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San Mateo, California, USA: Paradise next door
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Adjoining San Francisco's international airport stands the county of San Mateo. Within 30 minutes of landing, one can be enjoying great dining experience in the Theatre District. Thanks to convenient train connections from various locations in San Mateo, downtown San Francisco is just 30 minutes away!
I landed at SFO international airport at 10 in the morning. Thankfully, there was hardly any line at the immigration. Even the customs allowed me to pass through without going through the hassle of baggage X-ray check. I was out in about 30 minutes. I was the guest of California Tourism. I was hosted at the Sofitel Hotel San Francisco Bay, Redwood City. The hotel's van promptly picked me up and in 20 minutes I was in my hotel. Sofitel San Francisco Bay is an excellent business hotel on the twin Dolphin Drive, minutes away for Oracle's head quarters. I was quite impressed by the campus of Oracle, which one can't really miss. The cluster of buildings facing a lake is a landmark. In fact, whilst driving from the airport I crossed the HQ's of some popular companies including salesforce.com and salesgenie.com. It's only logical for a marketing guy to get fascinated. San Mateo County is in the Bay Area and home to many companies in the IT sector. Indeed the Silicon Valley.
I quickly got ready for my first stop - lunch at Angelica's Bistro on the main street in the Theatre District of Redwood City. The bistro is quietly nestled in the back of one of the area's antique emporiums. The ambience takes you back to the 18th century. The surroundings are a delight. May it be sipping your micro-brew beer or sipping your afternoon tea amidst dozens of sculptures and fountains in the bistro's garden. The bistro has some live entertainment in the evenings. If you are around, a visit is recommended. We were looked after well by the owners, Angelica & Peter Cuschieri.
After digging into a heavenly sandwich, we moved to visit The Ritz-Carlton at the Half Moon Bay. Within minutes of drive, we got ushered from the bustle of the city to tranquil fields. The region is a hot spot for agricultural produce. We crossed acres and acres of farms cultivating Christmas Trees and Pumpkins! In the month of October, the county holds a pumpkin festival. Farmers, from around and beyond, drive in with their harvest of massive pumpkins to participate in a competition. It's common to see pumpkins growing to sizes in excess of 600 pounds each. During the festival time its all things pumpkins… even martinis.
In about 30 minutes, we were at the Ritz-Carlton a luxury hotel and arguably the best on the Northern California coastline. Set atop a rugged bluff overlooking the pristine coastline. It has 2, 18-hole golf courses and a massive spa in the premises. Rooms, some with balconies and fire places, open out on to the coast. Those not on a budget can look forward to a refined and relaxed experience.
We then took the Pacific Coast highway. After an hour of driving along the blue pacific waters, at times spotting some sea lions basking on the rocks, we reached Costanoa Resort & Spa, Pescadero. Whilst the Ritz-Carlton was a luxury, this property, surrounded by endless acres of wilderness, coastal hills and secluded beaches, this lodge is a great place for camp style living. It has canvas cabins, and rooms made with logs. Array of activities at the lodge including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding, spa treatments, etc. can keep guests busy for days. The lodge also has facilities for RV parking.
A further 30-minute drive up the beautiful coastal highway brought us to the gates of Ano Nuevo State Park, Pescadero. This is the place for those in search of seeing elephant seals and sea lions at close quarters. Ideal time to visit this fascinating place is from December 15 to March 31. During this period, the Park offers a guided tour, a trek of about 3 miles that takes you close to these creatures. Fees are US$ 7 per person. Reservations in advance are recommended as it can get very busy. Adult seals begin arriving on the beaches by mid-December. Bulls engage in battles for breeding access to females. Pregnant females come ashore to deliver pups beginning in mid-December with births reaching a peak by late January. Mothers nurse their pups for about a month before weaning their pup, mating and departing back to sea. By the end of February most adult seals return to the deep sea leaving behind hundreds of weaned pups.
Had we kept driving, we would have reached Los Angeles in about 5 hours. We turned back and made a stop at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company situated at Pillar Point Harbor in Princeton-by-the-Sea. The restaurant, as its name suggests, brews its own beer and is served fresh straight from the brewing station in its backyard. A little tour of the brewing facility gave me some firsthand insights of beer making. Knowing varieties of malts, hops, fermentation and filtration process was an enriching experience. Since on the subject, I must let you know that this company produces about 11 types of ale. It's famous for producing brands that are quite topical. It even had brands to address the weak economy (Budgetary Alement) and the US Presidential Elections. Good to know that the beer with the Obama face on the label (Time for Change) outsold the rival 4 to 1 despite the fact that same beer was filled in both the brands. Sure enough, Obama won the elections. Cheers!
This restaurant is a great place to hang out. It overlooks the sweeping Pacific Ocean and is quite near to the famous Mavericks surf breaks. At its peak, the waves can rise up to 100 feet. No wonder, ardent surfers drop everything at hand and rush to the spot as soon as the news about the swirls is out.
It was almost 6PM. An hour's drive brought us back to Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, Burlingame, for a hosted dinner. With over 700 rooms, the hotel is the largest in the area. Despite being close to the airport, it doesn't have the box like look of a typical airport hotel. The atrium is beautifully made and the property has many restaurants serving a variety of cuisine. The dinner that was served to us was proof. Leaving aside the exotic salad and the dessert, a variety of entrees were made with creative use of crabs, organic chicken, lobster, swordfish, bacon, bison and of course vegetables!
I slept well at the Sofitel that evening.
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