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San Francisco/Napa Valley 2019

We decided to take an extra long weekend (Thanksgiving weekend in Canada) and go down to San Francisco to spend some time with friends.

Click HERE FOR PHOTOS from our trip.

Day 1 – Afternoon Flight and Evening Drinks

We were flying to San Francisco on a non-stop flight from Edmonton that left at 4:00pm. We worked for over half the day, and then left for the airport at 1:45pm to give us lots of time to pre-clear U.S. customs.

We got to the airport, stopped by the Air Canada concierge office to say hello to the concierge on duty (Jessica), and then headed to U.S. Customs. Even though we have Nexus cards, the Nexus security line-up wasn’t open, so we had to go through the regular line. There were only a few people in line, but it took quite a while.

Randy went through the metal detector first, and it beeped, so he had a choice of being patted down or going through the full body scanner (he chose the scanner). Then I went through and it beeped for me. There was literally nothing metal on me except my bra underwire and my watch. They must have the metal detector turned up to super-sensitive, because I was wearing my typical travel clothes that normally don’t set it off. I also had the choice, and went with the scanner. Randy noticed that 6 people in a row had to do the secondary check, so I don’t know if the staff was bored and felt like scanning everyone or what.

Once we were through security, we went to the Starbucks to get some drinks and a snack (there is no Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in the Edmonton U.S. departures area). Randy had some food vouchers from previously delayed flights, so we used one of those to pay for the food and drinks. We still had an hour and a half before our flight, so we found a table with power outlets and broke out our laptops. I spent some time updating this journal.

I had previously reviewed this same flight to San Francisco in 2018. I won’t be doing another review, but will mention what the service was like.

Boarding started around 4pm. When we got on the plane the heat was cranked, so it was quite warm. Not sure why it was so warm, it’s not like it was -30 outside. Prior to takeoff, flight attendant handed out a small bottle of water and the business class menu.

I was sitting in the last row of business, and in the row behind and across from me was a father and I’m guessing a 3 -year old son.   The boy had a lot of questions that the father was very patient in answering.

Boy: “Are we there yet?” 
Father: “No, we haven’t taken off yet”
Boy: Can I lay down?”
Father: “No, we have to sit up for taxi & takeoff”
Boy: “Why?”
Father: “Because those are the rules”
Boy: “What’s that button?”
Father: “It’s to call the flight attendant “
Boy: “Can I push it?
Father: “No, the flight attendant is busy right now and doesn't want to be bothered”

And so on… It was amusing, but I was glad when the in-flight entertainment system as turned (which wasn’t until turned on until we pushed back from the gate), so I could put on my headphones.

As we were taxi-ing out to the runway, the flight attendant came around to take drink and meal orders. The menu choice was chicken thigh or lasagna. I went with the lasagna. Randy went with the chicken. I then settled in to watch “Rocketman”.

Flying over the Rockies

We had been in the air for quite a while when the service finally started. Instead of having a drink service (with nuts) first, the flight attendant brought out the drink at the same time as the meal.

Lasagna meal on Air Canada flight to San Francisco

The meal was decent, but I wasn’t overly hungry, so didn’t eat a lot of it. The flight attendant cleared the meal and brought me a drink refill. Then we didn’t see her for the rest of the flight because she went to help out in the economy class.

Arrived in San Francisco on time. Picked up the rental car (a Buick convertible) and then headed to our friends’ house in Tiburon. Got there just after 8:00pm and sat around drinking champagne and then later whiskey as we caught up on things.

Day 2 – Fleet Week!

Our friend Rich was nice enough to take us with him to Fleet Week to see the air show. He picked us up at 9:30am and we stopped at Woodlands store to pick up some food to take with us. We then headed into San Francisco to get a good spot at Chrissy Field.

We got a parking spot one row back from the beach. Rich was hoping to park right next to the beach so that he could open the tailgate and be able to watch the show from next to the vehicle (they we don’t have to lug all our stuff with us). So, we loitered around for a few minutes and saw a car pulling out of a good spot. So, Randy and I ran over to the spot to save it while Rick moved the vehicle. So, we had a perfect spot. We set up our chairs and relaxed until the show started at 11:00am.

All set up in a great spot to watch the Fleet Week Show

The show started with a Parade of Ships. There were some big navy ships along with some coast guard ships. Apparently after a couple of the big navy ships docked downtown, they were going to be open for people to go onboard and tour.

After the parade was over, we had a bit of a break before the air show, so we broke out the sandwiches we picked up, along with some beer and wine that Rich had brought. So, it was a very civilized way to watch the show. Although the beer and wine made it more difficult to take good photos of the planes (ha ha).

Enjoying the view from our spot

The airshow started at 12:30pm with a variety of different planes, including military jets, biplanes and even a United 777. The highlight of the show was the Blue Angels (which started at 3:00pm). We had perfect weather for the whole day – sunny, clear and warm. It was a great way to spend the day. I’m so glad that our friend Rich took us to see it! He has gone several times, so he knew the drill and was able to provide commentary on what we were seeing.

The show went until almost 4:00pm. Just before the Blue Angels started, we had everything all packed up and ready to go as soon as the show was done. The traffic was a little slow getting across the Golden Gate bridge (as it was the start of rush hour on a Friday), but it didn’t take too long to get back to Tiburon.

After we got back, I spent some time sorting through the 540 pictures we had taken to find the best photos. Then our friends had some people over to their place for dinner, so we had an evening of great food and (lots) of wine. After a day in the sun and a number of glasses of wine, I was quite tired, so hit the hay at about 10:30pm.

Day 3 – Hanging out in Tiburon

Woke up at 7:30am and continued to sort through the photos. We sat around visiting with our friends, and then I noticed that it was already 9:30am. Randy had booked a test drive at a nearby Tesla location at 10:00am, so we quickly got dressed and out the door.

When we got to the dealership, Randy said he had an appointment. However, the sales person couldn’t find the reservation in their system. They were already booked up for 10:00am, but the guy was going to fit us in for an 11:00am appointment. However, when they saw our driver’s licence, they said that unless we had an international driver’s licence, they couldn’t let us do the test drive. Instead we just ended up checking out the models that were in the show room. So, that was a bit of a bust.

We headed off to BevMo to pick up some wine for dinner over at Rich and Alice’s place later on. We also stopped at Starbucks to get a latte for Randy and then went back to Georgeann and Desmond’s to have lunch.

Around 2:30pm, we headed over to Rich and Alice’s house to catch the Saturday Blue Angel’s airshow from their house. It was a different perspective to see the show from the other side of the bay. It was a beautiful, sunny day – and we enjoyed the show with glasses of bubbly.

Blue Angels over Alcatraz

After the air show, they guys got started on smoking and then grilling the steaks we were going to have for supper. We also spent time snacking and drinking while during the meal preparation.

Enjoying the view

We had a delicious meal of steaks, baked potatoes, green beans, salad, mushrooms and bread. Around 9:30pm, there were some fireworks over the Bay Bridge, so we all went out onto the balcony to watch them. It was a great end to a great day.

Day 4 – Wine tasting in Napa Valley

Today Georgeann and Desmond had booked a tasting tour at one of our favourite wineries – Domaine Carneros. This winery has excellent sparkling wine, and we had actually been drinking a lot of it for the past couple of days. They do daily tours where you get to taste some of their wines and learn about how it is made. Georgeann and Desmond are members at this winery and get free tickets for the tour. We had been on the tour twice before with them, but I always love going again.

The tour starts in a separate tasting room where you sample a couple of their sparkling wines. Then they take you outside where you get close to the vines and the tour guide explains some of the logistics of planting grape. Then it is back inside to the cellar room for some more tasting and description of how they get the yeast out of the bottles, and we also taste a couple more of the sparkling wine.

Domaine Carneros tasting tour

For the last part of the tour, usually we go into a separate room to taste their pinot noir and have a small plate of dried cranberries and cheese. However, if it is nice out, they actually do this outside on their terrace now. So, that as a nice way to finish the tour.

Enjoying the tasting tour at Domaine Carneros with Georgeann and Desmond

After we were finished the tour (and bought a couple of bottles), we headed into downtown Napa to try another wine tasting place – JaM Cellars. This place was different than most other wine tasting places – as it had a casual seating area with some cool furniture, along with some booths to sit at. On Friday and Saturday nights, they also have local bands play. They also have a small menu for snacks, so we ordered a cheese plate and a meze plate to share.

Enjoying a tasting at JaM Cellars

The wines here were quite nice, and quite reasonably priced. I especially liked their chardonnay – which was very buttery-flavoured (as opposed to oak-flavoured). Not surprisingly, they named their Chardonnay “Butter”. Again, we bought a couple bottles.

We went back to our car to drop off the wine, then wandered around downtown Napa to figure out a place to have supper. We ended up going to Stone Brewing. Randy and I tried some of their beer, which wasn’t bad. Although, after all the alcohol consumption during the day, I was quite drunk. The food did help to sober me up a bit. The food was quite tasty, and we had a view of the river.

Dinner at Stone Brewing

After supper, we went to Georgeann and Desmond’s house in Napa to drop off some wine. Randy and I decided to leave the wine we had purchased in their wine cellar, instead of lugging them home with us. That way, there is incentive to come back for another visit soon to be reunited with our wine.

We then headed back to Tiburon, and sat around visiting for a bit. At 9:30pm, I was very tired after a long day of drinking, and headed to bed.

Day 5 – Homeward Bound

Today we had to bid farewell to California and head home. We got up before 8:00am, showered and had a bit of breakfast. We visited with our friends until around 9:30am and then got ready to go. We were a couple miles from their place when they phoned to say that Randy left his flip flops behind, so we went back to get them.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on way to airport

Traffic to the airport was decent. There is a Costco near the airport, so we stopped there to fill up the car before returning it. We went to the Air Canada counter to check in, and then headed to security. When we got there, there wasn’t a huge line-up for the TSA Pre-check line. However, right after we got there, about a dozen Air Canada flight crew cut through the line. And of course, they all have about 4 bags each, so the line didn’t move for about 10 minutes. Once we got up to the scanner, we were through very quickly.

Randy wanted to go to the United wing of the airport to the Boudin store to pick up some sourdough bread. I took his roller bag and went to the United lounge to wait for him there (Air Canada flights use the United lounge in San Francisco). When I checked in, the gal said that the lounge was pretty busy, and she wasn’t kidding. I wandered around the lounge, but every seat was taken. There were some desks near the front of the lounge, so I ended up sitting there to wait for Randy.

Meanwhile, Randy went all the way to the other part of the airport to find out that the Boudin store was no longer there. So, he came all the way back and managed to find some other type of sourdough bread from another store. I guess we’ll see how good this other sourdough is. He was gone about half an hour, so by the time he got to the lounge, we basically had time to hit the bathroom, fill up our water jugs and then head to our gate.

Before pushing back from the gate, our plane had to be boosted to get the engines started. Not sure exactly what happened, but every in-flight entertainment screen shut off during the boosting. The flight attendants weren’t able to turn it on right away, so had to do a manual safety demonstration. Once in the air, they did manage to turn it back on, but it took a while. My particular screen had to be re-booted again as the menus worked fine, but as soon as I wanted to watch something, I got an error. But luckily the re-boot fixed it.

For our meal, we had a choice of General Tao chicken over rice, or cheese and spinach ravioli. We both went with the chicken – which was decent. As we hadn’t had anything since breakfast, we were both quite starving by this point.

Mean on flight from San Francisco to Vancouver

On this flight they did an actual drink service prior to the meal, so the mixed nuts were definitely welcome at that point!

When we landed in Vancouver, our gate was way at the far end of the terminal from Canada customs. So, it was a long walk (with one non-working up escalator). Once we got to customs, we were able to go through the separate customs agents used for connecting domestic flights. Unfortunately, they still do not have Nexus machines in this area, so we had to use the regular kiosks. Which isn’t a big deal, but to access these kiosks, you have to show both the boarding pass from the flight you just got off, as well as your connecting flight in order to access the kiosks. Then we had to show the boarding pass to the customs agent, and then again before we could get on the bus that takes us to the domestic terminal. I mean, it is nice to not have to re-clear security, but how many times do they really need to see my boarding pass?

Once in the domestic terminal, we went to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and ran into our friend Bernie. We had a nice chat with him, and then headed to our gate.

On our flight to Edmonton, we were served a cold cheese plate. It was a quick flight and we were back home before we knew it.

Cheese plate on flight from Vancouver to Edmonton

We had a wonderful time with our friends down in San Francisco. We had great weather, great food and great wine. What more can you ask for?