Tag Archives: california

Exploring the Wine Country: Napa Valley

Napa Valley is the home of hundreds of wineries, bed & breakfasts, spas, golf courses and restaurants. The lush rolling hills of this wine country are immersed in tons of legendary award winning vineyards. Napa is ideal year round with an average temperature of 70 degrees! Green, gold and red color palettes contribute to the natural beauty of the hills. You can experience Napa by train or limousine tours or by taking a hot hair balloon with Balloons Above the Valley.

The valley has so much to offer, from kayaking the Napa River and attending outdoor concerts, to visiting art galleries and shopping in the delightful town of Napa. Along the stretch from Yountville to Calistoga, spectacular five star restaurants are found along the drive. With seafood restaurants, steakhouses, and tapas bars, Napa is known for his impeccable cuisine and world-renowned eateries.

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Established wineries such as Robert Mondavi, Beringer, Folie a Deux, Sutter Home and many more are home to Napa Valley, offering wine tastings, tours, and classes. They enclose basements with underground tasting bars and dim cellars containing hundreds of wooden barrels of wine. The knowledge and keenness of the vineyards’ employees is inspiring in their understanding of the science behind and creation of wine. The valley’s diverse architecture lets you experience French looking plantations and manors, along with Mediterranean, Italian and English enthused buildings.

The Castello di Amorosa is an enormous Tuscan Castle in the most northern part of Napa Valley. The fortress has a drawbridge, moat, dungeon and carriage rides for the full experience. Napa is a short one hour drive from San Francisco, though it seems as if one day isn’t enough to obtain it. The romanticism of the countryside is breathtaking and great for a dreamy vacation, not just for the wine lover but for adventure seekers and photographers as well!

Traveling to the City by the Bay

The unique city of San Francisco is picturesque where you can see the bay from almost anywhere in the city. The Union Square has every store you could ever dream of.  This shopping mecca has a five story Nordstrom and a seven story Nike store with a miniature elevator shoot strictly for transferring merchandise from floor to floor! You can tour the hilly city by Open Top Sightseeing that shows you all the old architecture and famous places like Fisherman’s Warf where you can see the old prison Alcatraz Island. Pier 39 has delicious fresh seafood restaurants and shops where tons of seals lounge on the docs!

The Golden Gate Bridge is massive and the best spot for viewing all of San Francisco. You can rent a bike from Bike the Bridge and ride bikes across the bridge and around the city. China Town stretches across many blocks with brilliant oriental architecture, dining, and shops. While visiting the city, it is a must to drive down Lombard Street, the curviest street in the world. Old timey cable cars transport sightseers around the town in a fashionable manner. Cruise lines are abundant along the shore for tours, dining, and sightseeing.

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The architecture of the homes are anything but your typical cookie cutter neighborhoods. Each house is painted a different color with gorgeous landscaping, as plants grow freely up the buildings. The old hotels are stunning in their design and décor, with employees dressed as traditional bellmen. Just a few miles north of the Golden Gate you can find the enchanting town of Sausalito along the water with remarkable views and charming homes along the mountainside. Then there is the Muir Woods National Park, a must visit for the outdoorsy type. It’s as if entering a scene from the Lord of the Rings. You easily loose track of time in the elusive forest due to lack of daylight inside. Green moss grows richly alongside these giant redwoods. Filled with running creeks and thriving wildlife, this park is captivating.

When looking for a place to vacation, I highly recommend San Francisco (the city by the bay). Everything from the ocean to the architecture is breathtaking!

A Taste of Paradise

For a taste of paradise, where mountains meet the sea, Carmel is an endearing town on the ocean in California. With cottage-like architecture, the town has winding alleyways covered in Spanish moss and hydrangeas. Modest cafes and coffee shops are tucked away in between buildings along with many outside fireplace patios. From anywhere in the town you can hear the waves hitting the shoreline, bringing a cool breeze on land. With the most gorgeous sunsets and views, Carmel is a treasure within itself.

Though you won’t find any fast food restaurants, there are restaurants all over offering the most decadent dining with live music that fills the streets. Also great for us animal lovers, adorable dogs everywhere! Carmel is speckled with quaint bed and breakfasts, art galleries, spas and whimsical looking houses along the streets. With big name stores like Anthropologie and J. Crew, Carmel has a beautiful outdoor shopping mall. Just a few miles north of the town you can experience the 17-mile drive along Pebble Beach where you can see Seal Rock (an island completely covered in seals)! The winding drive has an enchanting countryside in its mountainous landscape and forests along the rocky shoreline.

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Restaurant Review: Charlie’s in Malibu

The other day, some friends and I were driving around Malibu, trying to figure out where to eat a nice dinner. Thankfully, we ventured into Charlie’s! Owned by Charlie DiLorenzo, this chic restaurant and lounge is decorated to a T. A glass blown chandelier, with-it photography, neutral tones, and (drum roll, please) leopard Dolce and Gabbana dining chairs. Yes, you read that correctly. You will be enjoying your meal in D&G chairs, but no, you cannot take them home with you.

The mood is set with dim lighting, and the night we were there, live music was delivered by a girl with true talent. I am assuming at this point in the article you are probably wondering about the food. WELL, let me assure you, the grub at Charlie’s is amazing from fresh salads, such as the watermelon salad, (watermelon, feta, cucumber, arugula, and balsamic), to their delicious fish dishes, (the salmon was ta-da). Oh, and their steaks, burgers, and pasta…everything that was ordered at our table was so scrumptious. They also have one hundred and fifty wine labels, and a menu of original cocktails. Charlie herself came by the table, and she was truly a gem! She was so pleasant, and sincerely made us feel like guests in her home. When you leave, you will be offered bubblegum from a wooden box. Um, too cute! Dining at Charlie’s is definitely a wonderful experience, and I plan on going back many more times. So please, take my word for it! Eat at Charlie’s in Malibu! It is to die for.

Best of Manhattan Beach

Join us on this sunny state guide to one of Southern California’s best seaside towns: Manhattan Beach. Cali girl, Whitney Olshwanger, takes us on a tour of her favorite local hot spots (the ones that aren’t so obvious to the frequent visitor). Make your trip into a local stay by hitting up these rad places.

Why Whitney loves MB: Whenever I have a day off work and want to go to the beach for relaxation as well as to walk around, I will choose Manhattan Beach. Not only is this destination extremely clean, but it has amazing restaurants, shops and fun dive bars.

BEST STORE

My favorite store is called Wrights (they also have a kids Wrights), and it is on Manhattan Beach Blvd. The buyer at the store always has the latest trends and designers such as Rag and Bone, Isabel Marant, Paul and Joe, and others in that genre. They also always carry great basic lines such as Ever and Velvet. Most of the time when you go to a store at the beach, they are behind trends based on their location, and this store definitely is not. They also have a great selection of men’s clothing with brands such as Hartford, Masons and Ever. It is always fun for me to go into Wrights because the employees are extremely knowledgeable, and the store as a whole has such a great vibe.

BEST RESTAURANT

MB Post is unlike any restaurant I have ever been to in the Southbay. Not only does it have incredible food, but it is a perfect place to spend an entire night. The chief at MB Post is David LaFevre, and he spent nearly 15 years coming up with the concept of the restaurant. The menu contains small plates; my favorite is the couscous with feta and cranberries. It is very light and delicious. They also have mixologists at the bar who make some amazing drinks. This is one place where waiting for a table doesn’t matter because it gives you an excuse to be social as well as sample a drink.

BEST STREET

Manhattan Beach Blvd: This is where the majority of the shops, restaurants and bars are located. Side note: when you are heading towards the ocean you have a beautiful view of the pier.

BEST LOCAL COFFEE SPOT

The Koffee Kart is one of the best-kept secrets in town. The waiters and waitresses have worked at the place for years, and their coffee is delicious and strong. If you go early in the morning, you will see a lot of surfers after their morning surf sessions. Try their omelets; they are ridiculously delicious!

BEST BRUNCH SPOT

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House has the best blueberry and banana nut pancakes I have ever had in my life. It is a great local spot, but get there super early on the weekends because the line gets really long!

BEST DINER

The Kettle has been a tradition in Manhattan Beach for decades! It is a great place to go for a late night snack such as sweet potato fries, a Mediterranean plate, and yummy burgers. It is always packed and filled with an interesting crowd of all ages at any time of the day!

FAVORITE ACTIVITY

I learned about the 6-man volleyball tournament when I lived in the Southbay a couple of years ago. It is a 2-day event usually during the first week in August where teams line up in front of the courthouse in Manhattan Beach usually in hilarious costumes. This event is a great way for locals to get together and have a great time. If you are not the participating type, it is just as fun to watch as great games are played.

BEST HEALTHY SPOT

I just recently discovered The Tea Exchange, and not only do they have an amazing tea selection, but they also have wonderful make-your-own paninis! Everything from soft pretzels and smoothies are guaranteed organic and delicious. Try the coconut mango green tea. It is out of this world!

For further research, here are some of my favorite shops in LA:

Satine
Creatures of Comfort
Planet Blue
Madison
Hilary Rush
Pokadots and Moonbeams
LF
Reformation
Princepeca