Napa – Everything except wine

This week is all about our trip to Cali. I’m not posting recipes, but if that’s really the only reason you’re here, check out a few of my favorites and we’ll chat next week.

As evidenced by the elaborate spreadsheet, I took the winery planning for this vacay very seriously. But I figured we’d start with some non-wine details about the trip, do a couple posts on food and wineries (for those of you looking for in-depth info… and so I have a starting point for our next trip, whenever that may be) and I’ll wrap with some suggested itineraries for you and some overall musings.

Ready? Let’s go!

Originally we planned to fly out to California on Monday morning, but after a small snafu with the travel plans (booking p.m. flights instead of a.m. ones) and the worst customer service we’ve ever received (looking right at you AMEX Travel) we decided to cancel our Monday flight and bump our vacation start date to Sunday. That also gave us the chance to spend some time in San Francisco. We opted to stay at Fisherman’s Warf so we could grab some fresh seafood and tour Alcatraz.


We took the early bird boat and I highly recommend it. It is only 20 minutes earlier (totally doable if you’re ok with getting up in the first place) and gets you to the island first. The boat ride out was gorgeous. Alcatraz itself was a little underwhelming.

You know how in movies they make everything look bigger? I always scoff when we see a dorm room with two beds on the floor, two desks, two wardrobes and enough space for… well, anything else, like walking around. Dorm rooms are never that big. Apparently jail cells aren’t either. I was taken aback by how small the cells were (not that I’m advocating for more space for convicted criminals) and how small the prison was in general. Just 3 ½ rows of cells and three stories high.


I half listened to the audio tour while Hubster and I meandered around (not following the guided tour at all) and shot some pictures. I was happy that we weren’t corralled into the tour, which is common for audio tour experiences. The audio offered some interesting tidbits that I passed on to Hubster.

The island has a lot of buildings that need restored – like most of them – and I think the whole experience will be more interesting and take more time once those are done.

If you go, definitely take the early bird tour to avoid the masses and make sure you book with the official tour company (there’s only one) so you don’t end up on an Alcatraz drive by tour.

Fisherman’s Warf
Whew! This place is super touristy! Definitely not our scene.


The Codmother Fish and Chips
If you hit up Fisherman’s Warf, definitely put Codmother on your agenda. We stopped by thanks to rave reviews on Yelp and were not disappointed. Everything was made fresh and the English proprietor was a super nice. Hubster ordered the fish and chips. The fish had a rockin’ pepper batter. I opted for fish tacos, which included the same fried fish along with a creamy and spicy topping.


Muir Woods
Located just north of San Francisco, this National Park was our best shot at seeing redwoods on our trip. We actually tried to stop at the park on the way up to wine country on Monday. By the time we made it down the windy road (seriously, bring an experience driver with you for this trip. More on that in a minute), we literally had 15 minutes. We ran up to A redwood, realized we needed WAY more time and left. The 90 minutes we allotted on the way to the airport was much better! We stuck mostly to the main trail which offers the best views of these majestic trees. They are seriously awesome and I would highly recommend stopping here if you visit San Fran.


Gaige House
While most of the trip was paid with AMEX points, we opted to toss in a few dollars of our own to book a suite at the Gaige House for our stay. We knew there wasn’t much “night life” (not that we’re really “night life people”) in wine country, so a relaxing and comfortable space for our evenings was a must. Gaige House was a perfect fit. It’s a bed and breakfast, but it didn’t feel stuffy at all thanks to the Asian-inspired suites’ placement just off the main house. The space was perfect: spa-like bathroom with a dual shower, comfortable king size bed, fireplace, flat screen and DVD player, mini fridge, French press coffee maker, dimmable lights, private patio, complimentary bottle of wine at check in, fresh baked cookies daily, hot tub and pool… Wait, why did we ever leave this place?

The breakfasts were also spot on. The fare didn’t change much day to day but it was way more than a continental spread you may find at other hotels. I’m totally in love with the organic yogurt and fresh squeezed orange juice.

We also found the location to be pretty convenient. We could walk to a few restaurants for dinner. I’ll talk more about eats in the next post because this thing is getting super wordy already, but I’m pretty much in love with everything the comes out of The Fig Café.

I also noticed when we were planning the trip that there was a convenient road near Gaige House that would drop us right into the heart of Napa valley.


The thing is, when you zoom in, the road actually looks like this:


And that picture isn’t really doing it justice because of the altitude changes and tight “Take the GPS down so I can see where I’m driving” turns. We Hubster impressed many locals by opting to take this super curvy route. So you’ve been warned, if you stay at Gaige House and want to visit Napa spend a few weekends in Southern Missouri getting used to winding roads.

I’ll be back with an in-depth review of the 16 wineries we visited.

Renee - May 2, 2012 - 2:32 am

I’m going to go ahead and say what all your readers are thinking. You’re doing this on purpose aren’t you-setting out to make us all ridiculously jealous. Point scored Heather, point scored.

Seriously though, that hotel room reminds me of where we stayed in Bangkok. Not so much in exact looks/color matches, but just the vibe. Its all simple elegance.

Napa on film » Modern Meals for Two - June 19, 2012 - 10:10 pm

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