Napa - Yosemite
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We had an 8-day vacation to visit Napa and Yosemite. We flew into San Francisco arriving mid afternoon and got a car and a hotel. The hotel was a Ramada Express on Lombard and if you don't mind a very small room, torn sheets and broken chairs it was very good value. The noise of the traffic sounded like the soughing of wind in the pines. We cancelled our subsequent bookings.
We took the bus to Fisherman's Warfe and checked on the Holiday Inn.They had parking charges of $48 per night!! We wandered around, ate at one of the little restaurants, visited Ghiradelli Square and went back to the motel to sleep.
Next morning we got up early and breakfasted at Mel's
This is a genuine reproduction of a 60's diner - fabulous breakfasts.
We drove to Napa in time to board the "Wine Train". The train takes four hours to travel up the valley and back, and lunch is served en route. The boarding process was rather like a cruise including the required pre-boarding photos with an appropriate background. They wouldn't allow us to take our own photos using their backdrops; I guess they wanted to sell them to us for $35. Anyway, they took good photos.
There were various "Classes" on the train. We had booked into the observation car for a champagne lunch.
After a short while the train pulled out of the station and began a very leisurely (18mph average) journey up the valley. We perused the very fancy menu and the waiter took out orders
The hundreds of vineyards rolled by, many of them were only a few acres, some were larger. The one in the picture is relatively small..
This is Opus One, one of the most expensive.They built a modern Greek temple as their Chateau.
After lunch we toured the train by ourselves, This is the lounge car - there was also a dining car. They fed the dining car folks first, then had everyone switch with the lounge and did a second sitting. There was also a bar/deli car with no meal provided.
We had by far the best deal.
We made quite sure that the engine was firmly attached.
We drove back to San Francisco via the backroads of Napa and the East Bay. From the hotel we walked to the waterfront and along to Fisherman's Wharf, didn't eat because of the wonderful and large meals we had already had, took the bus back and fell into bed in a state of exhaustion.
Next morning we ate at Mel's and headed out for Yosemite. The drive was quite pleasant - about four hours with a stop for KFC which we ate looking out over the dam for a reservoir. This was very pleasant because the dam was built on the top of rocks and the designers had arranged for all the overflow to cascade down the rocks - delightful.
The entrance into Yosemite is spectacular. On the left, the cliff is El Capitan - a premier climbing venue; to its right with a little cloud over the top is half-dome. The waterfall is Bridal Vale and a little to its left the almost hidden whitish peak is Sentinal Dome. More of both of these later.
Bridal Falls is an easily reached, spectacular fall. It is difficult to photograph from close in because of all the spray. A lot of water is coming down as you can see from the stream below.
Right across the valley is Yosemite Falls. The upper falls is the third highest in the world, the lower falls are hidden in this picture.
We explored the valley a little, looked at Camp Curry which is a whole bunch of tents at $95/night, then we drove to check into the B & B - Falcon's Nest which is in Yosemite West about thirty minutes away and 1500 feet higher than the valley. It was pretty good. It was also inside the Park so we didn't have to mess with entry permits each day. There was no sign of owners or managers; the next door neighbor came over and showed us round a little and there were lots of explanatory notes such as "Don't leave the door open, you might find a bear in bed with you". Each morning there was a tray with a bagel, a muffin and some fruit.
We ate at the Wawona Inn which is about thirty more minutes along the road and is a delightful old country inn with a great piano-man and a great restaurant
Next day we explored the road to Glacier Point. Glacier Point directly overlooks the valley and has spectacular views. It's at the end of a thirty minute drive that had recently been snow-plowed. Directly across from the Point is half-dome which is probably the most recognizable feature of Yosemite. The valley below is the Merced River which is the main river in the valley.
A little to the right, up the Merced valley are the Nevada Falls which flow down, in the second picture into the Vernal Falls. That was tomorrow's adventure.
Glacier Point used to be the site of the "FireFall" every night. The rangers would build a huge bonfire on the Point and when it was fully alight would push it over the edge into the valley below. It must have been spectacular, but someone asked if it was a "natural happening" that "belonged" in a National Park and it was stopped.
On the way back from the Point we walked to Sentinal Dome. This was the high point of the trip both literally and figuratively. There was a very pretty 1.1 mile hike (although at 6,500 feet it seemed like several more miles) to a granite dome rather like Enchanted Rock. You can see the summit in this picture.
On the way we encountered snow banks, streams and a menacing sugar pine. Diane managed to save me from the pine by hugging it to death.
When we got there Peter, of course, needed to climb it. But he lost his ice-axe in the second picture
The views were fantastic. We were almost as high as Half Dome and we were looking down on Yosemite Falls.
That night we had been so impressed by the Wawona ambience that we went back to get more.
The next day we spent in the valley and walked up to Vernal Falls - the lower of the two seen from Glacier Point. The hike was very pretty - pretty near vertical all the way up. Diane had her Park Ranger hat on. The end of the hike was at a bridge below the falls. We took photos of the falls, the river downsteam of the bridge and of the Illiouette falls in a side valley.
That night we were tired and decided to eat at the Park cafeteria. Not too good.
The next morning we packed up and set off for San Francisco. On the way we picnicked, on KFC of course, and ended up in Gilroy - Garlic Capital of the World. Peter wanted garlic icecream, but it was Sunday and the sidewalks were not only rolled up they were locked down. Nothing was open
We also visited the most peaceful place on earth - a cemetery with a fabulous view of the Pacific, The Bay and San Francisco at the end of skyline boulevard.
When we left the valley below Yosemite it was 103 degrees. In San Francisco there was a cloud layer and it was 58 degrees!
We checked into a different motel, asked about local restaurants and found a very good Thai restaurant right across the street.
The next day we walked the Embarcadero including a visit to the Grand Hyatt (too gloomy) and the park outside
Then we walked around the wonderful gardens at Golden Gate Park.
That night we took the bus to Le Central, a french bistro almost downtown. Peter remembered it being excellent from years back. It was still excellent. While we were in the park the Conservatory had been closed so we decided to go there when it opened at the crack of dawn . On vacation, the crack of dawn happens around 9 a.m. So we packed our bags before we tumbled into bed.
The next morning we went to the Conservatory. It was lovely.
Then off to the airport. We checked the car in and took the air train to the terminal. American Airlines had decided to rearrange its schedule - the flight left 90 minutes earlier. Luckily we had arrived two hours early so we walked straight on and flew to San Antonio via LAX.
As a special surprise when we got home, a Berwick's Wren had built a nest in our Fiesta wreath by the front door. It had an egg in it, you can just see it in the second picture. It now has four eggs and we are waiting for the chicks to hatch.
End of trip. Fabulous Time.
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