Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

There’s nothing that pleases an armchair traveller more than a good travel guidebook. And Fodor’s 2012 book on “San Francisco with the Wine Country” is as good as it gets. This book has everything one needs to know for a fantastic vacation centered in the ‘city by the bay.’

As with other Fodor books, it has excellent sections on ‘Great Itineraries,’ ‘Top Walking Tours,’ ‘Top Attractions,’ as well as info on ‘Where to Stay’ and ‘Where to Eat.” But San Francisco is an exceptional city and this book lists all the exceptional sights including the waterfront, the Presidio, the Haight-Ashbury center of the 60’s hippy era, Alcatraz, and Chinatown. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest in North America.

The book also gives an interesting rundown on both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes along with historical notes.

There is also a section on Cable Cars where you can still ‘climb half way to the stars’ but at a pretty hefty price without a pass. Fortunately, San Francisco’s Muni system offers a three-day pass for unlimited rides including cable cars for just $20.00. A definitely must to purchase.’

As to nightlife, I well remember my first visit to the Golden Gate city in the 1960s. The historic, old Purple Onion, where my girl friend and I mooned over such folk music favourites as the Kingston Trio and the Smothers Brothers, is still there; although, as the book explains, it has seen better days.

For a more elegant evening, one can still get a mai tai at the Hotel Fairmont’s Tonga Room, and watch a man-made rainstorm, as musicians on a floating bandstand play the music of the 40s and 50s. Or you can spend a romantic night dancing at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room in the newly renovated Sir Francis Drake Hotel.

The book includes a wonderful section on the wine areas of Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge. As the book explains, Napa is ‘almost wall-to-wall wineries,’ while Sonoma is ‘more rural.’ There’s a great map of the area with a list of ‘top reasons to go there’ along with the best places to taste, to eat, and to stay.
This San Francisco Guide Book is so packed full of enticements to visit the area, that I’m already making plans to visit next spring. That city will always have a piece of my heart.  

(Next week: the promised blog on Okanagan's Wine Country. I hope!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Goodbye, Regis. I'm Going to Miss You

Putting off the third section of my Okanagan wine series for another week for a couple of reasons. First of all, I bent over the other day to pick something up and out went my back. I knew immediately I’d done the wrong thing when I heard a little “snap” and immediately felt the pain as I straightened up. So with this painful situation, it’s difficult for me to concentrate on my writing this week.

I’ve done this before and go regularly for Shiatsu treatments to keep it in check. However, this time, I forgot to bend from the knees and now I’m paying the price. It will take a few visits to the chiropractor as well as few ice packs to get it right again. I guess you can truly say it was a “senior moment,” although some of my younger friends tell me they have the same problem.

The other thing on my mind this week is that I’m saying “Good bye” to an old friend. I’ve spent time with him almost every week for more than twenty years, but he is now “moving on.” Of course, I’m talking about the one and only Regis Philbin—King of the morning talk show hosts. I discovered his entertaining show shortly after the death of my mother, at a time when I was experiencing a great deal of depression. I had quit my job to look after her in her last stage of pancreatic cancer, and had not yet gone back to work. Having my morning cup of coffee with Regis and Kathie Lee (his co-host at the time), gave me a great many laughs and got me through the day.

Even when I went back to work, I was usually able to catch the first twenty minutes of the show that Regis called the “Host Chat.” They were always funny together and I was sorry when Kathie Lee decided to call it quits. But along came the delightful Kelly Rippa who brought a completely new edginess to the show.
Over the past ten years, the two of them together have helped me survive two bouts of cancer, my husband’s heart attack, and a move away from the city I lived in for over sixty-five years. Even though Regis is a bit of a curmudgeon, one could always count on them for a great deal of fun and some entertaining stories about their lives in New York City.

One of the stories Regis would never tell, but often hinted at, was something that happened to himself and his wife, Joy on their wedding night. Kelly would frequently bring up the subject and he would say, “No, no. I can’t talk about that here.” Now, he has promised that, this coming Friday—on his very last show-- he is going to tell us the story of his wedding night. Regis has always been extremely skilled as a storyteller, and it looks like he will finish with a great finale.

Kelly has just been given a 5-year contract with ABC and I’m certain they will come up with an impressive co-host for her. But I’m also sure that it will be different. Regis always steered the show back to satisfy the people in my age group. It was as much about the stars of yesteryear as the introduction of new kids on the block. There isn’t much entertainment directed to us older folks anymore. And that’s an element of the show that I will be sad to see gone.

Come Friday morning, I will probably shed a tear or two. I’m really going to miss my morning coffee with Regis Philbin.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Whistler Ski Season Opens November 26th


A little off the topic of wine tasting this week, but a shout out to all you skiers out there waiting for this.

The autumnal equinox has passed, the frost is on the pumpkin, and the cold rains of winter are falling on the city of Vancouver. But high on the slopes of British Columbia’s Olympic playground, the snow will soon fly, and excitement is in the air. Mark your calendars; the 2011/12 ski season is scheduled to begin on November 26th.

Whistler, B.C. is a gorgeous little village nestled at the bottom of two world-class ski mountains. In the valley around Whistler Village, there is no end of accommodations. Anything from delightful Bed and Breakfasts, to luxury resorts such as the beautiful Four Seasons Whistler, one of North America’s top year-round mountain resorts.

Down in the village, from early spring to the end of summer, there’s always the chance of a bear sighting. On an early morning walk, you’re quite likely to run into one or two feasting from the resort garbage cans. Even though these receptacles are made of metal and have self-closing locks, the bears have figured out how to get what they want. Recently the diners at one village pizza parlour, were surprised and delighted to find their dinner companion was a black bear who sauntered in through the front door, stood up over the counter, grabbed a pizza off the display and started eating it. The crowd laughed as one of the customers yelled “you better give a good tip, bud.”  The noise evidently scared the bear away.

Two things to bear in mind, (no pun intended) never purposely feed them, and never get between a mother bear and her cub.

Of course, it goes without saying that the skiing is great here. After all, Whistler did host the 2010 Winter Olympics, but the number one attraction at the moment is the absolutely, breathtaking ride on the “Peak to Peak” Gondola. Suspended over fourteen  hundred feet above the valley floor, this ride swings between Blackcomb and Whistler mountains, allowing skiers to change from one ski area to the other without the hassle of descending and ascending the slopes. The views of the surrounding mountain range and the delightful valley are out-of-this world lovely, and something you’ll remember the rest of your life.

(Next week: More wine on B.C.s Golden Wine Trail)