“I don’t think I can handle another winery.” I slightly sway and giggle as I look over at Rick’s sister, Heidi, who is not in a much better condition than I am. “How is it that I was only drinking tiny sips, and I feel this lightheaded?” Heidi laughs, a resident of California, she has done the Napa and Sonoma Valley wine tours with her friends and family numerous times before. She tells me laughingly that those little sips sneak up on you, and as I can now tell you from experience, she’s not kidding!
Our day at the wineries was one of my favorite days on our week trip to California over New Years. The beauty of the northern California countryside is breathtaking, and I felt a bit like John Steinbeck as I admired the rolling hills of the valley. I finally could see for myself the beauty of a state I had read so much about in my literary studies. For those of you who have never explored the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Valley, I would recommend both, but Sonoma is certainly more affordable, and you experience the same beautiful land, luscious wine and captivating, friendly people.
Prior to our day at the vineyards, we spent three nights in Bodega Bay, residing in a charming “bungalow” on the coast. Home of the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” I fell in love with this quiet, coastal town, that you can pass in the blink of an eye. I told Rick that I could truly see myself living somewhere like Bodega Bay, and buying a cute, little house near the ocean, where each morning I would take long walks by the water with our dog, or sit a top a rock and write short stories and novels. He laughs lovingly at my dreams, embellishing my whims with tales of us eating fresh fish and chips and picnicing on the sand.
Our bungalow was spacious with a hot tub and a fireplace. With hardly any neighbors, we were able to relax in the hot tub and watch the sunset as deer pranced by. We brought in the new year next to a roaring fire, playing board games and sipping on delicious almond champagne. My New Years Eve for many years before have been filled with loud voices and overcrowded venues, and it was remarkably peaceful to be somewhere calm and serene with the man I love and will soon marry. I imagine this feeling is what I have heard so many older people talk about; the time has come where going out, clubbing or dancing all night no longer has the same appeal.
We spent a day each in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, relishing the fall like temperatures and watching the dolphins and sea lions. It amused me how the sea lions prop against each other and sleep without a care in the world. We walked the boardwalk of Santa Cruz, the beach empty except for a few homeless people on blankets. We explored the small shops of the San Francisco wharf, stopping to buy chocolates and get pictures in front of the over-sized Christmas tree.
The decision to vacation over winter break is quickly becoming a tradition for us. After spending a bustling, exciting Christmas with our families, it is nice to get away to a new place we have never been, and soak in new people, new experiences, and unexplored pieces of God’s beauty. As we flew home on the plane, and wrote in our journal of travels together, I felt overwhelmingly lucky to have the opportunity to see new places in the world with this man as my companion.