Friday, November 27, 2015

CALIFORNIA: San Francisco | Part 2

Haight & Ashbury 
One of the most famous cross streets in the USA is Haight & Ashbury. This area is well known for it's history - having a part in the origin of the hippie movement. While the hippie movement is no longer as present, this is still a rather artsy, bohemian spot. There's plenty of vintage or thrift shops, along with record stores and other small businesses. You can spot a lot of creative graffiti throughout the city, but we saw quite a lot around this area in particular. If you like unique one of a kind shops this is a great destination. 

Pier 39 - The Fisherman's Wharf
The most tourist-centric area in all of San Fransisco is spread out around Pier 39 - aka The Fisherman's Wharf. Within this area is the famous Ghiradelli Square as well as beautiful views of Alcatraz and the adorable sea lions. If you aren't a fan of tourist traps, this area doesn't have a lot to offer. There are a lot of chain restaurants, it's crowded, and extremely commercialized. However, the sea lions are worth a visit. We also stopped by Musée Mécanique - a neat little stop full of antique arcade machines and games located a little further on Pier 45. Admission is free, so it's worth a stop if you appreciate bizarre, beautiful, and often creepy automatons.

Grace Cathedral
If you are into Gothic architecture, the Grace Cathedral is hard to miss. It is a very beautiful building in the heart of San Francisco. At the time we were there, the cathedral was hosting a wedding party so we could not get inside for more than a second or two.

China Town
We spent our final night and day on the West Coast in San Francisco visiting China Town. It is a great place to get out of your car and walk around to take in the atmosphere. It is a double edged sword as there are many tourist traps but the scenery makes you feel like you're in a different part of the world. We really enjoyed walking around, getting some delicious Chinese food as well as bubble tea, which are in abundance in the area. There are many shops full of trinkets and Chinese souvenirs if that is your thing.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

CALIFORNIA: San Francisco | Part 1

On our way to San Francisco from Napa we decided our first venture in the area should be into the Muir Woods. This was quite a congested and slow drive but it was our first time really getting to see the beautiful views that CA 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) offers.

John Muir Woods Park
We were very limited in our time in the area so we made the best of it and took a short hike through Muir Woods. Its a very peaceful place to hike, and very quiet in contrast to the loud & busy city it neighbors. You are engulfed under the Redwood's canopy so there is little light that shines through and it is quite cold. Seeing these amazing Sequoia's in person is something that should be on everyone's bucket list. They are rare, ancient, and honestly mind-blowing in size. Photographs can never quite capture the full scale of these things. Unfortunately we had to make our way out quite quickly to be able to enjoy the cities attractions.

Golden Gate Bridge
Coming into San Francisco over the Golden Gate can be just as intimidating as passing the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. The Golden Gate Bridge is an amazing piece of engineering and it is very surreal to be able to drive over it and see the landscape of the city in the distance. The bridge is often partially covered by the surrounding fog which adds to the dreamy appearance. We decided to take a drive around Golden Gate park to get some great views of the bridge and bay. 

Palace of Fine Arts
Built in 1915 and rebuilt in 1965, this amazing structure was made for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition. It is easy to access and at the time we were there they were filming something inside the structure. Quite an iconic structure, it is notable for being featured in many films including Hitchcock's Vertigo. 

Check out Part Two here.

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Friday, November 6, 2015


Following our stop in Humboldt County, we made our way towards Wine County. We are not wine snobs but we do enjoy drinking some delicious grapes (in fact we actually prefer two buck chuck wine from Trader Joes than most expensive wines that we have tried). Josh is kind of a beer snob - if only they had a beer country... I guess Asheville and Portland will suffice for now. Anyways, we made a few stops around Napa county to visit some vineyards.

Calistoga - Chateu Montelena 

Since we were not sure which vineyards had the best wine we decided to go to places based on location and scenery. There are hundreds of vineyards in the area so it is quite overwhelming to decide where to go. Chateu Montelena appeared castle-like, which appealed to us for the sake of photos. We did try some of the wine, but it was out of our price range for purchase.

Calistoga - Castello di Amorosa

Since we had a lot of time leftover after Montelena we decided on going to the famous Castello di Amorosa. A bit of a tourist trap, but this place can be fun for some photos. We did a wine tasting here as well and actually ended up purchasing a bottle of Fantasia - a sparking Rose that was very sweet. Our wine guide was super friendly and we really enjoyed visiting this location.
An added bonus - this location has a residental cat named Lancelot.

Saint Helena - Beringer Vineyards

On our way back to the hotel we passed by the Beringer Vineyards and decided to just take a walk around the property. Beringer is one of the more well known wines found in your local grocery store and not too expensive. The grounds are actually quite gorgeous, and we even spotted some hummingbirds.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

CALIFORNIA: Humboldt County

We arrived in North California late at night and were staying with family. The drive was gorgeous and the area was full of places to explore. We did a little bit of hiking within the redwood forests and we also checked out some of what the nearby towns had to offer. The towns are primarily small and populated by independent businesses. The area encourages art and creativity, which is abundant even in the surrounding graffiti.

Ladybird Johnson Groves
Our first experience with the California Red Woods was in Humboldt County on a small trail that led through a forest. While a simple hike, it was a gorgeous little introduction to the unique redwoods. While it was rather overcast, it did make for some good photos of the fog among the trees. 

North County Fair
Luckily on the day we went to explore downtown Arcata we got to experience the North County Fair. The fair was full of crafty vendors, food, and creative costumes. There was a parade of people dressed as animals and several kinetic sculptures with incredible designs. 

Lukes Joint Restaurant
The great thing about the west coast is that their is an abundance of great organic and vegan friendly restaurants. Located in downtown Arcata, Lukes Joint was a great little spot to eat lunch at after the Parade. 

3 Foods Cafe
After a nice day of relaxing and exploring the local scenery we went to a quaint little independent restaurant for dinner called the 3 Foods Cafe (which apparently now is closed). The food was great and it was a lovely little spot for a nice dinner. Although we're sad to hear this place has closed, there are fortunately plenty of great little spots in the surrounding area. 

You can read our other entries about California here.

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