Tag Archives: California

California Trip!

Alex and I recently returned home from a long weekend getaway to northern California. Before we ventured down the road to parenthood we said that once we have kids we want to make sure we’re prioritizing our marriage and taking time for the two of us. Now in our second year of parenthood I think we’re doing pretty well with that – most weeks we go out for a date night and we now have our first big trip under our belts.

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Our trip included a very full itinerary – we spent the first day exploring San Francisco, a town neither one of us had ever been to.

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We quickly came to adore San Francisco – we loved the architecture, the culture and what an urban city it felt like.

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Our hotel was in Nob Hill/Union Square, right on the cable car line. Once we got settled we hopped on the cable car and headed for Ghiradelli Square, where we a nice, relaxing lunch by the water.

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We timed our stop over at the Golden Gate Bridge viewing point aptly – not 10 minutes after we arrived the fog rolled in on what was otherwise a perfectly clear, sunny day. The fog came in so quick and thick that you couldn’t even see across the bay.

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That evening we checked out Tonga, a tiki bar in the Fairmont Hotel, before heading up to the 19th floor and enjoying a light meal {and expansive views} at Top of the Mark.

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We were sad to only have such limited time in SF and have added it to our “must return” list. We can’t wait to come back to explore the neighborhoods and the food scene.

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After our half day in SF we packed up, hopped in our cute BMW convertible that we rented and headed north for Napa! We opted to stay in Sonoma County, as we had heard that it was more low-key and laid back, which is typically our style. Even so, we wanted a taste of Napa while we were there.

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Napa and Sonoma counties are so overwhelming and contain SO many wineries that never having visited it was a difficult trip. Thankfully, our friend and wine bar owner, Henri, offered us some suggestions. Boy were we glad we took him up on them!

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As we were approaching Napa both Alex and I were pointing out all of the beautiful houses and the cute shops on the street. I was surprised to find so many similarities to Batavia and Geneva, Illinois, where Alex’s parents live. I think the river running through the towns make them feel really similar.

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After our quick stop off in Napa at Oxbow Market {aka paradise} we headed a little farther north to Yountville. We did our first tasting of the trip at Jessup Cellars. Our host was a hoot – she gave us some really fun tastes of different cab sauvs and an incredible old cab franc. Our trip was off to a good start!

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We took a quick jaunt through the adorable, quaint town of Yountville before our divine lunch at Bouchon. Since we couldn’t get a reservation at The French Laundry we figured another Thomas Keller restaurant would suffice. Holy cow were we right.

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Bouchon was truly a sensational meal. The ambiance was delightful – I loved the cute red and white bistro chairs out on the terrace. Our server was spot-on with his recommendations and professionalism. And the food, oh, the food! There was nothing to be desired at the end of our meal. Alex even suggested that his meal, a brown butter pork schnitzel with mashed potatoes and capers, was the best thing he’d ever eaten. It was fantastic. I’d love to learn how to replicate it!

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Of course after Bouchon we had to stop at Bouchon Bakery for some coffee and macarons for our drive west to Healdsburg, where we were staying. The drive took quite a while, as it was through the mountains and some heavy traffic. I swear we made 100 hairpin turns as we came up and over the mountain. It was a gorgeous drive and it was SO fun to be driving in a cute BMW convertible.

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Healdsburg was our home base for the next two nights. We stayed at Hotel Les Mars, a Relais and Chateaux hotel, which according to the 20 year-old receptionist, should have been on our bucket list {I guess now we can check it off!}. Aside from the snooty and inexperienced service at the hotel we loved our experience – it is a beautiful property and our room was lovely.

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Saturday morning brought sunshine, coffee and wine! We were surprised to find out that our hotel included a room service continental breakfast – we happily ordered some coffee, yogurt and croissants.I could really get used to breakfast in bed!

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We had two wine tasting appointments lined up for Saturday. Our first was at Jordan Winery. Our tasting included their signature chardonnay and cabernet sauvignons and were paired with some cheese and caviar. The wine was wonderful and we really enjoyed the pairings. The winery has a very big and captivating story behind it and in the 41 years they have been making wine they have had the same winemaker. We learned that while money can’t buy you happiness, it can buy you everything you need to make world-class wine.

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The second tasting was at Gary Farrell. Their tasting space is under construction so they created a “woodland tasting” experience where they build glamping-style tents for their private tastings. It was a fun experience, though the view left much to be desired. We were paired with a rowdy group and really enjoyed them. The wines we tasted were chardonnay and pinot noir. Alex and I really enjoyed the pinots but were not feeling the chardonnay.

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On our last day we opted to head over to the coast and take Highway 1 south back to SFO. Our drive was much different than we expected – we both had imagined the coast highway to boast big, bright blue skies and seas, like what you see on TV. We expected cute little beach towns and lots of obvious places to stop along the way. None of that was really true – it looked so similar to the Oregon and Washington coasts, with gray skies, fog and giant rock features protruding out of the beaches.

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Our time in California wine country was wonderful. We soaked up the sun and enjoyed incredible wine and hospitality {and not-so-good hospitality!}. When all was said and done, we preferred our experience over on the Napa side. We received significantly better service and loved the style a bit more. We absolutely loved San Francisco, too, and really hope to be back one day soon.

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The trip was really meaningful, though we missed Ben tremendously. We knew he was in good hands with his grandparents, but we still missed him. It didn’t help that there were little tots roaming around wine country everywhere we turned. We were so happy to be home and reunited with our little boy.

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