red, red wine country

The weather has turned chilly and gray lately, but just before Thanksgiving, Seb and I had one perfect, warm, sunny day in wine country. It was mid-November, but nearly 80 degrees up in Healdsburg, the site of our first stop. Four years ago, on my first trip to wine country with my friends Kelly and Noah (Springfield natives who live in SF), we ended up at this adorable general store with a tiny attached bar and a big front porch made for relaxing with a pint of beer while looking out over the vineyards across the street. I've wanted to return ever since, so we headed straight there for the first of our two lunches that day. It was packed, but we managed to snag a picnic table.

First time at Dry Creek with Kelly+Noah in 2006. No idea who the two locals are.

After our first lunch of a shared sandwich at Dry Creek, we left Healdsburg and headed back down south towards Napa, driving through Calistoga and St. Helena on the way. The drive was even more stunning than usual; wine country is gorgeous enough in the spring and summer when the vines are green, but I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the vines in the fall. The grapes themselves were off and crushed, but the leaves were amazing shades of red and gold.

St. Helena was the site of our second lunch, at Gott's Roadside, formerly known as Taylor's Refresher, a delicious burger-and-fries joint that also has a location in the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

From St. Helena, we continued down to Napa and then onto Sonoma for a couple of stops at actual wineries
we had been in wine country for hours, but hadn't managed to actually taste any wine yet. Before heading back home across the Golden Gate Bridge, we stopped at Cline Cellars' cute farmhouse-style tasting room for a taste of their Viognier and their Ancient Vines wine from some the oldest vines in California, a few of which have been around since 1890.

land's end

As I mentioned before back in August, the beautiful Legion of Honor museum in Lincoln Park, on the northwest edge of the peninsula that is San Francisco, boasts great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the beginning of the bay. What I didn't know until a few weeks ago is that there is a fabulous little hiking trail past the museum, along the edge of the water. It's called Land's End, and for good reason. You may be in a very large, bustling American city, but you wouldn't know it when you step onto the trail. We started at Point Lobos, where the historic Cliff House restaurant perches above the Pacific. We headed north, into Lincoln Park, and followed the trail as it curved east toward the Golden Gate Bridge. We were rewarded with fantastic views of the bridge from a lesser-seen angle. All this is right in the city. Who knew?

café art

A while ago, my friend Jen and I met up at a café in an interesting part of town. I was trying to pick a place equidistant between our two houses, but ended up in a neighborhood that I probably wouldn't have wanted to walk through by myself at night. Luckily, it was mid-morning, so all was fine. Apparently, while we were hanging out and chatting to each other, we were being sketched. Did I notice there was a man in the cafe with a small easel who appeared to be drawing? Yes. Did I realize he was drawing us? Um, definitely not. As we were putting on our jackets and preparing to leave, he came over, showed us the sketch, and said we could have it...for $20. I scoffed. $20 for a small black-and-white sketch in some random café? I don't think so. Jen, however, is much nicer than me, I guess. She bought it, took it home and scanned it into her computer. It's kind of nice, but I'm not thrilled with the likeness. I do not believe my nose is that large.


dias ridge trail

The beautiful November weather in the San Francisco area has allowed for more outdoor activities than I would usually partake in this close to Thanksgiving. One of my favorites is hiking, and the trails are endless. After reading in Sunset magazine that the Dias Ridge trail was an editor's pick in Marin County, my friend Jen and I headed over the Golden Gate Bridge to  Muir Beach to pick up the trailhead. We hiked mostly uphill for three miles, enjoying fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean and the rolling hills to the east, although the views would have been even more fantastic if it had been sunny. Alas, you can't have everything. The biggest perk to this particular trail is the cozy Pelican Inn that awaits you across the street from the trailhead when you get back down. Hiking six miles definitely deserves a pint of beer.

warriors of the golden state

In Seb's quest to see all the major professional sports that go on here in America, we added the NBA to the list with a trip across the bay to Oakland to see the Golden State Warriors play the L.A. Clippers at Oracle Arena. 


giants and tigers and victories, oh my

I was pumped to cheer on the Mizzou Tigers on Saturday afternoon, but was trumped by enthusiastic Giants fans who were not happy that there was a single, solitary TV turned to the Mizzou/OU game at the Bus Stop bar. One TV out of seven. Give us a break! Luckily San Francisco won to advance into the World Series, so Giants fans were happy, and us Mizzou fans weren't berated too much. Needless to say, it was a doubly exciting evening as MU beat OU just a couple of minutes before the Giants beat the Phillies.


they call it mammoth for a reason

We are quickly checking more places off our list of must-sees in Northern California, and they are quickly getting more and more spectacular. Last weekend was Mammoth Lakes, and the quickest way to get to Mammoth from San Francisco includes driving right through the middle of Yosemite National Park, so that was a little bonus. The five-hour drive was turned into an eight-hour day-trip with a stop for breakfast at a cozy, small-town diner called the Mangy Moose in the random town of Manteca, California, and a hike in Yosemite to the Tuolumme Grove of Giant Sequoias. Highway 120 through the national park offers some awesome views of the mountain peaks and domes, particularly the famous Half Dome. Eventually we made it through Yosemite and down to the rustic town of Mammoth Lakes and our hotel, the Westin Monache Resort, where two outdoor hot tubs and a heated pool were waiting for us, surrounded by pine trees and Mammoth Mountain. As it's not quite ski season, but no longer summer, Mammoth Lakes is in a bit of a limbo, so with nothing really to do, we were forced to relax and enjoy the scenery. Tough job.

After lunch the next day at the very cute Convict Lake Resort, where we admired the golden leaves on the aspen trees and had homemade chili and, quite possibly, the best pulled pork sandwich I've ever tasted, we headed back the way we came, through Yosemite, though Manteca, across the Bay Bridge, and back to San Francisco. The only difference was the 10 minutes of snow that fell on us as we were waiting to enter Yosemite through the park's eastern gate....ski season is on its way.

The Western entrance to Yosemite National Park on Hwy 120

On our way down to the sequoias
Giant Sequoia
Giant Sequoia + tunnel
View over Yosemite from the highway
Another stunning view, with Half Dome in the background
Half Dome
Convict Lake
Convict Lake
Convict Lake
Convict Lake Resort
Aspen trees at Convict Lake
Snow at the eastern entrance to Yosemite


fresh off the farm

Seb and I signed up to have fresh, organic, locally grown produce delivered right to our front door every two weeks from Farm Fresh to You. Our first delivery was this week. Between the radishes and three different kinds of lettuce, I felt like Peter Rabbit.


in a parking lot, drinking beer? must be football season!

At Lombard Street (the crooked street)
It was a heavy football weekend for us with college football at the Bus Stop Bar all afternoon Saturday and the 49ers game on Sunday. Good friends were in town -- Jenny, a fellow Mizzou Tiger, and Chip, an Arkansas Razorback. Seb was drowning a little in so much gridiron activity, but for someone who did not grow up with fall football mania, he was a good sport. The 49ers lost by three to the Eagles, but Seb's first football tailgating experience was a winner.

At the Bus Stop bar for the Arkansas/A&M game
Turning Seb into a true Tiger for the Mizzou/Colo. game

Tailgating before the 49ers game: Chip, Jenny, Jon

Candlestick Park stadium
Very high seats, but good ones
Chip, Jenny, Leah, Kelly


the rite stuff

Dolores Park in the Mission
Since moving here, I have heard lots of talk about a particularly delicious ice cream shop called the Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission district. I finally went with my friend Jen, and it truly is all it's cracked up to be. I had a scoop of cinnamon with a scoop of toffee coffee. Jen had honey lavender with cookies and cream. It's well worth waiting in the line that forms on sunny afternoons. And, in true San Francisco fashion, it's organic and uses dairy products from a local family creamery.

Across the street from the creamery is another favorite Mission spot, Dolores Park, where we parked ourselves for a bit to enjoy the sunshine.

A note on Jen--we actually met in Perth, where we bonded over our statuses as American expats who were living in Perth because of our boyfriends. She is from Merced, California, in the central valley near Yosemite National Park, and just moved to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I know...it is a small world.


california dreamin'

Of course, I was a little disappointed not to be at the lake for Labor Day, but at the same time, Labor Day is always really depressing at the lake because summer is basically over. However, in these parts, fall is the best time of year, so Labor Day is a preview of good things to come in northern California.

We took a little road trip over the long weekend down Highway 1 to Monterey (home of historic Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium) Carmel-by-the-Sea (right next to Pebble Beach Golf Course) and Big Sur (Amazing. Period.).

The seahorse exhibit at the aquarium was really cool, and the sea otters and penguins were as cute as they are everywhere. Carmel is where I would live in a fantasy life--beautiful homes that I imagine cost millions but are not over-the-top or obnoxious, cute cafes and shops, nice beach, good restaurants, adorable inns and b&bs. It's perfect. And Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel in the 80s. What? Seriously.

The icing on the cake, however, is Big Sur. This is how it goes: view after view around every bend on Highway 1 with woodsy lodges, campgrounds, inns and laid-back restaurants placed intermittently between state parks. The hills, cliffs and spraying surf make for a dramatic landscape that keeps you hopping out of your car on the side of the two-lane road every five minutes for a longer look at the view. It feels more like a small mountain town that just happens to be next to the Pacific Ocean. It's crazy beautiful.

Places we stopped in Big Sur: Big Sur River Inn (awesome deck and "backyard" on the Big Sur River with Adirondack chairs and a grill), Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (nice hike along the coast to a view of a secluded beach and the McWay Waterfall), Nepenthe (a cliff-side restaurant with (can you guess?) great views that's been in operation since 1949, is on property that used to be owned by Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles, and was a filming location for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), and the Post Ranch Inn (an insane four-star hotel perched on top of a cliff--we were lucky enough to get a table on the terrace for a drink, where I spent my time trying to see through the privacy fence to spot celebrities at the guest-only pool).

Click here to see all our photos from this trip.

Carmel Beach with Pebble Beach Golf Course on the far side
Bixby Bridge (built in the '30s) on Highway 1 between Carmel and Big Sur
McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Patio and deck at Nepenthe


a little hitchcock under the stars

The San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation hosts free screenings of favorite movies in local parks during the summer. We caught the latest one, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, in Union Square last weekend. Union Square isn't really a park, per se. For one thing, there's no grass, so sitting on a blanket on cold concrete wasn't the most comfortable experience, but the location in the shadows of the square's tall, historic buildings was perfect for this particular film, about a guy who spies on his neighbors through their windows. Cinema at its finest, and cheapest.

Union Square in downtown San Francisco


take me out to the ballgame

I was under the impression that baseball is a summertime sport. Right? Well, enjoying a beer and a hotdog at a baseball game while you're shivering in a beanie, scarf, hoodie and winter coat is not quite the same. Good thing AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, has an excellent bay-side location to make up for it. Our cheap tickets didn't afford us great views of the players on the field, but we were certainly up high enough for a nice view of the bay. The Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 5-2.


escape to sausalito

One of my favorite things about living in San Francisco is the proximity to Sausalito. It's more than just a Pepperidge Farm cookie. It's also a beautiful, bay-side town just across the GG Bridge with a marina, amazing houses, a cute main street and gorgeous views in every direction. In the short time we've been here, I've already ventured there three times for lunch. On Jess and Ryan's last day in town, we joined the crowds and made the slow commute across the bridge for a walk in the sun and a delicious, albeit expensive (you have to pay for these views, you know), lunch.

Looking back toward the city