Just Back From | An Insider's Guide to California


Our Marketing Coordinator, Katie, took a seven-day road trip through northern California last October, stopping in Carmel, Pebble Beach, San Francisco and Napa Valley. She visited three exceptional Harper-recommended properties, Meadowood Napa Valley, Bernardus Lodge and The Inn at Spanish Bay. In addition, Katie included a guide to eating and drinking in Carmel, Pebble Beach, San Francisco and the Napa Valley.

Here are Katie's recommendations for what to see, where to stay and what to do on a driving tour through California.

Meadowood Napa Valley suite

Overall impressions: San Francisco is a wonderful city with lots of history, unique neighborhoods and notable restaurants. There are so many areas to explore – spend a good amount of time here if you can.

Carmel was surprisingly one of my favorite destinations on the trip. There are so many things you can do there: wine tasting in Carmel Valley, exploring the charming coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea and visiting nearby Pebble Beach. Bernardus Lodge is a great property tucked into Carmel Valley with ample complimentary amenities and a beautiful vanity and bathroom.

Meadowood Napa Valley is a stunning property in Napa. Our stay was perfection and the service was flawless. With so many activities to choose from onsite, there are few reasons to even leave the property.

Insider’s Tip: If you are looking for a multifaceted destination, go to Carmel. I would recommended tasting some of the incredible wines from Carmel Valley. Next, explore the quaint and walkable town of Carmel-by-the-Sea filled with a number or art galleries, restaurants and shops. Afterwards, watch the sunset on one of the beautiful beaches or take a short drive to Pebble Beach for dinner.

Favorite moment: My favorite moment was attending the 2014 World Series in San Francisco. It was truly an unbelievable day. Also, witnessing The Inn at Spanish Bay bagpiper play on Hole 2 of The Links at Spanish Bay at sunset was surreal. It's a tradition not to be missed!

2014 World Series
Pebble Beach bagpiper

Favorite sightseeing: It may be touristy, but seeing Alcatraz is something everyone should experience.

Neighborhood to explore: In San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach. In Carmel, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pebble Beach, and Carmel Valley. In the Napa Valley, Yountville.

Day Trip suggestion: For nature lovers, don't miss Big Sur for the stunning cliff views and wildlife.

Brought back/souvenir: We brought back plenty of wine, a bottle of Prato Lungo Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Long Meadow Ranch and Giants gear from the World Series.

What to pack: For San Francisco, don't forget comfortable shoes. San Francisco is huge, spread-out and hilly so you will inevitably do a lot of walking. Also, wear layers. The fog makes for chilly mornings and evenings, but it can get hot during the day. For Carmel, bring sandals so that you can end the day on the beach watching the sunset. In Napa, don't wear white for obvious reasons. Also, bring a jacket as it can get chilly at night.

Wickets Restaurant, Bernardus Lodge
Bouchon Bistro

Guide to Restaurants and Wineries in Northern California

Here are Katie's suggestions for where to eat and drink in Carmel, Pebble Beach, San Francisco and the Napa Valley.

San Francisco

  • Scoma's for lobster bisque and oysters or the fresh seafood market at Fisherman's Wharf.
  • Brenda's French Soul Food for the shrimp and grits
  • Comstock Saloon in the North Beach district for great cocktails, oysters and people watching.

Carmel and Pebble Beach

  • From Scratch for biscuits and gravy, crab omelette or pancakes.
  • Bernardus Lodge for appetizers and a wine flight while playing a game of bocce ball on the lawn.
  • Roy's at The Inn at Spanish Bay for the breathtaking dining views, the blackened rare ahi and the extensive wine list. Afterwards, enjoy a drink by one of the fire pits on the terrace overlooking Hole 2 of The Links at Spanish Bay golf course. Don't miss out on the bagpiper at sunset!

Napa Valley


  • Bottega - Raviolo di Uovo (Ravioli filled with spinach ricotta, farm yard egg yolk and truffle sage brown butter) and the extensive wine list.
  • Bouchon Bistro - For the French Onion Soup and the Rillettes aux Deux Saumons (fresh & smoked salmon rillettes served with toasted croûtons).
  • Farmstead - Sits right next to Long Meadow Ranch. Be sure to order the tuna tartare.
  • The Restaurant at Meadowood - Chef Christopher Kostow's three-Michelin star restaurant.


  • Long Meadow Ranch - Very personable and knowledgeable staff and delicious wines. Make sure to sample their Prato Lungo Extra Virgin Olive Oil made from their 100 year old olive orchards – pure heaven!
  • Maisonry - This is a winery and art gallery set on a beautiful landscaped sculpture garden. One of the best aspects about this winery is that they pour Coup de Foudre. I still dream about the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Alpha Omega - Great place to end the day of tastings since they are open until 6pm. Beautiful setting for sipping a cabernet at sunset.
  • Robert Sinskey - Friendly staff and unpretentious atmosphere. Their tastings come with a complimentary tasting plate of cheeses, house made mini quiche and nuts.

Stay up to date with all of our globetrotting travel advisors and staff. Check back each week for another trip report, in our Just Back From series on The Harper Way.

By Hideaway Report Staff

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