Sometimes we find ourselves battling against the clock on our travels. Either we pack too much in or don't even have the time to spare in the first place to get everything checked off of our proverbial travel "to-do" list. With some careful planning, you can capitalize on some of the world's best cities in less than a day without feeling rushed or as if you missed too much.
24 Hours in Napa Valley
This weekend I found myself with 24 hours to spare in the Bay Area of California and decided to head up to the Napa Valley to enjoy the best time of year for wine enthusiasts, grape harvest season or better known as Crush. Crush begins in September and extends through October and is the busiest time of year in the valley. Rightfully so, the weather is almost perfect with the marine layer from San Francisco burning off around 10:30 am to reveal a beautiful blue sky and 75 degree weather. Not to mention a bustling wine making industry with all hands on deck preparing to bring in some of the best grapes the region has to offer.
5:00 P.M. Arrival
The first hurdle I had to overcome with my last minute planning was to circumvent the two night minimum stay requirement which is imposed by most resorts in the valley. This of course would not lend itself to my 24 hour timeline. My work around was to skip the online booking process and call the hotels directly. Soon, I was set up at The Vintage Inn, the perfect fit for this trip as the hotel is located in Yountville, a quaint town that houses some of the best culinary treasures of the valley including the infamous French Laundry and Bottega.
You can't go wrong with any of the dining options in Yountville. The night before my arrival I was successful in booking Friday night dinner reservations at Étoile, Café Jeanty, and Goose & Gander and ultimately decided on Café Jeanty. If you get a chance to check out this casual french bistro, try the fresh radishes with butter and salt, duck liver mousse, filet au poivre and the dreamy chocolate creme brûlée. Divine!
If French cuisine isn't your thing (but how could it not be?) check out Michael Chiarello's Bottega. The former Top Chef has outdone himself with this comfortable Italian restaurant that makes you feel as if you are hanging out at your cousin's house in Tuscany.
For spa enthusiasts, check out Villagio, the sister property of Vintage Inn which is walking distance from the hotel. With full access to the spa facilities as a guest, ease into your day with a relaxing massage or just take advantage of the steamroom or saunas. Your body will thank you later.
The Vintage Inn provides an expansive poolside champagne breakfast for guests. Load up on Belgian waffles, omelets, and Mumm Valley mimosas to set yourself up for a successful wine tasting experience.
You can't come this way without checking out some of the amazing wineries. Since I was wrapping up my trip in a few hours, I couldn't take advantage of the full Napa wine tour experience. However, I was able to check out the Del Dotto Winery & Caves. The property itself looked like a mansion right out of Italy with imported marble and painted ceilings. The highlight of this property is the cave tour. At $60 a head, it is a little more expensive than most tours but the cave wine cellar is beautiful. They are also quite generous with tapping the barrels so be ready to drink up.
There are no shortage of lunch options in Yountville and if you find yourself off the list for dinner at a suggested restaurant, you can most likely get in for lunch. Bouchon is a favorite and if you are in a rush you can grab pastries and sandwiches at the Bouchon Bakery next door.
If you are looking for a good casual place, check out Addendum, the backside takeout counter of Adhoc. Addendum serves fancy box lunches that change daily. While I was there they were serving beet salad, pork loin, and boston pie in a jar. Yum!
3:00 P.M. On the Road Home
All great trips must come to an end. This quick but flavorful and fun filled 24 hours left me with some great memories of the beautiful Napa Valley which will tide me over until my next visit.
It was a lazy Wednesday by temperature standards in Jamaica when I eased into my seat in a quiet corner of Sangster International Airport. If not departing, I would surely have been back on the beach with the book I’d almost finished. My four-day excursion felt like a week on my body. I was rested — the kind of catching up that gives you a peace about getting back to everything — and the sun had been good for my mood. Jamaica, on the right terms, does that. When I found myself suddenly surrounded by agitated travelers who had been shuffled from another gate — comparing notes about loud parties and damp musty rooms — I was unfazed. They’d had seven days to my four; I was better off. Even on my way off the island, I was still at Jamaica Inn in my mind.
I arrived midday Sunday to the resort in Ocho Rios for just a few days of sand-infused replenishing. Gauzy garb, bathing suit and sun screen in tow, my itinerary was purposely light — eat, sleep, read, repeat. Of note, no living space in the resort has a television or alarm clock. That alone makes planning for travel to one of the north coast’s foremost getaways feel like a special occasion. But Jamaica Inn receives you as if you’re returning to it after a long journey. It’s familiar at hello and the premise is simple — retreat. Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller honeymooned here — evidenced by a photo of them in the library and a signaling that there are others; you just won’t hear any names dropped.
What you will grow accustomed to hearing is the sound of the ocean sweeping the shore and at times the buzz of a boisterous jet skier mingled with faint laughter coming from the beach bar. These are not the sounds of regular life. We travel to Jamaica Inn for nothing less … and nothing more.
I’d been to the quaint resort a few years back and believed my accommodations in Cottage 4 near the beach the best to be offered until the porter stepped aside in the foyer of Cottage 7 to give me a clear view of my vacation home. He asked where I’d like my bags, pointing to an upstairs landing. “Two floors?” I inquired. “Yes,” he laughed. Cottage 7 was new, “brand new.” And it was actually the resort’s best. At that moment, I wondered if I’d be able to break away; if I’d want to leave the cottage. It was easily conceivable to have all of my meals delivered to the terrace and only leave the living room that sprawled onto its patio and infinity spa to enjoy KiYara Ocean Spa next door or to venture into the ocean via the private stairway at the foot of the deck. The consideration was as dramatic as the introduction to Jamaica Inn’s elaborate offering.
Today, I wanted to share one of my favorite poems. It's very beautiful and is descriptive of something that maybe only pilots and winged creatures have experienced. The author of this poem is John Magee. He was a pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. He died during a mid-air collision just three months after writing this poem as an addendum to a letter to his parents. Read it aloud, if possible. It's really quite gorgeous.
by John Magee
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;