John and I were supposed to go to Napa as my birthday present, but I ended up having to stay in Utah longer than we'd planned. Then we tried to schedule for John's birthday weekend, but our babysitters took turns being out of town, so finally the 2nd weekend of July we went!
Our first stop was the Oxbow Market for three twins ice cream. We've had it from the grocery store, but it's even better freshly scooped.
I had ice cream for dinner and John tried a chicken taco from C Casa. Not being wine drinkers, our food tasting goals for the weekend were balsamic vinegar, chocolate, olive oil and cheese. The overall ingredient quality of the food was amazing and made for some delicious dishes. We found our favorite balsamic that night--Lucero's traditional. We brought one home and have used it several times already.
We used the last of John's hotel points and stayed in a Homewood Suites not too far from our main (and only scheduled) event: a hot air balloon ride over the valley.
We learned how they work and our pilot taught us about the history of balloon riding.
I took this one on my phone of one of the other balloons by us. It's going over one of the winery's retention ponds.
Mid-flight picture. We look groggy because we had to get up at 4:30 to get there for a sunrise flight. They go early in the morning before wind picks up, so it's a very slow and smooth ride.
We went about 3,000 feet up and could see all over. The back right shows part of where the fires the previous week had burned some of the land.
Landed safely! There was a crew of "chasers" who ran after the balloon and pulled us down when we were close to the ground. Then they all worked to deflate and load the balloon on a truck.
We had a lovely brunch afterward at V Marketplace in Yountville, which is the poshest, cutest town, and then started touring some places we'd read about.
It was hot out, but we wanted to walk around the Castello di Amorosa--a winery with a castle.
Complete with a moat and drawbridge. John knocking to get in.
We didn't take the whole tour, but walked around until I wanted to get back in the air conditioned car.
We also went to the CIA in St. Helena.
Larger than life barrels.
We went to a farmer's market in Calistoga and bought chocolate almond cookies from some nuns that we want to try to recreate. Then we walked through the downtown area.
I found an Italian soda and bookstore and John found lunch at Bosko's Trattoria.
They had the best Parmesan cheese. John loved the house salad with ricotta salata and his piemonte pasta--fresh shells with mushrooms, sausage and roasted onions in a tomato cream sauce.
We stopped at the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, which I've wanted to tour since I was a kid. They weren't in production over the weekend, but we watched the movies and tried all the samples.
Dinner was at Gott's Roadside in Napa Valley. It wasn't heavy or greasy like you might expect and we enjoyed every bite. I saw that they opened one in Palo Alto so that could be dangerous.
We went to the hotel jacuzzi then slept through the night. The next morning we slept in and then headed to Jack London's house in Glen Ellen.
He led a fascinating life full of adventure and his home was filled with memorabilia from his travels.
We walked a long trail down
to his gravesite
and old house.
A fire destroyed their home which is so disappointing because it looked amazing.
And it had a great view and was a relaxing end to our trip. We stopped in Sonoma on our way out to taste some cheeses and chocolates, finishing our list. The Cheese Factory Jack cheeses were my favorite and we had Guittard at Wine Country Chocolates, where John picked up a huge package of cocoa nibs.
We hurried home to our little guys. We missed them all weekend, but felt rejuvenated after a break from caring for them. Thanks Mom and Amanda for babysitting and making our first getaway possible!