Jun 082010
 

I got on a very short term note my travel needs defined. Coming over to San Francisco the week when the WWDC 10 is on is challenging considering travel budgets and time. I ended up flying out of Dublin on Friday last week because there weren’t any flights available on Saturday or Sunday. Thankfully trailfinders.ie had been of great help, the booked me in a decent hotel in a perfect location which still fits my budget requirements. The hotel staff is outstanding. This time I feel really welcomed in US as there no hassle at immigrations and customs, when I arrived at the hotel I got a free room upgrade and so I do have a spacious suite now.

After having wasted a week in London by doing nothing due to a jet-lag I wanted to take most of the time when I am here on a sunny summer weekend. Friday evening I met up with a friend to have dinner in a Vietnamese restaurant Out the Door in the Nordstrom shopping mall.

Saturday I spent all day walking around town: I started at noon time walking towards China Town, before I passed the gate I took a brunch in the Cafe de la Presse. China Town didn’t feel the same anymore after I have been to China and Hong Kong. Interestingly I paid attention to different types of places back then. Last time I was fascinated by all the exotic flair in the Chinese souvenir shops, this time bakeries and authentic seeming food places tracked my attention. Then I walked along Columbus St – an Italian inspired district. When I saw the Coit Tower being so close by I decided to go up there and enjoy the view once more. I took the few steps to go up; I was surprised how crowded the place was. I barely have seen people walking along the street but up there had been quite a queue for the elevator to the viewing platform. The view was amazingly clear, no clouds, blue sky, just the Golden Gate Bridge was hiding in fog. Whenever I am in San Francisco I have the feeling I haven’t seen so many colors in real life for a long time. Everything seems to be so colorful; I wonder what this is caused by. When I left Coit Tower I headed towards to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. I got some fresh – gigantic – fruits at the market, walked through the touristy area and enjoyed watching the sea lions. There was quite a bit of action
when two of them got into a fight. I was completely lost in time and just enjoyed myself without having any time constraints or plans. I passed by the old submarine and the museum mechanique and slowly got back to the hotel. I had a pint of cider in a so-so Irish pub Fiddlers Green, walked back along Columbus St and ended up in The Stinking Rose having a garlic based dinner. For Jim I got a little souvenir over there.

The next day I met up with a friend of mine to go to Napa and Sonoma valley. We started our tasting tour in the same place we had visited earlier this year: Gloria Ferrer Caves & Wineyards. There I tried two sparkeling wines and decided to share them with Jim by getting two bottles for taking home. Unfortunately non of the wineries we had asked does delivery outside US. From there we stopped by another place Domaine Corneros which triggered our attention by mentioning Taittinger which I usually like; especially when I was drinking it with the one and only Claudi. From there we went to Culinary Institute at Greystone where junior chefs get trained before they get released to classy restaurants. The food was quite good, maybe sometimes a bit overly motivated by putting to much flavours into a single dish. The Today’s Temptations (a set of 5 starters) were a good example for that: the humus and the cauliflower soup were perfect, the Chinese styled dumplings and the clams were too much flavored. From there we did a last stop at the V. Sattui Winery where I did a tasting of a few different wines including  Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Madeira and Port. The Cabernets and the dessert wines were pretty good as well as the Chardonnay, the rest was too plain and unspectacular for my liking. There were also lots of European specialties – more than one would ever dream of getting in Dublin. From there we just went back to San Francisco, I took the first time the bart train and was surprised how good San Francisco public transport is.

So basically another two perfect days over here. Just relaxing, calming and enjoying myself. Here some of the photos:

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Feb 082010
 

After all the hassle yesterday today was just perfect. I had a Sunday out with some nice girls from work going to Napa valley for enjoying ourselves, wine tasting and having fun. Jacqueline did all the planning and as usual it was just perfect. I don’t quite got it though how she managed the perfect weather. Sunny, not too warm, blue sky and beautiful clouds. I haven’t seen so much colors in nature… well… since I moved over to Ireland. We went all day by car. The green grass, the blue sky, yellow flowers, white clouds – the scenery looked like being painted instead of being real. I enjoyed looking out of the car’s window and trying to compare it with the wine yards in Provence I saw some years ago.

We started with a Champagne tasting at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Wineyards having some local, tasty brie and french baguette. We were sitting outside on a balcony looking over the vineyards. I tried myself a glass of Carneros CuvĂ©e which was tasty and maybe the best wine I tried during the day. 

From there we went for lunch to a place called the girl and the fig. There I enjoyed a cheese selection with some dried fruit and nuts and duck confit with potato hash. Both shared with Jacqueline, and I had a glass of Fig Royal :) From there we drove a bid through the area. When one of the local girls left we decided to do a few more wine tastings, first at Black Stallion and later we stopped at Rutherford Hill.In black Stallion we met an Irish woman serving us local wines. We tried their Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvingnon and the North Coast Muscat. I liket the Pinot most…the rest was tasty but not really my liking. I mostly enjoyed there my british english lesson. While I was saying the first wine we tried was even worse, Caroline just mentioned the second one was better but didn’t wow her either. Fun stuff :)

The guys at Rutherford were a bit disturbing especially when they started dancing. And seriously, I *hate* coming in somewhere far away from Germany and listening to Nena’s 99 Luftballons… WTF? They wanted to close up soon so they invited us for a free wine tasting of several wines. I tried some of them – Sangiovese, a Petit Verdot and a Terlato Devils’ Peak – but there wasn’t anything outstanding either. Arriving at Mumm we just saw them closing up so we went the way back to San Francisco while enjoying the colorful sun set.

I quickly did some shopping, got replacement head phones and my own eye-fi card and a bit more stuff. When I got back to the hotel I run in a colleague who was just arriving. I quickly changed my room, then we went out for a light dinner to meet up the others. It was funny seeing all those broken faces from the jet lagged Europeans. Today it was also the first time that I got praised for existence – apparently me joining the team decreased the long distance travel rate for all the locals here.

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