Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wayfaring Wine Country: Downtown Napa

A Weekend in Napa Valley and Sonoma, Part I

Napa valley is such a beautiful place. After a few days driving along winding country roads lined with vineyards and tall oak trees, hiking through lush forest trails, and of course wining and dining through charming towns full of local culinary delights, Napa has really captured my heart.

We made the long six-and-a-half hour drive up north Friday afternoon. After stopping for dinner along the way, it was completely dark by the time we reached our hotel in downtown Napa. We couldn't make out much of the town except for the glowing neon signs of a target and fast food restaurants across the street from our hotel (which turned out to be super convenient!).

The next morning we crossed the Napa river into the main part of town for breakfast. I wish I had a chance to take a picture of the riverfront, because our first impression of downtown Napa was this:

I found this picture in an interesting article titled "Will Crowds Flock to Napa's New Disney-like Wine World?" Which were our thoughts exactly. It looked pristine and well-built but somehow had a somewhat contrived feel. As we drove a few blocks more into town however, I was relieved to find the more historic and quaint side of downtown Napa. The streets had simple obvious names like "Church St." (where a church was around the block) and "School St." (in front of a school). We had breakfast at Alexis' Baking Company and sat outside to enjoy the sunny weather. I immediately noticed the beautiful Victorian architecture surrounding the area and even spotted an adorable eccentrically painted home that reminded me of Carl and Ellie's house from Up! (one of my favorite movies). We researched some of the nearby homes on our phones while we enjoyed brunch (the magic of smart phones these days), and found out that some of the nearby buildings were from the early 1900s and had long histories of being covered back-and-forth between homes and boutique office buildings.

After breakfast we crossed the Napa river again to Oxbow Public Market on the other side. Pretty much a miniature version of the San Francisco's Ferry Building or New York's Chelsea Market. It was small but had a few pretty interesting shops: we sampled some flavored olive oil, took a sniff of some exotic and unusual spices (there were like fifty different varieties of salt alone), and admired some very pretty looking cupcakes.

We didn't spend much time in downtown Napa as we were eager head out of town to start exploring the wine trail, but if we had more time I definitely would have liked to take a stroll around the neighborhood just to see what other interesting architectural history we could find. Downtown Napa is full of hidden charm, once you look past the overworked facade.

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