Archives for category: Trips

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I’m going to go out on a limb and posit something rather controversial (stay with me now) – weekend getaways are the absolute best, and it’s important to go on them as often as you can, and Napa is Disneyland for grown-ups (I warned you you’d be shocked – shocked!)

It’s a pretty common topic amongst travel writers (and SEOers) – 3 days at, 24 hours in, where to go in Napa when you only have half a tank of gas and a prayer, that sort of thing. We realized it was our anniversary late in the week (and by we, I mean me – Ben had already started planning this all), and Ben was able to secure one night at the Cottages at Napa Valley (quite possibly the most underrated and excellent accommodation in Wine Country, hands down). We woke up Saturday morning, hastily packed a bag – I still think I’m 0 for a million for remembering toothpaste – strapped the bikes on the back of the car and drove over the newly-staff-free Golden Gate Bridge towards my own personal heaven, racing the threatening rain to ensure we’d get a ride in before dinner.

So it has to be said – what the crap can anyone, at all, say about Napa that hasn’t already been written? I know it’s a writing cliche to write about writing cliches, BUT COME ON. Everything was magical. It smelled amazing, the scent of eucalyptus wind blocks on the vineyards intermingling with the heavy humidity and bustling kitchens of Yountville. Our forty-miler up 29, cutting across at Calistoga and down the Silverado Trail, was the kind of “thing to do” that whole entire guidebooks are dedicated to: flat, speedy, and absa-freaking-lutely amazing. The weather held up until the bitter end, with hot sun and scattered cloud giving way to a warm and welcomed shower and rainbow (I MAY have heard someone shout “what does it mean“, like for reals.)

I mean, how can anyone ever say anything original about how freaking awesome your bed and breakfast was? About how the second we checked in, muddy and sweaty from the last 30 minutes of the ride, resembling starving hipster drowned rats in local beer jerseys, the fabulous staff at the Cottages welcomes us with hot towels and a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc? About how I may have drained out the entirety of Hetch Hetchy having bath after wonderful, nearly-scalding bath in our obscenely large tub, regaining the sanity and strength left un-tapped after 4 years of a bathless abode? About how ever single detail in the cottage was mindful, how the robes were perferctly comfy and warm, how the cheerful staff drove us to dinner and politely laughed at the amateur-hour banter emanating from our seat (thank you, don’t forget to tip your waitress.)

I MEAN COME ON, who the eff wants to read about how the clerk at the wine store in V Marketplace was able to find us a great cigar and bottle of bubbles for $20 to take home? About how we naturally found ourselves at the bar at our favorite Yountville standard Bistro Jeanty, sipping Lillet cocktails evoking our time in France while people-watching locals? How our amazing B+B picked us up and drove us back, so we could sit on our comically oversized bed and catch up on Game of Thrones? SERIOUSLY. Who wants to read that when you can just curse at someone’s oversharing Foursquare feed (“OMG THIS PLACE IS AMAAAAAAZING”) and feel superior to unnecessarily-filtered travel snapshots on Instagram? 

Why? BECAUSE WE NEEDED TO and we had an amazing time and so I’m writing about it. Because sometimes you spend a little bit of extra money to play tourist in one of the most popular destinations in California. Because it meant something to cruise down the valley on a speedy bike, stopping in fancy tasting rooms along the way and tracking in hard-earned mud. Because it’s important to invest the time to get away, turn off your work email, and enjoy traditionally enjoyable places (there’s a reason they’re super popular.) Not because you’re first, not because you’re seeing what someone else told you to, not because it gives your some kind of moral-superiority about doing something “no one else” does. Because YOU like it, because it takes you away, and because it makes you happy. Because that’s what travel freaking does.

Oh, and we found the absolutely most fabulous roadside beer bar ever in the history of the world on a detour, but that’s for another seo-friendly “off-the-beaten-path” post.

The Ace Hotel, Palm Springs

Living in San Francisco, we normally venture north should we need a weekend away from the fog and noise (Ben’s family is up there, and I often find myself with a hankering for a glass of Carneros Pinot that cannot, nay SHALL NOT be ignored). This past weekend, after purchasing the Moon Guide to Northern California Biking, we decided to travel south on 1 to explore what had previously been a drive through on the way to visiting otters at the aquarium – Santa Cruz and surrounding area.

I left the research up to Ben this weekend, and he totally killed it, hotel-wise. Taking a cue from Weekend Sherpa (and some advice from friends), we made a reservation at the Davenport Roadhouse, just up the road from Santa Cruz, nestled amongst art galleries and impossibly cute beach houses.

When it comes to hotels, I have very specific likes and not-so-likes. For instance, I love luxury, but I don’t like chain hotels. I love quirky details, but I don’t like fussiness. I like a hotel bar, but I don’t always care for wine with a B&B owner. I’m a bargain hunter, but I need a certain amount of comfort. Somehow, Ben and the Roadhouse delivered on everything I needed – it was the perfect way to enjoy Santa Cruz without breaking the bank or sacrificing a weekend off.

We left San Franciso Saturday morning, and lazily made our way down Highway 1. After discovering that the Ana Nuevo elephant seals tours were on standby, we pledged to wake our butts up early and do our best to get one of the leftover spots. Arriving at the roadhouse near 2PM, we unpacked in our ocean view room (see above), went down to the Roadhouse bar and got out the  Moon book to plan out the ride for the next day. In the meantime, the 49ers game was playing and they beat the Saints (bittersweet, in retrospect), which led to much merriment after a walk on the beach.

I enjoy good restaurants in hotels: there’s something about a two minute walk downstairs versus a cab ride that makes the meal that much more satisfying. Since I’m on this gluten-free thing, I had the salmon and ignored the hot bread they brought out – it was fabulous, and went well with the absolutely perfect brussel sprouts. Service was a bit spotty, but I chalk that up to a) getting slammed and b) being understaffed. Overall, very satisfying.

The next day, we woke up bright and early to get standby tickets for Ano Nuevo, because if there’s one thing that screams awesome weekend to me, it’s an alpha elephant seal defending his harem (sounds like RAGHRRRRRGH). We narrowly beat other couples to grab the last spot for the guided walk, and spent the entire time hanging on our Naturalist’s every word – he knew EVERYTHING. After watching a couple of almost-fights, and marvelling at the fact that being an elephant seal looks pretty freaking uncomfortable, we walked back to the car to get prepped for our big bike ride through Santa Cruz (more on what started as awesome, then turned into hell later).

After three and half hours on the road, 1900 feet of elevation gained, and far too many “oh GOD when is this going to end” courtesy of moi, we ended up back at the Roadhouse, exhausted and elephant seal-like smelly. Our first stop was the bar, where we managed to communicate “NEED… TRUFFLE FRIES… SPARKLING WINE… HURTS” –  I’m pretty sure they were the most delicious fries in the history of the world, and not just because they prevented me from passing out right there on the floor.

After recovering, showering, and slowly regaining motor skills, the challenge of what to eat for dinner presented itself, and an app I’ve used for ages kicked travel recommendation ass. Using Foursquare’s “Discover” feature, we decided on Pono’s Hawaiian Grill and were not disappointed – I for one didn’t know that all I wanted after a really hard ride was Spam sushi, but I am never one to say no to an adventure. After devouring the dinner, we proceeded to hobble back to the car, go back to the Roadhouse, and sleep 12 hours.

The trip home included a stop at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which, sadly, has fallen into disrepair due to a jurisdiction issue between the State Park and the Coast Guard (what are you waiting for? GET TO DONATIN) as well as another Foursquare Explore discovery, the Moss Beach Distillery, where we received a free drink for checking in before moseying on back to the North Beach homestead.

Coming up next: an elaboration on peaceful beach walks, as well as the ethics of yelling the f word very loudly on bike rides.

In case you’re interested, I made a Foursquare list of the weekend.

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