City Guides: San Francisco & Napa Valley

I’ve always known how important mother-daughter time is. It started at an early age when my mom would whisk me away on the Amtrak when I was growing up and take me to NYC. Adorned in pea coats and faux fur mugs, I remember the feeling of dominating the city – walking all over the streets, eating at all the best restaurants and seeing the seasons best Broadway shows. That tradition continued for a decade, and now we seem to have an unspoken rule of a yearly mother-daughter vacation. This year, that vacation was in California.

As someone with a transient soul, I was curious how I would feel about San Francisco after I had some time in another major metropolitan city under my belt. San Francisco is large, spread out and sophisticated. The first day started with a Philz Coffee Mojito and a lacing up my good walking shoes. Fine, my shoes didn’t have laces, I was wearing Soludos espadrilles, but you get the point – those hills will get you! My mom set off with coffee and map in hand to explore the different neighborhoods of San Francisco. We walked from Downtown, to Chinatown, to Nob Hill, to North Beach, to Presidio, all before lunchtime! My newfound “hack” is taking uber pools in cities you don’t know well because this allows you to see the city from the comfortable seat of car and gain a different vantage point. My mom and I stopped in Cha Cha Cha in Haight-Ashbury for sangria, small plates and people watching. During lunch it started to rain, so we decided to escape the rain at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. All the botanical gardens I’ve ever been in have been indoor, but of course, CA gave us a challenge and the flora and fauna were all outdoor. The gardens are beautiful and a great opportunity to experience the park – plus it’s free for California residents! After the walk we took an uber (pool of course!) to Union Square and managed to sneak in a shop at Nordstrom.

We met up with my cousin and his girlfriend for drinks at the Instagram-friendly, Leo’s Oyster Bar. I wish I could bundle this place up and take it back to NYC with me! It reminded me of Charleston meets the west coast. After a spicy margarita for me, and a lavender champagne drink for my mom we were off to dinner – a highlight of the trip.

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I found out about The Morris when I was searching through Resy. I like using Resy in unfamiliar cities, because it filters the restaurants that in my opinion, are more sought after. I narrowed down my list to a select group, and after further research, clicked “reserve” for our one dinner in San Francisco. Always an exhilarating click for a foodie. If you have one day in San Francisco, do not miss The Morris. The restaurant is located outside of the Mission district, and is the kind of place every corner restaurant wants to be. Homey, minimalistic and delicious. We started with foie gras dumplings, and avocado and crab toasts, before moving on an insanely delicious broccoli dish and their signature plate, duck with root vegetables. Not before ending with an espresso martini! One of my favorite features of the restaurant was the pay for what you drink concept. Only a restaurant that’s owned by a sommelier would offer such a thing. We ended up having a lovely conversation about the house wine with the somm, who we would only later figure out was a waiter. We give this place 11/10 stars!

We picked up a rental car and made our way through Sonoma to Napa Valley, but not before a failed attempt at the John Muir Redwood Forest. While we did see some redwoods, the parking lots at 10 a.m. were stuffed to the brim! Napa is only about an hour and a half outside of SF, and it is the most incredible getaway from the city. Now that I think about it, these getaways are cities’ partners in crime. San Fran has Napa, New York has the Catskills, DC has Annapolis or the Blue Ridge Mountains, etc. etc. Our first official stop was for brunch at Auberge du Soleil. The food and views were magnificent – every single dish that was place before us was impressive, and for dessert I had a peach that was in its’ perfect moment of ripeness and I don’t think I’ve ever had anything more delicious.

Then it was time to get down to wine tasting business, over the two day we visited the following wineries:

A few tips for wine tasting in Napa

  • There are free tastings, but most cost around $25. If you purchase a bottle, the tasting fee will be taken off your bottle.
  • Aside from the wine, what kind of experience are you looking for? Educational, a good place to relax, a tasting menu, outdoor/indoor, classic or trendy? There are so many vineyards that you can find multiple that fit your selection.
  • The drive vs uber debate. If you are contemplating whether to rent a car vs. uber, I liked doing tastings throughout the day that would probably amount to 1-2 glass es of wine and then drive in our rental back to the hotel to drink the bottle leisurely by the pool.
  • You won’t believe Napa Valley until you see it, wineries fill each side of the road for about a 20-mile stretch, so you will have plenty of opportunities to find your favorite vintages or be spontaneous.

Napa Valley in One Day

Do

  • Mud baths in Calistoga – crazy cool spa experience

Stay

  • El Bonita Motel – cutest Americana roadside motel that was our perfect base for wine tasting

Eat

  • Auberge du Soleil
  • Gott’s Roadside – The most delicious roadside diner offering burgers, fries, salads and shakes.

No matter how you slice it, Napa Valley has something for everyone. It is a magical slice of our country that will have you setting up flight alerts so that you can jump at an opportunity to come back. After all, all you need is one night in Napa to accomplish all the things listed above.

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