In which you learn how obsessed I can become with planning things

In the last 3 days I think I’ve done more research for our vacation than I ever did for our house, which might explain why I’m not all that thrilled about where we live, but will hopefully mean we’ll end up with a getaway that will not disappoint.

First, THANK YOU. You all are so amazing and had so many fabulous ideas!! I probably researched just about all of them, except for this one from Felicity:

When I was in my 20’s and on a very tight budget I went to St. John, USVI and stayed at the maho bay campground. It was absolutely amazing, and definitely less than $1500 for two, for a week. You rent a hut-like tentish thing on the side of a mountain that leads down to the water. There are beds and a little camp kitchen. It’s truly amazing. Last year one of my closest friends went for a “babymoon” and had a better time there than on her ultra-expensive honeymoon. Maybe I’ll go look at airfare now…

No offense, Felicity! Truly, I appreciate the suggestion. I am just so NOT the camping/hiking type. “Hut-like tentish thing” pretty much made me laugh my ass off, and “little camp kitchen” gave me visions of insufficient plumbing. But seriously, if I were into staying in huts on the side of a mountain, that would be… amazing? 🙂

But I did research just about everything else, and got really frustrated over the cost of airfare. I could find a lot of great deals on hotels, but the airfare just wasn’t within our budget.

We looked into a cruise out of Galveston, and while it sounded nice and fit the budget, I just had no idea what we’d do on a ship all day other than eat and drink. And I sort of wanted to avoid the commercial tourist experience. Besides, I’m sure we’ll have many cruises in our future once Kendall gets a little older.

Similarly, we actually found a lot of great Disney packages, but why subject ourselves to that now, without a kid, when all we’re going to do is wish we’d brought Kendall along or think about how much fun it would be to bring him back?

Vegas just isn’t for us. We’re not the party hard/clubbing type anymore, we’re not into gambling at all, and I have no desire to see Celine Dion or Cher.

Santa Fe/Albuquerque would be beautiful, but my dad lives out that way and we already have a 2 week long family vacation planned out there this summer.

I found some spectacular all-inclusive packages for the Bahamas and Jamaica, but, being the non-travellers we are, we don’t have passports! The cost of getting them would have to come out of our trip budget, and we’d also have to pay to have them expedited to get them in time. It just didn’t seem worth it.

Throughout the whole process, we kept coming back to California. Specifically, to wine country. I researched several options (including the San Luis Obispo area), but the least expensive seemed to be flying into San Francisco, renting a car and driving up to Sonoma.

(You know what really sealed the deal for me? Catching up on Parenthood on DVR. Weird. I know. But really, I love the location the show is set in. Also, if you are not watching this show, you should because 1. It’s some damn fine TV and 2. I really, really don’t want to see it cancelled. So WATCH.)

A couple commenters made excellent points about San Francisco being a bit too much for a 3 or 4 day escape. I didn’t want to stay in a bustling city and feel pressured to take it all in. But, this way we still get a taste of San Francisco (will be driving over the GG bridge on our way from and to the airport), while staying where we truly want to be.

So a Sonoma vacation it is!

I have to thank those of you who recommended, too! After getting frustrated that our only inexpensive lodging options in Sonoma seemed to be the Best Western and Travelodge, I remembered this recommendation and spent the next 2 hours perusing all the fabulous rentals.

We found a 1 bedroom/1 bath apartment with a full kitchen and private balcony, minutes from Sonoma Plaza, for around $100 a night! We can stock the kitchen with goods from the farmers markets, Sonoma Cheese Factory and bottles of our new wine finds. We’ll bring some coffee with us (or maybe buy some on our way through SF) and enjoy it on the private balcony overlooking vineyards in the morning. We can pack lunches for picnics at nearby parks and vineyards. This will hopefully really cut down on our dining out costs.

We’ll be flying in on a Saturday, arriving around 3. Can any of you recommend a great local place to eat a late lunch/early dinner in San Francisco on our way from the airport? Nothing too fancy or expensive, but lots of great local flavor and flare, please! And can you think of any coffee places we could grab some coffee beans on our way out?

I’m thinking Sat. night we’ll walk around the plaza, maybe grab a bottle of wine and some cheese and have a late snack back at our apartment.

Perhaps we can do Sunday brunch at The Girl & The Fig. (OMG, do get to do BRUNCH again?! Wheeeeee!!)

I’d also like to squeeze in, well, of course lots of wine tastings, but also an afternoon or evening at Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma (since Scott is being quite the champ, immersing himself in this land of wine for me). And, as crazy as it might sound for a vacation, I think it would be nice to go for a morning jog on the coast, followed by some great clam chowder for lunch. Is that even possible, or just a fantasy I’ve made up in my head?

The only other thing I think I know for sure we’d like to do is visit the farmer’s market in Sonoma Plaza Tuesday evening. Figure maybe we can gather some stuff there and head back to our apartment to make a light dinner and enjoy our last night on our private balcony watching the sun go down.

We fly out around noon on a Wednesday. Any recommendations for a great place in San Fran to grab breakfast before we head out to the airport?

The rest of the itinerary is still up in the air, but I’d LOVE to hear more suggestions from those of you who’ve been or live there. You’ve truly helped me so much already planning this. Thank you!

Remember, cheap is key. We’re working on a limited food budget (good thing I found lots of free wine tasting coupons here!). Although, we will indulge in one nice/fancy-ish dinner while we’re there (I’m packing a dress. Can’t remember the last time I wore a dress to dinner). So hit me with suggestions for that, too.

And I have to laugh that the reason I didn’t want a cruise was because all we would do was eat and drink. Ha! All I can think about is eating and drinking in California now.

Kendall is not quite 23 months old.

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  1. my girlfriend lives on the edge of this winery:
    We go once a year and sit on her patio and take in a free concert!

    IT’s Awesome -they have concerts there all the time (last year: pat benetar, steve miller band, journey, etc) and it’s the #1 tiny venue place in the US.

    Also, Saratoga CA is fab and about 35 mins outside SFO and gorgeous little wine town – you MUST go there!! The restauruants, esp the Mexican one, are FANTASTIC beyond belief.

  2. Intensely jealous! I just started watching that show Parenthood and all I could think was “I wanna live where they live.”

    I don’t feel like I’ll ever get a vacation without the kids again. Never, ever. But then again, my husband couldn’t give a rats ass if we ever do anything, so I prolly shoulda married better if I ever want to go anywhere. My next husband will like to plan trips. 😉

    • I told Scott I feel like it’s now or never-ish. Once we have another kid it’s a whole new game. It’s hard enough to find someone (luckily this time it’s my amazing mom) to watch one kid over several nights, at least at this age.

      Oh, and please don’t be mistaken. Scott has nothing to do with the planning of this vacation, and if it wasn’t for me begging and pleading, he would really care to go anywhere either.

  3. One of my good friends use to live there and she LOVE Sonoma. I am dying to make a trip up there. The trick is to go to a town called Headlsberg, it is northern Sonoma. Since it isn’t directly in the middle of the crazieness many of the wineries offer FREE tasting (and they are GOOD wineries) and they are much more friendly than a lot the popular areas. I will ask her for recomendations of some nice places for dinner. You are going to have an amazing time!

      • I just spent a day wine tasting in Napa, yesterday, in fact. We had a great time, but I definitely prefer Sonoma. I love Healdsburg – my really good friend got married there 18 months ago. The town square is so cute. Go to Ridge. One of my favorite wineries. Also, for coffee, I recommend Peet’s. They might have it in Texas, but it was founded in Berkeley (where I went to college and where Parenthood is supposed to be set), so it is local!

  4. Oh! So glad you chose the SF bay area .. my home. So. while in Sonoma you can’t miss Gundlach Bundschu winery. Gorgeous grounds and amazing wine, of course. Good spot for a picnic. Husband and I are fanatical about the beef jerky at Angelo’s, right outside of town. SF reccs — Lunch — all depends on what you are in the mood for. I would grab a sandwich from Lucca Deli on Chestnut & Pierce Streets (or Blue Barn across the street) and walk over to the Palace of Fine Arts and sit and enjoy over there. You can walk over to Crissy Field from there and take in the view of the Golden Gate and the bay. Breakfast — Tartine (Guerrero and 18th) is a must. Grab extra morning buns for the plane, you won’t be sorry.

    Have so much fun!

    • This is not the first time I’ve read great things about Tartine. We’ll definitely have to go there! Do you have any idea how late they serve breakfast? My only concern is the traffic coming into SF on a weekday morning.

      • hmmm.. not sure what time they stop serving breakfast, but almost positive you can get pastries & coffee all day.

        If you fly out at noon on Wednesday, you’ll probably have to leave Sonoma pretty early. I’d check for traffic, but it shouldn’t be that bad. I think you’ll be totally fine for breakfast at Tartine. Oh I’m getting hungry just thinking about it…

        • Ditto on Tartrine. My favorite breakfast place in in the Tenderloin. I don’t want to be responsible for your life and expose you to crack smoking crazies on the street. Plus parking in that area is hellish.

          Anyway, as for your “nice” dinner, I’d suggest going out about 30 minutes to Yountville and eating at Ad Hoc. It’s not cheap, but it isn’t insanely expensive. You probably wouldn’t have to wear a dress either. (Unless you want to.) The executive chef there is only one of the best in the world: Thomas Keller. He’s a California legend!

  5. We just celebrated my 30th in Sonoma, splitting tasting between Napa and Sonoma. First, dining: The Girl and the Fig is awesome – make reservations. This might also be your ‘splurge’ meal. The Red Grape is great for a nice, inexpensive pizza/pasta dinner. There’s a cafe (maybe Sunflower or something like that) right on the square that is great for b-fast or grabbing lunch to go. There’s also a Whole Foods right near the square. In Healdsburg, Dry Creek Kitchen would be another place to consider for a splurge dinner. And corkage for Sonoma wines is free there, I think. Healdsburg also has many other fun and tasty restaurants.
    Wineries: I recommend going to Healdsburg area – there are so many great wineries, many of which are free. Some, you need reservations, like A. Rafaneli, Unti, David Coffaro (but tastings are all free). I’d skip Twomey ($$ for tasting and wines are just ok for the price). Chalk Hill has great wines, but you do have to pay to taste. Ferrari Carrano has amazing grounds, though I think you have to pay to taste (not sure?). The caves at Bella are also great. The views at Sbragia are wonderful, and the wine is pretty good too! Directly in the town of Healdsburg is the tasting room of Selby – they make wonderful wines. Also nearby is Sgehsio and La Crema. If you head out toward the coast, stop at Merry Edwards in Sebastapool for a wonderful, free tasting.
    On your drive in from San Fran, there will be two wineries on the right before you get in to the town of Sonoma. The first is Jacuzzi – it is free and is a stop for many of the drunk bus tasting tours. But the wine is ok and there’s a nice place to have a picnic. The place next to it (just before it, actually) has a nice italian market and great picnic areas in addition to $5 wine tasting.
    If you head to the napa side at all, you MUST grab breakfast and lunch at Bouchon bakery in Yountville. It is amazing. Seriously, food does not get this good.
    And lastly, have fun!! Wine country is such an amazing vacation. It really helped us heal from our most recent m/c. And of course the wine and food is incredible – it’s so hard not to reconnect in such a fabulous area! Enjoy it!

  6. Oh, you will LOVE it – good choice!! 🙂 We went cheap all the times we stayed in SF, so the only time we kind of “splurged” it was at the Stinking Rose. BUT you must love garlic, since it’s in everything. Amazingly, not overpowering though…. hmm. I think the best part is that it’s just around the corner from Chinatown, so you can stroll through there, and then around the corner and hit this area of town, which has irish pubs, etc. I just loved the atmosphere, sat in the window and watched the people go by. The website where you can check the menu:
    Not too expensive, for San Fran…. HAVE A BLAST!!!!!!!!

    • Mmmm… we actually are big time garlic lovers, and after being together for over 9 years, we don’t have to worry about scaring each other off with our icky garlic breath 🙂

  7. You are going to love it!!! We have gone there on vacation the past three summers. We always stay in Sonoma, but our two favorite wineries are in Napa – Honig and Goosecross. You will need to make appointments, but my gosh you won’t be disappointed. Taylor’s Refresher in Napa is so yummy – great hamburgers, shakes, etc. Healdsburg is fantastic. The most adorable town you have ever seen. There is a place there called Zin that is great for dinner. Also, you can go to the Oakville Grocery and eat there or pick up food for a picnic. Also, check out Cline in Sonoma. They are a green winery – their whites are amazing and the grounds are beautiful. Cline is close to Sonoma Plaza. One thing about Lagunitas – we stopped there this time because my husband loves their beer. It was super small which surprised him. Granted, we didn’t do the tour but he was a little disappointed. There is a great restaurant called The Underwood Bar and Grill in Graton. It is a bit of a drive from where you will be, but it is good and not too pricey. Sorry for the novel! Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions or if I can help you at all! 🙂

  8. You are going to have an ahhhmazing time! This is my absolute favorite vacation I’ve ever done! I’ve been to Tuscany and Northern California ranks RIGHT up there with Tuscany in my book (I’m sure some would disagree, but this is what I think…)!
    The absolute BEST place to eat, I think, in San Fran is Boudin ( This is the original bakery of sour dough bread and, although it might be a bit touristy, I think it is definitely a must if you’ve never been to SF before. You can go upstairs (downstairs is a cafe and shop) and have a bread bowl with corn and crab chowder. O.M.G. It is heaven on earth. Seriously – I was talking about it today.
    My hubby and I sit at the bar, have a bottle of Fat Tire and a bread bowl of soup – it is absolutely fantastic. Looks right out onto the Bay and would actually be right on your way to Sonoma.
    Have the best time ever – I can’t wait to live vicariously through your pictures! 🙂

    • I forgot to add…
      If you make your way down to Napa…definitely check out Round Pond Winery ( It is one of the newest wineries in Napa, but it is fantastic. Across the street from the winery (which is GORGEOUS, btw. Looks like something out of Pottery Barn…), they have their Olive Oil plant – which you can take a tour of. Very, very cool. They have this incredible Blood Orange Olive Oil that is to die for!
      Have a BLAST!

  9. Several years ago, the hubs & I went to Domaine Chandon (the sparkling wine vineyard) and dined at their fancy restaurant. Oooh-lala! It was so good and the tasting menu includes a different sparkling wine with each course. Definitely a splurge, but if you’re into champagne and good food, it’s worth it. (the hubs loved it too–for the food, even though he’s not a sparkling wine lover like me)

  10. YOU GO GIRL! Have a great time! Make a baby and get lots a R&R. When you get back, it’s my turn to bitch and moan. Of course, our vacation isn’t until the mid of August. So I have a long while yet! So, have a blast for all us streased-out mommies. You deserve it!

  11. My favorite winery in that area is Ledson, it’a beautiful castle-like building and has great wines.

    The morning jog on the beach may be out of the question – unless you want to drive there first. It’ll take you about 30 minutes (maybe more?) to get to the coast, but a MUST stop for me when I’m there is Bodega Head (look up Bodega Bay on a map, and then you want to drive all the way out to the point). Point Reyes is also pretty cool – but it’s really a drive. The northern Ca coast is nothing like I’d pictured a California coast to be – it’s windy and rocky, but awe-inspiring. If I were doing that, I’d stop at Nick’s Cove ( for some oysters and drive up hwy 1 and just enjoy the scenery. It’s a slow drive because the road is winding, but it’s fun to stop and dip your toes in the sand and (cold) water along the way. If you do it, be ready for it to be a good portion of a day (always takes me longer than I think it should).

    Personally – I think I’d get an early start one day, enjoy the day on the coast, lunch at Nick’s, and then head back to relax for a few minutes and then out to a nice dinner.

    It’s been a four+ years since I lived there, so the details are fuzzy, but Bodega Head was kind of confusing to get to so get good directions if you go, and if you go to Point Reyes instead – you’ll spend part of the drive going “Are we still in California?” There’s something amazing about the old cattle ranches you literally drive through – and seeing cattle farms RIGHT on the coast!

  12. on second thought – Bodega Bay was maybe 30 minutes from Santa Rosa, so if you’re in Sonoma you’ll have to ask someone how long it takes. It might be equidistant to Point Reyes as to Bodega Bay.

  13. My absolute favorite winery in that area is Frog’s Leap. It’s more in the Napa area than Sonoma, but the two locations are so close to each other that it doesn’t really matter. It’s a self-sustained eco-friendly winery and has the coolest tour of any we went on. My DH and I visited 10 wineries when we were there and Frog’s Leap was by far our fave.

    My rec for a nice dinner – Mustard’s Grill.

    My rec for breakfast in SF – Dottie’s True Blue Cafe.

    Have fun!!

  14. What a coincidence – my husband and I are heading to Sonoma this weekend with a few other couples for our first getaway since having our daughter, Adeline, 7 months ago. I’ve finally stopped having panic attacks about leaving her and am just focusing on how fun it will be. Here’s to a great weekend (for both of us) in Wine Country!

  15. It is hard to find a BAD place to eat there in my experience. I don’t know if these things will be on your route since I’m not familiar with the SFO airport. We did like E&O trading Co on Sutter, Tartine (a bakery/good breakfast place) on 18th and Guerrero (1 block off of Mission – get off the Bart at 16th), the Westfield Mall food court (no seriously, the Korean BBQ and cream puffs are fabulous. It’s the best food court food you’ll ever have). It’s on Powell near the Powell Bart Station. There’s also the Mission Pie Co. which I’ve never been to but heard good things about. Sweet and savory pies.

    If you haven’t already made travel plans to Sonoma, you could take a ferry to Salsalito/somewhere else on the north side of the Golden Gate bridge.

    I’d also like to reccomend the Moylen’s brewery in Novato – not far from Petaluma.

  16. I have been following a blog for quite a while now about a family who lives in SF who could offer up some great suggestions on places to hit up while your passing through. Her blog is and there is a link to contact her, I know she always talks about interesting place so Im sure she could help you out.

  17. Ok, you MUST make a stop at V. Sattui in St. Helena. So awesome… their wines are available ONLY at the winery (or online directly from them) and they have an awesome tasting… I think 8 wines for like $5 and if you buy ANY wine, they refund the tasting fee. They make amazing wines (some of my very favorites) and are in a beautiful chateau surrounded by lush picnic grounds. There’s a fantastic deli… I’d recommend picking up some wine, food from the deli, and then enjoying a picnic lunch on the grounds. I seriously LOVE this place.

    I also agree with others’ suggestions of Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in Napa… a seriously cool burger joint. And Mustards is an excellent restaurant. Check out Coppola if you have a chance. And some wineries not to be missed include V. Sattui (reinforcement), Frog’s Leap, Conn Creek, Freemark Abbey, Sterling for the experience and the view from the top of the gondola (the wine is mediocre), the iconic Silver Oak, and up Healdsburg way (also highly recommended) J. Winery is a must-go and one of my favorites. They actually do a fabulous food-and-wine pairing. Awesome. Many sweet little wineries in that area.

    Other than that, just drive (or cab) around and stop anywhere that looks interesting. There are HUNDREDS of great wineries, many have free tastings, and you cannot really go wrong wherever you go. Beware of the wine clubs… it’s easy to get roped into spending LOTS of money! 😉
    (not NECESSARILY a bad thing!)

    In SF, I also wholeheartedly agree with Boudin… seriously the best clam chowder and sourdough EVER. I’m pretty sure it’s down on the Embarcadero, the classic tourist area on the wharfs. They’re the original, and I make a point to eat there every time I’m in the bay area (not the SF location… so it’s frequent!) I also love the Stinking Rose in the City… they serve a bagna caulda appetizer(roasted garlic to spread on the most incredible bread rolls…. OMG.) Any little Italian joint in North Beach is sure to please. And the Thirsty Bear is a great tapas place. Love.

    I am thrilled and jealous that you’re going to Wine Country. It’s one of our favorite places to go and we never get enough of it. Have a WONDERFUL TIME!!!!!

  18. I’m glad you found a vacation spot, but it’s really too bad that you let your assumptions guide you about Felicity’s suggestion. Your dig on her really wasn’t necessary.

    My husband and I will definitely consider those “tents” (which are not really tents at all, but awesome open air oceanview cottages with access to a private beach) for the next vacation we plan.

    • Oh come on! I was absolutely not meaning to “dig on her” suggestion. I think I made that pretty clear. I think the idea would be amazing for someone, say, like yourself and your husband who like that kind of thing. I just know me, and I know I’d suck at the open air thing. I was more making a dig on myself and my inability to ride in a car with the windows down. And yes, admittedly I didn’t do too much research on that particular vacation, but the plane tickets alone to the USVI were out of my price range. It was nothing against Felicity or her suggestion at all.

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