Friday, June 29, 2018

Napa Valley

Napa County, CA, USA
My aunt and uncle are awesome and were willing to work around what we wanted to do. They love wine, and they own a vacation rental property in Napa. So, when I suggested that we wanted to go to Napa my aunt made sure we'd be able to make it. I went to Napa on my last trip, but I was only 21 or 22 so my wine palate was not yet refined. Now, that I was 28 at the time I wanted to try wine tasting again because I know what I like and I have a better understanding of the different types of wines (semi-sweet reds, if you're wondering. By the way, if you are traveling to Napa and want an awesome place to stay you should totally book my aunts house (not sponsored, I promise).

My friend, Rosendo, was able to make it with us to Napa which was nice because I hadn't seen him in a while. He met me in San Francisco when I had the long layover coming back from Asia, so he already knew my aunt and uncle.
The first winery we went to was Domaine Carneros. You're going to have to ignore that picture of me above. Not sure why I'm looking like that. This was my second time at Domaine Carneros. I like this winery because it sits up on a hill and you can look out at all the vineyards. It also gives the illusion that you are fancier than you really are because you are drinking wine at what looks like a French estate. My aunt and uncle are members of this winery so the woman may or may not have overfilled our wine tasting glasses a little bit. I got the Chateau sampler, and I believe Rosendo and Megan did too, and it was a good choice because it had a mix of reds and sparkling wines, which are my favorites. We also got a cheese plate and caviar. The caviar brought me back to Russia because any celebration they'd whip out the caviar.
The second winery we went to was Monticello Vineyards. The story goes that one of the sons was very fond of Thomas Jefferson, and aimed to build a replica of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello home (pictured above). While I preferred the wine at Domaine Carneros, I'd totally recommend this winery. The wine was good, but even better was the views and the fact that we were the only people there. It was like we had our own private vineyard. The older woman working inside was so sweet as well.
After the wineries we went back to the rental house to check on a few things. By that I mean my aunt did most of the work and we tried. Megan picked some lemons from the lemon tree, and I stood around and took pictures. I think Rosendo might have done more work too. I think I remember him wiping down the cushions outside. The house is seriously spectacular and my aunt designed the interior herself. The backyard is also nice and private, and literally like my dream back yard with a nice covered porch and a small path that goes out to a hammock.
Have you ever been to Napa? What is your favorite winery?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Land's End Octagon House

2301 El Camino Del Mar, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA
I came across the Land's End Octagon House when I was looking for odd things to do in San Francisco. It had potential to be interesting, but I should have known from the walk to get there that it wouldn't be worth it. Since the Octagon House wasn't too far from the Sutro Baths I thought we could kill two birds with one stone. However, I'm out of shape and walking up the hill on a mildly hot day wasn't my favorite thing to do. Eventually Megan convinced me that we should still try to find the house. I had the basic location of the house, but we kept walking around where it should be located and we saw nothing. After a while I realized that it was actually up another hill and I wasn't sure it was going to be worth it. Again, Megan convinced me that it wasn't THAT far. We saw the house, but we still didn't know how to actually get to it. Finally, I saw a path through a parking lot and decided we should try it.
The Land's End Octagon House was built in 1927 to replace the older lookout, built in 1889, to make way for a more scenic lookout for the park. It was the third lookout in Land's End. Unfortunately, now the building is surrounded by a fence which makes it difficult to take good photos or get close to it. I'm also not one to break rules or enter a place that clearly doesn't want to be entered. The lookout is waiting to be restored by the National Parks Service, and I think it would make a cool cafe or observation deck as long as you're willing to have trees blocking your view.
Despite kind of being a waste Land's End did have a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Camera Obscura & the Sutro Baths

1004 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA
On my first trip to San Francisco back in 2011 my aunt took my friend and I to eat at the Cliff House. The food was spectacular, but the original Cliff House and Sutro Baths below are what drew me in. I'm convinced it was the beginning of my love for abandoned things. After we ate lunch we walked to the gift shop, and I fell in love with an illustration of what the Sutro Baths looked like back when they were fully functioning. I'm a sucker for late 1800-early 1900s history so I could not stop thinking about that illustration and how much I wanted it. Eventually, I convinced myself to go back on the last day to buy it because I knew I'd regret it when I did. This became my favorite spot in San Francisco. In 2014 I had a long layover in San Francisco. My aunt asked me where I wanted to it or what I wanted to see and I, of course, said the Cliff House.
On both trips, though, I actually never made it to anything other than the restaurant and gift shop. This time I knew I had to finally go and Megan was totally up for it. We went to Camera Obscura first just because I wanted to take pictures of it. We never intended to go inside especially because it was $3, and I'm super cheap, but I decided to spend it because I knew I'd regret it if I didn't. I'm totally glad I did. Inside there is a 6 foot parabolic focusing table which captures the 360 degree images from a rotating lens in the roof. The technology was based on a design by Leonardo da Vinci, so it is quite old, but hard to believe this is something that existed way before our time. The camera also displays holographic images on the wall which need to be viewed from a distance, something I didn't realize right away. The camera was built by Floyd Jennings in the 1940s for Playland at the Park. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places!
The camera was cool, but I really wanted to finally go down and see the Sutro Bath ruins on this trip. The Sutro Baths were the brain child of Adolf Sutro, an engineer who made millions during the gold rush and one time mayor of San Francisco. He was a German immigrant who arrived in 1850 at just 20 years old. In the 1880s he began obtaining land for a grand bath house. The pools in the bath house were fed water from the Pacific Ocean. The bath house was immensely popular, but the cost of operation was expensive and in 1966 it was listed for demolition before it mysteriously burned down. Sutro also bought the old Cliff House from the original owners in 1881, but it burned down twice. Once in 1894, where it was rebuilt in its famous Victorian style, but they building burned down again in 1907. In 1977, the National Park Service obtained the Cliff House and in 2005 it was remade into its original neoclassical design.
For some reason my mind remembers San Francisco being empty last time I was here. Maybe it was because it was cold and rainy that no one wanted to venture down to the Baths, but I definitely don't remember so many people being there. I don't like being surrounded by people, but we didn't really have a choice. Despite there being so many people I think it kind of puts in perspective how big the Sutro Baths were. It's also neat that you are still allowed to walk on them and explore the area, but be careful about falling in to the dirty standing water. There was also a cave to the right as you walk down the hill that you can walk in. It's nothing spectacular, but its another thing to check out while you're there.
Have you been to Camera Obscura, Sutro Baths, or the Cliff House?
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