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Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..

Escape To Alcatraz

Claire Bradford, Assistant Manager of our Colchester travel agents, tells us all about her recent trip to California. Over the course of a week, she visited Yosemite National Park, San Francisco and popular wine region Napa Valley. Here’s what you can look forward to if you choose a holiday like this.

Destination: San Francisco, Mariposa, Yosemite & Napa Valley
: Virgin Atlantic
(Hotel names/Ship name):
Cova Hotel, San Francisco; Mariposa Lodge, Mariposa; River Terrace Inn, Napa Valley
: 7 Nights


We flew out and back with Virgin Atlantic. At Heathrow, we were lucky enough to be invited to use the Virgin Clubhouse, which was a lovely way to start the trip. The lounge is large with lots of seating areas and offers a wide range of food and drink free of charge to Upper Class passengers, as well as a hairdressers and a spa, if you have the time.

Both flights were very comfortable. We had three seats between two of us so it gave us a little extra room, which is always welcome. Both flights were on time; in fact, we arrived into San Francisco over an hour early. However, unfortunately, we did have to stand in the passport control queue for over three hours.

The in-flight staff were very friendly and attentive and the entertainment made the flight go so much quicker. Overall, it was a good experience with Virgin Atlantic.


Cova Hotel – San Francisco

The Cova Hotel is a nice, comfortable and clean property. The rooms are a good size and the continental breakfast, served in a nice little breakfast room next to the reception, is more than adequate.Staff at the hotel were very friendly and helpful with the questions we asked about walking to different places. There is also a lovely rooftop bar, which looks out over the skyline of San Francisco.

Mariposa Lodge – Mariposa

Mariposa Lodge was more of a motel-style hotel with an outdoor pool for when the weather is warm enough. Again, it was very clean and in a good location for visiting Yosemite National park – it is approximately an hour’s drive to the entrance of the park. Mariposa Lodge is right in the centre of Mariposa, a small western town with lots of character. There are shops, bars and restaurants, but these do close at 9pm.

River Terrace Inn – Napa Valley

This is a large modern hotel in the heart of Napa with rooms that are a good size and very comfortable. We had river-facing rooms with balconies, which was an extra luxury. I wouldn’t say it was a necessity though. The hotel is within walking distance from the town; a pleasant walk along the river reveals lots of bars and restaurants, and also the train station from which we embarked the Wine Train. The included breakfast was extensive with lots of cold options. There are also hot options if you wish to upgrade and pay a little extra.

What Was Included?

Alcatraz, San Francisco – A must if visiting San Francisco.

City Pass, San Francisco – A book of vouchers offering discounts and free experiences in San Francisco. We used this for the tram (it includes a three-day tram pass) and the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Adventure Boat Trip.

Hop-on, hop-off bus tour, San Francisco – A good way of seeing all of the sights of San Francisco. The tour we did went across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was a fantastic, but windy, experience.

Edible Excursion, Ferry Terminal, San Francisco – This is a two-hour walking tour around the Ferry Terminal, San Francisco. Inside there is a whole load of eateries. We were guided around a few of them, tasting samples along way, including pork tacos, cheese, bread, ice cream, burgers, milkshakes, fries, Vietnamese spring rolls and more. For any foodie, this is an absolute must.

Zip Lining Experience, Mariposa – Not for the faint-hearted. I wasn’t sure if this was an activity I was going to join in on, but I gave it a go. There are seven wires which are all ground-to-ground,which means no climbing up onto platforms at height. The wires all vary in length, height and speed, and offer beautiful views across the Yosemite National Park area.

Wine Tasting, Mariposa – A small wine shop in Mariposa offers wine tasting of wines made in the area. It was quite informative and the lady owner was lovely and friendly.

Valley Floor Tour, Yosemite – A trailer with seats attached to the back of a lorry took us on a two-hour tour of Yosemite National Park with a ranger pointing out sights of interest.

Napa Valley Wine Train, Napa Valley – A lovely scenic train journey through the vineyards of the Napa Valley. We had the gourmet express lunch on board, which was very tasty and filling.Unfortunately, to try any of the local wines, they have to be purchased onboard and are not included with the experience.

Trip Highlights

My favourite part of the trip has to be Alcatraz. It was on my bucket list of places to visit and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We did the day time tour where you walk around listening to the guide through headphones. It’s really brought to life by the noises of the inmates in the background and stories of goings on during the time that it was a prison. What an experience; definitely a must when visiting San Francisco. I did enjoy the whole trip, but this is the part that really stands out.


I would most certainly recommend this trip. If you want to go for a bit longer, we could also add in a few more places for you. Driving from place to place is very easy and allows for the freedom of stopping en-route.

Must see? Alcatraz in San Francisco
Must do?
A visit to Yosemite National Park
Must try? Zip-lining in Mariposa

If you would like us to help you plan a trip like Claire’s, call us or drop into your local branch.We have travel agents in Lymington, Westbourne, Dorchester, Bournemouth, Christchurch and around East Anglia.