From getaways

San Francisco Weekend Getaway to Cambria

Written by Meaghan Clark

Anyone who has visited a small coastal California city will likely feel an odd sense of nostalgia when visiting Cambria – narrow streets lined with locally owned antique shops, a sprinkling of ‘for lease’ signs, and a hodgepodge of restaurants offering up everything from Mexican to Italian.

Though bite-size, Cambria is the perfect counterpart to any hectic city lifestyle. Don’t worry about packing the latest fashion trends for your evening outing, making an endless stream of reservations, or book excursion after excursion. Cambria’s appeal is the anti-city where long afternoons spent watching 5,000-pound elephant seals or strolling along Moonstone Beach make you forget about “FOMO” (at least for the weekend).

El Colibri Boutique Hotel, Cambria
Image courtesy El Colibri Boutique Hotel

We escaped for a getaway that began at El Colibri Hotel, a contrast of sorts from the traditional beach motels or bed & breakfasts that line Main Street. Despite its youth (the hotel opened in 2010), El Colibri delivers comfort with in-room fireplaces, a luxurious spa complete with Jacuzzi tub, and educated staff that make it feel right at home in this rustic town.

WHERE TO EAT

Linn’s

Quintessentially small town appeal is the bread and butter at Linn’s, or rather the olallieberry at Linn’s. This mogul family owns much of the West Side in the shape of various restaurants, gift shops and packaged goods. Linn’s Easy as Pie, Linn’s Restaurant and Linn’s Fruit Bin are all equally comfortable in setting as they are hearty in country samplings. As cliché as it might seem, no one here will bat an eye – order up an olallieberry pie, warmed, or a breakfast pastry to savor the sweet local flavors of Cambria.

Indigo Moon, Cambria fine dining, best restaurant

Indigo Moon

For any San Franciscan, finding an outdoor space is an anomaly, In Cambria, Main Street is lined with patio after patio, but Indigo Moon isn’t just packed because of its tree-lined deck and star-filled views. The food or is equally as spectacular for both lunch and dinner (plus weekend brunch), with hearty portions and favorable pricing. Highlights from brunch included the eggs benedict, grilled chicken, brie and apple sandwich, and spice rubbed wild salmon salad.

Robin’s Restaurant

Robin’s is the Ritz Carlton of Cambria. Precocious (but not too pricey), Robin’s Restaurant offers unique cuisine in a fantastic setting. A landscaped deck offers prime outdoor seating for brunch, lunch, and dinner and the eclectic menu caters to every taste bud in your party. Don’t be concerned about sharing a pasta special, Thai noodles or a curry alongside artisan cheese plates or spring rolls – the flavor combinations are always on point.

WHAT TO DO

Upon arrival, kick off your shoes and take advantage of your proximity to Moonstone Beach Boardwalk where locals typically enjoy sunset. The rocky beach is breezy and warm, and the perfect welcome to your Cambria stay.

Image courtesy Hearst Castle
Image courtesy Hearst Castle

Cambria often gets overlooked. Its seaside neighbor, San Simeon, boasts one of the world’s largest estates in the States. Hearst Castle is a short drive away and well worth the visit. Book your tickets for a Sunday morning Grand Rooms Tour (extend your stay with a Cottages & Kitchen Tour) and forget the crowds or lines.

As your bus tour winds down the road back to ground level, keep an eye out for Piedras Blancas Light Station, your next destination. Reserve a tour and escape into history alongside the rocky shores.

While you’re in San Simeon, stop at the vistas to view the elephant seals where, depending on the season, hundreds or thousands of elephant seals bask in the warm sand and sunshine of W R Hearst Memorial State Beach.

Nitt Witt Ridge, Cambria tourist attractions

If you’re ready for an unusual encounter that’s been marked as a historical landmark, escape to the Nitt Witt Ridge a collectors obsessed-turned museum that offers daily tours. After your experience, sample the day’s tastings from local brewery Cambria Beer Co. (open daily).

WHERE TO SHOP

Cambria shopping, Garden Shed

Garden Shed is an oasis within walking distance of downtown, offering an eclectic collection from local artisans. With DIY in their blood, everything in the 6,000 sq. ft. indoor/outdoor space is appealing in their unique displays, friendly faces and original collections. Peruse for the afternoon, or if you’ve got a green thumb and ample outdoor space, find something for the garden.

Wineries are ingrained in any city dweller escape, and Cambria offers a great selection of local vineyards offering weekend tastings on State Route 46.

Stolo winery Cambria wine tasting

Local favorite is Stolo Family Vineyards, located just off the beaten path. The Stolo family lives on the property where their 94-point Syrah was created, as well as refreshing and ceremoniously scrumptious Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. The $8 tasting fee is a steal compared to any Napa getaway, and bottles ranging from $25 to $50 are a must, as they can’t be purchased anywhere else.

Thank you again to El Colibri Hotel for hosting us and Archer and Hound for setting up our destinations. Feel free to check out more things to do at Visit Cambria.  

Playa Del Carmen vs. Cancun: An Amazing, Authentic Alternative for a Riviera Maya Vacation

by Andrea Verdin

When planning a vacation, who doesn’t immediately begin to daydream of an all inclusive resort, with beautiful white sandy beaches? Who doesn’t yearn for miles of beautiful tropical jungle, with a small village nestled in between the leaves and fronds? Who doesn’t want to climb and explore the ancient ruins, only to be washed by a rainstorm once at the top?

Jordan Verdin Photo
Jordan Verdin Photo

Well, for my family and me, this was the experience we had at Playa Del Carmen. Playa del Carmen is located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, about an hour south of Cancun. It’s in the state of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatán peninsula. While it’s only an hour away from the popular Cancun, it’s worlds apart in terms of experience. Firstly, Playa Del Carmen is still considered a beach town; that means everything is still smaller scale. Even the hotels and resorts, which are monolithic, are on the outskirts of town, leaving an adorable, sleepy town with locals at its center.

Playa Del Carmen has regulated hotels and large business so that they cannot go past three stories in height. This means that you do not have to worry about your view of the jungle or beach being marred by an obnoxious skyscraper. This is not the case in Cancun, which has a much more industrialized feeling attached.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t find great food, or that you won’t be able to get some great shopping done while at Playa Del Carmen. Guests are encouraged to experience La Quinta, more commonly known by tourists as 5th Avenue.

La Quinta has an interesting mixture of shops. You can find both Mayan-made products with their makers sitting quietly in their booths, or you can access a sprawling, air conditioned mall with designer shops and familiar chain restaurants. One of the best ways to unwind after a day full of adventure, snorkeling and eating is to walk as far as you can down La Quinta. Pop into each shop, take a look at their wares, and negotiate with the shop owner to get the best bargain on the trinket, piece of clothing or memento you want to keep from your trip.

Jordan Verdin photo
Jordan Verdin photo

If you walk off the main strip, there are more localized shops and stands with food that the locals eat, such as el Fogon. This two story taco shop was packed with families, couples on dates, and tourists who knew how to shop around before settling on dinner. Everything was chopped as it was ordered, and you can’t help but try to fill yourself with as many tacos and tortas as possible.

While there are lovely restaurants along La Quinta, there are plenty of taco stands along the blocks near La Quinta that will give you the best – and cheapest – fare. What you need to do is look for a stand that has plenty of locals waiting in line for something to eat. This lets you know that the stand will have fresh food, great flavors, and a decent price attached. One of my husband’s favorite parts of the taco stand crawl was the churro guy at the end: once he received an order for churros, he would place the fresh batter into boiling oil before throwing it into the cinnamon mix. Customers are left with delicious, piping hot churros to top off their already full bellies.
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Another bonus of being in Playa Del Carmen is the quick access available to Cozumel, an island sitting just a few miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. For under 20 dollars, guests can take a round trip ride to an even more remote part of the Riviera Maya. Cozumel is only partially developed, and doesn’t have a lot going on after the sun falls, so it’s great for a day trip.

The view from our fish house in Cozumel
The view from our fish house in Cozumel

Once you arrive, don’t feel like you have to stay in the port village of Cozumel. There’s an entire island to see! We rented a buggy, then hit the open road. There’s a single road that circles the entire island, and we were able to stop at the southernmost point of the island and have lunch at a small shack on the beach.

The fish was freshly caught, the breeze was beautifully cool, and the sights were spectacular. Along the way around the island, there are several stands selling coconuts just off of the trees, and you can even stop and get a massage on the sand while your family or significant other snorkels along the reef.

 

Top Tips for Summer Switzerland Vacation Trips from an Insider: Nature, Wine and Chocolate Galore!

By Andrea Verdin
Photos courtesy Switzerland Tourism

Even though we are in the middle of our summer vacation season, the Wander team cannot stop planning ahead and daydreaming about what next adventure is down the pipeline. Coming back from the Mexican Riviera, I’ve got my mind on the next big excursion, and Switzerland seems ideal for a luxurious getaway.

People around the world have been heading to the Alps for thousands of years for jaw-dropping views and amazing experiences that cannot be had elsewhere. However, there’s so much to experience, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what to do while in Switzerland.

I asked Switzerland expert Greg Witt from Alpenwild about some of the tops tours, attractions and special events that guests should make sure to include in their tours, and here’s just a glimpse of what Witt suggested. We reached out to Witt and Alpenwild because of the knowledge regarding the Alps he could provide.

“Alpenwild is the leading operator doing hiking and walking tours in the Alps. Our most popular trip is the Haute Route, a legendary trek through the highest peaks in the Alps linking Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn,” said Witt. “It’s the most scenic trek in Europe. It connects the historic mountain resorts of Chamonix France and Zermatt Switzerland. Along the way we traverse ancient trade routes, pass immense glaciers, skirt scenic alpine lakes, and come within view of the 14 highest peaks in the Alps.”

With no further ado, here’s what Witt recommends for those traveling to Switzerland this summer.

The majestic Matterhorn
The majestic Matterhorn
  • Book a view from the Swiss mountaintops
    If you’re looking to get 360° views and the fresh mountain air, Witt recommends the Stanserhorn Cabrio, the world’s first double-decker cable car with an open air upper deck. Another option is a new mountain attraction in Engelberg called the Rotair, the world’s first revolving gondola.

    “So like the Cabrio you get 360° views, but with the Rotair, the gondola car does the rotating as you ascend to the summit of Mt Titlis,” said Witt. “Once at the summit of Mt Titlis you can get your palms sweating by crossing Europe’s highest suspension bridge—the newly-completed Cliff Walk. On the tamer side, don’t miss the new Olympic Museum in Lausanne. Located at the home of International Olympic Committee, the newly-reopened museum explores the events, athletes, and history of the Olympic movement. It’s the most interactive, engaging, and entertaining museum I’ve ever visited—guaranteed fun for all.”

  • Eat the cheese and chocolate; sample the wine.
    If you’re planning a summer Switzerland vacation, it’s essential to eat as much Swiss chocolate as possible.

    “For chocolate lovers, Lindt will be opening a much-anticipated chocolate attraction in Zurich in 2016,” said Witt. “But for those who want to satisfy those cravings this very minute, go to Maison Cailler, Nestlé’s premier chocolate factory, for a tour followed by unlimited tastings.”

    SWITZERLAND - SOMMER - BRAUCHTUM - TRADITIONENFor those more interested in food and wine, Alpenwild offers a tour called Cheese, Chocolate, and the Scenic Alps.

    “We link Alpine meadows, farms, dairies, and vineyards with some of the most spectacular scenery in the Alps,” explained Witt. “Switzerland is really emerging as a gastronomic powerhouse in Europe, and it’s becoming recognized as one of the great culinary regions in Europe. The cheese, wine, and chocolate are superb. The word is getting out—you can have a great food and wine experience in the Alps.”

  • Find a travel agency that will cater to your specific wants.
    If you want a trip that focuses solely on hiking, then you need to find a company that primarily offers hiking trips. If you’re looking for a haute trip that has individualized experiences catered to small groups, don’t expect every company to provide what you want. However, Alpenwild offers a wide array of what Wanderers might be looking for.

    Dividing the cheese ceremony in the Justis valley, Bernese Oberland. Each cattle owner fetches his animals in autumn and collects his share of the cheese produced.
    Dividing the cheese ceremony in the Justis valley, Bernese Oberland. Each cattle owner fetches his animals in autumn and collects his share of the cheese produced.

    “We specialize in the Alps—it’s really all we do,” explained Witt. “It’s our passion and expertise and we’ve been at it for three decades. We know the trails and towns inside out. We know the hoteliers and their rooms, the restauranteurs and their menus. Our guides are on the trails every day throughout the summer which gives us a level of expertise that other operators can’t match. And our guests get a richer, more enjoyable experience.”

    Guests who choose a summer Switzerland vacation with Alpenwild will stay in carefully chosen inns, small hotels, and classic berghotels. They are typically independently-owned inns that offer a superbly satisfying mix of a welcoming atmosphere, traditional cuisine, and authentic charm.

    “We pride ourselves in offering exclusive experiences and unique itineraries that would never be possible on other tours or traveling alone. We make cheese over an open fire with an alpine farmer, we learn the art of making chocolate truffles with a master chocolatier, and we’re hosted for winery tours and tastings by the region’s top vintners.”

    Wine tasting in the wine cellar of Gerard Raymond at Saillon, Canton Valais.
    Wine tasting in the wine cellar of Gerard Raymond at Saillon, Canton Valais.

    Summer is prime time in the Alps and you’ll find a full array of hiking, walking, culinary, and sightseeing tours at www.alpenwild.com. Additionally, Alpenwild offers an intriguing variety of specialty and custom tours throughout the year—photo tours, cheesemaking, literary tripsplein aire paintinghistory toursChristmas market tours, and trips for cross-country skiers and snowshoeing.

For more information, or to book a summer Switzerland vacation, check out the Alpenwild website.

Calistoga and Saint Helena: Sun, local food and wine at your fingertips

VGS Chateau Potelle.
The starting lineup at VGS Chateau Potelle.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

After more than five months in the City, I’m starting to finally feel like I have a handle of the neighborhoods, my commute and my watering holes. But like any other restless traveler, I’m constantly looking elsewhere to explore. After my first trip to Napa Valley a couple months ago, I was long overdue for some wine tasting, farm-to-table eating and legit wine country sun. Thankfully a trip to Calistoga was just what the doctor ordered.

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Joshua Tree Music Festival paints a perfect picture of music, relaxation and fun for festival goers

As some of us are preparing for the second weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that kicks off today, many of us are dying of envy as we watch our friends done headdresses, lace, and art gear to enjoy the festivities. However, there is another amazing festival that takes place in awe-inspiring Joshua Tree — the Joshua Tree Music Festival, which is happening May 14-17, 2015.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival is its own experience, and festival planner Barnett English is proud to plan a global music festival that is fun for people of all ages. This is completely different experience from other festivals because your children, friends and family can all come to this event, bond, and truly revel in the experience that can only be had at Joshua Tree.

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If people aren’t familiar with the Joshua Tree Music Festival, it’s important to note that it’s definitely an intimate affair, said English.

“We are not a huge festival – we have at most 4,000 people on site,” he explained. “There are no crushing crowds, and you can get right in front of the stage. It’s super laid back. From my experience, Coachella has about 100,000 people, and the madness can get pretty intense. Ours is not like that. You can see the eyeballs of the guy playing the guitar. It’s a more authentic experience because you are not getting lost in a sea of people.”

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This festival melds the overwhelming spirit of desert freedom with powerful music from around the world to create a lighthearted oasis for music lovers. Magically magnificent art installations, a robust Kidsville schedule, the heavily shaded Music Bowl, a full spectrum of yoga classes from sunrise to sunset, 27 different music playshops and didjeridu classes, late night Astronomy theatre, and a World Market further inspire, intrigue and invite festival goers.

Not to knock bigger, louder, and rowdier festivals like Coachella; it is absolutely a blast when you know how to survive Coachella and all the insanity that comes with it. However, for some, the overwhelming crowds, heat, and overall experience is dampened because you don’t really connect with new friends, or even have the same experience as your own friends. At the Joshua Tree Music Festival, your kids can dance and sway to the music, or you and your significant other can spend time stretching at the yoga class before heading to the main stage together.

Th-19The festival has been held at the same site since its conception, and is held at a privately owned campground with sweeping views of Indian Cove National Park.

“The folks that own the place have given us five acres of 40 acres for us to dream and build stages, shops, and yoga area,” said English. “At the end of the festival, we don’t tear down; we get to leave it here and add onto it every year. It’s not very common that a festival can do that, and we are super grateful to make it funkier.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival has two main stages, and bands alternate between the two so that no two bands are playing at the same time. This allows for guests to have the same experience, creating a bonding experience.

“All weekend long and afterward, people are affected in a positive way,” said English. “The music has been inspiring and they walk away with more energy. I love to see people have the time of their lives. People come away with meaningful conversations and new friends that they can’t live without.”

If you can’t make it this May, don’t fret. English is proud to say that the festival is so much fun, he and the other planners host it twice a year.

“We are having the 13th annual festival in May, but we also have the 10th annual fall event in October,” he said. “We just couldn’t wait a whole year!”

Full festival line up, schedule, and more information at the following sites:

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