November 29, 2008

Middletown, California: Langtry Estate winery; things to do

Langtry Estate  21000 Butts Canyon Rd., in Middletown, 707-987-2385. Tasting daily 10-5; tour Tu-Sat at 11 & 1, reservations required.

In the late 1800s, this picturesque property was purchased by British actress Lillie Langtry. According to winemaker Paul Brasset, “She was the Madonna of her time. She was outrageous in many ways and one of the first famous women to capitalize on her image.” Now named for her, it is a vast 22,000-acre (that’s 37 square miles) estate--the biggest winery in Lake County--and produces a Petite Sirah that has won more gold medals than any other in the world.

Getting here via the mandatory back roads is half the fun; the other half is tasting that Sirah and taking the Tephra Vineyard Lunch Tour, during which participants picnic at a table overlooking the Guenoc Valley and sit within the very vineyard that produced the grapes for the wine served with lunch. Their Guenoc label is known for delicious, well-priced wines.

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image copyright 2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
Tour Manager Jose Vasquez pours wine.

Introduction to Galveston, Texas

Introduction to Galveston, Texas

This photo was taken from Seawall Blvd. and 22nd St. The aqua building was Murdochs, a souvenir shop, but used to hold famous bath houses in the early 1900s; the pilings next to it was Hooters. In the background is the Flagship Hotel.

Though Galveston was hit hard by Hurricane Ike in September, it is on the mend. Some of the hotels can accommodate guests right now, and more will be ready for spring vacation. For updated information, contact the Galveston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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image copyright 2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Fall River Mills, California: Fall River Hotel; hotel review

Fall River Hotel  24860 Main St., in Fall River Mills, (530) 336-5550. 17 rooms; $. One mini-kitchen. Restaurant.

They keep things simple in these parts. This inn provides cozy comfort, with antique furniture and handmade quilts, but it’s not hard to tell the building dates to 1935. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. It will be clear that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket when a Ritz opens in this area. Dinner in the restaurant (B&D daily; $-$$. Reservations advised.) includes a salad and a glass of house wine, making it quite a bargain. Seating is in either a small area with booths and counter stools, or in a more formal dining room with a fireplace built from river rock boulders.

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November 24, 2008

San Francisco, California: Dame Edna; things to do

Post Street Theatre  (415) 771-6900.

Wacky, witty, wonderful Dame Edna is in town. See her in all her lavender-haired, curly-cued- eyeglasses glory on her "First Last Tour" through January 4. Do note that this is a heavy-duty audience participation show, so dress well or avoid the first four or five rows.

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San Francisco, California: Ride the Ducks (CLOSED); things to do

Ride the Ducks  CLOSED  Jefferson St./Taylor St., Fisherman’s Wharf, (800) 452-4386, (415) 922-2425. Daily 11-5. $32, 62+ $30, 5-17 $23; discount for Bay Area residents through Dec. 31, 2008.

The just ducky Ducks are amphibious vehicles modeled after the DUKWs that carried troops and supplies during World War II. They spend half the tour riding through the streets of San Francisco and the other half cruising in the bay near AT&T Park. Riders are given bright-yellow duck-bill "quackers" to blow on throughout the trip. I had no idea I held so much hot air. I reverted back to my inner 8-year-old and quacked away crazily at pedestrians. I found their reactions very interesting. Some people refused to acknowledge us (there were more nutty quackers on board than just me); others smiled like 8-year-olds; 8-year-olds and under smiled and usually waved, too. But what really amazed me, is that no one--not a single person--gave us the finger! I have no idea what these observations mean, except I had one crazy good time.

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November 22, 2008

Mill Creek, California: St. Bernard Lodge; hotel review

St. Bernard Lodge  44801 Hwy. 36, 15 mi. E of Mineral, 10 mi. E of south entrance to Lassen park, 10 mi. W of Chester, in Mill Creek, (530) 258-3382. 7 rooms; $. All shared baths. Continental breakfast; restaurant. No pets. 

Old World charm dresses up the cozy knotty-pine interior of this 1920s German inn situated at just under 5,000 feet. One of the two shared bathrooms sports a large clawfoot tub (all rooms have a sink), and antiques and historic memorabilia are displayed throughout. The owners maintain a crystal-clear pond filled with their pet rainbow trout, which guests may feed in the morning. Stables and horse boarding are available, but no horse rentals. Campsites are also available.

The dining room (F D, Sat B-L-D, Sun B-L; $-$$. Reservations required.) is illuminated by oil-burning lamps, and lace tablecloths cover the tables. The BLT and burger are exceptional and are served on a housemade whole wheat bun with a side of really good big fries; the iced tea is served in a gigantic 16-ounce beer stein.

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November 5, 2008

San Francisco, California: Orchard Garden Hotel; hotel review + restaurant review

Orchard Garden Hotel  466 Bush St./Stockton St., 4 blks. from Union Square, (888) 717-2881, (415) 399-9807. 10 stories; 86 rooms; $$$-$$$+. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Self-parking $30, valet $40. No pets.

Well-situated in the “French Quarter,” this hotel gives vigilant attention to green practices. Anyone with environmental illnesses should be quite happy, and everyone can breathe deeply, and easily, while inside. However, once you hit the street, all bets are off. Unfortunately, the hotel can’t control what goes on outside. In-room green features include a key card energy control system, trash recycling system, chemical-free cleaning products, compact fluorescent light bulbs, FSC-certified maple wood furniture, organic bath products and sustainable amenities, water-efficient bathroom fixtures, and individual climate control.

Casual Roots Restaurant ((415) 659-0349. L-D daily; $$-$$$) features innovative American-Mediterranean cuisine that is prepared with locally sourced organic and sustainable ingredients. Vegetarian items are options, and still or sparkling water--filtered, and bottled in house--is available. Cocktails are served late into the night at the bar.

Just up the street, the Orchard Hotel (665 Bush St./E. of Powell St., 2 blks. from Union Square, (415) 362-8878. 10 stories; 104 rooms; $$-$$$+. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Self-parking $30, valet $40.) sister property is a slightly older, well-maintained boutique hotel. And, like most sisters, they are very similar but also different--this hotel features a classic Pan-Asian style d├ęcor and platform beds.

More things to do in San Francisco.

Way more things to do in San Francisco.

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