Friday, October 31, 2008

The Perfect Day in Yountville

Wake up at the crack of dawn for a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. Follow your adventure with a champagne brunch.

Go back to sleep for a couple of hours.

Enjoy a wine and food pairing at Girard Tasting Room.

Have a panini and wine at Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle Paninoteca.

Taste wine and tour the winery at Keever Vineyards.

Head to Domaine Chandon for oysters and champagne.

Get a massage treatment at the Villagio Inn and Spa--if you can spring for it, get a suite treatment.

If you don't want to spend your children's entire college fund, dine at Hurley's. If it is a Monday or Wednesday, call to check if Ad Hoc is serving their fried chicken dinner. Or if you are celebrating a 25th anniversary, why not dine at French Laundry?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Not Just Pumpkins in Half Moon Bay

After the summer sojourners leave and the pumpkin hunters have celebrated Halloween, Half Moon Bay is my choice for a mellow weekend escape. Days might be shorter and cooler, but the miles of white sand beaches and dunes, redwood hikes, huge waves, wildlife, hotel deals and great food add up to the perfect recipe late fall/early winter trip. Here you'll find a recreation center that throws Halloween parties for kids, families fly kites on the beach, people lining up at teh bakery when the pumpkin bread comes out of the oven because it smells so good, and all independently owned shops lining Main St. It's a good ole town, right in the heart of the Bay Area.

My favorite places to stay include the Pigeon Point Lighthouse (, which is super cheap and on the ocean; the Beach House ( oceanfront location begs for romance; the Half Moon Bay Inn (, which feels like a hip hotel in Spain or Mexico; or Costanoa ( for luxury canvas tent camping with heated beds and floors. All of these spots offer deals--especially midweek--in late fall and winter.

If i were to plan to perfect day in Half Moon Bay, I would start with coffee and pumpkin bread at the Half Moon Bay Bakery (Main St). Then head over to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (at low tide) to play in the tidepools and see the starfish and seals. Next, drive down to Ano Nuevo State reserve (if it is winter make a reservation first) to see the elephant seals mate (it's pretty gnarly--lots of noise and fighting and machismo--at least it makes bar hopping look tame). Afterwards, head to Duarte's ( for artichoke and chili soup. If you still have energy, you don't want to miss an easy stroll through the Purisma Creek redwoods ( just above Half Moon Bay. And top your day off with dinner at Cetrella (

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Northern California Borders and Dimensions

After finishing Great Destinations Kauai (Countryman Press, Dec 08), I was offered the chance to write Northern California: An Explorer's Guide. Living in San Francisco for the past 6.5 years and traveling all over the state made the gig easy to accept--add to that having a one year old son and a six month deadline, which make the summer a hectic treat.  

To start, I had to work out what exactly is Northern California. I began the hunt by searching other guidebooks and strangely all the Northern California books included places that I would never consider in the region--Santa Barbara, Kings Canyon, and even Bakersfield. So I created an honest border. Basically I asked where people in the northern part of the state can easily travel to. And so my book covers from Big Sur to Yosemite all the way to the Oregon border. 

In this blog you'll find up to date advice on the best spots throughout the Northern  part of California, personal experiences traveling with a one year old son, highlights from my research, excellent romantic getaways, the best beaches and honest information about the region. 

Oh, and the guidebook comes out May 1, 09.