A Weekend Getaway

The Redwood Room in San Francisco

Review by Lee Daley.

San Francisco’s Redwood Room at the Clift.

Welcome to the Redwood Room—an unforgettable San Francisco destination just steps away from downtown Union Square. Whether at the bar, crafted from an 800-year-old redwood tree. or seated in the extended seating area with its magnificent Klimt artwork display, you can expect superb service in an elegant and intimate setting. It’s almost a rite of passage for locals and visitors to take in the Redwood Room vibe with its soaring redwood walls, subdued art deco lighting, and welcoming servers.  On a recent Thursday evening visit, my spouse and I found vocalist and pianist Josh Gelfand holding court as he fielded musical requests from fans.

 

 

Calaveras County for Mining, Hiking, Biking, Wining, Dining, Fishing, Camping and Jumping with Mark Twain’s Frogs.

Ironstone Vineyards, Calaveras County, Gold Country, Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills, CaliforniaStory and Photos by John Sundsmo.

Gold country in the Sierra mountain foothills is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Francisco. For my wife and I, a Calaveras County roadtrip was a big question mark. Having been, we now know that Calaveras County has a gold and copper mining history, but today is a mecca for hiking, biking, wining, dining, golfing, fishing, camping, river rafting, gold panning, spelunking, and even vodka, gin and whiskey tasting at a local distillery. With a group of friends from San Francisco, we traveled to Calaveras for an education. We experienced quality wines, amazingly grand vineyards, gourmet dining, a beautiful local country club, and quality lodging. We viewed stunning old-growth forests and many artistic renditions of Mark Twain’s jumping frogs of Calaveras County. So, for our next road trip, instead of turning North to Healdsburg, Napa, or Sonoma, we can now consider, instead, a turn to the East to revisit Calaveras, particularly since there is so much there to do and see that invites further exploration.

 

 

All Aboard to Napa On One Train and Two Wineries

Napa Valley Wine Train, Napa County, CaliforniaStory and Photos by Deborah Grossman.

Onboard the Napa Valley Wine Train, the staff welcomed us with a refreshing “Napa Valley breakfast,” a mimosa with cranberry juice. As we relaxed into the rhythmic pace of the journey and gazed at miles of verdant vineyards, I felt gratitude for the peaceful ambiance compared to the valley’s frequent traffic and bustling tourist scene.

 

 

Angel Island escapes into nature, spectacular views and California history

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Angel Island State Park, Marin County, San Francisco Bay, CaliforniaStory and Photos by John Sundsmo.

Longing for a little recreational travel experience and a brief break in the pandemic humdrum, an Angel Island escape beckoned. My wife and I had been to the island twice before but hadn’t fully explored its history or beauty. With spring wildflowers reportedly in bloom, an outdoor adventure seemed perfect since Angel Island State Park is one of the largest (1100 acres) and most easily accessible escapes in the San Francisco Bay Area for nature, expansive scenic views, and the important role the island played in early California history. The Angel Island State Park is the largest nature reserve in the San Francisco Bay Area. It offers back-country trail experiences and tram and self-guided walking tours.

 

 

 

Roger Guenveur Smith’s ‘Otto Frank’ is a meditation on the dark history of hatred

Roger Guenveur Smith plays “Otto Frank” at Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CaliforniaA review by Carol Canter with photos by Jay Yamada.

The recent hour spent with “Otto Frank,” as performed by Roger Guenveur Smith in a solo show at the Magic Theatre, is agonizing and mesmerizing, painful and enlightening, and all too real. While in tough times like ours today I may tend to turn away from “too much reality,” I had been so captivated in my youth by The Diary of Anne Frank that I grabbed the chance to “get to know” her father Otto Frank, the family’s sole survivor.

 

 

 

Do you want to visit Yosemite this Summer but don’t have a Reservation? – Here are some options.

Yosemite 2022, Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaStory and Photos (except as noted) by David A. Laws.

Beginning in late May, Yosemite National Park in California is instituting a reservation system for admission during the summer of 2022. Designed to reduce congestion while major infrastructure construction projects are underway, Yosemite spokesperson Scott Gediman estimates that the park will see about 70 percent of peak hour traffic compared to pre-pandemic levels.  Depending on their success in reducing overcrowding, reservations could become a permanent factor in planning your trips to this and other popular national parks. The “Ways to Get a Reservation” section at the end of this article provides details of how, when, and where to apply for a permit. But if this summer is your one chance to visit Yosemite and you cannot secure a reservation, what are your options?

 

 

Get Acquainted with Carneros Wine Country: Chill Out and Enjoy the View

Carneros by the water at Bouchaine winery (Photo: Deborah Grossman)Story and Photos by Deborah Grossman.

“The Carneros wine region is like Switzerland,” said Jon Priest, General Manager and Winemaker at Etude winery. “Carneros straddles the southernmost Napa and Sonoma wine countries. Our estate vineyard is on the Sonoma side and our tasting room is in Napa. Much like Switzerland, we need to remain neutral as to which area makes the best wine.” Many visitors to wine country have driven through Carneros without realizing the area has long merited its own American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation. The official name of Los Carneros, meaning The Rams, refers to the region’s heritage of sheep ranches and dairy farms.

 

 

A Grand Night for Singing at 42nd St. Moon

A Grand Night for Singing, 42nd St. Moon, Gateway Theater, San Francisco, CA.A review by Carol Canter with photos by Ben Krantz.

It is truly A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGINGat The Gateway Theatre in San Francisco this spring, for all who attend 42nd St. Moon’s production of the lively musical revue showcasing the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The show is just the escape needed from life’s harsh realities as a stellar cast of 6 brings new life and style to beloved classics from The King and I, South Pacific, Oklahoma, and more.

 

 

Alice Neel “People Come First” Exclusive Opening at the de Young Museum

Alice-Neel-"Pgregnant-Maria-exhibit-de Young-San-FranciscoStory and Photos by Lee Daley.

“For me, people come first. I have tried to assert the dignity and eternal importance of the human being.” – Alice Neel.  Throughout “People Come First”, Alice Neel’s paintings reflect both her radical personal ideology and her quest to capture the dignity and importance of her subjects. Neel (1900-1984) spent most of her adult life in New York City where, beginning in the 1930s, she lived through the rise of communism, the ensuing Great Depression, and the eventual civil rights and feminist movements. Deeply immersed in the society around her, she described her artistry as a form of history painting in which she portrayed fellow activists, artists, and neighbors as fellow human beings struggling to navigate political change and unrest.

 

Nature X Humanity: Oxman Architects at SFMOMANature X Humanity: Oxman Architects at SFMOMA New Thinking on the Future of Architecture and Design (Photo: The Mediated Matter Group)New Thinking on the Future of Architecture and DesignStory by Carol Canter.While many of the nearly 40 artworks and installations in SFMOMA’s newest opening “Nature x Humanity: Oxman Architects” are strikingly beautiful, collectively they make up an exhibition that is provocative and mind-expanding. The theme of the show is nothing less than an exploration of how we build for a radically transformed, environmentally healthy future.
 

A Little Night Music at 42nd St. Moon

A Little Night Music, 42nd St. Moon’s production, San Francisco, CAReview by Carol Canter.

The 42nd St. Moon’s production of “A Little Night Music,” my first live theater experience since the pandemic turned all cultural events to Zoom, was a delicious return to the joys of live performance.

The farce, based on Ingmar Bergman’s film “Smiles of a Summer Night,” is far more than its signature song, Stephen Sondheim’s unforgettable, “Send in the Clowns.” Yet that song alone, an aching culmination of longing, desire and regret — is worth the trip to The Gateway Theatre in San Francisco.

 

 

John Steinbeck’s Valley of the World Revisited: A Photo Essay

Story and Photos by David A. Laws.

A ranch in “the wilder hills” from Old Stage Road

“I would like to write the story of this whole valley, of all the little towns and all the farms and the ranches in the wilder hills. I can see how I would like to do it so that it would be the valley of the world.” [Steinbeck: A Life in Letters]

In The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, Steinbeck’s biographer Jackson Benson explains that “scene and setting assume a far heavier burden of meaning in his work than in the fiction of most other novelists.” 1n 2001, I explored Monterey County’s Steinbeck Country seeking landscapes that matched quotations from his stories to photograph for a presentation at the Steinbeck Centennial Conference the following year.

 

 

Travel Amtrak’s Scenic Coast Starlight from Seattle to Southern California.

AMTRAK, Coast Starlight at Morro BayStory and photos by Libor Pospisil.

“The journey is too fast, it passes too quickly; what a yearning I have now for long journeys!” proclaimed Franz Kafka in his European train travelogue. If you board Amtrak anywhere in the United States, not even for a moment will you feel deprived of a long journey. In fact, a mellow, meditative state of mind is all you need to revel in the leisurely and lengthy routes that Kafka yearned for. Feeling sufficiently mellow after months of the pandemic, I jumped on a train in the most important railway junction in California that you may not know —my adopted hometown of Martinez in the San Francisco Bay Area. Aboard Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, the train would take me to Los Angeles along the most scenic route in California. Without any transfers.

 

 

A Retrospective of Feminist Artist Judy Chicago Opens Its Tour in San Francisco

Remember The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago’s eponymous multimedia instillation, her 36 x 575 x 576-inch masterpiece the public wasn’t quite ready to digest in 1979? Crafted by hundreds of volunteers over a five-year period, and to a resounding success at its opening at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Dinner Party was subsequently scorned elsewhere, derided for its imagery, dubbed “feminine craft, and panned by institutional art critics. The controversy eclipsed Chicago’s vast body of work for decades.

 

 

San Francisco’s Top of the Mark reopens with new tasting experiences.

Top of the Mark, Lounge, San FranciscoStory and Photos by Lee Daley.

San Francisco’s Top of the Mark is now celebrating its reopening with new tasting experiences. The iconic 19th-floor penthouse lounge atop the Mark Hopkins Hotel has added a new “Vodka Expressions” curated tasting menu.  New too is the Friday evening live DJ music session from 4:30 to 9:30 PM. What hasn’t changed are the 360-degree views of the San Francisco skyline seen from every window. Returning patrons and new guests can still unwind in the elegant ambiance of the 19th-floor penthouse lounge.

 

The Top of the Mark, InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco, CAThe Top of the Mark, an iconic landmark, is reopened.

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo.

First opened in 1939 and open for 80 years, this iconic San Francisco landmark was closed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a comfort zone for servicemen and women shipping out to the Pacific in World War II, also the Vietnam and Korean wars. As my wife and I recently discovered, the venerable Top of the Mark is reopened with a new generation of comforts. Positioned at the very top of downtown San Francisco’s highest hill (Nob Hill), the 19th floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel, affectionately known as the Top of the Mark, has given patrons dominant views of San Francisco since its opening. The newly reopened Top of the Mark offers post-pandemic comforts including live music with dancing on Friday nights, light appetizers and, signature cocktails. To support and nurture local businesses, the menu now includes cocktails prepared with Hanson organic wine-Vodka from Sonoma, which is paired with Kollar specialty chocolates from Napa.

 

Yosemite in Winter

Half Dome at Yosemite in Winter, Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaStory and Photos by Carol Canter.

I whirled around the skating rink in Yosemite National Park, under a full moon illuminating Half Dome. As fingers and toes stiffened with cold, I’d stop to thaw out by the fire pit, pinching myself to make sure it was real — that the sheer granite face of this monolith bathed in silvery light was more than just a lofty figment of my imagination.

 

 

Point Sur Lightstation: A Haunted Ghost Town on Prime Big Sur Real Estate

Point Sur Lightstation, Monterey County, CaliforniaStory and Photos by David A. Laws.

Towering three-hundred feet above the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean, one of California’s most faithfully restored ghost towns occupies prime ocean-view real estate just 25 miles south of Monterey. Inhabited by chickens, a cow, and families with children until less than 50 years ago, the deserted barn, houses, and workshops of Point Sur Lightstation cling to the edge of a great, volcanic rock with spectacular views of the Big Sur coast and marble-tipped peaks of the Ventana Wilderness. Aficionados of the paranormal claim it as one of the most haunted lighthouses in the country.

 

 

Up and Away to Colorado Springs: Exploring the Wild West at The Broadmoor

Pikes Peak viewed from Cloud Camp, The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, ColoradoStory and Photos by Deborah Grossman.

At 9,200’ with a view of Pikes Peak, the inspiration for “America the Beautiful,” I got chills on a warm summer evening. From the patio atop Cheyenne Mountain, everything looked majestic and far away, even nearby Colorado Springs. “I can almost see California” joked my husband, Mr. G., referring to our home near San Francisco. With a possible local break in the theCovid-19 pandemic, (despite calls for avoiding indoor crowds, social distancing, wearing masks and staying close to home), we chose to risk a safe Western outdoor adventure at The Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs.

 

Fort Ord National Monument: From Military Mayhem to Coastal Gem

Machine Gun Flats, Fort Ord National Monument, Monterey, CaliforniaStory and Photos by David A. Laws.

Beach Range, Engineer Canyon, Machine Gun Flats: These are not typical landscape features you’d expect to find on maps of a California “coastal gem” and “hiker’s paradise.” Their roles in decades of service under military ownership are now largely forgotten, replaced by the delights of wildflowers, bird calls and jingling mountain-bike bells. Explosions, gunfire and the mayhem of army maneuvers no longer echo across the rugged back-country and ocean-front dunes of Fort Ord National Monument, set between Salinas and Monterey in the heart of Steinbeck Country.

 

 

Splendor in the Grass: Golden Gate Park Celebrates 150 years and you are invited to the party

Golden Gate Park, Moon Garden, San Francisco, CaliforniaStory and Photos by Stephanie Levin.

San Francisco’s gorgeous gal, Golden Gate Park  celebrates her 150th birthday in April. Like many in the Bay Area, I have an intimate relationship with the park, roaming her hidden trails, sniffing and whiffing her medicinal treasures, gazing across the Moon Garden flanked by seasonal  fuchsia-flecked camellia blooms and powdery pink cherry trees, each rosy and ripe in the spring, naked and lonely in the winter. Indifferent to the seasons, I never miss a chance to  sprint across one of the Botanical Garden’s vast apple green lawns only to be surprised that one abuts massive  grandfather redwoods, the entrance to the Redwood Forest, and home to some of the oldest trees in the park. But I digress, have gotten ahead of time, and must take you back 150 years ago to the inception of Golden Gate Park.

 

 

Chicago: A Dining and Cultural Gem

The Bean Statue, Chicago, IllinoisStory and Photos by Deborah Grossman.

My first visit to Chicago years ago was spent in crowded meeting rooms representing my company at an IT conference. In my current role as a food, drink and travel writer, I’ve been hungry to return. This summer, with a group of friends, I explored the city for a few days from high up and on the river and fell in love. At every destination, I was enchanted by the beauty and energy of the city. Along the way,  Chicago gave me a generous taste of its heritage, its amazing attractions and most of all, its lively food and beverage scene.

 

 

Marin Headlands: Just Across the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge from Travis Marina, Fort Baker, Marin Headlands, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, CaliforniaStory and Photos by John Sundsmo.

Living in, or visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, we are blessed with the boundless beauties of nature. Water, landscapes and terrain create splendid views on a daily basis. Seasonal changes bring puffy white clouds in winter to foggy mists in summer. Whatever the season, Marin Headlands at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge brings breath stopping vistas, good cardio-hikes and most of all, a complete escape from everyday concerns. Early morning or late afternoon before sunset, the land is still. It’s a place of constant change, of solace and stimulation, at once an escape from reality and an immersion into wonder.

 

Venice For The Weekend

Accademia Bridge, Venice, ItalyStory and Photos by John Sundsmo.

On an island in a shallow lagoon, Venice came to dominance by sea power and now the power of the sea is threatening its very existence. My wife and I arrived in Venice two weeks before the catastrophic Acqua Alta (high water) tides that submerged Saint Mark’s square under more than five feet of water. The rushing sea wrought havoc with local merchants, restaurateurs and hostlers and damaged priceless works of art in Saint Mark’s Basilica. Vladmiro Cavagnis, a fourth generation gondolier, said: “It’s a city full of history. A history that, little by little, with water, will end up like Atlantis. People are destroyed, anguished, sad. They see a city that is disappearing.” (Alex Horton, Andrew Freedman – The Washington Post –  November 15, 2019). The November 2019 flood was the worst in the 700 years of recorded history at Saint Marks Basilica.  Giuseppe Conte, the Italian Prime Minister, described the disaster as: “..a blow to the art of our country. While it’s still too early to quantify the extent of its havoc, chances are it will leave indelible marks.” (Marianna Cerini, CNN –  November 16, 2019 ).

 

 

Kauai for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

Kauai for Valentine's Day, Garden Isle, Hawaii, romance, Princeville, Poipu, Beach House, Princeville Resort Ocean VillasStory by Lee Daley with Photos by John Sundsmo and Lee Daley

Escape to Kauai for Valentine’s Day, to an island where love reigns supreme. Caressed by warm tropical breezes, idyllic beaches, majestic canyons and cliffs and most of all, an incredibly warm Aloha spirit, Kauai embraces lovers like no other isle. One of my favorite Hawaiian myths tells us when Mother Nature swept over the Pacific Ocean in a burst of hormonal ecstasy more than 500 million years ago, she created that green pearl of love called Kauai and made it into a paradise for lovers. The island is small enough to explore over a long weekend while still leaving space for coveted cuddle time.

 

Athens For The Weekend

The Temple of Athena, The Acropolis, Athens, GreeceStory and Photos by John Sundsmo.

Athens has long been a favorite of my wife and I, especially since it was our first international trip together as a couple. Somehow every time we land in Greece, Athens is only a stopover on our way to somewhere else. But why love Athens? For us, Athens is full of lovely historic sites, wonderful ethnic foods, good local wines and great cultural diversity.

 

 

 

Point Sur Naval Facility Tour Reveals Cold War Secrets

Point Sur Naval Facility Tour, Big Sur, Monterey County, CaliforniaStory and photos by David A. Laws.

John le Carré dismissed Cold War spy heroes as “A squalid procession of vain fools” in his 1963 espionage novel The Spy Who Came from the Cold. Volunteer historian Carol O’Neil at the former U.S. Naval Facility on Point Sur State Historic Park, 25-miles south of Monterey, would beg to differ. “We had heroes in the Cold War,” O’Neil insisted in a recent interview on KAZU, public radio for the Monterey Bay area. “It’s important for the cold warriors to know that they are valued and their stories are out there.” Eager to hear their stories, I joined a line of vehicles awaiting access to this former top-secret naval operation. Jim, a state park volunteer in a bright yellow safety vest bearing an embroidered NAVFAC logo patch, unlocked the security gate. An intimidating “U.S. Property No Trespassing” sign discourages intruders, now called Point Sur Naval Facility.  After warnings of the dangers of ticks, rattlesnakes, and crumbling asbestos-laden structures, he directed us to the administration center. Here we joined a dozen so other visitors curious to learn the secrets hidden in this former submarine detection facility.

 

New York State of Mind, aka I’ll Take Manhattan

Lower Manhattan skylineStory and Photos by Carol Canter. 

Summer has turned to fall, and a long New York sojourn has ended, but I’m still in a New York State of Mind. Can’t even stop the words to “I’ll Take Manhattan …” from looping through my brain. New York is more than just a soundtrack, yet the city inspires a musical memory as powerful as a visual one. Hey, it may be heady, artsy, vibrant, a financial, political and cultural powerhouse, and endlessly interesting, but at heart, the Big Apple is just one big sensuous city.

 

 

Gypsy, A Musical Fable

Mother Rose pushing her two daughters in "Gypsy" the play now at Alcazar Theater, San Francisco, CaliforniaReviews by Carol Canter and Lee Daley

(Review By Carol Canter) “Curtains up, light the lights, you got nothing to hit but the heights!” Well, everything did come up roses opening night for Bay Area Musicals’ fabulous production of Gypsy, which director and choreographer Mathew McCoy calls “the ultimate showbiz fable.” And that it is — a fable bursting with all the glitz and glitter, hilarious humor and heart-wrenching pathos of the ultimate show biz mother, Rose Hovick, as she pushes her two daughters — hard, very hard — to live out her own dreams. This 1959 fable of the last days of vaudeville is based loosely on the 1957 memoirs of Louise, the overlooked daughter who seizes the spotlight as Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist.

(Review by Lee Daley) Coming out of the Alcazar Theater after the performance, the lyrics and musical score of GYPSY resonated repeatedly in my head. It was a heady performance. Drama, humor, anguish and victory all play their part in this roller-coaster ride through the metamorphosis of meek little Louise’s transformation into the legendary striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. The musical score with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim brings the performances alive as the characters, especially Rose, embody the lyrics. The play is based on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee and focuses largely on her mother, Rose, the embodiment, of the “ultimate stage mother.” Because much of the plot rests on the central casting of Mama Rose, each actress who has taken on the challenge has brought something very different to the show.

 

 

A Blizzard of Sanderlings: Watching Wildlife on Morro Bay

A blizzard of Sanderlings on Moro Bay, CaliforniaStory and photos by David A. Laws – except as noted.  (Feature image courtesy Danna Dykstra-Coy.)

Our kayak slid effortlessly over the glassy-smooth water of the estuary. From the shore, an eruption of sanderlings burst into the sky. Swooping and diving in choreographed formation, a wheeling blur of birds enveloped us in a blizzard of beating white wings. Within seconds, they returned to the pickleweed marsh, cheeping and feeding as if nothing had happened. For us, this spectacular avian welcome to two days of watching wildlife on Morro Bay was a memory we will treasure.

 

 

Silicon Valley High Tech Tourism: Selfies and Swag

high tech tourism, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, CaliforniaStory by David A. Laws.

Personal digital devices and online social platforms are enabling a new kind of Silicon Valley tourism. Previously only of interest to heads of state hoping to replicate the economic miracle back home, business people pursuing a deal, and a trickle of history buffs exploring where it all began, today the high-tech mecca is increasingly crowded with denizens of the always-connected world. Selfie-stick wielding pilgrims hustle to score swag and Instagram winning moments at the temples of Apple, Facebook, Google, and more. Silicon Valley high tech tourism abounds.

 

Hilton San Francisco Union Square Staycation

Cityscape San Francisco Hilton Lounge and Bar with incredible bay and city views.Hilton San Francisco Union Square.Story by Carol Canter. Photos by Carol Canter and Jack Heyman.

Sipping a sunset cocktail at Cityscape, from its sleek perch on the 46th floor of Hilton San Francisco Union Square  is an unparalleled celebratory high, an affordable way to access a priceless 360 degree panorama of this legendary city by the bay. For me, it was the scenically orchestrated opening to my San Francisco Staycation, and as I looked through the evening’s rose gold hues toward the East Bay hills of my home, I felt far away and free of cares!

 

 

Russian River Rendezvous

View of Sonoma Coast AVA, Russian River, from Thomas George vineyard in GuerenvilleStory and Photos by John Sundsmo.

Hurry up and drop your bags. We’ve been waiting for you”, urged Jersey Tom from the door of a white van. Thinking we were on time, but observing a full van, my wife and I quickly dropped our bags in the lobby of The Applewood Inn and rushed to take our seats. After our leisurely drive from San Francisco to Guerneville neither of us expected to be late for our Russian River rendezvous with friends, wine, river, trails, kayaks, art, cuisine and more wine. Positioned in the Sonoma Coast AVA, the Pinot Noir grown, crushed, fermented and aged (French Oak) in the Russian River Valley has its very own unique award winning features that are well known to judges and connoisseurs alike, (the Chardonnay is also star quality). We had a long weekend ahead of us with plans to enjoy it to the max.  AND, Yes! The Russian River, survivor of fires and floods, is fully open for business, with the river inner tube rafting just starting. Lucky for us,  it is not too busy yet.

 

 

Carrizo Plain Gold – Sunrise to Super Bloom

Story and Photos by David A. Laws.

Awaiting sunrise from Soda Point, Carrizo Gold - Sunrise to Super Bloom, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California's Serengeti, CaliforniaI pulled my jacket close against the chill stirring of an early breeze. A heavy silence enveloped the world in the final darkest minutes before dawn. To the east, a gray sliver of pending morning peeked from beneath a band of straggling clouds to silhouette the rugged crest of the Temblor Range. Planning a day exploring the Carrizo Plain, I had risen early to drive 200 miles from my home in Pacific Grove to watch the sunrise and a promised floral Carrizo Plain Gold super bloom from this elevated spot at the northern entrance to the National Monument that has been called “California’s Serengeti.”

 

 

Selfieville is the New Family Friendly Fantasy Experience in Monterey

Selfieville, Golden State Theater, Monterey, CaliforniaStory and Photos by David A. Laws.

If you feel nostalgic for those psychedelic lightshow/rock concerts of the 1960s, Selfieville a new attraction in downtown Monterey offers a chance to relive your youth. But this time in a family friendly setting without those funny smelling cigarettes! If you’re not old enough to know what I am talking about, imagine a journey through a fantasy world created with a phalanx of high-tech 3D projectors that transform a theater’s static walls into a magical experience.

 

Monterey Peninsula: A Movie Star for the Ages

MontereyMovieTours, Monterey, CaliforniaStory and Photos by David A. Laws.

Location. Location. Location. The real estate promoter’s mantra applies equally to the magicians of the silver screen. Many Hollywood faces long faded from public consciousness appeared in dramas that continue to resonate today because of their memorable scenic settings. Monterey County has been a favorite of movie directors for the variety and accessibility of its scenery since Edison’s cameraman shot Surf at Monterey in 1897. Pounding surf, brooding forest, rugged wilderness, and verdant valleys have featured in hundreds of movies and countless TV shows and commercials. It has also doubled for the coasts of New England, old England, France, Norway, Russia and beyond. Being a dedicated film buff, I grabbed a front row seat, sans popcorm. for a matinee showing of Monterey Peninsula, a movie star for the ages.

 

Santa Rosa -From the Pool to the Table

Visit Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa, CaliforniaStory and Photos by Stephanie Levin.

Like a beacon of good will that is anchored in the history of a bygone era, the Flamingo Hotel  Spa and Conference Center, located in Santa Rosa, California, has been welcoming guests since 1957. Two years after it opened, word sifted south to Hollywood and “those in the know” traveled north to stay in the famed hotel. Today this  historic landmark has retained old-world charm with 21st Century modernity. Located in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, travelers, families, weekend escapees and conferences attendees mingle over breakfast, swim in the enormous outdoor L-shaped pool, lounge in the  garden Jacuzzi, or treat themselves to spa, tennis or dining – literally from the pool to the table. As I relaxed outside under a dreamy spacious sky, surrounded by sycamore and cedar trees,  a sense of well-being and contentment sifted over me.

 

Monterey’s Mosaic Mural Memorializes Missions, Marauding Mariners & More

Monterey Harbor from Lower Presidio Historic Park, CaliforniaStory and Photos by David A. Laws.

With more Mexican-era adobe buildings preserved and restored in downtown Monterey than anywhere else in the state, the city is proud of its heritage as the early capital of California. In late 2018, I revisited two public projects that have been recently updated and enhanced to present in novel and interesting ways the dramatic events that have shaped the history of the city.

 

Point Reyes San Francisco Escape

Escape to Chimney Rock at Point Reyes National Seashore,San Francisco Bay Area, Marin County, Northern California, California (Photo: John Williamson)Story by Lee Daley.

Photos by John Williamson & Lee Daley.

We are blessed in the San Francisco Bay Area with the stunningly beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore, a mere hour drive from most locales.  The atmospheric community of Point Reyes Station, described below, should be your first stop.  It’s ground zero for everything you’ll need to make your getaway a true escape.

 

Paul Gauguin’s Spiritual Journey Now at the de Young Museum in San Francisco

Story and Photos by Stephanie Levin.

French painter and Post-Impressionist, Paul Gauguin, cultivated and inhabited two images, one a sensitive artist, the other a self-imposed outcast, and in Gauguin: A Spiritual Journey, currently on exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, (November 17, 2018-April 7, 2019) the viewer experiences Gauguin’s spiritual journey through both his paintings and sculptures. The exhibit, which includes paintings, wood carvings and ceramics are from the renowned Ny Glypotek collection in Copenhagen.

 

John Steinbeck: “Something to do in Salinas”

National-Steinbeck-Center-Salinas, John Steinbeck: “Something to do in Salinas”Story and photos by David Laws. “There was always something to do in Salinas. For pure culture we had The World of Art, with slides in a big tent with wooden benches” but, as Nobel Prize-winning writer John Steinbeck quipped in a 1955 memoir of his hometown, “the town preferred to hear Joe Conner sing Irish songs.” (Always 59)

 

 

 

 

Miles from Nowhere is just fine in Upper Lake County

Upper Lake County, Upper Lake County, Timeless Main Street, Upper Lake, Lake County, California
Timeless Main Street

Story and Photos by Stephanie Levin

We, who live in the Bay Area, have a tendency to boast about our place on the planet. You know the hype: great chefs, culinary creativity, culture galore, three recycling bins, green bike lanes, entitlement…need I continue? To escape all this glamour, I’m constantly scouting for a weekend escape to settle myself, simplify my senses, get away from it all. Alas, Upper Lake County, cloaked in natural splendor and grace with just enough elegance rubbing elbows with salt of the earth people, is that place.

 

 

Find Your Happy in Mendocino County

Find Your Happy in Mendocino County, sssh, the wine is talking in Mendocino County, California, Taste of Mendocino CountyBy John Sundsmo.

The catchy logo of Mendocino County, “Find Your Happy,” was on display at the recent Taste of Mendocino  held at San Francisco’s Fort Mason. With vintners, fresh press olive oils, craft whiskey, goat cheeses, gourmet appetizers, coffee and luxurious resorts all competing for my attention, I soon found myself feeling quite happy. The venue provided a good opportunity to review some fine Mendocino County wines and upcoming events. In the interest of sharing the Mendocino “Happy” vibe, what follows is a list of some Taste of Mendocino participants (with links), along with wine tasting destinations and a short calendar of upcoming events in Mendocino County.  Hopefully, with the following tips, you too will “Find your Happy in Mendocino County.”

 

 

Chardonnay & Croquet at Sonoma Cutrer Winery

Story by Lee Daley with Photos by John Sundsmo and Lee Daley

Sonoma County is known for its excellent Chardonnay wines and those produced at Sonoma Cutrer Winery are no exception. Tucked away on a lush hillside in Windsor, Sonoma Cutrer may be one of the few places in Sonoma where you can play croquet and indulge in a picnic on beautifully manicured tree-shaded grounds all in the same day

 

 

 

 

Napa Valley’s Liana Estates Opens

Napa LianaStory by Lee Daley with Photos by John Sundsmo and Lee Daley

Napa Valley’s Carneros AVA adds another winery to its map with the opening of Liana Estates. The winery fulfils a long cherished dream of its founders, Lisa and Ariana Peju of the Peju Province Winery family. Liana Estates is an experience-focused winery providing visitors with immersive experiences that embrace each of the five senses. The focus will be on offering an ever-changing selection of high-quality wines and bubbly while connecting visitors to the breathtaking scenery of Napa Valley and San Pablo Bay. This fall, several immersive experiences will include wellness activities like yoga, culinary classes and chef-centric vineyard dinners paired with wine selections. While these experiences are growing in popularity in Wine Country, Liana is eager to offer guests unique all-inclusive experiences that both stimulate and soothe the senses.

 

Best Places to Kiss in San Francisco

Best places to kiss in San Francisco, Heart Sculpture, Union Square, San FranciscoStory and Photos by Stephanie Levin

It’s in his kiss, that’s where it is.” Yes, indeed, that zingy sensation causing our hearts to turn somersaults is in a kiss. And if you’re lucky enough to be in San Francisco for Valentine’s Day, the romantic city where Tony Bennett left his heart, here’s eight of the best places to kiss.

 

 

Willits Whistlestop Weekend

Willits The Heart of Mendocino County California; sign given to the city by Reno, NVStory and Photos by John Sundsmo

You’re moving where? – Willits – where’s that?,” my museum guide, Dirk, told me his personal story as he shuffled me around the County Museum and Roots of Motive Power exhibits and gave me a thumbnail history. It seems Dirk’s friends in Santa Rosa didn’t understand his decision to up and move to Willits more than 25 years ago, nor did they, or I, really appreciate what that quiet, friendly little Mendocino County town has to offer.  I learned from Dirk that Willits, in the early 1900s, was a whistle stop on the Northwestern Pacific railroad line. The trains started with a railroad ferry from the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco and steamed north to Sausalito to join with rails that ended hundreds of miles away in the booming lumber town of Eureka.

 

Greek Wines from Sonoma

Georgos greek wine captures the spirit of wines produced on the island of Santorini, GreeceStory and Photos by John Sundsmo

A memorable few years ago my wife and I visited the Greek islands of Santorini and Paros. There we encountered some unique and equally memorable ancient varieties of Greek wines.

 

 

Pacifica: the beaches are only the beginning

Story and Photos by Lee Daley

I’ve always known Pacifica’s coastline boasts just about the best and most diverse five-mile span of beaches in Northern California. I thought I knew it well. Until I extended my usual day-trip to two nights and three days in this quintessential surfer haven beach town, I had no idea how much I was missing. I soon discovered the beaches are only the beginning.

 

Story and Photos by Lee Daley.

When I think of the perfect Maine getaway, Ogunquit immediately comes to mind. It’s all there, breathtaking Maine beauty, surf, sand, rocky coast line and a small artistic village. A destination worth flying to from anywhere in the US and an idyllic day trip from the Boston area, locals often refer to the village of Ogunquit and its beach as a beautiful place by the sea. For good reason. Living there, they appreciate how well the coastal salt air of the Atlantic gently cools the summer sunshine as it brings relief from inland heat waves.

 

 

 

 

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