LETTER FROM OVERSEAS EDITOR

Consider me your ambassador to San Francisco as I’ve spent the last two months getting to know my new home so I can personally detail the endless attributes of this incredible city by the bay for you. Although I’ve visited San Francisco many times over the years, living here provides a whole new perspective and I can now say with confidence that this city has quickly captured the title of my favourite large American city.

Under the Open Skies Agreement, non-stop flights between Australia and the U.S. are soon to be liberalized, allowing new airlines, additional flights and new competition onto the route which will inevitably decrease fares for consumers. Virgin Airlines, amongst others, will be launching services from San Francisco – a much preferable alternative for those of you who have endured the hassles of LAX. Therefore with the open skies policy change coupled with the weakness of the American dollar, the time to travel to San Francisco for Australians couldn’t be better.

And September is certainly the best time of year to visit. Our “Summer” begins in September and remains warm through the end of October. This city has it all – spectacular vistas and attractions, world-class cuisine, cultural diversity, intellectual and technological prowess – I would argue that no other American city offers as much as San Francisco. I’ve detailed notable places to eat, sleep, play and escape in San Francisco as well as suggestions on my favourite Bay Area day trips within an hour of the city – Sausalito, Half Moon Bay, Napa and Sonoma.

So hop a cable car at sunrise and head down one of San Francisco’s 42 hills to begin your exploration of this fabulous city.

Sincerely, Kimberly Rosbe
Editor at Large

FEATURE

Not Standing Alone

When I was young, my parents showed me the world. Summer vacations from school were spent traveling learning about new cultures and customs and places far from home. My eyes were opened to different perspectives and I began seeking, even then, to discover places more beautiful than the last. Those three months in between semesters each year were glorious journeys full of grand discoveries and incredible adventures. My appreciation of travel, or perhaps my obsession with travel, stems directly from those treasured holidays when I was growing up. It’s an appetite I can’t feed enough and still, after all these years, I find myself always longing for more nourishment.

After a trip across the country, this one dedicated to visiting America’s national parks, I caught my first view of the Pacific was when I was 8. On a beach near the Golden Gate Bridge, which my mother informs me was Baker’s Beach, I remember shivering as I stood there with my father in his protective stance looking out at the pounding surf. My mother snapped a photo in back of us in our identical pose – in fact she has endless pictures of my father and me gazing out at some great vista standing side by side with exactly the same stance – our right knee bent slightly, hips swayed out to the left, hands in our pockets. I’m half his height but quite obviously Daddy’s little girl. At 21 I lost him, but all those travel memories and that photo on my desk remain.

SAN FRANCISCO

Iconic imagery springs to mind when one thinks of San Francisco – the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz. But San Francisco and its residents offer so much more than these renowned tourist attractions. San Francisco is a city on the cutting edge of trendsetting consciousness – green environmental awareness and conservation, fashion innovations, inventive organic cuisine, the latest technology – particularly the internet. It’s a city with a melting pot of cultures, a hub of artistic expression, ethnic diversity and vibrant neighborhoods each with unique personalities. Its 800,000 residents are predominantly liberal in their politics, committed to philanthropy and community, extremely sporty and health conscious, smart, ambitious and rich. One in every five residents has a post-collegiate graduate degree (the highest population of graduate degrees of any American city) and 1/10th of households in the Bay Area boast a net worth of $1 million or more excluding their home values – this exemplifies the highest concentration of liquid wealth than in any other metropolis in the country except Washington, D.C. But the residents don’t rest on their brains and wealth. The very element that defines San Franciscans is their relentless drive, almost fervor, to do better. This entrepreneurial culture has an unremitting focus on what’s next…

Geographically, the city is visually spectacular with its 42 hills and envelopment on three sides by water. Discover the city by foot, cable car, or driving – a compact 47 square miles and made up of small, easy to navigate neighborhoods ripe for exploring. The people are friendly and will help you find your way. I couldn’t possibly outline all the wonders of San Francisco in this format, but these activities, restaurants, hotels and city escapes will provide a solid introduction for your first visit and I have no doubt the city’s ability to captivate will endure and keep you returning time and time again.

San Fran Plays

Golden Gate Bridge walk – One of the most iconic landmarks in the world and America’s gateway to the Pacific, the magnificent 4,200-foot suspension orange-red Golden Gate Bridge screams “San Francisco!” Viewed from every angle at different vistas, take a cruise under the bridge, a helicopter over it, walk the bridge to the Marin County vantage point, drive across it or stand below it from Fort Point Lookout at the end of Crissy Field – but take time to appreciate this architectural feat. Every day, and almost every hour thanks to San Francisco’s odd microclimate weather, the bridge will change before your very eyes like magic.

AT & T Ball Park – What could be more American than partaking in the national pastime – going to the ballpark to enjoy a good ‘ole fashion game of baseball? AT&T Stadium at the end of 2nd street on the Embarcadero in SoMa is one of the best parks in the country – very sleek, modern and very clean in a great neighborhood.

Union Square – In the heart of the city, Union Square maintains its reputation as the premier shopping, hotel, fine art and theater district. Bordered by Stockton, Geary, Powell and Post streets, this 2.6 acre urban square is a retail and cultural powerhouse. Great place to people watch as well as embark on retail therapy, gallery hopping and stellar theatrical performances.

Museum of Modern Art – The first museum on the West Coast dedicated solely to Modern Art and second only to New York’s MOMA, come here for 20th Century intellectual stimulation in its post-modernist setting South of Market. Currently exhibiting “246 and counting: Recent Architecture+Design Acquisitions” July 10- January 4th.

Coit Tower – Perched on Telegraph Hill, the tallest of the 42 hills in San Fran, this giant fluted column/Art Deco sentinel has arguably the best panoramic views of the city.

San Francisco Symphony, Opera or Ballet – Add a bit of refined culture to your visit with beautiful music and dance. Both the SF Symphony and Opera open their seasons in September and of course the SF Ballet is world-renowned. Also, the SF Jazz Festival grooves every Spring and Fall with over three dozen events each season.

Get a tattoo in Haight-Ashbury – This hippie neighborhood which gave birth to a Bohemian movement in the 60’s is a perfect place to let loose. I can recommend Lyle Tuttle Tattooing at 841 Columbus Ave. as one of my ex’s actually got a tattoo of my name ‘Kimberly’ blazed across his upper bicep. Keep in mind, tattoos are permanent!

de Young Museum – Currently (June 14 – Sept 28th) exhibiting Chihuly’s groundbreaking artwork which explores the organic properties of blown glass. In person, it was a color explosion tantamount to the Great Barrier Reef. The Observation Floor located in the 9th floor of de Young’s signature tower is free and affords a dramatic 360 degree view of the west end of the city. While you are in Golden Gate Park, explore its Japanese Tea Garden and the winding walkways and lush foliage of the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens and the Victorian Conservatory of Flowers housing thousands of orchids and exotic plants. Go for a bike ride around Stow Lake or rent a boat to check out Strawberry Hill, an island in the middle of this placid sanctuary.

Pacific Heights West mansion walk – Pacific Heights is the most exclusive neighborhood in San Francisco (and in my opinion the most beautiful) showcasing the city’s dazzling multi-million dollar mansions rich with history and folklore. Use Marilyn Straka’s “On the Level Excursions” to guide you through the Broadway, Divisadero, Lyon, Pacific Street walking tour of the area. For a superb leg workout, descend the 130 Lyon Street steps designed by Louis M. Upton between Broadway and Vallejo with a vista extending to the Palace of Fine Arts and bay beyond. The gardens on both sides of the steps are lovingly maintained by the large white contemporary Broadway homeowner to the right of the stairway. For romantics, this is where Jim Carrey proposed to Lauren Holly.

Ferry Building – The locals will tell you the best time to visit the Ferry Building is Saturday morning when the back patios are host to the Farmer’s Market displaying the region’s lush organic produce, free-range meats, etc. At the intersection of Market Street and the Embarcadero, the main ferry building is not only a food aficionados dream but also the point to catch a ferry to Sausalito or Alcatraz.

Fisherman’s Wharf – Although San Francisco’s old wharf area has lost its authenticity and is mostly overrun with tacky tourism, it’s still worth a visit to grab a walkaway crab cocktail and attempt to sidestep the crowds to experience the dizzying boardwalk and gaze at the hundreds of sea lions lazing on the docks at Pier 39.

Lombard Street – A visit to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without a drive down the "Crookedest Street in the World." The 1/4-mile steep downhill stretch with eight hairpin turns is lined with gorgeous gardens. After this maneuvering effort, you will be rewarded with sweeping views of Russian Hill and Coit Tower.

Chinatown – A colorful extravaganza of the senses, the opulent triple-pagoda marks the southern entrance to Chinatown where you enter a world of bright facades, noisy markets, exotic temples and a plethora of ethnic restaurants and shops. Home to one of America’s largest populations of Chinese decent immigrants, you will feel like you’ve stepped into another time, another city.

San Fran Eats

Carnelian Room – 52nd Floor of Bank of America Building, 555 California St.

A San Francisco classic, the famed Carnelian Room soars high above the city with jaw-dropping views of the entire Bay Area. The cosmopolitan seasonal menus are gourmet and sophisticated and the wine list has been honored for over 20 years with the prestigious Grand Award from Wine Spectator magazine.

A16 – 2355 Chesnut St., Marina
Popular Marina hotspot which combines the cuisine of Campania with the pizzas of Naples. Brilliant atmosphere and superb wine list comprised of small production wines from California and Southern Italy.

Presidio Social Club – Bldg. 563 Ruger St., The Presidio
This former naval base turned nature preserve, The Presidio is one of San Francisco’s great in-town getaways just west of Pacific Heights – leafy, green, serene with stunning views of the bay. With the opening of the Presidio Social Club, the area now draws a chic evening crowd. Certainly one of the prettiest restaurants in town with its graceful and roomy rectangular modern interior, restauranteur Shawn Kearney serves up contemporary American fare and standout pastry desserts.

Spruce – 3640 Sacramento St, Presidio Heights.
Recently opened, this very chic new restaurant in the posh Pacific Heights’ next-door neighborhood feels like SoHo New York. The clientele are beautiful, rich and sexy and the food is very consistent. The short ribs melt in your mouth…

Sushi Ran – 107 Caledonia St., Sausalito
Although not in San Francisco proper, but just across the bay in Sausalito, Sushi Ran is ranked one of the top five restaurants in the Bay Area presenting a fusion of traditional Japanese and Pacific cuisines and an unparalleled sake list. You won’t find fresher raw fish anywhere on the West Coast.

Sutro’s at the Cliff House – 1090 Point Lobos Ave.
On the far west side of the city near the Seal Rocks, this historic site overlooks the Pacific Ocean offering refined new American cuisine with breathtaking views. Stick to dining as although sublime to view, Ocean Beach is too dangerous for swimming due to its icy waters, rough shore breakers and ultra-strong rip currents.

Bacar – 448 Brannan St., SoMa
In typical SoMa urban industrial loft style, this popular yuppie haunt walled in a renovated brick and timber warehouse, is the definition of upscale groovy. Behold the three-story wine wall for flight tasting downstairs in the bar area or accompany one of the 1,400 selections with seasonal grilled and roasted meat and seafood entrees upstairs.

Murray Circle @ Cavallo Point – Fort Baker
No contest, this is the best dining experience I’ve had in years at the recently opened completely green hotel, spa and restaurant at Cavallo Point Lodge located in Fort Baker just under the north footing of the Golden Gate Bridge. Exceptional locally inspired food, exceptional waiters, exceptional setting.

Slanted Door – 1 Ferry Building, #3, Embarcadero
Hometown favorite, however L.A. it seems, this swank eatery in the SF Ferry Building has delicious interpretations of Vietnamese cuisine.

Greens – Fort Mason Center, Building A, Marina
With its daily changing vegetarian menu and reliance on local organic ingredients, the dishes don’t leave you craving meat. This restaurant is considered one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country. I suggest brunch here on Sunday morning – the view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands is priceless.

Tres Agaves – 130 Townsend St, SoMa
Excellent Mexican food in a relaxed warehouse sporty atmosphere. Great haunt to dine after a ballgame as it’s just a few blocks from AT&T Park.

Epic Roadhouse and Waterbar – 399 The Embarcadero, South Beach
Dubbed beautiful “fraternal twins” these restaurants sit side by side on the Embarcadero waterfront in South Beach. If you are in the mood for the best wood-fired burger in town, choose Epic Roadhouse. If fresh fish is your game, the Waterbar’s soaring fish tanks and cascading raw bar will deliver in a cool setting with killer views.

San Fran Sleeps

Hotel Drisco – 2901 Pacific Ave
A member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World, this historic hotel built in 1903 is elegantly understated and boutique with an almost residential feel. The service is discreet and attentive but the property lacks a proper concierge. The hotel is perched on a hilltop in Pacific Heights amongst the mansions with enviable vistas of the city but only a 10 minute taxi ride into the Financial District. Be sure to ask for a room on the 4th floor as they command the best views. The corner 2 bedroom 2 bath suite on the 4th floor has views of the Golden Gate Bridge on one side, Alcatraz on another and the city on yet another.

Hotel Vitale – 8 Mission Street
Opened in 2005, this very hip luxury boutique hotel is the best choice if you want to be in the city and directly on the water. The modern interior incorporates clean lines and soothing natural elements with great views of the bay right on the Embarcadero. Special touches? An on-site spa with outdoor rooftop soaking tubs in a secret garden, a penthouse-level yoga studio with complimentary morning classes, and no smoking throughout the hotel.

Four Seasons – 757 Market St

Always a delight, the Four Seasons San Francisco delivers on style, impeccable service and quality accommodations in a convenient location. Two entrances – one on Market and one in a private driveway off 3rd Street – the Four Seasons is in the heart of the Yerba Buena cultural district and a mere two blocks from Union Square and the Museum of Modern Art. The concierges, as expected, are the best in the city. The Four Seasons’s residents are on the 18th floor and above, so the highest floor for hotel guests is the 17th. A bonus, Four Seasons’s guests get complimentary access to The Sports Club L.A. on the 3rd and 4th floors – one of the country’s finest fitness complexes and spas.

Cavallo Point Lodge – Fort Baker
This recently opened all ‘green’ lodge, restaurant and spa is quickly becoming the most sought after hotel destination in San Francisco despite being just outside the city on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Slightly hard to find, you cross the GGB, take the Sausalito Alexander Avenue exit and follow the signs winding back under the bridge to Fort Baker. Arriving, you’ve found an oasis which is both traditional and contemporary. The grassy parade ground of the former Fort Baker, all Cavallo Point accommodations (your choice of historic or contemporary luxury guest rooms and suites), the signature restaurant Murray Circle and Farley bar, the Healing Arts Center & Spa all encourage guests to leave their car and relax in keeping with the lodge’s environmental ethic and mission to retain the highest standards of preservation and sustainability.

Fairmont – 950 Mason St
This grande dame of San Francisco hotels is palatial, opulent and swanky – perhaps the pride of Nob Hill. The hotel is located at the only spot in San Francisco where each of the cable car lines meet. The recently completed restoration of the hotel has returned this icon to legendary status and its former glory.

Huntington Hotel & Nob Hill Spa – 1075 California St
Staying at the Huntington is like living with a rich uncle with impeccable taste, so they say. This Nob Hill landmark across from Grace Cathedral is considered the most distinguished choice for visitors and is one of the last remaining bastions of the city’s historic roots. The four-diamond property has a long tradition of hospitality and elegance – consider yourself staying in a private club of yesteryear.

San Fran Escapes

Crissy Field – Possibly the greatest green space in urban America, this huge swath of beaches, fields and natural land along the water between the Palace of Fine Arts and Fort Point was originally an Army airfield. Now it provides 100 acres of breathtaking backdrop to rest, walk your dog, play catch or go fly a kite with your kids. Going for a run along Crissy Field’s Golden Gate Promenade and its restored tidal marsh and beaches is my perfect idea of a city escape. If you are lucky enough to be in SF on Independence Day July 4th, this is THE place to watch the fireworks over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Fort Mason Community Garden – Not in any guidebooks, I stumbled upon this oasis quite by accident after getting lost on a walk in Fort Mason. With the city noise vanishing behind me, I opened the gate to his incredible garden tucked away behind a building in the Fort. There were over 140 carefully manicured plots each with different flowers, herbs, plants and vegetables attended with the greatest of detail. Apparently this community garden is the city’s best kept secret escape for those lucky enough to get a plot. Although the waiting list is six years long, anyone can walk through to admire the 140 owners’ handiwork, breathe in the pure oxygen and appreciate the serenity and beauty of this secret garden.

Palace of Fine Arts – Located in a beautiful small park on a pond at the edge of Crissy Field in the Marina neighborhood just a block from the bay, The Palace of Fine Arts houses a theater and the Exploratorium, a hands-on museum designed to spark your curiosity. Take the bright yellow miniature go cart-like vehicles on self-guided tours of the city on the actual road. Be careful though!

Alcatraz – This notorious maximum security federal prison prior to 1963 reached only by ferry from the mainland retains its eerie presence looming just off the coast which tourists can experience on walking tours through its truly frightening cell blocks, once home to fearsome criminals such as Robert Stroud, aka “The Birdman” and mobster Al Capone.

The Marina in Marina – At the base of the northwestern side of the city lies the Marina district. The most level of SF real estate and most like Melbourne. A huge marina extends all along the bay’s edge – worth exploring if you are a boat lover.

Baker’s Beach – At the edge of the Presidio, this 1.5 mile stretch of sandy beach is the most popular in the city. With perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s ideal for sunbathing, dog-walking and picnicking. Be very careful swimming though, as the riptides can be very strong. Sunsets here are unforgettable.

EDGE GOLD LIST

Welcome to Wine Country

California’s world famous wine country comprises two picturesque valleys, Napa and Sonoma, both within an hour or two of the city. These valleys are home to many of the finest and most creative vintners and wines in the world and celebrated for their near-perfect climate and enlightened lifestyle. Wine is like art – very subjective. Vineyards are equally personal taste, so utilise my commentary as a starting point and suggestive. The best way to enjoy these valleys is simply to explore and go where the road, and your taste buds, take you…

NAPA

napa

Napa Valley is synonymous with premier wine producing regions. It boasts more than 240 wineries which vary in architectural style from French chateau to modern to redwood barns. As opposed to Sonoma, in Napa it seems that every available acre is devoted to growing grapes.

Napa Valley consists of Napa town, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga – each containing dozens of vineyards and wineries. Each has claims to fame – Rutherford is Cabernet country; Oakville is known for its namesake gourmet grocery located right on Highway 29; Calistoga is renowned for its spas, mud baths and of course, Old Faithful Geyser – one of only three known geysers in the world that erupt with near-perfect regularity in 40 minute intervals; Yountville bills itself as the “Culinary Capital of Napa Valley” and is home to many world-class restaurants such as The French Laundry which books two months in advance. (1-707-944-2380 Good luck!). All the towns are situated off of Highway 29 which traverses the length of the valley north/south. To get to your destination quickly, breeze down the highway; however, I recommend taking the more scenic and less travelled Silverado Trail which runs parallel to 29 to the east.

Napa is a bit farther than Sonoma from the city, so best to stay overnight or for a weekend at one of the luxurious accommodations in the area. The spas in Napa are almost as famous as the wineries and you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to pamper yourself in one of the traditional mud baths. Coming into Napa from the south, there is The Carneros Inn (a PlumpJack Resort), a luxurious retreat on farmland voted one of the top 25 romantic getaways in the world by Travel & Leisure with an award-winning hilltop spa scoring a perfect 100 from Conde Naste Traveler for its setting and interior design. Their signature restaurant, FARM, offers an al fresco restaurant and fine California organic dining. For a decadent treat, stay the night at Auberge du Soleil, a Relais & Chateaux property and the wine country’s finest inn. The boutique property which is terraced down a hillside with views of the valley is Mediterranean-inspired and decorated with original contemporary art. Its spa is no less than heaven. Get up early and enjoy the most adventurous way to experience the whole valley – via a hot air balloon at sunrise with Napa Valley Balloons.

Of course, you ultimately come to Napa to taste wine. Here are a few wineries of note – and all I could see in one day! I recommend picking up a copy of The California Directory of Fine Wineries on Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino as it’s the best known overview of the premier wineries from the region.

Artesa Vineyards & Winery – One of the most architecturally interesting stops, the winery is built into a hillside in such a way that it doesn’t disrupt the geographical profile. Situated on the Napa side of Carneros, its superb view from the terrace off the tasting room can extend all the way to San Francisco on a clear day. Call ahead to reserve a place at an exclusive wine and cheese pairing offered every Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 am in Artesa’s luxurious Raventos Lounge.

Hess Collection – Don’t be deterred by the remote location and windy roads, this winery is worth the visit as it houses one of the most spectacular private collections of contemporary art in California. Be sure to sample from their Small Block Series only sold at the winery. The 2006 Pinot was superb.

Joseph Phelps Winery – For serious wine lovers, this small winery in a gorgeous setting just off the Silverado Trail is the place. Their vineyard produces a wide selection of varietals, including dry and dessert Riesling wines. (reservations required – 200 Taplin Rd., St. Helena 1-800-707-5789)

Sterling Vineyards – This vineyard in Calistoga is worth a visit to experience a spectacular vista from its famous aerial tram that takes you to the top of the mountain. (self-guided tour is $6 and free tastings)

Beringer Vineyards – Steeped in history, Beringer is the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley since 1876. Tours include a visit to the 1,000 ft hand-carved aging tunnels. Speciality: Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Domaine Carneros – For opulence and grandness and world-class sparkling wine, this French chateau dominating a hillside in Carneros wins. Table service available in the salon or on the magnificent terrace with panoramic views of southern Napa.

SONOMA

Easily reached by car for an ideal day trip from San Francisco but slightly challenging to navigate and find hidden treasures with its many rural roads, Sonoma is a lesser known vineyard hotspot but a bit more charming. Let’s call it: where chic meets country. Commonly referred to as "the other valley," Napa’s larger next-door neighbor is more spread out and offers a more laid-back and diverse wine experience. With its rustic landscape, grazing farm animals on rolling hills and grasslands, you’ll swear you are in Tuscany at times. Separated from Napa by the Mayacamas Mountains, Sonoma is divided into South Sonoma which contains the Carneros and Sonoma Valley, and North Sonoma which includes the wine growing areas of the cooler climate Russian River Valley, the great Zinfandels of Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley.

Sonoma’s town retains its historic charm and is centered around a European square – an 8 acre plaza which is the largest town square in California. The best way to explore the town is by bicycle. Rent from Sonoma Valley Cyclery at 2093 Broadway, collect a bevy of picnic supplies from the Vella Cheese Company on 2nd Street, your wine (and great advice) from Ken at the Sonoma Wine Shop on First Street, and enjoy the afternoon. If you prefer a sit down lunch, try The Girl and the Fig on West Spain just off the square for unpretentious nouveau French fare in their courtyard. The El Dorado Hotel on the corner of First Street also offers a delicious outdoor dining experience, albeit more contemporary. If you want to dine with the locals, just outside of town, Cafe Citti has a great fireplace to cozy up to in the winter and fresh pastas and spit-roasted rosemary chicken. In town, the most authentic place to sip is the Ledson Hotel with their tastings in an old salon atmosphere.

After visiting the town and vineyards of Sonoma, head north to Healdsburg, a wonderful Victorian town with a mix of history, shops and wine. Dine at Cyrus which is considered to be the best in all of the Sonoma Valley region. From here, for a true visual pleasure, take either Eastside Road or Westside Road, then merge onto River Road for some of the most beautiful wine country you’ll ever find. The road follows the Russian River meandering past grapevines, redwoods and old resort towns with small beaches. Here are a select few wineries I enjoyed in Sonoma:

Viansa Winery & Italian Marketplace – An ideal first stop from San Francisco, this lovely hilltop villa a few miles up Highway 121 is owned by the Sebastiani family, one of the area’s most venerable wine dynasties. Samplings of wines, olive oils, pestos and delicious Italian wood-fired pizzas made in an outside oven are enjoyed with breathtaking views on their outdoor expansive terrace.

Ledson Winery – In Kenwood, this 16,000 sq ft French Normandy castle rumored to take 19 years to build is so stunning you feel like you are stepping into a fairy tale. Superb mini gourmet market to get nibbles for a stroll through their gardens.

J Vineyards & Winery – In Healdsburg, J Vineyards was among the first wineries to create pairing menus to accompany its tasting room. Specialties: Pinot Noir and Vintage Brut.

Imagery Estate Winery – Its bottles are adorned with original works of art from the Artist’s Collection. Contemporary artists including Chihung, William Wiley and David Nash are commissioned to create labels. The Artist’s Collection is known for its limited quantities of uncommon varietal offerings, such as Petite Sirah and Malbec.

Chateau St. Jean Winery – Also in Kenwood, this grand country estate is truly beautiful with the dramatic profile of Sugarloaf Ridge beyond and the perfectly manicured grounds throughout. Specialty: Chardonnay.

SAUSALITO

Ten minutes by car across the Golden Gate Bridge from the city or a quick ferry ride past Alcatraz to the other side of the bay, you arrive in Sausalito – a small town with a picturesque marina rising up from the water’s edge into the hills with its charming bungalows clinging perilously to undulating cliffs. I call it the Positano of San Francisco. Formerly a fishing community and historically an artist’s haven, Sausalito epitomises the best of California living with its sunny weather, waterside location, relaxed atmosphere and breathtaking views of the bay and city beyond. Jack London and Shell Silverstein resided here for inspiration along with many other famous American writers and artists.

For a taste of the town’s famed gallery shopping, take a leisurely stroll down the main promenade Bridgeway, just across the street from the ferry’s entrance and parallel to the water’s edge. I found a gorgeous original oil Tremler at Galerie Judith Engelstad at 539 Bridgeway. If you are interested in fine photography, The Lisa Kristine Gallery displays her work – simple but spectacularly beautiful images from her travels across the globe. For exclusive originals of Francesco Pelleschi, go to Galerie Elektra and Elektra herself will educate you on Pelleschi’s unique style of art. If you are equally as captivated by the dream of Sausalito lifestyle as I was, see Paul Rodgers at Martin & Noack Real Estate who takes a laid-back, barefoot approach to selling real estate and who will invite you to join him to meet the locals at the weekly Friday night Jazz festival in the park in typical friendly Sausalito style. For casual seafood dining, Sausalito has a number of options – my personal favourites? Sushi Ran on Caledonia Street (see San Fran Eats) or Scoma’s for a houseboat version of Italian cooking right on the bay. Linger overnight at the Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa which offers your choice of Victorian classic or contemporary accommodation with modern comforts and sophistication located on Bridgeway. The Inn Above Tide is another excellent option. Don’t let the exterior or miniscule entrance deter you, this gem contemporary boutique hotel is directly on the water and just steps from the ferry. Every room has a private, teak-furnished deck, fireplaces and unparalleled panoramas of San Francisco Bay and the shimmering city in the distance. You’ll never want to leave…

HALF MOON BAY

Most recently popularised in “Rumor Has It” from Costner’s impressive estate in the movie, this beautiful seaside community does seem to be straight off the big screen. Only 30 miles outside San Francisco, trace Highway 1 along the rocky Pacific coastline with sheer drops of terra cotta cliffs to the crashing ocean below and the dramatic green Santa Cruz Mountains to your left to reach Half Moon Bay. The Half Moon Bay shoreline forms a long, gently curving sandy beach accessible from several points off the highway. Ditch your car entirely and brave the horseback riding trail which runs from Dunes Beach to the bluff area of Francis Beach. With natural beauty abound, take advantage with outdoor activities such as sport fishing, walking through giant Redwood preserves and bird refugees, golfing on two award-winning courses, mountain hiking and fantastic surfing at Mavericks. The main town, settled in 1840, is aptly named Spanishtown and is rich with history and charming touches on Main Street. Refuel at the Garden Deli at the San Benito House where the freshly baked bread adds to the best sandwiches you’ll ever have. For a formal dinner, there is no more elegant place in town than Navio at the Ritz-Carlton. For the best view on the coast and sexy seafood, dine al fresco at Sam’s Chowder House, rated one of the top three outdoor dining spots in the Bay Area by the locally venerable San Francisco Magazine. Stay the night in luxury at the Ritz or more humbly at the Old Thyme Inn, a romantic Victorian bed and breakfast retreat right in town. On your way back to the city, be sure to stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse in California.

EDGE TRAVEL

Yvonne’s Travel Diary – Spain

I sit here writing this travel journal overlooking the turquoise ocean at a restaurant in Sa Rapita, Mallorca. We are not only looking out to the beautiful sea but can also see white sand and the masts of boats moared behind us….Who said the European beaches were just rocky coves?!?!

Spain…the land of tapas bars, paella, sangria, fresh meaty olives, flamenco dancing, bull fighting and REAL Madrid, (the soccer champions yet again). All my expectations of this country have been exceeded.

It is hard for me to focus on one destination in Spain as this would be unfair to the next place we visited, as each spot that my husband and I have travelled through has something special to offer.

Our trip began in the capital city of Madrid which retains its old town charm with winding cobbled streets, beautiful wide boulevards, stunning monuments and museums that make you want to return for a second visit.

After our 27 hour journey to Spain we did not have to walk too far to find our first taste of tapas… a crowded small tapas bar with mainly standing room and a few tables tucked around the place…waiters screaming out orders, plates of unusual dishes being brought to our table at rapid pace, alcohol flowing. We found ourselves already mixing with the locals and fellow travelers, sampling off each others’ plates…we knew we would like this country!

After Madrid we headed south to Andalucia, the region that encompasses the charming towns of Savilla, Cordoba, Granada and the white washed villages of Jerez, Arcos and Ronda. Each town has something special to offer with their cathedrals, palaces, monuments, bull rings and the most delightful "old cities" in every destination. We felt like we were lost in a fairy tale as we meandered through these tiny lanes that in some cases were not much wider than our outstretched arms, stumbling across little boutiques in search of our next meal that was either out on the terrace or in a cave-like setting.

Many people travel through this part of Spain but I am not sure how many travelers have been in Jerez at the time of their Feria Del Caballo (also know as "horse fair"). We were one of the lucky ones to experience such an event. The Spanish people really know how to party. For a week in May the town of Jerez almost shuts down as all eyes are focused on this fair. Restaurants from Jerez, as well as nearby towns, "set up shop" at the fair grounds for the week. Streets surrounding these grounds are lined with stalls, food vendors and a multitude of rides. The streets are packed with thousands of people with the ladies of all ages (from babies to old women) dressed up in flamenco dresses of all colours, shapes and sizes. I was mesmerized by the sights and didn’t know which way to turn…a sea of colour was before my eyes at every move of my head. After we made our way through the streets we continued onto the show grounds where the restaurants were buzzing with a hype of activity that I have never experienced in my life. There were literally hundreds of these "make shift" restaurants, all of different design and character, but one thing that was common to them all is that they predominantly sold tapas style food, lots of beer and wine, and had loud Spanish music blaring throughout. Dance floors were set up inside and everyone was dancing to the beat of the music with their hands up in their air and feet stomping the floor…some doing line dancing Spanish style, others just going wild. This was a night to remember!

The next surprise that we encountered was during our stay in Granada. We were there for their Dia de la Cruz, Day of the Cross. Squares, patios and balconies were covered with floral crosses and once again, the party began. This time the people of Granada were gathered at the various squares dancing to their Spanish music in their traditional Andalucian way, hands up high and feet stomping in their traditional dress. When walking the streets, we came across an opera concert that was set up in the square in front of the cathedral. A truly surreal experience!

If I was to say one location really stood out for me, it would have to be Mallorca, as my expectations of this island were greatly exceeded. I knew I would love Spain and naturally Barcelona, Madrid and the Southern cities that I am often sending my clients to, but I had no idea how much Mallorca had to offer. It not only has some beautiful beaches with white sand and crystal clear turquoise water, but 26 golf courses, a number of quaint hill top villages, classy ports, fantastic restaurant choices and the city of Palma is a gem in itself. Palma, the island’s only true city has it all with the huge cathedral towering over the sea, a port that goes on for miles with a promenade that allows you to bike ride or walk along admiring the truly spectacular boats. The old quarter is like the others we had experienced in Spain, full of charm with a mix of tree-lined boulevards and tiny cobbled lane ways all adorned with a huge selection of boutiques, designer bars and restaurants. There are even five "houses" designed by Gaudi himself to be found. To top it off, there are a multitude of stunning resorts or country estates to stay in. This is an island for those in search of not only a cultural experience but some true outdoor treats.

Our last few nights will be in Barcelona which no doubt will be some way to end our journey through Spain.

Adios from Spain.

Yvonne