Yesterday I got back from a week away in the USA. I had three nights in Napa and four nights in down town San Francisco. It was pretty great.
There was a bit of a rough start though: high winds in Sydney delayed all flights around Australia. Our flight was delayed about four hours. So, we did what any good Australian does and got drunk in the Qantas lounge.
It turned out, that because of delays, our BNE-SYD sector landed right when our SYD-SFO was due to depart. Qantas transferred us onto a SYD-HNL flight instead. At least I got to travel on a Boeing 747 before they’re all retired!
So, we transited in Honolulu for five hours. Which was great, because we were all dressed for San Fran weather, not Waikiki Beach weather.
But finally, after a brief stay in a Honolulu airport hotel we were on our way to San Francisco! In a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 which was 32 years old. And it was just as marvellous as you would expect it to be. But, eventually we arrived in San Fran, only eight-or-so hours after we had initially planned. Not so bad. We had IHOP for dinner on the way out to our Airbnb in Napa.
I have to say though, driving on the wrong side of the road is a harrowing experience, especially when you’re tired, it’s night, and raining. But, driving across the Golden Gate Bridge was pretty epic.
The following day was my Australian birthday. We went for breakfast at the Boonfly Cafe. There was a little bit of a wait before we could get a table, so we had alcohol for breakfast.
They also gave me some donuts with a candle in it. Otherwise, the food was pretty amazing, and service impeccable.
Later that day, we wondered around downtown Napa. The autumn colours of the trees were pretty amazing—-colours you just don’t get in Brisbane.
Then we sat on a chair.
We also watched the Napa Christmas Parade. Chris was expecting a production similar to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. It was not. So we drunk some more.
The following day, my American birthday, we went on a private wine tour. Austin at Noble Wine Tours did an amazing job arranging our intinerary. Jon, our driver and guide, was great and had the patience of a saint looking after three drunk Australians.
Our first stop was Jarvis. They grew their own grapes, but all of their fermenting and barreling was underground, in tunnels. Pretty cool! They had some amazing wines for us to taste, as well. The guide was great, certainly knew his stuff and was pretty happy to shoot the shit as well.
Next up was ZD Wines. Their winery was on a beautiful estate, and their tasing room had an absolutely amazing view over the vineyard.
Our third stop was B Cellars. Interestingly, although they grow their own grapes, they don’t actually use them to make wine just yet. They also had an amazing cave system for their barrell storage. They too had beautiful grounds.
B Cellars also hosted us for lunch, a three course food and wine “experience”: small plates matched with wine.
The food was tasty, for sure, but possibly not enough of a feed for the amount of wine we had consumed.
The final stop of the day was Alpha Omega. More beautiful grounds, more amazing wine.
To be honest, this place is a bit vague—-all I remember was Ash asking questions about how American toilets work, and posing vaguely inflammatory political questions to Jon and our guide.
After Alpha Omega we headed towards home. We decided we needed to eat, so Jon dropped us in Yountville. We ate at a French restaurant, which incidentally had just won a Michelin star. We were much too drunk to appreciate the (very expensive) food. But, they gave me cake with a candle on it. Again, too drunk to photograph.
The next day was our drive back to San Fran. Needless to say, I was far too hung over to have enjoyed the drive. That night we went to the basketball at Oracle Arena. It was completely different to any of the sports I’ve experienced in Australia. At first, the atmosphere wasn’t great—probably because we (the home team, Golden State Warriors) were playing poorly. By half time though, things had tightened up but we were still losing. So, they gave us clappy sticks. Then we won!
Tuesday we went to SF MOMA. Chris loved it.
In the afternoon, we caught a cablecar and then it started raining. Then, it broke down, so we walked down Lombard Street towards Fishermans Wharf.
On Wednesday, Chris and I did a bit of wandering around down town and did some shopping.
In the evening we did a night tour of Alcatraz. We had already done a tour of Alcatraz a few years ago, but it was Ash’s first time. It was pretty different at night: it added a bit of extra ambiance to the experience. Having said that though, we had less than two hours on the island, and a lot of the outdoor areas were closed “for my safety”. So, we couldn’t look at the gardens or the recreation yard, for example.
On Thursday, we went for a bike ride. I think I was the only person who actually wanted to go for a bike ride, but nevertheless I dragged Chris and Ash along. To be fair, it is actually further than I thought from Fishermans Wharf to Golden Gate Bridge.
As we got to the bridge, there was a storm. The wind was strong enough to rip my poncho. We all got very wet.
Once on the other side of the bay, we admired the view. We continued to bike around to Sausalito, and had lunch overlooking the bay. We caught the ferry back to SF, because fuck riding the 20 km back.
That night, we went out in the Castro, SF’s historical LGBT district. What a night. There appears to be no concept of responsible service of alcohol, and no measuring of shots. It was great. There are many more photos—mostly not suitable for public consumption.
The next day, despite feeling dusty as fuck, we checked out of our Airbnb and motored on into our hotel downtown for the day. We had brunch (chicken and waffles again, yasss!), and got our photo taken with Santa.
Chris and I caught the streetcar down to Fishermans Wharf again, looking for a street artist that we saw last time. We had hoped that because it was sunny, there would be more going on. And we were right: the weather was beautiful but there were so. Many. People! But, we found our street artist and got ourselves a spray-painted stylised portrait of SF and the bridge.
Then, we went back to the hotel, showered, went to the airport and started the 16-hour journey home. It was a whirlwind week away, but what a way to turn thirty.