My husband and I have an upcoming trip to California. Specifically, a long wedding weekend in Napa followed by a brief swing through Monterey and Carmel, then a few days in San Francisco. This is how we've done several of our trips in recent years, by the way: Check yes on the reply card, book a vacation around the destination wedding. I highly recommend it as a method of going on lovely vacations you never would have otherwise. (I can pretty much guarantee you we'd never have made it to Jamaica or St. Louis otherwise.)
You may not know this about me, but I absolutely love traveling. One of my very favorite parts about being a grown up (aside from eating frozen yogurt for dinner) is being able to travel wherever I want, time and money permitting. My love of seeing new places is rivaled only by my love of researching, planning, and google mapping the hell out of our given destination. I'm not exactly a Type A personality, but my travel research methodologies and accompanying, color-coded spreadsheets might lead you to believe otherwise.
I get some kind of high from finding a gem of a hotel (good location, good price, high on local charm? Yes please.), a good restaurant, a fun activity with advanced tickets to avoid lines. I won't go on a trip without having read up on everything first, mapping out distances and routes to various destinations, planning tentative itineraries for each day, and color-coding it all on a spreadsheet.
Zach is happy to have me handle on this, particularly given my proven track record of awesome vacation planning. Though we do discuss everything leading up to it, I'm the one scouring reviews on Trip Advisor.
Then - wait for it - once we get where we're going, we do whatever we feel like doing, itinerary be damned. For me it's not about planning something and sticking to the plan: It's about having a good sense of where we'll be, things that we might want to do, and places we might want to go. We usually go with a few Must Dos on our list, and otherwise just see what each day brings. I generally do better when I'm prepared and know what to expect, but I'm also not interested in forcing myself to follow a plan just because it was Already Planned. Because hey! It's vacation! And luckily Zach is the same way. The result is that we end up striking the perfect balance between seeing a new place and getting to relax.
All of which brings me to: California.
I'd love your help with a few things.
1) We have a lot planned already, and given our limited time in each area that means we'll be pretty busy. But I can't resist getting your advice on what to see and do, particularly when it comes to food. Here what's on our list. Some of this is Want To Do, some is what's already planned due to wedding activities, meeting friends, etc. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it all.
We'll be swinging through Muir Woods on our way to Napa. Where should we have lunch along the San Francisco-Muir Woods-Napa trail?
While in Napa and the surrounding area:
Dinner at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc.
Brunch at Domaine Carneros.
Brunch at Domaine Chandon.
The Del Dotto Cave Tour.
Breakfast at Thomas Keller's Bouchon bakery.
(Thomas Keller twice, I know, but since we can't get into French Laundry, we'll take what we can get. Hey, can anyone get us into French Laundry? I'm not above begging strangers on the internet.)
Browsing Oxbow Market.
After that we're swinging through Carmel and Monterey on our way to San Francisco. I've heard good things about Katy's Place for breakfast and lunch. Any other recs?
Then it's on to San Francisco where we have reservations at Gary Danko. I will be making a stop at See's Candies to buy out the entire store, basically (a tradition when I'm on the west coast!), and other than that we want some damn good Chinese food of some sort and to try Blue Bottle coffee.
Here's a picture of all the pants that will button after all this:
photo from wikipedia.
Do you have any recommendations or feedback on the above? I love hearing about other people's adventures and experiences!
2) Zach and I are typically beer drinkers, but we do enjoy the occasional glass of red wine. (We also enjoy vodka and gin, even though Ron Swanson might have a problem with that.). We're good little students, though, and we've been diligently doing our homework before our trip, trying various white wines. So far we've had hits with Martin Ray Chardonnay and Abbeyville. In my incredibly amatuer opinion they were smooth, not too acidic, not too oaky, and that's what I liked about them.
I also took my friend Kate's advice and have a bottle of Big House White chilling in the fridge now.
(PS, If you're not reading Kate's blog you should be, and not just for pictures of her deliciously edible baby daughter.)
Any other whites you'd recommend along those lines? Any specific wineries we should visit while in Napa? I'd love to hear your advice on anything above!
Lay it on me, friends!
(And seriously, who's got the French Laundry hook up?)