Oysters in San Francisco

We took it easy today and had a leisurely start of the day. Around midday we made it down to Oakland’s ferry terminal, to catch a ferry over to San Francisco and a late oyster lunch at the Hog Island Oyster Company outlet right in the Ferry Building.

After lunch we enjoyed a walk along the piers from the ferry building all the way up to pier 41 with various stops on the way (including one at pier 39, to catch a glimpse of the sea lions). From here it was back to the ferry and across the bay to Oakland.

In retrospect this has been a nice week over in California – again with great food, great views, interesting excursions and drinks to try on the way – plus of course perfect company and hosts – THANKS Lisa and Harry – it’s been a great time (again)!

To the Ocean …

The plan for the day was, to head up for the coast in Sonoma county, about 100km North of San Francisco.

As my hosts had to replenish their supply of sparkling wine, we had a stop at the Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville on the way. This winery (as the name might suggest) is specialized in the production of sparkling wine. We had a tour of the winery, to then make it for a tasting and an order. To me the sparkling wines were mostly too sweet, the (still) base wines though were decent.

We continued along the Russian River Valley – until eventually the river made its way into the Pacific and we had arrived at Jenner. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the mouth of the river and beaches.

After lunch and a post-lunch port with a superb view, we continued to one of the beaches, we had seen from the restaurant – Goat Rock State Beach, a part of the Sonoma Coast State Park. Here we had a short walk along the beach, including an opportunity for a (toe) dip.

We were now already heading South on highway 1, initially along the coast (with more great views) and then into Tomales Bay with a stop at Point Reyes Station for a bit of cheese shopping (the Sonoma area is a cow paradise, so plenty of milk and cheese) – before making it inland for US highway 101 and the San Rafael / Richmond bay bridge – and finally back to Oakland.

Exploring Oakland

Those of you, who have been following my stories for a while, may remember, that – over the years – I have done a number of trips, to visit Lisa and Harry in California. With the last trip now about two years ago, we decided, that it was about time for another trip. So I saw myself flying over from Frankfurt to Oakland on April 30th.

I got into Oakland in the evening of the 30th and was warmly welcomed. Over a light dinner there were plenty of things, to catch up on.

For May 1st the plan was, to have a closer look at Oakland – a city usually overlooked, as people head out across the bay to San Francisco. 

We drove down to Lake Merrit, where we got started with a walk around the lake, before having a stop at Cathedral of Light,  to then – after a coffee stop – continue towards Broadway and the central business district. We soon left Broadway again, to get a closer look at the Fox Theater, from where we followed along Telegraph Avenue and eventually reached the “Cathedral Building” and as such made it back to Broadway.

After a quick stop at the town hall we continued to Swan’s Market for a quick pre-lunch oyster snack; lunch itself turned out Korean in a restaurant further down the street.

After lunch we continued towards Jack London square, did check out the mall and had a look at Jack London’s historic cabin. Before making it back home, we hit a tasting room of a winery right at the ferry terminal. Time for some California classics: buttery Chardonnay and a good Zin or two 😉

On Wednesday we stayed local again, making it to Oakland’s neighbor city – Berkeley. I did not take any photos today, so you will have to do without those.

We started the day with a walk around Berkeley’s Aquatic Park; a really nice park, right at the water, complete with a disc golf course – and unfortunately (this being the big, big minus) also facing a major interstate highway.

From here it was a short drive to the Takara Sake Brewery, where we got an introduction to the traditional way of Sake production – followed by (of course) a tasting in their tasting room, featuring both local Berkeley, as well as imported sakes from Japan. The sake turned out an aperitif for us, as we continued to a Vietnamese restaurant for a pho lunch. This was followed by a short trip around the Berkeley campus and a visit of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (aka. BAMPFA).

After all this culture and education, it was about time, to go and try something else; so we ended up in the Rare Barrel – a brewery specialized in sour beer. Sour beer is a rather odd drink … and so far I have not been a fan of it. We ended up having a small selection of different beers (i.e. from different barrels), to get the different flavors. Two in our collection were essentially, as I remembered sour beer from other tastings (so not to my taste), two though were drinkable and the remaining two – surprise, surprise – really delicious. Well – it pays off, to be open 😉

Lodi & THANKS

Today was my last day in California – and no photos today.

Lisa and Harry had invited some family and friends for a small party this evening, so the day was dedicated for the preparations. Harry and myself ended up going for a wine errand – Lisa wanted some specific wine, so we made it over to the Lodi region to fetch those wines – and while there (of course) also check out and try some other wines. My gut tells me, that she probably also wanted us out of the way for the preparations – but then, why argue … when you are sent to buy and try some wine!? 😉

We made it back in the afternoon; in time to cover our part in the preparation and then engage into the party later on. It turned out an interesting one with good discussions.

I left very early the next morning, flying over to Los Angeles, then on to New York for the final hop towards Frankfurt – where I arrived Monday morning.

Looking back – this has been an incredible 1.5 weeks, full of action, great outdoors, superb food and drinks – and of course perfect company and hosts – THANKS Lisa and Harry – it’s been a great time!

From Mission to Wine …

Yesterday we had made it from New Mexico back into Oakland and California. We made it there in the early afternoon – and essentially spent the day with grocery shopping and getting the house up and running again.

Today then was another sightseeing day. We did head south from Oakland, first through San Jose and then continuing on California 101 down to San Juan Bautista – destination here was the old Spanish mission. San Juan Bautista Mission was founded in the late 18th century by a Franciscan missionary.

We spent some time exploring the museum, the mission, its churches and the garden. After a short walk, a bit of touring around town and lunch, we left the town and continued to the Hecker Pass – and went over to wine-ing.

We essentially spent the rest of the afternoon trying wines in a few wineries – checking out, what the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail had to offer. Surely a lot of surprises – some very good ones … some not so good ones 😉

Around Half-Moon-Bay

The plan for today was less tight and – after the action the previous days – we kind of took things easy. Also the weather turned against us – with rain and low temperatures (around 12C).

We left Oakland late in the morning and made our way South to the San Mateo Bridge to cross the bay and then over to the Pacific Ocean at Half Moon Bay.

With the weather against us, we decided – after a short coffee / tea stop – to have a small road trip down famous Pacific Coast Highway / California 1 to Pescadero for lunch and then back via the back country with a stop at the beach on the way (it had stopped raining at least).

Heading North we stopped in El Granada to pick up some crabs – that would become dinner later tonight. After a short walk around, we made our way back to San Francisco for a crab dinner with the family of Lisa’s son – a great opportunity to finally meet them, after having heard so much about them over the years.

Around Mount Diablo (literally)

Today we were heading inland for Mount Diablo. With just below 1200m the single highest elevation in the bay area – offering stunning views.

We first made it to the summit by car (this is the US at last) to take in the views and check out the visitors center. We also talked to the ranger about hiking / walking options. There was the easy going 1km trail around the summit (even halfway paved) – with the next bigger hike a proper 12km hike around the mountain (and no real options in between).

We decided for the latter one – and soon discovered, that we had underestimated both elevation changes and trail conditions – in short gravel and gradients are not a combinations … the hike in the end took us a good four hours (including breaks) and not the 2.5 to three hours we had expected. Yet – it was a very enjoyable hike, with fantastic views (some proof below), abundant plant life (many wildflowers in full bloom) and perfect weather conditions (cloudy, temperatures of around 18C). So – we took our time and enjoyed.