Sonoma Day 7 – Heading Home

There are people who can go on vacation for weeks, sometimes months, at a time and never be ready to leave. I’m not like that. Over the years I’ve figured out that 5 to 6 days is best for me to be away, and anything longer than a week I just get cranky. I miss my furry creatures, I want my bed and my own kitchen. I want to be able to cook and I like just knowing which restaurants I can go to without scouring menus first.

When we first starting looking at this trip we picked the dates and length to be able to pay for the flight with miles. This meant we had a slightly longer vacation than is ideal for us, but decided it was worth it. So this is how we ended up with a day 7 instead of being home.

It did work out rather well, though. We had a fantastic breakfast at the B&B then headed out to the coast and up to Ft. Ross, an old Russian settlement north of where we were staying. The grounds were great, but we actually got to dip our toes in the (very cold) Pacific.

The views, the scenery, the vistas were just stunning, as much driving back on the Pacific Coast Highway as they were on the drive up. I wasn’t in love with the hairpin turns and sheer drops off the side of the road, but Bob was driving and totally enjoying himself.

As we made our way into Sausalito and then San Francisco for the night before a full day of travel home, we were ready to go. California was great, and if it was an easy drive out to Sonoma for us, I’d try to figure out a way to buy a little place off the beaten path. But, Florida is home and just too far for quick trips. We will be back, but maybe just for five days.

Sonoma Day 6 – All Wined Out

I wasn’t sure it could happen, but after all the great wine we had over the last few days, coupled with the scorching heat, I wasn’t up for wine. Temperatures continued to hover around 100, and I just didn’t want to be out in the heat and could not even think about drinking alcohol. Sad, but true.

We did start our day at a winery, but not for the wines. Our B&B hosts told us about a winery with an incredible garden so we decided to drive up north of Healdsburg and see the gardens. They were pretty incredible, but unfortunately half the garden was closed for maintenance. We enjoyed what we could, then headed into Healdsburg.

We wandered around Healdsburg for a little while, stopped into a yarn store (just cause) and took in some of the plaza area, but the lack of shade had us heading out of the town soon than we anticipated.

We did do something a little odd given the temperatures, but we headed to Armstrong Woods to meander through the redwoods. With all the shade, we had lower temperatures so it was a nice outing. I had not been through the redwoods since I went to Humboldt over 20 years ago. These trees were just as beautiful, and we really enjoyed the trails around the creeks and winding through the forest. It was a nice way to end the day.

Sonoma Day 5 – Gone to the Dogs

Part of me wanted to title this “The Dog Days of Sonoma” but I decided to keep the same title format for the trip series. Like almost every time we travel (when it’s not the dead of winter) the Florida heat follows us. This trip was no different as the temperatures soared near 100. Even as a “dry heat” this was too much for us to spend too much time outside, so we decided to fill our day with indoor activities.

Up first was one of the only non-wine things I *really* wanted to do on this trip, the Charles Shultz Museum – aka Snoopy! I swear I partly learned to read because of the Peanuts cartoons, and I loved the Peanuts specials that would air every holiday. We got to immerse ourselves in all thing Peanuts for a few hours, and enjoyed the air conditioning while we were at it.

Not dog related, but put on the agenda for the day for the cellar tour, we visited Korbel for lunch then took the tour after. I’m not sure if I enjoyed the tour so much because it was historically interesting or if it was the coolness of the old caves. Either way, it was a nice way to spend a hot afternoon.

Bob gets all the credit for our last stop of the day. He found Mutt Lynch Winery when we were looking for ideas for the trip. We wanted good zinfandel and a fun experience so we added the tasting room in Windsor to our list. I am so glad we did. Brenda Lynch, the owner/winemaker made us feel right at home as she sat and talked with us while she poured from the tasting selection (and off the list too …. She was just incredible). Her zinfandel and primitivo were amazing, and her rose was truly out of this world. We spent far longer there than intended, but had a great time talking wine and dogs. We are super excited about the case of wine that is coming from here as soon as the weather breaks (say, around October). This is a definite go back to spot for us when we make it out to Sonoma again.

Despite the triple digit temperatures (the car registered 103) it was a great day.

Sonoma Day 4 – My Perfect Day

It is rare that a day work out so well, lives up to the anticipation, and is truly as amazing as it is in one’s mind. But this day, this day was pretty much my day on this trip and it was about as perfect as I could have hoped.

I love gardens: botanical gardens, rose gardens, meditation gardens, etc. You name a garden and I’m going to try to visit when I get there. This day we, on one of the hottest days they have here (our car read 99, the bank sign read 109, either way it was hot) went to Quarryhill – a botanical garden that specializes in rare Asian species of plants. Every plant here is propagated by seed and the gardens are allowed to grow fairly wild. No topiary here. There was lots of shade and a few good breezes to keep the walk mostly comfortable despite the heat.

After the gardens, we headed to Sonoma Square. I was pretty excited (read school girl giddy) to be going to the tasting room for Bedrock Wine Company. This is my go-to winery for a few reasons – Old Vine Zinfandel, consistently good wine, and a mission to save historic vineyards and vines. The history teacher in me wants to preserve these treasures, but if the wine wasn’t good, I wouldn’t drink it no matter the mission. However, the wine is great. It’s amazing and it always makes me happy to pour a glass. Take this level of excitement about the wine, and add going to the historic General Hooker House to taste these wines. Yes, I was super excited and didn’t try to hide it. Kristen, our host, was amazing and seemed to love the wines, the wine maker, and the mission as much as anyone. The whole experience was incredible and I feel so lucky to have been able to do it.

We ended the day with dinner at a restaurant on the Pacific at sunset. The food was fine, but the view was amazing and it was a great way to end such an incredible day. .

Sonoma Day 3 – North Coast Food & Wine Festival

In April I was browsing through Google’s recommended reads for me and came across a food and wine festival in Sonoma. I looked at it thinking, like most events I see that interest me, it would occur at a time when I was not in the area. To my surprise, this event was the weekend we would be in Sonoma, so I showed it to Bob who was completely on board with this idea, and picked up tickets.

One of my thoughts with this was that it would give us a chance to taste far more wine from different wineries than we could do on our own. There were some big names there like Francis Ford Copola and St. Francis wineries as well as tiny producers who have no tasting rooms or websites. The unifying theme from these wineries was that they all participated in and were rated in the Press Democrat blind tasting. Each winery is from northern California and the range of wines was pretty amazing. Along with some stunning wine, there were 25 area restaurants showcasing a wide variety of food. Special props to the Perch and Plow for the most amazing jackfruit slider! I went back three times. Seriously, three times.

We love our annual Wine Walk in Sarasota, but this event – from logistics to pacing to quality and variety – outdid anything we experience in Florida. I’d make the trip back just to do it again.

Sonoma Day 2 – Wine Tour

I have very mixed feelingss about group tours. I dislike crowds and like to wander, which you can’t generally do on a group tour. I like to find places that aren’t super crowded with tourists (I am perfectly good with most tourist areas and am not saying I need places no tourists go – I am a tourist so that would be ridiculous- but I like places that are not on the first page of the guide books) but with over 400 wineries in Sonoma, we thought starting out with a wine tour might be s good way to go.

We didn’t know what kind of wineries to expect – big names, large fancy facilities, small family wineries or a mix – but we went with an open attitude and lots of water to drink in between.

Talk about impressed and right up our ally! The tour had nine of us total on it (I can deal with nine) and we went to super small, family owned and run wineries. All four had something unique about them, but two stood out to us. MoniClaire and Viszlay are really tiny places that are producing amazing wine. The families who operate the wineries led us through their wines and showed us their vines. I loved it when someone would ask where a wine was grown and the answer was pointing to an area or a few rows with a “right there” as the answer. You really don’t get much more personal than that.

Day two is another how late can I stay up day. I’ got better but was definitely waking up on east coast time.


Sonoma Day 1 – Pacific Coast Highway

It’s been a while since Bob and I did a big trip. Over the last few years we took a long weekend here and these, but no week-long vacations. Lots of reasons, but none of them important. A while back (think August) I was browsing the Delta site and came across flights to San Francisco that we had the points to cover. We jumped on this since usually the points cost of the flights are much higher. With that one bit of luck and one quick decision, our vacation began to take shape.

img_20190606_100645Since Bob does the vast majority of the driving, I put him in charge of renting the car and he went with a convertible. He figured we’d be in beautiful country and with georgous weather, so we might as well enjoy it.

And did we on day one! Bob wanted to drive Rt. 1 – the Pacific Coast Highway – and so we had a bit of breakfast in Sausalito and then headed up Rt. 1 with the top down. It was breath taking. The mountains, the sea, the trees … it is so different from Florida and we loved it. We stopped at Pt. Reyes seashore and saw the seals. We would have stayed longer but the very cold, very strong wind encouraged us to go back to the car and continue the drive.

img_20190606_140602We stopped at a winery – Ft. Ross – to see if we could do a tasting. The website says by appointment, but we didn’t have cell reception and couldn’t call. They were super nice and accommodated us with no reservation. It was a great way to start our vacation. Really good wine, including a Pinotage which I loved and never expected to find in California, nice people and fantastic views.

It was off to the Bed & Breakfast and a vague attempt to stay past 8pm. The glass of wine with dinner did not help, but I looked cute in the sweater I made!

Winter Park, Florida

With summer coming to an end, Bob and I decided to take a short weekend away just for a change of scenery. We didn’t plan a big trip this year since I was furiously looking for a new job (more on that later) and didn’t want to risk missing an interview if we were away. But Winter Park is only a few hours drive and it is a cute, quaint little town that has a lot of good restaurants, most with really good wine and beer lists.

We stayed right downtown – right in the heart of the old town which was both the best decision we made and the worst. The hotel was great – really awesome people, very convenient to everything and comfortable. The problem? Let’s see if you can spot it.


That is the view from our room. Cute, right? Do you see the railroad crossing sign painted on the street? Yep. The railroad (which in most old towns is no longer running so no big deal) is still operational and frequently trains go by … including around 5:30 am one morning and 2:30 am another morning, Sigh. The price you pay for convince.

img_20180720_175317We really didn’t have an agenda with this trip. I know, no spreadsheet of places to go and restaurants to eat at, no pre-planned outings or specific exhibits to see. We wanted to relax, eat well and drink good drinks. The first night we were in Winter Park, we hit it out of the park (sorry, bad pun) with the restaurant we chose. The Parkview was a close walk and had some really interesting wines and beers. In my mind the food was secondary this evening, but it really impressed. I could not remember if I like artichoke or not – I don’t have it often enough to really think about it and I’m pretty sure it is one of those hit or miss vegetables – but I decided to go with the artichoke crostini and wow … just wow. The wine was also highly impressive and I again took a risk with Hanging Garden wine flight. These wines were from old and not as well know regions – Lebanon, Greece, Israel and Turkey – so not something I have every day. The Lebanese wine was my clear favorite from this bunch, but they were all really good.

On our only full day in Winter Park, we decided to walk to the botanic gardens. I love gardens and try to get to them in every city we visit. There is something particularly special about nature in the middle of a very developed area and this was no exception. It was hard to remember that we were just a few miles from Orlando proper.

img_20180722_090452_097As good as our first dinner was and as pretty as the gardens were, the highlight of the trip was the donuts. We happened by (on our way to the gardens, then stopped in on the way back) Little Blue Donut is this great place that does to-order donuts. Seriously. they make the general donuts, but they are super fresh and then they hand top them when you order. This was absolutely the best donut I’ve ever had, including Portland which is known for donuts. img_20180722_090452_093

For a really quick trip, this was just about perfect. I would have liked a little more sleep, but for the wine, food and scenery I’ll compromise. I was kind of glad we didn’t make it a full week, because that train would have driven me mad after about three days.

St. Augustine Beach

Sometimes you just need a break. A little time where you have no plans, no responsibilities and no need to do anything. After the last year, I very much needed this. I needed to sleep past 6, preferably without being woken up at 4 am by a cat. I needed to not schedule my activities around feeding the animals. Bob agreed that we should try to get away, so we started to think about what should we do, where should we go.

Our original thought was wait until I got home from work on the last day before spring break, and use the hotel’s tonight app, pick a place and just go. (Yes, I was willing to not plan something – you know I’m desperate to decompress when I’ll agree to that.) However, I began to think – and look. It’s high season here in Florida and it is spring break. Spring break in Florida. I forgot how many places fill up fast this time of year, so we went with a back up plan. One week prior, I began looking around at where to go. We looked at the upper keys, Ft. Myers and Naples, St. Pete Beach, Delray Beach and a few other places we could drive to. I also looked at St. Augustine, but was a little reluctant as I didn’t want to be tempted to do anything on this mini vacation. I just wanted to sit on the beach, or near the beach or someplace calming, and just do nothing. Then I looked at St. Augustine Beach. It’s a beach, it’s driving distance, it wasn’t was expensive as some places we looked and I found a super cute B&B that had an actual room available for the weekend. I looked a little more, then booked it.

wp-image-1875274554jpg.jpgThe House of Sea and Sun looks like it is nestled in the middle of no where. The views from the kitchen/dining area make you feel like there is nothing and no one around. But it is in the heart of St. Augustine Beach and very much in the middle of everything. Located on the beach (did I mention it was on the beach) it gave us exactly what we wanted. A quiet place to get away, walk on the beach, read books and rest. I even took a nap! The B&B is pet friendly and several other people had their dogs, but we didn’t bring Arthas.

We drove up after work Friday and spent the whole weekend. We didn’t make reservations for any restaurants, we didn’t go into St. Augustine proper. Except to walk to get dinner, or to walk along the beach, we didn’t leave the property. Patty (the owner) and Robin (her assistant) were fantastic and so welcoming. Happy hour each evening was fun and we got to interact a little with the other guests, but we didn’t feel pressured to do so. And I do have to say, I’m not a breakfast person, but breakfast every day was pretty amazing. Patty has run the House of Sea and Sun for twenty years. That is a very long time in the B&B world, but her experience shows.

Bob and I still talk about going to St. Augustine and seeing the city. He hasn’t been there is years and I have never been. There is also a state park not far from where we stayed, and I love state or national parks. St. Augustine is still on our list, but now I know where we are staying when we go back.

The Rest of Portland

The stated purpose for the Portland trip was a beer festival. Val and Bill decided they wanted to see Portland and found a large beer festival to determine the timing. Since Portland has been on our list, and Bob loves beer, we decided to meet them out there.

So the beer festival. It’s big. There are a lot of beers and a lot of people. While beer is not my thing (see post on wine tour) I still had a good time watching everyone else enjoy their experience. And honestly, the people watching was pretty fascinating.


In addition to the beer festival, we wandered around Portland and did a few of the things everyone says you should do when you go to Portland. We toured the Japanese Gardens, which were beautiful and serene. They are not as large as you might expect when looking at a map, but they do take you out of the city and transport you to a different place.

We had a number of recommendations to visit Powell’s Bookstore. This is the largest independent bookstore in the country and it is massive. Taking up an entire city block, and four or five stories, if you can’t find a book here, you aren’t trying. Or, if you are like me, you gave up because of the crowds and minor claustrophobia issue. Had there been a few less people, I could have wandered the aisles endlessly. But … I experienced and Bob found some books he wanted.

No trip could be complete without a good meal. Bob and I ate at Beast one night. This is one of the few restaurants that people tell you to try and you worry that it won’t live up to the hype. It lived up to the hype. The menu was light and refreshing and downright delicious. And for a restaurant called Beast, there was surprisingly little meat on the menu – yay! We also found a cute little place called Picnic House that had the best sandwiches. We also tried Higgins – a place not far from our hotel that several local’s recommended as a Portland experience. It was good, and the restaurant itself was very pretty on the inside, but it didn’t hold any magic for me. It could have been because it was our last night and I really just wanted to be home by this point. it could have been that I was tired from walked all day for several days. It could be that it was meat heavy and I had already had meat that week. It could have been any number of things, but it was good, not great.

So Portland … the city was interesting and I love the transit network and how walkable the whole city is. I’m not in a rush to get back to the city itself, but I really do want to explore the wine country more and some of the other natural areas outside the city. Maybe even check out the coast.