3 days in Napa Valley: Memorial Day Bottlerockin’ edition

My favorite weekend of the year to visit Napa Valley is Memorial Day.  Why you ask?  Well, it’s the annual Bottlerock music festival weekend.  Alas, this year is the first year I am not attending of the past few years, as I’ve moved away from Northern California.  That means I’ll be missing out on the Killers, Bruno Mars and tomorrow’s headliner, Muse (all of whom I’ve seen before, but still).  This is the most civilized of all the festivals, with culinary stages and wineries to boot.

While you’re enjoying the festivities, don’t forget to head out from the festival grounds and explore the valley, one of the best weekender locations in the country!

Wine or wine not?

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3 days in Napa Valley

So I have to confess something here.  I’m not much of a drinker.  I know, I know.  Is it too late now to say sorry?  Just kidding, I’m not sorry.   You’re wondering: how could a light imbiber possibly have anything to say about the most famous wine producing region in the US?

Turns out, there’s a ton of things to do here that don’t necessarily involve spirits, and don’t worry, I will feature some absolutely fantastic wineries on our journey through the beautiful Northern California countryside.  There’s just one question you have to ask yourself:

Wine or wine not?

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3 days in Sacramento

 

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Sacramento may seem like a random place to visit, but thanks to Greta Gerwig’s stunning (read: STUNNING) ode to cinema and her hometown, Lady Bird, California’s capital city is taking its turn to bask in its own deserved spotlight.

I think the best way to describe this city is that when you’re here, you feel like you’re in a vintage Instagram filter, a bygone era of Americana with modern splashes.  It is simply an easy place to be.  There’s that old school charm, from the architectural gems of the Fabulous Forties to the neighborhoods dotted with old neon signage (featured prominently in the movie and as you know if you’ve read this blog, are one of my favorite things) and the proximity of farms and citrus tree groves.

Beyond the capital, it is one of the top destinations for locavore cuisine, earning it the nickname of “America’s farm to fork capital.” For a city of its size, there’s every type of food you could imagine, and ingredients are so fresh due to its proximity to California’s central agriculture industry.  People forget California is one of the largest farming states in the country–next time you eat those strawberries and avocados, think of us.

Eureka, I’ve found it!

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weekender in Carmel & Monterey

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Arguably some of the most beautiful spots in California, the coastal towns of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-sea near Big Sur have long been upscale havens for the jet set.  It’s definitely high end, with its ocean view cottages, European ivy wrapped cafes and the famed Pebble Beach Golf Club.  Clint Eastwood is the former mayor of Carmel for pete’s sake!  With its million dollar (baby) homes overlooking the picturesque Central Californian coast, you can see why this area is the background for many novels (notably those of native son John Steinbeck), movies and television shows, most recently Big Little Lies.

It does seem like a place to where a person with secrets would escape (just picture yourself out on a balcony, wrapped in a cashmere shawl, wind whipping through your hair, gazing wistfully over the turbulent surf–channel your inner Nicole Kidman for this).  You can see it, can’t you?

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you CAN see it (photo credit: hbo)

I made my escape there for a weekend wedding, making a mini-road trip of it, Joad family style.  It is definitely doable in a weekend, but obviously the more time, the better to experience the serenity and calm of this seaside retreat.

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how to leave your heart in SF

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San Francisco is one of the world’s great cities.  Sitting up high on the tip of a Northern California peninsula, it’s natural beauty and cooler climate is as unique as the citizens that inhabit it.  For being such a small area in terms of acreage, SF packs so many things to see and do in every square mile.  There’s no way you can see everything, or afford everything, as it is one of the most expensive places in the world.  But, there’s also many free or affordable things to do as well, which we’re all about.

One visit, one dozen visits are not enough to experience the entirety of “the city,” but this what I like to do on a weekend visiting the city by the Bay.

save me, san francisco

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know before you go: Oakland (OAK)

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This is not my favorite airport.  I actually don’t care for either SFO or OAK, but at least SFO has a decent international terminal.  Oakland is an older airport that has limited amenities and dining options.  If you are stuck here as I was on a delay, it can be painful.

The airport itself is located about 10 miles from Downtown, and is very close to San Leandro.  There’s two terminals, T1 and T2, with 17 and 12 gates respectively.  T1 serves Alaska, Allegiant, American, British Airways, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Norwegian, Southwest, Spirit and Volaris.  T2 is exclusively Southwest.  The terminals are connected by a walkway and it’s a small airport, so it’s not too much of a hike from one end to another.

The thing it has going for it is that the BART station is very convenient to get to Oakland or SF.  I used to fly into Oakland to get to SF to avoid SFO.  And if there’s delays for SFO, usually you can hop on a flight to Oakland that may get you to the Bay earlier.  Of the NorCal airports, San Jose and Sacramento are better, but for convenience sake, Oakland just edges SFO out in my experience.

Remember: ✈️ = basket case to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = time of your life

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (BART and amtrak stations; freeway access can be real crowded at rush hour)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (not too big of an airport)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ (the check in area is small and the security lines can be long and slow)

Dining: ✈️✈️ (T1 there’s a chili’s to go and the Silver Dragon chinese isn’t bad.  They also have blue bottle coffee cartons, which is a plus for the bay area.  T2 has more options in typically airport fare: vino volo, gordon biersch, CPK and Fenton’s ice cream)

Bathrooms: ✈️  (I would literally give it negative planes if I could–the toilets are old and missing porcelain–every toilet is like this)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available, could have more charging areas)

Amenities: ✈️ (very few shops including Raiders store and an Escape Lounge)