|The Beautiful Napa Valley!|
Thurs Night - Friday
The first night we all flew in to SFO on different flights from around the US. My flight got in first so I picked up the rental car and checked us in at the Hojo Express near the airport for easy access back and forth as everyone else flew in.
|Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point|
We finally made it to the Napa River Inn in the early evening. We were greeted upon arrival with a wine tasting in the lobby and our tasting cards that were included in the package. The staff was very friendly and we were able to park in the lot right outside the hotel. After freshening up at the hotel, we spent our first evening on the town at Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ. I didn't make reservations in advance, but we were eventually seated after having a drink at the bar. The benefit of sitting at the bar before ordering dinner is that we could watch every plate of food come out and decide what we wanted in advance. The four of us shared the meat platter as well as several side dishes. The food was good and the wine flights complimented our meal.
|Filling the balloons|
Climbing into the 20 person basket was entertaining and once we were floating in the air, everything was quiet and peaceful. I didn't feel one sway in the wind. When it was time to land, the ground crew drove ahead to find a farmer who would let us land on their property. I learned that because you can't really steer a hot air balloon, you never really know where you'll end up. The pilot finds a good spot and hopes the farmer will say yes, you may land on my property. If they say no, they keep floating along for a better spot. We landed with a light touch and two small bounces before crawling back out of the basket and heading back to Domaine Chandon for our gourmet brunch and endless mimosas (I think we had at least 6 a piece). The entire experience was so much fun and one of the highlights of my trip!
|A View from Above|
when we arrived, but waiting there was easy compared to the difficulty in making a decision on what to order once we got up to the counter! My two friends who didn't eat brunch ordered salads and dessert while I opted instead just to split 4 different macaroons the size of my hand in half. They were so good and while I enjoyed the Pistachio flavor, I was pleasantly surprised by the PB&J as well.
We had a 2:30 tour reservation at Hess Collection, so we did not linger long over the food. One of the things I liked most about driving around the Napa/Sonoma areas is that everything was pretty easy to find. We got to Hess a few minutes early and walked around the inside lobby while the other people who would be touring with us showed up. Our tour guide, Sam, met us in the lobby and took us out to the vineyard to see some of the vines. We were able to eat a few grapes right off the plants that hadn't been harvested yet. From there we went inside to see where they hold some of the barrels and learn about their property and different wines.
We arrived at Domaine Carneros at 11:00 AM for our tour/tasting. I hadn't been to this vineyard before and it was incredibly beautiful and scenic. The main building was an old mansion sitting up on a hill. There were already a lot of people tasting on the veranda with beautiful cheese platters. Our tour guide this time was a little bit bigger than the last one (maybe 10-12 people?), but still manageable. We started the tour tasting some of their sparkling wines. Our guide, Al, was very enthusiastic and walked us through the property stopping to let us taste more wine along the way. At the end we tried a few more bottles with a cheese pairing and I purchased a bottle of their Pinot Noir to bring home. It was a great tour and a good way to start the day.
|Castello Di Amorosa|
Our last scheduled stop for the day was to the Indian Springs Spa in Callistoga for a mud bath and massage. Before our appointment times, we went to check out the mineral pool. The water seemed nice, but the pool was pretty crowded. I only stayed up there for 15 minutes or so until I had to head back for my mud bath. The entire mud bath experience was very cool and relaxing. I would like to sleep in a mud bath every night if I could. The mud molded to your body and made it seem like a very dirty tempurpedic mattress. After 12 minutes in the bath, I rinsed off in the shower and went in the steam room to unclog my pores. After that was finished, I was escorted to the massage room for 60 minutes of bliss. I'm surprised I didn't fall asleep at the bar when we stopped for dinner at Rutherford Grille. The Spa was a great way to end our stay in Napa.
We left for San Fran early Monday morning. The plan was to sit in traffic and drop off 2 of my friends before spending the day in the city. Fortunately we made good timing and we able to see some sights together (full house landmarks, lombard street, etc) before they had to leave. After dropping them off, I parked near Ghiradelli square and enjoyed some Irish Coffees at Buena Vista Cafe. While walking toward Pier 39, we came across a sign for GoCars. These little yellow go carts drive on the street and have a navigation/recorded tour guide that takes you through the city. There was a 2.5 hour loop that went to a lot of places I hadn't seen before, so the two of us strapped on our helmets and jumped in! This was one of the other highlights of my trip as we drove through many beautiful scenic points and the Presidio. The Cliff side neighborhoods were breathtaking... and while my hands were not happy about the handbrakes as I drove down Lombard Street in my GoCar, it was such a fun experience.
|Napa River Inn Hotel|