California tagged posts

Ten Napa Wineries with Great Visitor Experiences

Napa is a short trip from San Francisco

California’s Napa Valley is a Holy Grail for wine lovers yet it can be hard to figure out how to enjoy the best wine touring. Here is the low down on ten wineries with great visitor experiences as well a guerilla guide to making the most of a Napa visit with tips on how to avoid the crowds and engage with the locals.

A guerilla guide to understanding Napa

Just over an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, Napa is tiny…just eight kilometers wide and 48 kilometers long….yet it is home to more than 450 wineries.

Napa is Cabernet country. All the experts agree that it produces the world’s best big, elegant, full-bodied Cabernets with plenty of structure and age-ability. Chardonnay is the second most planted variety, especially in the Los Carneros region. Other grapes include Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc (the classic Bordeaux blending varieties) as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and even the occasional Pinot Noir.

The Napa produce...

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Esalen Institute: New Age Adventures on California’s Big Sur Coast

The Esalen Institute opens new horizons on ancient ground in California's Big Sur

Esalen’s Hot Springs are cantilevered over the Pacific in California’s Big Sur

The world’s best massage

It was the best massage I had ever experienced.  And let me set the record straight.  While I have enjoyed massages on four continents, I am no massage junkie.  I find too often that the promise and the pitch fall way short in reality…the touch is too tentative or too uneven, too rote or too rough.

I am also no great meditator.  My busy, restless mind wanders across the white noise of minutiae instead of stilling itself.

But here, now, lying on a table in an exquisitely minimal building wedged into a cliff, its huge sliding glass doors thrown open to the Pacific Ocean crashing onto the Californian coast, I am in the moment, naked except for a towel and a masseuse is kneading my back with long rhythmic strokes that mirror the rumble of the surf a few meters below.  A seagull rides the airwaves at eye level when I gaze for a moment at the sun’s rays...

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Photo Friday: California’s Big Sur coastline

big-sur-photo-friday

Highway One, which snakes along the spectacular Big Sur coastline, is one of the world’s great drives offering splendid vistas of mountains plunging into the often mist-shrouded Pacific Ocean.

Big Sur is a sparsely populated region of the Central Coast of California, between San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The Name ‘Big Sur’ is derived from the Spanish ‘el sur grande’ meaning ‘the big south’ referring to its location south of the Monterey Peninsula.

Because of its relative isolation and natural beauty, Big Sur has been a magnet for artists and writers including Henry Miller, Edward Weston, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac.

To check out one of Big Sur’s iconic institutions, read my post on The Esalen Institute, which focuses on alternative humanistic eduction. Often nicknamed ‘The New Age Harvard’, it is a spectacular retreat center and hot springs perched on the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean...

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Photo Friday: Walking California’s Point Reyes National Seashore

Walking along the Point Reyes National Seashore

I took this picture of a couple of avid walkers of a certain age along the Tomales Point Trail on the Point Reyes National Seashore in West Marin.

This spectacular stretch of wild coastline offers one of the world’s great day walks from historic Pierce Point Ranch to the end of Tomales Point with its stunning views over both the Pacific Ocean and the entrance to Tomales Bay, which is right on the San Andreas fault line above San Francisco. Along the way you will see waves crashing along cliffs and windswept beaches and small herds of native tule elk grazing on the lush green hillsides. In springtime, entire hillsides are blanketed with California poppies, wild iris and mustard flowers while overhead hawks and kestrels ride the wind currents looking for small animals.

This landscape could so easily have been destroyed if it were not for a broad ranging group of conservationists, farmers, ranchers, widows, politicians and volunteers who fought a hard-won battle between 1950 to 1970 to p...

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