Category: California

San Francisco is known world wide for stunning views and hilly terrain. Some streets are so steep that more than 300 stairways exist throughout the city, providing access and shortcuts to areas difficult to reach otherwise.

There are the famous routes to Coit Tower where one can catch a glimpse of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, and the now famous Mosaic Stairs in Golden Gate Heights. Although not as crowded as say, Lombard (the crookedest street in the west), these top stairwalks can be bustling.

Instead, grab Adah Bakalinsky’s stairwalk bible, now in it’s 20th edition, and explore some of the more quirky areas. The book offers up the popular routes, but many of the stairways highlighted are tranquil spots, used only by locals and known only to a handful of people. Most walks take no more than an hour and string a number of staircases in a neighborhood together, with informative descriptions of the history, architecture and flora and fauna of the area.

Together, families can explore the nooks and crannies of this great city. My family often decides on a route and picks a restaurant or café in the area to make our ultimate destination. Avid hikers, we love to take our boys on treks outside the city, often inspiring them with treats or the prospect of counting banana slugs. Some days however, we just can’t get out of town, but want an outdoor activity that feels like a hike. Then we reach for our stairwalk book and pack a few snacks and layers of clothing. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Books, Budget Travel, California, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, San Francisco, Urban Parks, wildlife

Are social media and the Internet responsible for the demise of the picture postcard? An article in a Scottish newspaper says just one in six Britons send a postcard while on their vacation, according to online and market research company One Poll.

Granted, Americans, in general, partake in way less “holiday time” than our European counterparts, but is it really true that smartphones and instant gratification through technology are wiping out such a colorful and beloved tradition?

On a recent trip to Bodie State Historic Park, my camera battery died. Such a picturesque place, I was kicking myself, but luckily I had gotten a few shots and still had my non-smartphone, phone camera.

We went into the gift shop and postcards were 45 cents. I decided to get a few, I usually have my kids send them to grandparents and perhaps their own friends, part writing exercise, part ritual. This time I wanted to send one to a family whose dog, (named Bodie, after a ’90s trip together to Bodie) had just passed away. We had created a laminated memorial to leave at the cemetery as a tribute. I thought it would be nice to also send them a postcard. Continue reading »

5 Comments | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, California, Desert Travel, Driving Trips, Family Travel, Gold Country, Northern California, State Parks

Beyond the sleek Silicon Valley exterior, there are many small towns with plenty to explore in this California region famous for technology.

If you’re looking for a getaway, outdoor fun, sun, and maybe some wine tasting, the small town of Los Gatos is a great choice. Set in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, this affluent hamlet, with a Victorian downtown, is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of urban living. As you drive into town, you pass Netflix headquarters, and you realize, this is perhaps where the 1% live, a notion that was confirmed at the stylish Purple Onion Café, where at 10 a.m., the place was hopping with expensively clad moms chatting and nibbling, post workout. The Illy coffee and yummy breakfast items made with cage-free eggs, local produce, and freshly baked whole-grain breads were tantalizing.

For lunch, a traditional Irish pub with Americanized pub grub, was a more down home option. C.B. Hannegan’s was bustling with business folks and families; the outdoor garden was so pleasant and portions big enough to share. The beer choices were impressive and International, with 15 on draught. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Camping, Europe, Family Travel, Food, Greece, Hike/Backpack, Luxury Travel, Mountain Biking, Northern California, Pubs, Restaurants, Santa Cruz, wine tasting

It’s not that often news about Lebanon brings a smile to my face. Triporati has decided that peace and stability is tenuous enough in the country to warrant this editor’s note:
[Editor's note: In an October 12, 2011 travel warning the U.S. State Department said, "The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains," and it urged U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel there.]
I still yearn for the day this vibrant and rich country can welcome all travelers safely.
When I lived in France, I worked with a man from Beirut who told me stories of the glory days of Beirut with great gusto and pride. It’s a lively city and tourists are coming back following many difficult years. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, Culture, Desert Travel, Returning Home, Travel Safety, Wine Tours, olive groves

Many golf dreams begin and end with Pebble Beach. I remember as a kid in snowbound Minnesota watching Bing Crosby and his pals on TV frolicking in the seaside sunshine playing golf with the pros at his annual “clambake”; I remember watching a U.S. Open or two and other PGA events, and I know that that’s where my California dream started. I had to play Pebble Beach.

A few years ago I got my chance, and on one glorious weekend I played Pebble, Spyglass, and the Links at Spanish Bay. All three courses are managed by the Pebble Beach Company, but at the time I’d forgotten about the fourth course in the fold, Del Monte Golf Course, the granddaddy of them all just a few miles inland. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, California, Golf, Monterey, North America, Northern California, Travel, United States

I don’t know about you, but unless you have a streamlined, super business traveler routine for trip preparation and packing, (a la George Clooney in the film Up in the Air) you often wind up at the airport with slight back spasms.

I always travel with my yoga mat and often head to the back of the plane in-flight to stretch out and realign. Now you can actually use all that post check-in extra time at the San Francisco Airport to center yourself and work out the travel kinks. The City by the Bay has opened a yoga room in terminal two. If you don’t carry your own mat, mats are provided in the 150-square-foot room.

So, rather than kicking back with a cocktail why not salute the sun or invert a bit before your long or short haul flight? Let’s hope it’s a trend that catches on.

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Air Travel, California, California, Northern California, San Francisco, Travel, Travel Tips, Yoga

As I once again dig through bins of snow gear to prepare for a trek to the Sierras, I think about growing up on the East Coast. My mom hails from Upstate New York. That fact, combined with the brutal winters and my family’s enthusiasm for all things ski, skate and sled related, has shaped my winter wanderlust.

We are headed to a house, inaccessible by road in winter. Set on 100 acres of land, the generosity of the owners allows us to live out my alpine fantasies.  We snowshoe or ski one mile into the house, carrying backpacks and pulling a sled full of all our gear, food and an occasional small child. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Books, California, California, Cross Country Skiing, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Feature, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, Northern California, Olympics, Winter Fun

Even if you have never made the pilgrimage to Giverny, France, it’s not hard to visualize the glory that was…is…Claude Monet’s famous garden. From the well-known water lilies and irises to the many iconic Impressionist works, this small, intimate garden on the outskirts of Paris inspired many of Monet’s masterpieces.

A recent cameo in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris reminded me of my rushed trip to Giverny many years ago. I traipsed through the garden taking in the amazing palette of colors, the pinks and yellows, fuchsias, purples and oranges. How could one NOT love the feast for the senses? Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Culture, Europe, Feature, Films, Museums, art

We drove through Yosemite a few weekends ago. It was packed with summer travelers and waterfall gawkers. The major falls are glorious, and fuller than they have been in years. New, smaller falls have even appeared much to the delight of park goers.

As we drove through the park, out past Mono Lake, we were stunned by the high water levels and snowy peaks in early July. We laughed, thinking that we could even cross-country ski in some spots above 7000 feet.

Record snowfalls this winter and heavy unseasonable rain in summer have made conditions epic for nature lovers but also hazardous.

Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Canoe/Kayak, Cross Country Skiing, Cruises, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Food, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, Mountain Biking, Northern California, Travel Safety, Yosemite, wildlife

The first time a friend suggested a trip to Sea Ranch, I had visions of seahorse cowboys and underwater rodeos. I soon discovered it to be anything but a SpongeBob SquarePants circus. It proved to be one of the most restful places I’ve ever been.

100 miles north of San Francisco, the drive takes a good three hours if you take time to gawk at the Oscar winning coastline. We often stop in Bodega Bay for a fish and chips or clam chowder lunch to break up the drive. This time, my seven-year-old discovered he gets carsick, and if you are prone to motion sickness this drive will surely bring it on.

Sea Ranch was a pioneering eco-community begun in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The connection between the landscape and the architecture is beautiful and certainly contributes to the serenity of the place. I dislike gated communities or housing developments in general, but this place really has captured the benefits of a uniform style with strong community ethos. The sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate wood-frame structures were inspired by the local ranches and are designed to cope with the weather and integrate well with the topography. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Books, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Food, Hike/Backpack, Mountain Biking, Northern California, Spa/ Resort, Yoga, wildlife