I was really bummed when I had to cancel, last minute, a much anticipated trip to Cambodia. But shortly after cancellation, I was graced with the opportunity to fly out west and drive up (and down) the coast of California, a trip that would change the course of my future.
My dear friends Olga and Meg just graduated from Tufts’ International Business program and were looking for a lil’ adventure. Meg was flying out to San Francisco for a friend’s wedding, so Olga and I decided to build a trip around that. So off we went….
Friday evening, we flew into LA, where we would stay for two nights with a good friend of mine from college, Meghan (not to be confused with Meg, who is in SF). We arrived very late and settled in for a good night’s sleep at Meghan’s adorable new bungalow-style house in West Hollywood, complete with lemon trees and hedge walls.
I woke up at the crack’a’dawn due to a teacher’s schedule+time difference, so I found the only coffee shop around that was open at 7am, Commissary Coffee, and sketched out a map of tentative plans over a mocha and some granola.
After awhile, Olga woke up and we enjoyed a nice morning and afternoon walking miles upon miles around Los Angeles. Our walking tour went from WeHo (West Hollywood) to Beverly Hill, where we had a yummy Italian prosciutto Panini at a lunch spot off of Rodeo Drive, then slowly meandered back to WeHo to meet Meghan and her beau for an afternoon cocktail at Hudson’s. They were strugglin’ a bit from the previous night, but managed to gulp one down and reap the benefits of hair’a’the’dog. Pepped up a bit, we took a friend’s recommendation to go to Laurel Hardware, which might very well have the best damn cocktails in the whole damn world. If you go, get the beet infused plum vodka cocktail. It’s delicious and even feels healthy.
A short taxi ride and a brief stop at a random, smoky, Russian banquet hall later, we arrived at Little Door for dinner. By this time is was 10pm (1am Eastern) and we were exhausted. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying a legit Mediterranean spread complete with mezze platter, seared octopus, tuna tartar and ravioli. Olga and I had a long drive ahead of us on Sunday, so we called it a night after dinner.
Sunday morning we woke, packed up and went back to the airport to Dollar-rent-a-car. We had researched prices prior to arrival so you can imagine our shock when they quoted us double our researched price upon walk-in, only to reveal that walk-ins were priced differently than pre-bookings. So we walked outside, booked the reservations for half price on the Droid, walked back in, refused all insurance additions, and voila! away we went in our sweet new ride: the Mitsubishi Galant.
A quick swing back by the house to gather our things and say goodbye, Olga and I hit the road North on 101 to Sonoma. It was an unexpectedly beautiful drive. We passed by Lake Cachuma, which we made note of to stop at on the way back down, and had our first wonderful but awkward In-N-Out experience in a town outside of Oakland.
When Olga and I walked into In-N-Out, I noticed people pointing at us…. Weird, but whatever, I let it slide. Well the place was booming crazy crowded with family dinner gatherings and we were “in a hurry,” so I popped across the street for some gasoline and left the waiting and ordering to Olga. I found out later that she made a friend while waiting for our food. Well, I think this Hispanic man wanted to be more than just friends, and with an opening line like this one: “Do you cut your own hair? It’s so clean and shiny,” I can’t imagine why she didn’t reciprocate the feeling. After denying her new friend the chance link up on Facebook, she grabbed our burgers and we were back on the road.
We were en route to Sonoma, to a B&B called An Inn 2 Remember, http://www.aninn2remember.com/
which I highly recommend, and is coincidentally owned by a lovely Kentuckian, Kym. Upon making this connection while reserving the room, Kym and her husband took it upon themselves to be our personal keepers. They called us numerous times to check in on our progress on the road and to suggest restaurants along the way. They were very concerned that we were getting in so late. But they kept referring to “Andrew,” who would be there upon arrival, and they said he’d be happy to help us with anything we needed, even getting us a bottle of wine, which we expressed a desire for despite our late ETA. We wondered what this mysterious Andrew would be like: an acne-faced high school student in need of some extra dough? An old man friend of the family who lives next door? An incredibly helpful and accommodating stud who will be at our beck’n’call? You can imagine which Andrew we hoped for. Sure enough, Andrew was walking back to the Inn with leftover pizza and wings right as we pulled into the drive. Mid-twenties, if I had to guess, interesting facial hair (picture a beard without the mustache), and reeking of booze. He’s “in the wine whole-sale business,” so he has to “schmooze at restaurants with the clients occasionally.” That’s what he told us. He took us to get a bottle of wine at the 24/7 shop and we enjoyed a glass, sans Andrew despite his hints at an invitation, outside on our private patio, complete with fire pit and grape vine canopy. Did I mention that we got the only room left that night, The Wisteria Suite, that had two bedroom, jacuzzi tub and private patio with fire pit….. all at a discount? Les, Kym’s husband said on our first phone call, “My wife’s gonna kill me for giving you that rate.” We came out alive : )
Monday morning we woke up, ate a hearty breakfast with 8 of our closest friends and hit the wine trail. Having to drive to San Rafael later that afternoon, we wanted to start early, then give ourselves some time to, well, sober up, if you will.
First stop, Ravenswood, which came highly recommended by our breakfast mates. A good walk from our B&B, we arrived, thirsty, at the beautiful winery and sipped our tastings while lounging on some Adirondack chairs overlooking the vineyards.
Not a bad way to spend a Monday morning. Oh, another perk of staying at the B&B is that they give you a “passport” allowing free tastings to over 20 tasting rooms! So this lovely experience was totally free. And this is when I decided that I LOVE Sonoma. We were well loosened up by the time we left, 2 hours later.
Here’s a map of Sonoma Wineries. I’d like to someday try them all : )
We had lunch at a popular restaurant on the square called The Girl and the Fig, which was yummy yummy. A cheese plate and fig salad did us right before heading to our next stop, Haywood tasting room on the square, where a friend of mine from Napa drove over to met us. By this point, the wines were all starting to taste the same, but we enjoyed catching up, nonetheless.
One last stop before heading to San Rafael – Gundlack Bundschu, the oldest family owned winery in California.
We didn’t taste at this one; we just checked out the beautiful grounds, decided we might want to get married there (I don’t mean that Olga and I want to marry each other there), and headed on our way.
Next stop, Poppa J’s house in San Rafael. Poppa J is a friend of Olga’s, who was generous enough to not only house us for the night, but also to treat us to dinner, share his impressive bourbon and port collection AND make us feel extremely special by being genuinely, passionately interested in our ideas, a few of which included my desire to marry a farmer and live off the land, and the societal pressures of educated women to work v. stay at home and raise children…
Tuesday was Meg pick-up day in San Francisco. She had an interview at Ebay that day, so Olga and I killed time by eating cookies in the Japanese Garden, exploring North Beach and the Mission, walking down and up Lombard St (the crookedest street in the world), getting rear-ended by an extremely apologetic Texan (I immediately flashed back to refusing the insurance package at Dollar rent-a-car place, but then realized I wasn’t responsible for the wreck), and meeting two more friends for wine, cheese and charcuterie back in the Mission.
By 7pm, Meg had found us, and we were on the road to Carmel.
I’ll save California Dreamin’ (part two) – Down Route 1, for a little later, as I’m sure y’all are tired of reading already and I’m only half way through our trip.
Stay tuned to find out the humor I alluded to at the end of Red Rockin’ with the Rhythm.