Monday, December 20, 2010

Wine Country: Napa, Churchill Manor

Churchill Manor 485 Brown St./Oak St., 2 blks. from downtown, (800) 799-7733, (707) 253-7733. 10 rooms. Unsuitable for children under 12. Some fireplaces; no TVs. Afternoon & evening snack, full breakfast. No pets. A National Historic Landmark, this 1889 grand mansion has a massive front porch with white columns, large verandas, and original redwood moldings. It is situated on an acre of quiet, park-like manicured grounds. Guests are pampered with freshly-baked cookies upon arrival, wine and cheese in the evening, and breakfast the next morning in a stunning sunroom with mosaic-tiled floor. Guest rooms are large and furnished with antiques, and many are equipped with a clawfoot bathtub right in the bedroom or a shower for two in a lovely tiled bathroom. Two tandem bicycles and croquet are provided for complimentary use. Guests can also relax in the posh, spacious public rooms featuring beveled leaded-glass adornments, and perhaps play some tunes on a grand piano in the music room or enjoy a board game or movie in the game room.

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 image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, December 17, 2010

San Francisco: Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square

It isn't too late to have some skating fun!

Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square  through January 17, 2011. Sun-Thur 10am-10pm, F-Sat 10am-11:30pm (on Friday, December 31, 2010 the rink will close at 9:30pm). Adults $9-$9.50, under age 9 $4.50-$5; rentals $4. A portion of ticket proceeds benefit Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department.

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image courtesy of venue

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wine Country: Napa, AVIA Napa--CLOSED

CLOSED
AVIA Napa 1450 1st St., downtown, (866) 644-2842, (707) 224-3900. 141 rooms; 5 stories. Some fireplaces. Fitness center next door. Afternoon snack; restaurant; room service. No pets. Self-parking free, valet parking $15. Featuring a style of architecture that blends with the brand-new construction all around it, this sleek and stylish hotel has a comfortable, pleasantly decorated lobby in the lime green-chocolate-merlot color scheme used throughout. Among 16 different types of rooms are Double Kings for families (kids stay free) and Master Tub Suites with a two-sided fireplace and soaking tubs for two. Bathrooms are lined with eastern white marble, and each has a walk-in shower. An expansive guests-only second-floor wood deck terrace features a fire pit, porch swings for two, and comfy canopied lounges, and it twinkles with tiny lights in the evening. Guests get complimentary access to a large fitness center next door that has a pool, hot tub, and sauna.

Guests gather in the spacious, open AVIA Kitchen and Wine Bar (B&D daily; $$.) from 5 to 6 p.m. for complimentary “bites and flights,” which pairs light snacks with a sampling of wines poured by a local winery rep. The restaurant’s evening menu features small plates and a wine list that includes small vineyard exclusives. Also, an inviting bar operates in a corner of the lobby.

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image courtesy of hotel

Saturday, December 11, 2010

San Francisco: Lafitte--CLOSED

Lafitte Pier 5/near Jackson St., The Embarcadero, (415) 839-2134. L M-F, Sat-SunBr, D daily; $$-$$$. Featuring a delightful open space with high, high ceilings plus an open kitchen, this venue has a variety of seating options that includes a covered patio with a bay view and a chef’s counter that permits chatting with the owner-chef who is the creator of the inviting seasonal fare. The adventuresome menu changes daily and might offer perfectly prepared lamb with a side of black chickpeas, or turkey with butternut squash puree. Appetizers and desserts are a strong point—deep-fried olives, crab-stuffed squash blossoms, little pear and quince tartlets in buttery crusts. Creative cocktails, beers, and non-alcoholic libations join the menu along with a globetrotting wine list.

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photo depicts owner-chef Russell Jackson; image courtesy of venue

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

101 North: Geyserville, Isis Oasis Sanctuary


Isis Oasis Sanctuary  20889 Geyserville Ave., (800) 679-7387, (707) 857-4747. Tours by appt. Named for and dedicated to the Egyptian goddess of nature and fertility, this unusual nonprofit retreat center hosts theatre, poetry, and spiritual events “aimed at bridging the gap between the modern world and ancient Egypt.” The 10-acre property is on what was once a Pomo Indian ceremonial grounds and is home to waterfalls, a 500-year-old designated heritage fir tree, and a pond that is holds both black and white swans. Visitors can tour an aviary of exotic birds and a vivarium of insects and small reptiles. Owner Loreon Vigné moved here after San Francisco outlawed the breeding of wild cats within city limits. Here she breeds exotic felines, including ocelots (she is the only breeder known to reach a 7th generation) and bobcats, and her menagerie currently includes ocelots, bobcats and serval cats. A Sacred Sunday Salon program begins at 2 p.m.

 image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

Unusual lodgings (Some shared baths; $50-$100 donation. Pool, sauna, hot tub. Full breakfast.) include three canvas yurts, one converted wine barrel, a tepee, and a 2-story obelisk, as well as cabins and 12 lodge rooms--each of which is named and decorated for a different Egyptian goddess.

Mummy’s Kitchen serves Egyptian Asian fusion cuisine ((707) 921-8423. D F-Sat, L Sun; $-$$.). Menu items include Egyptian Mummy Wraps, Pad Thai with tofu or chicken, and Egyptian stew with cous cous.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

101 North: Healdsburg, Strolling Dine Around

Strolling Dine Around  December 8 & 9, 15 & 16; (707) 479-7488. $85, gratuity included; wine additional. Reservations advised. This 3-hour dining experience takes place at some of the town’s finest restaurants. The progressive feast includes 4 courses at a selection of 16 restaurants, each conveniently located either near or on the historic plaza and within easy walking distance of one another. You might start with a cocktail and appetizer at classy Cyrus (try a complex Pomiranian made with Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron vodka, pomegranate juice, lime juice, cardamom-black pepper syrup, mint, pomegranate seeds, and seltzer), perhaps followed by a healthy organic first course composed of an “I Am Satisfied” salad and an “I Am Thankful” cold coconut curry soup at counter-culture Cafe Gratitude. For the main course, Zin is a winner with its divine roasted chicken, and consider dessert in the sweet little romantic cottage that is the Ravenous Cafe and Lounge—maybe a round, single-portion of white chocolate-coconut banana cream pie topped high with whipped cream and ensconced in caramel sauce. A portion of the proceeds benefit charity.
Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.