Fabulous San Francisco
San Francisco. It’s one of those cities that need no introduction. The fabulous fog city is well known for innovation, rich culture and nightlife. From sightseeing to shopping to entertainment, San Fran has a never ending menu with choices for every type of traveler. Popular attractions include fine museums, theatres, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf. But if you are transiting in the City by the Bay, we’ve worked out how to pack some of this fabulousness into a short road trip.
San Fran’s most recognizable landmark, the Ferry Building is a perfect place to start your day. Order fresh coffee and some caramelized Belgian waffles at Blue Bottle Coffee, an artisan micro roasting coffee house. Pick a bench to watch the ferries glide across the bay to feel the refreshing breeze as you enjoy breakfast. While you are there, pick up some fruit and cheese from the Ferry Building Market Place where farmers set up shop on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The perfect day trip out of San Francisco would be a drive up to award winning wineries in Napa and Sonoma just over an hour away. Take the scenic route via Golden Gate Bridge for views of the Bay Area and Alcatraz, and experience San Fran in its foggy glory before encountering the dramatic difference as you approach Napa. From scenic country roads you descend into Napa Valley, with spectacular views of rolling vineyards and Mount St Helena to greet you. While some wineries prefer pre-booking, some such as Robert Mondavi Winery allow walk-ins. You can sign up for a winery tour and learn about the art of wine making as part of your wine tasting tour or opt for just a sit down wine tasting experience at the To Kalon Cellar while you nibble on delicious small bites from chocolate to cheese to charcuterie made from locally sourced ingredients. You can make a leisurely exploration of the estate and appreciate art from around the world, then pick up a few bottles to take home at the end of your self guided tour. The most interesting wines at this vineyard are the whites. Try the 2010 Block Fume Blanc with citrus notes.
You can stay at Robert Mondavi for lunch with special wine paired menu by in house chef Jeff Mosier. It is part of a one-hour walking winery tour that concludes with a one-anda-half hour three-course wine-pairing lunch. Alternatively, you can opt to go to the town centre to pick from an array of restaurants ranging from fast food to Mexican and Asian.
There are countless vineyards worth exploring in Napa, including The Paraduxx Winery, Mont St John and Sutter Home. Or you could go to Sonoma for the afternoon and explore Nicholson Ranch Winery at the intersection of Napa and Sonoma. The Nicholson Ranch Chardonnay and Pinot Noir won two Double-Golds and two Gold medals at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition. Their tasting room is open from 10am to 6pm daily.
Ninebark in Napa is a perfect choice for sundowners, knowing you are in the safe hands of two Michelin star chef Mathew Lightner and featuring California-focused marketforward cuisine. We opted for alfresco sunset drinks first to enjoy the views of Napa River under the golden rays from atop this multi-leveled establishment.
Fine dining at Ninebark includes a choice of green tomato Gazpacho with fried oysters, calcot onion and grilled green strawberries or a Poke of house onion barbeque sauce, braised kombu, brown butter dashi and sesame seeds for appetizers. The main is a choice of roasted ling cod, sun choke, smoked green garlic sauce, lemon and capers or Charcoal roasted duck with lavender honey, heirloom spinach and grilled lovage sabayonas, or a Flatiron steak with fresh Napa ‘chimichurri’, koji barbecue sauce and grilled baby scallions. You can obviously pair this with Napa Valley wines of choice from a wide selection from their cellar. After your hearty meal, the quiet drive back will have you ready for some late night fun in San Francisco if you are up for it.
You can’t claim that you’ve been to San Francisco if you haven’t explored the city’s vibrant nightlife. When the sun goes down, a different side of San Fran is turned on and it varies by neighbourhood. Along Valencia Street in the Mission District are tiny but elegant bars, while Mission Street has nightspots and dance clubs for all tastes. Jazz can be found closer to Union Square. Hayes Valley has more bistros and restaurants and cabaret. For the younger crowd both the Fillmore strip in Pacific Heights and Chestnut Street in the Marina might as well be open-air pubs. The famous Castro Street is best known for being the centre of the city’s queer culture. The Castro came out in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when gay men started buying Victorian buildings in the once-sleepy suburb. It’s a destination during the day, but an even livelier host in the evening. Whether you want to catch a movie, grab a naughty cookie, dance, sing karaoke, or just people watch, the Castro has it all. Once you have had your fill you can call it a night and head back to your hotel room and dream of more fabulous San Francisco days.
Fiji Airways flies direct to San Francisco from Nadi on Tuesdays and Thursdays.