We recently got back from a fairytale trip to France. It was one of those trips that we had been planning and looking forward to for a year, 12 months, 365 days of dreaming of croissants and Provencial rose.  And yet, it was one of those trips that was better that we could have ever planned.  The French were warm and welcoming, the castles grand, the food to die for, the wine in magnum format and the French countryside perfectly dotted with medeval churchs.  (Itenerary and recommendations to come in the next post).  By the end, my skeptical fiancé was ready to move to Bordeaux and we were sad to leave.

Despite our (far-flung) dreams of buying a chateau and never coming home, come home we did, to our jobs, our alarm and salad after salad in penitance for all the butter we had consumed.  And of course to California.  Once the first weekend home rolled around, we found ourselves driving down to Carmel.  For some reason, we decided to take Highway 1 rather than the faster route on 101, perhaps because it felt more French.  The feilds of strawberries, followed by articokes, rolling into kale; however, felt decidedly Californian.

My fiancé Nic has a photo collection he calls, "Where in the world are we?"  It includes a picture of him mountain biking looking over a ravine fit for the Lion King, me sipping a cappuccino outside of an old stone cottage, an Italian butcher showcasing his knives and the two of us standing in a Japanese whiskey den.  So many adventures.

Maybe you have guessed where I'm going with this.  All of these photos were taken in California, in most cases, within two hours of our house.  Huge, brimming, seemingly all-encompassing California. Amorphous California. Italian here, Korean there.  Snow capped and sun-laced, verdent hills edged by desert mesas.  Sometimes it just takes a traveler's eyes to recognize it.

Half way through our drive, we made a screaching right to a roadside produce stand.  Nic never stops at these roadside stands despite my pleads, so focused on where ever it is we are going. I guess it just takes a traveler's mindset of focusing more on whats found along the way than the destination.  And willingness to slam on the brakes.  Bright handpainted signs advertised their goods: "Apricots!", "Avocados $1/pound", "Artichokes 3 for $1!", "Fava Beans!".  A bowl of fresh salsa and  chips sat outside for sampling.  Here we found real California, nothing amorphous about it. Steinbeck's California. California that is nothing but itself.