USA Day 19: Road Trip – San Francisco to Yosemite

5 am – you guessed it – that baby started grizzling!  But it wasn’t screaming – so if I kept my eyes closed, and wished hard enough, I didn’t have to wake up….

Ah well!  Babies are like that – makes me wonder about the person who coined the phrase “I slept like a baby” – what did he mean???

We organised to have an early room service breakfast – because we were picking up the car at 8:00am and wanted to be on the road as soon as possible.  I checked out the hotel’s French toast, while Andrew had a croissant. He has also ordered the corn flakes, but room service couldn’t supply them!!  Out of stock!

So this is the Argonaut Hotel’s raisin bread French toast with blueberry butter and maple syrup.  It was OK – nothing special – enough to get me on the road.  We didn’t take a photo of the croissant – you’ve all seen a croissant, right?

We checked out of the hotel, and the person at the front desk said – “I understand that there might have been a problem with a crying baby? Well, we’re going to comp the breakfast for you”.  How lovely!  I have to say, the Kimpton chain of hotels has been the best we’ve stayed at.  Very good customer service, and did I mention they have a wine reception hour between 5-6pm every night where you can have a few free glasses of wine in the hotel lobbies?  A nice kick start to any evening – so, if you’re travelling in the States and looking for a nice hotel chain – try Kimpton!

The Road Trip

We picked up our hire car from Avis around the corner, packed our bags in it, and hit the road!  We purposefully got out early, and being a Saturday morning, there wasn’t a lot of traffic.  Andrew was driving – probably best!  But, apparently it makes your head a bit crazy driving on the other side of the road. You can imagine after 5 hours today, and about 11 hours tomorrow – he would be loco!

For today, it was 215 miles (or 344 km) to Yosemite – 4.5 hours driving time.  Lucky we had the Garmin – telling us where to go!

So – it’s a road trip right?  Well, here are some pictures of the road… (cue music: Life is a Highway…)

There’s not a lot to see – and not a lot to do – but as we got closer to Yosemite – the landscape changed a bit…  in fact, I’m not sure when we started taking these pictures – but for those of you who might travel to Yosemite – you have to realise it’s a huge National Park – and there’s fabulous scenery before you even get close to the Valley where all the facilities are.

We even saw wildlife!  See, look how close I got.  Then I read later that it’s an offence to approach the wildlife!!  Oops!

Honestly – pictures do not do it justice – Yosemite is an amazing place.  The sheer magnitude of the features was mind blowing!  And every time we turned a corner – there was a more picturesque vista waiting for us, and everything kept getting bigger and bigger.   As you can imagine, Andrew went berserk with the camera!!  I tried to sneak into as many shots as possible – but it was hard and stealthy work!!

Once we got into the park – we thought:  We need to eat!  So we grabbed a roast chicken from the Village Store (the only retailer in the park that was open), a couple of rolls and some lettuce and made ourselves some roast chicken rolls.  Nice!!

There were not a lot of other options in the park itself… so be warned if you’re planning to visit.  Although the Ahwahnee Dining Room is open, as is their bar area which serves food.

Then we went on to look at some of the other areas – the pic below shows the upper and lower Yosemite falls. You can hike to the top – but it’s about 6-8 hours return.  Too bad…. We didn’t have enough sunlight left…. Damn!!  We had to settle for the very short and easy walk to the lower falls viewing platform, where a lovely tourist took our photo for us.

We finally went to check into the Ahwahnee Hotel – the only place to stay in the park unless you want to camp or stay in some huts.

They even supply rubber duckies with ranger hats!!

The accommodations were fairly basic, and the whole hotel was rather “old-world” in its style – but in a quaintly engaging way.  We booked into the restaurant for dinner… the only available timeslot was 8:30am.  So, best to book ahead of time if you know you’re going to be there and want an early dinner.  The upside was that there were probably less children at the later sitting – so it was probably a blessing in disguise.

The Ahwahnee Dining Room

Ahwahnee Hotel
Yosemite National Park  CA 95389
(209) 372 1489
Open:  Breakfast Daily 7 – 10am;   Lunch 11:30am – 2pm; 
Dinner  Sun – Thu  5:30 – 8:30pm   Fri – Sat  5 – 9pm
Brunch is served Sundays  7am – 2pm

Even these photos don’t let you appreciate how “grand” this room is.  The ceiling is vaulted, with these amazing rustic chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.  The ceiling is 34 feet (that’s just over 11 metres) and soars above you, giving you the feeling that you’re dining in some huge hall in a medieval castle. Behind me is the alcove where the Queen and the Duke ate in 1983.   Apparently the Ahwahnee opened in 1927, and we believe that most of the servers from its early days were still serving today!!! Let’s just say there were quite a few “mature” employees. But they were all fabulous, in particular our server who was very enthusiastic and always smiling – despite carrying huge trays of food over to her station before distributing it to the guest tables.

Many people warned us about the food – one person saying that she remembers having a terribly over-priced meal here.  So, our expectations weren’t exceedingly high!

French Onion Soup

We both ordered the French Onion Soup for starters, which was lovely – in fact – Andrew declared it the best French onion soup of the whole trip to date!

Rotisserie Mary’s Free Range Chicken

For my main dish, I had “Rotisserie Mary’s Free Range Chicken” – which is a chicken dish that changes every night.  Tonight it was served on bucatini with a Mediterranean sauce of tomatoes, olives, onion and mushrooms.  It was beautiful!   Sorry, I had eagerly chopped into the chicken before I remembered to take a photo!!  Hence the “deconstructed” look!

Angus Beef Prime Rib

Andrew had the Angus Beef Prime Rib – there was a choice of 9 oz, or 12 oz (this is the 9 oz) with garlic mashed potato, seasonal vegetables and jus.  And a surprise Yorkshire pudding!  Hello!!


I couldn’t resist – there was pannacotta on the dessert menu.   I asked our server – is it a real pannacotta, one that wobbles beautifully, but melts completely once it hits the warmth of your mouth??????   She agreed eagerly – and got very excited about the passionfruit puree and fruit that’s served on top.

Verdict – not even close!! It was heavy set – creamy, but more like a mousse than a pannacotta.  I still ate it though – I hate to see a good dessert go to waste!!  And to be honest, it still tasted lovely – it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

And speaking of dessert….

Our eyes, well… my eyes, nearly bugged out of our heads when this was delivered to the next table…

I don’t think you understand how big this cake is – let me demonstrate….

This is the Red Velvet Fudge Cake for Two – Eight layers of Dark chocolate fudge and red velvet cake with raspberry sauce!!   See the guy with his back to me – – – he was in shock for about 25 minutes before he even started tackling it. Even then, his big brother had to come over and start on it to help him out!  Well… it does say “for two”!!

Now, all in all, however, we had a really lovely evening – the ambience in the Ahwahnee Restaurant was lovely, and the food quite good. My chicken was fantastic, and the French onion soup really good. It probably was a tad over priced for USA – but it was much better than we were led to believe. And where else can you sit in front of a lovely, huge fireplace like this…


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