Trace Back – Sonoma

Ever wondered why we travel? I cannot speak for you, but I travel to learn something new — to meet new people and have conversations with them that I can cherish forever.  I cannot have this sitting in my house, no matter how much I love it here. I travel to see the world I should be seeing, and not the one that I choose to see. I travel to capture moments of joy and splendor and pack them in my camera lens and share them with the rest of the world. I travel to forget who I am, and where I work, and imagine who I can be and what I can do. I travel to fall out of the rut of “work, home, play” and take a dip in the wonders of unplanned and untimed pleasure. 

My definition of travel is not exotic. I used to stay in Marriotts in my past life and that was only because I had the points and miles. I don’t like resorts that keep you in all day long and you don’t even step out to enjoy the local scene. I also don’t like travelling with a lot of people. I like it simple and I like it deep. I like it quiet and fulfilling, rather than rushed. There are some magical ingredients that make my travel special — serendipity is one of them. Be it finding a song that I had been looking for or finding a book that I always wanted to read.

So, last weekend, Agam and I drove to Sonoma County. The Russian River Valley area is a cute nook in this large county. As cliched as that sounds, our primary reason to step out of the house was to enjoy some fall colors.  I miss NY fall more than anything else. There is something pretty amazing about seeing a leaf fall. And you can argue that you can see it sitting in your backyard. But I would counter-argue that it is the backdrop that matters. When you are at home, there are so many things on your mind that dilute your experience. (I know I know, you have to master your mind and all that, but seriously, how many of us have done that so far?)

There is something overly romantic about fall. Something so calming. Of the 48 hours we were away, I spent a big chunk of my time romancing the fallen leaves. This weekend I reconnected with my photo-lover self. I feel that each scene is picturesque if seen from the right lens. And a good camera is just a bonus. I was not always like this. But somehow photography has helped me look at every view as a scene from a movie, crafted perfectly to bring out the best in its subjects. It does not matter what you are clicking. As long as you can appreciate the subject and let light play its games, you can turn every apple into a model and every landscape into a painting.

We left on Friday evening. US-101 was a breeze, but it got a little nasty after Sausalito. I am always appreciative of the variety of options the Bay Area offers for getaways. You can drive for an hour and get to some place perfect for a small and laid back getaway. Thank you CA. You are beautiful. We reached our cozy little B&B Inn at 8:15pm and met with our hosts. This B&B is tucked in the woods right on Hwy116 in Guerneville. Santa Nella House was a perfect place for us to park our tired souls for the weekend. The owners Bob and Betsy were very gracious hosts. They suggested some restaurants in the town nearby and we picked Boon for our friday night meal. They have a collection of tapas and main entrees. Their ingredients are fresh and locally grown. After a light meal and a quick walk in the neighborhood, we retired for the night.

The next morning I woke up early around dawn. I was curious to see the colors outside our window. Sinced we reached late in the night, we missed the daylight. Beautiful golden yellow leaves were a perfect way to start the day. Agam and I explored the property and I captured its cute little nooks to my heart’s content. The best thing about B&B’s is that you get to meet people from different places and vocations. We had some elderly couples celebrating their anniversaries, some Sonoma lovers from Boston and Austin and a young chirpy couple like us. It was a great mix and the conversations were rich and diverse.

We asked our hosts what we should do with our day and Bob gave us a perfect itinerary. We started the day with a short walk in the Amrstrong Wood State National Reserve, home to some really old and really tall redwood trees. We had a great morning walk. I got some great shots and even though there weren’t many fall colors, there was a lot of refreshing green. After our walk we drove down the Westside Road and made some stops at the wineries. Since our objective was not wine tasting, we avoided the usual suspects and reached for the ones with grand landscape views and which were tucked in a corner, away from the crowds. We stopped by Korbel Vineyards and decided against taking a tour. The tour we took at Sterling Vineyards in Napa was good enough and not that long ago, so we avoided it.

Sonoma is beautiful in fall. There is a bed of wineries on both sides of the road. Almost like a yellow blanket covering the fields, with an occasional red patch. Our first major stop was Copain Vineyards. A beautiful winery perched upon a hill with grand fields of wines unfolding below you. The view from Copain is breathtaking. They have a decent wine tasting offering and their Chardonnay was amazing and quite decently priced. We hung out in the area to sober down before we started driving down to Healdsburg. This was a perfect opportunity for me to slip away and capture some grape moments. What I love about macros is how I bond with the object. Again a cliched way to put it. But I really mean it. I try to capture it from different angles, proximity and dof. What joy it is to focus on just one thing. Just one object. Wish we could apply this to our daily lives.

After Copain, we drove to the charming town of Healdsburg. It has a pretty big downtown for its size. We were hungry and picked Costeaux French Bakery based on its reviews on Yelp. It was an awesome quaint bakery with a homely feel and it smelled of yummy butter baked goods. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and took a stroll in downtown that was glowing with fall-struck trees.

As I window shopped at Limestone, a home store in Healdsburg, I heard a really nice song playing in the store and could not resist walking up to the cashier and asked for the song. I could have shazamed it. But I was lazy. The girl did not know about the song either and so she shazamed it for me and I finally got hold of the song. This is the serendipity I was talking about. And it only got better when I heard another song at dinner, at Chef Patrick’s in downtown Guerneville, that I fell in love with too. It was a known melody, but I liked this version more than others. This time I shazamed it and within seconds I had the song with me. We listened to it on our drive back to the B&B and marveled at the power of technology.

The next day we enjoyed Bob’s delicious french toast and then I spent some time reading Sophie’s World on the porch. It was magical to see leaves fall as I turned pages of my book. I could have lived that moment forever. It was time now to bid adieu to our hosts. Bob’s french toast recipe was a must have, and he convinced me into getting a cook book that featured recipes from the B&Bs in Sonoma area and also some from the wineries. I packed my book and we left for our days’ adventure.

Our first stop was Iron Horse Winery on Eastside Road. Another beautiful location with a sun drenched patio and gorgeous views of the valley. They also have a picnic area in the back that was right by the vines and was a perfect place for morning banter.  We further drove to the quaint town of Occidental and took a little walk. Something so charming about these small Californian towns. Our next destination was Sonoma State Beach. We took the Coleman Valley Road from Occidental all the way to Bodega Bay. It is a beautiful drive and the road attracts a lot of cycling enthusiasts, mostly professional ones.

We drove along the Bay and decided to take a stop at Spud Point Marina. Bob had recommended Chowder at Spud Point Crab Company and we were shocked to see the lines at this tiny little hole-in-the-wall place. They serve clam chowder — red and white, and crab cakes on weekends that are to die for. We savored the chowder and the crab cakes and after a small stroll along the marina, decided to head back towards Mountain View. That was our little getaway to Sonoma county. Full of yummy food, falling leaves, grape moments, just enough wine, serendipitous musical encounters and some relaxing moments spent in each other’s company.

Have  a Happy Fall!

1 thought on “Trace Back – Sonoma

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