What do you call an all encompassing fog, that covers everything, as far as the eye can see?? You call him Karl… at least that’s what San Franciscans call theirs! Most days until noon or later there is a thick dense fog that makes it near impossible to see anything on the horizon, much less the Golden Gate or Bay Bridge. Apparently a weather team decided to name the fog Karl & gave him his own Twitter account. You can follow him @KarlTheFog for a chuckle & some weather tips if you’re heading to San Francisco any time soon.
It’s a funny city in a way, full of microclimates, where it’s cloudy, chilly & windy in one area and then 2 blocks away – off comes your coat as it’s hot & sunny. Dress in layers & you’ll be just fine. There are 2 major airlines here – Oakland Airport & San Francisco Airport. San Francisco Airport is further out of town where Oakland is much closer to Fisherman’s Wharf and the downtown core.
Whenever we visit a new city, the first thing we try to do is go on the Hop On Hop Off bus. It’s usually one of the cheapest ways to get around if a city is fairly large (& not everything is walkable). This is one of the best ways of learning the quick rundown of the history of a community and the lay of the land, so that you can decide where you want to begin really discovering where you’re at. You can purchase 1, 2 or 3 day passes and there are usually extra discounts that come along with your passes for restaurants & museums etc.
Our Hop On Hop Off hosts were Naughty(our driver) & BB Hayes(our commentator – follow him on Twitter @DJBBHAYES) BB was hysterical yet full of really interesting information. Our favourite saying he had was “San Francisco has 2 seasons – rain & construction!” Luckily for us, we only experienced FOG & construction… BB also told us why Van Ness is the only road in the area that is so wide… it’s due to the 1906 earthquake. On the morning of April 18, at 5:12 am, a 7.8 quake lasted about 45 seconds but had an impact that was disastrous. There were 22 aftershocks. Several fires were ignited around the city that burned for 3 days & destroyed nearly 500 city blocks. The only way to stop the fires from spreading further was to have firebreaks that were created by ruthlessly dynamiting buildings that were in the fire’s path. It worked. There was nowhere for all of the mess & rubble to be taken, so eventually it was pushed down to the waterfront where it was compacted and then built upon. (One quick note – don’t bother ordering your Hop On Hop Off tickets online. We did, thinking we were so organized & that it would save time when in fact, you still have to line up at the office to pick up your tickets anyway.) There are stops close to where the TV show Full House home is and also the home used in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire. We also saw: Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39 (a massive naval ship was docked as was a submarine); Ghirardelli Square (yes, the CHOCOLATE! best smelling street EVER!); Lombard Street (the most crooked street in the world); Palace of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate Bridge (which was in fog the day of our tour BUT we happened to go over it the day before & captured amazing shots without Karl blocking our view);
Golden Gate Park; Haight-Ashbury (the birthplace of hippie culture & Summer of Love); Alamo Square (beautiful Victorian homes – some of which are known as the Painted Ladies – Victorian homes painted in four of the heritage colours); City Hall/Civic Center – stunning photo ops of City Hall, the Opera House, Symphony Hall & Bill Graham Civic Auditorium; Union Square (San Francisco’s nicest shopping area & best night life); Chinatown (the largest outside of Asia); North Beach (Little Italy – Italian neighbourhood full of cafes & authentic Italian restaurants); The Presidio (National park, historic & architectural treasures); Bay Bridge (another massive bridge but actually longer than the Golden Gate); Sausalito (picturesque little town across the Golden Gate, with galleries, bay views & restaurants galore); Financial District (what WAS the largest building – Transamerica Pyramid is now in the shadow of THE largest building – owned by SalesForce; Embarcadero (eastern waterfront, restaurants, shopping & the Ferry Building) & Nob Hill (some of the best evening views of San Francisco).
There are always things to be on the lookout for, we parked in an area downtown just off of Pier 39, called Anchorage Square, the day before our Hop On Hop Off tour to figure out where we needed to be the next day for our Wine Country & Alcatraz Tour. There was plenty to see & do, tons of shopping, & restaurants. What we didn’t realize was that we could have gotten our parking validated dollar for dollar just for shopping in the Anchorage Square stores… we had spent about $100 between 2 days of parking so could have spent that on gifts instead… sighhhh.
We decided we couldn’t come so close to Napa Valley & Sonoma & not do a wine tour… we’re hardly connoisseurs but do enjoy a nice glass of wine. We prearranged a trip with Green Dream Tours (contact them at http://www.greendreamtours.com) & our tour guide was Chris. He was fantastic! Funny, knowledgeable & an excellent driver in the crazy San Francisco traffic. We learned a lot through him like: What was the Otis Redding song that was inspired by renting a houseboat in Sausalito, California? Sittin on the Dock of the Bay! San Francisco is known for being the birthplace of mountain biking… huh, who knew?! Interestingly, the Agricultural Reserve has designated any land that is already farmland be sold or operated on only as farmland & cannot be redeveloped or subdivided. We stopped to get pictures of the most used building in San Francisco for wedding photos, the Palace of Fine Arts. We then passed through the Robin Williams Tunnel(coincidentally it was the 3rd anniversary of his death the same day). Sonoma has been known as a place with hoity toity wineries but that is so not true. The majority of the vineyards have been family run for many years. We visited 2 – Cline Cellars which was beautifully run by the Cline Family. There are wine tastings, a gift shop, exotic birds, gorgeous grounds & of course the vineyards themselves to see.
Our host was named Mark, an architect by day, who was quite charming & knowledgeable about the wines he was serving & also about the family’s vineyard that has been around since 1989. This property was originally a horse farm but went into receivership, and the Cline’s snapped it up. We then travelled down the road a ways to Homewood Winery. This was a much smaller vineyard, run by one man who just… loves… wine. Mostly red wine, but he does create some whites as well. Our host this time was Robert. The wine tasting was done with suggestions of food pairings so was pretty cool as well. We did purchase a 2014 Roussanne to take home with us WHICH I stupidly packed it in our CARRY ON, not thinking… I saw the perfect spot where it wouldn’t get broken, popped it in there… of course we had to give it up at security…