February 4, 2008

Romantic Rendezvous

I've been thinking about this a lot recently because of that heart-shaped holiday that is coming up soon. Now I know that not everyone is a big fan of said holiday, and though I myself am fond of its sentiment, I am less than thrilled with it's hyped-up commercialism. That said, the ideas I'm about to present can hopefully be an inspiration for any special occasion, whether that be a birthday or anniversary celebration. Note: The following scenarios are ones I've actually experienced or have longed to experience. The locations are predominantly around the Bay Area, because, well, that's where I'm from. . .

Getting Cozy in Carmel
Carmel is quaint and lovely. Yes, it is a bit touristy but, unfortunately, that's what happens to nearly every spot worth visiting. You can only keep it a secret for so long! Still, it is worth braving the occasional tourists for it's picturesque seaside village of charming cottages, cobble-stoned pathways, and beautiful white sand beach at the very end of Ocean Avenue. I would start by cruising along 17-Mile Drive (be sure to begin at the Pacific Grove gate and end up in Carmel) to get a glimpse of the amazing homes and even more amazing scenery of rugged coastline and pine trees. Next, I would have to recommend horseback riding along Pebble Beach. I've actually done this and it was one of the loveliest experiences of my life. When my husband and I went, we were blessed with gorgeous weather and the views were simply breathtaking! I would end the day by dining at any one of Carmel's fine dining establishments.

Wander the Wine Country
Napa Valley is no longer just for wine lovers. Aside from wine tasting and fine dining, there are plenty of activities for couples to enjoy together. One of my favorites (besides dining!) is getting a massage. Lavender Hill Spa in Calistoga is one lovely place to receive such a pampered treat. You definitely have to visit a few wineries, too, if not for the wine then for the beautiful gardens and architecture. Some of my favorite are Rubicon Estate (formerly Niebaum-Coppola Winery), Peju Province, and Beringer. For a nice picnic spot, head to V. Sattui Winery. If you're seeking something a little more active or adventurous, there are bike tours, kayaking or even hot air balloon rides! Once the dinner hour rolls along, I would opt for the town of Yountville for any number of fine restaurants to dine at, such as Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty or Domaine Chandon.

Seduced by San Francisco

I live in the north bay which affords me the option of taking the ferry to San Francisco. I much prefer this method of visiting the city for several reasons--no sitting in traffic, not having to find parking (which can be notoriously challenging), not having to pay for parking, and being able to enjoy a leisurely, scenic commute. I once took the ferry to S.F. at night around Christmastime, and it was lovely to view the city skyline and the twinkling holiday lights upon approach. One of my perfect days is being able to ferry to S.F. on a Saturday morning to visit the Farmer's Market in front of the Ferry Terminal Building. After browsing the various stalls of fresh, organic produce and possibly purchasing some items to take home, you can head inside the ferry building which has become a foodie marketplace, to grab lunch or a snack. During our last visit, we ate at the Hog Island Oyster bar which is a must for any self-respecting oyster lover! But there is a good variety of dining options to choose from--from burgers to seafood. After you've fueled up, get your blood pumping by climbing up to Coit Tower via the Filbert Steps and you'll be awarded with a spectacular panoramic view of the city and the bay.

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