Weekend in the Vines
There are times budget travel for a quick getaway will suffice to refresh the spirit, and then there are times when work/life stress demand something more. A recent weekend found my husband and me badly in need of soul-soothing. After months of long workdays, work weekends and the inconvenience of remodeling, we decided to spend a few days in the Napa Valley wine tasting, eating and generally slowing the pace waaay down.
After several hours on the phone and internet looking for a reasonable place at a reasonable price, we landed at the Harvest Inn in St. Helena - and reasonable went right out the window. However, we always wanted to stay there and at that point we were grateful just to find a room. Wedged between the highway and the vineyards, the Harvest Inn is Hobbiton without the round doors. The heavily wooded, lush landscape and half-timbered, English country cottage architecture is right out of a story book, inside and out.
The stress melted away even before we set foot in the lobby and jangled nerves began to straighten in the beauty of the gardens, which are set against the backdrop of stately redwood trees. The rooms are large and ours had a huge brick fireplace, which one would not think necessary in mid-May, but two freak hailstorms blew through and it was darned cold up there. Although we didn’t get to lounge around the pool, we enjoyed the romance of the setting – walking in the rain to the lodge for a complimentary glass of wine in front of the massive stone fireplace; enjoying the view of vineyards outside the breakfast room. Room charges averaged $270 a night for a 3-night stay, which included breakfast.
A word about the breakfast: reviews can be helpful, but also misleading. One reviewer panned the whole experience citing an “inadequate” breakfast of stale croissants and gummy oatmeal. Certainly it is not the typical megawatt eggs & bacon American faire. It’s an English country Inn, and the breakfast, while not cooked to order, was reminiscent of lovely breakfasts we’ve had at Inns all over Europe. All manner of breads, bagels & muffins, hard boiled eggs, fruit, fruit juice, coffee, tea, hot & cold cereal, yogurt, cold meats and a delicious right out-of-the- oven quiche.
Upon our arrival, a helpful young man at the front desk pulled off the impossible: a last-minute dinner reservation at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. We were more curious than hungry so we ordered 5 small plates to share, one of which was an unusual presentation of fava beans grilled with olive oil, sea salt flakes and pepper. They were so good that we replicated the dish at home for a guest the following weekend. With a half bottle of Comte LaFond Sancerre, two coffees and shared pineapple upside down cake, the total tab for this eclectic meal was $101.55 – a bargain for food of that caliber.
One way to measure the success of a getaway is to ask the question: Would we go back? In this case, the answer is a resounding yes. Although it was a splurge, we were both came away refreshed with attitudes properly adjusted.