Friday, 30 July 2010

I left my heart in California

Dear readers,

I cannot deny that I am ostensibly a bird, bred of blighty stock and hold the hills, valleys and concrete forests of our noble land in deepest affection. The tapas bar, taverna and trattoria will at times seduce me from the clutches of my english pub like an exotic mistress for a tawdry two week fling, however at the last there is nothing that can tear me away from the amorous embrace of my local.

This is of course not to say I am an unadventurous and homesick traveller- I consider any self appointed cosmopolitan without a liberal smattering of pin pricks in the map to be "laying it on a bit thick". Travel they say broadens the mind and indeed, I have found, the mid-section.

With both said broadenings duly noted perhaps it is a crime and a traversty that I found myself re-visiting the west coast of america for the fourth time in three years. Surely I should be exploring territories and cultures new?

The truth is that I feel that far from having missed opportunities I feel extremely humbled to have experienced some of the greatest natural beauty I have seen and I have to be honest some gastronomic pinnacles:

Naturally beautiful;
  1. Lake Tahoe: Winter- ski down from the top of Heavenly or Homewood and you see powdery snow, sparkling lake and scorching desert all in a glance. 
    1. In the Summer camp down in Emerald bay and take to the lake

  1. Yosemite national park: Drive across the spectacular Tioga Pass and make the long winding journey down to the valley floor and stay at the The Ahwahnee. This hotel shines as Yosemite National Park’s distinctive Four-Diamond hotel.  The Ahwahnee was specifically designed to highlight its natural surroundings, featuring Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point. The destination of queens and presidents alike, The Ahwahnee offers a perfect balance of history, hospitality and elegance.
  2. Big Sur: One of the must drive roads in the world. The Californian coast line at its most rugged and stunning
Eats and drinks:

California is a foodie's paradise- they take it extremely seriously. Personally I feel San Francisco and the bay area up to Sonoma and Napa has the edge- a stunning mix of artisan cheeses, fresh fish and of course the diversity of San Fran's community- hispanic, chinese, japanese all executed to a discernibly better standard than counterparts in LA.  I can recommend a drink at Top of the Mark and The Big Four in San Francisco (mostly for the views). There are so many good eateries it's hard to pick a few out (particularly given the demise of the once definitive Rubicon) but Charles Phlan's beautifully crafted "ingredient driven" creations at  Slanted Door have been deservedly exalted for a decade and the old school charm of the Swan Oyster Depot (lunch only) also get the nod .

Also a quick note on picture perfect Santa Barbara where Galanga Thai rocked our taste buds and we queued 35 minutes for one of the best ice creams I've ever encountered at Cold Stone Creamery.

I could write reams on the glories of California- the fish and meat in San Diego, the straight roads of the desert, the shopping in Santa Monica but I suggest dear reader you set your affairs in order and go and discover them for once.

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