I like city driving; not freeways, but I can handle the Marin route out of San Francisco. So, I have made the trip to the Healdsburg area in Sonoma County three times in the last few months. Recently, for a birthday party at a lovely B & B called the Gipson Bed & Breakfast, owned by an old friend and his wife.
I had been to the same spot last summer for an epic 50th Russian Dacha birthday party, where many guests camped and a Russian BBQ ensued with a zip line, trampoline, bubbles, pool, jacuzzi and pogo-sticks for the big and little kids and of course shots of vodka and blinis for the hearty adults. This time it was for a five-year-old’s party, the daughter of my friends, the innkeepers.
Healdsburg lies at the crossroads of three of California’s most famous wine growing appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley. It is surrounded by more than 60 wineries and is a favorite Sonoma Wine Country destination. Continue reading »
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There is always a dilemma, do you spread the word about a great place or keep quiet so others don’t intrude. Well it’s too late for Marin County’s Tennessee Valley. Any given weekend will find hordes of joggers, hikers, seniors, horseback riders and families hiking the trails of this Bay Area gem.
Nestled in Tam Valley, a part of Mill Valley, this spot is easily accessible by San Franciscans and Marinites alike. Over the years we have taken hard core hikes with friends, leisurely walks with visitors from out of town and quickie visits to get fresh air and bask in the beautiful scenery. If I were a visitor from abroad or out of town, this would be a great day trip to get a flavor of the tremendous wealth of the Bay Area hiking scene. Continue reading »
Trekking through the Brazilian Amazon Rain Forest, so much was made clear to me about the importance of these ecosystems: the interconnectedness of plants and animals, the habitat and the horror of the destruction of our planet.
Like many, I have tried to eat less meat, support legitimate ventures that protect the jungle environment and visit various rainforests to enjoy and learn more about them. Whether soaring above the canopy on a zip line, boating down the Amazon or hiking to an idyllic tropical waterfall in Fiji, rainforests are hot travel destinations. I nearly coughed up my granola this morning as I read a front page story in The New York Times entitled: New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Saving the Primeval Rainforests.
The key word is “debate” and controversy there will be about this article, I am sure, but it was a fascinating read. The premise of the article is that as fast as original rainforests are being decimated by farming, logging and industry (about 38 million acres a year), replacement forests are growing at a much faster rate. Continue reading »
For years my wife and I have talked about spending a night or two in a local hostel, but until this weekend we didn’t find the time to do so. But a pre-New Year’s hike in the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco, where we live, took Paula into the hostel to see what was available and voila, we were booked for two nights in early January. Continue reading »
Every year in December, my husband and I have the discussion about a tree. I have this vision, as a young girl, of going to New Jersey to cut one down every year. This was quite a trek from Manhattan and made for great memories. It’s a bit of a Laura Ingalls Wilder fantasy but, hey, could be worse. So we argue about “killing a tree” for Christmas, something that didn’t occur to me in the twentieth century.
I understand and share the concern for the planet but I also love the whole ritual of setting up the fresh tree. As a compromise, for the last few years we’ve bought a live tree in a pot and put it outside for the rest of the year, the idea being we would re-use it again the next year. Well, for the first time in four years, our tree survived the year and is resplendent in our living room trimmed and beautiful. So, when I suggested we go to this fabulous Christmas tree farm for a day of fun, giant swings, wreath-making, picnic, tractor ride, bonfire and marshmallows, like every year I got the same grumpy answer. I persevered.
Usually what comes to mind when one thinks of traveling to Jordan is the ancient red-rock city of Petra or the modern metropolis of Amman sprawling over its seven hills. Not many people think of national parks, wildlife, eco-travel, or extreme sports, but Jordan has a lot to offer the adventurous traveler.
You can rappel down the waterfalls of Wadi Mujib, explore the desert and Bedouin camps of Wadi Rum, search for the Syrian wolf and horned ibex in the Dana Nature Reserve, and paraglide in the Mujib Gorge, among other adventures.
Jordan came to environmental conservation early for countries in the Middle East, establishing the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in 1966, and creating the Dana Nature Reserve in 1989. Associated Press reporter Dale Gavlak wrote about many possibilities for adventure in his Dec. 10 AP story.
There are lots of places on the planet that qualify as the back of beyond, but the tropical South American nation of Suriname can certainly lay claim to the title, as Andy Isaacson reveals in his Dec. 7 story in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Once upon a time, long before Costa Rica became a prime eco-tourism destination for North American travelers, Suriname was a haven for birdwatchers, but political troubles in the 1980s shut down the country’s small tourism industry. Just when the country was about to sell off big chunks of forestland to timber interests, Conservation International stepped in and helped convince the government to stake its future on conservation and eco-tourism development rather than strip out its natural resources. Continue reading »
It was the day after Thanksgiving and with stretched out bellies we threw our camping gear in our car, made sure we had hats, gloves, plenty of cocoa and we headed out of the city towards the Sonoma Coast. My husband had to work so I was initially reluctant to join our friends on the impromptu trip. I’m loath to admit it, but despite my claims of equality and the notion that I can do most anything I put my mind to, I usually wind up caring for the kids and organizing food when we go camping. Sometimes I over-think the food and this time I just raided the fridge and cabinets and grabbed what we had.
I woke up this morning to find out our six-year-old, Abyssinian Guinea Pig , Felix, was on his way out. At six, he was considered “frail elderly” and I knew he wasn’t long for this world. He died this morning in my eldest son’s arms and we wrapped him in a shroud and placed him in a doll cradle. We lit candles and incense and both boys bawled until giant tears and snot trails rolled down their faces.
It’s Veteran’s Day and I’d had all the good intentions of taking a walk through a military cemetery in San Francisco’s Presidio, a stone’s throw from our office. It is a wonderful and moving experience any time of year, with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. Continue reading »
As I sit here writing, my mind wanders to the U.S. election, and I wonder how it will turn out. It’s been a stressful few weeks and my stomach is in knots. What will be our itinerary for the next four to eight years?
When I think of all that has happened of late, there is very little that seems positive. Perhaps, though, there are a few things to cheer. High gas prices have made staycations popular and trips closer to home a necessity. Folks are driving less, car-pooling and looking with fresh eyes at Public Transportation, something we have sorely neglected in this country.
Train travel, a staple of my youth and commonplace in Europe and other parts of the world, is having a bit of a renaissance according to a recent New York Times article. Amtrak ridership is up 11% this year alone and the trend is increasing. Continue reading »