Friday, September 12, 2008

Vacation - Part Two

OK, where did I leave off? Oh yeah, we arrived in Oakland around 12:30 PM.

Upon entering the hotel, we ran into my Uncle John who mentioned he had a headache and then casually mentioned the near-eviction of the McGee Clan the night before. Oh, that is my wonderful, fun, Irish family.

We dropped our luggage in the room and then went to Jack London square to have lunch at Scotts, with my Dad. Oh, the seafood in the bay area is beyond words amazing - actually all of the food is amazing in the bay area. Freshest veggies, cheese, bread and seafood, I could totally live in San Francisco or its environs. Speaking of food, I had read over at SFgirlbybay about Slow Food Nation happening and so wanted to attend, it just wasn't in the cards.
So, after lunch we headed back to the hotel, got all dolled up for the wedding and did this crazy four car convoy/caravan. Somehow I ended up in the back of the line and had a chance to bust out some nice Indy 500 race car like moves through the freeway from Oakland to Berkley where the wedding was held. I don't remember the number of the freeway though I can guarantee that it ended in an 80, all of the freeways end in 80, 580, 680, 480 - Oh, they like the number 80 up there. Now, being the birthplace and the home of many still hippies I would have totally thought there would be a 420 freeway.

Dad, Duane and a really cool statue in Jack London Square

I cannot begin to describe the beauty of the wedding, the backdrop was this scene straight out of Lake Tahoe with big, beautiful trees tucked neatly into a pristine hillside that offered the most amazing view of the city. There was so much love in the room at Brenna and Sam's wedding. My cousin Brenna looked like a princess, her sister and woman of honor, my cousin Erin looked beautiful as well. Their parents, my Aunt and Uncle - always calm, cool and collected kept their hipness quotient. The food was great, it was fun to hang out with family and my Aunt Patty and I persuaded my Aunt Bridget to sing "Me and Bobby McGee", replacing Bobby with Brenna. this has recently become a family tradition which started at my Aunt Patty's birthday last month.
The women in this McGee family go crazy over our last name. I love D - however one of my only regrets in life is that I didn't keep my last name. I LOVE my last name and have a husband that is quite the modern man - except when it came to me taking his name. He was adamant about me becoming a Brickel and within weeks from our wedding I conceded, it was painful. Kara McGee, oh - the sound brings a tear to my eye. Some of my friends and an Aunt on my mom's side have decided to combine the two and frequently call me Kara McBrickel. I might have to use it when I teach. Mrs. McBrickel? Hmmm.

Father of the Bride aka Uncle Joe and my dad

We made it back to the hotel and started with the next phase of partying. Everyone brought some snacks and beverages, gathering in a conference room - I brought my I-pod and portable player. The hotel management was tired of us running around the hotel and "recommended" we rent a conference room. Yes, our family is that big - we need a conference room for the McGee's to gather. We were excited to see Sam's family join us and had a great time getting to know everyone and reacquainted with other's we had not seen in years.

Brenna and Sam - one of the prettiest and love filled weddings ever.

Red carpet Ready and looking like they are on their way to the Oscar's and then the Vanity Fair party - Uncle Joe and Aunt Paula- Parents of the Bride

We woke the next morning, chilled with family members and then hit the road to Napa. Oh, Napa - what an amazing place. I love the scenery, the vineyards and of course the wine but my favorite thing is the fact that it is situated so close to San Francisco. I love that you can be in two extreme settings within an hour's time. Our first stop was Yountville, when we return we will be staying/eating/drinking in this cute little village that is a combination of a European village with cute little shops, coiffed topiary's and loads of great restaurants.

The bakery case at Bouchon Bakery

The outside of Bouchon Bakery

We ate lunch at Napa Style where I lunched on a caprese sandwhich on artisan bread, I don't recall what my dad and D ordered - I was in my own little food world. We walked around the town coming across one of my favorite chef's Thomas Keller's restaurant's French Laundry and Bouchon

The side view of the front of French Laundry

Maybe if I had these little garden plaques, I would be more motivated in my little garden?

The herb and vegetable garden for French laundry is located directly across from the restaurant and surprisingly is left unguarded.

Hours into our journey to Napa, I have decided that it is very much the adult version of Disneyland. Our next stop - OPUS.

OPUS grapes

The very modern Opus winery/tasting room

Next stop - the Opus winery where we had an appointment? Seriously, an appointment on vacation Dad HUH? We entered the long driveway at the Opus winery, walked in and had a conversation with the front desk that went a little something like this?

Older, snobby, hippie chick - (head tilted forward, looking over the top of her glasses) Yes, may I help you?

Dad- Hello, the McGee/Brickel party is here to check in, we have a 1:30 appointment.

Older, snobby, hippie chick - Hmmm, one moment. (Suddenly, we are all sweating - my dad looks over at me and I can read his mind - he is telepathically asking me if he really made the reservation or maybe he just thought he did). Ahh, yes - we have you. If you would like to retire to our seating area and rest we would be most happy.
I would not have been surprised if they had offered complimentary Swedish massages next. It was just that decadent. Oh, how I love decadence.

At this point, I'm thinking wow, this is like the Nordstrom of wineries - unbelievable. The seating area was filled with art and rare pieces decorated around the room. Beautiful, really beautiful. I will post photos of the pieces in the room over at Pots on Stove - sometime soon. Others file into the room and then our tour guide appears. We are given the historical count and timeline of Robert Mondavi's wine career and how he and the Baron de Rotheschild came about this joint venture.

The tour guide, whose name escapes me - oh hell, let's call him Bill. Is in his 40's and fellow oenophile starts the tour by explaining the dramatic architecture that represents both countries involved - the limestone, representing France and California Oak are set against a backdrop of clean, modern lines. I mentioned to the tour guide the resemblance to the Getty center and the tour guide mentions both buildings were designed by the same architect. The tour was educational, fun and memorable. It's like they coddle every grape before it goes to press? It is no wonder that one bottle costs $180 bucks.

Onward we travel to the Mondavi winery, where my dad is a wine club member and we get to go to a wine club members only room filled with all the free wine and cheese we can consume. Next stop, Dean and Deluca which was a complete and total religious experience. If I won lotto tomorrow I would open a version of Dean and Deluca in my little city - among doing other things that have more social value. Anyway, it was unreal. Food, food and more food - really good looking food. Ahhhhhh - food.

Next, we drove through an area where trees lined both sides of the street and passed the CIA - Culinary Institute of America. We speed through St. Helena and arrive in the quaint town of Calistoga (you know, where they produce Calistoga mineral water). We check in to our B & B, where our hosts Nick and Gillian greet us, change into different clothes and head to dinner. We had caught our second wind and walked through the town - twice. It's very small, filled with restaurants tucked in between historic homes and stores luring tourists with their items for sale. A constant buzzing in the background haunts the air, our hosts later inform us that we have been listening to the sprint cars racing at the local track.


My dad is totally Clark Griswald of the Vacation movies, no really - he is. He will drive 500 miles to go see the biggest freaking ball of twine and make sure we are all super excited about it. This is how I can equate our experience of visiting Calistoga. There was really not much there and yet my Dad's enthusiasm was hilarious enough to be entertaining. I really just need to be thankful he didn't drag us to one of his favorite clothing optional hippie escapes in the area.

Before we headed South - we had to visit the Calistoga bottling company where they have this cool metal fixture.

We wake up the next morning, eat a yummy breakfast and blast through making two quick stops - Oakville Grocery store and once again Yountville. We arrive in Napa, drop my dad off at Enterprise rent-a-car in Napa. He stayed through Tuesday to meet with business clients

A smaller, toned down version of Dean and Deluca

This picture gives me goosebumps. Oh bread, how I love thee.

I have to say at this point, it was nice to be heading South. After driving North for so long, feeling millions, instead of hundreds, of miles away from home - I was starting to miss my pups, bed and regular Internet access.
We still had one more stop planned before we would arrive in SF, to meet our friends Dave and Cari in Novato. We had a really nice time having lunch while being entertained by their three precious boys and trying to catch up on both of our worlds. The inevitable happened, they asked about the girls and while it was difficult to recount the details there is a sense of kindness and genuine caring expressed between these two people that remind me just how lucky we are to have such great friends. Inquisitive but extremely supportive of our goal to become parents and adding encouragement. D and I are lucky to both have really great friendships we have maintained from high school and Dave and Cari fall into this category. We will see their family again in November when we gather to support Dave and his family for a 5k run/walk in San Diego, as they continue to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research, in honor of his sister - Linda.

Dave and Cari have some doggie drama and are need of getting their pooch - Barley to Dave's mom's house in Riverside. Barley was a super sweet Shepard mix, medium sized dog who was having some personality issues. Dave felt Barley might do better as a companion to his mom and we were unsure of how his mother was going to react to seeing Barley. We meet Barley and make arrangements for Dave to drop off Barley the following morning at our hotel - right before we leave.

After lunch we hop in the car and minutes later we are driving on this...

Yes, amazing - people walking, roller blading, running, riding bikes and cars driving all on this huge, red bridge. It's quite breathtaking. D got pretty cranky driving around looking for our hotel and I was not helping at all - snappping pix, oohing and aahhhing over all the tall buildings. Once we got to the hotel, we decided to park the car and take the cable car/bus thingy to the wharf for dinner and experience a city that has perfected public transportation.
We walked across the street, first, to the hotel's sister property and had a drink. Both properties were owned by Best Western and reminded me of The Standard, it was quite nice. We headed to the wharf and had dinner at Scoma's, then listened to Little Wolf and the Hellcats - a very cool local blues band at the Blue's at Lou's.

The Federal building in San Francisco

The Americana hotel located in the SOMA district

Lobby of Americana Hotel

I love my new camera....

I tried to download this as my new Blogger ID and it didnt work so well, made me look a little strange.

We came back to the hotel, exhausted - collapsed into bed and were ready to head back. Initially, D and I took the entire week off and spend 2 nights in San Francisco and then another night in Paso however our work and my school schedules were not accomadating. It all worked out though, if we had followed that time schedule we would not have had the honor and priveledfe of meeting Mr. Barley. We are such suckers for dogs, that 1/2 hour into the trip we decided that if Dave's mom was not doing cartwheels and hosting a marching band for this dog's arrival, we would keep him. Why yes, the word sucker is tattoed on our foreheads. Barley was the worlds best dog and loved our frequent stops along the 101. We enjoyed stoppingas it brought back good memories of when we would travel with our pooch, before his sister came along.

Love this picture, buildings - tall beautiful buildings and a bit of the cable line that helps control the cars and buses used for public transportation.

Tuesday morning we hopped on the 101 South to begin our journey home.

We had lunch in Paso Robles, any chance to see our old city again, at the Odyssey cafe where they have a nice outdoor seating area that is puppy friendly. We made good time and were crusing along pleasently until we hit Santa Clarita around 4:00 PM (close to Magic Mountain) and I decided to have a mini-meltdown crying fit because D was on my very last freaking nerve. I don't want to re-hash the details of the fight but let's chalk it up to too many hours together in the car. 5 minutes later, D aplogized and everything was back to normal. Two hours later we were dropping off Barley (Dave's mom was excited and thrilled to see Mr. Barley).

It was nice to be home, however - there is something magical about San Francisco and all big cities really. D's favorite football team is the 49'ers so we are looking at getting tickets to a game in October to see if we can spend a long weekend up there. As much as he loathes being in a big city I think I can convert him with good food and public transportation.

While I don't know if D and I will ever parent, I do know that one day I will live in a big city. I think one of the reasons I have not completely lost every last of my ever loving marbles through this infertility journey to hell and back is that it really has put alot of different aspects of life into perspective and help me define who I truly am and what I want or rather will accomplish out of the game called life. It's really all about the things I can control. Infertility has controlled my option to become a birth parent - I refuse to give it the power over the things in my life I can control. Is this acceptance? Ummm, not quite sure if I am there yet.

I will teach. Gotta first jump through the hoops - I'am working on it.

I will eat really, really good food. So long South Beach. I have a post in the works about this, BTW.

I will always write. I will continue to blog, journal and hone the skills.

I will travel. San Diego next weekend for my Grandma's 80th birthday, possibly New Mexico in November and a trip to Brianhead, UT planned for January and then there is theVEGAS trip to plan still.

I will run -as long as the bad knee continues to let me.

I will have friendships that are meaningful.

It's on the wharf, it's a bit touristy but really captures the essence of San Francisco.

Ahhh, home sweet home.


Emily said...

What an amazing trip - its wonderful how time away from how gives us perspective huh?

Oh and my first introduction to Dean & Deluca was in Napa and it was serious love at first bite! I would live in there if I could!

Emily (Apron Strings) said...

Oh Kara ... (hmmm ... sounds like Oh Sarah, that Starship song?! LOL!)

Sounds like you had a wonderful fun filled vacation! Love all your pics and it's too bad that you can't post that pic as your profile.

So glad you can keep things in perspective with IF and what we can't control. You're such a strong, smart chick-a-dee.

Now, let's see. What else do we need to do for Vegas?!

Io said...

Oh my gosh, Mrs McBrickel! There is so much! No wonder it took so long for this post - how the heck did you fit this all in? It seems like weeks worth of stuff and it all sounds fabulous.
I have never known the delights of Dean and Deluca...

kate said...

Wow! Now I am even more jealous and envious! I totally love SF. I haven't been there in many years- um, 15? Shit. Has it really been that long? I guess so.

Anyway, I loved your narrative of the trip. I sometimes wish I was back living in LA so that drives up the coast were just a heartbeat away. Your descriptions made me miss it like crazy.

And like you, part of the reason IF doesn't drive me absolutely insane is that I know that someday, I'll have a fulfilling life anyhow. Like you, I would love to live in a big city. H isn't interested at all, but I hope someday to convince him to consider the outskirts of a major metropolitan area. Probably won't happen, but at least if we stay in the region we're in, we can afford to travel to those awesome places.


What an awesome trip!