The San Rafael Market was beautiful: fresh fruit and veggies, seafood, meats, baked goods, lots of samples, art, crafts, jewelry, all types of food stands, live music, and even a bouncy room and a face painting clown for the kids! We had a great time and the food. Wow! The Indian plates were very good and the burritos were great as well.
Make a stop at the red barn in Rutherford. By far our best winery visit in the valley. The Williams family,the owners, maintain a sense of humor about wine that translates into an entertaining yet informative tour and tasting experience. They also happen to produce some very fine zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, and sauvignon blanc. Even the merlot was great no matter what Miles said in that"Sideways" flick.
Frog’s Leap prides themselves on the sustainability of their operation, and the tour guides will tell you about their organic farming techniques and the 1.5 acres of solar panels that provide power to the facilities.You can wander through thier heirloom orchard, pick fruits from the garden, skip stones on the frog pond, and even shoot some hoops to win a prize!
Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, was a lot of fun. Many things to see and taste with people handing out free tastes of wine as you go. We attended a lecture on Zinifindel wines (including a tasting), participated in a tasting of a local vinyard, and watched a chef present how to make cream fresh.
The exhibits were unique and fascinating. The "Forks in the Road" and "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" exibits were the standouts. The onsite garden tour was informative. We did eat a delicious snack at the onsite café, but not at Julia’s Kitchen since it was not yet time for dinner.
Copia is a great place to spend some time when you finally reach vineyard-visiting capacity!
Pier 33 was the departure point for Alcatraz. The 10 minute ferry to Alcatraz had so many great views. The introductory tour happens outside giving a good historical overview of the island, but make sure you layer or bring a thick jacket, cause the wind gets really cold. Yes, even in June.
The audio tour was amazing. The excellent narration covers it all from the exercise yard to the escape attempt of Frank Morris. Walking those halls and looking at the place firsthand allowed for an individual understanding of the Rock. The night tour allows for another hour on the island with access to Park Rangers who hold special sessions on Alcatraz. You definetly dont want to miss it!
Driving in San Francisco is not recommended. Here are some reasons why: Parking is scarce and pricey. Traffic is frequently backed up. The hilly roads are not very well laid out and are often one way only. Signage on the streets is poorly done. Most of the drivers see the traffic laws as optional and tend to bend them frequently. As far as I can tell very few follow the so called Vatican ’s ten car-mandments.
Avoid driving in San Francisco if you can. Otherwise find a place to park A.S.A.P. and ride some of the excellent mass transit offered in the city. The bus can take you anywhere and is fast.
The baked goods in Chinatown were beautiful as they were delicious. Some of the other "food" items were a different story. I do have to admit that there were a few so called foods there in the market that would have given even Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel, pause before consumption.
The Chinatown tour with the City Guides was great for me, but my companion was not happy with it. To her it was a a dirty place and unless you like crowds, smelly fish heads, strong smells of strange foods and seeing a whole duck ,head on and all hanging in the window do not visit.
To me Chinatown was colourful, historic, busy, noisy, and had someting interesting down every alley. The history and look of Bank of Canton in the former Chinese Telephone Exchange building was remarkable. The herbal shops and market area had so many interesting items.Overall a bustling and amazing piece of China in the U.S.
Since 1873, cable cars have run up and down this hilly city, though after 1950, the cars have been kept in operation more out of historic nostalgia than need or comfort.
Do it once just to say you rode one. Do it again if you like pricy, loud, and crowded rides.
This 19th-century fort is located near the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge . It was built between 1853 and 1861, and is located at the site of an old Spanish fort. The U.S. Army occupied the fort until the turn of the century to prevent the intrusion of hostile forces into the San Francisco Bay .
Constructed of brick and granite, Fort Point's design was influenced by French engineer Simon Bernard and U.S. Army engineer Joseph Totten. Fort Point is very similar to other forts constructed in the civil war era like Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC, and Fort Pulaski in Savannah, GA.
Fort Point became technically obsolete during the Civil War with the development of rifled artillery and ironclad ships. Later, it was used for the headquarters for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge . In World War II, it served another military purpose, when the Army used it as an antisubmarine defense post. Rapid-fire guns were mounted on top of the fort to guard against submarine entry.
You can take a self-guided tour of the fort's four levels: the Sally Port, the Second and Third Tiers, and the Barbette Tier. Do not miss this upper level.
It is windy up top, but you can get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge from below and see the Fort Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was no longer used after the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge interfered with the light, which could at one time be seen from 10 to 12 miles at sea.
This bakery has been making San Francisco's sour dough since 1849 and you can watch them make it today. A large glass window allows passers by a look while the bakers shape the dough.
Watching the shapes take form is very entertaining, but the bread that results it even better. Have a meal at the cafe or get a loaf to take with you. Oh, I almost forgot the pastries are good too.
At AA the assortment of amazing looking cakes and Chinese-style buns is mind boggling. All are tasty yet inexpensive. AA's coconut rolls are absolutely amazing. Get them in the AM when they're fresh out of the oven. Each bite of the sweet, melted coconut was delicious. The Chinatown marketplace is loud so don't be shy and simply shout out your orders to get noticed!
The city by the bay is the most bohemian large city in America . Urban and cosmopolitan with all those people in such a small area. The pretty houses on hilly streets provide beautiful views of the bay during the times the fog is not too thick.
In terms of birds, Bolinas Lagoon is like a buffet for your eyes. The Audubon Canyon Ranch is a nature preserve, overlooking Bolinas Lagoon. This wild canyon with steep trails, tall trees, and grassy meadows, is home to a variety of plants and animals. Plying the shallows of the lagoon, you'll come across herons, egrets, ducks, sandpipers, and dozens of other types of birds.
The ranch is open on weekends from mid-March to mid-July, while herons and egrets nest, breed, and raise their chicks. What a great place to go birding
Steinbeck used real people and places as models for his novel, Cannery Row. Cannery Row is the street that runs parallel to the Monterey shoreline and nearest to the water. Many dynamic people lived in Monterey 's Cannery Row in it’s historic fishing glory days, at the turn of the twentieth century.
Today, Cannery Row is touristy. T-shirts shops are prevalent, but do not pass it by. Walking there you can imagine the many of the nostalgic places were before like Ed Ricketts' Lab and the Wing Chong building. If nothing else, this is a great place to sit by the sea, have a snack, and listen to the waves.
What a well-kept secret! If you are looking for extraordinary views of the Pacific Ocean, nestled by fragrant cypress trees, while watching marine mammals bask on the rocks, this is the place. As it has been said before there are no words to describe this incredible meeting of earth, sky and water.
Relatively easy to navigate terain with spectacular views. This makes the ocean views of 17 Mile Drive seem almost everyday in comparison.
A must see for anyone in the Monterey area. Point Lobos was a real treat - unspoilt beaches, emerald colored waters cliffs, wildlife, and a rare cypress grove.
This historical bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in the world because of its location along the beautiful central California coast. Made of reinforced concreate , the Bixby Bridge is a open-spandrel arch bridge in Big Sur.
Bixby Bridge is important historically because it introduced automobile travel to the area by connecting some remote coastal towns to each other. Before the bridge was completed in 1932, coastal travelers endured rough roads over precipitous ridges and deep valleys. What now is a 30 mile journey from Monterey to the Big Sur River valley could take three days round trip before this bridge and CA-1.
Sequoias! The sheer size and girth will astonish and amaze all.
Giant forest is known as being the best sequoia grove of all, it contains at least 12 of the top 40 giant sequoias. Giant sequoia trees are known for having the greatest size of all living things. The park’s General Sherman Tree, 275 feet high and 36.4 feet in diameter, is estimated to weigh 2,500 metric tons. Research suggests that the tree is about 2,200 years old. The size of these trees in photos does not do justice to their majestic enormity and the sense of perspective one gets from walking through these groves.
In the Giant forest, the General Sherman tree, Congress Trail and the Big Trees Trail are outstanding. There was always a crowd gathered by the General Sherman tree, the largest living thing on the planet. Taking a photo by the tree is a must do.
The Congress Trail is a paved path which winds its way through a beautiful grove of large sequoias. Not many crowds here as we had the trail almost completely to ourselves.
Giant Forest Museum , on Generals Highway, a 30-mile scenic drive at 7,000 feet., in Giant Forest contains exhibits about the giant trees that surround it, their natural history, and how they are being protected.
If you drive up Highway 198 from the southwest be prepared for construction delays and a narrow and winding road. The road to Cedar Grove Village is also winding with sheer drop offs.
Moro Rock is a great adventure, for those without the inclination or time to do hard-core climbing. The path itself is spectacular, winding up through cracks in the rock and out high in the air along the side of the enormous rock face. This is not a trip for the extremely faint-hearted, or those extremely afraid of heights. However, the numerous railings and well-defined stairs make it seem safe, and the majority of people shouldn't have any problem. A person would have to be really trying, to fall over the edge.
The view from the top is spectacular on a clear day. It is said that it rivals the view from Glacier Point in Yosemite . Yet the day we were there the view was very foggy. All i could see is the fog cloud so I cannot confirm this.
Grant Grove is a sequoia grove located in Kings Canyon and includes General Grant tree, one of the five largest Giant Sequoias. This was a great place for a hike in the afternoon.
Theses park is well maintained with ample parking, food and picnic sites. The visitor centers are well spaced and offer a nice view overview of the parks.
Also of note is these parks are not as visited as nearby Yosemite so they make a great place to get away.
The Yosemite Valley what a beautiful place, really awe inspiring. A photographer and nature lover's paradise.
Make sure you get up and visit Yosemite early. The wildlife is more active in the morning and the crowds of people do not arrive until after 10 am. Also, the best time for photography is early and late in the day.The light is great then.
During the middle of the day get out of the village crowds and walk along the flat beautiful trails or hike to Vernal Falls.
The warm weather and cascading falls were a joy. Do not miss Bridal Veil Falls, Lower Yosemite Falls, or Tunnel view. All of these are easy to get to and have great views. Yosemite Falls, the fifth tallest waterfall in the world, is the centerpiece of Yosemite National Park. El Capitan is a massive granite monolith that stands over 3,500 ft. and is claimed to be the largest monolith of granite in the world. We first viewed El Capitan from Tunnel View, right after the Wawona Tunnel. This is a fantastic place to photograph the rock where you will also see Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls.
You can see Half Dome, a spectacular Yosemite icon, from most places in Yosemite Valley . We enjoyed photographing it at the Tunnel View area.This is one of Yosemite 's grandest sights to behold while touring.
Saw lots of wildlife, but did not see any bears. We were told we just missed one near the chapel. Plenty of stores to visit in the valley.
California Hwy 140 into the park is an outstanding road and has great views along the way.