If you're going to San Francisco . . .

Did you miss me? I just returned from vacationing in California. For nearly six days, I was pretty much unplugged. No internet. No Blackberry. And only a little TV, e.g., last Thursday's Vice Presidential debate.

We flew in and out of San Jose, and spent our first two nights in Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula just south of San Francisco. We stayed at the Centrella Inn, which we both highly recommend for its private cottages, lovely gardens, friendly staff, and 5:30pm wine and snacks. We found a new wine we like (Salmon Creek chardonnay) which was kind of a big deal because we don't normally like chardonnay. 

Last Thursday morning, we went on a whalewatching cruise, and "S" saw lots of humpback whales - including some up close and personal. As for me, well, let's just say I waited a little too late to take my Dramamine. I have no sea legs, and that was my last ever cruise of any type.

On Friday we drove over to Carmel-by-the-Sea and then took Highway 1 to . . . we thought to Big Sur. But we actually drove all the way down to San Simeon (home of the Hearst Castle) because we totally didn't see the cutover that's supposed to be just south of Big Sur over to the 101. Not that it mattered. Highway 1 is the type of road you could drive down all day and be totally content. An engineering feat, it's a winding rollercoaster of a road nestled snugly between the rocky Pacific coastline and a quite large mountain range. The scenery is simply breathtaking.

We spent Friday and Saturday nights at a friend's house in San Mateo, and made that our base while we ventured on to Marin County, the Napa Valley, Berkeley, and San Francisco. San Mateo is a cute small city, with lots of great shopping within walking distance of our (lucky!) friend's house.  

In Napa, we toured Beringer and did a tasting at Grgich in Rutherford. I want to do a separate entry on wine, though, so I'll save that for another time.

On Sunday, we had quite possibly the most awesome meal ever at The Slanted Door, a very famous Vietnamese restaurant overlooking the San Francisco Bay and Bay Bridge from the Ferry Building. The grapefruit and jicama salad is to die for, as are the imperial rolls and pho. The lemongrass chicken is also exceptional and made from fresh, hormone-free chicken. The Slanted Door changes their menu often, adjusting to the seasonal availability of local organic produce. I really dig that and wonder why more restaurants can't do the same.

We had an early flight to Chicago yesterday, so we opted to spend Sunday night in a motel close to the airport. It turned out to be really close to the airport . . . as in it was hard to sleep for the airplane noises. Oh, well. That was the only part of this vacation I could possibly complain about.

If you haven't been to San Francisco, put it on your list! (Same for the Monterey Peninsula, Big Sur, Napa, etc.) Don't worry about the flowers in the hair. :-)

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