It’s been two years, but I can still recall the hot California sun beating down on me as I got down, drenched in sweat, on bended knee. This wasn’t some kind of offering to the gods. My damp fingers gripped a blue velvet box containing a brilliant solitaire diamond ring. What had begun as a “poke” on Facebook led to a wonderful romance with Nafis, which, in turn, led us to Facebook HQ (meta, right?) in Silicon Valley for a very public marriage proposal. This was the highest-stakes moment of my life, and it was happening in front of Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and hundreds of other Facebook employees. It was terrifying, and if Nafis had said “No,” our two-hour tour of Alcatraz afterwards would have been pretty awkward. Fortunately, her response was an overwhelming “Yes!”
Admittedly, that trip was one of the most epic moments in our time together, but our recollections of the Bay Area were a complete blur. The proposal and my bro hug with “the Zuck,” which was picked up by CNN, Good Morning America, the Daily Mail and the Huffington Post, to name a few, overshadowed the rest of the visit. So when an opportunity to return to California presented itself (less the stress of a proposal)—under the guise of testing the new 2017 Lincoln Continental—we couldn’t resist retracing our steps.
Our car is waiting at San Francisco International Airport, and I’m reminded that my now wife is a sensation-seeking car enthusiast. Cars are her thing. In Napa, she takes the wheel as I explore a set of door-mounted buttons that recline my seat and trigger massage mode. A console control spins Frank Ocean’s latest through the 19-speaker Revel Ultima audio system, and we’re ready. We head north for Davis Estates, located in the city of Calistoga.
The 63-hectare winery boasts spectacular views of the valley and a wine-tasting cave that would make Batman proud. The estate produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and dessert wines. Suffice it to say, I’m lucky my wife likes to drive.
From there, we head to the famed Calistoga Ranch, located in a private canyon surrounded by ancient oaks and rolling hills. This 50-lodge eco-luxe resort is designed with a focus on an indoor-outdoor lifestyle. Our room has an outdoor fireplace, outdoor hot tub, an alfresco shower and a secluded patio dotted with stones and dense trees. That evening, we dine inside the property’s large wine cave that doubles as a romantic event space. Our stay ends with a couples massage at the ranch’s Auberge Spa and a dip in a pool that features Calistoga’s famous healing waters.
With the help of the Lincoln’s voice-activated navigation system, we hit the road to discover San Francisco, one of America’s fastest changing cities. We begin our adventure with—what else?—food. This city has the most farmers’ markets and restaurants per capita in North America, 54 of which have earned Michelin stars. (Six Bay Area restaurants have three Michelin stars.)
We eat at the Obama-approved Twenty Five Lusk, a trendy South of Market (SoMa) supper club. The restaurant was visited by the former POTUS a few months prior. The melt-in-your-mouth lamb over fennel and fava bean purée is delicious. We wind down our evening at the prestigious St. Regis San Francisco and share a Bloody Brunello cocktail in the lobby lounge before taking a late-night dip in the hotel’s 24-hour-access infinity lap pool.
Sightseeing in San Francisco is made easy, as most of the city’s attractions are located within approximately 121 square kilometres. In just two days, Nafis and I visit all that we missed on our last trip: the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, Chinatown’s Dragon’s Gate, Coit Tower and the Mission District’s murals. We get behind the wheel again and veer out of the city to visit Baker Beach, which has some of the best photo ops of the bridge. But be warned: This is a nude beach, so your photos may be upstaged by a sunburned beach bum wading in the tide nearby. With its artwork, drumming and Frisbee play, the place has a real Burning Man-type vibe to it; it’s a reminder of what makes San Francisco so San Francisco. One of the beach goers invites us to join in on the clothing-optional endeavours, but we politely decline, clasp hands and head back to the car. Maybe we’ll save that for our 25th anniversary.
Our Favourite Places to Eat in SF