Everyone told us it was the worst time of the year to visit Yosemite National Park. In July it would be crowded, temperatures scorching, and the waterfalls dried up. But it was our third visit to California and we still hadn’t made it to the famous park. We didn’t want to miss another opportunity so we went anyway and hoped that the awe-inspiring beauty that everyone raves about would overcome the negatives.
San Francisco is the best city in the world for vegetarians. I’ve said that previously about Chiang Mai in Thailand which certainly is an excellent budget option, but on our third visit to San Francisco in July we were reminded what a gourmet heaven it is. It’s an amazing place for anyone to eat. The city has easy access to quality, locally grown, organic ingredients. Its food scene is diverse with cultures from all over the world represented. And it has a population who loves to eat, and who cares about the quality of the ingredients they are consuming. Add to that a sizeable vegetarian community and world class chefs who cook creatively without meat, and it really is a vegetarian paradise.
On a summer morning the Golden Gate Bridge was immersed in thick fog, its iconic red rails barely visible. We drove into the void, surrounded by the thick haziness, unsure what we’d find ahead of us. Exciting as it was it didn’t bode well for the start of our road trip, yet only minutes later we emerged into the dazzling sun of Marin and left San Francisco’s cool summer behind. We headed up Highway 101 and in less than an hour reached the historic town of Petaluma, the starting point for our trip to Sonoma County.
Our day of wine tasting began in a barn and ended in a Tuscan-style mansion. We met an artisan wine maker who has been practicing sustainable farming since before it had a name, and toured a winery whose wines have appeared on White House menus. Sonoma is diverse—from the approaches of the winemakers, to the soils in which the vines grow, to the micro-climates created by the cool fog from the coast and the heat of the sun further inland.
It was a moment of perfect travel serendipity. We were following the Sonoma cheese trail just north of San Francisco and after picking up some excellent St George cheese from Joe Mato’s farm we drove into the nearby small town of Sebastopol for bread for our picnic lunch. We were heading to the Village Bakery but we overshot the turn-off and drove down a residential street to turn around. Luckily that street was Florence Avenue which we discovered isn’t your average suburban street.