The Most Romantic Trip…Napa Valley

The Most Romantic Trip…Napa Valley

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Location: Napa, California
Date: August 2012 

I consider Napa to be the perfect couple’s excursion. The rolling hills, manicured with rows and rows of vineyards, the excellent blue skies, perfect temperatures, and gentle breezes that resonate peace and tranquility make this a place of healing for both the mind and body.

A vineyard in Napa

Recently my husband, Trent, and I headed back to Napa.  (I say “back” because I grew up in Vacaville, a town just 18 miles away, but this trip was unlike the hundreds I had made during my adolescence.)  Since we were going home for my high school reunion in Vacaville, I decided to stay in Napa to outweigh a semi-stressful event with a relaxing and romantic getaway.

The Carneros Inn and Resort
August 2012

The Carneros Inn and Resort
Leaving Texas’ 100 degree heat also sounded heavenly, so we headed off to Napa just two weeks ago to really discover it for the first time.  We flew into California and headed to our hotel called the Carneros Inn and Resort.  This was in the midst of beautiful vineyards and even had its own farm and orchard, so I truly felt we were communing with the earth and soil.  It felt good to this old country girl from Vacaville (literal translation, Cow Town) to get back to my roots.  Each of the rooms at this lovely, little place stand alone, so it really was like visiting our own personal cabin/farmhouse.  From the corrugated tin roofs and wood siding, it looked like a little farmhouse.  The exception being when we entered our little one room/one bathroom suite since the inside was beautifully simple with a touch of modern luxury.  The linens, indoor/outdoor shower, outdoor tub for two, and a personal fireplace in the room all led me to the quick conclusion that this was going to be a fabulous weekend.  More on this Plumpjack Resort can be found at www.thecarnerosinn.com.

Our suite, Haire #6, Napa
August 2012

We arrived at our resort very late after dinner with some friends from Vacaville.  When we pulled up, I did not know what to expect, unlike a lot of the chain hotels and resorts, where you basically have an idea of what you’ll be getting.  I was surprised to recognize the resort as the same place I had had dinner for my Winter Festival dance in high school.  Of course that has been ages, and the night of the dance I had only known we had gone to Napa for dinner, so I never knew I had visited Carneros as a teen.  Since it is so beautiful lit up with string lights and the indoor/outdoor restaurant, it is no wonder it is a vision I have held onto for over 20 years.

The Perfect Day
Okay bare with me…. I am now about to describe my perfect day during this wonderful weekend away.  I don’t want to sound too sappy, but it truly was perfect.

After our wonderful breakfast of eggs benedict and pancakes all made fresh with many of the resort’s own homegrown ingredients, we headed out to discover Napa.  Trent had already booked a “mudslide” spa treatment up in Calistoga which is about a 45 minute drive north through this beautiful landscape.  I didn’t mind driving because we had the top down on the car and the breeze whispering in my ear.  (Do I sound sappy yet?  Yes, it was that great!)  Tip #1– If you don’t know what you want to do or what is available in the area, then call your concierge at the hotel you are staying.  They can usually help plan a day or activity and usually know which ones are the best.  That is how Trent found out about his one.

Trent in Downtown Calistoga.  I love this guy!
August 2012

Mud City
Calistoga is known as “mud city” since it has the perfect combination of old volcanic ash from Mount St. Helena located just seven miles away, and the healing waters of the natural “Old Faithful” geyser found right there in Calistoga.  This mud supposedly has great healing properties, but let’s face it, we could have been smearing good ol’ regular mud on ourselves, we didn’t care as long as it felt amazing.

Solage Resort 
When we arrived at the Solage Resort in Calistoga, we were ushered through the usual spa routine: go to the locker room, change into a robe and slippers, and meet outside in the co-ed waiting room where, of course, we were given a variety of herbal teas and cucumbered ice waters to wait out our time until our treatment started.

Our treatment room and tiled bed.
Try and notice the shower heads in the ceiling that we could turn on when we were ready to clean off.
August 2012

The Mud
Soon we were greeted and escorted to the mud bar where we choose an essential oil to be included in our mud.  I chose a citrus type boost that would give me some energizing properties, and Trent got the lavender for de-stress/muscle soothing.  Once our mud was mixed right before our eyes, we headed to the application room to rub the mud all over ourselves in a heated tiled room that was fit with shower heads coming out of two walls and overhead of the tiled lounging bed.  I really liked that the mud was mixed right before my eyes.  I have had a mud bath submersion procedure done back when I was in high school, and had saved all my babysitting money to enjoy such a lavish luxury, and though that was fine for me back then.  I worry now about who may have been sitting in that mud bath before I came along.  I didn’t want other’s germs, and so, though this wasn’t a submerged bath it was still very soothing and my skin felt just as smooth as my first experience 24 years ago.)  Once our mud had dried and we showered off, a knock at the door signaled that it was time to move onto the next step.

Our geo-thermal mineral water baths
straight from the hot springs.
August 2012

The Waters
Straight from the solagecalistoga.com website in which this mudslide experience is described “the second step involves a relaxing and rehydrating soak in a luxurious oversized tub- featuring geo-thermal mineral water from our own spring.”  Basically a relaxing soak for 25 minutes with some great bath salts again made from our essential oil of choice.  With another tap at the door it was on to the next step.

No this is not an advertisement for the spa, its Trent getting his zen on…
August 2012

The Rest
Trent’s picture says it all.  You’d think this was from a brochure, but I couldn’t help but take a quick pic once we got situated in these awesome chairs.  We were basically shown to these gravity free chairs, wrapped ourselves up in a robe and blankets, and were given head sets that were in-sync with the chair to vibrate with different pulses of the relaxing music.  It was bliss for all senses.

Me with no make up feeling very relaxed after our treatment.
August 2012

I will say I could call myself a connoisseur of spa treatments and this was one of my favorites because it included my husband, it was very relaxing, and it varied from the usual run-of-the-mill treatments.

Village Bakery in downtown Calistoga
August 2012
Old Faithful of California

By now it was 12:00pm and we wanted to walk the main drag of Calistoga and grab some lunch.  When I was a girl my mom would buy cheese and french bread and we’d find a park (usually over in Sonoma) and feel like we were in Italy or France for the day, of course I wanted to recreate this experience.  We grabbed a great lunch at Village Bakery and took off to have a picnic at the Old Faithful Geyser of California.  This natural phenomenon erupts every 30 minutes and is smaller, and a more intimate setting than that of the Old Faithful Geyser located in Yellowstone.  This is one of only three Old Faithful Geysers in the world, so it was well worth the time.

Old Faithful Geyser of Calistoga California
August 2012

The cost to see Old Faithful was $10 for adults and $3 for kids 3-12, more info at oldfaithfulgeyser.com.  It is an older park in California and doesn’t look like it brings in much revenue so don’t expect anything fancy but the staff was very kind and helpful.  Right next to the geyser there are a bunch of picnic tables where Trent and I set up our bakery feast.  Within 5 minutes of us being there it began to blow and so we were able to watch it twice during our picnic.  They also have some exotic goats and llamas (I wasn’t too interested in seeing) so we did have the faint aroma of farm life near by.

A petrified tree stump at the Petrified Forest
August 2012

The Petrified Forest
Once we left Old Faithful we followed the signs for the Petrified Forest.  I’m embarrassed that I’ve never realized how close this forest was since I had never visited it while growing up.  You’d think this would be a no brainer for any mom and I was a littler perplexed at why my mom had never brought us here and then I saw this sign and realized why….

Hikers beware!
August 2012

Ok so here is the run down of the petrified forest.  Basically 3 million years ago when Mt. St Helena erupted the ash and lava came running down into the valley and coated everything in its wake.  Over all these years certain trees that are on display were transformed from wood to actual stone.  If I was a scientist I could explain in much clearer than this but basically there are about 23 sites, at this exhibit, that display these stone like trees laying on the forest floor.  Now to embarrass myself fully–there are no standing up petrified trees, as I had imagined.  There is not a forest full of petrified trees standing up to walk through.  (Thanks Hollywood for giving me a false visual all these years.)  It was interesting and it was a perfect 25 minute walk through a beautiful part of this forested valley. More info at www.petrifiedforest.org gives a much better explanation, the costs, and hours of the park.

Castello Di Amarosa and vineyard
August 2012
Trent is such a trooper posing for all my pics
on this romantic weekend away
August 2012

Grape Juice Anyone?
Of course I think the main reason I’ve never really experienced Napa Valley is because I don’t drink alcohol.  With over 350 wineries in the area it can be a wine enthusiasts dream with so many tastings and so little time.  I have however, always been curious about the process of distilling grapes and even the harvest, and the whole process, so Trent and I decided to spend some time of our perfect day visiting a winery to learn more about it.  The Castle Winery, Castello di Amorosa, had been referred to us and we thought it would be fun to visit a castle.www. castellodiamorosa.com

Trying to get a decent picture with the low lighting in
the wine cellars.
August 2012
Modern technology meets the age old process of wine making
August 2012

This Winery is relatively new and took 15 years to construct.  It is shown in the Adam Sandler movie “Bedtime Stories” and truly does look like its been in the valley for hundreds of years.  The architect even thought it would be funny to make some of the castle look like its survived a battle and some of the bricks are missing from a top turret.

The war ridden turet from some terrible war this castle
 had engaged in with the city of Sonoma. 🙂
Castella di Amarosa, August 2012

Our tour took us through many of the 107 rooms in the castle, it even has a mock torture chamber, and into the cave of the hillside where much of the wine is stored for aging and distribution.  We walked through rows of thousands of wine barrels, tried taking photos that would show up in the low lighted rooms, and enjoyed learning about the wine making process.  At the end of course, there was a full wine tasting in a beautiful underground room in which Trent and I tasted some wonderful, smooth, sweet but not too tart grape juice.  When we told the gentleman next to us that he could have our share of the real wine he was only too delighted to take us up on our offer.  Here we ordered 12 bottles of this luxurious grape juice to be sent to our home in Texas for a nominal fee of $15 so we can open up this special juice at Christmas this year.  It really was just that good.

The Girl and the Fig Restaurant
August 2012

The Girl and the Fig
Our evening ended with a short drive up to Sonoma where we dined right on the town square at a restaurant called The Girl and the Fig.  It was in an old home or business building from the 1800’s and offered a fresh fare of food.  I thought it was all delicious except for the chocolate covered figs that we ordered for dessert.  Not my favorite. www.thegirlandthefig.com

Reunion with with high school/middle school/elementary buddies.
August 2012

I hope this helps in planning your  excursion trip to Napa Valley.  We really did have such a romantic time and it was healing for both our mind and body.  It also reminded me to be more grateful for the things I have around me including where I live and the friends I’ve had, and have, in my life.  Since it was also my high school reunion trip I will include a pic of some of that fun.  Where is the most romantic city you’ve visited?  I’d like to know so I can start planning my itinerary or at least put it on my bucket list.

“Begin by discussing with your eternal companion 
how much time you need together
 to strengthen your marriage, 
to demonstrate the love you have for each other. 
That is your first priority.” 
Elder L. Tom Perry
lds.org