Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wine country

Although we've been in Napa for several days I haven't found the energy to update the blog until now. Actually I still don't have the energy, but it has to be done before I get too far behind. Backtracking, we spent another day in San Francisco with Dave last Friday and he took us to Muir Beach in Marin County and then to Muir Woods to see some redwood trees because the kids have been watching a DVD that mentions the trees and they've taken an interest in them (hooray for strewing!). Dave was an expert host and even drove the car so I could be spared the agony of trying to use the clutch on a 45% grade hill. OK maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but the hills felt like they were more like 75%! We left San Fran for Marin in sunny hot weather but true to the Bay Area as soon as we approached the Golden Gate Bridge the air was fog soup. On the bridge we couldn't even see the top of it through the fog. It was funny because when I saw the roll of fog over the building tops the first thing I automatically thought was "fire." Since I haven't seen moisture of any kind for half a year my brain wasn't wired to assume as much. But it was dark grey fog and the beach was also thick with it. The beach was also quite chilly but that didn't stop the kids from running around in their swimsuits and splashing in the tide. We all had a good time and the kids even made some friends.

The woods sounded like a good idea when we set out for them but by the time we finished the 10 minute drive the kids were spent. Scotty refused to get out of the car but finally agreed to go in for just a minute. It was worth the hassle to see those magnificent trees! I know he will remember them for the rest of his life just like I did after seeing them as a kid.

Saturday morning we spent getting organized to leave for Napa and then made the easy and beautiful 90 minute drive to Lisa's house. Once again the bridge was foggy so we never really did see it. The Napa valley is so pretty with all the vineyards and little farms everywhere. I love how the fences are lined with roses, all in bloom right now, and there's no junk anywhere. The other nice thing about this area is that there are still little villages with active downtown areas and there is very little sprawl. When we got to Lisa's we found the boys swimming in a small inflatable pool in the backyard so the kids immediately jumped in while Lisa showed me around. We had a low key but wonderful meal and then walked with the kids to the neighborhood park. A great day.

Sunday Lisa and the boys took us to Train Town in Sonoma where Scotty got to see his second working steam locomotive of the trip. We rode the train and a few of the rides. The kids went on their first rollercoaster ride and Scotty liked it so much he went a second time by himself! Afterwards we ate a picnic at the town square and got some ice cream. That evening Lisa and the boys left for Santa Rosa for the week and we stayed behind to house sit. I spent some time online looking for some things to do around here and discovered that there is a Jelly Belly factory close by. And since I was in Napa I figured I should stop at at least one winery so I made plans to do that as well.

Monday was a bit of a challenge though, as the Jelly Belly place was quite crowded and we had to wait in line for the tour. Then they made us wear these silly paper hats and Scotty was very upset about that. He managed to get through it and of course enjoyed seeing the factory in action with all its machinery, but we still had to cut the tour short because Eliza had another very public meltdown. I'm remembering vividly what three is like these days! I tried to feed them at the cafe but the food was awful, even the pizza (how do you mess up pizza?), so we left with two bags of candy and three grouchy moods. A drive and a nap for Eli helped us get through the afternoon and the brief stop at an organic vineyard and that was about it for us that day. We all fell into bed early, exhausted.

Yesterday was a fine day. We started the day at COPIA, a place I had just seen featured on the show Top Chef, where they were holding Napa's weekly grower's market. Lots of ripe berries, apricots, plums, lettuce, onions, and even some tomatoes were available along with some delicious pastries and coffee and live music. The weather was overcast but just warm enough and the flowers from COPIA's gardens were blooming and very fragrant. It was a beautiful place and we spent a lot of time in the children's garden. Afterwards we did a little poking around in downtown Napa and found a neat little thrift store. It was there that we made an incredible purchase--a complete Chaos Toy set for $5 (normally $125). Well when I got it home I started to understand why it was given away, because while it's way cool for the kids it is a lot of work for the grownups! We spent all afternoon setting it up and watching it run. It's basically like those perpetual motion ball runs you see at science museums. Finally, inspired by Lisa's kitchen I made us some grilled salmon for dinner. Another great day.

Which brings us to today! This morning we woke up at 5:00 to drive 90 minutes to the Sonoma Coast State Beach. The reason for the early start was to get there for low tide so we could go tidepooling. We were rewarded with some amazing wildlife--starfish, sea anemones, hermit crabs, sand crabs, lots of other crabs, sea squirts, mussel colonies, tidepool sculpin, sea slugs, turban snails, beautiful sea grass and kelp, and all of it completely to ourselves! We spent two hours exploring the tidepools and then moved to another beach that was perfect for sand castles and splashing in the water. And the weather was, of course, overcast and foggy. Still we had a fabulous time and Scotty declared it the best beach ever. Tomorrow will be a day to recoup and get ready to move to Maria's place near Laytonville on Friday. There's no internet up there so I probably won't post again until we're on our way back down. For now, enjoy the pictures!

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