Saturday, December 30, 2006

Napa Valley Wine Train

Before you read further into this blog, let me make this perfectly clear.

I really enjoyed this train ride and I would recommend it to anyone.

That said, the train wasn't quite what I expected.

The round trip ride is 3 hours. It goes to St. Helena and then back. You go through the heart of Napa Valley and pass many notable and not so notable vineyards. Robert Mondavi and Sutter Home come to mind.

Of course, in the heart of winter, the scenery is not quite so beautiful, although it is stunning to see the acres and acres of vines.

We decided to be seated in the a la carte train called The Silverado. The meals that are served, fixe prix, seemed to be pretty heavy and of course, costly. So we ordered a lighter lunch that included a salad, a pumpkin-butternut squash soup, marinated olives, and a plate of cheese. You could order tastes of wine that included 4 tastes for $5.00 and we got 2 reds and 2 whites, all of which were good (but the red by Sterling was my favorite). The company was gracious and the service was wonderful. The restroom was clean and the train was easy to travel on


The train followed Highway 29, the same road my husband and I took from Geyersville south to Napa. So we didn't see anything we hadn't seen already on our drive.

Very few of the wineries were pointed out to us and little was told of the history of Napa. Our "guide" was also our waitress and she was busy serving lunch and drinks.

We sat on the west side of the train, and quite a bit of the "photographic" part of Napa was to the east. The west also had the sun facing into the camera.

We had our photos taken (like at roller coasters and duck tours) for a mere $21.50 if you decided to purchase it (I got one).

We took the same road back as we did up. At least that gave me the opportunity to get pictures of things I missed the first time up.

No map was given to show what was coming up.

But still, I enjoyed the ride. I'm not trying to talk anyone out of it. I'm just suggesting that maybe the train company do a little improving to make the trip worth the $49.50 we each paid to ride it.

Friday, December 29, 2006

San Francisco

What a wonderful place to visit! They make it easy to move around on their public transportation, much of what you want to see is within walking distance of other sites, and the vistas are breathtaking.

We chose to stay on the Embarcadero which is on the F streetcar line ($1.50 per ride with a 90 min. transfer added). The Ferry Building has a Natural foods market in it now. The Waterfront Restaurant is on Pier 9 and is highly recommended. When we arrived, it was raining so we stayed put at our hotel the first night. The next morning was windy, but we took the streetcar to Pier 39 and walked around. We saw the sea lions but shops were not open yet.

We walked up to Boudin Bakery and got a sour dough roll and coffee and ate breakfast out of the wind. They claim to be the first to serve clam chowder in a sour dough bowl.

We then walked through Fisherman's Wharf and up to Ghirardelli Square, where we bought several items of CHOCOLATE! Then coming back, we stopped at several shops, mostly for souvenirs and ended up eating lunch at Nonna Rose's which is next to the famous Alioto's. Nonna Rose has a fixe prix lunch $10.65 with several entrees to choose from. I had the shrimp louis, which was quite good and served with sour dough rolls! We took the streetcar back to the hotel and rested up until time to go to the football game being held at A T and T Park. We took the Muni to the park and although crowded, not a bad ride. The Park, which is really a baseball park, was very familiar with its huge Coca Cola "sculpture" and the giant glove in the outfield. After the game, we muni'd back to the hotel and ate a quick dinner at the local Taco Bell!

The next day we got up early and took a streetcar up Market and walked over to Union Square. We found the Betty Boop Cafe about a block away so we had breakfast there. Then we walked around Union Square and over the Chinatown, ducking into a few stores along the way before heading downhill to the hotel. We rented a car around eleven and drove over to Lombard Street and then to the Coit Tower which has the best view of San Francisco! We then found the Painted Ladies, the most photographed row of houses in the United States which was on the way to the Golden Gate Park. We drove through the Park (which is huge) and out the other side to the beach. We stopped at the Cliff House to have a late lunch and ate at the bar of the Bistro (or wait an hour and a half for a table!) We then drove through Presidio Park and onto the Golden Gate Bridge. We made a little detour to Sausalito to get some photographs of San Francisco from across the bay. Our day ended at San Rafael where we stumbled upon an Embassy Suites to settle in for the night.

Later ... onto Napa Valley.