Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
45Trip End Jul 26, 2004
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Back for another installment!!
Monday 25th August - continued
We picked up our car at 4pm and headed North to The Napa Valley. It was weird to be driving again after so long. We had planned roughly to head North to Calistoga at the top of the Napa Valley and check it out. If it was nice we would find somewhere to stay when we arrived. Within an hourand a half we were there. Calistoga was a lovely town, just a main street lined with shops and a few motels. It is a hot springs town so there are lots of spa's offering mud baths and hot tubs and mineral treatments. We called into a couple to get a general idea of cost, They were all coming back at about $100 (60 pounds) We then got to one that looked pretty nice and they said that they had a sister company that ran some holiday cottages and they knew they had a spare one so at this time of day we would probably get it quite cheap
We then walked the 300 yards down to the main street to find some food. We found an Italian so we had a pizza and some pasta and planned what we could fit in the next day.
Tuesday 26th August
We had a packed full day today, it is so nice to have a car. It is already looking like I live in it!!
We first headed to The Petrified Forest, which hosts the worlds largest Petrified trees. 3 million years ago a volcano erupted 7 miles north from where we stood. It was caused by a bad earthquake which of course is a real threat out here, it was even part of our hotel orientation in San Francisco, we were told to sleep with our shoes next to the bed (so not to damage your feet on broken glass) and if an earthquake woke us then we were to crawl under the desk (provided!!) or stand within an open door way. Anyway, I digress
We left The Petrified Forest and headed a few miles north to Californias Old Faithful Geyser. I didn't realise there was more than one Old Faithful in the world but apparently there are a few including, Wyoming, Nevada, Iceland, New Zealand and Russia. Obviously California believes their Old Faithful erupts more continuously and more predictably than the others!! We paid the $8 each to get in to an area of bare grass ground with a little pond which had a pile of rocks in the middle. This Old Faithful erupted every 16 minutes and it wasn't ond before the steam started to appear from the rocks in the pond, then suddenly a jet of water (smelling slightly of egg!!) jetted 60 feet into the air at 350 degrees F. It lasted about 3 minutes and then slowly died down to nothing again. It was a bit like being at The Bellagio without Frank Sinatra. It was quite impressive, we stayed for another two outbursts to get our $8 worth and then headed off
It was now lunchtime so we headed back to Calistoga and stopped at a little place called Hydro Grill. We had a cheeseburger and a coke and a little wander around Calistoga before heading back to the car. We headed down the Silverado Trail which is the scenic route through The Napa Valley Wine Region and it didn't disapoint. There were dozens and dozens of Wineries (they don't call them Vinyards here - too French!) There are over 250 in alljust on the 35 mile strip. Everywhere you look there are big bunches of grapes growing on vines. We decided to stop off at the Mumm Winery purely because as a premium sparkling wine producer (they are not allowed to call it Champagne as it is not made in the Champagne region of France) they pick their grapes two weeks earlier than the rest of the region and that just happened to be today!! We would benefit from more of an action tour here (plus I fancied a glass of cold bubbly on this hot day!). We did the complimentary tour which took an hour and was really fascinating. It takes them so long to make a bottle. We saw the guys in the field picking the grapes and watched them go through this machine to be juiced, all the bits that are discarded like skin and stalks are out into a huge compost to use on the fields later so nothing was wasted. We then headed back to their sun deck where we were given 4 half flutes of different varieties. They were delicious. They also explained to us that a Magnum is better than a bottle because a Magnum will be aged for 3-5 years instead of 2-3. It may have been a marketing ploy but hey I am willing to give it a try!!
We headed further down the valley which is just a fantastic drive. We got to Napa where we thought we would try and find a motel but we left as quickly as we arrived
Wednesday 27th August - oh no only 11 months left!!
We got up and headed up to Santa Rosa to see some more sights. We drove though a place called kenwood which had some truly amazing Wineries. They had caves dug out of the hillside for cellars and many had awards for their wines. We got up to Santa Rosa which was just a big town, we stopped at a Wallmart to get our films developed but they couldn't do them in an hour only an overnighter so its their fault I still have no photos to post up
Thursday 28th August
Our hotel offered a complimentary of coffee, juice, muffins and doughnuts. So we had a feed and took some muffins for the journey and headed next door to catch our train to Los Angeles. This will be our last Amtrak. We get the train (6 hours) to Bakersfield and then an Amtrak bus to downtown LA (2 hours). I am really excited about going to the Cook Islands on Sunday (its like I am going on holiday not like I am already!!) We have hired a car while we are in LA as it covers more than 460 square miles and I would imagine that some neighbourhoods are none to friendly. In fact our DK guide almost insists upon a car, with doors locked at all times and windows firmly rolled up!! We have booked two more nights on priceline for downtown and we will be staying at The Hyatt Regency, which is quite cool because we started our Priceline/US experience at The Hyatt Regency in washington and we are ending it some 4000 miles later at The Hyatt Regency in LA.
The train journey was uneventful an we got into Bakersfield and transferred to our bus and then got dropped off in downtown LA but I will leave it their and post up our LA stories soon. It will probably be from The Cook Islands before we are back again unless I get the photos developed today which if so I will pop in and post them up tomorrow.
Hope you are all still well - keep up your emails.
Take care and we will speak soon
Lots of Love as always
Simon and Liz xxxxxx