california bound

We're off today, first to spend the night with friends in Buffalo, then on Tuesday flying west. We'll be in San Francisco two days, then head up to Sonoma County for the weekend for wedding festivities, then down to Yosemite National Park for three days.

I wasn't very happy about this trip, being the second consecutive year we've had our destinations determined by weddings. It's not that we don't want to be there; we're close with our nephews and nieces and wouldn't miss their weddings for the world. But this is not the trip I would choose this year, and I can't afford two vacations. (I actually can't afford any.) At least I had never been to New Mexico, so last year's trip had that excitement. I've been to California many times.

So I was generally feeling grumpy about this vacation, until last week, when I started getting excited about it.

San Francisco - the second best city in the US - is one of my favourite places. For me the cool thing about going someplace you've been many times is how it frees your exploration. When we return to a city for the second or third (or more) time, we've already done all the big tourist sights. We'll just pick a few things to do, go at a leisurely pace, soak up the vibe.

This year on the San Francisco agenda: a Giants game with a friend from JoS, a walk on the esplanade to see the bay and the bridge we love so much, the Ferry Building Market (new to us), dim sum, and San Francisco MOMA (I have never been). And if possible, our usual pilgrimage to City Lights Books.

And when I thought of going to northern California, I immediately thought: Yosemite. Yosemite is a place where the word "awesome" applies in its forgotten meaning, a place of awe and wonder. Allan and I were there on our first big trip together, in 1988. I was also there as a child, probably in 1970.

This time, instead of staying in the Valley, the more typical and popular place to stay, I snagged us a spot in the White Wolf area, a more remote location. (To give an idea, there are accommodations for hundreds in the Valley, and less than 50 in White Wolf.) We'll be staying in a tent cabin, the closest we come to camping. Washrooms and meals are in a common area. I'm excited about staying in this area. I'm hoping there is still horseback riding in the High Sierra country.

Yosemite has a huge range of accommodation options, from backcountry camping passes to luxurious lodges. If you ever go, I highly recommend planning ahead so you can stay within the Park itself. If you don't, you will spend hours driving in and out of the Park every day, much of that in traffic. This is important in any US National Park, but in Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, it's essential.

In between San Francisco and Yosemite is the real reason for the trip, our nephew's wedding in Sonoma County. J is my oldest nephew, born on my 20th birthday, and I'm so happy for him and C. It's also another opportunity to see my mom, siblings, nephews and nieces, and some amazing friends of my brother and sister-in-law's.

Sonoma County is wine country, so we might do a winery tour. Some friends of the couple run a tour company of small, artisinal wineries, and are giving a half-price discount to wedding guests. We've never done a winery tour before, always preferring to explore on our own. But there are hundreds of wineries in the area, and it's way more fun if you don't have to drive. So we might work that in.

For the wedding, we're staying in one of these cottages.

Hey, this sounds like fun! Why wasn't I looking forward to this trip? I know. My insanely strong desire to see new places, combined with the sense of time ticking away and not going to those places. But putting that aside, this will be a great trip.

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