Can expats ever know a city as well as natives? I was asked that as part of a panel discussion at London’s World Travel Market last week, and I felt a bit of pressure to justify my answer in front of 200 people. Thankfully I had just been to San Francisco, where as a native I realized I had done fewer of the must-do things in my city than many American transplants, expats, and even visitors. While there, I got to experience 5 unmissable highlights of San Francisco for the first time.
Every time I travel to Sonoma County I wonder why I haven’t moved here yet. The rolling hills, miles of vineyards, and pretty town squares draw me in, and the warm California sunshine begs me to stay. With each successive visit, I discover more about this region that makes me love it, and now that I have 48 hours in Sonoma County, I find more to tempt me.
It’s sweltering in San Francisco. Normally I wouldn’t be surprised by heat in summer, but this city is anything but normal when it comes to the weather. In fact, one of the most famous quotes is “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” It’s usually foggy here in July, but San Francisco surprises sometimes, and you have to be ready for anything. Which is why, as a native, I’m going to share with you A Lady in London’s guide to summer in San Francisco.
One of the great things about living in a city is that there’s no shortage of neighborhoods to explore. So why is it that I always end up in the same ones? In London I sometimes get stuck in a routine of going out around where I live and work, and it’s no different back home in California. But I’ve had such a good time exploring new neighborhoods in London over the past few years that I’ve decided to do the same in San Francisco. And I’ve found a few secret places…
One of the most difficult things about being a Californian in London is the winter. I can usually get through December with Christmas lights standing in for sun, and I’m able to get excited in January about the start of a new year. But come February, I’m out of ways to trick my sun-starved self into remembering why I live in London. Which is why every February I seek winter sun. And there’s no better place to do it than San Diego.
California is full of surprises. For one, a lot of people don’t know that you can ski here. For another, my home state is so big and geographically diverse that even natives like me discover new places in California all the time. Like Mammoth, with its snow-capped mountains, eerie ghost towns, and spectacular lakes…
Last month I celebrated the five-year anniversary of running the A Lady in London blog full time. This month I’ve discovered another area of media that is commemorating some exciting milestones in 2015: film. Given there’s no better place to explore the movie industry than Hollywood, I hopped over to Los Angeles to get an inside look at three famous films that are celebrating big anniversaries this year. Here’s what I found…
“What kind of people do you think lived in the original Gaslamp Quarter?” my guide asks. Erm, prostitutes? San Diego has always been a port city, and where there are sailors…well, you know. Apparently this is the correct answer. The guide proceeds to talk about the Gaslamp’s salacious history, which is fitting for an area that is home to San Diego’s best nightlife.
I’ve brought the apocalypse to California. On Saturday I woke up to an earthquake in San Francisco, and on Monday I encountered flash flooding in the Sierra Nevada mountains that delayed the opening of the famous Burning Man festival. Given that the end of the world may be at hand, I’m taking what could be my last chance to travel on a summer getaway to California’s best kept secret: Lake Tahoe.
Mention Rancho Santa Fe to someone in San Diego and you’re bound to get a memorable reaction. “It’s where all the golf courses are,” some say. “It’s where all the rich people live,” others claim. “It’s where my favorite spa is,” my brother’s mother-in-law tells me. And it’s that last one that gets my attention. Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa is her favorite place to relax and rejuvenate, and I have a feeling it’s going to be mine, too.
There’s nothing quite like taking a road trip in California. The bright sun, the beautiful coastal scenery along the state’s iconic Highway 1, and the golden beaches make it one of the most popular routes in the world to travel. But there’s one catch. With so many wineries up and down the coast, it can be hard to stay focused on the road. That’s particularly true in Paso Robles.