Friday, October 10, 2014

California Tour

Day One: San Francisco

We have a guest living with us for four months. Do you remember last year we went to Guatemala for our godson’s wedding? Well we talked his sister, Karina, into coming to California for a visit. She’s turned it into a semi-business trip by studying English while here.

A trip to California wouldn’t be complete without San Francisco! So, this morning we left Sacramento with an ice chest full of sandwiches and goodies. It saves so much time, money, and decision-making drama to bring your own food. We came down I-80 and crossed the new Bay Bridge. It’s really pretty, but I didn’t feel very safe because the side rail is only about 3 feet high. Today was a perfectly clear warm day in SF. Alcatraz and Angel Islands were easy to see, as was the Golden Gate Bridge. We took the first exit and made our way down to Embarcadero St. It wasn’t overly busy because it was a Friday.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around the Ferry Building and the different piers. Karina took about 50 photos.
I just can’t get over how warm it was! It felt like it was 90 degrees, and for SF that is very, very warm.

We finally decided to head over the Golden Gate Bridge on HWY 101 to our hotel in Novato. You know I think I’ve only been over that bridge a couple of times in my life. It’s a spectacular view of the bay on the east side and the open ocean on the west.

We found our cheap little hotel thanks to smart phones. I must digress for a moment. Booking a night in a hotel in the Bay Area is a nightmare. First of all, the websites drove me bonkers. I typed in ‘3 people’ and ‘1 room’. It would give me a room with a king size bed, charge me extra for the 3rd person, and not provide any place for her to sleep. I called the 800 number (big mistake because it’s just a call center and they know nothing about the hotel they represent, I highly recommend finding the local number for real prices and info) and the new quote would be as much as $100.00 more per night. One place said they had a king bed, charged $12.50 more per night for Karina, but didn’t actually have any place for to sleep. I questioned this and he said “Oh, they have a rolling bed they can bring in for her.” “Oh so that’s what the $12.50 is for?” “No the bed is $15.00 more.” “Really? What’s the $12.50 for?” “For the third person,” was the reply. Talk about crazy!

So for your reference, Novato is an adorable little town in Marin County between San Francisco and Napa Valley. The hotel we got is small and simple, but most importantly it’s dirt cheap. We even have two queen-size beds . . . Yay! American Best Value Inn, only 89 bucks a night, with no extra fees. The desk clerk, Gary was incredibly helpful. We went straight to the pool and cooled off.

We ate at Mi Pueblo on Grant St. Great family atmosphere and good food. We wolfed down a massive platter of chicken nachos. Tomorrow we plan to go to Muir Woods redwood forest and Stinson Beach.

Day Two: Muir Woods and Napa

There is a saying that Joe and I live by; “Go with the flow.” When traveling one never knows what will actually happen, it’s best to just adjust. We set off on our little day trip this morning to Muir Woods Redwood Forest with the plan to go to Stinson Beach afterwards. As we approached the HWY 1 exit we saw the sign saying; “Muir Woods parking lot was full—take the shuttle bus.” We found the shuttle bus and hopped on as it was pulling away and off we went. Problem is that Muir Woods is halfway to Stinson Beach, so we’d have to retrace our path after we got back to our truck. The decision was clinched when we saw 2 miles of stop-and-go traffic at the beginning of HWY 1. Stinson would have to wait.

Karina loved the massive redwood trees and the ferns. It was a warm day, which is why it was so crowded. The trail makes a series of loops going from baby-stroller-easy to hiking boots. We went for the middle one. Our luck was with us because we got to see a doe and her baby. They were separated by the trail crowded with whispering tourists. The fawn began crying for its mommy by making little sounds almost like a cat’s meow. The doe ignored it and kept eating. We moved on.

This tranquility was interrupted by the sounds of war. Two little boys came running around the corner shouting, “The dinosaurs are coming!” They both turned and shot their imaginary machine guns at their attackers, and dashed past us. I was only slightly nervous about what would be around the corner. Dad was strolling along calmly. Shortly after this came Mom with a little girl in a pink tutu talking nonstop.

After we saw the traffic jam on the way back to the shuttle parking lot we decided to head over to Napa. I love it when random choices pay off. Napa was roped off for the New Orleans Marti Gras festival. They had bands playing jazz with a Cajun flare.
It was great! They even had a little parade. We finished the night by sharing a platter of BBQ meat at Bounty Hunters. They have a great wine and beer selection. On the way home I asked Karina which she would prefer; Stinson Beach or going back to Napa. She chose Napa! I was a little surprised because she actually prefers dark beer. So tomorrow we will experience Napa.

Day Three: Napa

Slept in, then headed over to Starbuck’s in downtown Napa for breakfast. As we drove away from our little dumpy hotel, that Joe made fun of, I felt compelled to comment on hotels in general. As you all know, we’ve stayed in a lot of different types of places. Some expensive, fancy places that were dirty and some immaculate cheap little places. So let me make a general statement. If you pay a regionally low price there’s a reason. The owners have less expenses than the fancy places . . . ie, the décor is ancient, the quality is horrible, the staff is inadequate, or the location is bad. This place is right next to the highway and a wood yard, but that’s why I bring ear plugs. The décor was old and worn. The towels threadbare, sheets too small for the bed, and the shower curtain tattered. BUT, it was all clean, the beds were super comfy, had a flat screen TV, free WiFi, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, and they didn't skimp on staffing. So I’d probably go back, if in the area.
I digress, we went to Silenus first because one of our best buddies is an investor in one of the wineries they feature in their tasting room; Modus Operandi. Hannah in the tasting room was very helpful. 

We went to Yountville next and wandered through the shops, said hello to the sleepy cat, and shared a glass of wine. Next we drove up through the beautiful Napa Valley and ooh’d and awe’d at the gorgeous wineries. 

We circled the parking lot of Castello di Amorosa. We were too cheap to go in, but I’ve been there before and it’s worth it once. We cut across the valley and stopped at Rombuaer Winery. The lady at the counter was so nice. Afterward we wandered through their gardens.

When we got home we watched Bottle Shock J

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