Monday, November 01, 2010

A weekend in San Francisco

This week I'll be attending QCON, an international conference on architecture and Agile held in San Francisco. Because a flight on Sunday was 400 euros more expensive than a flight on Saturday, I decided to rent a nice convertible and use the day off to take a nice road trip through the area to the south of San Francisco. My ride for this weekend? A Ford Mustang Premium Convertible with a 305HP V6 engine, 500 watt USB sound system and a GPS. Not bad huh?

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What’s great is that I could only make reservations for the Chrysler Sebring Convertible. I knew from last year that the Chrysler is a crappy car to drive, so imagine the smile when they told me about the Mustang. And to my surprise and unlike the many complaints of European car magazines about the driving experience of American cars, this one was absolutely awesome.   

This is more a less the trip I did. First to Vicaville to do some shopping in its Outlet Factory, then a bit of backtracking, and on to Napa to take the Silverado Trail all the way up to Calistogo. Napa is known for its wine-tasting, but since I don’t care much for wine (and I was driving), I just enjoyed the scenery. The vineyards over there look exactly like the south of France, but the difference is that in California the roads, the buildings and the gardens are better maintained. And did I mention already that the folks over there are much friendlier than the French?

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Obviously Napa has a Starbucks as well, so that’s were I took a light lunch and a cold Frappuccino. After completing the Silverado Trail I moved on to the coast where I enjoyed the view at Bodega Bay. What’s funny is that during a road trip like these, you pass through small villages and towns that look exactly like those you see in movies and TV series.

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From there I took Highway One all the way back to San Francisco. What I don’t get is why they call that back road a highway. It’s nothing more than a asphalted back road that flows through meadows, along farms, and through the hills. If you ever drove along the Gorges du Verdon in France you might know what I mean. I requires quite some driving skills to stay on the road with all those tight turns and narrow parts. Fortunately the Mustang was the right car at the right spot, especially with all that power. I lost count of the many Priusses and other small cars that decided to stop somewhere so that I could pass them. Nevertheless, I found plenty of spots to enjoy the view.

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Somewhere halfway along Highway One you pass through a little town called Point Reyes Station. That’s where I took a burger for dinner before continuing the last part of my trip. By the time I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge it was almost dark, so unfortunately I could not take of good picture of it. Suffice to say that crossing this bridge is an impressive experience. The view on the open sea made me feel very small.

As you can see from the pictures, the weather was quite okay. On Saturday it was still very cloudy and about 14 degrees Celcius, but during my 550-km trip the weather allowed me to drive with the hood down all the way back to the Hertz drop-off point.

So, the next time you are in San Francisco, make sure you rent a convertible. It’s really worth the time (and the money).