Tag Archive: California

Touchdown, Manila! I’m back now after a month-long trip. This Oct-Nov trip had me packing and “improvising” for all 4 seasons. I know layering works but I never thought I’d experience extreme weather.

Miami was hot and humid, even in the evenings. The day we drove to Orlando and Hutchinson Island, it was in the high 20’s C. I was sweating while standing in line for my banshee ride in Avatar Land (Pandora) in Disney World. More beads of sweat as we took the boat ride to view celebrity homes in sunny Miami and checked out some Spanish Monastery. Oh, how it sizzled! It only grew more comfortable when we leisurely drove around Central Miami to feast on Joe’s stone crabs!

Peru had us moving from summer to spring. A blessing, given the rainy forecast for the day we visited Macchu Picchu. Weather was so unpredictable I had to strip to my undershirt during the day and then layer up towards late afternoons. I worked up a sweat climbing up and down this Incan sanctuary high up in the Andes. Temps dipped a bit as we moved from Aguas Calientes, Sacred Valley to Cusco and Lima.

From Peru, we flew back to Miami before flying to San Francisco, then Vegas and Utah to enjoy crisp autumn season. Halloween beckoned and the orange colors ruled the days especially when we visited Zion National Park and Red Rock Canyon. It was a great day for riverside walks and breezy, autumn afternoons.

The weekend in Lake Tahoe took over 3 hours of driving from San Francisco area. It rained, grew foggy and on our drive back, experienced snow at Donner Summit. But the lake view before that was breathtaking! By nightfall, we only managed a dinner in the hotel and a few casino hours. Slot machines bore me so I turned in early for the night while my friends played.

Back in San Francisco, we didn’t waste time visiting Napa Valley. The Riverfront, Ox Bow Public Market, the drive to Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena. Earlier, I wasn’t keen on doing yet another Napa day out. Now I realize there is simply too many, too much to cover in one visit. Mondavi the last time, Beringer, Hall and Far Niente now, perhaps Calistoga’s castle and wineries next. It was an exhausting, eventful month-long trip. Covered as much ground as possible in a month. Experienced all 4 seasons in one trip. Met up with as many friends and missed just as many too! I should be making another trip if only to visit more friends I sorely miss.

It’s a matter of choice. And finances 🙄. The Napa Valley Wine Train choo choos through the valley’s towns and vineyards. At this time of the year, it should be a splendid ride sipping some vintage wine paired with a gourmet meal while one’s eyes feast on the autumn foliage running through Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena. Or you can drive it!

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Yountville. This is Thomas Keller country. Per Se. French Laundry. Ad Hoc. Bouchon. Choose according to errrr….. budget. Bouchon breakfast of your favorite brew and that cluster of freshly-baked epi with the signature butter and jam should do it. If you like, take your brew and bread a few steps away to a garden table right by Thomas Keller’s organic farm just across French Laundry. Here you can enjoy the farm view, linger, and people-watch. A much better deal than watching the line at Bouchon Bakery and feeling guilty overstaying at your table.

Oakville. We missed the oldest grocery store in California here. Still operating, but with artisanal products intended for tourists/visitors rather than its measly population of 300. We should drop in next time we’re in the area. But we didn’t miss visiting the Carmelite Monastery — with its beautiful garden and pond meditation place. The vineyards around the area look newly-harvested. Thank God the recent wildfire didn’t reach this area.

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Rutherford-St. Helena. Well, if you ask me, I like St. Helena best. It is farther away but certainly worth the extra distance. For many who have done Napa and nearby Yountville, St. Helena struck me as more elegant in a casual way. More posh. We only managed to visit Far Niente, Beringer and Hall vineyards but these are truly enough for a short afternoon visit. The interior road to Far Niente is like a drive to a forest basking in its autumn colors. And the Far Niente gate — though closed the day we visited — is teeming with blooms.

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Beringer with its Rhine House and garden replete with blooms is quite a sight. On the other hand, Hall seems “ready” for its many wine-drinking guests. Before the tasting, one can stroll around the vineyard and enjoy the view. The staff were also accommodating.

St. Helena has a number of restaurants worth visiting. My friend’s favorite is Farmstead. But we went for the less formal Gott’s. The original is right here in St. Helena. This unpretentious place has a good, informal setting for “happy hours” — wine or craft beer — and a good selection of reasonably-priced soup, salad and sandwiches. I liked today’s special – a beef brisket sandwich, and enjoyed the spicy tomato soup, but I’m told their burgers are tops. Perhaps next time. St. Helena absolutely deserves another visit!

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