Blog: The Hopeful Traveler
The Redwood Highway, part 2
Listen, I'm no wine connoisseur. I love to drink it, I have my favorites, and I know the difference between a French Burgundy and a Chilean Chardonnay (one is red and the other is white). But I have yet to sniff a cork and the sight of someone sloshing wine around in their mouth with a thoughtful look on their face is highly amusing. However, if you are one of these people and have not yet been to the Wine Country of California—then this is the place for you. Actually, this place is for you even if you're not one.
After leaving Mendocino, I headed inland to the 101 and pretty soon I was in the California Wine Region. Sonoma County is rolling and green and the vineyards popping up along the roadside make undulating patterns up into the hills like blankets. Then I started seeing the huge Winery Tasting Rooms – stone chateaux designed to knock your eyes out and pull you in off the highway. Even though the vast majority of wineries are further north, I passed dozens even before arriving in Kenwood, my destination for the next two nights.
The Kenwood Inn and Spa (kenwoodinn.com) looks like one of these gargantuan wine villas. I checked in and found I'd been upgraded due to the slow time of year. Room #18 had a fireplace, a Jacuzzi tub and a shower big enough for 12. Around the hotel's central courtyard was a wine bar, a breakfast room, and a formal dining room (closed for the holidays). Heated pool, steam room, several hot tubs… Merry Christmas, Steve.
After a couple of hours of pretending to be William Randolph Hearst, I got out and visited a couple of nearby wineries, where I sampled some delicious red wines served in glasses the size of my head. One thing you'll find around here is that everyone, I mean everyone living here is somehow associated with the wine business. So you can easily catch some of the local winery gossip (didn't know there was such a thing, did you?) or get recommendations on where to visit. I later sampled some champagne (oops, it's called sparkling wine these days unless it came from France) in the wine bar back at the Kenwood Inn before returning to my sumptuous palace.
Passing two more drizzly, cold days in front of the fire, with a few more samplings of wine, I reluctantly packed up and headed south along the 101 and into San Francisco. I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in a heavy fog. The upper reaches of the bridge were lost in the mist and the ocean below was just a cloud, so I felt like I was driving through a dream. Nob Hill and Telegraph Hill were completely obscured so when I got to my hotel, The Stanford Court (stanfordcourt.com) on Nob Hill, I really could have been anywhere. Well, I take that back. The clang of the passing cable cars was pretty specific.
San Francisco was full of tourists—including lots of foreigners taking advantage of the exchange rate. Union Square was jammed with post-holiday shoppers, even in the cold and drizzle. I checked out the sales at various favorites like Banana Republic and Nordstroms but ended not buying anything. Later I had dinner with family at a great little place called Tiramisu (cafetiramisu.com), located in a small side street (Belden Street) a few blocks from Union Square. Years ago, I always stayed in other parts of the city when visiting, near Golden Gate Park or close to Fisherman's Wharf but really, the heart of San Francisco is Union Square. I feel I'm in a metropolis there. Plus, it's easy to get around (great for walking, if you can manage the hills). Chinatown is right nearby, Market Street, and even North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf are within walking distance.
Next morning I drove back across the Golden Gate toward Marin and took the turnoff to Muir Woods National Monument (muirwoods.com). This National Park turns 100 years old this year and is one of only a few old-growth redwood forests in the world. There are paved trails through the trees with some incredible views and lots of wildlife. An easy stroll through the 2 mile round trip can be done comfortably in a couple of hours. Its accessibility to the city makes it a perfect morning visit. I suggest you get there as early as possible to avoid the later crowds.
Where else did I visit in San Francisco? I made my first visit to Grace Cathedral (gracecathedral.org), also on Nob Hill. It's a gorgeous Contemporary Gothic Episcopal Church, built in 1964. It's famous for its stained glass windows and two traditional labyrinths. Also on Nob Hill (by this time I was weary of climbing up and down all these hills) I had a coffee in the elegant lounge of the Fairmont Hotel, where they also serve a sumptuous Afternoon Tea.
Next day, alas, my redwood adventure came to a close. I drove to the airport to find that the holiday travel crowds were now on their way home and were pretty cranky about it. I can't really complain about returning to a home like San Diego. As I flew in, the cruise ships were parked in San Diego Bay, the sun was hitting the USS Ronald Reagan over on Coronado Island and the sailboats were berthed in neat rows along Harbor Drive. "Having a wonderful time, wish you were here."
Steven Berrier 2007
posted on: 1/6/2008 2:44:28 PM by Steven Berrier and Leslie Coles
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The Hopeful Traveler
by Steven Berrier and Leslie Coles
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About Steven And Leslie:
Steven Berrier and Leslie Coles are the owners of Natural Order, specializing in home organization in San Diego and Southern California. Both are avid travelers who can't resist giving advice.
Steven And Leslie's Website: