San Francisco and Napa Valley

View from Twin Peaks

San Francisco is an incredible city and I try to visit once a year because I have family in the area. My visit this June was with two of my friends who had never been there. Once we landed and got our rental car we were off to explore some key tourist spots in the city. The first stop was Twin Peaks which offers great views of the city – almost 360 degree view from the parking area. A scene from “Copycat” was filmed here. (I loved the cast in that movie: Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney and Harry Connick, Jr.) Then we drove to Alamo Square, which is a park with a view of San Francisco with the Victorian Row houses along the park. This is also the opening trailer scene from Full House (which dates me a little bit, it was a sitcom from the late 80’s to mid 90’s). It’s a great place for a picnic or photos of the city. Then we drove through Chinatown, Nob Hill and Russian Hill and came down the famous section of Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. In that litte section it has eight switchbacks. It’s actually less scary to drive than some of the steep hills in San Fransisco, but if you’re looking for a picture of it, it’s best to do it from the bottom looking up, on the corner of Lombard and Leavenworth.

Palace of Fine Arts

We spent the afternoon at Pier 39, walked into some of the shops, checked out the sea lions and the view of Alcatraz, then had lunch at the Sea Lion Cafe on the upper level. Alcatraz is a must see for any tourist first visiting San Francisco and the tour is great, but for this trip, our main focus was Napa Valley. After lunch we drove to the Palace of Fine Arts. Photographs really don’t do this place justice, it’s massive and gorgeous. Walk around the pond and up to the pillars and stand under the dome. A short scene from “The Rock” with Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage was filmed here, along with many other movies. The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the world’s fair, or the Panama-Pacific International Exposition to celebrate the Panama Canal’s completion. It is the only structure from the exposition to remain in its original site.

View from Vista Point

After walking around the Palace of Fine Arts, we drove through Golden Gate Park and went to the ocean. It was a little chilly, but there were so many sand dollars on the beach. We made sure the ones we picked up were dead, and we still had a bag full. We spent the night at a hotel near the ocean. The next morning we drove across The Golden Gate Bridge, which is one of the modern Wonders of the World. It amazes me how this bridge could have been completed, and it’s fun seeing pictures of the construction. On the northeast side of the bridge we pulled off into Vista Point, which offers great views of the bridge and the city on the other side of the bay. Then we headed north to Napa Valley and checked into our room, then went to Robert Mondavi winery. I love their wine and have made many trips to Napa, but this was my first time to their winery. We got there just about closing time, but they were nice enough to give us a tasting anyway and we looked around at the beautiful winery.

Tasting deck at Sterling

The next morning we toured Sutter Home winery, had some great tastings and spent some time and money in their huge gift store.Then we toured Sterling, you pay at the bottom of the hill and then take a tram ride up to their winery. Worth the price, tram ride has beautiful views, as does the deck after one of the tastings, we just sat at one of the tables for a while soaking up the views. After another tasting stop, we sat on the other side of the building with less of a view, but more evergreens and a mountain feel. It was very peaceful. Our second to last winery was Frank Family Vineyards. Another tasting worth the price, some of the best wine I’ve had. We drove by Castello di Armorosa, just so they could see it, but we didn’t go on the tour. If you haven’t been, it’s worth it, I love this winery. The last winery for the day was V. Sattui, which is one of my favorites. We met my sister there and had lunch on one of the picnic tables. They have a great food selection inside, along with chilled wines. We bought baguettes, brie and Riesling and had a nice afternoon eating and drinking. If you love wine, Napa Valley is a great place to visit. There are so many wineries to choose from, it could take a while to get through them!

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