The months of June and July are full of celebrations – my birthday, KK’s birthday, Sassafras’ birthday, Father’s Day, and our wedding anniversary. Since KK and I both work in education, this also tends to be one of the busiest times of our work cycles, dealing with many end-of-the-year events/issues. Each year, this time tends to be fun and chaotic, and this year we thought about spending a few days away to relax and celebrate seven years of marriage, just the two of us.
Choosing a Location: Since Sassafras was born two years ago, we have never gone on a trip without her (the longest we have been away was for a local overnight stay, about 15 miles away) and we thought it might be nice to spend a couple of nights away to celebrate our anniversary. Since we would not be bringing her, we looked at more adult-friendly places vs. kid/family-friendly locations. We went to Napa for our one-year anniversary, and since we love delicious food and wine, we thought it would be the perfect place to go!
Lodging: This was our third time in Napa, and the first two times we stayed at Blackbird Inn and Andaz Napa; this time we went a little nicer and stayed at the Milliken Creek Inn. They all have a very different feel, but there are so many great places to stay in Napa (if you are on a budget, there are several more cost-effective options, like Embassy Suites, Best Western, etc.) you can usually find something to fit your tastes and your price range. Blackbird Inn is a cozy, quaint Bed and Breakfast with just a few bedrooms, and it feels like you are staying at someone’s home. Andaz is owned by Hyatt, and has all the feel of a nice, modern hotel with elevators, a front desk, etc. At Milliken Creek Inn, the feel was in-between a hotel and B&B; it almost felt like our own private apartment, complete with a private patio, jetted tub, fireplace, etc. Most places in Napa offer a complimentary hot breakfast and a “magic hour” before dinner time, when they serve cheeses, fruits, crackers, and wine. We have always stayed in the city of Napa, but there are also many neighboring cities in the region (Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga, etc.).
Food: When we plan trips/vacations, we always plan around FOOD. The main agenda for the trip was to drink, eat, and relax! Morimoto’s restaurant was one of several delicious stops we made during our stay:
Clockwise: 1) Toro Tartare (on the palette is a soy sauce reduction, wasabi, sour cream, chives, avocado, and rice crackers); 2) Kakuni (10-hour braised pork belly over rice porridge); 3) duck confit fried rice and lobster wonton soup in a Vietnamese pho broth; 4) hamachi tacos in a fried wonton shell
We also made dinner reservations at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc for our anniversary dinner. Every Monday he serves some type of barbecue or fried chicken, and our anniversary fell on a Monday this year so it was perfect! The menu changes daily, so it is always a surprise when you go. Reservations are a must for both restaurants, and I would highly recommend these for dinner. On past trips, we have also eaten at Keller’s Bouchon restaurant (and perhaps one day we will dawn the doors of his famous French Laundry) and Chiarello’s Bottega; many of the high-end (celebrity-chef owned) restaurants are located in Yountville and are all within walking distance of each other. There is also a plethora of places in downtown Napa.
Excellent lunch places include the Oxbow Public Market, located in downtown Napa, where you can walk around and eat a progressive lunch. V Sattui Winery has a wonderful deli stocked with fresh sandwiches (cold and hot), salads, cheeses, and snacks, and is a also a great picnic lunch spot.
Of course, a trip to Napa would not be complete without wine!
Wine: As with lodging and food, there are so many different wineries in the valley with many different price ranges; tasting fees range from as low as $15 (and oftentimes your hotel will have 2-for-1 tasting coupons for some of the more popular wineries) to as high as $60. In general, tasting fees are waived if you purchase a bottle, or a certain dollar amount of wine. Our favorites include V. Sattui (their reserve wines are good, and their wines are more affordable), Jessup Cellars, Alpha Omega, and now Regusci. I have heard that Sterling (north of Napa, in the Calistoga region) is more family-friendly, as they offer gondola rides as a part of their winery tour.
Arranging Childcare: My mom and sister-in-law graciously agreed to share childcare duties and watch Sassafras for three full days. Luckily, she was perfectly fine without us and we left knowing she was in great hands! They usually help watch her during the day while I am at work, so this was not out of the norm for Sassafras.
“Getting Away”: We booked our trip some time in April, and for the following two months, especially with all the craze in June, we were looking forward to our trip and counting down the weeks and days! Then a couple days before our departure, I began to feel really sad since this would be my first time being away from Aliya for so long. I managed to keep a brave face when we left, but by the last night of our trip I was in tears! Every day I looked at photos and videos of her, and though it was amazing to be away, I felt like I had left a piece of my heart at home.
Letting loose and relaxing proved to be quite the challenge! It felt strange to not have dishes to clean, toys to pick up, and laundry to fold after dinner. On the second day, out of force of habit I popped out of bed at 6:30 AM, and willing myself to go to sleep was unsuccessful. I realized that I have transitioned into my “new normal” (that had so clearly altered my universe after Aliya was born), and that being away from my baby definitely felt not normal!
Our Sweet Return: Leaving Napa was bittersweet; I enjoyed our time together and time away, but I was anxious to see my baby’s face! I was happy to see she had missed us too; as soon as she heard the garage open I could hear squealing and her feet pitter patter towards the door. We had a wonderful time, but I don’t think I’ll be leaving my baby again any time soon!
Parents: Have you taken a trip sans kiddos? Did you find it hard to be away?