.


Eventually, the afternoon grew uncomfortably warm, and we decided to head for home. I don't tolerate heat well, and needed the cooling coastal breeze.

The temperature on the landward side of the Santa Ynez range was heading into the nineties (F), with bright sunshine, as we sped homewards down the Pass through gorgeous mountain scenery.

But, on the other side, we watched the temperature dropping on the dashboard until it levelled out at a good 20 degrees cooler. The ocean, that gigantic airconditioner, was working its magic, aided by the marine layer which was already thick and lapping at the foothills.

By virtue of its length and breadth, California offers incredible variety, not only in terms of terrain and climate but also in its demographic diversity. There is unimaginable wealth and grinding poverty, conservatism and flamboyance, beauty and austerity, a rich mix of ethnicities and languages - and the cities and towns are a microcosm of this statewide phenomenon.

I am fascinated by it all, and will continue to explore, and learn, and document my travels on my annual visits to this part of the world.

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