If you’ve been to Porto in Portugal you’ll probably have paid a visit to some of the port caves for a port tasting session. Here you’ll learn that the grapes are grown in a region called the Douro Valley. I did just that, and after falling a little bit in love with Porto, and its wines and port, I was keen to take a closer look at the area where the grapes are cultivated before they’re transformed into port and wine. What better way to discover the region than by Douro Valley steam train followed by a boat trip – which is exactly how the barrels were originally transported to Vila Nova de Gaia for ageing in the port caves.
The drive through Death Valley National Park was yet another highlight along the route of our South West US road trip. In complete contrast to the majestic granite cliffs, verdant pines and babbling streams of Yosemite, Death Valley possesses a sun-bleached grandeur, and desolate sense of vastness. There really is nowhere else like it on earth.
Yosemite National Park is known for its incredible natural beauty, giant sequoia trees, iconic vistas, gushing waterfalls, green meadows and the towering granite giants of El Capitan and Half Dome cliffs. Set within California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range a day exploring Yosemite was our next stop after Monterey. A visit that I’d been looking forward to since we first started planning our US road trip. Yosemite is a place that needs to be seen first-hand to be truly appreciated. Soak up nature’s glory, breathe deep the pine-scented air and feel very small amid the grandeur of Yosemite’s great outdoors.
There’s a place on my travel wish list that has fascinated and intrigued me since I first discovered its existence. A place of ancient civilizations, mountain-top ruins and home to one of mankind’s greatest mysteries. A place where you’ll find snow-capped mountains, the world’s deepest canyons and a vibrant swathe of dense tropical rainforest. Where the people are welcoming, creative and colourful and a country whose capital is considered to be one of the best cuisine destinations in the world. Here are some of the reasons why Peru is calling me.
Monterey Bay, California lies on the west coast of the US around 133 miles south of San Francisco. It’s a place of natural beauty with cobalt blue sky mirrored in a sparkling ocean. It looks much like any other ocean scene on a sunny day as gulls soar and white surf rolls over the water in the race to shore. But Monterey Bay is different because beneath this part of the ocean is one of the deepest canyons in the earth’s seabed and it’s brimming with life. Stand on the shore and you’ll spot a whole lot of wildlife in the seas. Take a boat out to the edge of the canyon and, if conditions are right, you’ll witness the nature of the Pacific in its full awe-inspiring glory.
Monterey Bay in California was the second stop on our US road trip and was a huge highlight. One thing that struck me about the scenery was how incredibly blue the sea and sky is. When I hear Monterey mentioned I get a memory flash of dazzling cobalt blue so it doesn’t surprise me that Monterey has been described as the ‘greatest meeting of land, sea and sky’. I feel the same could be said for that whole stretch of Californian coastline.
September saw us head off on our road trip to America’s South West. I’ve written a little bit about what we did in our starting city of San Francisco, but here I’m going to share our road trip itinerary and how we planned it. We went with friends, coincidentally another Mr and Mrs Jones, so there were four of us and four different wish lists. We started with a map and wine – wine is always a good place to start. After agreeing on a do-able radius we all pitched in with an orange marker pen and circled our ‘must sees’. From there it was just a case of joining up the dots. Well, sort of.
San Francisco packs a huge amount of sights into a small, compact area. The city is only seven miles by seven miles but that’s not to say it’s an easy walk because it’s built on a staggering 43 hills. And stagger you will after hiking some of those steps and steep inclines! I’ve visited the city three times in the last few years, twice in sparkling sunshine in January and February and again last month, at the start of our road trip, when the city was fabulously foggy. It was fascinating to see the city take on a misty persona.
There are certain things every visitor to the city should see and do; get up close to The Golden Gate Bridge, check out the best views, take a boat across the bay to visit ‘The Rock’ home of Alcatraz, and trundle up the city’s hills on an iconic cable car for both the experience and the views. And that’s just for starters. Here are my tips on what to see and do in San Francisco, the ‘City by the Bay’.