Wild California poppies

Notes from a trip to Northern California

There are flowers every which way one looks: roses, foxgloves, California poppies, snapdragons grow in wild profusion, even in the vineyards. The rose bushes planted at the end of each vine row not only serve an important purpose (as a kind of fungus alert), they make a beautiful place even more beautiful. All the wineries we visited had gorgeously manicured gardens and the sides of the cliffs, hills and roads were covered on a carpet of California poppies and lampranthhus (which I know as rayito de sol, a ray of sunshine. A fitting name for such a beautiful flower).

Gorgeous! Wild California poppies

Wine versus olive oil. The climate of Northern California is also ideal for growing olives and some wineries produce olive oil as well. In one particular winery, while my husband and friends were busy tasting wines, I drifted to the olive oil area and spent a delightful half hour stuffing my face with crusty bread dipped in different kinds of olive oil. After all, there’s so much wine one can drink.

All my life I’ve lived far away from seismic areas. Visiting Grgrich Hills Estate and seeing the clever way in which they store their oak casks and the cracked floor brought home to me the damaging potential of earthquakes.

Cask "cradles" at Grgrich Hills Estate

Highway 1 is an incredibly beautiful and at time hair-raising coastal drive. Hairpin turns, sheer cliffs, boulders down below in the cold blue Pacific tested my nerves even though I wasn’t driving. One of our stops was Bodega Bay, the setting for Hitchcock’s The Birds. I had wrongly assumed that the area was named after the wineries (bodega is Spanish for winery) but it’s actually named after the Spanish explorer Don Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra Mollineda.

Somewhere along Pacific Highway 1

Point Reyes was another place I wanted to check out because it’s mentioned in one of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club novels. There’s not much going on in Point Reyes but at least it was a pleasant drive.

I’ve wanted to take the Napa Valley Wine Train ever since I saw it on a Top Chef episode. We chose to do the Grgrich Hills Estate tour that included a gourmet lunch on the way to the winery and coffee and dessert on the way back, as well as a guided tour. It wasn’t cheap but it was for our 6th wedding anniversary. The food and the service were very good and the inside of the old train had an old-world elegance that appealed to me. We shared a table with another couple. His facial features reminded me of the men in my mother’s side of the family. We struck up a conversation (kind of difficult not to) and at one point I asked whether he was of Catalan descent. He was. Since all four of us at the table love Spanish food and travelling, that’s all we talked about over lunch. However, my favourite part of the trip was sitting on a plush chair, sipping coffee and eating a delicious crème brulee while watching the grapevines roll past. A very special and decadent way to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

View from the trainInside th trainVine rows rolling past

We spent one night in the lovely historic La Rose Inn in Santa Rosa. The town is quite pretty but what sets it apart are the statues of all the Peanuts characters dotted about. Charles M. Schultz, its creator, was living in Santa Rosa when he died and these statues are a tribute to him.

Snoopy and me

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14 thoughts on “Notes from a trip to Northern California

  1. You’ve made me want to visit this area of the US, Ana. It somehow reminds me of trips to Mendoza, visiting wineries and olive oil factories – plus the beautiful coast and that train ride! What a way to end the trip and celebrate your wedding anniversary. I love the photograph of Bodega Bay.


  2. How beautiful! So…. you had to choose between wine and fresh bread with olive oil? What a hard decision! I would want BOTH 🙂


  3. Congratulations on your anniversary and your choice of location; the flowers are beautiful and so brilliantly colored. You looked as if you were riding on the Orient Express in one of those mystery movies. LOL


  4. Right from flower to wine and then a pic of you with the doll ..cool.I hope you have enjoyed your Anniversary


  5. Happy belated anniversary! Your photos of the area are just gorgeous. I can’t help but smile when I see so many lovely flowers. I explored Highway 1 south of San Francisco, and the views are just stunning. Some day I’d love to check out the Napa Valley.


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