TRAVEL Destination San Mateo County: Giving San Francisco a run for the money

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BY MARY McGRATH

I hadn’t been to the San Mateo area since my former life as a busy corporate executive. Back then, I was often too cramped to enjoy the finer nuances of travel. Now that I have the time, it’s exciting to discover these areas again and enjoy what they have to offer.

San Mateo County, San Francisco’s  little sister, is on the move, and making a real stab for the tourist dollar. Only about ½ hour south of SF, or about 6 hours north of LA by car, it showcases many fine restaurants, wineries, beautiful terrain, and many memorable activities for those not wanting the dense urban sprawl of the city. The countryside unwraps for miles, featuring a multitude of activities for those on the prowl.

Tuna tartara la costanera and Mac Park appetizers. Photos: Mary McGrath

Let’s start with the cuisine. Foodies will delight in the plethora of fine dining options that punctuate the area. Check out Marche, (www.restaurantmarche.com) in Menlo Park, featuring the finery of Executive Chef Guillaume Bienaime, with his strong affinity for seasonal French and American regional cooking. Another welcomed stop is MacArthur Park Restaurant, (www.macarthurparkpaloalto.com) whose historical amplitude is fashioned by Julia Morgan, who put her architectural signature on Hearst Castle. This Palo Alto treasure dates back to 1918.

How about some Peruvian food? Go to La Costanera, (www.lacostanerarestaurant.com), overlooking the Pacific, and it’s cool progressive vibe. Braced between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, you’ll delight in the treasures of this Latin find.

If you want something more casual, head to Cameron’s Restaurant & Pub (www.cameronsinn.com) on Highway 1, with its eclectic hodge-podge décor, and two bright red London bus’. Beers rule the roost at this place, with over 20 of them on draft, and sixty-five types by bottle. Cameron’s a legend in the area and an engaging and colorful host. Ask about the history of their upstairs rooms. You’ll be in for a surprise.

Cameron’s Restaurant & Pub and Harley Farms Goat Dairy.

Where to stay? If you like the Hotel W, then head for the Hotel Keen, (www.hotelkeen.com) Palo Alto’s newest boutique hotel. Tight and groovy, you enjoy the downtown amenities that flank this hip spot. Who can argue with the Four Seasons Hotel in Silicon Valley, (www.fourseasons.com/siliconvalley) sporting one of the finest art collections of modern and contemporary pieces? Beach junkies will enjoy the suites at the Oceano Hotel & Spa (www.oceanohalfmoonbay.com) in Half Moon Bay Harbor, with fireplaces, and engaging views of the ocean.

Things to do are plentiful for San Mateo County visitors. Children will delight in visiting the Harley Farms Goat Dairy (www.harleyfarms.com).Owner Dee Harley started the farm 14 years ago with just six goats. The farm now sports over 200 bearded beauties, including two llamas, and gives visitors an educational overview of the milking and cheese manufacturing processes. For you cheese lovers, check out the chevre, fromage blanc, ricotta and feta in the farm shop. I’m hooked on the one with lavender!

If Pebble Beach is more your style, then head to the Half Moon Bay Golf Links, (www.halfmoonbaygolf.com) with its challenging terrain that overlooks the Pacific. Its 18th hole has been recognized as one of the best 100 golf holes in America.

Half Moon Bay Golf Links and Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards.

Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy some gentle sea kayaking from California Canoe and Kayak, (www.calkayak.com) where seals and other marine life will delight and entertain you. Kayaking is easy, fun, and a great way to mingle with nature.

If you like Hearst Castle, then head to the Filoli Mansion & Gardens (www.filoli.org) in Woodside, with it’s historical mansion and adjacent gardens. This Georgian Revival house is situated on a 654-acre property, with the mansion clocking in at 36,000 square feet.

And last but not least, the wineries! Head to Barterra Winery (www.barterrawines.com) in Half Moon Bay, which is part gallery, tasting room and purveyor of olive oil. Enjoy the sculptures and paintings from top-notch artisans as you sample the winery’s finery.

Filoli Mansion & Gardens.

Another must is the Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards, (www.fogartywinery.com) nestled in the hills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Built at 2000 feet above sea level, it was founded by Dr. Thomas Fogarty, a Stanford cardiovascular surgeon. Beyond their fine selection of Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Merlot and Cabernets, weddings and special events are often a part of their terrain.

I can’t rave enough about San Mateo County. There’s so much to do, and it’s a refreshing change from the somewhat crowded areas of other nearby tourist destinations. If you hate the 101 and 405 freeways like I do, then this place will be a welcomed respite from the density of LA.

For more information: www.VisitSanMateoCounty.com

Mary McGrath is a freelance writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including: Newsweek.com, Good Housekeeping, Rangefinder Magazine, After Capture Magazine and Copley Newspapers.  She specializes in travel, fine dining, and educational pieces regarding photography.  She can be reached through her web site at www.marymcgrathphotography.com or grathy@aol.com

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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