By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: My husband and I are seniors. Can you provide suggestions on any trips from San Francisco to San Diego with stops at wineries and other places of interest in September? Affordable accommodations are preferred.

A: Between San Francisco and San Diego, this part of the coastline stretches 800km, and depending on your stop and go, can be driven in 8.5 hours. However, once the roadmap unfolds, and the places of interest are marked, this area easily can be enjoyed for a few more days.

The California Division of Tourism provides a free catalogue, "California Driving Tours," which has full listings on accommodations, events, tours, maps and restaurants. It can be ordered at 800-GO-CALIF toll-free or visit

Your planned road trip encompasses three regions and has much to see and do. Expect to dine in some of the finest dining places in North America. More popular restaurants, such as The French Laundry (TFL) in Napa Valley, top-rated by Zagat, and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, can be fully reserved for months. So advanced reservations are preferred. Contact TFL at 707.944.2380 and Chez Panisse at (510) 548-5525.

If you plan to sample California cuisine, it's best to consult guidebooks, surf the Internet and make reservations.

Other sites of interest include the new Getty Center, William Randolph Hearst's famous home, San Simeon, the giant redwoods of Muir Woods and Hollywood. Like things Hollywood, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola's winery located in Napa Valley, north of San Francisco, is worth a drive to view the spectacular rolling hills, reminiscent of Tuscany. The tasting rooms are open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Estate tours are available at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on a first come-first serve basis. For more info, call 707-968-1161.

Incidentally, the Napa Valley, although off your suggested route, is America's premier wine producing region. All the big names are here. The Napa Valley runs generally north-south with highway 29 running along the west side and the Silverado Trail along the east side. The wineries with the biggest names and the longest history are along highway 29. To enjoy a nonstop gourmet meal through the entire valley, board the Napa Valley Wine Train. Visit for more details.

As far as affordable accommodations, generally motel chains focusing on budget travel or family travel offer lower rates. Inquire about senior discounts. Another tip is to book accommodations outside the city centre. There are also parks with camping facilities.

Need more info? Call California State Parks, General Information line at (916) 653-6995 or visit their web site


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