Since coming to California we've been visiting friends and family. As we had expected, we've found California contains some of the most dramatic scenery one can find, and continual opportunities for new experiences. A large hotel suite The Presidential Suite

Our friends in Windsor, California treated us to a wonderful and original musical performance at their church: Herstory, the life of Jesus from the viewpoint of Mary and other contemporary biblical figures. In Novato, we indulged in delicious crab and lively conversation.

We involuntarily participated in one of California's rolling blackouts and have watched the effects on businesses and families. We visited our friends in Palo Alto, arriving just after their home had been darkened for a couple of hours. That evening we heard a lecture from two folks who had retired, then visited hundreds of synagogues in Central Europe, producing a beautifully illustrated book. While many of these synagogues are no longer in use, there are some which are still supporting a congregation. Others have been restored by their cities and are used as community centers.

In Alameda we visited our older son, Bryan, and his family. Their house is a very busy place where we played board games, sorted our three-months' accumulation of mail, re-arranged suitcases and files in preparation for the next leg of our travels, and admired their new sailboat. Our daughter-in-law, Donna, is finishing her bachelor's degree in English Literature at the University of California in Berkeley. Our oldest granddaughter, Shannon, is a second-year student at the College of Alameda; she is preparing to transfer to some branch of the University of California (she hopes Santa Barbara). Our grandson Danny is preparing to enter Alameda High School next fall; he is an A large outdoor balcony overlooking Monterey Bay Presidential Balcony avid sportsman, and he and his dad took Bob out on their 20' sailboat for a cruise around San Francisco Bay. Our granddaughter Emily is in the fourth grade; her extracurricular interests include gymnastics and the clarinet. Bryan is a software guy at Sun Microsystems, which bought out his previous company, Forte. He finds large companies more impersonal than small ones -- no surprise there.

Yesterday we headed for Monterey, where we found to our great surprise that our hotel had upgraded us to the Presidential Suite! Our years and years of staying at Marriott Hotels are rewarding us with these occasional splendid surprises!

This was the finest hotel suite we've ever had: a two-story penthouse apartment with living room, dining room, wet bar, rooftop patio, full office, one and a half baths, second parlor, dressing room, huge bed, and a terrific view of Monterey harbor.

We visited our younger son, Phillip, and his wife Joy, who joined us to enjoy the suite and a tour of the Monterey Aquarium. They are moving from Santa Cruz, which has been overtaken by Silicon Valley commuters, to Lompoc, where Beatuifully lit jellyfish seem to glow Monterey Aquarium jellyfish they hope to have a quieter life.

The Aquarium is terrific -- possibly one of the best aquaria in the world. The display is mostly local fish and shellfish, including species found from the tide pools down through the depths of the Monterey Canyon to the deep sea. The exhibits are quite beautifully done, with large tanks and wide corridors, a simulated estuarine shore, children's exhibits, and plenty of docents to help the visitor appreciate the marine environment. Our favorite displays were the sea otters and the different species of jellyfish, but it was all fascinating. Do make a point of visiting the Aquarium whenever you're in the area.

Walking back to the hotel we passed lots of harbor seals sunning themselves on the rocks near shore, and were passed by hundreds of joggers -- first some scattered individuals, then great clumps of runners pouring out from the Defense Language Institute. Most of them were wearing tee shirts that said "ARMY," but just as we were nearing our hotel an entire company of Marines hit the trail, hollering the cadence and led by a gung ho Marine carrying the flag!