Centralparkgirl's First Trip to California

Oct 23rd, 2008, 05:20 AM
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Centralparkgirl's First Trip to California

I know it's hard to believe, but I had never been west of Arizona. Let me begin by saying that I just LOVED everything about the places we visited in northern Cal. What beauty, what majesty, what fun.....what a state! And SF - I adore this city - it has it all (almost, remember I'm a NYer!) I loved it so much that I think of it as a bookend to NY - the US wrapped by two such different, but great cities.

Let me also begin by saying after planning since last spring, the trip almost didn't happen. DH has health issues and he's having major surgery in a few weeks. This has been in the works for quite some time. But three weeks before we were to leave, he really felt poorly and the trip was very doubtful. I canceled our Napa hotel and dropped the ball with booking wineries, etc. and other planning. Six days before our trip, miraculously he felt better and he wanted to go. So, I rebooked the hotel and started scurrying. I also looked at the plans differently, trying to plan to do less than we normally would and at a slower pace. We usually walk a lot when we travel and I've had an ankle problem since May with daily pain. Another miracle: the day before we departed, the pain subsided. So, off we went.

Departure: We left NY Fri afternoon and took Carmel car service - a nightmare! The driver spoke no intelligible English, spoke on a hand held cell, turned completely around when talking to us and twice made major blunders with the routes he chose. We ended up on the Whitestone in traffic that literally halted for 20 minutes. We thought we would miss our flight. Another miracle: we got to JFK on time and I called Carmel and gave them a piece of my mind.

I had used minimal mileage for Business class because I booked very early. I also had booked the redeye home, not a good idea now with dh's situation. When I called to get an earlier flight, we ended up getting upgraded to first class with less mileage than if we stayed in business - don't ask me how, but it was certainly great for us.
We land around 9 pm and take the blueline to the car rental - so easy and so civilized. We drive to a nearby Marriott Courtyard and spend the night.

Day 1 - Saturday Oct 11, 2008

We leave the Marriott early and take a road near the Presidio to the GG Bridge. Drivers don't signal and I feel at home. Then we see the bridge - I just love the matte orange color. I haven't been that excited driving across a bridge since I first crossed the Verrazano when it was first built. It is magnificent. We follow Stu's recommendation up to the GGNRA. We go to the top first and make several stops as we descend. It is a crystal clear day, crisp and sunny with the bluest sky. We are in love! We take lots of pictures, but the sun is facing us - not ideal.

We then head into Sausalito and eat a quick breakfast in a bakery on Bridgeway facing the water. What a view! Sausalito is charming. We walk along the water and brouse a bit. The third center lane on Bridgeway is used by big trucks delivering produce to restaurants - how efficient!

Now we begin our drive north on Highway 1. I was overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty of it all - the ocean, the hills, the trees, the farms - all of it! We decide to pass Muir Woods and try for Armstrong later in the day. We stop at Muir Beach Overlook and walk along the rustic walkway that juts out over the ocean - just spectacular - I am trying to remember a line from the "Shawshank Redemption" where he says something about seeing the Pacific in his dreams. I, too, will dream about it or at least forever see it in my mind.

We continue on, stopping at Stinson Beach and other overlooks whose names escape me now. Each one has it's own unique beauty. We stop for lunch at Nick's Cove overlooking Tomales Bay.

More later.........
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 06:30 AM
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Hi CP:
It's so wonderful to hear that you were able to go and how much you and your husband loved San Francisco...it truly is a "magical" city and very well stated "bookend to NY", I firmly agree.
Sausalito is absolutely charming.
Looking forward to reading the rest of your report.
Hope all goes very well with your husband's surgery and that he is feeling better.
Sincerely,
Steelygirl
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Oct 23rd, 2008, 10:46 AM
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AHH! Referencing Shawshank! I love it!

I also had the good fortune to have a job that took me to San Fran once a month. I always made sure to get in a day early to play "Tourist"

A great city!

My biggest SF moment was jogging near the Presidio and came across Joe Dimaggio! We jogged/walked together for about 1/2 mile! Needless to say it was a Kodak Moment for sure!
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Oct 23rd, 2008, 12:33 PM
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Hi steely - thanks for the good thoughts - we do have to take care of our good men!

bmw - jogging with Joe - wow! That's a once in a lifetime moment!
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Oct 23rd, 2008, 12:44 PM
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Lunch at Nick's Cove - we really enjoyed this place - we had a table next to the window overlooking Tomales Bay. DH spoke to our waitress about local oysters and she described them for him - her husband is a manager at Hog Island. He tried four types and then had a butternut squash soup. I started with clam chowder and it was excellent - not the starchy version with rubberized clams that so many places present. The clams were briny, tender, full of flavor and garnished with a bit of crisp bacon. We then shared Bouillabaise linguini - clams, shrimp and mussels - very light and flavorful with fennel - perfectly al dente.

We continue up the coast from Bodega Bay to Jenner. The views of the beach and coast with large rocks and boulders jutting out of the ocean are beautiful. And the Pacific - so blue....so vast! We drive down a winding road to Goat Rock Beach - walk around and take pictures; it was quite windy, but so ruggedly beautiful. Then we head east along the Russian River on a scenic country road. After awhile, we spot our first sight of grapes. We go through Guerneville and on to Healdsburg. We realize and regret that there is not enough time to stop at Armstrong Woods. We arrive at Healdsburg Inn on the Plaza and find a parking spot across the street. We check in with an employee who looks like he's 12. Our room is on the second floor, with bay windows overlooking the plaza and I am surprised how quiet it is. The room is large with immaculate bed linens and the softest towels. There is a gas fireplace. The bathroom is large with a deep soaking tub as well as a shower. We then go for a walk around the plaza and go into many shops - I didn't expect such lovely, upscale shops. I buy ds1 a toy, anatomically correct steer (I'm later told it's a Holstein) because he is farming and planning to raise a few. We go back to the Inn to change for dinner.

Cyrus - my NY friends are amazed when I tell them this was the best meal of my life. I am not kidding. I could write at great length about this restaurant - let's just say the large staff could not have been nicer, friendlier or more unpretentious. We opt for a 4 or 5 course meal with paired wines for the first three courses. DH is relieved when we finally order because the possibilities are endless - too many options for him! I start with a glass of champagne and he a JWBlack. The amuse bouches begin. Later, after three impeccable courses, we decide to share a cheese course and share a dessert - all are excellent including the breads served with butter from France and California as well as white salt from England and orange salt from Hawaii (you California foodies are so progressive!). We are amazed that such a young chef is not only that creative, but he executes it all flawlessly...what talent. We chat with one of the wait staff who is his business partner. We are sent home with brownies labeled 'Tomorrow?'.

End of first day.
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 03:34 PM
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Hi CP,
Sorry to hear about your husband not doing well. Both Steely and I are here for you if you need anything.
I had a feeling Cyrus would have been your favorite meal. We had a an early New Year's dinner there last year and loved it. In fact, Cyrus is ahead of Danko in the newest Zagat ratings.

Hang in there CP !!
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Oct 24th, 2008, 08:58 AM
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Sounds lovely, I'm so glad you were able to dine at Cyrus, we have been twice, it really is a foodie's heaven ! ***kim***
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Oct 24th, 2008, 01:06 PM
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Your trip sounds wonderful, and your brief mention of Bodega Bay brings to mind a special memory for me. When our son was 7 months old we traveled to San Francisco to visit my wife's sister. My in-laws were excited to hear about our plans, and decided to attend a conference there at the same time. On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon we drove through the Russian River Valley and ended up in Bodega Bay. I remember walking down to the beach, and seeing the seals basking in the sun. As we left town the setting sun was glowing on the hills where a group of deer roamed. It was a moment of true serenity, and beauty.

We were told the Hitchcock film, "The Birds", was filmed there, but I do not know if that is accurate. Our son is now a freshman at UCLA while we're still living on the East Coast. The years do fly.
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Oct 24th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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There is a small town called Bodega that's just inland from Bodega Bay. That's where "the Birds" was filmed.

My wife ate my "tomorrow" brownie from Cyrus.

Stu Dudley
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Oct 24th, 2008, 01:24 PM
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BTW, the waiter you met at Cyrus that was a part owner, was probably Nick Peyton. We was also either a part owner or just the "front of the house guy" at Gary Danko's, but left there to start Cyrus.

Stu Dudley
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Oct 24th, 2008, 08:03 PM
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andrew8 - you are so sweet with your offer! As it turns out, my husband was admitted to the hospital today. He had a 'pre-surgery' surgical procedure on Wed that was supposed to make him feel better and make the surgery next month easier for the surgeon. That is not what has happened. He was so ill this morning that it was scary. Amazingly, by 7pm tonight he seemed much improved (he's had a lot of drugs today). We'll know more tomorrow. We were supposed to be visiting DS2 today for Parents Weekend, an event we absolutely love, but it is not to be. Last Fri, we were happy in SF and today we were in the ER. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 24th, 2008, 08:13 PM
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Please keep me up to date CP. Our prayers are with your husband.
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Oct 25th, 2008, 05:14 PM
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Hi CP,
Please let us know how you're doing and if you need anything we can be there for you as were close by.
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Oct 25th, 2008, 07:17 PM
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Hi andrew8 - just got home - 5 years ago, he had routine surgery and ended up with internal damage. After a month in the hospital and a long recovery, he healed and was ok for two years. Symptoms of the injury reappeared about 3 years ago and we have been living with it since under the care of a wonderful doctor. Most of the time it has been very manageable and dh never complains. In the last few months the symptoms have increased and major repair surgery is necessary and scheduled in a few weeks. The rest you know - he felt better before the trip and thankfully during the trip, but what's happened this week was so unexpected. He has slept a good part of the day, has no fever but is still quite uncomfortable and he is sad - understandingly so. And he keeps thanking me for being there and apologizing for putting me through this - he really is a selfless person.

I always like to plan our trips, but I got a little obsessive this time because I wanted it to be perfect for him. I just wanted him to relax and try to forget some of this stuff for even a little while. And it was (except for one bad thing which I will get to when I resume my trip report).

This afternoon when I was watching him sleep, I said to a very old friend of his who was with me that only last Sat we slept on Frette sheets in SF and one week later he's sleeping on hospital linens. And his friend said, 'And you can be sure this room is costing you more!' I had to laugh.

Anyway, andrew8, thanks so much for caring - you're a good guy! I am actually doing ok - it's never been difficult for me to be an advocate for my family. I will be in touch tomorrow and maybe get back to my trip report because it's a nice respite to talk about such a great time.

Good night!
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 26th, 2008, 07:44 AM
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Hi cpg,

I am really enjoying your report. Best wishes to your husband for a succesful surgery and a speedy recovery.

I am so glad that you liked Goat Rock and that area! That part of the coast from Bodega Bay north to Goat Rock is one of my favorite places. It is simply beautiful in a stark, windswept way. We always stop at Goat Rock and check out the seals that inhabit the sand spit that juts out into the end of the Russian River.



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Oct 26th, 2008, 08:49 AM
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Hello Centralparkgirl, I am sure glad you two had a wonderful time in NCA but sure sorry to hear your husband is having serious medical problems. My very best wishes and prayers that somehow the doctors can restore him to good health.

We are still having beautiful crystal clear weather here.

Hopefully you two can return at some time in the future. Take good care of yourself while you take good care of your dear husband!
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Oct 26th, 2008, 02:35 PM
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Hi CP,
Hope your husband had a better day today.

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Oct 26th, 2008, 06:26 PM
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iamq, LoveItaly and andrew - my sincerest thanks for your concern and good wishes. Today is a bit better; he still has pain, but his counts are back to normal. I'm hoping he gets to come home tomorrow and so is he. At least he saw the Giants win today.

kim - I think I first heard of Cyrus from your postings - great rec!

Stu - I don't recall his name, but the gentleman we spoke to was involved with Gary Danko. That explains the similarities of how the menus are set up.

iamq - someone here wrote that Goat Rock was a must - was that you?
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Oct 26th, 2008, 07:00 PM
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Day 2 - Sunday, October 12th.

We start with breakfast in a lovely 2nd floor room overlooking the Plaza. Breakfast is self-serve - plentiful, but ordinary.

We check out and drive through the Alexander Valley to Ferrari-Carano winery. We watch a video downstairs and then we share a tasting. The people are friendly; we like nothing that we taste. We walk through their award winning gardens, beautifully laid out with little bridges and waterfalls. The other manicured grounds have well-trimmed hedges and very lovely begonias and coleus.

We continue on to Geyser Peak. We choose them because since the WSJ gave them a great write-up three years ago, we frequently have their very inexpensive sauvignon blanc at home. I had never even thought about where Geyser Peak is and now here we are. We opt to go upstairs for the 'better wines' and dislike all the cabs we taste.

Off to Napa! We take 128 through beautiful countryside stopping at Jimtown. I am suddenly ravenous (from the wine?) and pick up a small tomato basil soup with fresh croutons. We connect to 29, but don't enter Calistoga. We drive through St. Helena and voila, there's Taylor's Refresher. What an enormous line. DH jumps out and I go park. We eat at a picnic table out back - it is quite breezy and gloriously sunny. We have the infamous Ahi tuna burger and garlic fries - all quite good.

We cross Zinfandel Lane to the Silverado Trail and drive to Mumm. We take a tour led by Lorraine who used to live on 14th St & 7th. (On this trip, whenever we open our mouths, people know where we are from (why is that?) and so many of them have lived in NY at one time or another). We learn about the french method of making sparkling wine and tour the facility. We enjoy this tour very much. Afterward, we walk through their gallery and view the Ansel Adams photos as well as those that are also beautiful, but by less well known artists. There is a photo of a tree in fog that I would love to own.

On to the tasting - we are seated at a table overlooking the valley and sample four sparkling wines - delicious! The terrain of the valley is so scenic. I don't know what I expected, but the hills are just beautiful. We enjoy the view as much as the tasting.

We drive to La Residence just south of Yountville and check in. Our king suite is quite nice with sitting areas inside and outside the room; the linens and towels are immaculate - very nice bathroom with double sinks. The room is quite close to the road, but it is quiet. (BTW they will be razing some of their buildings in the near future and building a larger facility. I think taking care to do it right.)

For dinner - we eat at Mustards - crowded, noisy and they are running late with their reservations. The bar is full and it is too congested to stand and enjoy a drink - many people are annoyed (me too). We get a lovely young waitress - the bread is crusty and wonderful. I start with a salad that is almost mediocre. DH and I both have the Mongolian Pork Chop with mashed potatoes and sweet and sour cabbage - this dish is outstanding.

We eat our 'tomorrow?' brownies from Cyrus - they look like average brownies, but they are not - dark, not too sweet with great smooth texture - what kind of chocolate do they use????

End of day 2 - I can still see the Pacific!

Oh and yesterday, somewhere along the way from Jenner to Healdsburg, we spot a palm tree! It looks so strange to us. What is it doing here?
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 26th, 2008, 11:04 PM
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Keep the report coming CP !

I thought I was the one who told you about Cyrus .....just kidding...glad you enjoyed it.

By the way, trust me when I tell you that Iamq has exquisite taste.
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