Wednesday, May 19, 2010

California dreamin’

I’ve been to various California cities but always on business trips so never really had the opportunity to get a feel for California living. Maribel is familiar with Miami and the upper mid-west but has never seen either coast, so when our friends Ray and Rose invited us to vacation at their home in Palm Desert we jumped at the chance. They were great hosts, making our visit comfortable and memorable.

I did have some misgivings about leaving one desert city – Chiclayo, to vacation in another - Palm Desert, but knew the differences would be vast. The communities of Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs and others represent one of the more affluent areas in the state. Chiclayo is a developing city in a developing country. The only point of comparison was the deserts. Once outside of the cities, both Maribel and I were surprised at how the terrain resembled - in fact often appeared identical to the desert surrounding Chiclayo. Even the hills and smaller mountains looked the same.

I’m not going to detail every moment of our visit, but will say that dinner on our first day was something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. We are talking about New York strip steaks – meat more than 1/8 of an inch thick and tender - two characteristics not to be found in restaurants or grocery stores in Chiclayo. Ray cooked them to perfection on a grill in his own ‘secret’ marinade. The first bite was heaven, as was the first swallow of Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir. We had many good meals both at our host’s home and in restaurants but this first dinner will remain in my memory for a long time.

I expected to see the glitz and glitter of Las Vegas – a town I’ve not visited before, but was not prepared for the huge size and opulence of the resort complexes. Chiclayo has many casinos, all of which could be placed in just one of the Vegas hotel casinos and not even be noticed. We didn’t have time to see all of the complexes during our two day visit. Of those we did see Caesar’s Palace and The Venetian were mind boggling to me.

This photo was taken inside the Venetian. The sky is artificial and I’m told changes to match the time of day or night outside. The canal with gondolas and singing gondoliers seems to wind forever through the stores and restaurants. My sister Joyce joined up with us in Vegas, where she has been a frequent visitor over the years. In her opinion Vegas has lost much of its former mystic as it transitioned to a family destination. That all of this could be under the roof of just one resort complex was to me staggering. These places are completely self-contained, and given the canal with park benches and changing artificial sky, who needs reality? I guess maybe I lived in Wisconsin’s cow country for too much of my life.

Fremont Street in Vegas is another world. You can buy, eat, drink or experience just about everything imaginable, all the while surrounded by locals of all flavors – from business people to Jesus preachers in various mental stages of completely sober to utterly stoned, and hundreds of gawking tourists like us trying to figure out if we’d stepped into an other world dimension. If the lights, sights and sounds of Fremont Street don’t stimulate your senses you’re probably dead.

Hollywood was a so-so experience for me and Maribel. Hollywood Boulevard has its share of attraction but it’s not even close to the grandeur of Vegas. The main attraction seems to be Grauman’s Chinese Theater which is in about the center of the 3 ½ mile ‘Walk of Fame’ circuit, and boasts the hand and foot prints of over 200 celebrities. There are dozens of celebrity impersonators working in front of Grauman’s theater, each looking to charge the tourist a fee for posing with them for a photo. I don’t understand why anyone would want to have their photo taken with a Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe or Bruce Lee impersonator, let alone pay for it. I wouldn’t pay to have my photo taken with a real celebrity. We enjoyed walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard but found it tame compared to Vegas.

Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills also did not impress us. We didn’t see any of the ‘rich and famous’ shopping, nor did I see anything different from any other up-scale shopping area in all major USA cities. We did see a unique car parked on the street. It drew quite a crowd of curious onlookers. I don’t know if it was the car or the car’s owner they were interested in.

One of the many highlights of our visit was riding a tram to the top of the San Jacinto Mountain. The word ‘breathtaking’ is overused but is the appropriate description for this activity. The 12 minute ride to the top of the mountain is scenic and fun, and once at the top the scenery was spectacular.

There was snow on the ground and the smell of pines in the air. It was cool and crisp, reminding Maribel and me of the spring climate in Wisconsin. In one direction there were higher, snow covered mountains while in another we could see the cities of Palm Desert and other communities far below us, looking like a table top miniature. There are restaurants and hiking trails on the mountain top. I’d like someday to return to walk one of those trails.

Now we’re back home in Chiclayo, and as always it feels good to be home but the visit was too short. Fortunately we’ve got over 300 photos to help us with the mental transition.



  1. I've missed you! Glad y'all had a great trip.

    You know, if you go to the market, you can get them to cut the meat anyway you like it. Can't guarantee it'll be tender, but at least you can get one thick enough to leave it a little rare if you like. I got stew meat this week that was just falling apart by the time I my seco de carne was done cooking.

  2. Lima has the best steak's I have ever eaten, Argentina beef. And trust me, if you saw what they put in those american cows, You would not be eating that steak. Grass fed cows take 4 years to mature, those corn fed one's mature in 14 month's. They have to pump them full of anti-biotics as cows were not meant to eat corn, and there are tonnes of other problems, including increasing the presence of E coli bacteria, ew. Trust me, get yourself to Lima, and go to a nice Steak house, get some Argentinian beef and you will never miss the steaks you had in America again. Plus the price can't be beat, you will get their top of the line steaks for about 35-40 soles $10-12 dollars. you can't beat that =)

  3. I don’t know about that, KWhyme… last time we were in Lima we had Argentine steaks at the Rincòn Gaucho in Miraflores. We paid $23 per plate for steaks that were tough and lacked flavor. I will take USA corn-fed beef any day.

  4. Hello Tom,

    It is very nice to see you are back!

    My husband loves beef, so I consulted with him before writing this note. He states the best he has had in Lima have been at La Carreta (on Calle Ricardo Rivera Navarrete in San Isidro) and at El Parrillon (on Avenida 28 de Julio in Miraflores). These are not inexpensive places but the meat is as good or better than any he has eaten in the US (the cuts to ask for are cuadril and picaña). I hope you can enjoy them the next time you are in Lima.

    Warm regards to you and Maribel,