Exploring California

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Exploring California

by Victor Amos

When you think about honeymoon destinations, you often think about tropical beaches, scenic cliffside resorts, and historic architecture. What if I told you that you can find all of those things right here in America? Well, hold your breath no longer, because you can! California is the perfect place to experience luxury and history, all without a passport.

I started my journey through California in San Francisco. Oh man, what a romantic city! The picturesque hills, world-class shopping & dining, and myriad of art institutions make San Francisco a perfect destination for honeymooners seeking an urban experience. With boutique hotels abound, you are destined to find comfy accommodations that fit your personality. While chain hotels can be appealing, I highly recommend the experience of a boutique hotel. The architectural details and personal service make them my choice when visiting the city. The Mosser Hotel (www.TheMosser.com) is a great choice. Located in downtown San Francisco, you are in walking distance to the phenomenal shopping around Union Square and one block away from street cars that take you all around the city.

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Whether you rent a car or choose to tackle the city by foot, you will have no problem getting around San Francisco. For $6.00/per ride, you can crest the hills of the city on an open-sided cable car, one of San Francisco’s cultural icons. These are a fun way to summit the city while also getting fantastic photo ops! The city also offers a multi-day pass that will offer you unlimited rides at an enormously reduced rate.

One of the perks of renting a vehicle, however, is escaping the city for wine country! One hour north of the city lies a treasure trove of wineries ripe for exploring. My journey took me to the city of Napa. A short ride past the Golden Gate Bridge and I was immersed in a totally different landscape. I went from a concrete jungle to a botanical pasture. For as far as the eye could see, I was engulfed in rows upon rows of grape trees. My first stop in wine country was the Nicholson Ranch Winery (www.NicholsonRanch.com). Upon arriving at the estate, you are greeted with an introduction to the wines that are produced, and presented with a tasting menu. For $10, you can taste 4 wines, and for $15, you can taste 6. Their assortment of whites and reds were genuinely exceptional. I don’t know if it is the nostalgia of being at the winery that produces the wine, which makes the wine taste better than any you’ve ever tasted, but I was impressed and compelled to leave with a bottle.

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Once you’ve completed your stay in San Francisco, a hop down to Los Angeles could be an enjoyable second-leg to your trip. Ah… the city of angels. Home to the Hollywood Hills, Rodeo Drive, and Santa Monica Beach. A trip to California would not be complete without visiting this urban oasis. And lucky for you, a trip down to Los Angeles from San Francisco is painless and affordable. There are regular “shuttle” flights that take you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in about an hour and a half, and for about $80.

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Now, unlike San Francisco, it is virtually impossible to get around Los Angeles without a vehicle. There are a ton of rental car options when you arrive at the airport… pick one. You do not want to be at the mercy of public transportation. If you don’t want to spend most of your vacation plastered in your seat on the interstate, then I’d recommend picking a hotel that is near the attractions that you want to experience. For my stay, I wanted to spend the bulk of my time exploring the hills, so I chose to stay in West Hollywood. I would say this was a prime location, as I was less than 10 miles away from everything that I wanted to do. During my stay, I visited the Hollywood Reservoir, Runyon Canyon, Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Downtown LA, and the Santa Monica Pier. I can’t say that I have ever experienced better weather or friendlier people in California. Los Angels has a calming affect on the soul and I think I am going to attribute it to the gratuitous palm tress and sunlight.

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For the final leg of my trip, I took a 2-hour car ride down to San Diego. As huge as San Diego is, it has still managed to retain its small-town, maritime feel. I spent the bulk of my time hugging the coast along Mission Beach and La Jolla. One of my favorite attractions was the La Jolla Cove. Seeing that huge, hollow rock jetting out from the coast was awe-inspiring. While at the cove, you can enter into a quaint gift shop, and for $4, go down a creaky staircase which leads to the bottom of the cove. It’s an experience that should not be missed!

For those of you looking to freshen-up your tan, Mission Beach is your remedy. It is a fantastic place to experience the nostalgia of a beach-side theme park or a pick-up game of beach volleyball. If you want to add a little romance into the picture, you should consider staying at one of the beach resorts. You can spend your free time roaming the art galleries, eating at the boutique restaurants, and drinking at the many bars.

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Overall, California is a great place for a domestic getaway. There is something for everyone. Whether you want to go shopping, hiking, surfing, learning, or do nothing at all… you will be satisfied.

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The Modern Day San Diego- A Desert Blist

As I make my way to the Amtrak station in Los Angeles, California, given that I only have 2 days off before my next job.  I figured why not visit our amazing celebrity Chef Rodney LoveJones in San Diego.  What could it hurt?  The train ride, round trip, was only a meager $74.00 U.S dollars.  

As I made my way to my seat, with my one suitcase, with what I deemed necessary for the short visit.  The conductor quickly helped me with my luggage. I was happy to see there were plugs so that I can charge my electronic devices that I most definitely can’t do without.  To my pleasant surprise it had free WIFI, so double bingo for me.  The ride was approximately three hours each way.  It would give me the opportunity to catch up on some notes and gather my thoughts.

The seats were quite spacious and comfortable, it would be Business class on an aircraft if I were on a plane.  It was fully equipped with a snack car should I became in need of some refreshments.  So I was all set.

To my pleasant surprise the station was absolutely magnificent, prestine.  The streets were equally clean and quite lovely.  Chef LoveJones, being the gentlemen that he is greeted me with flowers and an embrace.  At that exact moment I knew this journey would be everything I could imagine.

He showed me the downtown area of San Diego-Old Town.  The local businesses, the hotels, the restaurants just beautiful.  After getting a brief tour of the area he took me to his kitchen and began to whip me something in his kitchen.  The food was divine, pasta and vegetables served with white wine, in less then 30 minutes. After enjoying this enchanted moment, I fell asleep in total satisfaction and excited about what tomorrow already promised to bring.

For breakfast  we drove to his establishment where he is the General Manager, 2Good2B, Gluten Free bakery that promises to awaken your taste buds.  The teas, the muffins, the quiches, all freshly made right on the premises. They cater weddings and also do wedding cakes, desserts and appetizers that would definitely suit your wedding needs.  

As an accomplished Chef, Rodney LoveJones, has fed the likes of Presidents, celebrities, models and now me.  So to plan a wedding menu for him is effortless.

He later continued my tour of San Diego by showing me the parks, the art district, and the San Diego beaches, at night I might add.  The view was breath taking.  The tree lined streets, the shopping, art, architecture was definitely an experience for me.  The shops in what may come to be my favorite spot in San Diego, Solo- Salana Beach was like heaven for me as a book lover. Great gifts for your guests and wedding party.

The next day a friend called and met me for lunch and took me to experience one of the towns quaint restaurant, Thyme. The food was also divine.  The setting cozy and comfortable like visiting my mothers home.  Across the street lays The Inn At Ranch Santa Fe. This historical property sits in the heart of the small town.

If you are a lover of small quaint, artsy and chic.  Santa Fe may be the spot for you.  From The Rancho Santa Fe Golf Course, Live Music, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  You will be in honeymoon bliss.  Should you decide to actually host your wedding in the small town of wonderful historical sights you and your guests will sure to have many memorable moments.

For more information on the great things to do in San Diego, please visit: http://www.sandiego.org.  Bon Voyage.