California Trip: Did Somebody Say “Wine?”

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Hey everyone!  Hope you’re all having a fab October!  Wow, can’t believe it’s October already.  Uggghhh… NoooooOOOOooooo!!!

So, as you may or may not have noticed, we didn’t post for a while- we were in Iowa, then California, which was a nice change from being stuck in Hurricane Land.  Thankfully we were lucky and stayed safe, as did our loved ones.

As for California?  I’d never been there before, not once.  Never, ever.  Yep, I lived in Vegas, and could have easily hopped on over there, but never did.  Not sure why I never bothered, guess it just wasn’t at the top of my priority list.  Well, Jerry’s son, along with his wife and two little ones, moved there recently.   So, we took the opportunity to head for clearer skies, visit them, and see the sights.

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We flew into San Francisco, and I was shocked at how chilly it was there- not compared to Iowa, but definitely cooler than here in the south.  We were disappointed that it was pretty dreary, but still looked forward to the trip.  After picking up a rental car, we crossed the Bay Bridge into Oakland and paid a visit to the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier- which was one of my most anticipated activities!

U.S.S. Hornet

U.S.S. Hornet

While we missed out on the engine room tour due to time limitations, we did tour most of the lower decks.  These areas were similar to the battleship in Alabama that we toured, but on a larger scale.  They did a great job of keeping everything authentic, so we could get an idea of what life would have been like on board.

Jerry and I with one of the fantastic docents, who served aboard an aircraft carrier like the Hornet

Jerry and I with one of the fantastic docents, who served aboard an aircraft carrier like the Hornet

We met some fantastic docents who were very helpful and had some great stories to tell.  One of them gave us a tour of the flight deck, and we were super lucky because he had actually served on the flight deck aboard one of the Hornet’s sister carriers.  He also rebuilt a table that they used on board to show the positioning of all the aircraft, which was really cool.

Another docent, Kahne, gave us a tour of the “island,” which is the command center of the carrier.  Kahne served as a pilot in the Vietnamese Air Force prior to coming to the U.S.- being a U.S. Air Force veteran myself, it was really awesome to meet a counterpart!  Funny thing is, we got such an authentic idea of the cultural melting pot that is America- the docent/tour guide being of Vietnamese decscent, and the other members of our tour party:  there was a couple from England, and the man served in the Royal Air Force, two guys from Germany, and we ran into a few visiting from Russia.  So, we felt fortunate to have such a wonderful experience.

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After visiting the Hornet, we headed for a drive along the coast, after paying $5.00 to drive on a road…lol.  We went through Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Monterey- and man, oh man, the scenery was SO gorgeous.  I LOVE the beach and the ocean, so this was quite possibly the most beautiful place I have ever seen.

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We stopped for the night, got a hotel room in Monterey, and ordered fish ‘n’ chips at an English pub, and got spoiled.  Nowhere down here in the south have I EVER had fish ‘n’ chips that good.  The following day, we went along 17 Mile Drive and Pebble Beach- it’s a good thing they have a lot of areas to pull over so we wouldn’t disrupt traffic too badly while getting pics!  It was SO much driving, but worth every bit, especially since we stopped at fruit stands along the way…lol!

Fish 'n' chips at Crown and Anchor in Monterey

Fish ‘n’ chips at Crown and Anchor in Monterey

After driving the coast, we went to the Sacramento area to see Jerry’s son and his family- the reason for our trip.  Had SO much fun with them, hate that we’re all so far apart.  Kevin had to work the next day and his wife was tied up with other things, so we decided to go driving yet again.  This time… Napa Valley!  Oh yes, we were heading for Wine Land, hence the title of this post!

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

We got a late start so we were limited on time, and only got the chance to visit one winery.  We chose Castello di Amorosa, or what locals simply call “Castle Winery,” as it’s an actual castle!  We did a guided tour and premium tasting, and our guide, Kristopher C., was nothing short of fantastic.

Our tour guide, Kristopher C., at Castello di Amorosa

Our tour guide, Kristopher C., at Castello di Amorosa

Not only are there a few floors above ground, but there are several stories below ground, so the natural 58 degree temperature is perfect for storing and aging wine.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much wine in one place in my entire life- this is definitely one of those places you do NOT want to miss!

In the torture room at Castello di Amorosa

In the torture room at Castello di Amorosa

Aside from the wine, being a former Deputy Coroner and fan of the macabre, my fave part of the castle was the area with the armory, dungeon, and torture chamber, complete with pit of despair and iron maiden, among other not-so-pleasant things.  Heading out of the “area of death,” it was time to taste!

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We actually got to taste a very young cabernet directly from the barrel, which was surprisingly good.  Then we tasted about ten other wines- thanks to Jerry and I sharing.  Since each person got to pick five, and we were all couples, Kristopher suggested we each select different choices so we get to taste double (muchas gracias, Kristopher!).  My fave ended up being a wonderful old vine zinfandel, while Jerry’s was a sweet red called “La Fantasia.”  Of course, we ended up buying  a few bottles…lol.

At Golden Gate Park with Alcatraz in the background

At Golden Gate Park with Alcatraz in the background

Since we were there during Kevin’s birthday (which was a plus!), we spent a day going to pick up the birthday gifts he’d picked out, AND getting pics of Folsum State Prison.  Since we’d already  gotten some of Alcatraz and San Quentin, we figured we might as well go a mile or so out of the way to Folsum.

At the San Francisco Zoo

At the San Francisco Zoo

On a day Kevin was off, we made another road trip and headed back to San Francisco with the kiddos.  Of course, since we’re all Journey fans, and “Lights” was the first song Jerry ever taught to Kevin, we had to play the song as we were “by the bay.”  We went to the zoo, then to Pier 39, and had a fantastic time.  Having young children tends to make these types of outings much more exciting- it’s always fun to try to view things through their eyes, so full of wonder and amazement!

Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Pier 39

Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Pier 39

The negatives of the trip?  All the back and a$$ soreness from the driving, and the damn toll roads… arrggghhhh!  As I mentioned earlier, one road, heading out of San Francisco toward Half Moon Bay was $5.00.  Then we had to pay anywhere from $5.00-$6.00 just to cross the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, and Kevin said they were thinking about raising it to $9.00.  WTF?

Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge

In addition to all the toll roads was the road rage, and the plethora of rude drivers.  I can’t begin to count the number of times we almost got hit from other cars nearly crashing into us trying to change lanes.  Plus, going to toll booths to get onto the Bay Bridge, there were SO many cars in the carpool lane with just ONE person, the driver, CHEATING to get ahead.  Then when they got up far enough to wait in line to pay, they’d rudely just veer into our lane and shove right in front of us.

One of Jerry's shots of the Golden Gate Bridge

One of Jerry’s shots of the Golden Gate Bridge

To add insult to injury, the wait in traffic to get onto the Bay Bridge was OVER AN HOUR.  That’s not even counting getting through the traffic just to get that one area.  My bladder seriously could not take living in San Francisco- no friggin’ way.  Not only were the streets crowded, but the city was  crowded.  Sure, all those rows of houses side by side look pretty neat on TV, but no one had yards, parking was nearly impossible- unless you had tons of money to burn.

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As for the positives, like I previously mentioned, the coast was just breathtaking.  The waves crashing onto the shore were so calming, and I just didn’t want to leave.  We got spoiled by all the fresh, organic fruit, doesn’t get any fresher than having been picked that same day.

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The options for food were endless, which was awesome for us since we’re foodies.  But, we didn’t really get very adventurous on this trip, like we normally would.  You’d think we’d be all over the healthy options, but since we eat very strictly at home, we indulged while there.  We went to In-N-Out almost daily…lol!

Lamb meatballs and lobster mac 'n'cheese at Cat Cora Kitchen

Lamb meatballs and lobster mac ‘n’cheese at Cat Cora Kitchen

We also both LOVE fish ‘n’ chips, like traditional, battered fish.  Down here, I don’t think they realize there are other types of fish besides catfish and tilapia.  They also don’t seem to know of anything besides cornmeal breading.  Ick!  So, we had real, beer battered fish ‘n’ chips FOUR times.  On the last day before getting on the plane to come back, we ate at Cat Cora and had the best damn lamb meatballs, and delectable lobster mac ‘n’ cheese.  Jerry swears it was the best lamb he’s ever had, period.

I would say the positives outweighed the negatives, I would absolutely be up for going back, especially to the coast and Napa Valley.  We have a friend, Tori, who used to work at Ulta in Bossier, but moved to California recently.  It didn’t occur to me to find out where exactly, until it was too late.  Turns out, she lives in Monterey, and we were right there.  Also, my friend, Jami, from back home in Iowa lives in Napa, and we didn’t get a chance to stop by and pick up some food from her.  So, even if Kevin and fam move, we’ll still technically have an excuse to go back to the areas we loved ;).

Ever been to these areas in California?  Scroll down to comment below!

 

 

 

Renee'

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