San Francisco, the city by the bay with endless offerings. What a lovely place it is! The streets are lined with pastel Victorian town homes, trolleys, cafes, and all within a short driving distance to the infamous Redwood Forest, as well as Sonoma and Napa Valley.
There really are too many sights, restaurants, and shops to mention, but here are a few gems that were highlights of our most recent trip:
Near Union Square:
Blue Bottle Coffee. This is by far the best coffee I have ever had. They specialize in siphon coffees – a centuries-old technique that is done mostly by hand, requiring precise temperature, time, attention and skill. The results are well-worth the effort, and more like the consistency of tea than coffee. Meant to be consumed black and never with the addition of cream or sugar. Their breakfast items are just as fantastic. If only I could start out every day with a stop at Blue Bottle…
And right on the edge of Union Square, you will find a quaint little cafe and wine bar called La Marsa. The owner, Rafik Bouzidi, serves as host, waiter, bartender, and chef. He’s a one man show. Do not let this discourage you. This is a very small space and he offers high quality, inventive dishes with a Tunisian flair, and a side of conversation. If you’re out and about Union Square, stop and see Rafik for a glass (or bottle) of wine. You’ll be glad you did!
Possibly the most famous neighborhood of the 1960’s hippie movement. The Haight was home to many artists and musicians including The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. Here you would find people dancing in the streets and preaching free love to all. The year is 2017 but the vibe remains the same.
710 Ashbury (current day)
You can now find eclectic boutiques, bars and cafes serving everything from coffee to rum punch served by the bowl (see Hobson’s Choice).
One of my absolute favorite boutiques is Decades of Fashion, selling authentic vintage clothing and accessories from the past 100 years, separated by decade. It’s no wonder that many Hollywood costume designers come here for authentic pieces, as well as inspiration. The store is owned by fashion designer, Cicely Hansen. Amongst the vintage collections, lives one line of 1920’s flapper style (inspired, not original) beaded dresses, designed by Cicely. A few of these dresses were made for the 2011 movie, “The Artist”. She sold me the most beautiful hand beaded cocktail dress. I can’t bear to put it away in my closet, so it’s still hanging on display in my office. After all, it is a piece of art.
A short trip across the Golden Gate Bridge, and just past Sausalito, you will find Muir Woods. This protected nature reserve is home to some of the world’s largest redwoods, ranging between 600 – 1200 years old.
These photos really do not begin to do it justice…
We have visited both Sonoma and Napa, and I have to say, I prefer Sonoma. On both occasions, we traveled with a tour group (approx. 10 people), and so we were taken to smaller, family owned wineries. A few of my favorites include Larson Family Winery, Cline Cellars, and Jacuzzi Winery (all located in Sonoma Valley).
What is the difference, you may ask? Sonoma Valley is located along the coast and has a slightly cooler climate, largely producing more white wines such as Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, sparkling wines, and also Pinot Noirs. Napa is on the opposite side of the mountain range, which aids a warmer climate and produces more Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots. Napa is more known for their Michelin star restaurants and more expensive tasting rooms, while Sonoma is less expensive and more like a traditional visit to country vineyards. I do of course, recommend you visit both. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to dine at some of the finer restaurants, but it is on my list for future visits. See the video below for some aerial footage taken in Napa just a week ago (no grapes yet on the vines)…
Green Dream Tours– Mark was fantastic! The price is well worth booking a tour rather than adventuring out on your own if you happen to be staying in the city, like we were. They will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel and the tasting fees are included.
Many tours are available, Sonoma, Napa, or a combo of both, Alcatraz Island and wine country, food/wine combo tasting, private tours, etc. Take a look at their website and decide which fits your interests best. And ask for Mark.
San Francisco is lovely in the Spring, but I would recommend anyone traveling to plan their trip for the Fall. You will experience the best weather that San Francisco has to offer, and the grapes will be fully ripened and ready for harvest. Do some research or just wander about the city. Either way, there’s a breath taking view and happy-go-lucky locals on every steep and winding turn. Cheers!
(make sure to view the above video in 1440p HD for maximum quality… thanks for watching!)