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Trip Report - wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Bucks, UK
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Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Disclaimer (again):

I did warn you that my Trip Report was becoming a novel. Well, it’s turned into more of a Travelogue. My apologies for that, and I won’t be hurt if you prefer to skip through it, or skip it altogether, but I do hope it entertains (and informs) some of you.

See Week 1 here: tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g32766-i258-k375…

OK, here goes:

TRIP REPORT – WEEK 2 OF 2 (week commencing Tuesday, 08 June)

Day 8

We had a most marvellous day – saw and did so much. Today was our tour of San Francisco and Dan did the most fantastic job of driving us around and showing us all the sights we HAD to see.

On the Golden Gate Bridge we got out of the SUV at the photo-spot to take some shots and we nearly got blown over! So, so windy, but fantastic sights.

We were actually quite surprised at just how cold and windy it was in San Fran, even though we’d read the forecast. Coming from the lovely warmth of Napa it was quite a shock. We noticed people walking about in jackets and woolly hats, but it didn’t mean much until we opened the doors…

Dan really did show us just about everything there is to see in San Fran. We saw as much of it as we possibly could from a vehicle – the cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf, Russian Hill (yes, even the drive down the crookest part of Lombard Street!), etc. It would be impossible to list everything that we saw.

(Remember, I use a wheelchair, so getting in and out of the vehicle several or many times would have been very difficult. Plus, quite honestly I didn’t fancy trying to push myself up those hills, and I worried about the brakes when coming down those hills!)

In between all of that we had lunch. We’d told Dan (Dan Dolen of Reserve Wine Tours) …

By the way, he is wrongly listed here as Reserve Wine Private Tours, the word ‘Private’ shouldn’t actually be there – and our review for him is here tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g32766-d… )

… we’d told Dan that Mr Batty really wanted to eat lobster on Fisherman’s Wharf so we were thrilled when he deposited us at Alioto’s, right down on the Wharf and facing the fishing harbour. Our table (specially reserved by Dan) was right by the window overlooking the marina, so we had a fantastic view – in fact the view for which Alioto’s is famous.

So Mr Batty scoffed his way through a huge Whole Maine Lobster Thermidor. Magnificent!

I was a little more modest, but was equally replete at the end of it. Also magnificent. I’d been hankering after a seafood pasta so I chose the Baked Seafood Canelloni – stuffed with crabmeat and shrimpmeat and all covered in a delicious tomato sauce and melted cheese. Yum!

We drank a marvellous local Sauv Blanc which paired with our food perfectly.

It was a grand meal and we even met Mr Alioto himself as we left and he asked us if we’d enjoyed our “little lunch”.

Just before it was time to head back homewards, Dan said that we just HAD to have a drink at the The Cliff House – apparently anybody who is anybody goes there! What a fascinating place, with its marvellous views over the ocean, the bar, the restaurant and all the memorabilia of all those “anybodies” who have been there. Our choice of drink, as we enjoyed the views and the people watching those below us in the bistro and the restaurant, was the hot chocolate with orange (alcoholic orange, naturally) and it was delicious.

It was a grand day too! Thank you so much Dan, if you’re reading this :)

Still well and truly full to the gunnels, we just snacked in the evening and didn’t bother with dinner.

Bucks, UK
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1. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Day 9

Oh dear, Mr Batty’s gout had returned and so he really needed to stay off his foot and let the medication do its work. We had a lazy day.

Fortunately, by the evening the pills had done their job and we were ready to face our first bit and juicy steak. A quick call secured us a reservation at Cole’s Chop House.

Oh. My. Goodness. It was our own fault really, as we hadn’t before come across this concept of ordering side dishes “served family style” or “for the table”. We fancied some of the creamed spinach and a hash brown with our steaks (which I will describe in a nanosecond) so innocently ordered them. But we were at a table for two? How come we had enough food for a table of eight? :) :) I kid you not, that hash brown was the size of a dinner plate and about three inches high! Oh boy, did it taste good.

We’d have to say that the steak we ate that night at Cole’s Chop House was the finest and most delicious steak we have ever eaten (even beating Charlie’s Steakhouse in Orlando, and even beating Grill 23 in Boston). It was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of pinkness inside, just the right amount of charred-ness on the outside. Absolute heaven!

Sauce was what we also fancied with our steak. Mr Batty had the Béarnaise, which again arrived and “served family style”, and as I didn’t fancy that but did fancy a red wine sauce, chef very kindly made a Cab reduction especially for me. It was orgasmic, I tell you!

I really must go and review Cole’s Chop House…

We got ‘home’ to our wonderfully comfy bed at the River Terrace Inn for a good night’s sleep as we had to prepare ourselves for the treats to follow the next day :)

Bucks, UK
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2. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Day 10

Several people had told us not to bother with the Napa Valley Wine Train, and certainly we’d read some reviews of it that were not entirely complimentary. However, we’d see a video on You Tube which caught our attention; it looked a similar kind of thing to a lunch trip on the Orient Express that Mr Batty had treated me to for a birthday a few years ago which we’d enjoyed.

The lovely Lynda, the weekend concierge at the River Terrace Inn, had booked our tickets for us and secured a super table in the Vista Dome for us, so that we could get uninterrupted views of the vineyards we’d come to love so much.

We presented ourselves at the station in good time to hear the introductory talk and tasting that happens before you board the train. Interesting to note that there ARE still people needing to be taught how to taste wines!

A very kind young man from the customer services pushed me along the quite lengthy walk to the train and helped me board the Vista Dome. Well, we thought it was all just fantastic and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole three hours. We most definitely enjoyed the four course lunch and we did take the pairings advice and have the suggested wines with each course. It has to be said, after the tasting at the station, two glasses of champagne upon boarding, and then the four wines with the meal, we were feeling pretty good!

So, what did we eat? Apart from the dessert, we both had the same, which was:

Hors d’Oeuvre: Grilled Shrimp with Scallop Seviche in a Lobster Jus and garnished with Salmon Roe. We drank the suggested ZD Chardonnay. All marvellous!

First Course: Soup du Jour, which was a gorgeous tomato soup with fresh garlic, chicken broth, cream and chives. Another glass of ZD Chardonnay.

Entrée: We chose the Fresh Seafood of the day, which was Halibut with Parmesan Risotto, baby vegetables and a creamy sauce. Delicious with a glass of Grgich Chardonnay.

Dessert: Mr Batty had a Crème Brulee with fresh berries, and a glass of Robert Mondavi dessert wine. I enjoyed a Chocolate Pot Pie with Chantilley Cream (I will never forget the rich gooiness of it!) with a glass of Prager port.

Our day was wonderful – we loved it.

That evening it was all we could manage to share a sandwich at the hotel, as we were still so full.

Bucks, UK
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3. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Day 11

I wanted to have a potter around Yountville, with the hope of finding a jewellery store (I’d seen an ad in the local magazine that appears everywhere) selling turquoise necklaces and bracelets. So we had a good old mooch round the shops within the V Marketplace and another shopping area close to/behind Bouchon (I can’t remember the name of it now). We found a wonderful gift and jewellery store and I was able to buy exactly what I wanted. Indeed, not only did I find the turquoise, but also a black onyx set (sorry, bank account!).

We lunched at Bistro Jeanty, which was another gorgeous meal. Boeuf Bourguignon for Mr Batty, Boeuf en Daube for moi, with a fabulous bottle of Napa’s Cab – purely to aid digestion, you understand. What a smashing atmosphere this place has! We loved the friendliness and décor and we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of our dinner venue for this day and I’m afraid I just can’t remember.

Bucks, UK
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4. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Day 12

Again, we’d been told that the Robert Mondavi Winery at Oakville is “all a bit too touristy”, but we wanted to go and see for ourselves. We’ve always loved Robert Mondavi wines whenever we’ve been in Florida and Boston and, as we can only get what must be the worst of the lower end stuff in the UK, we wanted to taste the best.

OK, so maybe it is “touristy”. We loved it anyway.

We’d called in the morning and managed to reserve our places on a Sovereign Tour. This was led by a really nice, funny and informative man (so sorry we can’t remember his name) and the tour took through the vineyards themselves which were beautiful, through the winery at every stage of the wine making, so we saw the fermentation rooms and the barrel aging rooms (and cooled down somewhat under the humidifiers!). Finally, our group sat around a huge wooden table for the wine tasting.

We did indeed taste the best and we were not disappointed in any way. We loved every wine from the lightest Sauvignon Blanc through to the mightiest Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a beautifully sweet but not syrupy dessert wine.

Oh, and don’t forget the lovely light homemade cheese straws.

All that tasting had given us an appetite. We remembered that Lynda (weekend concierge at our hotel) had told us that one of her favourite places to lunch is the Rutherford Grill, so as we were only a short distance away, that’s were we headed.

We had to wait about half an hour for our table, but we didn’t mind. It was a beautiful sunny day, we were happy, everyone was friendly. Mr Batty had got into conversation with an elderly gent sitting next to him on the wall (well, he was even older than us!) who had been a test pilot. They were having such a good time chatting about this, as this is something that had always interested my husband, and about Mr Batty’s own career travels when he was filming. So the time went very pleasantly and quickly.

Buzz, buzz, buzz. All the many servers were buzzing around – the clients’ chat was buzzing. It was a terrific ambience. Our choice from the menu was a Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich each – his with coleslaw and mine with fries so that we could share. Huge, huge huge – and very delicious. Naturally, we needed something to drink with this; the iced water was lovely and refreshing but somewhat lacking in substance. The Pinot was most excellent and just what TheBatties needed.

Fairly late on in the evening we began to feel peckish again and we wanted to taste those steaks again. After a quick call we were lucky enough to have a reservation so we head back once more to Cole’s Chop House. Being wised up now about the “served family style” sides, we chose just a serving of fried onion rings (they are to die for) to accompany our exact same steaks.

Being a Saturday evening it was very, very busy at Cole’s that night. Noisy too as, as our waitress explained, there was a party who had been out tasting all day in their limo and had become rather boisterous. She handled them very well, and thankfully they left before we were half way through our meal. It did not detract from the deliciousness of the food, nor the enjoyment of the restaurant.

Bucks, UK
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5. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Day 13

Sunday, and it was heading frighteningly close to our day of departure. We still had so much to see, even though our holiday was quite a long one.

Once again we head up the St Helena Hwy (29) towards Calistoga (how we’d come to love that drive!) and the Sterling Vineyards. As I’ve said about Robert Mondavi wines, we can only get the lower end Sterling wines in the UK so we wanted to taste the *proper* stuff.

I was a bit anxious about the tram ride, purely because I wasn’t sure how I’d manage in my wheelchair. But I need not have worried as they had it all organised for me and when we arrived at the top another chair was waiting for me to use. The tram ride was great! What wonderful views over the valley and over the vineyards; it made a lovely part of what was to be a lovely tour and a memorable day.

We did like the fact that at Sterling your tour is self-paced so that you can take your time at each stage of the tour and spend as long as you like tasting your samples of wine. If you can stand the heat of the sun, which does blaze on you when you are exposed to it fully, you can sit on the outdoor terrace for as long as you like while drinking your Chardonnay and enjoying the spectacular views.

This was another winery and another day that we would chalk up as being a highlight of our holiday – but then, they have all been days like that.

Dinner? We had a reservation for tonight at Celadon (not realising that this is a sister restaurant to Cole’s Chop House). As we walked through the flowered archway we could just imagine how lovely that would be when it was dark and the lights would be twinkling. The perfume from the flowers was lovely.

We quickly learned that Celadon has the same owner as Cole’s when we recognised the same hostess! She recognised us too and must have told Greg Cole, the chef and owner, that we couldn’t keep away from his restaurants as he came and chatted with us, which was a nice thing for him to do.

My choice was a delicious one – the pork t-bone with garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed red mustard and artichoke ragout. Mr Batty chose one of the special dishes, which was a beautifully prepared crab on a bed of crisp fresh salad (much more interesting and delicious than that sounds). A wonderful bottle of Chardonnay once again aided our digestion!

As I thought it would be, the flowered archway with its twinkling lights was a lovely way to leave this fantastic restaurant.

Another superb day *sigh*

Bucks, UK
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6. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Day 14

How could this possibly be the final day of our holiday! This shouldn’t be allowed.

All that horrid packing had to be done… urrrrrgghhhh.

To take our minds of it, we decided to leave the packing until later and off we went to visit the Joseph Phelps vineyard. This is one wine that we WERE able to buy (via The Wine Society, but sadly not anymore) in the UK that is the decent stuff, so we wanted to see its origins.

I have to say that I think this must be my favourite of all the fabulous wineries and vineyards we’ve visited. There is just something wonderful about sitting on their terrace, overlooking the vineyards, and tasting something as lovely as their wines. There seems to be such a peaceful and calming atmosphere here.

We got into conversation with a very friendly lady from Boston. As we are going to Boston again in September, it was nice to chat about the place and check out some restaurants with her.

This just shows again one of the beauties of the Napa Valley. Everyone is so relaxed and friendly, and it rubs off on the visitors!

We would definitely recommend people to visit Joseph Phelps for a lovely experience. A word of advice though, you really do need to make a reservation to visit Joseph Phelps; as it happened we didn’t have a reservation, but were lucky enough to tag onto a time slot that was only partly filled. Now that the season is well underway, you might not be so lucky.

Back at downtown Napa in the early afternoon we wanted a snack and we found just what we wanted in the Napa General Store. Mr Batty’s triple club sandwich came with a lovely salad on the side. It was so thick with chicken, ham and cheese that he could hardly open his mouth wide enough to take a bite. My Reuben sandwich was just gorgeous and I loved it – extra special because I love sauerkraut and rye bread, but hardly ever have them at home as I’m the only one who likes them.

A little siesta seemed appropriate at the time. It was probably a mistake as I should have started packing, but hey ho!

On our last night we wanted to go back to thank Matthew for helping to make our evenings (and ultimately our holiday) so special so often. We returned to the Restaurant Cuvee for The Last Dinner, to find that once again everything about it was great and not just the food. It was quite sad to say goodbye.

Edited: 10 July 2010, 17:48
Bucks, UK
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7. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Day 15 – our day of departure *sob*

My alarm went off at 6.00am so that I would have time to throw everything into the suitcases – I mean, to pack.

Just as last night had been sad to say goodbye to Matthew and the Cuvee, it was sad to say goodbye to the room that had become our ‘home’, and to the people who had looked after us so well and ensured our holiday had been so successful and enjoyable.

Remembering our drive up to Napa from SFO airport, I checked with Randy, the weekday concierge, for the best route back to the airport. So, so helpful. He kindly printed off the route for me, which included the directions for leaving the Hwy 101 at the St Bruno exit so that we could return the hire car. Also remembering how we’d left the airport two weeks previously without a map, I did ensure we had a map.

All went well and we followed Randy’s route, which is:

- Turn left out of the River Terrace Inn to go south on Soscal Avenue to join the Hwy 29 south

- Just after Vallejo, join the Interstate 80 south

- Continue on the I-80, which takes you over the Bay Bridge and becomes the Hwy 101 as you pass through the Mission area of San Francisco, heading southwards to the SFO airport

- Leave the Hwy 101 at the St Bruno exit to join McDonnell Road, where the rental car returns centre is situated

To continue – all went well and we followed Randy’s route, all the way to the St Bruno exit. It appears you need to be really, really careful here and ensure you take the correct St Bruno exit. Sadly, we didn’t. I don’t think my navigating can be blamed. It really is tricky!

We ended up in deepest St Bruno, but fortunately a crew of road construction workers were only to happy to direct us back onto the right road (onto the I-380 so that we could have another crack at the Hwy 101 approach). What a very friendly bunch of men they were, and if they are reading this, we’d like to say: “Thank you so much for helping us out. Thank you for not laughing at me as I shivered in my little camisole as the San Francisco wind blew about my torso. And we’re really sorry that we’re not into football so didn’t have a clue what was happening in the World Cup. Most of all, thank you for directing us so that we were able to find our way to the airport without missing our flight”.

Flight home – uneventful (which means “good”). Our lovely taxi driver was there at Heathrow to meet us and bring us back to Chez Batty (and he never once mentioned the broken suitcase/repacking incident that started our holiday).

OK, the holiday had to end, but we now have some lovely memories and some lovely photographs. Our heartfelt thanks go to all the lovely people in the Napa Valley for giving us such a wonderful time.

Would we like to return to the Napa Valley? Well, that’s rather a daft question :) Of course we would – we’d be there like a shot.

(Clearly I need a new Thesaurus so that I can find more few more adjectives to describe “fabulous”, “fantastic”, “wonderful” etc, etc. I apologise for my lack of vocabulary and my repetitiveness).

Many thanks too to everyone on this forum for all their helpful contributions, information and advice.

Many thanks to everyone who has waded their way through my Travelogues and made such kind comments. I've really enjoyed writing all this and it is a super reminder of a holiday that we've probably loved more than any other so far.

Bucks, UK
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8. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Now, I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but I’m a poor old soul who is rapidly losing her faculties now that she is approaching her twilight years. Occasionally a couple of things slip my mind – as did these two things:

I forget to mention that on Day 3, while Dan (Reserve Wine Tours) was driving us around, he drove us up to the Castello di Amorosa for a look around, though we didn’t stop for a tasting or a tour. It is a fantastic structure, with some pretty gardens and vineyards. This was an excellent opportunity to take some really very excellent photographs. It is sad to read the somewhat negative reviews about this winery, but that is obviously why Dan drove us around it, rather than to it, and he didn’t recommend stopping.

I’ve also forgotten about lunch on Day 13, which was sandwiches from the Oakville Grocery. I’ve already submitted a review for this wonderful store, but to save you searching for it and to save me typing it again, this is what I said:

“ Oh my, this place is incredible! We ordered our sandwiches - a BLT with avacado on brown bread for my husband, and a mediterranean chicken on focacia for myself, and they were absolutely scrumptuous and certainly hefty enough to fill several gaps - and then spent the waiting time browsing.

“ I never imagined there were so many different types of mustard! The cheeses looked fantastic, as did everything in the deli counter/fridge. Every shelf, every nook and cranny held something interesting and/or tasty.

“ We also bought some of the specialty spiced mixed nuts and the caramelised walnuts for nibbling with wine, as they looked so gorgeous (and were).

“ Stopping off at Oakville Grocery certainly is an experience not to be missed :) It has a great atmosphere too, with lovely friendly staff buzzing around and being helpful. The store well deserves its success. Definitely go there. “

And, once again, I do hope this second part of my TR has been in time for pallidin’s own trip to the Napa Valley.

Cheers everyone!

Napa, CA
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9. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Wonderful, wonderful. :)

Thank you so much for sharing your travels w/us. Your writing is superb-- we were there with you, each day, enjoying the sights and sounds (and tastes) of Napa and San Francisco.

And you went to some of our favorite restaurants-- some more than once! We love Greg Cole, and know that your upcoming reviews of his restaurants will do him justice. :)

We will be happy to recommend this to others. :)

What more can be said, except, "When will we see you again?" ;)

Fond regards from all of us,

-The Innkeepers

Napa Old World Inn


Edited: 10 July 2010, 19:48
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10. Re: Trip Report – wk 2 /2 (also v. long, & more of a Travelogue

Great writing! Thanks for taking the time - it was fun to read!