With the USA National Park Service celebrating a centenary in August 2016, the country will see an increase in visitors, and in California, the state will see hiking enthusiasts setting foot on the much-beloved network of pathways through Napa Valley, avid photographers cleaning their lenses for the best shot of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and sightseers preparing for the day’s adventure to Alcatraz Island. With a very recent trip to America’s West Coast, our US expert Roisin highlights the best way to explore California’s national treasures.
Napa Valley's year round beautiful weather and long stretches of easy and quiet roadside, makes the famous region a must for any trip to the West Coast. My personal favourite during the tour, I’d recommend staying in Carneros Inn, as it is perfect for couples and honeymooners looking for a quiet but very luxurious escape. Wake up and clear the mind with some yoga classes, test your swing on the evergreen golf courses, but whatever you do, do not miss out on a bike ride through the picture-perfect scenery of Napa.
Available at the hotel, explore the pretty surroundings on two wheels, revelling in the fresh air as you pedal passed sun-drenched vineyards, stopping every so often to sample the thirst-quenching wines. For those who are not the most confident on a bike, start in Yountville, as with more than 40 wineries within 5 miles of the town, you won’t have to bike far, but for those who want to get stuck in, you can cycle in-between the vineyards in the Carneros District, whizzing passed the delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
Once you’ve thoroughly soaked up the sun, take refuge in the river rock and timber cottage that hosts the most acclaimed restaurant in the Napa Valley. The French Laundry, a culinary dream of French cuisine in Yountville, takes humble ingredients and elevates them to masterpieces. The restaurant features a signature starter of “oysters and pearls”, a silky dish of pearl tapioca with oysters and white sturgeon caviar, that is to die for, but you need to be diligent in order to get a table- call two months ahead to the day at 10am on the dot for a booking.
An incredible conjunction of individualities form the heart of this diverse city with the likes of the communities: Chinatown, Little Italy and Japantown. For a whistle-stop tour, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, cables cars and deliciously fresh seafood are all a must, but if you have a few days in the enigmatic city, take some time to really discover the soul of the city.
I’d recommend starting with a cruise to Alcatraz Island, stepping back in time to experience the legendary island that has been a civil war fort, a military prison and one of the most notorious federal penitentiaries in US history. As you will dock just a few steps south east of Fisherman’s Wharf, this is a great opportunity to also explore the northern waterfront area of San Francisco. With the Wharf’s famous fishing fleet, sea lions basking in the sun, steaming crab cauldrons, and sourdough bakeries, spend the rest of the day walking the length from Ghirardelli Square to Pier 39 for a terrific day immersed in the cities top attractions. However, if you want to get out of the city for a few hours, head to Muir Woods to see the ancient redwood forest- some trees are over 1,500 years old.
As the sun descends, head back to your hotel to rest up and get ready for a night out on the lively town. Considered to be one of the quirkiest hotels in San Francisco, the Hotel Zetta offers some fantastic spa treatments that will leave you feeling invigorated and ready for one of the hotel’s decadent cocktails.
If you are a morning person, I can’t suggest more an early rise (before the sun is up) for a sunrise walk along Fisherman’s Wharf, as without the crowds and only a few local fisherman in the harbour, you will have the Wharf all to yourself (except for the sea lions of course).