Soak up San Fran and sip your way through Napa

Balmy days, a sparkling harbour and countless restaurants in buzzing neighbourhoods. Nope, I’m not in Sydney, I’m in San Francisco in October.
San Francisco

Having been to New York during a freezing autumn, I was preparing to bust out my Eskimo ski jacket again. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For the four days I was there, the weather was sublime and as it turns out, San Fran in October is probably the best time of the year to travel there.

So with the mercury dancing around the mid-twenties, we jumped on the roof of a big red tourist bus and cruised across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito for a wander around the bay. For the more adventurous types, you can hire a bike and pedal the same route.

The Golden Gate Bridge, which is often engulfed in fog, truly is spectacular.

Stars and stripes

October 12 also happened to be a national public holiday thanks to Columbus Day, which meant impromptu street parties, fireworks and perhaps the most stars and stripes-esque experience I’ve ever had – the Blue Angels of the United States navy plane show.

We set up camp at a local park and watched the magic unfold as the incredibly talented fleet of Hornets performed gymnastics in the sky.

Watching the Blue Angels perform tricks in the sky is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Boutique beauty on the hill

Our base for the trip was the charming Scarlet Huntington in San Fran’s swanky Nob Hill. On the outside you’ll be greeted by grandiose flags, exposed brick and crawling vines. Inside the hotel you’ll find a warm, quiet atmosphere, plush red sofas adorning the lobby, fashionable rooms with Asian-inspired interiors and attentive staff.

Float about in their infinity pool which overlooks the twinkling city-scape or kick back with a mag in the no-noise Zen Room.

The Scarlet Huntington in Nob Hill makes for a memorable stay.

Food goals

At your doorstep lie endless dinner options, but we ended up at the cosy Italian restaurant Venticello which served killer beef carpaccio, classic pizzas and brussels sprouts with pancetta.

For a local caffeine hit look no further than Blue Bottle Cafe. Coffee lovers will be stoked with their top-notch brews and they do a mean bacon and egg roll. Or if you’re after something a bit more #fitspo, the granola and strawberry compote is pretty damn tasty.

With October marking Halloween, most menus get a seasonal make-over. Cue pumpkin-spiced lattes, pumpkin ale and perhaps the most memorable breakfast of my entire journey – pumpkin pancakes with lashings of maple syrup and oodles of cream from the adorable café, Plow, on the other side of town in the Mission district. It’s well worth the trip!

If pumpkin’s not your jam, head to Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen for the mouth-wateringly good reuben on rye. Tucked away in a shady corner of the Mission district and framed by a gloriously bright mural, you’ll feel like a real-life resident as you munch on your sambo.

Hello there reuben, so pleased to eat you.

In my happy place at the Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen.

Leg day

Your trip to San Fran will be like joining a gym, minus the hefty fees, perky personal trainers and active wear. The mind-bendingly steep hills are so fun to conquer on foot (comfy shoes are a must!) plus your calves will get the best work-out of their lazy lives.

Marvel at the famous Painted Ladies opposite the Alamo Square Park, soak up the street art from the Balmy Alley murals, walk down the steepest street you’re likely ever to see – Lombard Street – or just get lost in the bustling Mission district.

Rolling hills of San Fran vs. my pathetic calves. The hills won but my legs were better for it.

Take a Nap-a

With the Napa Valley just a two-hour drive away it’s super easy to give your pins a well-deserved break, rent a car and chase some wine dreams. Boasting 400 wineries in the region, it’s a true bucket list destination so you’re going to want to come with your wine-tasting A-game.

We kicked off our Napa odyssey at the Kuleto Estate Winery, which sits pretty on top of Howell Mountain. The tour started with a relaxed wander around their tumbling vineyards as we sipped on their trademark Zinfandel.

Once you work up your thirst you’ll be treated to a cheese and wine tasting bonanza on their sprawling balcony overlooking the tumbling hills. Highlights included their Cab Sav and Sangiovese.

Enjoying the sun at the Kuleto Estate Winery in Napa.

Local eats

It’s not just the wineries worth visiting (although you should definitely hit up Cade, Chateau Montelena and Hall Rutherford). The Napa is a hot-spot for fabulous food, from the simple to the seriously suave.

The legendary bruschetta from the Cliff Family Food Truck in St. Helena is famous for a reason! Cured meat on fresh bread served from a big ’ol truck – what’s not to love?

Yountville-based restaurant Redd is the perfect place to take the Miss or Mister in your life for a #muchromance night. Must-try dishes are their parmesan gnocchi, sashimi of hamachi on sticky rice and the prime New York steak with caramelised onion.

The famous bruschetta from the Cliff Family Food Truck.

Treat ’yoself

What’s a holiday without some luxury? For the full-blown experience, get a room at the most luxe sanctuary in town, Meadowood.

It’s the kind of resort you can imagine George Clooney and his cronies booking out over summer. We splurged on a tree-lined suite, which features a King-sized bed, a wrap-around balcony, a separate dining area and an enormous bath decked out with Molton Brown toiletries. I repeat, Molton Brown!

With golf, tennis, croquet, swimming, hiking and a newly-launched spa (get a massage – you’ll be so blissed out after) all at your fingertips, Meadowood truly is the place of holiday fantasy. If you can get a reservation at their immensely popular Michelin three-star restaurant, aptly named The Restaurant, you’ll be in for a treat.

But if not, remember there’s nothing wrong with the tried and tested room service washed down with a Corona in your robe trick. George Clooney would most definitely approve.

You’ll never want to leave Meadowood. All these months later and I’m still having withdrawals.

Fancy a spot of croquet? The hotel has a range of activities for guests.

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