Category: California

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 »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Day Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Food, Hike/Backpack, Marin County, Northern California, Pubs

You know you live in California when you can take your cross-country ski gear out for a whirl and then stop for a picnic of sushi. We were up in the mountains last week for Spring Break visiting my sister–in-law who lives in South Lake Tahoe. The weather was perfect; about 35 degrees and alternately sunny and snowy. Folks were cycling around Lake Tahoe in their shorts and we headed up to 8000 feet near Kirkwood to ski in full winter regalia; long underwear, ski pants, hats, gloves and tons of sun block. It was such a pleasant spring getaway. When I lived in France, the French always used to say how important it was to experience ‘Le Sport d’Hiver’ (winter sports) each year. Necessary, they used to say, for the constitution. Chapped, rosy cheeked and with huge appetites, my boys and I enjoyed a couple of yummy meals after a long day of skiing.  Goodfellas pizza and Taqueria Jalisco were our favorite picks, recommended by my brother-in-law who was a chef in Hawaii before moving to the mountains. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Cross Country Skiing, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, Northern California, Skiing

Local Bay Area residents or visitors from out of town will love taking the family tide pooling at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve on a sunny day down the coast from San Francisco near Montara in San Mateo County. It is about a half hour drive from the city just a few miles north of Half Moon Bay. It can be crowded but the excitement in finding star fish, or sea stars as my five-year-old says they are now called, is immense.

Bring your water sandals and be prepared for some slippery rocks. Check the tides so you can be sure to have the best conditions for viewing. Harbor seals bask in the sun out on the rocks and kids and adults alike enjoy an up close and personal look at the sea life. You can see barnacles, sea stars, limpets, crabs, anemones, sponges and nudibranchs in the area sometimes called the Splash Zone. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Family Travel, Feature, Hike/Backpack, Tide Pools, United States

Have you ever had Mandarin Islamic Chinese food? Did you know there are an estimated 20 million Muslims who live in China? These questions percolated as my taste buds marveled at the unusual combinations of lamb, cumin and other spice mixtures that seemed so new to me. I was first taken to Old Mandarin Islamic by a mom on my son’s soccer team. It was a rainy fall day and the boys and spectators were soaked and chilled. The hot pot beckoned, and I was up for an adventure. Way out in the Sunset district in San Francisco near the beach, this small hole in the wall offers not only a unique culinary experience but a geography and culture lesson in Chinese history. I returned this Sunday to pick up takeout and once again I was blown away. Signs in Arabic welcome the diners as well as the Chinese Sabado Gigante-esque/ quasi American idol show playing in the corner on the big screen TV. Familiar was the standard Chinese restaurant decorations, but unusual were the plaques with sayings from the Koran (I assume). Of course there is no pork on the menu and the lamb is Halal. It seems like the whole family is cooking in the back kitchen and you can see them in action as you traipse through to go to the restroom. The hot pot is a fun diner participation dish, much like fondue or Korean BBQ. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Asia, Budget Travel, China, Culture, Food, Restaurants, San Francisco

Maybe I am feeling like a fish with the rain pouring down or maybe I am just having my monthly fish taco frenzy, whatever the reason I am fast becoming a connoisseur of the tasty Mexican treat.

I love Mexican food, but sometimes all the rice and beans and heavy meat can weigh you down. Don’t get me wrong, I love burritos, but I have a hard time not finishing a whole one in a sitting, as much as I’d like to take half home for lunch the next day.

As an East Coast friend said when she first visited me in San Francisco in the early ’90s when our burritos arrived: “That looks like an infant.” She proceeded to place the wrapped burrito by her toned dancer’s belly and question how all that would fit in there. Miraculously it all fit!

Years later in New York City I saw advertisements for “San Francisco Mission Style” Burritos, which of course made me laugh having lived in or near the Mission for more than 15 years. So, my answer to the burrito baby syndrome was to order fish tacos; it seemed like a lighter choice. One of the first places, and to my mind one of the best in the city, is Papalote, a Mexican Grill on 24th street. When my first son was little we ate there once a week because I knew he would get a nutritious meal. The owner knows us well and has seen my son grown on his cooking. Now, my rice and bean aficionado goes to school a block away and we joke that it is because of his favorite restaurant. Don’t miss the fabulous house salsa; it’s a secret but I think it is made with pumpkin. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Family Travel, Food, Mexico, Nightlife, Restaurants, San Francisco, Student Travel

As rain pours down, I know the dry creeks and reservoirs, thirsty plants and animals are all happy, as are the avid skiers in Northern California. The slopes may be less crowded this year, but for many, even if the economy is taking a beating, the call of the snow is just too powerful.

I have skied downhill many times and do love the thrill, but have come to appreciate cross country skiing greatly, particularly since having kids. When they were young I pulled both my boys in sleds, wrapping them in blankets, like little Russian Princes, with snacks and toys in the sled. They both took naps while I, in a complete sweat, trudged through the glorious snow; I absolutely loved that feeling.

Now they are a bit older and are interested in skiing on their own. Recently, I read an online missive in one of my mom’s groups. The message linked to an article by Gigi Stahl about skiing with your preschooler or kindergartener and I thought it was quite helpful and funny. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, California, Cross Country Skiing, Family Travel, Lake Tahoe, Northern California, Skiing, Snowboarding, Winter Fun

Who wouldn’t want to hike a trail with such a reputation? Where might this place be? Favorite hikes of mine include Nepal’s Mt. Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar trek via Namche Bazaar; the network of trails around Switzerland’s Lauterbrunnen Valley and Grindelwald; backpacking trails in California’s Marble Mountain Wilderness, the Sierra Nevada, and Yosemite.

Others might choose the Inca Trail in Peru; the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain; pub-to-pub walking in the Cotswolds of England; the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

I’ve been tempted by the Overland Track in Tasmania. But Robert D. Hershey Jr. extols the virtues of the Milford Track in New Zealand in a recent story in The New York Times. As far back as 1908 this 33.5-mile trail was called the finest walk in the world and many hikers feel it’s true today.

After reading Hershey’s story I’m ready to start planning a trip south. How about you?

2 Comments | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Asia, Australia, California, Camping, England, Europe, Feature, France, Hike/Backpack, Nepal, New Zealand, Northern California, Peru, South America, Spain, Switzerland, Tasmania, United Kingdom, United States

You have to rally when it is a good friend’s 40th birthday. I almost didn’t. I was feeling overwhelmed with work and family obligations, but I knew it would do me good to get away.

My friend’s birthday fell on Inauguration Day so she really wanted to celebrate this year for many reasons. The weather was so glorious and we were headed to this resort called Seascape in Aptos, California. Just a few minutes south of Santa Cruz, this lovely spot is a great respite from the frantic city life I call my existence.

Five moms were headed to this condo to celebrate our good friend’s momentous birthday. The trip started out like some AbFab meets Sex in the City moment with three of us in a Volvo in heels, driving down Highway 1 at 10 p.m. It was pitch black and we were jabbering away about the economy when I thought I heard a plane crashing (the USAIR flight crash landing on the Hudson River fresh in my mind). Turns out, the front tire blew. It was terrifying…. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Books, California, Cruises, Family Travel, Feature, Northern California, Santa Cruz, South America, Spa/ Resort, United States, Yoga

The savvy among us have always known that many of the best travel experiences occur within a 50-mile radius of home. For some of us, however, it’s a discovery we need to make again and again.

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 »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Birdwatching, California, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Feature, Hike/Backpack, Hostels, Marin County, North America, San Francisco, Travel, United States

Every picture tells a story,” goes the Rod Stewart song from 1971, and how true that is when you add a little context to an image that grounds it in its historical place. Chris Epting makes a habit of finding spots in the United States notable for cultural incidents—both earth-shaking and privately meaningful—and capturing them in intriguing photographs that become all the more compelling when he adds his thoughts about the image, incident, and location.

What’s that photo mean of the intersection of Highways 41 and 46 in Cholame, California? What are the Trona Pinnacles in Trona, California? What significance do the front steps of the Elmira Shelton house in Richmond, Virginia have? Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Culture, Desert Travel, Feature, Gettysburg, North America, Pennsylvania, Richmond, Southern California, Travel, Virginia