Monthly Archives: August 2014

Monday in Napa: Kayaking and The Hess Collection

If you’re still reading these posts, thanks! If you’re distraught over missing the earlier part of our trip in San Francisco, fret not. You can read them here, here, and here.

Monday was our first full day in Napa, and while we were looking forward to visiting a few wineries, we were also excited for some warmer weather. It was a bit cooler in San Francisco than we had expected! When my mom and I first sat down to plan this trip, we couldn’t decide if we wanted to do Napa first, and then go to San Francisco or vice versa. Looking back on the trip, I’m really glad we did SF first, and then the wine country. It was nice getting to do the “busy” things first, doing a lot of walking and sight seeing, and then taking it easy in Napa.

Wineries would of course be on our itinerary, but we thought we would take advantage of the beautiful scenery and get in an outdoor activity, too. We had thought about going on a hiking trail, but with the Napa River so close to our rental home, we decided to do a kayaking tour. We did our TripAdvisor research and booked a tour with Kayak Napa Valley. From the time we booked our trip, to showing up on Monday morning, we had a great experience with their staff. It was so clear to see that our tour guide Laurie (who is also one of the founders) values the beauty of the area. This company even schedules clean up days to keep the river clean and beautiful. Our time kayaking was so peaceful and relaxing, the complete opposite of our rafting in Colorado a couple of years ago (right, dad?).

Our kayak tour started at 9:00 and ended around noon, so we drove to Oxbow to pick up some lunch from Gott’s Roadside. Talk about some delicious food. Everyone enjoyed their burgers while I ate one awesome hot dog (#keepingitclassy). It was the perfect lunch to fill our stomachs before our first wine tour of the trip.

There are over 400 wineries in Napa Valley. That’s right 400. Chip and I visited six last year, and with this trip we were able to see four more. Clearly we need to make many more trips back to Napa to cross the rest of these off our list. Okay, maybe that’s a little unrealistic…

Our first winery was The Hess Collection. You won’t find it while driving down Silverado Trail, it’s nestled up a windy road surrounded by mountains. While it is a great winery, it is also an art museum and you can walk around their gallery after your tasting. I was sad to hear that as of now, they are open only by appointment while they make repairs to their visitor center following the recent earthquake in the area. If you’re in Napa, make an appointment here. You won’t be disappointed.

We did their wine and cheese tasting and had a great afternoon with our guide Cristhian. As good as the wine was (and it was really good), Cristhian made the experience. He shared so much about the history of the winery, answered all of our questions (and we asked a lot), and let us take our time getting through everything. He even gave us an extra sample at the end after we had talked about how much we like Pinot Noir.

Don't these grapes look like blueberries?

Don’t these grapes look like blueberries?

These are all red grapes, but stay green until they've received enough sun

These are all red grapes, but stay green until they’ve received enough sun

The Hess Collection lets their grapes grow a little bit more like trees instead of having the branches on a wire trellis

The Hess Collection lets their grapes grow a little bit more like trees instead of having the branches on a wire trellis

Ready for our tasting

Ready for our tasting

Loved the outdoor space at The Hess Collection

Loved the outdoor space at The Hess Collection

This stone building was constructed back in 1903.

This stone building was constructed back in 1903.

Cristhian told us that by the time we got to the "barely buzzed" cheese pairing, we should all be barely buzzed... well, maybe slightly more.

Cristhian told us that by the time we got to the “barely buzzed” cheese pairing, we should all be barely buzzed… well, maybe slightly more.

Our wine flight

Our wine flight

Cristhian also brought my parents a plate of cookies for their anniversary. Now that's my kind of anniversary gift.

Cristhian also brought my parents a plate of cookies for their anniversary. Now that’s my kind of anniversary gift.

Group picture with Cristhian

Group picture with Cristhian

We got along great.

We got along great

Love these two of pictures of my parents

Love these two of pictures of my parents

After our wonderful afternoon at The Hess Collection, we made the drive back to downtown Napa for dinner at Ca’Momi, one of the restaurants at Oxbow Public Market. We were all pretty stuffed from the wine and cheese, so we kept dinner pretty light. After we ate, we went inside Oxbow to get a few cupcakes from Kara’s Cupcakes before going home and playing some Heads Up! I can’t remember who won, so we’ll just say the girls did. More to come on our time in Napa! 

San Francisco, Muir Woods, and Napa

That’s right. Three places in one day! #vacationoverachievers

Sunday was our last day in San Francisco. We had read about MyMy Coffee Shop online and were excited to go there for breakfast. We got to MyMy around 9:00 and there was already a long line of people waiting outside, which we all know means that the food has got to be good. Why else would people wait outside in the chilly San Francisco weather for over 30 minutes? We were seated (outside) within 30-45 minutes and soon ordered food. And by food, I mean a breakfast feast including zucchini pancakes, Tex-Mex and Frisco scrambles, lemon crab shrimp cake, and a Florentine version of eggs Benedict.

Sperry, feel free to sponsor our next family vacation. We're ready.

Sperry, feel free to sponsor our next family vacation. We’re ready.

After breakfast, we drove to the neighborhood right next to the Cable Car Museum. We gave each other about an hour to explore the neighborhood before meeting back at our car for our next stop. Chip and I went to the museum with my parents (which was like a toy store for my dad) while Alex and Teresa walked to Chinatown and Grace Cathedral before also checking out the Cable Car Museum. We had originally planned on then riding a cable car to lunch in North Beach but we were still full from breakfast and couldn’t handle another meal just yet. Since we had already ridden a cable car to the farmers market on Saturday, we decided to move on with our day and do a few more touristy sight-seeing before leaving the city.

Cable Car Museum

Cable Car Museum

Dad figuring out the cable car brakes

Dad figuring out the cable car brakes

Neighborhood outside of the Cable Car Museum

Neighborhood outside of the Cable Car Museum

First up was driving down Lombard Street. It was a quick drive from the Cable Car Museum, but getting to actually drive down the street took some work since certain streets around it were closed off. After a few extra left turns, we finally took the steep drive down Lombard, complete with my dad waving his hand outside the window to get in any other tourists’ pictures (including one of mine!). After Lombard Street, we drove to see The Painted Ladies. Chip and I didn’t get to see these homes last time, so I was pretty excited that we were able to visit this neighborhood this time around. Chip was a little less than impressed by the homes and couldn’t even remember that these homes were the backdrop for the opening credits in Full House. How rude. Thankfully, he was impressed by the views the park had to offer.

View from the top of Lombard Street

View from the top of Lombard Street

Look, mom, no hands!

Look, mom, no hands!

The Painted Ladies (one was getting a little work done)

The Painted Ladies (one was getting a little work done)

Chip pretending to be amazed by the Painted Ladies

Chip pretending to be amazed by the Painted Ladies

All of us!

All of us!

City view

City view

Once we left the park, we set out to leave San Francisco and head to the Muir Woods. When my mom and I had started planning this trip back in the early spring, we thought it would be a lot of fun to drive up to the National Redwood Forest… until we looked at a map and saw it was five and a half hours away from San Francisco and we were aiming to be in Napa later Sunday evening for the rest of our vacation. Maybe another time, Redwoods. After reading one of my travel books, we decided to go to Muir Woods instead, which also has redwoods and walking trails, and is just a little over an hour away from Napa.

We hit some traffic on our way out of San Francisco to get on the Golden Gate Bridge, but we eventually made our way out to a lookout point and got some pictures with the iconic bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

City view

City view

Last time my parents were in San Francisco was 30 years ago. Can you say Miami Vice?

Last time my parents were in San Francisco was 30 years ago. Can you say Miami Vice?

Mom is missing the hairspray she wore in the 80s, but I'd say they've aged like a fine wine.

Mom is missing the hairspray she wore in the 80s, but I’d say they’ve aged like a fine wine.

The Lopez Family

The Lopez Family

It was just a little windy...

It was just a little windy…

We decided to stop for lunch before going to the Muir Woods so we wouldn’t be starving by the time we got to Napa, so after some quick map app searching, we stopped for lunch in Sausalito and then drove up to Muir Woods.

Muir Woods was a really unique experience. While there were a lot of people and tour groups there, it felt quiet and serene. We were all so blown away by how majestic the redwoods are and how they were so much taller than we could have anticipated. We walked around the trails for about an hour, but you could easily spend at least half a day there. Sorry for the crazy amount of pictures, but Muir Woods was beautiful. And if anyone has photography tips (I struggle with pictures in the shade/different lighting), please send them my way!

Chip humored me for a jumping picture...

Chip humored me for a jumping picture…

Trying to be tall like a tree

Trying to be tall like a tree

With the Muir Woods behind us, we kept driving north into Napa. My mom and I had found another rental home for us and this was one was perfect. It was just a few blocks away from Oxbow Public Market and in a quiet neighborhood. We quickly unload the car and then went to dinner at Zuzu. Out of all of the restaurants on this street, Zuzu was the only one with a wait, so we knew the food was going to be good. We all split a bunch of different tapas as well as some paella before calling it a night. More to come on our time in Napa!

Saturday in San Francisco, Part Two

After our morning at the Farmers Market and the Embarcadero, we made our way to Pier 33 where we would be taking a ferry to Alcatraz. When Chip and I went to San Francisco last fall, we were in the middle of the government shut down, which meant all national parks (Alcatraz included) were closed. Thankfully the government had their act together (more or less….) during this trip and we were actually able to go tour the island. The ferry ride was a lot shorter than I had expected, part of me had expected it to be as long as the one to Nantucket, but before we knew it, we were arriving at the dock. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Alcatraz, but I have to say it was a lot more interesting than I had anticipated. The audio tour was just the right length and provided so much information on the history of the jail, complete with stories about different inmates there and the various attempts to escape.

On the ferry

On the ferry

Dad spent most of the ferry ride outside checking out the views

Dad spent most of the ferry ride outside checking out the views

Watching a race as we got to Alcatraz

Watching a race as we got to Alcatraz

Getting into Alcatraz

Getting into Alcatraz

Famous Alcatraz inmates

Famous Alcatraz inmates

Chip checking out one of the solitary confinement cells

Chip checking out one of the solitary confinement cells

Inside the old library room

Inside the old library room

It was a little windy...

It was a little windy…

Our view of the city from Alcatraz

Our view of the city from Alcatraz

We finished our tour at Alcatraz around 3:00. Once we got back to San Francisco, we took a very tight cab ride to our rental home (see the evidence below) before packing up and heading to our hotel. Saturday was actually my parents’ 28th anniversary, so we spent the evening having dinner at E’ Tutto Qua. Looking back on our trip, that was hands-down the best meal during our time in California. It was so genuinely Italian that as soon as we walked in the door we were greeted by a loud “Party Lopez? Over here” and then a bunch of Italian shouting between waiters as we got seated at our table. Anytime we would serve ourselves more wine, the waiters would walk by shouting “Salute!” or would otherwise be speaking Italian to each other about food orders. The manager even came by at one point and told us all about how he created some of their signature dishes (order anything they recommend. It’s all delicious). The environment was great, the food was amazing, and it was so fun getting to celebrate my parents’ anniversary together. Cheers to you, mom and dad!

To confirm: Teresa and I are hanging off of the seats.

To confirm: Teresa and I are hanging off of the seats.

Starting dinner off with some champagne

Starting dinner off with some champagne

One of our very Italian waiters

One of our very Italian waiters

Happy anniversary!

Happy anniversary!

"E Tutto Qua" - And that is all!

“E Tutto Qua” – And that is all!

We would be visiting The Hess Collection during our time in Napa, so we decided to try their wine at dinner. Definitely some good wine!

We would be visiting The Hess Collection during our time in Napa, so we decided to try their wine at dinner. Definitely some good wine!

Sure do love my dad

Sure do love my dad

Cheers!

Cheers!

Alex and Teresa at dinner

Alex and Teresa at dinner

Cheers to 28 years!

Cheers to 28 years!

San Francisco, Round Two

Last year, Chip and I took a (belated) anniversary trip to San Francisco and Napa. To say we had a great time would be an understatement and we have mentioned more than once how fun it would be to go back again someday. We really enjoyed getting to see different parts of the city and the wine country was awesome (hello, it’s the wine country). So when my mom suggested these two spots for our family vacation this year, we were pretty excited. Since I was taking some time off of work this past spring, I was able to help my mom plan the trip and find places for us to stay, restaurants to try out, different winery tours, etc. Since we would be a group of six with my parents, Chip, myself, Alex, and his girlfriend Teresa, we thought a rental home would be great for us instead of a hotel. I’m glad we started planning this trip back in April since we quickly discovered that a lot of places were already booked almost five months in advance. Thankfully, we still found some really great places, but if you’re planning a trip to San Francisco or Napa, get to booking stuff early.

Chip and I flew into San Francisco on a Friday afternoon and got into the city just in time for dinner at one of our favorite places from our last trip – Tacolicious. Chip has mentioned this restaurant just about every time we talk about San Francisco, so I was really glad we were able to go back and enjoy it all over again. My parents had flown into San Francisco Thursday afternoon, so the four of us had dinner together before Alex and Teresa landed later that night. My mom just about ate a bowl of salsa by herself, which if you’ve tried their salsa, you would understand. It’s some roasted tomato-mint combination and it’s delicious. Chip and I are going to try to recreate it and probably never come close to the real thing. But we will try. Tacolicious actually has some of their other salsas for sale at most William-Sonoma stores right now. We bought some this past weekend and will be having an epic taco night soon.

On our flight to SF

On our flight to SF

Tacolicious

Tacolicious

Can Tacolicious please deliver to Texas?

Can Tacolicious please deliver to Texas?

Now, we had been really excited about our rental home in San Francisco. We found a great spot in Nob Hill that was a perfect space for the six of us…. as well as some super rowdy neighbors below us. How rowdy? We’re talking a party that was just getting started when Alex and Teresa landed a little before midnight and went until about four in the morning. Somehow, I slept through the worst of their music and dialogue but no one got good sleep that night. It wasn’t the experience we were looking for, so we actually decided to stay in a hotel Saturday night. Regardless of our sleepless night on Friday, we had a fun and very full Saturday in the city.

Saturday morning, we took a cable car to the farmers market at the Ferry Building. This is hands down the best farmers market I’ve ever been to. We made our way around the Ferry Building and the stands outside, eating breakfast and more than our fair share of samples (I’m looking at you, dad). And no, I didn’t eat the deep fried mac n’ cheese we got last year (shame, I know).

Foggy ride on the cable car

Foggy ride on the cable car

On the cable car

On the cable car

The Ferry Building

The Ferry Building

Why, yes, we did have some of these

Why, yes, we did have some of these

After the farmers market, we spent some time walking along the Embarcadero. This included some time at Pier 39 watching all of the seal lions.

Posing for the camera

Posing for the camera

How is this comfortable?

How is this comfortable?

Walking around Pier 39

Walking around Pier 39

Pier 39

Pier 39

Mom and Dad at Pier 39

Mom and Dad at Pier 39

Alex and Teresa

Alex and Teresa

Ready to go on our tour of Alcatraz

Ready to go on our tour of Alcatraz

More to come on our afternoon at Alcatraz and the rest of our time in California!