Friday, April 29, 2011

Mountain Winery Concert Series

There are many wonderful venues from which to take in concerts in the Bay Area. With the warmer weather, the options broaden to include outdoor venues and one of my favorites is the Mountain Winery. Nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains just beyond Saratoga, the setting is spectacular and the line up is always fun and varied. Just remember to bring a blanket - even the warmest summer days turn into chilly nights in the mountains! Check out

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weekend Getaway: The Central Coast

When I consulted the travel sites before our trip to the Central Coast, it seemed like a pretty low key place - lots of spots of hiking, biking, enjoying the views and wildlife and, I was surprised to see, eating. Well, turns out it was an accurate summary.

With scenic highway 1 still closed in spots due to earlier mud slides, we headed down the 101 and peeled off at highway 46 which, it turns out, it chock a block full of wineries. You could easily park your car and walk to a handful right off the main road. With kids in tow we skipped this option and headed straight toward Hearst Castle, which is certainly worth a stop. As we were a bit early for our tour (you are wise to pre-book), we drove about three miles past the Castle to a beach famous for its sea lions, and were rewarded with an impressive display: hundreds of sea lions, their fur molting, flipping sand over themselves, wiggling about on the beach and making the occasional bellow.

Following out highlights tour of Hearst, we got our fix of highway 1, driving less than an hour down to Avila Beach. About five years ago a major oil spill led to a massive clean up of Avila Beach, including the rebuilding of the entire 3 block beach strip and all new sand being trucked in. The result is a charming, low key spot, perfect for hanging at the beach, walking on the pier, grabbing a bite to eat on a patio and generally relaxing. About 10 miles down the road is the larger and in our opinion not nearly as enticing town of Pismo Beach. In summer the Central Coast tends to be fogged in for a good chunk of the morning, so unless you like to sleep half your vacation day away, it may be best to visit other than in July or August. We had lovely sun and temperatures, but if the weather did not co-operate there would not have been a great deal to amuse us, as most things are centered on the outdoors.

For our final day took a short drive to Morro Bay, perhaps best known for the enormous rock that greets you. sitting just off the coast of this small fishing village. If you drive out to the rock, you may be lucky enough to find the tiny, perfect beach at the end of the road completely deserted. The Morro Bay Museum of Natural History, part of Morro Bay State Park, is also worth the detour.

As for eats, we were three generations and still managed to find choices with which everyone was happy: the Galley Seafood Grill and Bar and the Bayside Cafe both served up great food and views in Morro Bay, while Del's in Shell Beach had lovely pastas and pizzas. So the Central Coast served us up a little history, a little nature, a lot of sun and some good noshing - no complaints here!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Geek Silicon Valley

While many things may spring to mind, Geek Silicon Valley is actually the title of a book. It is a good read for anyone interested in getting a handle on how Silicon Valley came to be. Organized geographically, Geek Silicon Valley travels from San Francisco to San Jose, and all points in between, stopping to highlight the whos and wheres that made Silicon Valley what it is today. Easy to read and somewhat quirky, author Ashlee Vance covers not only the current heavy weights, but many of the little start ups that new ground but never quite became household names.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Piers of SF

Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf are what usually come to mind when you mention the piers in San Francisco; or perhaps Pier 33; where the ferry to Alcatraz departs. But starting just past AT&T Park on the Embarcadero and sweeping all the way around to Chrissy Field, just shy of the Golden Gate Bridge, the piers of San Francisco are in fact many and varied. Yes, some are now parking garages, but from food to fashion to history to outright tourist kitsch, the piers offer a bit of everything. Tucked away along Pier 45, for example, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien and the submarine USS Pampanito are both well worth a tour. Just to the west, the Hyde Street Pier is part of the city's Maritime National Historic Park tells the story of Pacific maritime history; Pier 24 by the Bay Bridge houses a contemporary photography gallery; the Ferry Building near Pier 14 has shopping, dining and a farmer's market; Pier 7 is a picturesque fishing get the idea.

While the food choices can be overwhelming, especially in the Fisherman's Wharf area, I would recommend the tiny Hollywood Cafe for a tasty and casual breakfast or lunch, and after a day of wandering, a well deserved ice cream at Norman's in Del Monte Square, in the old Cannery complex, certainly hit the spot.