Ringing in the New Year in San Francisco

01/06/2013

First and foremost, happy new year to you all. I hope it’s a good, blessed one for many of you. :p

So, kidding aside, hopefully you rang in the new year in whatever way you wanted to ring it in. As for me, I traveled….again. It’s somewhat of a common theme, in between those new years eve nights where I literally do nothing aside from having a beer and/or glass of champagne while watching TV. On the more exciting occasions, I’ve celebrated NYE in Times Square, Washington DC, Cincinnati, and now San Francisco. It was a blast (no pun intended, considering the fireworks!) Let me tell you alllll about it.

 

Rearview Mirror Reflection of Clouds

Reflections on the Past


 

So, the first stop on this roadtrip, six hours north of home, was Napa Valley. The last (and only) time I had been there, I was 17. When you’re that age, wineries aren’t very fun. Back then, I was offered a lovely tasting of water. It was a real bummer, as my father and brother lived the life of connoisseurs, analyzing the wine bouquet and notes of lovely-sounding things like chocolate and berries.

As for this recent visit, the quick stop in Napa was sort of a letdown. The area is always so hyped up, but I didn’t find it to be any more impressive than the central California/Santa Barbara-area wineries. Both areas are beautiful, and in both regions you’ll find a combo of hits and misses. Also, it’s worth noting that tastings in Napa are more expensive than the other wine regions I’ve visited. At some places, the pours are very conservative, and you might only get to taste three wines for $20. I’ve read that some Napa tastings even run about $40!

A coworker highly recommended Gott’s Roadside (formerly called Taylor’s Refresher), which is a small, three-store burger joint. On location is in Napa, another is in St. Helena (near Mondavi Winery), and the third is in San Francisco. We stopped at the St. Helena location and, despite the frigid temperature, there was a long line at the outdoor order window. It didn’t take too long to figure out why the place was so hoppin’… it was delicious! My Wisconsin Sourdough burger and onion rings seemed really fresh, and excess grease was minimal. That’s not to say I didn’t feel sick to my stomach a while later, after gorging myself… but that’s my bad.

 

From there, the next notable destination was the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. My first impression was the location was really surprising. Photos seem to give the feeling that it’s fairly isolated or perhaps situated at the forefront of a suburban neighborhood. That’s not really the case at all. Rather, the home is effectively surrounded by a business/mall complex, movie theaters, and a freeway. Except for the heavy mall traffic on a Saturday night, that discovery wasn’t off-putting or anything… just very different from what was expected.

 
Rear View of Winchester Mystery House in San Jose
 

Taking the first Grand Tour of the morning was probably a wise move. The group seemed small – about 10 people – and, for the basement tour, there were four of us. The tour guide was expecting 12, so it was great to have that more-personal attention. The basement wasn’t too exciting, except for seeing how much the wood beams supporting the house wore down during the 1906 earthquake.

As for the main tour, I really enjoyed it. Imaging little ol’ Mrs. Winchester (it’s said she was 4′ 10″) wandering the corridors, forever trying to appease the spirits, was really something. The architecture is beautiful, and the monstrosity of the house is amazing, yet the mansion didn’t have that creepy factor like I always expected. It was a daytime tour, though, so maybe that had something to do with it. And maybe my previous work on Ghost Hunters has made me a little more skeptical of those types of situations. Weird, unexplainable occurrences have happened – I can attest to that – but they are so few and far between that you can’t anticipate much.

 

San Francisco was next on the agenda. I had been warned against driving in the city, due to parking being next to impossible. Maybe it was a fluke due to the holidays and such, but it worked out okay.

 
Golden Gate Bridge Wide
 

The first night, we parked a few blocks south of the marina. It was right at 7 PM, and as I was about to put coins in the meter, the light on it stopped flashing and it shut off. So did all the other meters up the street. Free parking and perfect timing! Cha-ching! So, metered parking isn’t 24/7, which can help save you some cash.

Ending up in the same neighborhood the following day, I discovered some free, 4 hour max. parking near Ghirardelli Square. We parked there, spent a couple hours biking to and across the Golden Gate Bridge, moved the car to a different parking spot, and spent a couple hours at dinner. It worked out great.

 
Night View of Golden Gate Bridge
 

As the day started to wind down and the New Years Eve festivities were starting to pick up, we headed east. We finally had to pay for garage parking, and walked to the Embarcadero. 200,000 revelers fill up that area every year for New Years Eve, so it was pretty wild. Plenty of people had apparently spent the hours leading up to midnight at the bar, so there was a lot of inebriated energy in the air.

 
San Francisco Ferry Building
 

With the giant crowd concentrated near the Ferry Building, we headed up the street and staked out a spot on Pier 3. It turned out to be perfect, as the firework display looked awesome with the Bay Bridge as the backdrop.

 
New Years Eve Fireworks over San Francisco Bay
 

Overall, it was a great, quick roadtrip but a great way to end one year and kick off a new one. Have a great year, everyone. Cheers!

 
Painted Ladies Row Houses in San Fran
 

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