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 😉

From deer trap to rail yard

Today ended up as a fairly relaxing day. We kicked it off with a short morning hike / walk before breakfast. A quick drive got us over to the trail head and soon we were engaged in the Deer Trap Mesa Trail hike, featuring a historic game pit (hence the name deer trap) and some stunning views along the way. We made it to the northern overlook point and (with a bit of getting lost on the way) back – or approx. 2.5 to 3km roundtrip.

After breakfast it was back to the car and back to Santa Fe. We ended up at the rail yard with its farmer’s market. After an extensive tour around the market and a quick cuppa at the coffee shop, we made our way towards the actual train station to do a bit of research on the train options in and out of Santa Fe. As it turned out, there is only one line – the New Mexico Rail Runner – going south to Albuquerque (and a slight bit beyond). Train times were mainly geared towards commuters with good service in the morning and late afternoon – but limited options in between and in the later evening.

We also covered some good time in many of the art galleries around the rail yard, showing a wide variety of art – from local artists to further away artists to real archeological pieces (which – in my view – really should be a museum and not on sale in some gallery).

As we had some time to kill before dinner, we gave the New Mexico State Capitol another chance – and today being a work day, we were not disappointed – the building was open to the public and ready for visitors. While the building may look fairly unimpressive on the outside, the inside was the complete opposite – and actually a real surprise. Most areas were open to the public – including the viewing balcony of both house and senate, as well as the impressive gallery of New Mexican art scattered around the whole building. So this turned out a very worthwhile excursion.

Santa Fe Impressions

Today we made it into Santa Fe proper, New Mexico’s capital and home to around 70,000 people.

Our first stop – after yesterday’s adventure around Abiquiú – had to be the brilliant Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in downtown Santa Fe – with good insight into her development and some of her major works.

From the museum we continued through town. At the main plaza we were surprised by car show, featuring mainly vintage cars (as well as some otherwise ‘special’ cars). From the plaza we made our way to the Cathedral and then on to Loretta Chapel.

Sightseeing makes hungry, so we decided to go for lunch – which unfortunately did involve a lengthy wait. After lunch we had a look through some art galleries, we also walked by the capital building (only at the outside, as the building itself was closed today).

We were now approaching the late afternoon and were getting thirsty, so decided for pre-dinner drinks in Harry’s favorite bar in town to then proceed for dinner in a tapas bar – complete with wine and live music.

Around Abiquiú – in Georgia O’Keeffe Country

Today was dedicated to the late Georgia O’Keeffe.

We left Los Alamos after breakfast and made is all the way up to Abiquiú and the Ghost Ranch – and into Georgia O’Keeffe Country.

From the ranch we engaged for the 5km chimney rock trail with some amazing views of the area, including – of course – Cerro Pedernal (a major piece of inspiration and subject of the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe).

After the hike we had lunch, before continuing into town for gas and some ice cream at the Frozen Cow ice cream shop (imagine our surprise, when we realized, they were serving Oakland made Dreyer’s ice cream).

Our next stop was a the Echo Amphitheater, a natural rock formation resembling an amphitheater (you would not have guessed that – right?). From here we continued to the Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert. This was to get a glimpse of the church and monastery and its architecture – but also to get a bit into the back country during the 13 mile dirt road drive.

We eventually made it back and through Abiquiú – and had a further stop just outside of town at the Poshuouinge Ruins – again with a little hiking trail – passing by the ruin site and then to a view point for a full view of it.

From here – after a short stop at El Santuario De Chimayo – we continued into Santa Fe for a nice and spicy introduction to the most New Mexican of questions – will it be red or green