Long Overdue: San Francisco Part III- Target, Trains and Trees.

After a good night’s sleep from our Alcatraz/Biking Washout adventure, we woke up bright and early to drive out to Napa (which is about an hour drive from San Francisco) to take a wine train through Napa.   Since we had neglected to bring our regular cameras, we decided to stop by a Target on the way up to Napa and buy a digital camera so we could be sure to get good pictures.  In the end, the pictures on that camera weren’t better than the pictures from my iPhone which was unfortunate.  However, it did have a “fish photo” option which provided us with a ton of entertainment throughout the day.  Two samples posted below.

When we got to Napa, we found a little place to eat breakfast called Alexis Baking Company & Cafe.  Unfortunately the wait was too long and we ended up getting breakfast sandwiches to go.   I can’t really give a legitimate review of the food (given we took it to go and it was lukewarm by the time we ate it at the train station and I can’t even remember the food at this point), but the place was packed and it looked cute.  I would definitely go back next time I visit Napa and have a little more time to sit down and eat.

For the Napa Valley Wine Train, we originally purchased tickets for the Silverado Car, but we were on a wait list for the Gourmet Lunch and thankfully ended up getting upgraded to the Gourmet Lunch.  Even better, technically the Gourmet Lunch was cheaper for us, because there was a military discount for that option.  Better food and better experience for cheaper price?  I vote yes.   Also, at one point I walked through the train to find a restroom and walked through the Silverado car.  I was SO thankful we were able to get the Gourmet lunch.  The Silverado car had no air conditioning, had the ambiance of a gas station Subway restaurant, and was extremely loud.  The gourmet car was quiet, air conditioned, and generally wonderful 🙂

Waiting for the train to leave 🙂

The gourmet cars are refurbished to look like they would have in the early 1900s.  We had the “second seating,” which meant for the first half of the ride, we were in a “lounge car” that had cozy chairs facing out to big picture windows, and were served an appetizer course.   There was a bartender who periodically told us interesting facts about Napa and the sights out the windows.  I may or may not have disturbed the peaceful ambiance by snort laughing at pictures Dave and I took using the fish photo feature on the new camera.

Appetizer Course

 

Nice Views 🙂

 

Fish Photo 1

Fish Photo 2

 

At the halfway point, the train turned around and we were seated at tables in the dining car for a three course lunch.   I had a baby lettuce salad with candied walnuts and goat cheese, followed by a delicious chicken entree and of course chocolate cake for dessert 🙂

 

 

 


You are allowed to walk through the cars and can stop by the kitchen car and see the food being prepared, and there is also  a car where you can go do a wine tasting.  We didn’t get around to doing either of those things, but I really enjoyed it.  I would totally recommend it to someone who hadn’t been to Napa before as a good primer for the region, and even to people who have been there a lot who want to have a delicious lunch in a unique setting (i.e. with all of Napa streaming past you instead of just sitting in one location).

After the train ride, we headed out to the Muir Woods for a hike.  The drive up to the park was beautiful, and we stopped at one point and took some pictures of the view from the top of one of the hills.

Finding the entrance to the park was a bit tricky, as was finding parking, but after paying the $5 per person entry fee, we were soon walking through a forest of Coast Redwoods.  While there aren’t any drive through trees in the Muir Woods like some of the redwoods you can find further north in California, the trees are Coast redwoods, the tallest trees in the world.  We walked a few of the loops for a total of about 3 miles in about an hour.   I was not dressed appropriately for a hike… planning fail on my part… But luckily the trails are not intense.   It’s (normally) a very short drive from San Francisco.  You just cut over the Golden Gate bridge and it’s about 9 miles away.  I will definitely be recommending this side trip to anyone I know who visits San Francisco.

Self Portrait 🙂

Unfortunately for us, we were visiting Muir Woods on a holiday weekend, and it took us over an hour and a half to drive that 9 miles back into San Francisco.  Also unfortunately, the stop and go traffic combined with me turning the trapped time in the car into endless photo opportunities resulted in me getting extremely car sick.  Dave offered to pull over but I thought I was going to be fine.  Then, it happened.  Just a few blocks before we reached our hotel, sitting in the passenger seat while my boyfriend of one month was driving, I started vomiting into an Old Navy bag.  That’s right, I know how to keep it classy.  I kept apologizing, mainly because I couldn’t stop thinking about this episode of How I Met Your Mother where Lily gets sick and her husband thinks she sounds like a velociraptor when she barfs, and that sound is dubbed over every time she barfs.  Because I am the queen of rational thinking, I was pretty convinced that Dave was going to be really grossed out and think I also sound like a velociraptor when I barf.

Leaving Muir Woods... Dave stays calm, I freak out.

Fish Photo on Windy Road (probably what made me sick...)

 

Fish Photo 3

Dave's "I Love Traffic" Face

So close, but so far away...

Once I was no longer in a moving car, I felt a lot better.  We changed clothes and decided to walk down Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner.  We were kind of anti-Fisherman’s Wharf because of the whole tourist trap atmosphere, but a sourdough breadbowl from Boudin Bakery sounded good so we went with it.   After dinner, we walked around the pier for awhile.   It’s really pretty at night with the water and the city/bridge/pier lights, and there is great people and seal watching.

I can’t remember the exact details of why we decided to walk back to our hotel.   We got a really late start on dinner, so by this point it was pretty late and not knowing the neighborhoods, I wasn’t entirely sure that it was the best idea to walk our way back but we did and we were fine.

The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel’s (Sir Francis Drake) restaurant, Scala’s Bistro, before leaving to drive home.   The restaurant is beautiful, the food and coffee were delicious, and the best part was that we got $30 off.  You can get $10/day coupons from the hotel for foregoing housekeeping because it is the environmental thing to do.  So, win for the environment and win for us! 🙂

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Long Overdue: Napa, in which we had Mexican Food and Fudge Grahams.


Long, long ago, in a time called Mid-April 2011, two ridiculously overworked L.A. lawyers found themselves with a weekend off at the same time, and journeyed to the far away land of Napa, California.

Ok, so I can’t really write this whole thing in storybook form.  But yes, after about 4.5 years of living in California (and many, many times of driving through Northern CA but never stopping), I finally made it up to Napa.  In fact, in the April-May time frame I took a lot of trips to places around California and realized I had been MISSING OUT on fun weekend get-away ideas for nearly 5 years.  But this post is just about Napa.  And I highly recommend a weekend getaway to Napa to pretty much anyone who appreciates beautiful scenery and good food.  (However, if you are looking for wild, fast-paced party-city type environment, Napa is probably not the place for you).

The drive to Napa is around 6 hours.  Some people drive from L.A., some people fly.   You can get tickets for like $59 each way (+tax) and it’s a quick flight (compared to the 6 hour drive).  However, if you fly you have to rent a car to drive out to Napa, and worry about luggage/taking wine back/etc.   Personally, we wanted the flexibility of time and being able to go wherever we wanted, and we also wanted to shop and buy wine and not have to worry about fitting things into our luggage to get back.  (And honestly, even with gas prices at the time overall it was cheaper to drive and despite being well paid lawyers we both love a bargain).  So we drove.

Unfortunately, our drive up was fairly traumatic involving a failed attempt to rescue a stray dog on the freeway and witnessing a road rage incident resulting in a car flipping multiple times and landing upside down.  Needless to say, by the time we reached Napa we were ready for some therapy.   If our mental states from our job wasn’t enough of an excuse, that car ride put us (or at least me) over the edge.

Before engaging in multiple forms of therapy, we stopped to check in at our hotel- The Ivy Hotel Napa.  It’s a newly renovated Best Western Plus hotel.  Not in the center of the action, but the price was great, the decor was gorgeous, and my two favorite words: complimentary breakfast.  I highly recommend this hotel, unless you want to be able to walk to things besides Mexican food and a convenience store (more on that later).

So after unloading, we were off to begin our therapy.

First form of therapy?  Retail therapy.   That’s right, our first stop (after the hotel) was the Napa outlets.  Mucho dollars were spent.  Matching outfits were acquired.  (Not intentionally, we just like a lot of the same clothes).

Second form of therapy?  Mexican food at the restaurant in the parking lot of our hotel.   Yes, we drove SIX HOURS to WINE COUNTRY which is known for amazing food and wine, to down chips and salsa and margaritas at some random Mexican joint next to our hotel a la Dennys & Days Inn.  You know what?  It was delicious.  And we enjoyed it 🙂

Third form of therapy?  Purchase cheap bottle of wine and fudge grahams from the convenience store on the other side of the hotel, and retreat to our room to relax and watch a movie.  That’s right, we know how to keep it classy.   This is making it people:

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The next day, however, we were legit Napa visitors.  We had scheduled a wine tour with Platypus tours.  It picked us up at our hotel in the morning, and we spent the day with 4 or 5 couples.  Clearly more of a couple thing to do, but our tour group and guide were fantastic and it didn’t feel awkward at all.  Unfortunately, since we were not a couple, we did not opt as many of the couples did to share their tastings.  So we may or may not have ended up consuming a little too much wine.   But the tour was great and so worth it.  We got a beautiful drive through the valley and learned a lot of fun facts from our guide, visited four wineries, lunch and snacks were included.

I would definitely recommend a guided tour.  It’s a great intro to the area and nice to not have to worry about driving.  However, I wish we had an extra day so we could spend the next day driving around and checking out places on our own.  So that would be my recommendation to other Napa visitors… plan a tour and plan for a day that you can travel around on your own.

Now, I’m too tired to continue with details, but here are some pics.  All are taken with my iPhone which doesn’t completely do it justice, but the iPhone camera ain’t bad 😉

And lastly, one of me and my faithful companion 😉