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From Yosemite to Monterey, northern California is beautiful

From Yosemite to Monterey, northern California is beautiful

Napa Valley delights wine lovers

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After landing in San Francisco, we drove to Calistoga, California, and stopped at the Calistoga Inn.

We dined on the inn's outdoor dining patio, which stretches along the bank of the Napa River. We enjoyed California cuisine, and I had my first taste of polenta and Calistoga sparkling juice.

We love to tour wineries, so we chose several in Napa Valley. We enjoy not only tasting the wine but the ambiance and architecture that makes each one unique. First was the V. Sattui Winery located in St. Helena, established in 1885. The stone vine-covered winery is reminiscent of late 19th-century wineries in Italy. Here we were able to view the grape-crushing process.

Next on our wine tour was the Beringer Winery, where we tasted wine in the historic Rhine House. Completed in 1884, Beringer's residence has beautiful exterior stonework, stained-glass windows and interior wood paneling. He wished to create a California villa that was reminiscent of the family's impressive old German home at Mainz-on-the-Rhine.

We also visited the wineries of Sutter Home, Chateau Montelena of Calistoga, Franciscan Oakville Estate, Domaine Carneros and Sterling.

Sterling is unique as one rides an aerial tram to gain access to the winery. Its founder was the Englishman Peter Newton. The winery buildings were completed in 1972 and designed in the spirit of the whitewashed hill towns Newton loved in Greece. They also incorporate a reminder of Sterling's English roots: the bells from St. Dunstan's Church in London.

From Napa we proceeded to Yosemite National Park. We visited some of the more famous attractions, including Bridal Veil Fall and Yosemite Falls. The two most impressive features of the park are El Capitan, a massive granite monolith standing 3,593 feet from base to summit, and Half Dome, which rises to an elevation of 8,842 feet.

We drove to Glacier Point, from which one can look down 3,214 feet to the valley floor. My favorite section of the park was the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, the largest stand of giant sequoias in Yosemite and home of the Grizzly Giant, the oldest tree in Mariposa Grove and one of the largest sequoias in the world. To visit the grove, we had to park our car and take a one-mile walk into the grove. Some of the trees here date back 2,700 years. We were able to walk through the Dead Giant, which was tunneled in 1878.

Next we headed toward Monterey, where we drove the famous 17-Mile Drive Scenic Tour. For a small fee we were given a map of the scenic nature tour. The most famous stops are Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Lone Cypress, one of California's most familiar landmarks and the symbol of Pebble Beach Co.

We especially enjoyed Bird Rock, home to shoreline birds and herds of sea lions and harbor seals. We checked into a motel in Monterey and headed off to Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf, where we enjoyed a seafood dinner.

That afternoon we drove to Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck's book of the same name. We walked around the quaint shops, and I bought a copy of the book to gain a better understanding of the history of the area.

We attended Mass at the San Carlos Cathedral, which was founded in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra. We happened upon the "Festa Italia" - the Monterey Fisherman's Festival, which for 73 years has brought Italian music, bocce competitions, arts and crafts and a variety of Italian pasta. Prominent was a statue of Santa Rosalia, the patron saint of the Sicilian fishermen of Palermo, surrounded by beautiful bouquets of flowers.

We also visited Mission San Carlos Borremeo del Rio Carmelo. Father Serra is buried beneath the church floor in front of the altar. We walked along the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea, where even a roll of film was expensive.

Returning to San Francisco, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and drove to Lombard Street, "the crookedest street in the world." We watched cars driving down the twisting path, but I was afraid to drive our car down, so Don and I walked down and then back up. That was really good exercise.

We stayed at the Buena Vista Motor Inn on Lombard Street. We parked our car in the hotel garage and were able to walk to all of the main attractions such as Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. Of course, we had to ride the cable cars. Ours got stuck and we had to be pushed up the hill by the biggest tow truck I ever saw.

We ended our trip by taking a harbor cruise. The one-hour San Francisco Bay Cruise takes you out toward the Golden Gate Bridge from Fisherman's Wharf. It passes Fort Mason, the Marina district, St. Francis Yacht Club and the Presidio. It heads past Angel Island and around Alcatraz. After great views of the Bay Bridge, we headed back to Fisherman's Wharf.

If you go, remember to bring a jacket because it is cool on the water even in the summer.

Lois Hasenfratz is a resident of Florissant.

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