This day I spent most of the time in Wine Country, the region north of San Francisco where countless wineries produce most of the Californian wine. I started in Calistoga, the northern border of Napa valley, having a look at the rather small downtown area of this town. In this area there are a couple of geothermal activities, so I rather spontaneously stopped by an active geysir and was lucky that I only had to wait for a short time to see a quite impressive eruption that lasted for several minutes. After that, I chose the Castello di Amoroso winery for a tour and wine tasting. This winery resides in a very authentically replicated Italian style castle, and the tour through this “castle” and the wine cellars was very entertaining, ending with a “wine tasting” (to me more a speed drinking) of most of the wines of this winery. I had to walk around a bit first before I was able to continue my drive through Napa valley down to Napa itself, where I stopped by in downtown. From Napa I drove to Sonoma, the centre of the parallel, not so famous Sonoma valley. I stopped by another winery that was supposed to give free cave tours, but was too late for that. So I ended my visit in Wine Country and made my way to San Francisco.
I approached San Francisco from the North using the Golden Gate Bridge. Driving the bridge by car was not so exciting as I thought, the lanes are quite narrow and I wasn’t able to see much from the bridge. I was also surprised that they charge quite a lot of money for riding the bridge (6 USD single trip). In San Francisco itself, the most horrible driving experience of my trip began – it was very congested (probably due to a current navy event “fleet week”) and I finally had to cancel my plan to stop somewhere at the pier as it was total traffic chaos and no parking spaces were available. I should have read the statement in the Lonely Planet guide more thoroughly: “If at all possible, avoid driving in San Francisco”… At least this was in parts already a sight-seeing tour, but a very exhausting one. The traffic chaos lasted on for about an hour on my ride to the hotel, which is a bit south of San Francisco. So this first experience of San Francisco was not the best, but let’s see what it is like without a car using park and ride during the next days.