"Napa Valley" Napa by ranger49

Napa Travel Guide: 442 reviews and 1,242 photos

A full day out

We spent a full day day exploring the valley and the surrounding hill sides, on foot and by car.
Other than that we planned to visit "a winery" we had no specific plans for the day so felt free to wander off the main road every now and then.

I would have liked to linger a while in Napa itself and to have taken a walk along the main high street where I glimpsed some interesting old buildings but- another time maybe!
As we drove through the vineyards I was struck by orderliness of the countryside, its lushness and air of prosperity.

Around the lake

Our first detour was to take Hwy 128 and drive until we came to the southern tip of a stretch of water belonging to Napa City water department. Here we found somewhere to park and spent quite a long time taking in the scenery, the wild flowers and the birds.

It was very quiet and peaceful with only the rustle of spring leaves in the breeze and the sound of birdsong.
The only people we saw were two cyclists who told us we were at Lake Hennessey.

The other side of the mountain

We enjoyed a picnic at one of the vineyards - chosen because we came to it just as we began to feel hungry - and the direction board said Picnic Grounds!
As we drove up the hill we passed a beautiful looking hotel of the Relais & Chateau brand. It even had a French name - "Auberge du Soleil" and I rather regretted that we had brought a picnic and wished we might have eaten there.
But you could not have put a Vespa between the cars in the carpark, many others spilled out onto the roadside. The cars and the customers were all very smart - our Ford Explorer and relaxed casual attire would have been out of place.
Later I looked the place up on the internet and saw that had we chosen the most expensive started and main course it would have cost $167. That is per person, not for the 4 of us.
The shock of looking at the wine and room prices stayed with me for some time.
There is a lot to be said for homemade ham,salad & mayonnaise sandwiches eaten under a canopy of trees on a lovely spring day!

Afterwards we continued up the Valley but soon took a left turn that became very steep and narrow. Its tortuous bends gave us great views from the top, and eventually descended in to the Sonoma Valley.
One of my nephews likes Sonoma wines best of all and has two or three small wineries that he prefers above all others.

There was a different feel this side of the mountain - still many prosperous looking farms and vineyards, tasting centres, but overall a less pristine, more lived-in look.
Again I would have like to stop - in Glen Ellen - to look for traces of Jack London's history. My father introduced his writings to me when I was still young, together with the short stories of O.Henry his two favourite American writers. But - no time and we hurried by.
I was struck by the number of very large institutional-type buildings, correctional and detention facilities and so on.
Much less fearsome was entrance to the Sonoma Developmental Centre where people with learning difficulties are now cared for in a warm, caring and progressive environment, unlike the notorious regime practised by the predecessor establishment of 60 years ago.

This was a full and fascinating day - much was missed, much was rushed but I come away with a sense of the beginnings of California and the lovely memories of our picnic lunch.

  • Last visit to Napa: Mar 2010
  • Intro Updated Oct 17, 2010
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ranger49

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