Escaping the Texas heat

Montecito, CA
We love Texas---just not in August, so Jim and I decided to escape to California this year. I must admit that we missed our month in Como and may go back there next summer but we had a great and very cool time in lovely CA.
Huntington Hotel on Nob Hill
Huntington Park
Grace Cathedral
Pacific Union Club
We love to stay on Nob Hillwhen we go to San Francisco---it is so very Old San Francisco! The Huntington (specifically suite #801) is our favorite hotel on Nob Hill. There we have a wonderful view of the bay, Huntington Park just across the street—perfect for our dog, Sweetie---Grace Cathedral and the Pacific Union Club. The hotel has the best bar in San Francisco and a wonderful old school restaurant called the Big Four. Shay Bakstad is an excellent concierge, who will assist you with reservations at all the best restaurants.
Tadich Grill
We arrived on Jim’s birthday and immediately went to Tadich Grillin the Financial District—it is a tradition and the food may not be a gourmet’s delight, but it is still fresh and always fun. There are simply some restaurants that are iconic and represent a city so well---Tadisch is that one for us in San Francisco. You will find locals as well as tourists here.
San Francisco Trolley
It’s always fun to get on the trolley back up the hill to the hotel, too.
Grant Avenue
We hadn’t been to Chinatown in over 20 years---guess I wanted to be a tourist all over again. We loved walking down Grant Avenue, looking in shops and then eating at Oriental Pearl, which has excellent and very very fresh Chinese food. Their Peking duck is extraordinary.
Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse
Many years ago, Jim and I dined at Alice Waters'iconic restaurant, Chez Panisse. Once again, we took a lovely ride over to Berkeley and had the most incredible dining experience. If you have never been (or if you have), make a point of going again. Ms. Waters is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Chez Panissethis month.
Scene from Vertigo
One of my all time favorite movies is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which was filmed in San Francisco (for all of the exterior shots). I heard from a friend who lives there about a Vertigo tour. If you like the film, I recommend this tour. Our tour guide was very informative.
View of Mount Tam
We drove across the Golden Gate up to Kentfield to stay with friends for several days----it is peaceful, quiet and a welcome change from the city.
Napa Valley, CA
Next stop was Napa to visit our friends there---it was lovely. Never had better food and wine! We loved all of the people we met as well---the vintners there take such pride in making their wines. And, if you want to experience the most amazing artisanal foods anywhere---go to Napa and Sonoma! I must say that the food we had in Napa was the best of all in any region of the state----hands down! Thomas Keller’s restaurants are probably the best in the country—his first was the French Laundry in Yountville.
Artisanal Cheese
Bouchon catered one of the private dinners we attended and it was divine. We also ate lunch at the restaurant on our way out of town to Big Sur. Unbelievable food! Thomas Keller is a genius in the field of culinary arts.
Bouchon in Yountville
Big Sur
After several days of eating, drinking great wines and socializing, we headed down Highway 1 to Big Sur, which is an amazing drive! We made this drive about 25 years ago---it was well worth doing again.
Ventana Inn
It was a tough choice to decide between Ventana and Post Ranch. We chose Ventana and were happy that we did. Our rooms were nestled in the forest behind the main lodge. It was foggy in most of CA this summer. “June Gloom” extended into July and August…..we actually loved the cooler weather, but there were simply no views from Post Ranch (the reason we chose Ventana + it has been recently renovated). I would recommend driving from San Francisco or Napa to Big Sur---it is about a 3 & ? to 4 hour drive. It is a great place to spend 2 or 3 nights, and if you like hiking, there are many great hiking trails in the area.
Jim and I have been to Montecito many times---this time we were looking at it in a new way. Would we like to stay there for a month or so next summer?
The Biltmore, Montecito
We stayed in a cottage at The Biltmore---it was delightful and we loved both the property and the location. Ty Warner (owner of The Biltmore as well as lots of other properties) also bought the Coral Casino across the street. It’s an Art Deco structure from the 1930’s with a great pool and private club.
The Coral Casino pool
The Peninsula
Since we go to L.A. on business so much, we decided to spend some time with friends and just hang out. But we did eat at several of our favorite restaurants while there. Since the Bel Air closed 2 years ago, we love to stay at The Peninsula- great staff, good location and fabulous service.
Grill on the Alley, Beverly Hills
Lunch is always fun at The Grill on the Alley---fun movie crowd in Beverly Hills----their shrimp and crab Louis salad is so delicious.
Sunset Tower Bar
If you want the feeling of old Hollywood, there’s no better place to have dinner than The Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel. This is where Vanity Fair has their Oscar party since Morton’s closed. Dimitri is a wonderful host and you do feel as though Cary Grant just might walk in. Actually, you’ll probably see Jennifer Aniston, Johnny Depp or Betsy Bloomingdale. 
Giorgio Baldi
Our last night in CA, we ate at one of my favorite restaurants anywhere in the world, Giorgio Baldi. It’s on the Pacific Coast Highway and is very very small, so reservations in advance are a must. The food is wonderful Italian---if you go there, order the langoustines with penne, the Dover Sole or the lobster salad. Actually, order anything on the menu and you’ll be very happy! And please tell Elena that I said hello.
 Au revoir cool, cool California! 
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