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By the third day, the binging and relaxing had begun to fog my brain. Returning from the extensive and impressive Museum of Wine Culture at Dinastía Vivanco, I was struck by the beauty of the scenery. “Just look at it, beh beh. Our timing was perfect to get here during harvest season, so we could see all of the colors of October,” I said, sounding halfway intelligent. I should have stopped there. “I mean, look at them all, all those...what are they called?”

“Wineries?” David offered.

“No, no, the...”

“Vineyards?” David tried again.

“No, the...the...wine bushes,” I said, finding the words at last.

David tore his gaze away from the road to shoot me a bemused look. “You mean the vines?” he said.

“Yeah, sorry, don’t know what’s wrong with my brain. Look at all those wine vines. It’s just beautiful.”

“Barb,” David said, now laughing at my sudden onset of senility, “they’re called grape vines. Wine comes from grapes, remember the tours?”

“Right,” I said, turning my head back to the window. “I was just kidding.” Then, eager to change the subject, I said, “I’m really sad about leaving. I don’t want to go.”

“We could never afford to stay,” David said. And there it was. A sullen heaviness settled over the car as we were reminded of the craziness that awaited us back at home. But I wasn’t ready to think about political frustration or economic alarm. The trip wasn’t over yet. In a few days, we’d have a hotel room overlooking the river and be touring the port caves in Porto. Sure, we faced months of canned soup and shopping at discount stores as penance for our irrational exuberance, but I wasn’t done escaping, and I didn’t want to think about returning to reality.

Using David’s step back to give myself a running start, I said, “You know, it’s funny. We’ve tasted the fruit of wine bushes in Provence, France; Montefalco, Italy; Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico; Rioja, Spain; and soon, in Porto, Portugal. And yet we’ve never taken the short drive up the coast to Sonoma or Napa.” David turned to give me a look that inspired more hope than Obama. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I asked. David nodded. “Great, then it’s settled. After we get home...I mean, after we recover from this, and let’s not think about that part, but after that, we’re totally going to California wine country. Just think of how fun that’ll be!”

For the remainder of the drive, the car was silent and calm, as David and I gazed upon the landscape and thought only happy thoughts.

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MsGrant Oct. 29, 2008 @ 3:21 p.m.

I completely understand the play money thing. I saw those shoes you bought! When I was in Italy, I was walking in Rome and stopped for a moment to get my bearings. I was looking for a shoe store. Now, I am not making this up. A handsome, well-dressed silver-haired gentleman of about 55 (give or take) asked me what I was looking for. I told him "shoes". He said "follow me". I did. He gave me his card on the way, and lo and behold, he owned a shoe store! Not just any shoe store. This was a little off the beaten bath, filled with gorgeous boots and shoes with buckles and pointy toes and oh, my God, I was in heaven. The proprietor was very persuasive without being overbearing. I spent 200 euros on a pair of shoes that to this day I only wear once in a blue moon because they are too breathtaking for words. If I got intoxicated and beat them up I would never forgive myself.

I loved your story. When my husband and I travel I always get a little melancholy toward the end of the trip. So, this coming year we were planning on going to Greece and Croatia, and we are cancelling our trip and going on a road trip to the great national parks of the Pacific Southwest and Northwest! No camping, of course. We will probably take a time out at the Red Mountain Spa and visit as many wineries as possible. AND everyone is offering great deals right now because occupancy is so low. There is so much to see in our country and road trips can be a great way to travel if you have the right companion. Plus they can be very spontaneous. Some of my most memorable trips have been last minute getaways. So get out your head scarf and those big glasses and start your engine!!

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Gretchen Oct. 29, 2008 @ 4:06 p.m.

Hey Barbarella, I've recently returned Sonoma and Napa Valley and had the most fun I've had in a long time! Prior to our wine valley trek, my guy, Bob, and I were Napa-virgins, but ready for fun. Upon arriving, we hit a couple wineries before checking in to the Wine Country Lodge. The lodge was a flash from the 60's, complete with a (non-velvet) picture of Elvis hanging over the bed. Their claim to fame is that Elvis and Marilyn Monroe stayed at the lodge. Elvis was popular in our group and we snapped pictures throughout our stay, gathering around him on the bed, just so we could say we stayed with The King. Besides Elvis, our main goal was the lobster feast at Pine Ridge Winery. When first arriving at Pine Ridge, we were given an apron and told to write our names in order to become better acquainted with others; I became, "Gretchen Go-Girl Napa Virgin." Besides tasting their scrumptious "not sold in stores" varietals, we were offered lots of yummy appetizers, while wandering the vineyards.
When the bell was rung it was time to settle in for some feasting; our table of 25 or so was tucked amongst the vineyards, grapes still on the vine. After the welcoming remarks, we were instructed to grab our wine glasses, stand up, and push our chairs back. The "chef" walked along the table carrying a huge steaming pot, complete with lobster, shrimp, corn on the cob, artichokes, and potatoes (I'm sure there were other veggies, but by now my memory is a little fuzzy). He started at one end of the table and didn't stop until he was at the opposite end, carefully dumping our goodies in the middle of the table. Huge loafs of sourdough bread were given out, and condiments of mayo and butter. With only fingers allowed, no one was shy and everyone was hungry to dive into the table of treats. The feast was tasty beyond description and we all ate until we couldn't eat anymore. We all helped with clean up by tucking in the butcher paper and plastic table cloth towards the center of the table, just in time for the waiter to roll the empty shells, husks, used napkins and whatnot up in the plastic. By the time he reached the other end of the table, the "taper" guy came along with the tape gun, securing the giant roll of our dinner remains and whisking it away for the trash. We were left was clean and beautiful table linens and hot, wet wash clothes were handed out all around. I wish every first timer could have this same fabulous experience as we did in Napa Valley, but only members and guests of members are allowed. Bob and I joined the wine club, now we'll be able to attend and invite who we want, so if you and David want to go next summer, drop me an email! It's on the books as an annual event and one not to be missed! Ciao, Gretchen PS ~ if you go to the wine country, try the Bay Leaf restaurant, but be ready for an all night dining experience, complete with the Imperial Drop! But then, that's another story!

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pete78 Oct. 30, 2008 @ 1:15 a.m.

Hola Barbarella! Que tal? Donde esta el chango que no tiene huevos?

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Barbarella Fokos Oct. 29, 2008 @ 6:07 p.m.

MsGrant, I love me some hot Italian boots. Remind me to post pictures of the pointy-toed boots I just picked up in Madrid. ;)

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Barbarella Fokos Oct. 29, 2008 @ 6:08 p.m.

Gretchen, I've always wanted to visit Sonoma and Napa, and it is next on our list. I can't wait! Thanks for the recommendation, I will definitely try the Bay Leaf.

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Barbarella Fokos Oct. 30, 2008 @ 12:52 p.m.

Oy, Pete, does that mean "Where is the [what's a chango] that has no eggs?" And by eggs, do you mean testicles? Just trying to do my part to make this newfangled communication thing work. ;)

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catty1 Oct. 30, 2008 @ 3:13 p.m.

Your trip sounds devoon! Once you've recovered and are ready to head up to northern Cal, make sure and stop by the Willow Wood Market & Cafe in Graton for dinner and the Ace Cider Pub, also in Graton, for a post dinner cider-it's right up the road from the Willow Woods and is on same property as a John Deer Dealership.

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pete78 Oct. 31, 2008 @ 12:58 a.m.

Yes...it's just past the meth lab and between 2 trailer parks. Best cider in town!

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Barbarella Fokos Nov. 1, 2008 @ 8:53 a.m.

Catty, I'll be sure to make a note, thank you for the suggestions. Speaking of fun food and drink, I hope everyone's able to come hang with me at the Tastemakers Ball tonight: www.tastemakersballsd.com. I'm thinking of wearing feathers in my hair. Again. ;)

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MsGrant Nov. 1, 2008 @ 9:22 a.m.

My husband and I are going. I'll be on the lookout for feathers.

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Barbarella Fokos Nov. 4, 2008 @ 10:11 a.m.

DON'T FORGET TO VOTE TODAY!

This has been a public announcement from Barbarella.

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ajohn5555 Nov. 15, 2008 @ 9:42 a.m.

Barbarella,

I really enjoy reading your Sassy Blog, you oose style. You deserve the best even in these tough economic times. There is no need for you to compromise by going to World Market. The next time you are heading out to buy your elixer of choice please go to BevMo!, let me know which store and what time and I will make sure you are treated to the best friendly service, largest selection and value that cannot be matched. In the unliekly event we dont have what you are looking for from the 8,000 products we stock, we will track it down and special order it just for you. We will even deliver it to you if that's what it takes. Bet you don't get that for WM!

What's more when you are planning your trip to the Napa let me know. We can hook you and David up for some special treatment.

Have a wonderful weekend Cheers! Alan

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Barbarella Fokos Nov. 15, 2008 @ 9:54 a.m.

Thanks, Alan! Nice of you to offer. We were just at BevMo this week (can't stay away from all that wine) because of the great five cent sale that's been going on over there. We picked up a bunch of Vino Verde, of the same kind we were served in Porto. And at 5 cents for every second bottle, my wallet survived the trip. Not sure where you work, but my BevMo of choice is the one in Mission Valley, and I can often be found roaming the aisles there.

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ajohn5555 Nov. 15, 2008 @ 8:01 p.m.

Barbarella you have made my weekend! Glad you enjoy the 5 cent sale, just what we all need in these tough economic times. Hope Matt Tremble (BevMo Manager)and his team took good care of you?

As for me, I am the Chief Operating Officer at the corporate HQ. Email johnsona@bevmo.com. I was visiting some wineries this afternoon and I have to tell you it was heaven, 80 degrees, blue skys and those vines dripping with fall colored leaves.... It just does not get any better than this. Let me know when you are heading our way and we will hook you up in the Napa. All part of the service!

Have a great weekend. Cheers! Alan

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rustyjb Nov. 16, 2008 @ 9:19 a.m.

Hi Barbarella,

When you go to the California Wine country if you fly to San Francisco first, be sure and stop in at Mama's Royal Cafe in Mill Valley (in the SF area) for Sunday morning brunch. My friend Caroline Dahl (an incredible boogie woogie pianist) plays there most Sunday mornings between 11 & 1.

Here's a link to her web site http://carolinedahl.com/ where you can find her calendar.

BTW, she's also an amazing fiber artis, too.

Rusty (aka Harry)

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