Left my home in Georgia, Headed for the Frisco Bay

Posted on November 8, 2012. Filed under: Travel |

The overdue post on our vacation to California is here! My writing takes on a different tone because I literally took it from the journal app on my iPad. Enjoy my narrative and the accompanying pictures. We had a blast!

Thursday, September 20, 2012, 2:30 PM

Adam and I took BART from SFO to Powell Street station. It was a 25 min train ride. We had to walk a few blocks up hill with our luggage to get to our hotel, The Chancellor. So far we are really happy with it. Yes, the room is small. But everything is clean and working – except for the AC (edit – we discovered later that the hotel did not have AC). We just opened our window. Since it’s a balmy 55 degrees outside, it feels just fine. We also have a ceiling fan. So that will help. Our hotel is on Union Square. It’s a perfect location. We had lunch across the street at Scala. Adam had a hamburger and “5 something” IPA. I had a BLT with avocado and an Anchor Steam beer. We went to Walgreens afterwards to stock up on granola bars and snacks – and to get my toothbrush. Then we hit up the liquor store on Mason. Shout out to our little doggy! Now we’re back in the hotel catching our breath before we head down to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building Marketplace. Once we’re done there, we have a Bay and Alcatraz tour at 645pm that leaves from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Friday, September 21, 2012, 5:17 PM

Last night, Adam and I went down to the Embarcadero. We went in Banana Republic on the way and Adam found a sport coat and white shirt. We’re going back this morning to buy them and take them back to the hotel room.

We went to the Ferry Building Marketplace and had a lot of fun.

There were a lot of local food vendors there: Cowgirl Creamery, Boccata (pork), mushrooms, teas, desserts, olive oil, etc. It was really nice.

We also walked the pier and took pictures of the Oakland Bay Bridge.

We walked a long way down the Embarcadero to Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf. We walked around it and took pictures of the bay, Alcatraz Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

We stopped for a rest and a drink in the Fog Harbor Bar and Restaurant. Then we made our way back to Pier 33 for our Bay Cruise and Alcatraz Tour.

We got some great pictures of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.

Adam also took pictures of the city and Coit Tower. It really wasn’t that cold on the ferry.

The Alcatraz Tour was neat. I’m glad that we did it. We took a 45 min audio tour that led us through the cell block, the administrative wing, and the D block where solitary confinement was.

The tour ended in the cafeteria. We saw the cells where 3 inmates carved around their vent with stolen spoons from the cafeteria. They also had a plexiglass door where you could look into the utility hall where they shimmied up the pipes and planks to the roof to make their escape.

After our tour we walked to Tony’s Pizza Napoleatana in Little Italy but the wait was too long and we were very tired from waking up at 5:45am EST. We trekked back to our hotel up and down hills and I crashed.

> Embarcadero
> Ferry Building Marketplace
> Alcatraz
> SF Bay
> Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf
> Little Italy

Friday, September 21, 2012, 7:12 PM

We had a full day of touring today. It’s been a lot of fun. The weather was amazing today. Mid-60s with a light breeze and clear skies. We started our day by eating breakfast a few blocks away at Angel Cafe. We had bagels and coffee. Then we made our way back to Banana Republic to pick-up Adam’s sport coat and shirt.

We walked around Union Square going in and out of shops. Then we started to walk climb Nob Hill and passed through China Town.

We found the Cable Car Museum and went in it. All of the sheaves and motors for the cable system are there as well as a small museum.

Then we continued on to Nob Hill, saw some great city and bay views and went in Grace Cathedral.

It was a beautiful church.

We walked across the park to the Fairmont Hotel and went inside it.

It had interesting yellow marble, plaster and gold ceilings, and crystal chandeliers. It was beautiful. After we got our fill of the Fairmont, we went to Nob Hill Cafe where we both had pasta for lunch.

After lunch we climbed more hills and went to Lombard Street where we walked down and back up to get different pictures.

The views from the top of Lombard are great as well.

We took a cable car back to our hotel.

We did everything we wanted to do today and more. It has been fantastic. We plan to grab some drinks with a college friend and her fiance. Then we have dinner at Restaurant Gary Danko tonight – one of the best restaurants in the city.

> Union Square
> China Town
> Cable Car Musuem
> Nob Hill
> Grace Cathedral
> Fairmont Hotel
> Lombard Street
> Riding a cable car

>Restaurant Gary Danko

Saturday, September 22, 2012, 9:21 PM

Last night we met our friend and her fiance at Bin 38 in the Marina District. It was nice to get to know him, catch up with her, and hear about things we should do in the city. I felt validated by all my restaurant and sightseeing choices! They recommended a lunch spot for us to go to in Sausalito.

After drinks, we had dinner at Gary Danko. Adam had corn chowder, pork belly and loin and a butter cake. I had crispy farm egg, duck loin and hash, and lemon souffle with raspberry sorbet. It was delicious and the service was impeccable.

We didn’t finish dinner until a little after 11pm so we cabbed it back to the hotel and went to sleep.

This morning, we slept a little later, got up and made our way down to the ferry. We stopped in the William-Sonoma on the way. It is 5 stories tall. It’s huge. On the way to the ferry, there were a couple of fully nude, as in nekkid, men walking up the street. They were old and it was gross. Adam and I couldn’t tell if they were protesting something or what. I really didn’t want to look too long to figure it out.

We took the 10:40am ferry to Sausalito.

We walked around over there and went in various art galleries.

It was so much warmer over there than in San Francisco. We went to the place our friends recommended for lunch, Bar Bocce. It’s right on the water and they have a bocce ball court. They had really good pizzas. We just beat the crowd. After lunch, we walked the marina and looked at a bunch of sail boats. Then we got on the 2:10pm ferry back to San Francisco.

We walked almost 2 miles down the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf where we stopped and had another drink at the Fog Harbor Restaurant. We got Adam’s dad a tee shirt at the Hard Rock Café – he collects them. We went on our way down the Embarcadero all the way to Ghirardelli Square.

We saw a cable car turned around on a turn table, explored Ghirardelli Square, and came away with 1/2 lb of chocolate squares and 2 scoops of ice cream in waffle cones: chocolate chip cookie dough for me and mint chocolate chip for Adam.

After Ghirardelli we wanted to take a cable car, but the line was ridiculous and there was a car up the street empty and it looked like it was having problems. We hoofed it back to the Cathedral and then cabbed it the rest of the way.

Tonight we have dinner at Frascati at 8:30pm. Tomorrow we’d like to see the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square and maybe the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. We pick up our rental car at 12:00pm and plan to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to the lookout point on the other side. From there we’ll go to Muir Woods and onto Sonoma.

Monday, September 24, 2012, 11:00 PM

I’m writing this after a long day in Sonoma. A long day with 5 wine tastings, a wine & cheese platter at the B&B, and an Italian dinner with a bottle of wine split between Adam and I. To say that this entry is laced with alcohol is an understatement. The ability to get drunk on such good drink with virtually no headache or sinus issues is saying something. I could do this everyday!

Let’s backtrack to Saturday night since that’s the last time I journaled. Unfortunately, I came down with a case of concrete-stomach-itis that prevented us from experiencing a potentially delicious dinner at Frascati. I hate it when this happens. It typically occurs when we’re traveling and I eat really rich food and walk a lot. Then I get a really tight stomach and I feel awful. I’ll keep the gory details to myself. Nevertheless, I was not up to going out to eat.

Adam gave me some anti-nausea meds that he’s had since his first year in pharmacy school. They were crumbled up into a powder. They tasted so incredibly bitter. Ew! He drugged me and then went out to San Francisco on a Saturday night (the night the Giants clenched their division I will point out) to find some food. 2 hours and 1 pair of eighty-year-old breasts later (true story), he came back empty handed and with an empty stomach. Wop wop. I felt so bad, but not that bad because I was halfway conscious. (Kids, don’t try this at home.)

Sunday morning, we woke up and took a cab to the Hollywood Cafe. We tried to cable car it from our hotel, but again, the cars were full and the lines were too long. Besides, the cab cost as much as taking the cable car. The Hollywood Cafe was delicious, but the food was so rich. I had Eggs Benedict Parma with prosciutto and mozzarella and Adam had an omelette. I could only eat half of mine – a wise choice since my stomach was still recovering.

We walked along the Embarcadero one last time all the way up Market to the Enterprise. Unfortunately, we went through a pretty rough part of town. Twice. Adam thought the rental car place was near the Civic Center BART station, when in fact it was just in the Civic Center neighborhood, bordering the Tenderloin district. I think I was a witness to at least 5 drug deals on our 7-8 block trek through that area of town. And I was trying not to look. It was scary. It reeked of marijuana and I wanted a cab or my mommy. Lesson learned. When you travel in a major city, take a cab to pick up your rental car. Chances are that it’s in a crummy part of town since rent is cheap. Now we know.

The good news – after a 5 mile walk, a mile of which was through a seedy section of town among junkies or worse – is that we actually got a black Ford Mustang convertible as a rental. We were afraid we would get a Chrysler Sebring or something. We were very excited to get the Mustang.

Once we got the car, we drove back to the hotel to pick up our bags. Then we drove almost back to the rental car spot to Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies.

They are so purty. After the Painted Ladies, we drove to Golden Gate Park, found a free parking spot on a Sunday (miracle!) and went to the Japanese Tea Garden.

It was neat, but nothing to write home about. I don’t know if it was because I’ve seen a Japanese Tea Garden in Japan or if I was just ready to leave the city, but I was not that impressed.

Once we got back in the car, we realized the camera battery was dying (HORROR!). We stopped at a Radio Shack, but they didn’t carry batteries for our camera. I got an auxiliary cable for the Mustang so we could listen to our iPods. Adam came back around the block to pick me up and we headed out of the city via Hwy 101/Golden Gate Bridge.

The fog was very heavy, but Adam didn’t mind. He thought it was pretty cool that we were able to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge in our convertible. We stopped at a few lookout spots along the coast and at Fort Mason, but the fog was pretty heavy so it was hit or miss as far as pictures of the bridge go.

There was a fight between the wind and I. I was scared that the wind would win.

After the bridge, we headed to Muir Woods. We arrived there around 3:30 or 4:00pm and took the 1-2 mile trail around.

It was really neat seeing Adam see the redwoods for the first time. They are so incredibly massive. The bark is so thick too.

The forest was pretty cool – probably low 50s.

We stayed there for a little over an hour. We came back down the mountain and filled up the Mustang in Mill Valley. From there we drove to Sonoma. I think it was about 30 minutes.

We are staying at Hidden Oak Inn. It is essentially a bed & breakfast right off of the Sonoma Square. It’s really nice. I was afraid of staying at a B&B: having to make small talk with strangers and B&B owners, worrying about coming in late, or the general cleanliness of it all. So far, it’s been great. We’re going on our second night here and I really have no complaints. Adam wishes we had a TV in our room, but I don’t miss it one bit.

We had dinner at The Girl & The Fig last night. I had scallops and Adam had flounder. The food was great, but we’re pretty sure our waitress forgot about us. It was good, but not the best food we’ve ever had.

Today we had a great day. We had a continental breakfast at the B&B at 9:00am and set out for Russian River Valley. We had a walk-in tasting at Merry Edwards (very much in and out). We bought a bottle of pinot that is made from Meredith Estate vineyards. I couldn’t resist. Next, we went to Kendall-Jackson. Or so we thought. We actually ended up at the corporate offices. It was funny. Then we went to our scheduled picnic pairing at Copain in Healdsburg. The view was gorgeous.

The food and the wine were fantastic. We bought a blended red and white that is more of a red summer wine. It’s called P2.

After Copain, we took an hour drive to Napa to Frank Family Vineyards.


It was a gorgeous drive and Adam said it was one of the most fun drives he’s ever done with the top down driving through the wine country of California. That made me feel good. It really was spectacular. So relaxing, cathartic, beautiful. I could get used to this slower way of life.

Frank Family Vineyards was interesting. The guy that led the tasting was really nice and grew up in Napa. We learned that Frank is actually Richard Frank, the executive who worked at Disney for many years and co-owns USA Networks with his son. His other son is a head exec. at Dreamworks. Their wine was good. Adam bought a half bottle of port. It is aged/fortified with 30-40 year old Courvoisier.

We headed back to Sonoma and went to Wellington. We had their wine Sunday night at The Girl & The Fig. They were really nice. We bought that same bottle for  my parents as a thank you for taking care of Mason.

After Wellington, we headed down the road by 2 driveways to Loxwood (recommended by the guy at Wellington). We had an enjoyable tasting. There was a young Asian guy at the tasting that we chatted with. We didn’t end up buying anything, but we had fun all the same. And then I got to drive the Mustang.

After 5 wineries, we decided to come back and get ready for dinner/relax/pay bills. We had a wonderful dinner at this Italian place before you get to the Sonoma Square. Our waiter, Pablo, was fantastic. Adam and I split a bottle of Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. He had cannelloni and I had gnocchi. It was delicious. We sat out on this brick patio with string lights. The heaters turned on after sunset. There was plenty of wine, plenty of happy people, and the patriarch/inspiration of the family was around often refilling our glasses and asking if we needed anything. It was perfect.

Now Adam and I are off to the Sonoma Square to “bar hop” if that’s even possible and to meet some of the locals so we can live through them.

What a life!

Thursday, September 27, 2012, 6:19 PM

Greetings from Carmel-by-the-Sea! Adam and I arrived here on Tuesday evening. We had a nice night bar hopping in the Sonoma Square. We woke up Tuesday morning and had breakfast at the Inn. We packed up and loaded up the Mustang and headed to Glen Ellen (only about 15 minutes) to the Benziger Family Vineyards.

We had a tour through the vineyard, the crush pad, the insectary, the caves, and ended in the tasting room. It was a great tour. We were able to eat grapes off of the vines, learn about how they plant the same grape in 30 different spots, and what they do to be a biodynamic farm.

We set off for San Francisco after we left Benziger around 1pm. We stopped just north of Sausalito to eat at In-N-Out Burger. It was pretty good, but nothing spectacular. We drove back over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was still foggy so we didn’t stop to take any additional pictures. Adam took a wrong turn, so we went through the city again and saw some neighborhoods that we hadn’t seen before: Pacific Heights, Japan Town, and down near UCSF. We got on the PCH north of Half Moon Bay and took it all the way to Carmel. I had never taken it that far north and I’m not sure if I would recommend it to anyone. It was fine for a few miles, but most of it was very flat coastal views.

We arrived in Carmel around 7pm on Tuesday. We are staying in a stand-alone cottage in the back of someone’s yard. Crazy, but it’s really nice! I found it on VRBO. We have a full kitchen and bathroom and a king-size bed. Tuesday night, we drove a mile down the road into downtown Carmel. We had dinner at Pepe’s Italian Restaurant.

Wednesday, we walked around downtown Carmel and went in and out of the shops.

Adam got me a high heel permit at City Hall. (It’s illegal to wear high heels in Carmel-by-the-Sea without a permit.) We had lunch at La Bicyclette. Adam and I split a roasted beet salad and a pizza with butternut squash, arugula, and speck. It was delicious. Then we went to Point Lobos for an afternoon of hiking where we walked in one of only 2 native Cypress groves and saw some Sea Lions from afar.

We finished our day by taking 17 mile drive around Pebble Beach at sunset.  We saw the Lone Cypress, some surfers, and lots of deer.

After that, we drove up to Monterey and had dinner at the bar at Schooners. It’s the restaurant in the Monterey Plaza Hotel. It was really good. Adam had short ribs and I had clam chowder (with real clams!) and a burrata salad (so good!).

Today, we woke up and took the PCH down to Big Sur.

We got out and took pictures at the Bixby Bridge without even realizing it was the Bixby Bridge. Whoops!

We stopped again on the way back.

We went to the southern end of Big Sur to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We took a short trail to see McWay Falls right on the beach.

The beach wasn’t there until 1983 when a giant landslide just north of the falls spilled tons of dirt into the ocean. It traveled south and collected there.

There used to be a house on that point too. You can still see the foundation and some of the walls. We got back in the car and headed back to Big Sur. We ate at this restaurant at the tip top of a hill, Ventana.

It was good. We sat out on a beautiful patio on top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Unfortunately, we could not see the ocean because of the fog. But it was sunny and very pretty. (Edit: This is where Anne Hathaway had her rehearsal dinner the very next night. Her reception was at the hotel on the property. We had no idea.)

Now we’re back in Carmel. Adam took the Mustang to the garage in town to see if they could buff out these mysterious scratches. We don’t know how they got there and are wondering if they were there when we got the car. Once he gets back, I’m going to have us start packing things up. We have to leave pretty early tomorrow morning to catch our flight. I’m sad our trip is coming to an end. It has been such a great one.

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