Weekend Get-A-Way - Napa Valley:

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw ~ "If you're tired, you take-a-napa, you don't move to Napa."  And that has absolutely nothing to do with this post or our recent get-a-way to Napa, but every time someone says Napa that line plays through my mind.  It's very noisy in there. (My mind that is.)

One of the great advantages to living in Southern California is that there's an adventure in every direction and Napa Valley, (just North of San Francisco), happens to be one of the best places to meet up with friends and re-boot. It was November, which is after the grape harvest, and when all the trees turn all kinds of glorious Autumn colors. As much as we love driving up the coast, we flew this time because it was just a four day weekend. Our friends flew in from NY to meet us. If you have airport options you should always check for which one has the lowest fares. From NY the flights were cheaper if they flew into San Francisco. From LA it was cheaper for us to go via Oakland.  We were getting in several hours ahead of them so we planned to make our way to SF and have breakfast at the Embarcadero. We decided to blend with the locals and use the Bart.  The Bart is SF's  public transportation system and for $10 we walked out of the airport in Oakland and literally crossed the street and went up some stairs to the train platform, boarded a very nice train that took us all the way the the Embarcadero on San Francisco's Water front. Not not be confused with Fisherman's Wharf.  The Embarcadero is less touristy then the Wharf. 
We walked around, had a great breakfast and our friends picked us up and we headed over the Golden Gate (my favorite bridge) to Napa.  I'm always trying to get that iconic shot as you drive over. (As long as someone else is driving.)
This is the first picture I took of wine, at Domaine Carneros, known for it's champagne like sparkling wine and very French Chateau-ish architecture  The waitress recommended flights (that's various tastings) and when she got to me and asked what I wanted I said hot chocolate. She looked stunned, of course I was kidding.  I'm not a drinker and yet there's so much I love about Napa. This town is about the creativity and art of wine making, the agricultural nuances of growing different kinds of grapes and the pairing of amazing food with the right wine. It's not a place where people get drunk, in fact most of the wineries close at 6 PM with a few staying open until 8PM
Getting ready to dig in to dinner, love the slogan 'for temporary relief of hunger'. Cause one minute you're starving and the next you're stuffed.

ad hoc by Chef Thomas Keller is  an amazing restaurant. Five days a week they offer a four course family-style menu, different each night. And that's the menu, so if you look online and don't like what they're serving on Thursday don't come because that's it. Try back another night. Reservations are a must and then you may still have to wait, we did, but it was so worth it. What amazes me is that they can predict just how much to serve, for example we were 4 and the appetizers, entrees, sides and desert were exactly the right amount. Although had they put more down we would have eaten it because it was so so good.
Met this little guy at The Castello Amorosa. People walked by me taking a picture of this goat and thought he was fake, he stood still for me while I took his picture, a goat that's a ham.
And this is one of the places I couldn't wait to visit, Shed in Heldsberg. Heldsberg is a beautiful quaint small town just North of Napa. I had read about Shed and the couple who created it and drooled over it on Instagram for a long time and I was finally here!  That's me below with my very happy face (even with that hair sticking to my cheek.)

This place is so my wheel house, from the cooking demonstrations, to the garden tools, to the food it's a modern Grange and one of those places that inspires me.
Me again, happy, inspired, same hair still stuck on cheek.
Napa wineries are architecturally stunning.  Each one is so different from the next and there are so many.  In addition to Napa there is Yountsville and St. Helena.  We drove the Silverado Trail through Yountsville and stopped at several wineries along the way. Reading about them in advance is helpful or just winging it is fun too. We did a bit of both. There is the main roads in Napa, Highway 29 and the older  Silverado Trail. Some wineries require you to make an appointment so it's good to look on line or call and make sure you can visit. Here is a great list and map.
One of the perks of being the designated driver is that I got to stop the car anytime I wanted to jump out and snap a picture, like the one below. The landscape is so beautiful.
I had to include this picture because those of us over a certain age are very proud when a picture looks good un-filtered!  Of course it took about 20 tries to get one we both agreed was post worthy :O
My new sweater courtesy of Bannana Republic. Did I mention there's a great outlet mall in Napa!?!
Redd Wood, by chef Richard Reddington, in Yountsville is one of many great lunch spots.  Next to this restaurant is a hotel and spa called North Block which I walked through and fell in love with. May have to try it next time.
One of the fun things we did on this trip was go to Calistoga Spa Hot Springs.  This was a pretty unforgettable experience.  If you've never tried to shove your body into a tub of mud as thick as, well thick mud, you don't know what your missing! We picked Calistoga because it was very reasonably priced. For $65 you get a mud bath, a mineral springs whirlpool bath, steam bath and a blanket wrap in a quiet room and at the end out you go to an Olympic size pool which is full of hot mineral spring water. Not too shabby. There's a side for men and a side for women so we said goodbye to the hubs and had a good laugh picturing them doing all the things we were doing.  The actual mud experience was wonderful, the getting into the mud was a whole other story. Talk about the most un-graceful thing you could possibly do. Naked!  And by getting in I mean contort, shove and push your way down until you are in and covered with mud and that was really hard and awkward and took way to long for my comfort level. Plus we started laughing so hard that it just made it take even longer.  We couldn't stop laughing once we were in either.  When we were finally submerged, (and still laughing), we kept picturing how our men were handling this together. So we laughed some more. Finally we tried to relax. You have a cool towel for your face and ice cold water to drink and if the mud on your upper bod slips a tad, not to worry because one of the attendants will come over and slap some back on, your boobs, (more laughing.) When we finally quieted down there was a moment when I thought, maybe it's quick sand!?! After a long very thick soak it was time to get out.  Easier said then done. Trying to lift up through the mud was even harder than trying to submerge. More laughing.... Then into the shower to rinse it all off. Expect to have mud in places that no one should ever have mud. Then it was into the mineral whirlpool bath, steam room and warm towel wrap blanket and into a quiet little bed cubby, like a pod.  This is about the time when you start to feel like jello. After that we walked out to the pools which were beautiful and huge, like one enormous Jacuzzi. The guys were already there. When we asked how was it, all they said was good. Huh? Could it be all the awkwardness was designated to the women's side??? The only thing I will point out, if you go to this spa is that the locker room could use a spruce up, but other than that, a great experience at a great price. 
Till next time Napa!

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