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Bay Area Summer Vacation for Local Tourists


marie-louise
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... and we're still trying to come up with a special place to celebrate. Our anniversary is in mid-August & we are going to take a week off. We've thought about going everywhere from the French countryside to the northern California redwoods/ southern Oregon coast, but the other day it dawned on me: why not just stay home and have a very special week here? What better place to celebrate a long marriage than in the community you've lived together? We all give advice to people who are visiting here, but what about if you'd lived here for 30 years? What's still special enough to make a 25th anniversary celebration memorable, no matter howmany times you've seen it before? What's off the beaten track enough that maybe we've missed it?

So please help me design a fantasy week for local tourists celebrating 25 years of marriage. For the moment, money is not an object (it might be later, depending on what you come up with!) Dinners at The French Laundry and Chez Panisse are logical suggestions. A hike at Point Reyes (especially since we went there the day after we got married) is another no-brainer for one afternoon.

Edited by marie-louise (log)
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Now that I live in NoCal, here are some of the stupid, touristy things I want to do:

- Hearst Castle

- Monterey Aquarium

- Japanese Tea Garden

- All the Museums (I've done the Asian recently, but not any of the fine art museums in over a dozen years)

- A day in Marin - Tomales Bay, etc... (is Point Reyes up there? I'm not sure yet)

- A balloon ride over the wine country

- One of those Harbor cruises in a tall ship or clipper ship

There is nothing like being a tourist in one's own town. When I lived in SoCal and had visiting guests, I was always a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed doing things like walking around and looking at the Hollywood stuff...

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Rent a convertible and drive top-down up the northern coast.

1st stop, a hike in Point Reyes, don’t forget to stop first at Tomales Bay’s Foods and pack a nice picnic basket to take on the hike. Find a lovely spot along the trail and have a nice lunch while contemplating the gorgeous view.

Back in your car, keeping the top down, drive up to Gualala and stay overnight at the Whale Watch Inn. Do ask for one of the rooms with bath tubs for two.

Stay there for as long as you fancy, then back in the car and drive further north to lovely Mendocino.

In Mendocino, stay at the Greenwood Pier Inn, ask for one of the Sea Castle rooms, or the Cliff House. I cannot recommend this Inn heartily enough. The decor might be a little funky, but you cannot beat the location, perching right at the edge of a cliff overlooking an enchanting cove in the little town of Elk, just south of Mendocino. These three rooms are very private, each with its own patio and Jacuzzi tub for two with a view.

There are so many things to see and do in that area. You could rent a bike and ride up the logging road next to the Big River, or rent a kayak for a leisurely row up the Big River estuary. There are also so many hiking trails, but nothing will beat a quiet kayak trip on the gorgeous estuary with nothing but each other, and perhaps an otter or two along the way, as company.

Another accommodation idea is the Stanford Inn. The hotel sits on beautiful grounds across the river from Mendocino village. The rooms here are a bit close together, and perhaps not all that sound proof, but the hotel has a beautiful and ever-so-romantic greenhouse swimming pool, and , of course, a hot tub.

A day excursion down the 128, through the redwoods with many stops along the way to taste the bounty of Alexander Valley’s vineyards would also be lovely. You could even go all the way to Boon’s Ville and sample some of the town’s famous microbrews.

You can also eat well at a few inns in the area, including the Stanford Inn, the Albion River Inn, and the Harbour House Inn, among others. The Mendocino cafe in the village is also a lovely, if a bit quirky place for a bite (in between the kisses).

A 25th anniversary is indeed impressive. It sounds like you have one of those relationships that restore faiths in relationships.

Er…and by 25th you did mean years, yes? I’m wondering because I myself find making it even to the 25th month anniversary at times a struggle. :unsure::smile:

Edited by pim (log)

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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I spent a really great birthday weekend at the Pelican Inn, near Muir Beach, some years back. The dinner, as I recall, was pretty good -- not French Laundry, of course, but I remember having some really great lamb. Breakfast was included, too. But even if you decide to eat elsewhere, it's a nice place to stay.

Click here for their website.

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Er…and by 25th you did mean years, yes? I’m wondering because I myself find making it even to the 25th month anniversary at times a struggle. :unsure::smile:

Yes, I did mean 25 years-plus, it being the 70's when we met, we lived together for a few years before that. :smile: I have no idea when or how we got so old!!!

These are great suggestions. We JUST sold our Sea Ranch house, so I am very familiar with the north coast. We spent many of our anniversaries up there-the Persied (sp?) meteor shower always peaks then, so weather permitting, we'd sit outside, far away from any city lights, and drink champagne and watch the stars.

This time I'm thinking more of day trips-coming back to our Oakland home every night. Meals in the city, that sort of thing...

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Marie-Louise, funny, I was just putting a map together for some friends who are visiting San Francisco next month. I've got a map that I'm numbering with a red marker, and I'm going to design a webpage with links and highlights. Maybe some of it will be useful for your purposes when I complete the project.

Why not go to the Ferry Plaza Market in the late morning, and taste things for a while? Shop and look and then have lunch (oysters, of course) at Hog Island Oyster Company? Then take the ferry across the bay to Sausalito or Tiburon.

I was going to recommend that you stay at the Casa Madrona in Sausalito, but I visited their website and it made me cry. Literally. What used to be a wonderful experience (reading about and choosing the individually-decorated rooms) has been stomped to death by the boot of the Corporate Gestapo. They've been bought by some corporation who's completely siphoned every bit of uniqueness and charm from the website. You can no longer choose your own room there.

I just spent a half an hour writing them, and I am most woeful at this development.

You can read the letter here.

Meanwhile, I will have more suggestions for you later. I've got to take a little boy to lunch and to the Farmer's Market.

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Lets see...

Horseback riding at Point Reyes, Hang-gliding off Mount Tam, Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Eat at the French Laundry/Gary Danko/Chez Panisse, Glider/Ballon rides over Napa Valley, Salmon Fishing near the Farallon islands (leaving from Emeryville), Wine tasting in the Russian River Valley, Hike through Muir Woods or Mount Diablo or Big Sur, Kayaking at Tomales Bay, The SF Ferry Market, Fly a kite on the beach in Halfmoon Bay... If your up for a longer drive - Mendocino, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, etc.

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Well, the link to my letter was down for a while but seems to be back up again.

Marie-Louise, how far afield will you want to wander? Is Monterey/Carmel too far? Because I just took one of the most beautiful hikes of my life in Carmel.

It's where the Carmel River meets the ocean -- which is even more beautiful than where the Russian River does the same, in my opinion.

This is the beginning of the trail:

i4520.jpg

This is after hiking along the beach and cresting over a hill (the ocean is behind you):

i4521.jpg

This is walking back around the hill towards the beach. These wildflowers will be going berserk in a couple of weeks:

i4522.jpg

This is returning to the beginning of the beach trail:

i4523.jpg

Let me know if you'd like directions.

Once I was down that way, I would stay the night in Carmel Valley at the insanely praised Bernadus Lodge. Round out your trip with a stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium the next morning, and visit A Taste of Monterey. Have lunch in Pacific Grove (that lovely little jewel) and stop in Capitola or Santa Cruz on the way home to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset.

So that's two days right there. Just about right.

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I am going [back] down to Carmel in two weeks. God, this hike looks beautiful-is this Point Lobos-we were going to go there the day we turned around & came home because I was so sick. Please do tell!

I was just reading cookingwithamy's kaseki thread. I think that would be fun one night. Even Masa's would be cheaper than a room & dinner in France.

A day at the spa would be good (more my speed than my husband's.) We live right by the Claremont, but I haven't been there in years and years-it went from over-priced to ridiculous, but it IS vacation after all. Any spa experts in the group-where is the best day spa in the Bay Area?

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Marie-Louise, I sent directions to you.

About your spa:

Gayot's list of the best spas in the SF/Napa area

I know someone who loved going to Spa Radiance, and has returned more than once.

EDIT:

This place is supposed to be the be-all, end-all of luxurious spas: in Napa, Auberge du Soleil. So that sounds like two days in Napa. Arrive day one day treatment at the spa, followed by luncheon followed by afternoon at spa. Rent bicycles and tour the valley. Dinner at French Laundry, home to hotel, sleep the sleep of the dead. Awaken day two, make passionate love for hours, stagger to brunch. Hire a limo, tour wineries. Return to hotel, make passionate love but don't miss dinner reservations at (your choice of fancy place), and once again, sleep the sleep of the dead.

Et voilà!

Your little dance card is filling right up, isn't it?

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Your little dance card is filling right up, isn't it?

Yes, it is, but keep these wonderful ideas coming!

If I'm not mistaken, the Auberge de Soleil is the place that will send someone down to the French Laundry to make reservations for you, isn't it? They have a couples mud bath experience as part of the spa choices that sounds quite, uh... special.

"The Rendezvous 90 or 120 min ($195 or $260 per person)

Enjoy the sensual experience of applying warm mud to your partner in the privacy of our couples suite. Next, allow us to cocoon you in a heated mud wrap followed by a couples shower and a nurturing, stress relieving massage."

Who needs to eat after this? This is definitely a contender, although the rooms are, shall we say, not cheap. But you only celebrate such events once in a lifetime.

St. Orres

We had dinner here our first trip north from the bay area. It was a wonderful atmosphere and we enjoyed our meal very much.

St. Orres is indeed a special place. We stayed there a few times and fell in love with the area so much that we bought property on nearby The Sea Ranch and built a home there. Now that we no longer have that home, I'm looking forward to staying at St. Orres again.

Edited by marie-louise (log)
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If I'm not mistaken, the Auberge de Soleil is the place that will send someone down to the French Laundry to make reservations for you, isn't it? They have a couples mud bath experience as part of the spa choices that sounds quite, uh... special.

Auberge will get you a table at the french laundry if you give them enough notice, but so will most of the hotels/b&bs in the area. If your staying at Auberge, have dinner there - the spa menu is nice and light and you won't need to leave the property. It really is a spectacular place, and unfortunately the price tag reflects that :blink:

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I don't want to be a wet blanket, but Keller has closed the French Laundry here in Napa for a significant time frame while he opens and works on his new place in NYC. I read in the local paper that he was doing some major modifications to the building during this time. I'll check around and see if I can find out a re opening time frame.

Of course, there is nothing like the French Laundry, if for nothing else just the experience. But there are still TON's of wonderful places to eat here. Try the Martini House in St Helena.

Dave Valentin

Retired Explosive Detection K9 Handler

"So, what if we've got it all backwards?" asks my son.

"Got what backwards?" I ask.

"What if chicken tastes like rattlesnake?" My son, the Einstein of the family.

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The Inn at Victorian Gardens in Manchester on the Mendocino coast is supposed to be very special and also a significant culinary destination.

I've never stayed there, since until last month I owned a home nearby, but it is indeed a fabulous place to eat. I've eaten there many times, and never had a bad meal. His kitchen is drop-dead gorgeous. I know him well enough to tell the truth and say I wanted to come back & look at his kitchen; newcomers should simply ask to use the restroom-it is through the kitchen. I think he might serve breakfast in there if you stay there...

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  • 1 month later...

Plans are moving right along. We decided to take a week and a half off; the "theme" being going to some of the places/ doing some of the things that have been special to us over the years. Six nights away for a little road trip: Two nights in Calistoga; two nights outside Mendocino (praying for a rare fog-free night so we can watch the Perseid meteor shower) and for our anniversery itself, two nights in Eureka.

So..., here are my questions of the day:

Suggestions for two dinners in Calistoga? (We could drive down to St. Helena; I'd rather not drive all the way down to Yountville, especially after a day at the spa...)

Spa recommendation in Calistoga-the place we are staying recommended Lavender Hill. Anyone been there or have a better nearby suggestion for a romantic day at a mudbath?

Nearby wineries / other things not to miss in Calistoga, or while driving up 128 from Calistoga to Mendocino? Once I get to the Alexander Valley, it's familiar territory; it's the part right around Calistoga I don't know well. I'm planning on the Jimtown Store, Bistro Ralph for lunch, and the Downtown Bakery.

I was thinking of eating at Cafe Beaujolais both nights for dinner, although I guess we could zip down to Victorian Gardens for old time's sake one of those nights (we'll be there mid-week,IIRC he doesn't cook during the week.) Other suggestions?

Most people would probably want a fancy dinner for their 25th anniversary meal but Hurricane Kate's holds a special place in our hearts, so chances are good we'll be there, sipping cocktails & sharing an assortment of small plates on our anniversary.

We're driving home from Eureka to Oakland; maybe lunch in Weaverville? Other suggestions?

Thanks to everyone who's made suggestions so far-your ideas really helped me frame our plans.

Edited by marie-louise (log)
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Suggestions for two dinners in Calistoga? (We could drive down to St. Helena; I'd rather not drive all the way down to Yountville, especially after a day at the spa...)

Spa recommendation in Calistoga-the place we are staying recommended Lavender Hill. Anyone been there or have a better nearby suggestion for a romantic day at a mudbath?

Nearby wineries / other things not to miss in Calistoga, or while driving up 128 from Calistoga to Mendocino? Once I get to the Alexander Valley, it's familiar territory; it's the part right around Calistoga I don't know well. I'm planning on the Jimtown Store, Bistro Ralph for lunch, and the Downtown Bakery.

I was thinking of eating at Cafe Beaujolais both nights for dinner, although I guess we could zip down to Victorian Gardens for old time's sake one of those nights (we'll be there mid-week,IIRC he doesn't cook during the week.) Other suggestions?

Most people would probably want a fancy dinner for their 25th anniversary meal but Hurricane Kate's holds a special place in our hearts, so chances are good we'll be there, sipping cocktails & sharing an assortment of small plates on our anniversary.

We're driving home from Eureka to Oakland; maybe lunch in Weaverville? Other suggestions?

Thanks to everyone who's made suggestions so far-your ideas really helped me frame our plans.

Napa Valley spas: does it have to be in Calistoga?

When I asked for Napa suggestions, my friends who live there (he works at Acacia winery) suggested Bistro Jeanty, as they always do when anyone asks for Napa eats.

I prefer Oakville Grocery to Jimtown Store, myself.

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I was thinking of Calistoga spas so that we don't have to drive too far (in the heat) after several hours of mud and massage.

I wanted to stay at Maison Fleurie but all their good rooms were taken (who would have thought already for weeknights in August!) One of two that was left was a double bed (my husband is 6-4) in a 9ft by 9ft room... w/ no air-conditioning in the room! Gives a whole new meaning to steamy romantic vacation :laugh: However, this hotel does look like a lovely place to stay; I figure we'll be back that way in the fall and can eat our way around Yountville then. Meanwhile, I haven't eaten anywhere in Calistoga in a 25 years, so I figure it is as good a chance as any to try out some of the town's highlights.

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With the French Laundry closed until they finish building a new kitchen. I would suggest La Toque in Rutherford. Sampler style menu like the laundry. Don't bring your own wine. Just order the suggested pairings for the day.

Andy Szmidt

WineMiles.com - great wines! low prices!

The early bird may get the worm. But it is the second mouse that gets the cheese.

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  • 3 weeks later...
How are plans coming along, Marie-Louise?

Nothing new. Now that we've booked hotel rooms, I figure we can wait on the rest of the details until July sometime. I have been following the Napa Valley threads for place to eat, though. I'd really like to eat at Terra; I love their cookbook and it would be fun to eat at the restaurant.

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I'd really like to eat at Terra; I love their cookbook and it would be fun to eat at the restaurant.

I can't imagine you'll regret it. Terra is one of my absolute favorites

Dave Valentin

Retired Explosive Detection K9 Handler

"So, what if we've got it all backwards?" asks my son.

"Got what backwards?" I ask.

"What if chicken tastes like rattlesnake?" My son, the Einstein of the family.

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