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Eight days in San Francisco, Yosemite NP, Napa Valley and Carmel/Big Sur

Eight days in San Francisco, Yosemite NP, Napa Valley and Carmel/Big Sur

Old Jun 25th, 2009, 04:20 PM
  #21  
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This is not an invitation for an argument. I am simply stating the facts of our experiences. If you are interested in visiting SF for a first trip, then read on, if not, then move on. (This is the wife btw)
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 05:08 PM
  #22  
 
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Enjoying your report and am glad you enjoyed our state.

MY
MichelleY is online now  
Old Jun 25th, 2009, 05:14 PM
  #23  
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Days 3- Monday, 15 Jun
Napa Valley

We left Hotel Monaco early and went to Bush St. to pick up our rental car. We had to wait FOREVER so be prepared to wait about an hour if you're picking up a car downtown.

It was pretty neat driving our little convertible up and down the hills of SF and across the GGB. We arrived in Yountville around 10:30 am, picked up a snack, and went to the Robert Mondavi winery for our Taste of Wine tour at 11. It was very informative and concentrated on identifying and describing the bouquet, palate and balance of wine. They had these very detailed placards that outlined all of the different aromas which we were allowed to keep which was nice.

We left the winery after a few hours and spent the remainder of the afternoon shopping in St. Helena. We really enjoyed Olivier, were you can sample many different olive oil concoctions which were stored in attractive tankards/vats. We also browsed through some nice art galleries which featured diverse paintings of wineries and vineyards in the wine country. We went to Woodhouse Chocolate and bought a box of chocolate which we ate on the way back to our hotel. They cost about a $1.85 a piece but they are handmade and were pretty good.

We checked into the Maison Fleurie in Yountville and got ready for dinner at Terra, which was back down the road in St. Helena. Dinner at Terra was outstanding. Our waiter did an excellent job of describing the menu and our water glasses were kept full. We actually thought the service was better here that at Gary Danko. The best part though was the dessert. WOW! I got the orange risotto which you can see here... http://www.flickr.com/photos/5817720...7620427710763/ and my wife got the chocolate caramel tart here...http://www.flickr.com/photos/5817720...7620427710763/.
The orange risotto was the best dessert I had on our entire vacation. It's a very powerful fusion of orange and mango.

We left Terra and returned to the hotel to end the night. It was a cute hotel BUT we did experience quite a bit of noise from the outside...mostly traffic and people. The walls are a little thin, at least in our room. Something to consider if you are the type of person that needs absolute quietness.

Next: Day 4- Napa Valley
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 05:17 PM
  #24  
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"Enjoying your report and am glad you enjoyed our state."

Thank you! It was wondeful and more beautiful than we ever imagined.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 06:17 PM
  #25  
 
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enjoyed reading your report so far! I am hoping to get to SF/Napa soon for the first time - so your review is really helpful!
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Old Jun 26th, 2009, 09:20 AM
  #26  
 
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i am salivating looking at pictures of your desserts.
they sound divine.
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Old Jun 26th, 2009, 10:17 AM
  #27  
 
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It has been many years, but we also had a very memorable meal at Terra!!

MY
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Old Jun 26th, 2009, 02:40 PM
  #28  
 
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Just chiming in about the MUNI passes and the confusion about the price difference - I think this is due to the 2 types of passes, those that include cable cars and those that don't.

Anyway, carry on
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Old Jun 27th, 2009, 12:32 PM
  #29  
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Day 4- Napa Valley, 16 Jun

We woke up real early this morning so we could go on a hot air ballon ride. This was the biggest disappointment (and waste of money) of the entire trip. Due to fog we were not able to fly over Napa Valley but were shuttled to the next valley east. Our pilot, who was a nice guy, was a little misleading in his efforts to persuade us to go that morning instead of rescheduling. He said "no grapes today, instead there will be alfalfa". What he should have said was something like...."no beautiful rolling vineyards dotted with wineries today, instead we will see flat fields of alfalfa interspersed with dirty irrigation canals". Even if you have never been on a hot air balloon before, DON'T GO if it's foggy in the valley. Reschedule if you can or try to get a refund. You will be glad you did. We couldn't reschedule and the only way we could get a refund was if they canceled the entire trip. It would have been nice to have at least gotten a 25% discount but no such luck. They also tried to get us to buy a picture that they took of my wife and I at the brunch.....AND a bottle of wine from a local vintner. They basically used the brunch as an opportunity to sell you more stuff. I have never felt so much like a piece of cattle before. Gotta love Capitalism.

Enough with my ranting already.

After the balloon ride we drove up to Hess winery for a tour. Our tour guide was very nice and gave an excellent tour. The winery itself was surrounded with 80 year old vines and redwoods. Here are a few pics.http://www.flickr.com/photos/5817720...7620427710763/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/5817720...7620427710763/. They had a huge contemporary art collection which our guide did an excellent job explaining in great detail. I'm not a big fan of modern art but it makes so much more sense when you understand the history and personal struggles of each artist. Still....some of the art I just didn't get. We concluded our tour with a wine and cheese pairing.

After Hess we spent the remainder of our day stopping by various wineries and enjoying the scenery. We stopped by the Clos Du Val winery on the scenic Silverado Trail. This was a very pretty winery with flowers everywhere. The entrance was lined with Magnolia trees and the parking lot was surrounded with some kind of tree with white flowers?? Does anybody know what kind of tree this is? You could smell the fragrance of these trees everywhere since there was a slight breeze blowing. Here are some pics.......http://www.flickr.com/photos/5817720...7620427710763/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3665307689/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/5817720...7620427710763/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/5817720...7620427710763/. I need to brighten them up a bit.

Next was Domaine Chandon. We sampled some of their sparkling wines which I learned was the same as Champagne, but they can't market it as Champagne because that's a region in France that has proprietary rights to that name. I'm sure most of you probably knew that already but for those who didn't... We enjoyed our visit there and actually ordered a bottle of Blanc de Noirs for our anniversary dinner later in the trip.

Our last winery stop for the day was at Beringer. This was a nice winery but the highlight was the eye catching mansion next to the winery, which looks like a cross between a French Chateau and a half-timbered mansion you would expect to see on the Rhine. Here is a pic...http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3665370691/. They also have a nice gift shop there. We picked up a few bars of artisan soap made in St. Helena by Napa Soap Co.

We wanted to stop by Sterling Vineyards but ran out of time. If you really enjoy touring wineries then you may want to spend at least three days just for wineries. Wine Country is more slower paced than SF and it kind of goes against the grain to have too hectic of a schedule. We have no regrets but it would have been nice to have an extra day to visit some more wineries.

We concluded our final day in Napa Valley in Calistoga. I really liked this town! It has a very different look to it than all of the others in the valley. It reminded me of an old gold mining town. We ate at this wonderful little Italian restaurant called Boskos Trattoria.

Next-Yosemite NP
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Old Jun 27th, 2009, 07:26 PM
  #30  
 
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Chemist: Too bad you didn't enjoy our great Central Valley. It has a different beauty.

It looks like the "trees" with white flowers are oleanders. They don't really have a great smell. Perhaps you were smelling the star jasmine bushes. I can see in the beds rosemary, roses, and star jasmine. Oleander is a great hot weather, low water plant. You can also see it along some of the freeways.

MY
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Old Jun 27th, 2009, 08:09 PM
  #31  
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Hi MichelleY.....sorry if I offended you. We just thought that Napa Valley would have been more scenic for our hot air balloon ride.

I remember seeing the white and pink bushes on the freeways on the way up to Yosemite. They were everywhere! Very pretty though.
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Old Jun 27th, 2009, 10:18 PM
  #32  
 
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No offense taken. You are right. Napa would have been better. I probably would have been REALLY pissed off.

The oleanders are pretty common here in CA. Kinda known as the "Freeway Bush". They come in white, red, light pink & dark pink. My DH hates them, but I like them because they have flowers in the dead heat of summer. Adds some color to the yard. They are not deciduous, so they keep their leaves all year.

MY
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Old Jun 28th, 2009, 04:02 PM
  #33  
 
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How about if I am a resident of the area? Should I move on too? Not a very friendly comment.

Next time you come to Golden Gate Park, stop by the DeYoung Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. Very worth it.

Gary Danko's cheese course is true joy. It was the favorite part of my meal there.

Carry on...
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Old Jun 28th, 2009, 05:12 PM
  #34  
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"How about if I am a resident of the area? Should I move on too? Not a very friendly comment."

No...not at all. We were just addressing some of the comments made by a few previous posters who we felt were trying to diminish the value of our trip just because we were only there for a few days.

We had a great time and have no regrets. In our opinion, we saw most of the highlights of the city in the two days we were there. We should not be attacked for that.

" Next time you come to Golden Gate Park, stop by the DeYoung Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. Very worth it."

Most definitely! We hope that we can go back to SF in the near future and explore the city in more depth. This was our first trip and we just wanted to see the "biggies". I knew that we would regret going to CA and not seeing Yosemite or driving the Big Sur or wine tasting in Napa. We had to make some tough choices with the time we had available. Except for the balloon ride, we enjoyed just about every minute. This was a sampler trip for us.

BTW....you are so lucky to live in such a beautful city with such great weather. If we lived there, we would definitely take our dogs for a walk in the GGP every Sunday.
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Old Jun 28th, 2009, 07:09 PM
  #35  
 
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Interesting report so far. I think you did an excellent job in selecting and seeing wineries. If you had stayed another day, you may have found further tours a bit repetitious.

Thanks for the warning on the balloon ride, by the way.
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Old Jun 28th, 2009, 08:03 PM
  #36  
 
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>

>

This did not occur at all. Not even close, ncsuchemist.

All that was said was that some of us, visiting SF, feel that we haven't touched the surface in x number of days. It's like someone visiting NY and saying you can see the highlights in two days. After a lifetime here, I feel I haven't seen all the highlights yet - lol - but, seriously, maybe we have a different definition of highlights, but no comments here diminish your trip in any way or take away from the value of you and your wife's trip report which I have been enjoying btw.

>

I can certainly relate to that. That is always the challenge for the traveler and imo, no matter how long or short one's trip is.

If you loved Gary Danko's cheese course, you would probably love dinner at Cyrus in Healdsburg, Sonoma - not too far from Napa. It's really special!
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Old Jun 28th, 2009, 08:17 PM
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Here, here cpg!
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Old Jun 28th, 2009, 10:57 PM
  #38  
 
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fyi for cable car riding: being a bay area local, I don't have the patience to wait at the end of the line. We walk up a few blocks to another stop, and hop on there. Of course this doesn't work if you have a big group, or people that are not able to walk up the hills.

Regarding taxis, sometimes the service out in the far western reaches of the City is not so good, cuz the cabbies prefer to be downtown. So if yo are out that way without your won car, you may want to bring that bus map along, OR use Zipcar for the day (a rental car service with lots of cars in SF,that you can rent for an hour, a day or up to 3 days - I think)
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Old Jun 29th, 2009, 01:22 AM
  #39  
 
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Good on you for attempting to use the buses. We weren't brave enough to try, we don't have a great bus system in Nelson New Zealand so not that confident. We enjoyed the cable cars and street cars so found the Muni pass good for that. We enjoyed the hop on hop off buses also
and took their tour to the Palace of the Fine Arts and Golden Gate bridge. That was a LONG way to walk to the Golden Gate bridge.

I have enjoyed your report we hope to be back next year, and will do the Goden gate park, and other attractions that we missed previously.
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Old Jun 29th, 2009, 04:11 PM
  #40  
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"All that was said was that some of us, visiting SF, feel that we haven't touched the surface in x number of days. It's like someone visiting NY and saying you can see the highlights in two days. After a lifetime here, I feel I haven't seen all the highlights yet - lol - but, seriously, maybe we have a different definition of highlights, but no comments here diminish your trip in any way or take away from the value of you and your wife's trip report which I have been enjoying btw."

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes it's hard to understand what people mean when reading their comments because things like sarcasm can be misinterpreted bc things like tone of voice, voice inflections are stripped out.

Anyways.....thanks for the compliment. Hopefully you will find something useful in this report. That's my goal.

I definitely want to explore the city more at some point down the road...but yeah, I guess maybe our definition of highlights are different. That's o.k. though.

"Interesting report so far. I think you did an excellent job in selecting and seeing wineries. If you had stayed another day, you may have found further tours a bit repetitious.

Thanks for the warning on the balloon ride, by the way."

Thank you! Yeah, we were thinking that one more day MAY have been overkill. We researched the wineries using multiple sources including these forums.

suz24-We thought about walking up the street to the first or second stop but we remembered the cable car being full at the same stops earlier as we were walking down to the turnaround.

Nelsonian-The buses were not ALL bad. We just found that paying a taxi 7 or 8 bucks to take us across the city was worth it. 5-10 mins versus maybe an hour.
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