Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Napa & Sonoma Valley in California by Annie Clougherty

Flying into San Francisco, a one and a half hour drive takes you to the Napa Valley, a beautiful countryside area located in Northern California. As one of the most successful wine growing regions in the world it offers temperate weather and rolling hills filled with lush vineyards and black oak trees reminiscent of the French countryside. There are many famous wineries ranging from the large estates of Domain Chandone and wine caves to mid-size and smaller family owned wineries such as Mondavi. When you visit the Wine Country you will find many relaxing activities and chances to see both the natural history of cities such as the original library building on main street in downtown Napa, to the original wineries from the early days located in the town of Oakville.

This region of the USA is different to the usual tourist areas. There are no ‘chain’ restaurants but small locally owned eateries offering fresh local produce and, of course, wine to go with each different course you eat.

Every visit to this area should include the beautiful Sonoma Valley. The Sonoma countryside is filled with lush rolling hills similar to the Napa Valley and the seasons bring a colourful array of flowers in spring and autumn. Known for the arts and wine Sonoma includes such attractions as it's unique picturesque downtown square which is laid out in the old Spanish Pueblo style, and Luther Burbank Centre for the Arts, The Mission Adobe, as well as wine tasting rooms in the town and some of the most prominent wineries in the region nearby. A train through a working vineyard was very interesting and showed the journey from ’grape to glass’!

We stayed in the Fairmont Mission Inn and Spa and the spa is the one of the best I have ever visited - and I have tried quite a few!

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