Tag Archives: California

Top Ten Tips for the San Francisco Traveler

Click to read past installments of this trip journal … 

Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 – Day 4 – Day 5 – Day 6 – Day 7 – Day 8

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(1) If you’re going to San Francisco, book your tour to Alcatraz in advance … or you will not get in. I am still way disappointed about this one. Yes, we did take a narrated boat tour around the island … but I wanted IN. I wanted to see the cells, the dining hall, the common shower area, the “Hole” (solitary confinement). I’m just curious (weird) that way. And I’ve promised myself I’ll get back there to see it.

(2) Leave any high-heeled shoes at home, even if it’s your wedding day.  The slope of half the streets you’ll be navigating will make you want to chuck them into the nearest trash can. Which brings me to my next point …

(3) Trash cans are not always easy to find. When you do find them, you’re likely to see multiple cans with labels like recycle, compost and landfill … and you quickly learn the sorting process. (Nicely done, California.) The problem is that you can’t always find them. While in Chinatown one day, I searched three or four blocks to find a receptacle in which I could discard a wad of chewed gum until I finally came upon this one on a busy city street.


Yes, that’s a padlock.

(4) If you have a hankering for cheese, check out Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building Marketplace. I recommend basically everything in the place and give two thumbs up to their signature Mt. Tam cheese. (There’s a reason it looks just like butter.) And be sure to tell them ODNT sent you. But don’t expect it to get you anything … as they have absolutely no idea who I am.

(5) Try to knock out #4 on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. That way, you can also check out their killer Farmer’s Market. There won’t be something you seek  that you can’t find there. Seriously, they have every vegetable and fruit imaginable. Did I buy any? Nah. I bought cheese, bread, wine-soaked figs, toffee, honey and other non-produce.

(6) While you’re traipsing all over town on foot, try to work the Filbert Steps into your walk. They run from the east slope of Telegraph Hill (coincidentally right where we were staying) all the way down to Sansome Street. The hills of San Francisco are sometimes so steep that stairs need to be put in for pedestrians. In this case, 378 stairs to be exact. (For reference, the Statue of Liberty has a mere 364.) And this long and winding staircase actually serves as a street for the houses along it, many of which are only accessible via this wooded and beautifully-landscaped climb. (Can you imagine? … “Hang on. I think I left it in the %$&#ing car. Be back in an hour!”)

(7) When in Chinatown, be on the look out for New On Sang Poultry (also known as San Francisco Poultry), located at 1114 Grant Avenue. A writing friend of mine turned me on to it but she could neither remember the name nor the address of the place. Melissa, telling me to find the “You Pick It, We Kill It, But No Pictures!” place in all of the 24 square blocks of Chinatown just wasn’t specific enough. (Yes, I realize the irony of not Googling the name and location of this place until I returned to New Orleans.) Anyway, Melissa dared me to take a picture of the ‘old world charm’ that occurs at New On Sang. And, for the record, I searched to see if anyone else had ever tried … but found nothing. So, maybe it’s best that I didn’t risk Chinese prison for the sake of what would likely be a very disgusting photograph.

(8) Allow time on your drive back from Carmel to stop at one of the many fruit stands and take advantage of things like TEN avocados for ONE dollar …. TEN ears of corn for ONE dollar … TEN artichokes for ONE dollar. Seriously. And then send them to me. I’ll pay you back.

(9) If you don’t want to give up a whole day to the wine country … or, like me, you’re not high brow enough for it and are afraid the kid you’re dragging along will be bored to tears … consider the San Francisco Half-Day Wine Country Tour. It’s the lazy wine lover’s dream. The tour doesn’t even start until noon and gets you back just in time for dinner. And, in only five or so hours, we managed to taste 18 different vintages. That’s good enough for the likes of me. I had to get back to town for some valuable t-shirt shopping and oxygen bar testing.

(10) If you get the chance for a foot massage in Chinatown (or any massage of Asian descent), take it. They aren’t all hung up on propriety like the tightly-wound Americans. Clean water in the foot basins? Fancy towels? Privacy from other patrons? Screw it all. Close your eyes. There’s your privacy. What you get with the Asian massage experience is someone working their small hands and/or feet to the bone for you … using practices, in some cases, that are older than the Earth itself. And you’ll leave loose as a noodle for a very fair price.

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Thanks, San Francisco. We had a blast!

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ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 6


Today, the boy and girls of the ODNT Family Conglomerate decided to divide and conquer the great expanse of California. The boys packed up early and headed out to stay overnight at Yosemite while the girls took on wine country.

(To those of you standing there with your dropped jaw, pick it the hell up. We’ve been over this again and again. Me = Eva Gabor. On some days, maybe even Zsa Zsa. No, that doesn’t mean I’m slapping cops or dripping with diamonds. Nor does it mean I have a Hungarian accent. It just means I’m a city girl who hates getting her hair wet, likes manicured hands and feet and LOVES electricity, largely because of the flat iron upon which I am unapologetically dependent.)

So, we (the girls) took the one mile-ish walk to the pick up point for the tour. And, because we couldn’t get a straight answer as to whether or not food would be available on the tour, we stopped at a little mom-and-pop store along the way to pick some cheese, crackers, grapes, cookies and water and bring it all with us on the motor coach. Our guide was great and quickly fell in love with my girl. I heard her name spoken more than the word ‘wine’ over the PA. He was all “If you look out of your left window, you’ll see one of the original mission bells still hanging in the town square. Vivien, can you see the bell?” AND “I’m getting a little tired. Vivien, do you think you could come up here and take the wheel?” And it certainly kept her attention.

Our tour featured the Sonoma region (not NAPA, which was described as being much “more commercial”). We stopped first at Viansa Winery. It was absolutely beautiful … and here’s the proof.




As soon as we walked into the tasting area, we were welcomed with a taster’s glass of Vino Bianco. The staff there was busy but friendly and willing to answer any number of my (more-often-than-not) goofy questions. After finishing our introductory samples, we each opted for their Vino Classico flight, which allows you to choose four wines to taste for a flat fee. We purposefully selected different wines and shared so we could try eight in all.

My choices

  • 2010 Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Sangiovese
  • 2010 Cabernet Savignon Reserve
  • 2010 Tocai Friutano

My mom’s choices

  • 2011 Arneis
  • 2008 Cabernet Franc
  • 2011 Aleatico Rose
  • 2011 Vino Rosata

My girl’s choice


The label says “Vignette, Wine Country Soda, Chardonnay, All Natural, Non-Alcoholic.” I love that they had this stuff for her.

Oh, yeah. And we bought a bottle of wine. (hiccup)

The other vineyard we visited today (this was only a 5 hour tour) was Roche Winery & Vineyards. It’s situated within the little community of Sonoma, California. And the wine flight there was pre-determined.

Here’s what we sampled:

  • 2009 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
  • 2009 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Carneros Pinot Noir Reserve
  • 2010 Carneros Merlot
  • 2010 Syrah
  • 2011 Tamarix
  • 2010 Muscat Canelli
  • 2009 Late Harvest Chardonnay

Between the Syrah and the Tamarix, the vineyard hostess took us inside to sample wine straight from the barrel. She used a dropper to extract the wine directly from a small opening in the barrel. And … can I add that she said the small opening is called a bunghole??

(Scratch across record)

Here I am … trying to look all sophisticated … inhaling the aroma and volatizing the wine around in my glass … when the woman has to drop “bunghole.” The good news is that I’m not a laugh out loud kind of person (unless I am really tickled). The bad news is that I can make no such claim about my eyes. And the woman was looking right at me. She laughed and said she hears Beavis & Butthead jokes all the times. Now, because I hated that show as there are times that I really am holier than thou, I assured her that my reaction had nothing to do with those two animated boobs and that the term ‘bunghole’ was around long before they re-popularized it. (I’m quite sure I impressed the crowd with my bunghole knowledge.)

But, you know … I just had to look it up when I came home. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia:

Usage of the term as a slang word for the anus dates back to at least the 16th century, as shown in Gargantua by François Rabelais. “…I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose…”[3]

In the MTV cartoon series, Beavis and Butt-head created by Mike Judge, the term “bunghole” was popularized as both a personal insult and slang for anus. In hisCornholio persona, Beavis says that he needs “TP (toilet paper) for my bunghole.” The two central characters also use the term when referring to one another.

Truly, it was a proud day to be me.

Anyway, we bought another bottle of wine. And when the wine … and bunghole conversation … was complete, we walked around the little town, wishing we had more time there. We, of course, went straight to The Cheese Factory (NOT to be confused with The Cheesecake Factory) which was a gourmet food store where we bought everything from cheese, strawberries & creme fraiche, gelato, water crackers and fudge. (God, I hope I remembered to pack my stretchy pants.)

Then, we found our way back to the bus and were entertained all the way home by our tour guide’s extensive knowledge of all things San Francisco, Sonoma and wine. Free of charge … I’ll share one of the many things we learned today.

Q. Why are roses often planted alongside the grapes at these vineyards?

A. It’s the same logic as coal miners bringing a canary into the mines. They knew that the very fragile canary would pass out from lack of oxygen far before they would so it gave them fair warning. Roses are extremely susceptible to excessive moisture and thus will wilt long before the grapes so the farmers have time to take the necessary action to save them.

Yes, I know. You’ve all been wondering for years. You are welcome! I’ll bet you don’t this kind of information on David Snape‘s blog. Probably just a coupon for a whitening toothpaste. Wait! I could probably use that after drinking all of that red wine! Damn it, Snape.

When we were almost home, our guide pulled over to a beautiful look out spot right before the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a little tricky to take pictures and keep from blowing off the mountain but we managed.


We got back to the tour drop-off spot right around 6pm. Our plan was to catch a cable car to Chinatown (which is right near our condo) but the wait to get on was 45 minutes. Not today. So, we went on foot, taking a different but still-one-mile walk back to the condo and passing right through’s San Franciso’s Little Italy. Everything looked amazing. But, unfortunately, we weren’t hungry and we were tired, so we kept walking, stopping only once to pick up half a dozen things at the little grocery store. Plus, it gave us a short breather before taking on the steepest incline of our trip home. I guess I thought a gallon of milk in one hand could balance two wine bottles in the other. I guess I thought carrying more on the steep incline would be easier. Maybe I should’ve offered my girl a piggy back ride on the way up as well.

Whatever. I’m here. We made it. We’re exhausted. No one slept much last night so we all are tonight. Until tomorrow, I leave you with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge as taken from Marin County.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5