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California Sunshine for a Weary Canadian Mind

When living and working in Toronto, getting to California’s golden shores is never but a short jaunt away. Sure, Canada’s West Coasters are just a few hours away, but for those of us not in BC or Alberta, the Pacific Coast can often be overlooked in favour of alternative travel options. That, however, would be a mistake. Taking a trip down to California this fall, the editors at the Bay St. Bull had the chance to experience the glories of the sunshine state firsthand. Here are our highlights.

SAN FRANCISCO

Where to Stay

To get your trip started out on the right foot, check into the legendary St. Regis Hotel, located in the city’s colourful SoMA District. The area is known for its culture and arts scene, with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art just steps away, and a collection of vibrant art galleries, restaurants and shopping in the area.

But before any of that, kick up your feet and relax for a few. Head over to the lobby lounge for a drink before making your way up to your room, which will be complete with all the plush accoutrements that you can imagine. The hotel is famous for many reasons, one being their signature St. Regis Butler service, which you should take full advantage of.  

What to Eat

Waking up to a view of the mountains with the Bay in-between is never a bad way to start your day. Fuel up with the city’s amazing selection of cafes, which are experienced best with the region’s famous sourdough bread. As history puts it, miners during the gold rush couldn’t seem to get the French recipe for bread quite right, often resulting in an end product that was more sour than intended. That was until everyone decided that they actually liked the stuff. Coffee aside, for fine dining nothing embodies the gourmet experience quite like dining under the Oakland Bridge at Water Bar. Complete with oyster bars surrounded by massive cylindrical fish tanks, this San Franciscan institution brings the freshest bounty of the ocean right to your plate with dishes like grilled swordfish and pan-roasted walleyed pike. Sitting underneath the illuminated bridge with panoramic views of the bay is the perfect way to get front-row seats to the beauty of this city.

What to Do

Going with the flow is part and parcel with California living and as the birthplace of the hippy movement, you can still stroll through one of the most affluent cities in America and somehow feel like you’re back in 1969. Dubbed by Hunter S. Thompson as ‘Hashbury’ in his famous New York Times piece, the counterculture effectively began in the Haight-Ashbury District where today you’ll find head shops mixed in with exclusive sneaker stores and a pungent odour that hangs in the air.

How to Get Around

San Fran is famous for the cable cars that traverse the city’s steep hills but they often have long queues, and while public transportation isn’t bad, traffic sure is; getting around isn’t so fun. That is unless you have a driver taking you around in a brand new Lincoln Continental. Complete with a Panoramic sunroof and a massive back seat, skipping the parking and riding in style is the way to go. Not to mention for passengers getting driven around in style (or if you prefer to be behind the wheels, yourself), you won’t find a better way to catch all the sights and smells the city has to offer.

We took the new Lincoln Continental for a test drive to experience the true magic of the Nappa Valley region. Really, any excuse for a road trip is one that we’ll take. Driving over the Golden Gate bridge is probably one of the most iconic cruises you’ll ever experience in the Western hemisphere with clear views of Oakland and Alcatraz but you’ll be missing out if you don’t take a quick stop at Battery Spencer, which is undeniably the best place to snap the iconic scenery.

Napa Valley 

Put into context, if we were to combine Ontario’s ‘booming’ wine regions of Niagara on the Lake and Prince Edward County, you’d come up short of 150 vineyards in all. In contrast, between Sonoma and Napa there are just over 1,000, so rolling the windows down on a drive through these parts is a must. Once you take in the fresh air and sweet smells of grapes, be sure to look out for cyclists who treat the region as a training ground. Fortunately for us, the Lincoln Continental comes fully equipped with sensors surrounding the car, warning you ahead of any dangers that may be on the road. It’s a conveniently nice touch considering that the scenery of hot air balloons and gorgeous vineyards in the distance can be a bit distracting.

Where to Stay

Staying at Calistoga Ranch is an awesome luxury experience that cannot be passed up. Lining the grounds, pristine cabins offering outdoor hot tubs and fireplaces are the baseline not the exception, and a trip to the Auberge Spa is a requirement where you’ll be treated to the area’s best masseuses for a relaxing day surrounded by nature.

What to Do

Simply put, eating and drinking in one of the world’s most renowned wine regions is something that everyone should have on their bucket list. We recommend Davis Estates. Purchased in 2011 following his sale of a major computing business, the vineyards proprietor Mike Davis has put his heart and soul into the business, providing some of the finest vintages the region has to offer. It also doesn’t hurt that no detail of the estate has been overlooked, making for an immersive experience that you won’t soon forget. Try their Zephyr, it’s one of the finest we’ve ever tasted.