Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lake Tahoe

What an incredible place Lake Tahoe California - Nevada turned out to be for me. The scenery of the lake against the mountains makes this one of the most majestic places that I have been so far. The winding steep slopes up the mountain are so incredibly beautiful. You don't realize that you are riding at such steep angle until you actually see the lake down below.

Maybe I was mesmerized by the beauty of it all, but being from the Gulf Coast where everything is flat, I was very excited to take it all in. However, as I held "Stew" (my friends precious little schnauzer) on my lap, I felt Stew become a little anxious as we made our way further up the mountain. I soon realized that he was getting slightly nervous, which in turn made me nervous as well. When I was able to actually see down the mountainside for the first time, I was surprised to see just how far down it was !

We had rented a 4 wheel drive for the journey just in case of snow, however, we were not so fortunate to be able to use it for that purpose. Although I had hopes of being "snowed in" inside a cabin at Lake Tahoe for the weekend, I had no such luck since it never snowed while we were there . We had arrived there on the evening of Thanksgiving and stayed there through the weekend. The weather during that time was actually very nice, only requiring a light jacket. It got slightly cold at night, but I am sure it did not compare to the typical winter temperatures they must have there when it snows, which happened shortly after we left.

We stayed in a two bedroom cabin in South Lake Tahoe which allowed for us to have Stew with us and it was very close to the lake, along with not being far from the casinos at the state line. It was a two story cabin, which at first glance didn't look like very much, however the inside had been recently upgraded and it was pleasantly comfortable. It did take us a couple of days to actually figure out how to use the heater fan, which we ended up needing downstairs at night when the temperature dropped. Although the cabin we had chosen didn't have much of a mountainous or lake view, it was an ideal location in South Lake Tahoe and so close to everything. We were very pleased with where we stayed, and I will probably return to that same cabin when I go back.

I enjoyed driving up the mountain on our first full day where we hiked lightly up the mountain while I took pictures of everything and everyone. I even ended up with a delightful collection of dead tree pictures, which I will remember fondly from that mountain. (This is a joke and my poor attempt at photographing something that seemed so fitting at the time.) The views from between the trees looking out down onto the lake were absolutely stunning and breathtaking. I will remember how wonderful it was to breathe that mountain air which seemed to fill my lungs so much greater than anywhere else.

We also visited Logan Shoals Vista Point which allowed us to see some very beautiful sights of the water and looking across the lake. We visited the lakeside beach where we walked down to see the water and to take pictures. I was so surprised with the clarity and stunning color of the water that it was almost as if you could dip a cup into it and drink it. The sight of the beach with the mountains in the background represented a very magical place that I had found in Lake Tahoe. It is a picture of such a truly perfect place that I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying the visit there, and I would expect that they would find themselves being as speechless as I was. I didn't have as much time on this trip as I had hoped to have had in order to explore and experience Lake Tahoe further, but it will definitely be a place that I will return to again and again in the future.

Leaving Lake Tahoe early in the morning on our very last day was a very special thing. My friend had taken us the scenic route home and he drove around the lake back towards Roseville where we were headed. He had planned that we would make it around the mountain in time to see the sunrise and it was beautiful gesture since it was something that I truly appreciated being able to see with him once more. When you leave such a beautiful place, it makes it even more memorable to leave it with such a vivid image locked in your memory. I won't forget watching him drive around that mountain and seeing the sunrise as we traveled away from Lake Tahoe, such a beautiful place that everyone should experience.

Napa Valley

It really surprised me just how close Napa was to San Francisco. I had really expected to drive for some time before seeing the well known countryside with visions of vineyards for miles and miles. However, very quickly as we made it out of town, the Valley appeared. It's beautiful rolling hills with rows of vines in every direction and vast space of countryside seemed to go on forever.

I had envisioned something slightly different since I had never been to Napa before, and had honestly only seen it in travel internet pictures. It was not at all what I had imagined. It was a very quaint and sedate community. The wineries were all so very different. Some more modern and touristy, while others were really small and very friendly. But each of them had one most important of course ! All kinds of wine...for every taste and desire.

Myself, I am a Riesling girl. My friend had already researched which wineries in Napa might have a Reisling for me to try..... and we did find that. There were so many wineries that we did not even make it to a third of them, so my comments are only based on those which I was able to visit. This was my first visit and a leisurely trip, so we took our time and enjoyed the wine. We enjoyed the view while stopping alongside the road where I was able to take pictures of the beautiful countryside and document this beautiful place so that I could remember it in detail.

The Robert Mondavi winery is absolutely beautiful and has some very good private selections of wine that I would highly recommend trying. This vineyard has some beautiful views which makes the perfect backdrop for picture enthusiasts, so it really is a must see !

I really enjoyed our visit to the V'Sattui winery in St. Helena. This winery had the Riesling wines which I had looked forward to trying. I actually purchased several bottles of wine and they had some really good red wines as well. I would highly recommend that you do as we did and have a small picnic there outside on the grounds. We purchased some wonderful french cheese and ordered a meatball sandwich there at the winery. Along with a bottle of wine and our picnic lunch at a picnic table outside the winery....what could be more romantic ? The weather was perfect and it made for a very memorable day.

The Beringer winery is also such a gorgeous place that you should definitely visit and tour both sections at Beringer.

We stayed a really nice place in Rutherford...called the Rancho Caymus Inn which we really liked. It's a very quiet romantic place and very close to a great restaurant within walking distance of the Inn....called the Rutherford Grill where we had the most wonderful steak ! I would highly recommend staying at the Inn and just walking the 1 block to the restaurant as we did, it's literally right next door.

I think besides the great wine, great company, and the gorgeous weather, I would say that the most enjoyable part of Napa was riding around just viewing the vineyards. It's such a leisurely pace that you will enjoy taking it slow and enjoying the sites.

San Franciso, the Giant Leap

In November 2008, I took a big giant leap ( in my own eyes anyway) and I stepped onto a plane and traveled to California to visit a friend. I looked forward to a much needed break away from my small coastal town in Mississippi. I had never even been as far as Texas, so I was very anxious to see this other part of the country which was so unfamiliar to me and I was very excited.

I have always heard how very beautiful California is and I expected to fall in love with it. However, I did not expect that to happen from the moment that I placed one foot on the ground...which was indeed what happened. I was not prepared to love how California made me FEEL. See, I am southerner, a southern belle, a Gulf Coast native, a hurricane survivor, and a Mississippi girl at heart. Given all of those things, I still was more than happy to be traveling to the other side of the country to experience something new and unfamiliar to me.

I met my friend in Sacramento at the airport and from there we traveled to San Francisco, Napa Valley, and Lake Tahoe. I do have much to say about each one...each very unique, and each are very beautiful places.

My journey began in San Francisco where we went directly to see the Golden Gate bridge, which everyone insists that you must see from every angle and I honestly do agree ! From every angle, the bridge is stunning and the photos which I took of the bridge in the background make up some of my most cherished photographs I have of that visit. Being that it is such a beautiful bridge, and with it's location on the Pacific ocean is absolutely one of the most stunning sights to see.

I really enjoyed Fisherman's Wharf...a very touristy area, but quite fun and friendly. I also enjoyed the trip to famous Alcatraz, which has a remarkable view of the city from it's small little island. It is definitely worth seeing for the history and for the view. The weather in late November was absolutely perfect for the Wharf and Alcatraz. We even walked what felt like 20 miles around downtown San Francisco in order for us not to miss the local fare, which in retrospect allowed me to see a side of the city that I probably would have otherwise missed.

Even riding the cable car from Union square down to the Wharf, I continued to fall in love with this very unique place with so much to do and see. Although I had imagined eating so much great food during my entire visit, we actually stayed so busy that we didn't make time for visiting as many restaurants as I had once thought possible. However, there are a few good ones to mention, even if I can't honestly compare them to so many of the other places there. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the food of such place was called the Stinking Rose which is aptly named for the garlic which they profusely use in every dish. You should check it out, it was worth the trip and I would highly recommend the Dungeness Crab which was absolutely wonderful !!