This was our final day as a group of 5 since we were due to meet up with Kelly, Mat and Madonna later in the afternoon. It also happened to be Mothers day and I couldn’t think of anything better to do than take a drive through the Napa Valley and reunite my Mother with another one of her other daughters in San Francisco.
Breakfast was spent in the hotel cafe in Ukiah where I watched little kids and dads build meals for the mothers – some even lucky to have them in bed. I got to try making a waffle using pre made mix that you drop in to the machine and wait for the beep. They even had two flavours – plain and blueberry. I misheard the beep and ended up with a doughy partially cooked waffle but the blueberry taste was ok. I made another one later to share with Mum that was cooked properly. It was pretty busy for breakfast and the television blaring made for a not very peaceful mothers day meal.
We left the Farifield Inn and Suites in Ukiah after packing up the cool and spacious mini-van that we all appreciated and drove again down the 101 making our way through a valley surrounded by mountains. I had my suspicions that the mountains were formed by some sort of faultline and after a little wikipedia search I’ve discovered it was the Maacama Fault. The Californian landscape is a constant reminder that we are in an earthquake zone – at least to me because the mountains have quite a different appearance to the ones I’m used to in Australia.
Highway 101 near Ukiah:
Near Geyserville we stopped on the side of the road for some cherries by request of Auntie Sue. She came back with a bunch that she wasn’t that pleased with but she felt sorry for the girl who was there and bought them anyway. I’m not much in to cherries so I can’t comment on their quality. Off the main highway and on to the back roads to get to Old Faithful Geyser. I believe there are a few with the same name – the most famous is at Yellowstone National Park. This wasn’t that one and is known as the Old Faithful Geyser of California. It’s about $10 to get in to see the geyser but for your money you get the geyser, some pretty bad portable toilets, goats and a llama. Obviously the draw card is the geyser and this fits the criteria of old school roadside attractions I discussed in an earlier blog post. The geyser has a pretty quick blow time and I think I saw about 4 bursts in the 30 minutes we were there. It’s pretty cool to see one – at least to me since I’ve never seen one before. They thoughtfully provide chairs so you can sit and smell the wafty egg smell of the sulfur and take photos. The store was a bit lame which is a good thing when you are trying not to spend money.
Old Faithful Geyser of California:
After the geyser we drove in to Napa and the wine country. There were windy roads of close trees then open fields of grapes soaking in the California sunshine. For some reason my family isn’t very good at the winery visiting thing even though they are pretty good at tasting wines away from the wineries. I’ve never figured that out. I put Mum in charge of picking the ones we would visit and we decided to limit it to three. We had been told to go to the Francis Ford Coppola winery which is now the Rubicon estate so that was a given. The others were picked on such complex criteria such as they were on the route, looked pretty and had a good view. Blasphemy to a wine connoisseur.
The first on the way was the Francis Ford Coppola winery. We turned off the main stretch of road and on to the estate which was a grandiose entrance. The road to the manor is a long treelined tunnel which leads to the parking lot and red carpeted entrance. There is a greeter at the red carpet to assist you with any questions but we ignored him and walked straight to the fountain. The manor is very french looking and covered in vines. Inside the manor you walk in to a grand lobby with a staircase that dominates your view, topped off by a stained glass window with Francis Ford Coppola and the manor segued in to it. We could have paid for tasting, but no one was especially interested in trying the wines. Instead mum was on a mission to buy winery memorabilia for a friend at home who was making a wine cellar in their house. Although the store had some interesting sale items, hats and ties weren’t really suitable to hang up in a cellar. We did find some cool memorabilia though, but that was just little things like Coppola’s Oscar and upstairs was the car from the movie Tucker. I had a lot of fun looking at his movie stuff which made the ordeal of visiting a winery much more interesting to me. Downstairs we checked out some of the private tasting rooms where Coppola has hosted some of his famous friends. The dust on the wine bottles in that room were thick which probably makes a lot of drinkers jealous. I think we left without one of us having a sip of anything alchoholic. For shame.
Entrance to the Rubicon Estate:
Red carpet for winery lovers:
Stairway at the entrance:
Incredible stained glass at top of the stairs:
Car from the movie Tucker:
Dusty bottles of wine in the VIP room:
Next stop was up on the hill where we wanted to look down over the valley so we headed over to Rutherford Hill Winery. It was of interest since the building was sort of shaped like half a barrel. We had a quick look in the store for memorabilia but again came away empty handed so instead we just used the bathroom. There was a picnic area over the road which was full of families having picnics for mothers day. We stopped long enough to look at the view, catch some of the sun’s rays and then back to the car. After the Rubicon Estate Winery, every other winery was going to be shit. We really shouldn’t have done it first. 🙂
Rutherford Hill Winery:
View from the picnic area across the road:
Yountville was the next destination since I had planned for us to have lunch there. In my planning dreams I had envisaged taking Mum to some la di da restaurant there like Bouchon or French Laundry but instead we had to do it poverty style and substitute it with Bouchon Bakery which makes the bread for Bouchon and is right next door. We parked in the market in Yountville which isn’t a market as you know it but more just a bunch of little clothing and gift stores. Mum tried in vain again to find memorabilia but once again failed. Seems like decorating your wine cellar isn’t big business in Napa. We lost Auntie Sue for a while in the markets but like always she knows the right time to turn up – just before we put out the police alert. 🙂 We then crossed the road and made a beeline for the bakery.
The bakery is just like you would expect it to look like with display cabinets but what makes it a little more interesting is that there is a glass window where you can watch the bakers baking. Being around midday meant that there wasn’t much cooking going on so we concentrated on choosing our lunch. I went with a baguette but stupidly agreed to it being toasted. That was my first mistake. Who goes to a great bakery and then toasts the bread. Stupid! Secondly, I had been looking forward to eating here for months and I turn up with a cold. I had no idea what the food tasted like as I chewed down on my meal, other than to tell that the consistency was good. I also ordered a lemon tart which I could also not taste. Really really smart Amy. I think that Mum and Auntie Sue enjoyed their food and weren’t just being nice – Mum even went back inside and bought some chocolate treats for the others to have when we reached San Francisco. She really is quite thoughtful.
Inside the bakery:
My toasted baguette:
Bouchon restaurant with the bakery on it’s left:
Our final winery for the day was Domaine Carneros. It is quite impressive on the hill from the road when you arrive and it was very european in design. Once again mum hunted for memorobilia and this time found a map of the wineries of Napa. I can’t remember if she purchased it or not – I thought it wasn’t very pretty but I think she got it in the end. We almost bought some wine to taste but our timing with the servers were off so we just left.
Leaving Napa we immediately drove in to a traffic jam that was primarily caused by bad design and a lack of traffic lights. The failure of people to merge properly on roads still mystifies me. It added about 15 minutes to our journey but maybe it was fate for later in the day. We got back on to the freeway that would take us to San Francisco. Meanwhile, Kelly and Mat had arrived at the San Francisco airport and where making their way by train to the hotel. Madonna had already been there one day and was likely resting after biking her way around San Francisco that morning. All of the players on our trip were now converging towards the Hotel Drake to join our second stage of the trip. Our drive took us over the Golden Gate Bridge and it was quite shocking to come through a tunnel and see it peaking through the hills. It’s an awesome bridge and never fails to take my breath away when I see it. I was busy trying to take pictures for everyone though as we made our way across it while Pauline filmed it in her signature macro style – driving as she did it. After the photos were taken I took it off her for safety reasons. Over the bridge we arsed our way to Powell st since again the GPS dropped out while in the tunnel. It was fun to drive up the hills and stop for Cable Cars again and I was pleased to see the others have their first excitement at seeing the cable cars – me being a seasoned pro and all. I had been to San Francisco in 2003 and the next part of the journey would travel through a lot of the places I’d already been. I was excited to share this part with the others though since I knew they were going to love it.
Sunday traffic in Napa – this wasn’t the worst of it:
First glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge:
Dropped the car off out the front of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel and gave the keys to the Beefeater bell boy after he helped us pull out our bags. Parking overnight cost us $51 plus tips and tax which was insane, so we were only keeping the car one more day and saying a sad goodbye to it. We declined the offer to take our bags up the stairs since our pockets were already hurting from the parking fees and checked in. Kelly and Mat had arrived not long before us and Madonna was already set up in a room she got the day before. We headed up to our room and were mildly impressed by the views and size. Bathroom was cute too. Everyone was on different floors which was a little painful but it turned out that Sue and Fiona and Pauline and I had the best rooms. We suspected that it was because Sue and I had become Kimpton In-Touch members. The others grumbled a bit which I thought was fair. If I had known that it would have gotten them better rooms I would have mentioned it. Bare in mind though, worse rooms in this hotel were still pretty damn good. This was the second Kimpton Hotel we had stayed in – the first being the Hotel Monaco in Washington.
Our room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel:
We all met for cocktails downstairs in the hotel lobby around 6pm where the whole group was together for the first time. We all relayed war stories of how we had reached this place, from when Mat gave a guy $20 at the airport in LA cause he was so tired, to Madonna’s insane bike ride around the hills of San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge. We retold the story of Auntie Sue’s curtain headache in New York relishing in a new audience for our tales.
Lobby where we met for drinks:
After cocktails we needed something to eat so I took us all down to a place I recalled fondly in the Metreon Building. The walk was partly for everyone to get their bearings and for me to try the tri-tip sandwich I had on our last visit in 2003 (not that I told anyone). In retrospect it was probably not the best idea to make our first meal together in America be in a food court but perhaps that is fitting? Either way, we would have better meals and it was a good introduction to Kelly and Mat to help them understand the serving sizes eg. insanely huge. On the walk back Pauline and Sue took a cable car to our hotel along Powell Street while the rest of us walked past Union Square and up to our rooms. Everyone was pretty tired so it was an early night. Plus we had the rest of the trip to look forward to.
For more photos, check out the Flickr set.
For Kelly’s version of events, check out her matching day blog post.
Tweets of the day:
Spending mothers day in the napa valley with my mother and 3 others. Hope I can get her something more than pink grapefruit tic tacs.
@Kelsbells good to see u made it! How tired are u? How was the flight?
@Kelsbells we will probably be there around 5-6pm.
Just visited old faithfull geyser. It’s cute! http://twitpic.com/4xk81
@Kelsbells not on mothers day Kelly! 🙂
I love visiting a winery that also contains an oscar. It’s Coppola’s for godfather 2 and I’m at the rubicon estate http://twitpic.com/4xrlv
@Kelsbells maybe u should take the shuttle instead then?
@GeekPornGirl I think it tastes nice but with a cold I can’t tell for sure.
Perfect mothers day in the napa valley. http://twitpic.com/4xuc8
So shitty. Finally get to go to the bouchon bakery and thanks to this cold I could barely taste any of it. Consistency was great though.
All 8 of the travellers have joined in San Francisco. Cocktails and travel stories are being shared. http://twitpic.com/4yi0u