Archive | Travel RSS feed for this section

My California Gold – Napa Valley

4 Aug

Since wineries started charging for wine tasting, I very seldom visit the Napa Valley. When I have out of town guests, I take them to wineries that offer free wine tasting and most of them are in Sonoma.

Luckily, I have a friend who is a member of two private wineries and he can have three friends whom he can invite to join him for an annual harvest festival or for a random free wine tasting. We ate and were wined. This year, I was the designated driver, so, no alcohol for me. I purely enjoyed the company of my friends, who were tipsy (wink). If you are not a member or not a member guest, the cost to come to this event is $75 per winery = $150 per person for the two wineries we went to.

http://farniente.com/

http://www.nickelandnickel.com/

In particular, I loved sitting under 100+ year old oak trees, the sound of water fountain, listening to jazz music and the sound of laughter. The service at the places we went to were superb. Although, I wasn’t drinking wine, they had plenty of water and lemonade. There was an abundance of mouthwatering cheese and hors d’oeuvres. People were friendly. I got to take home a nice empty bottle of dolce wine-with gold plate lettering and a nice wooden box that I can use. Here are some pictures at this annual event.

Slide1

Slide2

Slide4

Slide3

Slide5

Slide6

Slide7

Slide8

Slide9

My California Gold – Mission Inn at Riverside

1 Aug

1,273 miles from San Francisco to Riverside (Round-trip), Riverside as my final destination in this trip, the Mission Inn captured my interest in history, art and luxury. The square block of the hotel felt like I was in Europe. I got excited when I found out that the new owners has the same last name as mine (wink).

Mission Inn main entrance

Mission Inn main entrance

Mission Inn - Spanish Patio

Mission Inn – Spanish Patio

Mission Inn - Spanish Patio

Mission Inn – Spanish Patio

Inside the Spanish Art Gallery

Inside the Spanish Art Gallery

Napoleon & Joseph, St. Francis Shrine

Napoleon & Joseph, St. Francis Shrine

Joseph and Napoleon are the talking parrots at Mission Inn  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6PWiMtbyJQ

Romeo's Dome and the Obscura

Romeo’s Dome and the Obscura

St, Francis chapel

St, Francis chapel

Inside the St. Francis chapel

Inside the St. Francis chapel

Presidential suites area

Presidential suites area

I would love to take a splash on this hot summer day

At the Rotunda

At the Rotunda

Ho-O-Kan

Ho-O-Kan

Mission Inn under ground

Mission Inn under ground

http://www.missioninn.com/?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=Brand&utm_content=Brand&utm_keyword=mission%20inn%20riverside

We might come back for the Festival of Lights.

Sweet tooth craving – Cupcakes

28 Jul

As much I want to remove sugar in my diet, when I see beautifully made cupcakes, I throw all the desire to be sugar-free. It wouldn’t hurt if I have one or two cupcakes! Does it?

Casey's cupcakes! Yummy!

Casey’s cupcakes! Yummy!

Look at me, I’m ecstatic! Give me some cupcakes …..

http://www.caseyscupcake.com/

My California Gold – Morro Bay

26 Jul

1,273 miles from San Francisco to Riverside (Roundtrip), stopping along the California pacific coast, at Morro Bay. I have always passed by this big rock but never stopped. On this trip, I wandered around this surfer’s dream beach.

The Morro Rock!

The Morro Rock!

Morro Bay State Beach park

Morro Bay State Beach park

Behind the big Morro Rock - over 250  species of birds

Behind the big Morro Rock – over 250 species of birds

Surfing camp

Surfing camp

Surfer's delight

Surfer’s delight

Surfer delight

Surfers delight

Morro Bay Harbor

Morro Bay Harbor

Sunset at Morro Bay Harbor

Sunset at Morro Bay Harbor

http://www.morrobay.org/

My California Gold – Hearst Castle

25 Jul

1,273 miles from San Francisco to Riverside (Roundtrip), stopping along the pacific coast, by San Simeon. The Hearst Castle had always captured my interest in history, art and luxury.

I have visited the Hearst Castle several times (1997, 2003, 2010 and 2014). Each visit is different and I always enjoyed it. I always wondered how my life is if I have that much money.

In 1997 and 2003, I took the Grand Rooms Tour.

Circa 1997

Circa 1997

Circa 2003 with my parents (Casa Grande)

Circa 2003 with my parents (Casa Grande)

Circa 2003 - With my parents (Neptune Pool)

Circa 2003 – With my parents (Neptune Pool)

In 2010, I took the Cottages and Kitchen Tour.

Circa 2010 - One of the guest house sun rooms

Circa 2010 – One of the guest house sun rooms

Circa 2010 Neptune Pool

Circa 2010 Neptune Pool

Circa 2010 Neptune Pool

Circa 2010 Neptune Pool

Circa 2010 Neptune Pool

Circa 2010 Neptune Pool

Here are some pics from my recent visit. This year I took the Upstairs Suites tour. The Neptune Pool had been emptied and the railings along the pool were installed ~ It’s not as grand when it’s empty …  Regardless, the whole place is still beautiful and amazing!

The Neptune Pool - no water :-(

The Neptune Pool – no water 😦

The view from the gardens

The view from the gardens

Mr. Hearst office

Mr. Hearst office

Marion Davies' bedroom

Marion Davies’ bedroom

One of the guest bedrooms

One of the guest bedrooms

The Library

The Library

The view from Mr. Randolph Hearst bedroom

The view from Mr. Randolph Hearst bedroom

Indoor pool

Indoor pool

The view from the gardens

The view from the gardens

Casa Grande

Casa Grande

In my next visit, I plan to take the twilight dinner tour.

http://hearstcastle.org/

Parks: Angel Island

13 Jun

Thanks to a Groupon for the Angel Island tram tour, I got an idea to visit Angel Island (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=468) again. I’ve been there many times before, but hiking new trails is exciting.

Fun ferry ride

Fun ferry ride

The ferry is $13.50 per person, for a roundtrip ticket from Tiburon. It also include the park’s adult entrance fee. They take cash or credit cards, and you pay as you board the ferry. I suggest that you arrive about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure you selected (http://www.angelislandferry.com/).

Always layer your clothes because the micro-climate here changes quickly. Be prepared for 3-4 hours of hiking, and know your limits. We hiked 60 minutes up hill and 2.5 hours down hill, with a 30 minute break at the Mt. Livermore summit.

Ayala cove

Ayala cove

Can you see Alcatraz and the city view behind the fog?

Can you see Alcatraz and the city view behind the fog?

Old military camps down below

Old military camps down below

Re-enactment of time back then

Re-enactment of time back then

IMG_4260

Angel Island hiking trails

Angel Island hiking trails

The view from Mt. Livermore

The view from Mt. Livermore

Foggy view of Mt. Tamalpais

Foggy view of Mt. Tamalpais

After Angel Island, a quick walk around downtown  Tiburon is refreshing.

Shark fins - Tiburon

Shark fins – Tiburon

Now, I can see the shark fins

Now, I can see the shark fins

Time for some gelato

Time for some gelato

A nice afternoon in tiburon

A nice afternoon in Tiburon

 

Free stuff in San Francisco

4 Sep

This is so cool! Free stuff in San Francisco! I lived in San Francisco for almost thirty years (Can you believe that?) and I have not taken much advantage of free things offered here. Last summer I get to see the “City” and what free things it offers.

Free admissions on first Tuesday of the month – De Young Museum

photo (16)

This little door made it to the local nightly news

This little door made it to the local nightly news

Since I am already at Golden Gate Park, we walked around the Conservatory of Flowers and hiked up Strawberry Hill.

photo (18)

photo (19)

The view from top of Strawberry Hill

The view from top of Strawberry Hill

SF Zoo is free on first Wednesday of the month http://www.sfzoo.org/plan-hours-prices

SFZoo

I plan to visit these other places with free admission:

List of free monthly museum days http://sf.funcheap.com/city-guide/monthly-free-museum-days/

Japanese Tea Garden at the Golden Gate Park – Mon, Wed, Fri: FREE admission if entered by 10:00 am http://www.japaneseteagardensf.com/visit.php

The Botanical Garden at the Golden Gate Park is FREE the 2nd Tuesday of every month as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org/visit/index.html

TCHO Chocolate Factory free tours – TCHO invites you for daily one-hour tours of their factory for free followed by a guided tasting http://sf.funcheap.com/city-guide/tcho-chocolate-tours/

SF also has a free Limo Service, check this out http://sf.funcheap.com/city-guide/tonic-limo-service/

Road Trip: San Francisco, CA to Chicago, IL

20 May

Planning a road trip is one thing and being on the road challenges you to stick to your plans. Some experiences were startling.

Our trip plan

San Francisco to Chicago in 6 days

San Francisco to Chicago in 6 days

Moving across the country ~ think twice :-)

Moving across the country ~ think twice 🙂

Am I still in America?

Am I still in America?

Along the way, I chatted with strangers, who surprisingly told me some personal stories. Some of the stories I overheard in bathroom stalls. Here’s one of them.

At a gas stop in Missouri called Kum & Go – that is not a typo, yes, that is the name of the place; I overheard a conversation that made me laugh. I was in a 3-stall bathroom, I overheard two women who do not know each other, and they were both inside the stalls when this conversation occurred.

IMG_1841

Lady 1: Hears chirping sound and made a comment (It is raining outside) – “Birds here in Missouri are aggressive birds for them to be chirping this loud on a down pour rain”.

Lady 2: “Oh, you are hearing my breathing apparatus making the noise”.

Lady 1: “It must be hard to get used to that sound”.

Lady 2: “My boyfriend (paused), oh, my fiancé now, used to think that there’s something wrong with his car, hehehehe”

Lady 1: “Your fiancé is a keeper for that reason”.

Lady 2: “Yeah, he is a keeper. I’ve been married twice and the first one turned out to be gay”.

Lady 1: “I’ve been married twice too and my second husband turned out to be gay”.

They both went out to wash their hands. I decided to stay in the stall because I did not want to get into their candid conversation.

Lady 2: “Isn’t it weird that we’d have to marry them before we find out or they find out that they are gay?

I finally had the courage to get out of the stall and wash my hands. They both looked at me and giggled. I wonder where the conversation would be if I joined in their conversation and told them that, I have been married twice too and I am from San Francisco (although, none of my ex’s are gay). Hmmmmmm?

Needless to say, my road trip from San Francisco to Chicago was long. In fact very long. However, it was a respite badly needed from work. After six days on the road, I slept 12 hours straight and woke up in Chicago which was unexpectedly rainy and 36 degrees cold. The movie Ironman 3 in IMAX 3-D seemed more appealing than any Chicago tourist attraction. By 10:00pm, the rain stopped and we checked out The Second City comedy revue. On my last day, the sun finally showed up but it was still cold. The Magnificent Mile was full of people and the fast ride to the top of the Hancock building was worth the 360-degree view of Chicago.

Road trip across America crossed off my bucket list.

Below is the link to pictures of my road trip.

https://picasaweb.google.com/116995886457870443173/2013RoadTripSFChicago?authuser=0&feat=directlink

Road Trip Planning

17 May

There are many unknowns in road trips ~ I guess you can say that about anything in life. Planning helps though.

G-Road trip3

Without thinking twice, I volunteered to help a friend to move from California to Illinois = approximately 2,500 miles. I thought that it would be exciting to do a cross-country drive and cross off one of the items in my bucket list. At the beginning, my friend and I had the same ideas, like stopping at scenic spots along the way (maybe even stopping at some relatives we know and save a night of hotel), enjoying a nice meal at every stop, meet other travelers along the way, etc. As the road trip date comes nearer, our plans became more unrealistic and our stress level got higher. I think mainly because we were in different state of emotion. I wanted to have fun and enjoy the ride while my friend was moving out of California because of circumstances I could never relate to. Emotion aside, I think these are things to consider when planning a road trip and I dare say to put it in writing so that at the end of the trip, you and your friend are still friends.

  • Travel budget – including gas, hotel and parking. How to split the bill
  • Things that will affect travel time per day
    • Number of miles to travel
    • How much weight will you be carrying (In our case, we hauled a 4,000 lbs. trailer while the Ford F-150 we drove is about the same weight)
    • Total number of days to travel and how many travel hours per day
    • Weather
    • Unexpected delays, i.e. road accidents, traffic, flat tire
  • Where to stop or stay for the night
  • Obtain a roadside assistance from your car insurance
  • Other things that makes the drive bearable
    • Music: iPod, iPhone, iPad, Pandora
    • Straws, yes, I said straws – it is so much easier to drink from bottle or can when straws are used.
    • Napkins (otherwise, I end up using my clothes to wipe off the orange stuff from the Cheetos)
    • Cooler
    • Healthy snacks
    • Road trip games that the driver can participate too
  • Other things that needs to be taken cared of at the end of the trip
    • If you need to store some of your things: How big is the storage unit you need, what’s the availability
    • Moving plan: Who can help? Where to get help? Personally, I am a whimper when it comes to moving, so, I hire people to help me move.
1-40 Flagstaff, AZ to Albuquerque, NM

1-40 Flagstaff, AZ to Albuquerque, NM

1-40 Passing through Texas

1-40 Passing through Texas

As much as I want to cross off a line in my bucket list, it was more important to keep my friendships. I was willing to cancel a road trip or veer off the plan for the sake of keeping a friendship.

If you ever go on a road trip, the most important part is to have fun, share many stories, and keep your cool. If you can squeeze a 15-30 minute workout, swim and/or a soak in the whirlpool, go for it.

Good luck on your road trip!

Hmmmm? What’s next on my bucket list?

Tips to planning a road trip on a budget

http://www.mint.com/blog/how-to/tips-to-planning-a-road-trip-on-a-budget-082012/

%d bloggers like this: