The West Coast Inspiration Tour

DSC_0296 It has been about a week since I returned from a road trip down Highway 1 with my Mom. It was a trip we had talked about for a while, and one we actually did back when I was 18, but it felt really nice to spend some time, together, cruising at our own pace... a leisure that is not achievable in our daily routines. We started our weekends separately, my Mom with her friends at a beach house and me with my friends in Berkeley. Our adventure together began Sunday morning. But, first things first. While spending the weekend with my long time friends, we ventured on a road trip of our own. One to a little place called Napa Valley. As my week was filled with a multitude of rejuvenating inspiration, I think I am going to have to divide by California posts into a couple different segments. Let's start in bountiful wine country.

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Our morning started at Gregoire Restaurant in Berkeley. This was something so simple and delicious that I immediately wondered why they don't have this in Birmingham. Located in a small building, filled with big scents, we ordered our breakfast sandwiches and parked it at a nearby picnic table. I love the idea of a small little kitchen, tucked on a side street, serving up delicious grub for unsuspecting customers. This was right on.

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We kicked off Napa at Hall Winery which hosts tastings in the lovely court yard pictured above. There is something just so inherently lovely about a California setting. The gravel patio and teak furniture aren't necessarily something awe inspiring, but there is still such a sense of serenity. It also probably helped that the day was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. And we were sitting slightly shaded under a canopy of trees.

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We followed Hall with a nice, leisurely walk around St. Helena. I am bummed I didn't take too many photos, but their tourist website had this shot that captures the main street. One of my favorite things about traveling is popping in unique shops to check out displays and diversity in goods and services offered.

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Jan de Luz offers a beautiful array of custom monograms. You can monogram any item from their store.... napkins, placemats, table runners, blankets, robes... a really wonderful selection of products. The monograms all are very unique, with a slightly hand crafted, artistic flair. My mom and I popped into the same shop, later on our trip, while in Carmel and they actually were able to monogram items by the end of the day!

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We had already made lunch plans, but next time I return to St. Helena I would love to dine at French Blue. It looked like the perfect combination of California chic and tasty.

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Blue Bottle Brooklyn

For a late morning pick me up we snagged an iced coffee made with Blue Bottle Coffee. Believe me when I say- I drink a lot of coffee. My Napa travel companions and friends probably drink even more coffee that I do- and that's really saying something. Let me tell you, this might have been the best ice coffee that has ever touched my lips.

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Our afternoon lunch plans were to visit V. Sattui and have a picnic. They have an awesome market with a vast assortment of meats, cheeses, dips, salads and basically any other culinary delight you might want to savor on a grassy lawn shaded by some lovely trees. In the court yard they are cook BBQ and pizzas. The buildings were quite extensive and buzzing with activity. We didn't wine taste here, but instead picked up a few bottles to enjoy with our enormous cheese spread.

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After the picnic and lounging at V.Sattui we headed to Sequoia Grove to cap off the day. 6 o'clock in the evening is usually my favorite time of day. Especially in Napa. The sunlight was perfect. It was one of those late afternoons where you want to soak in every drop of natural beauty. That perfect time of day always seems to pass so quickly.

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As luck would have it, we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic leaving Napa. This gave us just enough time to hook up with some friends at the Bardessono in Yountville on our way out of town. As if the perfect dusk wasn't enough, the round of loaded potato chips and onion rings proved to be the perfect way to end our Napa road trip. The Bardessono is a LEED certified building that seems to seamlessly combine understated elegance with a warm, contemporary aesthetic. The building and the grounds blend into the landscape and, as I keep noting is so inherent in California design, the atmosphere is one of tasteful restraint and easy style.

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Next... Carmel & Hearst Castle!