Friday, July 24, 2009

Californ-Eye-Ay!!! Road Trip Week 2

You know it's a good trip when it takes me two weeks to recover enough to write the post for it! After our National Park Week, we were parked and canyoned out - and ready to get back to civilization. Good 'ole Cali was the perfect answer to those prayers. From LA to San Fran, we weaved our way up the coast and celebrated our grand finale in Napa and Sonoma Valleys. I have to say, I really like California!

Our drive from Vegas on July 5th over to Los Angeles saw a huge change in temperature - peaking at 116 in Death Valley and landing at a pleasant 65 degrees when we arrived at the
Marriott in Marina del Rey, a beautiful hotel only a few blocks to Venice Beach. I have to say, it was a far cry from our "rustic" accommodations in Yellowstone only a week prior. We valeted the car ($26 a night -ugh), checked into our lovely room and quickly headed out the door to see the Pacific Ocean. There, we met my college sorority sister Marla Kornfeld Rothfarb and her family and enjoyed a delightful evening at C&O Trattoria on Venice Beach. The atmosphere was right up my Italian alley, with an outdoor courtyard lit up with strings of lights and an occasional group rendition of "When the Moon Hits Your Eye..."

The next day we hit all the hot spots - Rodeo Drive, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard and saw all the iconic symbols of the entertainment industry - from the Hollywood sign to the Stars on the Walk of Fame. We were witness to a celebrity sighting at Tod's on Rodeo and a crowd of mourners surrounding Michael Jackson's Star on Hollywood Blvd. We had a great lunch with our friend and UCLA student David Chow and his beautiful girlfriend Katherine at Ketchup, a trendy restaurant in Beverly Hills owned by Ashton Kutcher. We did not see Ashton, but enjoyed 5 flavors of ketchup at his digs and a lovely view of the Hills. We totally avoided downtown LA, since rumors were spreading that the massive convergence for MJ's memorial the next day would be God-awful. Did I mention that there's a bit of traffic in and around LA? Still a totally cool place.

Our exodus out of LA began on the second morning of Week Two, where we headed north along the Pacific Coast Highway until we found Patrick's Roadhouse on Santa Monica Beach. The historic diner is a quaint little French inspired landmark, owned by our host and waiter Silvio. We dined outside on a very narrow porch at a rustic but oh so charming wood table. The rusty Mott Street sign behind me made me flash to my favorite Chinatown basement hideaway called WoHops in NYC. I ordered the Governator - as reviewed by Guy from Diners, Drive Inns and Dives. As a favorite of Governor Arnie, I thought it should be called the Terminator, since the scrambled egg concoction was chock full of the ultimate no no's, from bacon to ham to potatoes... everything but the kitchen sink. Gene had an incredible burger and Taryn had her favorite fall back BLT. Highly recommended to stop by and say hi to Silvio, who was kind enough to share with us his favorite places to go in San Francisco.

Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu... the scenery was spectacular with the speckling of hillside houses, the winding roads and the spattering of surfers. Gotta love Southern Cali! As we made it further north, the vistas changed and we spotted fields of grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and cows. The air got chillier, the water got deeper blue and the coast got rockier. A favorite stop was one of many lookouts, where we got surprisingly close to a smelly and loud group of elephant seals. So weird the way they pile on top of each other in rows on the beach. Approaching Monterey, it got crazy steep, crazy winding and crazy incredible with views around every sharp corner. At moments, the cliffy roads took our breath away. The bikers blew our minds, riding on the edge of these roads with no railings and up tremendous inclines. Not quite ready for THAT bike tour!

Monterey CA is home to another college sorority sister, Melanie Darling Scholl and her family, whom we truly enjoyed spending an evening with over some great burgers and a few tall cold ones on our only night in that town. I can see why Mel is hoping for a few more years there before her high ranking husband has to move them again. Beautiful town and a super family.

San Francisco was our final resting place before heading home to the heat of FL in July and we were grateful for the cooler climate. This is a city I could spend some time in. It's like my cherished NYC but with a touch of Boston waterfront. Uniquely though, it has the PACIFIC OCEAN... with stunning beaches and incredible redwood forests! We absolutely loved it -and if they could only move it closer to the east coast, we would probably become regular visitors. The Georgia O'Keefe and Ansel Adams exhibit was great fun at SFMOMA, especially because we were joined by one of my favorite people to attend art museums with... my business partner and one of my BFF's, Kimberly and her family (who surprised us for the last leg of our trip)! I just loved watching my daughter and my 2 Godsons listening to their audio tours while they viewed fine art and photography together. One of those priceless moments when your worlds collide in all the right ways. I can go on and on about SF, from the street cars to the sourdough bread to the seals at the wharf to Alcatraz and even my daughter's insanely claustrophobic shopping escapade at the 3-story Forever 21. And, of course, I haven't yet been disappointed in a Kimpton Hotel - ours was the Serrano, where the complimentary wine hour at 5:30pm became a ritual for watching my daughter beat her father at Wii in the lobby.

Our last day took us over the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning, where we watched the fog roll in. It cleared up upon our arrival at the absolutely gorgeous Gargiulo Vineyards in Oakville, Napa Valley. A lovely, and now favorite, client of mine ;) arranged a private tasting and tour with Margaret Short, event planner extraordinaire. Margaret is a long-time resident and business owner in Naples, Florida, and she is spending the summer at Gargiulo planning their summer events. Our co-host and Margaret's beaux happened to be Trent Ryan, an old colleague of mine from BVK. Small world. The winery and vineyard was so beautiful and we loved every minute of our tour of the grounds. What a dream to spend a summer at a vineyard... I was jealous for sure. The wine was outstanding and we left with a couple bottles to head to Sonoma for our last evening of the trip. There, we joined Kimberly at her rented cottage for a sunset dinner. Joined by some SF friends of theirs and our employee and friend Lisa and her family, it was a beautiful evening of laughter, love and music. Kim's friend Dave brought his guitar and the kids played Frisbee in the yard, while we sat in Adirondack chairs and gazed at the wildflowers bordering the yard. Hello, I think I'm never going home!!! Alas, after a delicious meal on the porch by the talented Anthony, and a few glasses of Gargiulo wine, we headed back to the city for our final night of a long and memorable road trip with our daughter.

Simply unforgettable.