Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Driving Down the West Coast: Napa Valley and SFO

Monday, October 11, 2010

Driving Down the West Coast: Napa Valley and SFO

We are currently in Spokane, Washington but let me complete our last year’s drive down to Mexico through the West Coast from British Columbia. This Part is about our days of wine in the vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley and our short visit with family and some friends in San Francisco.

Napa Valley slowly emerged as bright sun burnt golden fields after the dreary volcanic landscape of the Cascade Volcanic Arc.  Bill and I happily and appropriately moved from one winery to another driving Vino, tasting great wines, white, red, and rose. Our favorite was El Castillo in Calistoga which rose from the vineyards like a medieval castle in Europe.  Inside were rooms with giant frescoes on the stone walls and courtyards filled with flowers. Topping all these were very entertaining bartenders!

The Valley is widely considered one of the top viticultural areas in all of the United States. By the end of the nineteenth century there were more than one hundred and forty wineries in the area. Of those several still exist in the valley today. In addition to large scale wineries, Napa Valley's boutique wineries produce some of the world's best and award-winning wines. Today more than three hundred wineries are visited by as many as five million people each year.

I know Bill would have wanted to stay there forever but we needed to be in Mexico by November for the annual family reunion so we quickly moved on to San Francisco for a short visit with family and friends and a quick taste of the romantic City by the Bay.  

The City is the 12th most populous in the US, with a 2010 estimated population of almost 900,000.  It is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of more than 7.4 million. It was first established as a fort at the Golden Gate in 1776.  The California Gold Rush in 1848 propelled the city into a period of rapid growth but after three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, the city was quickly rebuilt. 

During World War II, it became the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, etc., cemented San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States. Today, San Francisco is renowned for its chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic architecture and famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Chinatown

Cherry, my youngest sister, lives there with her husband Ric, a radiation therapist. Zan, her daughter works in the city, too, while Cherry teaches neighborhood grade school kids dance and theater.   Then Bill and I pigged out on sorely missed Filipino dishes and a quick stroll with former co-workers (Fides and husband Benjie and their only grandson and Tess who was later picked up by her kids) from the Institute of Advanced Computer Technology in the Philippines. 

 It was a short visit but I especially looked forward to the next stops in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, home of famed wonders of nature, Half Dome, El Capitan, and great falls in Yosemite and General Sherman and other giant sequoias in the latter!