How to leave your heart (and much of your liver) in San Francisco!

Is there anywhere else on earth you can witness the grandeur of the sun, the surf, and the mountains like you can in California? Did I say witness? I meant becoming a card-carrying member of Club California, an organization devoted to amazing food, unbelievable wine culture, and a something-for-LITERALLY-everyone lifestyle. It’s no wonder the state is a bucket list destination for so many of us. And if you have a particular affection for the fruits of the vine, there’s no place to worship like Napa, Sonoma, and San Francisco. (Note, the locals definitely do NOT call it Frisco! If you must abbreviate, go with San Fran.)

California wine country is so much more than just wine. Sure the area produces some of the world’s most expensive and sought-after appellations, but visitors can also hike, cycle, horseback ride, and hot air balloon. And there’s no shortage of shopping, dining, music, zip lines, and spa treatments (it *is* California after all!). Oh, and a head’s up. Napa is bigger and gets most of the press, so you can be forgiven for thinking it’s “all that.” But the truth is, Sonoma County produces more grapes.

The dilemma for most of us is how to visit Sonoma (or Napa for that matter) and not also make the pilgrimage to the City by the Bay? Because, let’s face it, you cannot possibly do one and not the other. To me, the answer is clear. Do both! If you’re planning a wine touring adventure this year, make San Francisco your home base This will give you the very best of both worlds: A one-of-a-kind city escape and an over-the-top wine tasting extravaganza. Or, park yourself in Wine Country and make day trips into the city. Either way, you’re in for a win-win experience!

If you’re thinking of making the City your home base, and you’re travelling with a posse of friends, consider staying in this architectural masterpiece situated high in the Berkeley Hills. With room for 12, this home sits on a hidden oasis of private terraced gardens and all three levels offer stunning views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Contemporary design, unique artwork, and redwood decks will truly make you feel pampered. And, it’s less than an hour’s drive to Wine Country. So pack a picnic and head out to St. Helena, Sonoma, and Calistoga.

If you’re not travelling with such a large group but you still want over-the-top luxury, treat yourself to the extravagance of this beautiful home in the highly-desirable Telegraph Hill neighbourhood. A private elevator will whisk you from the parking garage into your penthouse suite where you will be greeted with panoramic views that stretch from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the Ferry Building. You can stroll to most of the City’s tourist hubs including Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, Coit Tower, and Lombard Street. And given the views and proximity to so many local attractions, you can be forgiven if your wine tastings are limited to whatever you purchase at Trader Joe’s to enjoy on your jaw-dropping terrace.

Just outside of the Bay Area (and by “just outside,” I mean just outside the fog belt that can blanket the city), you’ll discover this magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors in the kitchen/living/dining room open out onto a 50 ft wide natural atrium that leads to the pool and outdoor kitchen. If your occasion demands some serious WOW factor, this is it! And, because it’s just outside the city, you are ideally situated between the best of both worlds: 20 minutes from everything the city has to offer and just 45 minutes from wine country.

If your heart (and your liver!) are set on staying in wine country proper, we’ve got you covered. How about a 5 bedroom villa in Sonoma, the very heart of wine country? Imagine you and 8 of your closest friends luxuriating on a private estate with your own pool, spa, vineyards, and wildlife. Yet, you’re literally minutes from downtown Sonoma and its shopping, dining, wineries, and nightlife. And if you happen to visit in the fall, you just might be treated to the spectacle (shown in the photo) of the vines trooping their colours in an unforgettable rainbow display.

Perhaps you find Sonoma a little sleepy and Napa is more your thing…consider this historic “Painted Lady” situated in the heart of downtown Napa. Built in the 1880s, this home looks as if it was magically transported from “Postcard Row” along Alamo Square Park in San Francisco. But it’s not in the City, and that means there’s room to stretch out. In fact, the home is nestled in its own enchanted forest featuring a Japanese garden and gazebo. Did I mention that guests of the Purple Victorian enjoy free and discounted wine tastings? Could there be a more perfect place to sip and savour the fruits of the Valley?! If you find one, PLEASE let us know!

How to do Coachella in style (and comfort)!

California Music Festivals

#73996 Palm Springs #86024 Palm Springs #135749 Palm Springs #39411

It’s spring! The time when a young man’s fancy (and young women’s, for that matter) turns to thoughts of music. In the desert. In California. Of course, I’m talking about Coachella. Or as it’s more formally known, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its only slightly less edgy cousin, the Stagecoach Country Music Festival. Both events take place on successive weekends in April. If you like new music from any of the more rowdy genres, you might be making plans to attend Coachella. If your taste runs more toward the roots, blues, folk, and gospel side of things, perhaps you’re headed to Stagecoach. Either way, it doesn’t matter whether you’re going to see Lorde, Arcade Fire, Crystal Gayle, or the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, know this: You do NOT have to rough it! Gone are the days when festival goers had no choice but to camp in primitive, sludge-laden bogs. Wouldn’t you rather stay in a luxurious condo or town home in the nearby communities of Palm Springs, La Quinta, and Rancho Mirage? Of course you would! Shuttle buses are available to transport you from your accommodations directly to the gates of both festivals. And the beauty of the system is, even if you don’t yet know exactly which resort you’re staying at, your shuttle pass is flexible enough to get you to and from the festival with maximum convenience and minimum hassle. You can learn more about the Valley Music Travel Shuttle by clicking here: valleymusictravel.com.

#208878 - La Quinta, Palm Springs

Watch the sun set over the mountains and then take an evening dip in the pool

One way to get the most from your concert-going experience is to practice the buddy system. That is, to make sure you’re travelling with a posse of friends. They’ll help you wring every memory possible from the festival and the aprés-festival! And they all fit into this property (pictured above)! With four spacious bedrooms and a private saltwater pool, this property will definitely facilitate maximum relaxation and rejuvenation so you’re all set for the next day’s events!

#205817 - La Quinta, Palm Springs

Enjoy the backyard mountain view at the PGA West Golf Resort in Palm Springs, CA

With two master suites and 3,500 sq. ft. of luxurious living space, this vacation home would enable you to bring the whole family. Yes, it sounds crazy, but is it, really?! The kids could hit Coachella and you could stay on for Stagecoach (or the other way around!). And for those less musically inclined, it doesn’t hurt that the home is located on the 13th fairway of the Nicklaus Private Golf Course. You don’t even have to play golf to be entertained by the duffers making their way along your private patio.

#73996 - Palm Springs, California

Very private and serene master bedroom

If the only crowds you’re prepared to endure are at the festival grounds, you might want to look at staying in a smaller, more intimate vacation home. In other words, leave your kids (or parents) and your friends to fend for themselves! Meanwhile you can unwind and decompress from the day’s full-on sensory abundance in a quiet, oasis-like condo like this one. At least until the next day’s lineup beckons!

#77235 - Palm Springs, California

Relax in this fun, private pool house with mountain views and near downtown.

So what happens if you find yourself travelling with folks who are attending Coachella or Stagecoach, but you’re not? Well, naturally, you’ll want to ensure you’re vacationing somewhere that will let you get your groove on, too! This vacation home is located right in Palm Springs, minutes from downtown, casinos, outlet shopping, restaurants, and nightlife (in case you’re not totally exhausted by 7:00 or 8:00 PM!).

Good news! There’s a storm brewing

Storm watching on the West Coast

Tofino, BC #205093 Nanaimo, BC #49725 Arch Cape, Oregon #206405 Ucluelet, BC #89115

Since when is “bad” weather good news? When it’s a winter storm lashing the rocky coast of the Pacific Northwest.

Don’t get me wrong. The ocean-side highways of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon are spectacular during the summer months. But there’s nothing like making this trip (really more of a pilgrimage) from November to mid-March, better known to the locals as “Storm Watching Season.”

Truly hardy types might venture directly out into the elements, to feel the wind, the salt spray, and the “mighty ocean tossed.” But I prefer my storm watching from the comfort of a luxurious suite, preferably with a like-minded companion, maybe a fire or a hot tub, and definitely a glass (or two) of local wine.

From just north of the California border all the way up Highway 101 to Washington and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island, there’s hardly a cove along the Pacific Northwest coastline that doesn’t offer stunning access to some of the most powerful forces in nature. And the trifecta of rugged coastline, turbulent winter weather patterns, and gracious vacation homes combine to create a perfect storm of weather watching get-aways.

The west coast of Vancouver Island is arguably the most dramatic “must-visit” destination. And it’s no wonder. The landscape is a raw, wind-sculpted testament to the power and the beauty of the elements. Waves that have travelled, virtually unobstructed, across the Pacific can reach in excess of 12 metres. (For perspective, the tallest dinosaur who ever lived, Brachiosaurus, was about that height.) As a bonus, the area is rich with the legends of the First Nations people. If you can tear yourself away from the vistas, visit the Kwisitis Visitor Centre in Pacific Rim National Park to learn more about the Nuu-chah-nulth people, their traditions, and stories.

Tofino, BC #205093

Tofino, BC #205093

The closest vacation home to the Visitor Centre is this one: Located directly on famed Chesterman Beach right in Pacific Rim National Park. If it were any closer to the ocean, you’d need a life jacket!

Ucluelet, BC #63916

Ucluelet, BC #63916

South of Tofino, Ucluelet is just as stunning, but further off the beaten path. Ideal for travellers who want to feel like they’re off the grid even though they’re swathed in luxury.

If you’re not quite ready for the rugged isolation of Vancouver Island, Washington might be just the ticket. Consider a holiday rental that’s on the water, but also close to the bright lights and big city of Seattle.

Puget Sound, WA #207327

Puget Sound, WA #207327

It’s hard to believe this magnificent, cliff-top rental, with its unobstructed views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, is a scant 30 minutes from SEATAC International Airport!

If your storm-chasing adventures take you down the fabled Oregon Coast, you’re in for a real treat. Vacation accommodations include cabins, like this one, literally carved out of the rainforest on the edge of the sea.

Arch Cape, OR #206405

Arch Cape, OR #206405

And if your storm watching is intended as the backdrop for a proposal or milestone birthday or anniversary, why not go all out and treat yourself to a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Port Orford, OR #114129

Port Orford, OR #114129

This incredible vacation home, in Port Orford, Oregon, is perched high on a secluded bluff and offers every possible luxury you can imagine. So you can do it all or do nothing at all. Either way, it’s time to check the weather forecast, pack a bag, and head for the West coast.