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Jul 3, 2001 12:00 AM

Favorite spot for a N. CA picnic?

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Usually when we travel through Europe by car, we grab provisions for a picnic (baguette, roast chicken, fruit, cheese, wine and mineral water) and find a shady spot along the roadside while en route. While I realize that Americans tend to be tragically more formal, I can think of several memorable picnic spots. They either involve a big rock, like near Mirror Lake in Yosemite, a nice big rock along the route inland from Cambria to Paso Robles (a co-worker in another state had a picture of his family at that same rock - which I immediately recognized). The most favorite spot is in proximity to Hwy 1 (1st date with my wife was a surprise picnic near Pfeiffer State Park at Big Sur - needles to say we got engaged in Carmel). We had a picnic along the Mendocino Coast for a day-after-wedding honeymoon postponement (we saved up for 3 weeks driving through Europe the next summer - 1st anniversary present was a splurge at Dehillerin near the Paris metro stop "Les Halles"). Lake Berryessa in the Spring is also nice around Oak Shores. How about it 'hounds - give it up - where is your favorite spot?

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  1. There are too many!

    Every year we have a small but elaborate family picnic for my mother's birthday in mid-April. We try vary the location within about an hour and a half drive radius from Oakland: sometimes we go to the coast, sometimes to a winery, once we had lovely day on the Delta.

    I have a tendency to head for the Pescadero area like a homing pigeon, ever since I discovered it ten years ago. For an impromptu picnic you can wander into "downtown" Pescadero and pick up some sandwiches, cold drinks and baked goods at Archangeli market (see HMB thread), then head back out to Pescadero beach, and/or wander on the trails and boardwalks through Pescadero marsh, or head into the redwoods at nearby Butano State Park. If you really want to just pull to the side of the road French style, the road to Butano is lovely, and the little byroad that loops around the fields just north of Pigeon Point Lighthouse would be perfect.

    If you have kids with you, stop by Phipps Ranch (about a mile farther east on Pescadero Rd.) and check out their small menagerie of farm animals and beautiful birds, and don't fail to admire their famous assortment of over 100 different varieties of heirloom beans and other interesting legumes. They also have you-pick berries.

    I never get tired of the beauty and variety of the landscape in that area, and it's amazingly uncrowded and unspoiled considering how close it is to both San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

    1. The botanical gardens above UC offer a spectacular setting for a picnic. There is a partially shaded lawn with views on the golden gate in a lush green setting. Gorgous yet intimate. You can take a walk around the world in twenty minutes afterwards, from the cacti of Chile to the chinese rhododendrons lining the pond to the chocolate red bark of the local manzanita trees.

      Pannini on Alston and Shattuck (right outside the BART station) has one of the best selections of sandwiches in the bay area.

      Could someone please recommend good picnic sites in Napa? Wineries, parks? Merci d'avance.