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Faina’s weekend report: a perfect day in San Francisco Bay Area with a perfect friend!

Faina’s weekend report: a perfect day in San Francisco Bay Area with a perfect friend!

Old Sep 18th, 2005, 12:42 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 19,419
Faina’s weekend report: a perfect day in San Francisco Bay Area with a perfect friend!

EasyTraveler is such a great person, she offered to pick me up for a “girls’ day out”. Living in San Francisco I don’t have a car, so I appreciate her effort very much.

We started close to home - in Berkeley. Scharffen Berger chocolate factory offers free tours with only 2 requirements: you must be over 10 years old (not at heart, on your birth certificate) and have closed-toe shoes on. Reservations are strongly recommended, so I tried the website - all tours had N/A. Tried to call - couldn’t get a live person, left a message - still unanswered. Later I’ve learned why. While in line to the cash register I saw the cashier picking the phone receiver up and hanging it up immediately. Sigh, if only I could do that at my work!!

We showed up at 10.25 and got right into the 10.30 tour. It was conducted by a girl in a “Vacaville Onion Festival” t-shirt (hello, LoveItaly!). She was a good speaker and didn’t hold back the free sample distribution. They use only natural products, and the taste is great. So is the price! Sky-high. We’ve learned from how and where the cocoa beans grow to how they become what you see in stores. Go there hungry and have a meal at the cafe Cacao. The food is good, and we washed it down with real Italian Limonata (yes, imported, I checked the label!)

On the way we stopped at a farm. A vegetable farm stand. This is what I like about not planning a day by a minute, leaving room for spontaneous things. You see something - just stop and don’t worry about missed reservations. Never seen a lemon cucumber before. Tastes just like a regular cucumber (no, I haven’t copied a doctor pepper commercial). We picked up some things, and went on.

The next stop was in Sonoma - no, not a winery! The Train Town with real train rides. Opened cars with seats for 1,5 person - an adult and a child. It takes you through an enchanting park with lots to see. There is a stop where you can get off, buy a 25 cents worth of animal food and feed sheep, goats and llamas. The feeling of being a child again is priceless. Going through the tunnels the children behind me were making funny sounds. So if EasyTraveler will imply it was me making an Indian war sound, don’t believe her!

We checked the gift shop, and I’ve added another pencil sharpener to my collection - a choo-choo Actually, a locomotive only. So now I have 6 brass (?) items on the shelf over my home computer - a Viking ship, a knight on a horse, a pendulum clock, a wood-burning stove, and a canon. Some weird metal family but looks really nice.

Driving away from the Train Town we spotted a small sign for a history museum off the Plaza. Depot Park Museum is in a nice park with picnic tables, has some old train cars displayed outside, and inside you can find lots of historic information of the area, it‘s not dedicated to the trains only. And the docents must be bored there: they’ve found a great listener in EasyTraveler, giving us so much info! I admit, I am not a patient person, reading the posted notes is usually enough, so I wandered off to see it all. From Indians to the time California was proclaimed free. Lots of old items on display. This museum is a real gem. To continue on with the history we spent some time at the Vallejo estate. Nice place despite some wall construction.

EasyTraveler took me to her “secret spot”. I promised not to give away the store name. It’s in Sonoma, and it has the largest cheese collection may be in the whole world. Must be 1,000 different cheeses. And dried mushrooms imported from Italy. If the Heaven is not like this, why bother? But the best thing - and this is why I am not saying the name of the store - they bake fresh berry or apple pies, cut them up hot for free samples, add ice-cream and whipped cream. Yuuummmmm.

We had an early dinner in Sausalito. EasyTraveler introduced me to the restaurant she loves the most - The Spinnaker. It has a stunning view of the city, so don’t go there too late to be able to see it. Angel Island, Alcatraz, downtown, tips of the bridge, ferries hurrying back and forth... And it’s one of the rare places where the food is as good as the view. We ate inside, as the evening was not particularly warm. Fish, shellfish, pasta on the menu. The price of an entree is around $20. Or you can have a sandwich or an appetizer and a drink in the bar area - at a table with a view. A gorgeous view! They have a long list of drinks, wines, beers, and cocktails. Should I confess here? Nope! Not this time! (Kal, you can call me
I can only say: we had no room for dessert.

But hey, who’d believe 2 ladies can live without dessert? To “spoil the perfect day“, we stopped for a cup of tea at our apartment where my husband served us

Anybody knows how to post our incriminating pictures on-line? I have the old type camera that gives only traditional paper photos. I am stubbornly old-fashioned.
FainaAgain is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 12:52 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Faina, a Vacaville Onion Festival TShirt!! That must be an old Tshirt, LOL. I have been in Vacaville 5 years and they haven't had an Onion Festival since I have been here to my knowledge. I just checked with my neighbor who has lived here since the 60's and she can't remember the last time they had one. But at least it caused you to think of me, LOL!

Your day with Easy Traveler sounds delightful. You two really covered a lot of territory. How nice for both of you! Thanks for sharing your beautiful and interesting day.

LoveItaly is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 02:25 PM
Join Date: May 2004
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Faina, thanks for a great report!
I live in Oakland and will save these ideas for a day out soon!!
We Bay Areans need a Bay Area locale GTG!!
CaliNurse is online now  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 02:59 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Oh what fun!
A day that starts with chocolate is guaranteed to be a good day
What kind of Indian War sounds?
Thank you Faina, I am suitably envious now
Scarlett is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 03:08 PM
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Wow, such fun!
More places to add to my *must do* list!
Thanks for posting!
wanderluster is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 06:13 PM
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Boy am I envious! My DH went to the Giants game today and I had a hectic day st home with the boys! They spent the afternoon getting very dirty and just had their third bath!

Anyway, thanks for letting me live vicariously through your report!
moneygirl is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 06:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Definitely smiling at you two "girls" loose in the SF Bay area on a fall Sunday afternoon! Sharffen Berger, no less! It's been at the top of my to do list for ages.

CaliNurse, there have been at least four NoCA GTGs. The next one will be on Nov. 25 at the Festival of Lights in Yountville. Watch the board, or type Kal (of course) into the search box for early info.
Betsy is offline  
Old Sep 19th, 2005, 10:12 AM
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LoveItaly, out of curiosity I Googled the Onion Festival, looks like the last one was in 1984. When you reinstate it, let me know, I'm coming

Scarlett, I don't know how to describe those sounds. When are you coming, I won't be shy to produce those again

GetTogether? We can have them monthly
FainaAgain is offline  
Old Sep 19th, 2005, 10:38 AM
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Hi Faina, 1984! That was an old Tshirt, LOL! Vacaville use to have the onion processing plant (drive through Vacaville and you immediately wanted a burger). Now they have Fiesta Days and they just had their wine/jazz festival. Maybe next year you can come up for one of those festivals. Would love to have you!
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Sep 19th, 2005, 10:58 AM
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"Would love to have you!" - yeah, you would... but would the festival

I have a different idea. The last or next to last weekend in April there is a "butter and egg days parade" and all kind of related events in Petaluma. We can make a get-together out if it, perhaps?
FainaAgain is offline  
Old Sep 19th, 2005, 05:17 PM
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Any day that starts w/chocalate and has free hot pie and ice cream samples is my idea of heaven.

But an onion festival...that would stink....(baad joke!!)
OneWanderingJew is offline  
Old Sep 19th, 2005, 05:26 PM
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Hi OWJ, the onion processing factory, yes dear it did stink, LOL. I would not have lived in Vacaville then although it was a darling small town with great people. I sure remember the smell from the time I was little as one had to go through Vacaville to get to Sacramento, Tahoe, Donner Lake etc. I-80 cuts through the middle of Vacaville, but no more onion smells thank goodness.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Sep 19th, 2005, 05:55 PM
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Great report, Faina! YOU are the perfect friend!

In fact, it was a perfect day together! We had so much Scharffen Berger chocolate, the whole group was high and happy when the tour ended. We learnt that milk chocolate has only 10% cocao, but SB makes some chocolates with the percentages in the 70s, 80s and even 90s! They had one batch of "perfect" cocao from Venezuela and so made some "limited edition" chocolate called "El Carmen" with 79% cocoa. Sooo yummy! If you can find that chocolate, buy it! Their standard extra dark chcolate has 82% cacao.

The name of the museum in Sonoma is the Depot Park Museum. Most people today go to Sonoma for wines, but Sonoma was the place where the "independent" California Republic was born and where the Bear Flag was first raised. This tiny museum is full of meaning for historians of California.

We also visited the modest home (Lachryma Montis) of General Mariano Vallejo. General Vallejo, once the richest man in California, was a towering figure in California's early history, but was shabbily treated by the United States and so lost his vast holdings and ended his days on this modest estate in Sonoma.

As for the Spinnaker Restaurant in Sausalito, it is certainly my favorite restaurant in Sausalito. Hope it became Faina's too! She had a hard time deciding which of the 22 fish plates was going to be her final choice for dinner! She had halibut and I had sea bass, both very delicious. We also had some "broosketta" beforehand. It was San Francisco style - almost inch-thick sour dough bread with a thick slathering of tomatoes, etc. and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese, all toasted to perfection.

Scarlett: Those "Indian War sounds" WERE made by Faina. I know. I was sitting in front of her and every time we went through a dark tunnel, there was all this awhooping and ahollering going on behind me! Of course, the sounds reverberated all over the little tunnels!

Faina has very traditionally East European hospitality, which I love! She could not send me homeward bound without an invitation to "a cup of tea". I ended up not only having a cup of delicious tea, but was gifted with an extra teabag as well! Thank you, Faina!

A good time was had by all! Thanks to this forum, I have another wonderful Fodors friend!
easytraveler is offline  
Old Sep 19th, 2005, 05:59 PM
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What a nice report! It's so nice to read about all of these little gatherings.

I had to laugh when I read, "the whole group was high and happy when the tour ended" - I love Scharffen Berger chocolate and you described the feeling perfectly
seetheworld is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2005, 04:35 AM
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Sounds like a fun trip. About the photos- I have just figured this out myself. When you get your film developed you can order a photo CD along with the prints. This gives you digital images that can be uploaded to online photo sites.

The software included on the disk did not work with my computer for some reason, so I thought the CD's were useless. However, it turned out that I could go to a photo site on line and upload the photos from the CD anyway. It only took me about seven months to figure this out.
Nikki is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2005, 08:02 AM
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LOL Nikki as I am electronically challenged I may figure this out by next September!

And for the record, I offered the whole tea box to EasyTraveler, not just one teabag. She just wanted one sample to look for it in stores. It was herbal tea by Twinings(?) with teh word "Pizza" on it and it was made with pomegranate juice.

Scharffen Berger chocolates are sold at the Embarcadero building where you can also get porcini - fresh and dried - and imported wines and so much more!

OWJ - we have garlic festival too in the area. Bring lots of mints visiting SF The Stinking Rose restaurant (all food made with garlic, including ice-cream) is waiting for you!

We may be planning another "loose" day soon. Stay tuned.
FainaAgain is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2005, 08:28 AM
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Calinurse~I, too, live in Oakland and work at Alta Bates. The GTG in Yountville can be fun if it doesn't get too big.
PamSF is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2005, 07:54 PM
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Sounds like a fun day! Did you two know each other prior to Fodors? I love touring chocolate factories and didn't realize Scharffen Berger was even there! Just another reason for a return visit!
ellen_griswold is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2005, 08:31 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Faina: I would have taken the entire box, but my pocket wasn't big enough! BTW, it's a Bigelow tea, not Twining.

Ellen: Faina and I met through Fodors. The first time was at a SF GTG which Marilyn had heroically put together. There were somewhere around 15-20 people who met at KirRoyale's house in SF. We had a blast!

Faina has always shown a great sense of humor, both here on the board and in person. She's had to go through a lot in life and humor is one means that helps her. Guess I've always found it interesting to talk with people who show great depth of character.

Fodors has also offered a number of wonderful vicarious adventures. I love reading of your travels and just today opened and finished Cigalechanta's wonderful account of her recent trip to France. When people generously share their trips, I feel as if they have also opened the doors to their worlds and let me in.

So, thanks to Faina for being a wonderful friend and thanks to you, Cigalechanta, and the other Fodorites for your generous sharing!

Come back to California soon, Ellen! ScharffenBerger awaits you!
easytraveler is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2005, 06:15 AM
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Hi Easytraveler, Faina sounds like someone i'd love to know, and you, too. I hope we can return to california next summer when we (hopefully) explore Portland (i think we're the only family who haven't been there!)

And re trip reports, it's definitely time consuming and i wonder just how many people really read them (or care). But i still think it's so important to report back to the many fodorites who so generously helped with the planning, like you! You guys made a huge difference in our experience(s) and i'm very grateful!
ellen_griswold is offline  

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