Un Bon Voyage

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

Oh, the beaches! @ La Martinique

Friends.  I have fallen Inn Love. You know when you find one of those places that after you visit, you just keep dreaming about it?  You even consider packing up and moving?  My goodness – I have found it.  It was by chance. A delightfully inexpensive (OK, this was a Christmas present from my parents, so it was free, but even so…) trip to the far reaches of the Caribbean could not have been more perfect.  I know many people choose “safe” Caribbean destinations – they speak English, an all inclusive resort with American food, etc. People, I’m telling you. BREAK THAT HABIT. Go beyond English and all-inclusive and you find the true majesty of travel. There is something so fantastic about feeling like a local in a place as beautiful and rich as this.

This island is situated between more well known, St. Lucia and Dominica and is part of the Lesser Antilles. It’s a fantastic place for Americans to travel because as a a region of France, its currency is the Euro and the current exchange rate is ($1=.93 Euro!!), but even better than that are the high standards of French cuisine. You can be at a little run down, beach

side cafe and the food is far better than what you would find in the States…and we all know how important that is to me! So come along with me and discover the French island of Martinique.

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

Oh, the beaches! @ La Martinique

I like giving my readers gifts, so here is one.  Now, don’t go blabbing to all of your friends. This is our little secret. 

We traveled to Martinique on a relatively new low-cost European airline called Norwegian Air. I see your eyebrow furrowing.  THAT’S RIGHT. Norwegian Air. Don’t believe me?  As of writing this, you could leave Friday, January 27 and return February 3 for $250 round trip from Baltimore. THAT IS INSANE!  Don’t worry, this isn’t a paper plane with a monkey for a pilot, the service and comfort of this airline is top notch.  The *only* downside is luggage restrictions. You get one carry on bag that must weigh no more than 10KG (~22 pounds). Don’t worry though, what more do you need than sunscreen, a bathing suit and sandals?  (Sidebar: On this note, please do not be concerned that I only own one dress as you’ll think from photos. This is my bathing suit coverup! And, when every restaurant is on a beach, why wouldn’t you always have a bathing suit on and snorkeling gear ready? That’s what my carry on consisted of! Priorities, people!)

We arrived at our HomeAway property – a 3 bedroom villa overlooking Les Anses-d’Arlet complete with a kitchen and private pool. In traditional Runion (that’s my maiden name) fashion, we had just enough time to have a fabulous dinner. We arrived at L’Escale, a beautiful restaurant tucked down off of a hillside, surrounded my nature.  It was at this restaurant where I was reminded that the French love their cheese. I, of course, ordered my first of, probably 10, Salade au Chevre Chaud (Warm Goat Cheese Salad!).

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

La Martinique

In our family, my dad and I are the explorers. Luckily, TJ was up for a stroll, so the three of us set off the first morning to find the boulangerie (bakery!) – essentially the most important thing any French island has to offer. Also lucky for the fitness fanatic in me, our villa was on top of a very steep hill and the boulangerie … at the bottom (in the photo, you’ll see me on the road and the boulangerie is by the water).  Each morning, we hiked this hill in search of croissants and a baguette to start the day off right. On that first morning, we were up early enough to see the local fisherman pull up to the town center with the daily catch. We bought this one night to grill at home and it was delicious and fresh and only 16 euros!

We spent the next day discovering our new neighborhood.  Martinique has quite a history.  One of our favorite stops was in Le Diamant which had an over look

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

Le Diamant, Martinique

of Le Diamant Roche (Diamond Rock). Can you imagine, this rugged rock sticking up from the water was a fort which housed a hospital and more???

We arrived in the village of Le Diamant and found lunch at La Voille Blanche where for the first time I tried Marlin…raw, and it was phenomenal. In addition to my obsession with goat cheese, I now wanted to eat anything raw on the menu as did my sister. Our trip basically consisted of rotating Salade au Chevre Chaud and Beef, Marlin or Tuna Tartar. Every dish was served with so much color!

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

The food in Martinique is OUT OF THIS WORLD @ La Voile Blanche

Mid week we discovered the most perfect beach, Anse Noire (black sand beach!).  Nestled in between two cliffs, this nearly private beach isn’t so easy to access. If you don’t have a boat, the only

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

A slice of paradise – Anse Noire, Martinique

option is down a flight of about 100 stairs. We arrived early with snorkeling equipment as we were told this was one of the best snorkeling beaches on the island.  Unfortunately, I don’t have an underwater camera, so it’s left to my memory.  The only thing I brought back from that excursion was very burnt shoulders from hours of slow swimming!

Other than sunbathing and eating, my mom really wanted to do a boat excursion.  We found Louis at La ronde Pecheur who took us on a 4 hour boating, snorkeling and snacking trip.  We had a beautifully sunny day on the water and got to do some great snorkeling in areas only accessible by boat. If visiting the area I would highly recommend him!

The final day in Martinique was heaven.  We finally learned what the locals knew – you must get to Chez Fab et Claude early for a beach side table.  We saw Claude a couple of days prior, literally running to and from, singing in French, taking orders. He was marvelous. His energy level was 10x mine (can you imagine!?) and he was happy as a clam.  There is a reason he has regulars. The food here is top-notch and you cannot beat the setting.  I had the Poulet Boucane  – a creole BBQ chicken with frites (fries!).  His is the best. Served with a shot of local Rhum (rum!) and a berry cobbler. I adored Claude, I hope to be like him one day.

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

The food in Martinique is OUT OF THIS WORLD @ Chez Fab et Claude

Our trip finally came to a close. I write this entry just a week after our return and gosh do I miss it already.  Part of me hopes I have convinced some of you to add this to your bucket list, but the other part of me hopes it remains my little treasure to return to.  But if you go, brush up on your French, order things you don’t understand and take plenty of sunscreen. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Taking on the Queen

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

Whew! I’m back in the saddle and on the road again (how many cheesy phrases can I use?). I kicked off 2017 in the Queen City – visiting one of my standbys and checking out something new. It’s one of our unspoken traditions that we spend New Year’s Eve in Cincinnati.  This year was

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Feeling at Home @ Kingsgate Marriott

exceptional because so many friends traveled in from afar to be there. We checked in at my Alma Mater’s hotel – Kingsgate Marriott located in the

Uptown/University Area of Cincinnati. Kingsgate is perfectly situated for access to the University of Cincinnati Main Campus and Medical Campus, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Xavier University and just a short ride to downtown Cincinnati.  I have stayed at Kingsgate many times and it’s the phenomenal staff that keeps me coming back. Usually around New Year’s Eve it’s a quiet place, but not this year. With a wedding in house and a much anticipated Cincinnati Bengals game, the place was packed!

We checked into our corner suite to get ready for the big night out.  As tradition, TJ always makes a trip down to the Bearcat Lounge for a drink

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Feeling at Home @ Kingsgate Marriott

while I get spruced up for NYE. The same bartender has been on duty for 4 years running.  In an industry with a lot of turnover, it’s amazing to see staff there year after year. You know this is because the hotel treats its employees well.  Not only is the bartender a familiar face, but many of the banquets staff and front office team are the same.

Finally! It’s time for a night on the town! We had big plans. I love holidays and planning one in the Queen City is my forte.  We met up with friends for dinner at one of my new favorite restaurants, Mita’s.  Chef Jose Salazar knows how to wine & dine his guests. I could have sat there for hours, sipping bubbly, passing tapas and people watching. Mita’s is situated on the corner of 5th & Race with floor to ceiling windows.  And on New Year’s Eve? EXCELLENT people watching. We shared a Cheese plate consisting of Manchego, Valdeon and Murcia al Vino. YUM. Then we passed around an Ensalad Mixta and an Ensalad Jicama Y Mango – both delicious. We opted for a round of Tapas in lieu of entrees and shared the Coles de Bruselas Asadas (brussels sprouts!); Pulpo Gallego (galician style octopus!); Arepa Con Queso Fresco Y Chorizo (Cheese & chorizo cornmeal cakes!) and the special of the evening – Blood Sausage.  We each had a favorite – obviously we either all have exceptional taste or Jose only makes awesome dishes (or both!). We wrapped up the evening with an Olive Oil Rosemary Cake for dessert.  If you haven’t been to Mita’s, you’re missing out. BIG TIME. And they’re open for lunch!

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

After Mita’s we met up with friends at 21C Museum Hotel.  I’ve been to

21C before, but this time I had a chance to check out some of the aspects that make it unique including the “body art” in the shower and the beautiful art display on the guestroom floors. One of the signature’s of the 21C brand are the fun little penguin mascots.

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

We left 21C and headed to our final destination – a new cocktail lounge in The Banks called The Stretch. The Stretch is swanky with double bars and a narrow space that allows for an intimate atmosphere. It was packed for NYE, but the outdoor space was a nice retreat from the sweat of the dance floor with fire places and cozy furniture on a chilly Ohio winter night. I’d love to come check it out on a regular weekend night – I guarantee it’s just as busy!

Believe it or not, after a night on the town, I’m still hitting the gym in the morning.  I told you before, this was not my first rodeo at Kingsgate, so when I walked into the all-to-familiar gym I was ECSTATIC at what I found.  I’m a gym snob, we know this.  Rarely do I come across one of my

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Fitness Center @ Kingsgate Marriott

favorite pieces of gym equipment. I love it so much that even if I wasn’t planning to run, I do. I’m totally going to geek out on you guys for a second.  LifeFitness makes these super cool treadmills with courses you can run all around the world! It is seriously the coolest invention.  If you haven’t been on one, try it. If you run a hotel, get one!

But honestly people, what would this trip be without a final food suggestion?  I’m not much for hotel breakfasts and normally I head somewhere else, but I knew that the breakfast buffet at Kingsgate would be just what I needed on New Year’s Day. Those omelettes…OH!

If you find yourself in Cincinnati, check out one of these two great hotels and most definitely eat at Mita’s – you’d be a fool not to.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

California Dreamin’ Part II

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Darioush – Napa, CA

If you haven’t already set up your Fare Alerts for a trip to Cali after last week’s post, you will today! We’re going to cruise north towards our final destination, Napa Valley. After a jam-packed city adventure in San Francisco, we were ready to relax.  I’d done a lot of research on where to stay in Napa Valley. Luckily, Joe (yes, my boss!) suggested I look north towards St. Helena and Calistoga where the terrain gets more interesting and hikers flock.  I found a fabulous independent property – The Bergson in downtown Calistoga where we booked our three night getaway. I’ll tell you more about that later – first… WINE!

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

The Boon Fly Cafe – Napa, CA

Our first day in Napa we were attending the 2016 Napa B&B Holiday Tour & Tasting Event. HOW COOL. It was perfect for me and only happened one day of the year – the day we were there! On

our way to that, we made a few pitstops to kick off the wine tasting extravaganza.  First stop, breakfast (of course!!). We had a recommendation to visit Boon Fly Cafe and I was glad we went. The vibe of the place was super fun and whenever given the chance, TJ and I always opt for community tables. We ordered the famous donuts as an appetizer, because appetizers at breakfast are the best, and followed up with fantastic eggs. The Bloody Maries looked to die for, but we needed to pace ourselves.

After breakfast we headed to our first wine stop, Domaine Carneros.  If you haven’t been, DC makes sparkling wine and has a large chateau overlooking the valley. It was a popular place to sip bubbly, that’s for sure. It was pretty good, but doesn’t beat my favorite Napa sparkling. (We’ll get there!).

Next, we went for something smaller and checked out Monticello Vineyards – Corley Family (They only produce 15,000 cases a year of their Estate Grown Chardonnay!). Things were a bit more casual here. We had a wonderful tasteur, Dave, who walked us through the tasting menu at a bar while looking out over Monticello – a 1/3 replica of the Virginia home.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Monticello Vineyards – Corley Family – Napa, CA

For our third and final stop before the big holiday inn tour, we stumbled upon (pun totally intended) Darioush.  This was not part of our plan, but it was impressive and we’re so glad we stopped.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Darioush – Napa, CA

The backstory here is amazing.  Darioush Khaledi was born in Iran, where the country has been in prohibition since 1979.  Darioush found his love of wine through his father who made wine in their basement. When he was able to, he emigrated to the US and eventually opened Darioush. (Follow more of his story in the Visual Adventure Gallery!)  The wine here is so good and our tasteur, Toni, walked us through every last drop. Virtually impossible to find through retailers in Ohio and rare to find on fine dining menus (we found one at M at Miranova in Columbus!) this wine was worth the visit.  We shipped home two bottles of Chardonnay – one for us and one as a gift.

After our three amazing tastings, we were finally headed to the 2016 Napa B&B Holiday Tour.  You’ll have to check out the Visual Adventure Gallery for all of the highlights of this tour, but we definitely had some favorites. The B&B I took the most pictures at was Churchill Manor – it was a massive property with unique furnishings, cool rooms and good food. I also loved the unique grounds of the Arbor Guest House, the arbors lit for the holidays.  There were so many fun stops, be sure to check them out.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

2016 Napa Historic Inns of Napa Holiday Tour @ Churchill Manor – Napa, CA

All of that wine and we were ready to EAT.  We made reservations at the Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery. Our food was amazing. I had the Gnocchi with butternut squash, spinach, mushroom and truffled turnip coulis – YUMMO. I would argue this was one of the “hardest” days of my life. So much wine. So much food. We were drained. We were so happy we could retreat to our perfect little inn for a good night’s sleep because we were doing it all again the next day!

I mentioned earlier that Calistoga appeals to hikers.  I searched for a place we could get a hike in and was pleasantly surprised to find a trail head leaving from downtown Calistoga.  The Oat Hill Mine Trail was literally one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever been on and I’ve been on some pretty cool ones, including the Boiling Lake Trail in Dominica. Anyway –  this trail is 8 miles each way, but you can do a mile in or so and have a great hike. I recommend doing this at sunrise or slightly thereafter while the fog is burning off the vineyards. I just have to take a minute to flood you with beautiful pictures from our hike…

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

Now that I’ve fed your soul, let’s move on to your belly! One of the best features at our hotel was a wonderful (complimentary!) breakfast. I believe on the weekends they add an egg dish, as we had a quiche awaiting our arrival in addition to the continental spread. Then, we kicked off the morning with a stop at my ALL TIME FAVORITE winery – Mumm Napa.  I visited

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Mumm Napa – Napa, CA

Mumm on my first trip and fell

 

Inn Love with the experience of sipping fantastic bubbly on a cool fall morning with a warm sun shining on your face.  Mumm has done a remarkable job at tailoring this experience just for that. The view is amazing. The wine is amazing. If you get a chance, visit Mumm before 11AM and it will be quiet and peaceful.

After Mumm, our driver took us to Sunshine Foods, a great little market in downtown St. Helena.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Sherwin Family Vineyards – St. Helena, CA

There, we were able to grab some picnic items for our final wine stop of the day – Sherwin Family Vineyards. The Sherwin Family has quite a story. Situated on top of Spring Mountain, this vineyard is private and hard to find, but well worth the adventure. We sat for a private picnic overlooking

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Sherwin Family Vineyards – St. Helena, CA

their vineyard where we had a tasting paired with stories from the staff.

The Sherwin Family coined themselves the Patriotic Pour, due to the fact that they’re the only company in the U.S. with permission to print the American flag on their bottles. The story is pretty neat and the custom bottles are gorgeous. You’ll have to stop for the story! But if you do, make sure to try the Cellar Scraps. We bought two bottles!

We wrapped our wine tasting a bit sooner so that we could indulge in a few more Napa Valley specialties – mud and food.

I knew from my last trip that mud baths in Calistoga were super popular. We booked ourselves at the Golden Haven Hot Springs and Resort for a mud bath for two.  I know a lot of people are skeptical of the process and probably laughed at me when I told them we did this, but it’s a great experience. The mud is really relaxing and does wonders for the skin. Next time you’re in town, go outside of your comfort zone and give it a try!

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Meaningful Mudding @ Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa & Resort

FINALLY! Dinner time. If you know anything about Napa Valley dining, you’ve probably heard of

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Dining with the Best @ Bouchon Yountville

Yountville, or at least the famous French Laundry.  Sorry gang, we didn’t eat there, but we ate at the next best place – Bouchon.  Also a repeat from my last trip, but with different company, Bouchon is definitely at the top of my list for best places I’ve ever eaten. One of the interesting items we tried was recommended by our waiter – Fried Pig Ears. Never would I have ordered this on my own, but I’m so glad we did. TJ must have been feeling particularly adventurous that evening! Bouchon has excellent service. Seriously, some of the best service I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant. The food is, of course, phenomenal.  I cannot wait to return.

By now, I’m guessing you’re hungry and you’re already looking at flights, but we aren’t done yet.

Thus far, I planned everything. The food, the wine, the rental car.  TJ had one request – “can we go to a brewery?” TJ’s cousin told him about this “great place” he needed to check out. But of course, it was an hour in the wrong direction.  TJ was such a good sport with the mud bath, how could I say no? We packed up our things and headed to Santa Rosa. The good news is, we met a lot of locals on our trip and one local told us if we wanted to see the Redwoods, we should avoid Muir Woods and go to Armstrong Redwoods. Guess where that is?  Right around the corner from Russian River Brewing. TJ lucked out.

This trip was so far been extraordinary, but the Redwoods? Magical. Make sure to check out all of the pics in the Visual Adventure Gallery, but here are a few to get you started!

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Armstrong Redwoods – Guerneville, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Armstrong Redwoods – Guerneville, CA

After taking in the majesty of the forest, we headed to Russian River. Surprisingly, the food was superb and Santa Rosa is an adorable little hipster town! I would definitely go back.

In all, we had a whirlwind trip to California, but I couldn’t have asked for nicer wine, better weather or a more perfect travel partner. Until next time, California…

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Darioush – Napa, CA

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

California Dreamin’ Part I

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Alcatraz Island – San Francisco, CA

2017! What do you have in store for me this year?  2016 was amazing.  I got to wrap up 2016 with a fabulous trip that I eluded to in my last post.  It was 4 years since I was last in Napa, California.  It was also 6 months after college graduation, so I was on a post-college budget – which isn’t the best way to do California.  TJ and I were able to maximize our time there and we absolutely fell INN LOVE with San Francisco and Napa Valley.  This post is so jam-packed and loaded with pictures (and food) that we’re doing it in two weeks. Our trip started in San Francisco, so let’s go!

United takes flight with something fresh!

United takes flight with something fresh!

I’m not lying when I say I love to fly. It’s a cool experience. Of course, TSA and terrorists have made it less fun, but it’s always nice when an airline can find a way to WOW you.  I don’t fly United often (Cincinnati was a Delta hub and my new Sister-in-Law, Tracy, flies for Southwest), so maybe this isn’t new to all of you, but they really upgraded these in-flight snacks!  I could have eaten an entire box of these babies.  Apparently, they’re from the Netherlands. GENIUS. The lady told me to let it sit on top of my steaming tea for a few minutes and the insides MELTED.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

UBER Cool – San Francisco, CA

Also amazing was what happened when we got to the airport. OK, when we were leaving. We grab an Uber (not as easy as it should have been, mind you) and the Uber app asks TJ to play in their game. If you didn’t know, Uber started in San Francisco which is a hotbed of technology experts.  While riding in the comfort of your Uber car, they set up this program – if you can “hack” their code, they’ll give you a job! In theory, anyway…. BUT, as we quickly discovered, TJ isn’t a hacker and failed the aspiring-Uber-programmer test. So, moving on…

We finally arrived at our hotel.  We were so fortunate for the chance to stay at the Fairmont San Francisco.  This hotel is ancient and magnificent. Built in 1907, it has withstood earthquakes, fires and significant political & celebrity moments including the drafting of the United Nations Charter. With the history comes the class. The property exudes luxury from the doormen to the décor.  The concierge (yes, they still have those AND she was a Les Clef

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Nob Hill Cafe – San Francisco, CA

d’Or concierge!) pointed us to a “quaint Italian place” around the corner – Nob Hill Café. I was skeptical of the suggestion because she said there wasn’t a lot within an easy walk (it was pouring down rain) but, oh! was it fantastic.  We were able to snag a table in a little window for some hand crafted pizza and salads.

That night, I had the opportunity to take a peak into the lives of the rich and famous. Our party was in the Penthouse at the Fairmont SF. I must say, I will probably never have the chance to return. This room rents for $25,000 a night, I’m told, so it probably won’t be part of our next trip.  (You must check out the Visual Adventure Gallery to see these pics!) Other than the view from the patio, the coolest part of the penthouse is the hidden staircase.  I was caught taking pictures and escorted to the “secret” room.  Rumor has it that JFK snuck Marilyn Monroe out this secret door for a bottle of wine, unbeknownst to the Secret Service keeping watch.  The door itself is sealed off now, but you can still find the secret doorway in the bookshelves!

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Secrets at the Penthouse @ Fairmont San Francisco

Before our last night at the Fairmont SF, we visited the iconic Tonga Room for one of their famous Mai Tais.  I don’t drink a lot of cocktails, but let’s just say, it’s probably best I only had one of these bad boys. Whoooie! It was strong! If you haven’t visited or read about the Tonga Room, it rains inside. You should check it out!

When planning this trip, I had one place I wanted to make sure we saw – Alcatraz Island. I heard mixed reviews, we shouldn’t do it, we should, only if it’s nice out, blah blah blah. But guys, I’m fascinated with Alcatraz and the story of prisoners there.  We were lucky it was 62 and sunny on the December afternoon that we set sail for the island.  Did you know Native Americans inhabited the island after it closed?! I had no idea! You can find signs of this all over the island if you look closely. One of my favorite parts was the Agave Trail (the picture at the top of the post!).  Great views and less tourists. Originally, the Agave was planted to prevent erosion, beautify “the Rock” and specifically chosen because of it’s sharp edges to help discourage escape. While we were touring the penitentiary,we were treated to an unlocking ceremony of the doors, even with all the lights and the tourists around, it was pretty eerie. Check out the video (and make sure your volume is up for full effect!)

I know you’re wondering – “Halle. What is this? Did you not eat while you were in San Francisco – a food mecca?!”  Don’t you worry. We sure did! But, I was there for a conference, so a lot of my meals were provided.  Of course, we found opportunities to eat and I’ve got a list of them for you! As with any major city, it can be really tricky to figure out where to eat. If you’re planning a trip to SanFran anytime soon, in addition to those mentioned above, here are some great places we discovered to help you narrow down the options. OK, maybe we did eat a lot…

Aliment (Lower Nob Hill) – neighborhood restaurant featuring a seasonal menu with local ingredients.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Hillstone – San Francisco, CA

Top of the Mark (Nob Hill @ InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel San Francisco) – Go here for a drink on top of the world. Ascend to the 19th floor for dizzying views, great cocktails and if you’re lucky, an awesome Motown Band (like when we were there!!)

Restaurant LuLu (South of Market) – set in a super cool converted 1910 warehouse, offering seasonal Provencal fare.

Hillstone (Embarcadero) – best choice near Pier 33. There are not a lot of dining options down by the piers. This is an upscale chain, but THAT BURGER. YUM.

Rogue Ales Public House (Russian Hill) – Rogue community hall – TJ likes their beer.

1st Amendment Inc. (South of Market) – Also a brewery, TJ recommends visiting for a great brew and good food.

Barrell Head Brewhouse (North of the Panhandle) – NOM. NOM. NOM. ‘Nuff said.

The first half of our trip was mostly business and kind of a whirlwind. That’s OK though, because the back end was all wine and relaxation.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Alcatraz Island – San Francisco, CA

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck