Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Appreciating summer vacations – even if for just a day

On the grounds of V. Sattui Winery in Saint Helena, California.

Summer vacation is a time of the year when many of us enjoy escaping urban environments in favor of wide open spaces – beaches, lakes, hills and mountains, even wineries – in seeking respite from our fast-paced lives. Sometimes, just a day off from routine to escape to the Napa Valley, which I did with my wife last week to celebrate our recent wedding anniversary, was just the right thing to do.

The Napa Valley is only about 75 miles from our Bay Area residence, and on a good day it is reachable by car in about 90 minutes. During summer, the drive and the crowds doting the valley's towns along California State Highway 29 from Yountsville to Calistoga that come for a wine tasting or to enjoy an outdoor picnic can be jam packed. 

Fortunately for us, going up to Napa Valley as we did on this recent weekday, proved a totally different experience. The traffic was manageable and the public spaces were far less crowded than we expected, and it added up to a delightful day.

Enjoying a picnic on the grounds of V. Sattui Winery.
Arriving shortly after noon, we started with a picnic lunch at one of our favorite wineries, V. Sattui, in Saint Helena. The weather was ideal for sitting outside.

From there, we drove north through "downtown" Saint Helena and, soon, we were in Calistoga. Once there, we parked our car and walked along the main "high" street, filling our time with perusing café and bistro menus, and browsing summer reading recommendations at the independent bookseller, Copperfield's Books.

Finally, we backtracked to Yountville, where we savored a late-afternoon treat of gelato, then bought puff pastries and macarons at the famed Bouchon Bakery to bring home.

Public art in Yountville
We return often to the Napa Valley to relish its culinary aspects and sample its wine. Over the past 20 years, we've seen the town of Yountville – our favorite destination – transform nicely, thanks to its colorful outdoor sculptures that blend in with the fabric of its main thoroughfare, Washington Street. 

Although we were gone just a few hours, we both agreed that our Napa Valley day road trip was both satisfying and time well spent – and we can't wait to go back.

All photos: By Michael Dickens © 2016.

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