Friday, January 30, 2009

A Pacific Grove Find

Lately I have become smitten with the Monterey Peninsula. Surely Point Lobos, Big Sur, Passionfish, and even the Monterey Bay Aquarium have something to do with that. But on a recent trip, I stayed at the Anton Inn in Pacific Grove and found it to be a funky alternative to the Victorian style that dominates lodgings in the region. I called the week of my trip and was able to score one night (usually they have a 2-night minimum on weekends) for half the price of the listed rate (under $100!). And though there were a few drawbacks--no cable TV or WiFi connection and an ok breakfast--I found the motor inn/art gallery a delightful place to stay--especially with a child.

If you fancy yourself an art lover, or just want to stay at a low-key spot without some chatty owner blabbing about her collection of porcelain dolls, this is the spot for you.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cold Weather Ideas

Northern California is currently in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave--in January--but I know this won't last long. So I decided to compile a list of my favorite cold weather activities, so that when the inevitable chilly wind returns, I can sanely remember all the other reasons this region is so wonderful.

San Francisco
California Academy of Sciences--get there right at 10am to tour the rainforest, then head straight for the food court for almond butter and jelly sandwiches.

De Young Museum--If you don't want to pay to enter the museum (though you should, if nothing else than to see the exhibition of Pacific Islander art), then head straight up to the lookout tower.

MOMA--Besides a slew of rotating modern art and a kick ass store, this is my favorite rainy day spot. Hang out by the big windows and watch the rain fall, then feel hip as you tour the photography gallery.

Zeum--You don't need a kid to go play at this hands-on technology museum. Take your most exciting friend and sing karaoke and make clay-mation movies.

Other ideas:
Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, an urban hike through the Mission, shopping in the Haight, eating your way through Chinatown, the Ferry Building, cuddling up with someone you love at the Red Vic Movie Theater.

Bay Area:
Muir Woods--the redwoods are at their finest in cool weather.

Bay Area Discovery Museum--this is the top museum for kids in all of Northern California.

Albany Bulb--art lovers will enjoy a trip through this salvaged art lined trail with views of the bay.

Wander the streets of Los Gatos and Saratoga.

Other ideas:
Big Basin, Felton Steam Train, Pez Museum, San Jose Tech Museum, whale watching tour, a beer at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.

Wine Country:
Mud bath at Golden Haven.

Sip wine at the Martini House.

Get a massage and soak in a cedar enzyme bath at the Osmosis Day Spa.

Other ideas:
Wine tasting, eating your way through Yountville, shopping in St Helena or Healdsburg, art gallery hopping in Sonoma.

North Coast (from Bodega Bay to Crescent City):
Walk on a quiet stretch of sand.

Visit the Mendocino Botanical Gardens.

Hike in the redwoods.

Visit the tattoo museum in Fort Bragg.

Have a crepe in Arcata.

Visit the train museum.

Take a bike ride along the river.

Eastern Mountains:
Ski, snowboard, ice skate, sled!!!

Sip hot cocoa at the Ahwahnee Hotel.

Soak in a Lake Tahoe hot tub.

Take a dip in natural hot springs in Mt Shasta City.

Pan for gold.

If you have any other cold weather ideas you'd like to share, I would love to list them here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Updates--Closures and Deals

So as the economy wiggles in waiting for Inauguration Day, travelers to Northern California find a fe new shake ups.

I just heard that Mendocino County's Heritage House is kaput until a rich investor gobbles that oceanfront beaut up.

Redwood County's Benbow Inn is for sale.

Half Moon Bay's Cetrella restaurant closed until May.

Four Sisters Inns has a serious deal. Call and say "Carpe Diem" for steep price slashes in all their lovely inns up and down the coast and Napa County.

The East Bay's classic Burlington Hotel is getting a facelift and has a hopeful new owner. That means deals will be in the works.

Pacific Grove's Anton Inn has wonderful wintertime deals in their artsy cottage-like rooms.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Ever since Michael Bauer, the food critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, started singing the praises of Beretta, the newly opened Italian restaurant that took over the Last Supper Club location in the Mission, I have been aching to visit. I had also read about the libations that bring hordes of hipsters to the bar. Let me tell you here and now: Beretta is worth a visit.

Start with a funky drink that might include egg whites, honey, rye or even absinthe--in fact let that be your appetizer, since often your cocktail doesn't show up until after you food and the appetizers aren't the highlight. Go straight for a risotto and a pizza. My favorite was the squid ink risotto and the margarita pizza with barrata cheese. I'd recommend filling up on the main course and skipping the dessert--especially since BiRite Creamery is a short walk away.

Also note that they don't take reservations (except for big parties). Plus the service isn't the best in the city. And it is cramped in there. But the pizza is so good you probably won't mind.