Saturday, September 8, 2012

Vacation Diary Part 3~~~~

Hello Darklings,

Here is my update on my wine trip North to Napa, Sonoma and Calistoga.  The day after tomorrow I will be returning home, to carefully put away my treasures, and snuggle up to my Belladonna---and also do the mundane things like laundry, have my hair done, pay bills.  Oh Well Darklings, you cannot be gothiclly gorgeous unless you do laundry and have your hair styled.  And I’m also having my mechanic do an oil change on my car.  Mundane, mundane, mundane---it does bring one down with a bit of a “bump”. 


I ‘ve had  the most wonderful time of exploration, discovery, and wine buying, both on the road and on the internet.  Yes, Darklings the internet.

As you know several places I wanted to stay would not take dogs, so I had my elderly neighbor take care of Belladonna, something that I really regret doing as I miss her intensely but if I wanted to stay at these places I had no choice.  Fortunately I’ve been calling her sitter and it seems they are doing very well.  But I’m afraid Belladonna is being very spoiled… ahhh well that is a chance one has to take.

So what I have done was first go North to the Napa, Sonoma wine areas then I will return   home, take care of Belladonna for a few days and then go to Lodi for nearly a week.  It breaks my heart having to leave her behind, I’m beginning to wish that more places would accept dogs, but you have to have good dog owners that will use K-9 Advantage Plus and make them flea free to make it possible.   I’d even be willing to pay extra at some of those places for a doggie baby sitter, but that is not possible at most places. 

What I did is using the internet I checked out events that would be happening at the locations I wanted to go to and based on that made my travel arrangements, and there is something to be said for starting one’s vacation during the week instead of the weekends.  Lower rates, children back in school not that I have anything against children, only their parents who do not monitor them properly (yes I know I’m being judgmental but don’t you also thing the same Darklings?), traffic is not quite as bad, less noise in your hotel.

I made Napa and then Calistoga my home base in the North, and I have not been disappointed, the big question is which wineries to choose from, I can recommend going to for a selection of tasting rooms, lodging and places to visit and eat.  I mean don’t take my suggestions Darklings, you choose what you want.

I started out at Best Western Inn At The Vines, which I discovered is pet friendly, as I had booked for the Napa Wine Train for their Moonlight tour, so heavenly.  I was glad that I had booked so far in advance as seating was at a premium and limited. And I used my time the day before and after to visit several wineries.

Then I stayed at the very upscale Bed and Breakfast Whitehouse Inn during the mid-week and received  a lower rate, as a matter of fact if you stay for 3 nights you get a 4th for free, it is a saving, and with very pleasurable amenities but it is big bucks, so save up Darklings, save up.

When seeing the Inn for the first time you think you’re in the anti-bellum South, but in California. As I’ve said they have special rates as well for mid-week which is a good thing to plan on, unfortunately the Whitehouse Inn cannot accommodate pets and it is not a good place for children, too adult and too boring for the munchkins, but perfect for a romantic get away.

From the Whitehouse Inn I went to several wineries that had been suggested to me as well as visiting historic places including the Hess Collection where one can enjoy wine and art.

What wineries I went to?  Well there were a number of them, too many to list but stock up I did, reds and whites, sparkling, desert,  it really depends upon one’s individual taste, so it’s best that I leave it up to you although I had fun; at the Sterling winery the tram ride over the vineyards to the winery gave a wonderful view and Francis Ford Coppola’s  Rubicon winery.  Of course shopping in Historic downtown Napa was also a treat, I did want to take in the shops there. 

I took in the castle tour of Castillo De Amorosa, worth the price in my humble opinion.

I enjoyed the Napa River Cruise, which with a naturalist takes you on a river tour of the flora and fauna as well as the historic aspect of the Napa River on a wonderful luxury electric river boat.

And there were other things to take in but again I recommend you do your own planning by going to the websites.

I find that when one wants to stay at a better quality Hotel/Motel and are on a budget Best Western seems to fit the bill in most cases, there are others but I recommend seeing what other travelers have to say.

But if you have the funds and no children or encumbrances Whitehouse Inn is an indulgence worthwhile.

My next stop is here in Calistoga and if you are in Calistoga you must take in the mud baths and I recommend the one that got it started,  Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort, I’m finishing my last three days there.

Of course I could not pass up our own Old Faithful geyser in Calistoga; I had packed, at a recommended deli, a personal picnic lunch which I enjoyed there at the geyser as well as doing a bit of people watching.   I watched as the blasting heated water spouted up high into the sky, and I suddenly realized that what was causing it was this water becoming super-heated by buried volcanic action.  That somehow a volcano could erupt at any moment under our feet, I looked at the people around me the adults with their children and thought “Don’t you realize that we could suddenly die if Mother Nature gets really nasty, that we are only feet from death?”  I took a few deep breaths to calm and center myself, and remembered it is wise to know that death is only a hairs breath away from us.

I took a relaxing walking personal tour of our own Petrified Forest in Calistoga as it was close by and made sure I used my parasol to keep off the most harmful of the sun’s rays.  
It is amazing looking at these huge petrified trees looking as if they were only felled just a few days ago, but realizing that it had occurred millions of years ago when our own Mt. St. Helena exploded like Mt. St. Helens did just a few decades ago.  It had me thinking, will those trees covered by volcanic ash eventually become petrified millions of years from now?  It caused me to shudder with that thought.  And even as I walked I realized that on occasion my feet stepped upon buried petrified wood, possibly even fossils of those animals that had lived back then.  That thought was too tremendous to even wrap my mind around it.

Even now I am still amazed by these revelations.

Sunday there are a few events I hope to be able to attend close by,   then Darklings I will return home for a few days to catch up on mail, indulge in my little four footed darling and pack away my wines and goodies from my trip up north as well as doing mundane things.

Now some of the wineries are a bit commercial and for more discerning wine critics too boring to be of use, but then I went for the vacation, and I cannot spend $100 a bottle for wine, but I want my wine to taste good.

Remember Darklings, most of the more publicized wineries are a bit touristy so expect that, but for me they did not disappoint.

I will start with Castillo di Amorosa winery ---- I’m afraid some were too mundane for my taste how ever I strongly recommend going on their Castle and wine tour, that in itself is a treat, sort of a wine Disneyland for adults and a wonderfully Gothicly photographic  place.   I did buy their desert wine “Fantasia” which I found very much to my liking, a perfect light desert wine for a Summer or warm Fall evening.  I also was intrigued by their red “IL Brigante” their red wine blend and bought a bottle of it as well.  The IL Barone was recommended to me and I found it most intriguing but I could not afford it at over $150 a bottle.

Sterling Vineyards~~~~Darklings you have to take the Tram ride, it really gives you a wonderful perspective of the land around you and much safer than a Hot Air Balloon ride, sorry Darklings, I still dislike air travel.  But about the Wines, I found myself attracted to the Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford and the Petit Sirah, North Coast.

The Hess Winery collection---Darklings I could not choose, but beside their art collection they are also organically growing their grapes in a sustainable style, but I felt I was overwhelmed by the choices until I succumbed to their 19 Block Cuvee 2008 vintage.  Why that one I do not know but succumb I did.  I think there was something about the taste that reminded me of something very pleasurable.

There were a few others along the way, but I decided I would save myself from purchasing until I had a chance to do a more informative wine tasting with a friend of mine who is far more knowledgeable.

While I was in Napa at the Napa General Store I did their wine tasting as well and made notes to go to the wineries they suggested at a later time and more like an overnight run to those places.

One thing at the Whitehouse Inn is at 6 p.m. in the evening they would hold a wine and cheese tasting from various wineries and again I took notes.  With these two places it saved me from a lot of driving around.   Then afterwards I would go out to dinner, sans wine, because one can over indulge.

Now one would think that I will have gone a long, long distance but really Napa and Calistoga is only slightly one hour away from the San Francisco Bay Area, and if you down load the brochure from the Petrified Forest there is a simplified map showing the area.  How close and yet just far enough to enjoy for a day, a weekend, a week.  The choice is yours.

Also while I’ve been relaxing I had a chance to write up some “musings” on being an Elder/Elderly Goth, I will post them at a later time.

My next blog will be either from Lodi or from home when I return on my last leg of my vacation.  I hope to be able to start a separate links page of places to visit for your edification and pleasure.

Later Darklings

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