For the obvious reasons, our travel this summer has been severely limited. Having fun while staying safe is the order of the day. It turns out, a trip up and down the coast was just the getaway we needed. We’re so lucky to live in an incredibly beautiful state, and I often find myself taking for granted just how gorgeous it is in California. At a time when we’re all appreciating who and what is around us, just noticing my lovely surroundings relieved much of my COVID-era anxiety.

We started in Sonoma. Our friends met us at our lovely Airbnb, and we settled in that evening. The following morning, we headed out for tasting day one, in Napa. We had a driver who was really great both days…he even drove our car, which just made things easier. We started our Napa adventure at Jarvis. Their winery, tucked away in the hills, is opulently designed. I couldn’t resist taking a selfie in the gold (yes, gold) ladies’ restroom. Our tour guide was incredible. It was honestly one of the best tours I’ve been on, and I’ve been on a LOT of wine tours. By the time we got to the gorgeous tasting room, I couldn’t wait to taste the product. I fell in love with their cabernet franc. Cab franc isn’t easy to find, so when I taste a good one I have to snap it up.

Our next Napa winery was gorgeous Shadybrook. First, they have horses. Sold, right?! We enjoyed a panoramic view on our outdoor terrace tasting, and the wines were so good that we bought several bottles.

We ended our Napa tasting day at Oso Sonoma. It was a phenomenal meal. It’s a tapas joint, so we ordered several dishes. Everything was really good, but I’m still thinking about the short ribs and deviled eggs with crab. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Our Sonoma tasting adventure started with the incredible Repris. The tasting started outdoors, went into the caves for a tour, and then up to a beautiful private tasting room full of windows.  Our personalized menus were adorable. The cheese and charcuterie platter was phenomenal, with standouts like salami de cacao and Cowgirl Creamery’s triple-cream. I didn’t try a wine I didn’t like, so our group joined the club (they actually encourage visitors to split memberships, which is nice). I especially loved the cabernet franc, the Left Bank blend, the cabernet sauvignon and their malbec. As someone who spends a lot of time in Argentina, it’s hard to find an impressive malbec outside that country. Repris really has it down.

We next headed to Healdsburg, for lunch and tasting at Jordan. Jordan’s chateau really made me feel like I was back in Europe. It’s charming and peaceful. Our group chose the Paris on the Terrace experience. We started with Champagne (Jordan partners with a vineyard in France, so it’s actual champagne as opposed to sparkling), followed by chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. We also enjoyed great food, including vegetables from the estate’s gardens. Jordan definitely ended our wine country adventure on a high note. We walked away with a couple of bottles and lots of memories.

The next morning, we hit the road again. On our way to San Francisco, we stopped to see friends in Novato. We brunched (outdoors, or course) at Blue Barn, then walked around the charming town and stopped to get ice cream for the kids. If you know me at all, you know that I’m a city girl at heart. I have to say though, Novato made me wonder whether a slower pace might be something to consider. I highly recommended stopping if you make a drive from Napa or Sonoma to San Francisco.

We escaped the afternoon heat for our comfortable car AC, with the City by the Bay in our sights. We crossed the Golden Gate and decided to show Lily the highlights, since it was her first time in SF. We went to Ghirardelli Square, strolled through Fisherman’s Wharf, drove down Lombard Street, and pointed out Alcatraz Island.

After our abbreviated tour, we checked into our hotel and did a quick change. We met my cousin at his home, where he hosted the loveliest al fresco dinner under the stars. We had the best time, although Lily still refers to San Francisco as “that cold place.” She’s an LA kid, for sure…

After stopping at iconic Bob’s donuts (the crumb donut alone is worth the wait), we headed back down the coast. We stopped in gorgeous Carmel, for lunch and a little unscheduled shopping. We were lucky enough to have a kite in the car, which Lily really enjoyed flying on the uncrowded beach. Unfortunately, she let go of it twice. The first time, I chased it into some bushes. The second time, kind strangers untangled it from a nearby tree. At least I got a little exercise…

We enjoyed the rest of our drive, stopping to take photos along the way. California’s coastline is truly one of the most magical I’ve seen. I sometimes take for granted that it’s in my proverbial backyard.

It wasn’t Europe, but our coastal trip checked every box. We were able to stay safe and enjoy some of the best our state has to offer. If you’re even remotely considering a road trip, I think this is the perfect time.