A creeping avalanche of fog rolls in over the mountains, it is a sight to behold. Climates change by 20 degrees within a 20-30 minute drive: Cold in the morning and at night, but mid 70’s to low 80’s in the day.There’s a very Spanish feel here, and after the 6 hour flight I tell my husband I feel like we are not in the US anymore. But we are, and we are in California.
First on our list of ‘things to do’ was Alcatraz in San Francisco. Well technically it is off the coast of San Francisco. If you plan on visiting this interesting place, here’s some advice that I wish I had listened to: Wear layers.
Alcatraz is windy, sunny, chilly and balmy all in the space of a few moments, depending on what side of the island you’re standing on, whether you’re in the shadows or whether you are in the sunshine, or whether you are in your prison cell.
The ferry ride is no more than 15 minutes from shore, but if you don’t book your tickets by phone or online at least three to four weeks prior to your visit, those fifteen minutes may as well be a journey to the moon, because you are not getting on that ferry.
It’s hard to imagine that a trip that instilled fear, anger and outrage in so many involuntary residents could bring joyful anticipation to so many voluntary visitors! It is a must see if you are a tourist in San Francisco. And there are a lot of tourists. How many tourists? Last year San Francisco had 11 million visitors.
When we stayed in San Francisco we stayed at the Marriott, only a couple of blocks from Union Square, a shopper’s paradise, but don’t expect bargains. San Francisco is an expensive city to shop in and to live in. The average cost of a 1,500 square foot home is $750,000.00, yes those zeros are correct.
The vintage trolley car ride was also high on our list of things to do. Knobb Hill is the famous street that has hills enough to make you think the cable car is a ship.
Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf are also part of the city that every tourist should see, and do. The crowd at Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf was big, but there’s enough space for all to walk around comfortably and enjoy the sights.
If you want to see the city in comfort book a bus tour with Tower Tours. If you want to risk life and limb sightseeing, book a two passenger motorcycle. They are yellow, small and they are everywhere. There’s also the Duck Tour, and the open top bus tour. But I can’t imagine sitting on top of a bus on Twin Peaks with the wind whipping viciously, as it did the day we went.
Dress accordingly is my best advice. Especially when you visit the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll thank me for that advice, believe me. In late July it can be cool, chilly even, with that avalance of fog rolling in over the city.
Within an hour and a half’s drive from San Francisco is Sonoma and two hours in the opposite direction is Napa, both worth the drive. Vineyards do wine tastings between 10 and four usually. Napa is polished and manicured, a Disney World of Vineyards; Sonoma is farm like and natural. I preferred the scenery in Sonoma.
Four vineyards that I would highly recommend are Martin Ray and Lynnmar in Sonoma, and Rombauer and Duckhorn in Napa Valley. There’s more than just vines and grapes at Rombauer and Lynnmar.Their gardens are unbelievably beautiful. So if wine isn’t your thing, go for the gardens, definitely worth seeing. Rombauer has a beautiful vista for you to take in, but by special invitation. Lynnmar lets you meander at your leisure, but both are equally beautiful and relaxing. The sights and aromas will arouse your senses.
Here’s some trivia for you: If you see a rose bush planted at the end of a row of vines, it is not just for aesthetic purposes. If the soil starts to lose the minerals vital for a good grape harvest, the rose bush will start to die before the vines do. Tada!
About an hour away from San Jose is Capitola, a small touristy sea side town on Monterey Bay. Facing the bay are three rows of colorful rental cottages. Across the bay is Carmel, you’ll see Clint Eastwood waving from the beach if you look real hard. Wave back when you do see Clint, I am sure that would make his day.
Palo Alto is also a town worth visiting. It is very pretty and is within walking distance of Stanford University which is a town in and of itself.In San Jose a visit to the recently developed Santana Row is sure to bring joy to the diva’s heart. Expensive shops and restaurants line the well manicured street. A person can shop, eat and go broke all in the space of a few hours. And that’s before you have even paid for parking.