July is almost gone and it seems that our little country finally got the memo that it is in fact summer (with tropical thunderstorms and everything)… Our trip to the Golden Coast this May already feels like forever ago, so I thought it was ’bout time that I updated the blog with the latest travel adventure: our camping-is-super-cool-California-roadtrip!
You might recall that we chose to do a stopover in Houston, Texas, on our way to San Francisco since it was (a) way cheaper, and (b) sounded pretty cool. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, WRONG. Long story short: we almost missed our connecting flight, because of ridiculous lines at George Bush Int’l Airport and there are no transit lines for passengers with a connecting flight. If we hadn’t asked people to let us go to the front of the line and ran across the airport on our socks, we definitely would have missed it. When we finally got to our seats after what felt like a marathon, there was no water available. Seriously?! So no, United Airlines, 2 hours is nót “plenty of time” for a stopover. Note to self (and others): never fly United Airlines again.
Take me back to San Francisco
Okay, if you have been to San Fran you already know this, but what an amazing city this is! It almost feels un-American, and more laid-back than the East coast places we’ve visited. We stayed with a lovely couple and a dog in their beautiful Victorian wooden house in the Mission District (check Airbnb), and I cannot recommend them enough. The Mission is the Hispanic neighborhood, which nowadays is mixed with art, design and food lovers. Since we kinda are art, design and food lovers this was the perfect place for us to stay and act like locals. There are various cool shops, cafés and bars and so many beautifully painted wooden houses, so grab a croissant and a freshly squeezed juice and get lost in the hood.
Of course we explored other SF areas as well, and I think it’s safe to say that NYC has some serious competition: San Francisco is pretty awesome. Here is a roundup of some of the cool places we’ve been to (grab your notebook and write this stuff down!).
1. Tartine Bakery. Words cannot describe how amazingly delicious the baked goods at this bakery are. Seriously. That Frangipane Croissant. That Strawberry Bread Pudding. Wow. Just wow. Ow, and yes, it is totally worth the 45 minutes wait.
2. Bi-Rite Market & Creamery. Just around the corner from Tartine you can find this little gem (The Mission isn’t called foodie heaven for nothing!). At the small market you can buy all sorts of fresh and organic produce, and the creamery (further down the street) has the best ice-cream ever. Ever!
3. La Taqueria in Mission Street. Since Mission is the latino neighbourhood you’ll find plenty of tasty taquerias in the area. Even though they may all look the same to you, please go to La Taqueria on Mission Street (2889) for the most amazing burritos you’ll ever have. They serve them in colourful plastic baskets and we got lucky and even had some live Mexican music for that authentic taqueria vibe.
4. The Ferry Building. Yes, it’s a ferry building. A nice one might I add. But the main reason you want to come here is (you guessed it) the food. I highly recommend the Ahi Poke Crispy Fish Tacos at Gott’s Roadside. Yum! Delicious. Poke is Hawaiian-style, raw, marinated tuna (think sashimi, but better). Again, yum! The Gott brothers took over a well-known classic burger joint in St. Helena (near Napa – and yes, I’ve eaten the tacos there as well) called Taylors in 1999 and nowadays they have 4 locations throughout Northern California. You. Must. Go. There. (and bring me back some poke tacos!)
5. Bike the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, San Francisco is known for its hills, but please rent that bike and tour the city as the locals (and all other tourists) do. We did a big loop starting from Union Square, then to Alamo Square, where you can find “The Painted Ladies” (lovely wooden houses, also featured on Full House). From there we made our way to Golden Gate Park, where we passed some bisons, a Dutch windmill (oh yes) until we hit the Pacific Ocean. Then we crossed the Presidio, a former military base in a beautiful park, before we saw the Golden Gate loom up in front of us. We took our bikes across the bridge where you have some amazing views over the city and the Bay Area. Prrrritty cool. A couple of miles down you can find a lovely little town called Sausalito, from where you can take the ferry back to the city. Note to self (and others): do not, I repeat do not, try to take that boat back on a national holiday. It will cost you 2,5 hours of your life waiting in line. Not fun.
6. Fisherman’s Wharf. Yes, it is totally touristy. But, come on, you cannot skip Pier 39 and its hundreds of California Sea Lions! Okay, I am a total animal fan so it is possible that I am a bit more excited than others, but it’s very cool to watch (and hear, and even smell) those big blobs of cuteness. No one knows why they suddenly came to Pier 39 in 1989, but they seem to be having a good time and are not going anywhere anytime soon. We visited The Wharf pretty early in the morning so it was not crowded at all, and I even got to take a ride on the carousel all on my own! Oh, the joy! (okay fine, there was one kid that hopped on as well).
Wild Camping in Wine Country
We picked up our very cool hand-painted Escape Campervan called “Inuit” since it was time to hit some California road. The first stop was Napa Valley, also known as California’s Wine Country. And wine they have. Our first camping spot was Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, located in the heart of pretty posh Wine Country, but with a very nice and rustic camping-in-the-woods kind of vibe. What is cool about American campsites is that they are usually very large, have picnic tables ánd fire rings on which you can cook a delicious outdoor meal. So we picked up some wine and amazing (and expensive) food at the Oakville Grocery and had a nice little camping feast in the woods! Of course we did a wine tasting tour at one of the largest chateaus in the region, Domaine Chandon. Yes, Chandon as in Moët Chandon (so actually we did a Champagne tasting tour). Very informative and you get three serious glasses of champagne to taste. Highly recommended. Oh, and here’s a little tip: if you offered to be the designated driver, don’t empty those glasses! Sorry love, I forgot it was supposed to be me…
Wine Country consists of a few small towns, with Napa being the biggest and most famous one. We thought Napa-town was mweh. The only reason I do recommend stopping by is because of the Oxbow Public Market. Yes, yet another nice building with amazing food. All the vendors at Oxbow are locals who sell their amazing locally grown produce. Since it was a crazy hot day, we splurged on some very cold freshly squeezed green juices and fish tacos. You can take route 29 to get to all the different small towns but if you’re not a fan of traffic jams, take the Silverado Trail which runs sort of parallel of Rt 29 and is way more scenic. St. Helena and Calistoga are cute little towns with much more atmosphere than Napa. We ran into a lovely young lady, originally from Sweden, who digged our van and told us to drive up to Healdsburg, a bit North of Napa Valley. Thank god for her, because Healdsburg is such a little gem. It feels very “Gilmore Girls” and has all these lovely little shops and boutiques surrounding the shaded town square, which – yes – has a gazebo. Write down: must visit Healdsburg. All this eating, drinking and driving (not to worry – drinking only áfter driving) was so, so very tiring and thus we decided to visit the Calistoga Hot Springs for some relaxing time. If you’re into watching middle-aged Americans trying to find love in a 80s vibe pool area, then definitely go. If you’re not, do like us: take a quick dip in the mineral pool and get out before it gets weird.
All in all I can say that the first days of our California roadtrip were pretty damn cool. Driving your own house on wheels gives you an amazing feel of freedom. You can make and change plans as you go. We’re driving around and it is extremely hot so we just looked at the map (yes, a map), found a lake, drove up there, and took a refreshing plunge before heading back en route. Roadtrippin’! Oh and btw, camping in a very secluded State Park with only beautiful nature surrounding you and your love is kind of freaking romantic ♥.
Stay tuned for the rest of our camping-is-super-cool-California-roadtrip!
Lots of love,