Steve hits Northern California
Having last visited ten years ago, Steve spent 9 days exploring Northern California, focusing on San Fransisco, Napa Valley, Sonoma and Yosemite National Park.
Here are his notes from the trip.
- LOUNGE – Good but crowded as ever. Decent selection of drinks and lunchtime food. Champagne on request only.
- OUTBOUND FLIGHT – The crew were very friendly and attentive and made an effort to know you by name. Food wasn’t the best but the seats were comfortable – but nowhere other than the drawer on the floor to put anything.
- INBOUND FLIGHT – What a contrast. The crew were very disinterested and the service overall was rather slow. The evening meal was, it has to be said, very poor but the breakfast was excellent. Clearly lacking a little consistency. The in-flight entertainment initially didn’t work and I had to ask three different cabin crew before anybody took action to fix it.
San Fransisco hotels:
- FAIRMONT SFO– Impressive, grand, elegant lobby in a good location with nearby tram stop and within walking distance to Union Square. My large corner room was bright and airy offering magnificent views. The Tonga Room – the restaurant – didn’t quite fit the luxury hotel feel, but it works well. Super cocktails and great atmosphere. The biggest drawback was no free wifi.
- THE ARGONAUT - Great location at the quieter end of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. It’s recently been renovated with nautical décor. I ate at the Blue Mermaid restaurant which had a good atmosphere with fast, efficient service and a tasty burger!
- ST REGIS SAN FRANCISCO – This trendy property is within walking distance of Union Square and the cable car. With contemporary, bright bedrooms and a cracking breakfast, this is a great choice if you’re looking for a central hotel.
- RITZ CARLTON – Historic renovated building within walking distance to most major attractions – a classic Ritz hotel.
Sonoma / Napa Valley hotels:
- FAIRMONT SONOMA – Rather dark and dingy for my liking. The room was large and comfortable but the hotel on the whole seemed a bit jaded. My one night there was marred by a noisy even taking place in the bar downstairs. Despite the downsides, the restaurant food was good and the grounds were pleasant.
- ARCHER NAPA VALLEY – You can tell a lot about a hotel by the lobby! The Archer Napa Valley lobby has a real wow factor! The rooms are well equipped and modern but hot even with the aircon on. The rooftop bar has a great selection of cocktails and the firepit was welcome on a chilly evening. The location is good with a range of shops, bars and restaurants within walking distance.
- MEADOWOOD – An expansive property with well-kept grounds. I enjoyed a huge room with fireplace and enormous flat screen TV with views overlooking the croquet lawn. Fortunately, my room was close to reception so it wasn’t a huge walk to get anywhere! The bathroom was laden with Molton Brown toiletries. I could have spent days here, enjoying both the hotel and the trail walks around the property.
- FARMHOUSE INN – This rustic, boutique property is just off the main road so there is some road-noise. The cottage rooms are quaint and traditional with open fireplaces but the deluxe rooms are brighter and more spacious. The food is great – healthy, natural and organic.
- CARNEROS RESORT – This expansive resort offers great views from the top of the resort pool area. The cottages looked scruffy on the outside but much better inside and the food was amazing throughout.
- BARDESSONO – This modern, central, luxurious, boutique property has some brilliant water features and modern art sculptures and – all importantly - great cocktails!
- LOS ALCEBOS – An old converted farmhouse with new accommodation wings, the views from all room’s balconies over the vineyards are simply breath-taking. Some rooms even have a bath and firepit on the balcony! The food was good, but the service lacking somewhat.
- RUSH CREEK LODGE – Situated in a great location just outside Yosemite National Park. The large rooms have everything you need…except a TV! The pool and hot tub area are well designed and the free s’mores around the firepit is a nice touch. I really liked this property – clean and modern but retaining that classic lodge feel.
- TENAYA LODGE – Well located within Yosemite Village around an hour away. Struck me as more of a convention hotel than a holiday lodge. The rooms were spacious but very dark even with the blinds up and lights on.
- MAJESTIC YOSEMITE – The Majestic looks awesome from the exterior but is a little dark and dingy once inside and the rooms are in desperate need of renovation. The views are marvellous, but it’s a very busy property full of day-trippers. I prefer staying outside the park.
I haven’t been to California for many years and to be honest had no great yearning to return. I have to say, this trip has changed my mind. San Francisco hasn’t changed a great deal and only warrants two or three days stop-over en route to somewhere else really. The biggest attractions remain Alcatraz, the cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge.
I loved Sonoma and Napa Valley and being so close to San Francisco is a big bonus. With great scenery, fantastic hotels and award-winning wineries, it’s a super combination!
Yosemite was equally amazing with magnificent views, spectacular waterfalls and there’s always the chance of spotting a bear! May is a good time to visit as crowds were smaller in number.
All in all I’d love to go back and visit this part of California again sometime