Economic realities are making day trips and weekend getaways attractive options for many travelers. Fortunately, we live in an area where we can have a rejuvenating escape without breaking the bank. And with a bit of  research and a little advance planning, you can feel as though you are worlds away without losing an entire day getting there.

A recent last-minute desire to get out of town found me in search of lodgings somewhere north within easy driving distance. My criteria was simple – I was traveling alone, and wanted a quiet bed a breakfast inn, but with upscale common areas in which to meet and converse with other guests; a comfortable bed and nearby restaurants. After an hour of internet research looking for just the right amenities, I found a promising inn in downtown Napa – the Churchill Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn, just one block from the river.

After my first glimpse of the impressive Victorian mansion, I shifted into immediate TGIF mode – I wasn’t expecting such a jewel in this quiet, mixed, residential neighborhood. Once inside, I felt as though I had stepped back in time to a more gentrified era. Built in 1889, it was the first residence in the Napa Valley to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The interior woodwork is stunning, with 17 layers of original, untouched redwood ceiling moldings and fluted redwood Corinthian columns. The grand parlor, lobby, library, dining room, breakfast sunroom and wraparound veranda are each a treasure in which to sit and read, play games, immerse yourself in the history of the period or get caught up on some work, as I was doing.

The Inn was purchased by current owners Brian Jensen and Joanna Guidotti in 1987 and restored to its current pristine condition. The friendly staff offers a tour of the Inn, sharing a bit of its history before showing you to your room. Ten guest rooms with period décor, claw foot tubs and fireplaces are all very romantic and any evidence of technology (cable & wireless internet) is carefully hidden. I stayed three nights in three different rooms – the Tulocay, Atlas Peak and Spring Mountain. All were charming with comfortable beds (good quality linens, down pillows, great mattresses.)

Breakfast at Churchill Manor is a treat. There’s a small buffet of fruit, croissants, juice, coffee, tea, granola and yogurt; and a gourmet entrée with fresh fruit topped with special sauce. The poached pear with pear cream sauce & amaretto, and asparagus omelet with tomatillo sauce and side of sausage was delicious and filling. The Inn’s specialty is baked apple french toast, served in the sunny breakfast room with murals of the local landscape overlooking the garden. You can eat alone or share a table.

A second visit did not disappoint; this time with spouse and 4 friends in tow. We were even surprised by a chamber concert – a piano trio – hosted at the Manor by the Napa Music Association, which presents concerts every other month free to Manor guests. Although the Inn doesn’t serve dinner, you won’t go hungry. Upscale restaurants abound within walking or easy driving distance. Freshly baked cookies are offered at the Inn in the afternoon, and in the evening, a sumptuous display of light appetizers, wine and cheese are served in the lobby where you can mingle with other guests.

I explored the waterfront historic area on both visits. There are independent coffee houses, restaurants with outdoor dining and shops just one block from Churchill Manor. There are many places to do some wine-tasting within a mile of Churchill Manor, which makes walking an attractive option.

For a weekend escape only 25 minutes from Benicia, Churchill Manor is well worth a visit. Prices range from $155 – $305 per night. For more information, visit the website at