Sonoma and Napa: wine country. Tourist hotspot. The place to go for San Franciscans.
Anyway, even before we arrived here people have been recommending this area to us. Go, they say - the wine is amazing. The vineyards are lovely. It's only an hour away. (Practically down the block in America.) And, did we mention, the wine is amazing!
However, when I got out the guide book, all I could find to actually do in Napa and Sonoma, is:
1.) Visit vineyards.
2.) Drink wine (aka "wine tasting"). Pay between $5-$15 for the equivalent of one glass.
3.) If you're feeling adventurous, wander around the vineyard and have a picnic somewhere on the grounds, or tour the winery.
4.) Buy vast quantities of, admittedly (comparatively) cheap, local wine.
5.) Repeat until sozzled.
Hence most people usually take the bus. The roads are 1-lane most of the way, and winding.
The only other things you might actually do in Napa and Sonoma, are:
6.) Visit the shops and eat lunch at the gourmet restaurants.
7.) Oh, it's really pretty.
In other words, just like Martinborough / Blenheim / other wine region of choice.
OK, so I sound a bit detrimental. It is a very nice area, and the wine is really well-priced if you love wine. It's just not something we're really into - we like it on occasion, but we keep on buying wine and giving it to our friends, so there's no point. I was more interested in taking photographs.
So our day went more like:
1.) Cross Golden Gate Bridge.
2.) Play "Hunt the cheap petrol" in Sausalito, just north of the bridge.
3.) Find the cheapest petrol there is $3.79 / gal. Get back on the freeway. (Petrol in SF has already hit the $4.19 mark on the 5th and Howard St station, our benchmark for overpriced petrol.)
4.) Get off the freeway to play "hunt the cheap petrol" in San Rafael. Guidebook says, "Don't even bother stopping here." Drive around a while before realising all petrol in San Rafael is priced $3.55. Fill up. San Rafael is the largest town in Marin County, and exudes a very wealthy air.
5.) Miss our turnoff to Sonoma County. Go to Gundlach-Bundschu Winery. Wander around grounds and take photos. Maybe see a rattlesnake after Brendan joking about being bitten by them. Weather is warm and beautiful even though it's only early spring- too hot in jeans. Watch girls walking around in pretty dresses and high heels, de rigour for wine tasting. Talking to them, they are all from San Francisco.
6.) Get back in the car and drive the hour-long drive north to Calistoga, to see the "Old Faithful' geyser. (Click on the link - the pictures are spot on!) Petrol back at $3.79.
7.) Arrive at 5.07pm. The sign on the gate says 'Open 9-5". Luckily for us, it's still open.
8.) Watch the geyser - it's very cool, if a little small. The water around it is so warm.
9.) Pet the fainting goats and various other goats. Very soft and cute. All together now: Aww....
10.) Drive home through Napa.
11.) Tina goes to Benny Benassi concert at Slide.