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why so quiet

Things have been quiet around here lately not due to lack of things to write about, but because I have been preoccupied with RL. After several weeks of issues, my beloved kitty has been diagnosed with cancer(lymphoma, intestinal). I just haven't felt like writing much.

Staycation Days 2 & 3: Sonoma Valley


Our major daytrip (is an overnighter technically a day trip?) was heading up to Sonoma for a relaxing massage and soak at the Fairmont Mission Sonoma Inn and Spa, and a little bit of wine tasting.

Thanks to the economic downturn, we got a great deal, via the Web, on a suite that had a jacuzzi tub and a balcony, giving us extra lounging possibilities. It was a great room but I have to say its $1500 rack rate (per the notice in the closet) is significantly higher than I would expect given the amenities. That said, thoroughly enjoyed the massage, and the rare treat of Food network on the tv while we ate room service breakfast. Loved Tony Bourdain's tour of Cleveland, including his stop at Lola, the only fine dining establishment I've been to in OH.

Last time we stayed here the mineral baths were nearly deserted. This time, despite it being off season, they were packed, making me doubly glad we had a tub of our own.

Wednesday morning, we packed up and got in the car and headed to Cline and Arrowood vineyards for some serious tasting. These are two of my favorite Sonoma wineries, so rather than hit up a bunch of places, we focused on these 2 for the sake of time and not becoming inebriated (in deference to lunch with my SO's grandma afterwards.)

A standout at Cline was their proprietary blend Oakley 5 Reds. Like the winery employee who poured for us, I wasn't taken with this blend prior to last year. Now I snap up a few bottles whenever I see it -- it's a great wine for under $10 most places. And lucky for us it was on sale at 25% off. Some old vine zinfandel and pinot gris also came home with us.

Our visit to Arrowood got off on the wrong foot. This has been my favorite all around winery for a solid decade. I try to make it up there about once a year to buy a case, including a few bottles of their amazing late harvest white dessert wines. There were 3 other couples tasting when we arrived, with only one employee pouring (while another stocked shelves and pored over paperwork behind the counter.)

The other couples had a decade or two on us and as a result, were getting more of our host's attention. When she asked us, towards the end of our tasting, if it was our first time visiting the winery, I told her "No, we come up at least once a year. And Arrowood is my favorite winery, atually." A few moments later, we were offered a taste of the dessert wines and what had been a lackliuster experience thus far was salvaged.

The show stopping wine at Arrowood was the luscious, thick, golden Select Late Harvest White Reisling from Saralee's Vineyard. No words I have can do this wine justice. We bought two bottles, with the intention of giving one as a gift, but we shall see if we are actually able to part with it...

More photos here.

Staycation Day 1: Muir Woods

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Every year since I started working, I've taken a week or two off from work in April for vacation. I hate standing in long lines or visiting beautiful places overrun with other visitors, so this has been the best time of year to plan on a trip. I have this week off from work. But for a variety of reasons, including the craptastic economy and a sickly kitty cat, I'm not off on one of my more typical cross-continent vacations. Instead, it's a Bay Area staycation (a stay-at-home vacation).

Although my significant other was looking as though he might stay in bed 'til noon, I managed to hassle him into getting up and out the door for our Marin County trek today.Today's daytime plans were not too ambitious-- a leisurely drive up Highway 1 to Pelican Inn for lunch, then on to Muir Woods for a hike.

Thanks to this being a post-rush hour weekday morning, we were at Pelican Inn less than a half hour from leaving home, even with the inevitable Highway 1 roadwork lane closure. The fish and chips with non-mushy peas ( /cry) and the "english dip" roast beef sandwich weren't anything special, but you really could not ask for a place to eat that's any more convenient to the park. And the Fuller's London Pride on tap would have made it a must stop regardless imho.

Post-lunch, we made a short drive to the park's parking lot, then started the walk in. It's amazing how crowded Muir Woods can be even on a weekday. Then again, I suppose many of the families there were on Spring Break and trying to tire out their children...

We did the two-mile loop trail, then headed back into the city, via a leisurely Highway 1 drive.

I often forget just how close we live to Marin County and its myriad hiking trails. We just picked up a couple of comprehensive local hiking trail/day trip books: Moon California Hiking (Moon Handbooks) and Golden Gate Trailblazer: Where to Hike, Walk, Bike in San Francisco & Marin. This should provide  some encouragement to get out and about in the greater San Francisco Bay Area more often.


More photos here.