Thursday, June 5, 2014

Napa and San Francisco Spring 2014

I wrote this post over a month ago, but my life has been too crazy to edit it and get it posted. Maybe now while I am waiting for my flight at the beginning of another trip I can get some work done on the editing part at least.

On Wednesday we fly to San Francisco, rent a car, and drive to Napa. We've come to California to visit Daniel, but are here a few days early so we can do some wine-tasting too. Going from rainy and 40F to sunny and 90's is a shock. We check in at Candlelight Lodge B&B, a nice house in a quiet neighborhood. There is even a pool in the back yard, but neither of us thought to bring a swim suit. Darn! We drive in to downtown Napa, have some coffee at Oxbow Market, and then walk along the river for a bit. Eventually we meander back to market, sit at the oyster bar, and have oysters and clams, and wine of course, for dinner.

On Thursday morning I go for a run in the nearby hills. I pass wineries and sheep, roses and other flowers. After a sumptuous breakfast it is time for our Winery tour. We've chosen Platypus Tours again as our guides and once again they do not disappoint. We visit four wineries, and each one is different. Our first stop is Ballentine wines. The lady at the bar is friendly and their wines are very good. We get a simple demonstration of grapevine grafting too. The atmosphere at the 2nd winery is great. There is a lovely little garden, with rustic sheds and a tractor suitable for posing. We eat lunch here under a shady wisteria canopy. After lunch we head over to Fred Razi's winery. Lee and I made a special request to visit him again. We think his wines are very special. It's great to see him and he was pleased that we had asked for him. The fourth and final winery was a bit different. It was an urban winery, actually located in the city of Napa. It had not been open very long, and was still a work in progress. Although it was fun to hear about their plans, it was late in the afternoon, and less talking and more relaxing by that point would have been good.

This was a great group for wine tour. One engaged couple, one couple from Ireland on their honeymoon. Two best friends from Canada, a mother/daughter pair from Florida. All friendly and fun, the tour actually went long cause we all got a little chatty!

On Friday we decide to drive over to the coast north of San Francisco, before making our way down to the city and Daniel's apartment. We make our way to Point Reyes National Seashore. Once upon a time, before Lee and I were married, we decided to go on a camping trip, up the coast of California, through Oregon and Washington, on into Canada, all the way to Alaska. It took us six weeks to camp, drive and hike our way to Vancouver, Canada, and once we made it there, we realized we were only half way to Alaska, so we changed our minds and headed home. We did accomplish our main objective, however. We figured that if we could get along camping and driving for six weeks in a Chevette, we could probably manage to live together as well, and so we did.

Back on that long ago trip to California, one of the first places we went camping was at Point Reyes. We drove from Kanas City to San Francisco and visited Lee's friend George. George took us to have sushi (a first), saki (another first), and suggested that we try camping at Point Reyes. After spending the night at a beautiful desolate campground overlooking the ocean, we walked down to the beach and hiked along the Pacific. There were very clear signs along this trail warning that at high tide the trail was covered by the ocean and that there was no way out. Get caught on that beach at high tide and you would spend an uncomfortable and dangerous night clinging to the cliffs above the beach. Worry wart that I am, I was duelly alarmed and watched the water and our progress anxiously.

Eventually we came to a hole in the cliff face, leading away from the beach and back to our car. George and his friends sat down to relax and admire the ocean, as did Lee. Instead of relaxing and being cool like a good little hippie chick, I walked over to examine the hole in the cliff, and the path through it. As the tide went out, the hole was clear of water and walkable. However, as the tide came in the hole filled with water. Each time the tide went out, the hole was a little less clear. Each time the tide came in the hole was a little more full. I went back to the boys on the beach and reported this phenomenon. At first they told me to relax and quit worrying so much, but I finally persuaded them to at least come look at the hole. Grudgingly they ambled over. By that time the hole was knee deep in water when the tide was out, and full to the brim when it was in. Finally convinced of the urgency of our situation, we grabbed our backpacks, and one by one ran screaming through the hole. I managed not to say "I told you so" but everyone knew what I was thinking. My worrywart behaviour had been vindicated.

This return trip to Point Reyes was very different. Those 20 something backpackers would have thought we were just a couple of old people, and I suppose we were. We visited a few beaches here and there and I had a good time with my camera. We walked the wild and windy path to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, where the 300 steps down to the lighthouse and back up made my calves sore for the next week. No hikes along a beach while the tide was coming in were attempted.

From Point Reyes we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway to Sausalito. I volunteer to drive since Lee has done all the driving so far. But I've forgotten how crazy, curvy and twisty this part of the highway can be. Lee is pointing out seals but my eyes are glued to the road, and my hands are glued to the wheel. Cliff faces approach and recede. The ocean comes into view and then disappears around another hairpin turn. We are passed by a Lamborghini when we stop to take in the view. If I wasn't such a chicken I guess it would be fun to drive this section of road.

We drive the rest of the way into San Francisco and meet Daniel at his wonderful apartment in Protero Hills, overlooking the city. Times have really changed when we can stay with our son when we visit him. We go out for sushi at a place right around the corner from his apartment. Not only is the apartment nice, but the neighborhood is too. My boy!

We take at easy Saturday morning. Once again we vote for dim sum at Hong Kong Lounge and then spend a beautiful afternoon in Golden Gate Park. We wander through the Botanical Gardens, and enter the Japanese Tea Garden just as a guided tour is beginning, so we decide to join it. This is a good tour; we learn all sorts of interesting factoids about the garden, and would not have known what we were seeing otherwise.

On the way back to Daniel's apartment we stop to sample Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission District. The West Coast certainly has really good coffee right now. It's hard to find a bad cup of the stuff, although I'm sure you could if you tried.

We have something new to me for dinner, although Daniel and Lee have had it before. We go to a restaurant specializing in Japanese small plates and ramen noodles - Izakaya. It's not fancy, this is Japanese comfort food. I would normally turn up my nose at Ramen, but isn't the stuff that comes in a cellophane packet. It's yummy and it's fun to try some new things to eat.

Sunday morning it's time for a long run, 18 miles all planned out. I run across the city through Golden Gate Park, along the ocean up to Cliff House and Lands End and then back. It's a beautiful run and frankly I am amazed at my endurance. What once would have been a great challenge went smoothly and easily. What seemed like big downhills on the way out were only gentle inclines on the way back. The hardest part were the steep hills in Daniel's neighborhood at the very end.

Then we head to Santa Rosa to visit Lee's friend George and his wife Laurie. Yes this is the same George we visited so many years ago in San Francisco. We catch up on our lives, walking around downtown Santa Rosa, and have California style Mexican food for lunch.

Back in the city we opt for a little French restaurant in Daniel's neighborhood for dinner. There is a wait so we get a glass of wine at the wine shop next door and hang out talking to the owner about making wine. Two large standard poodles come in to the store to be petted and nobody minds. Once our table is ready we have some great french bistro food. Lamb for me, mussels for Dan, a burger for Lee, and crepes for dessert.

What a great visit. Now Lee is off to Asia and I go back to New Hampshire for a couple of days before heading to Minnesota for wedding planning.

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