California's Wine Country - A Romantic Guide to the Napa & Sonoma Valleys by Robert White - Read Online
California's Wine Country - A Romantic Guide to the Napa & Sonoma Valleys
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Tour the vineyards big and small, explore the wineries, taste what they have to offer. The best are described here and almost all are shown in photos. Hundreds of places to stay and eat, things to do and see are detailed, with photos of most. For couples
Published: Hunter Publishing on
ISBN: 9781588438829
List price: $9.99
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California's Wine Country - A Romantic Guide to the Napa & Sonoma Valleys - Robert White

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The Bay Area

California's first love story, one that's been sighed over for almost two hundred years, can still evoke a tear. It's actually a true story.

In 1806, Count Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, an emissary of the Czar in charge of the Russian fur trading post in Sitka, sailed down the coast to try to negotiate trade with the Spanish. The King of Spain had a long-standing law that these far-flung, remote colonies were forbidden to deal with foreigners.

The Commandant of the Presidio was away when Rezanov sailed through the Golden Gate, but the Russian was welcomed by the Commandant's family and the officers of the garrison. The middle-aged Count attended a welcoming reception at the Presidio that first night and danced with Concepcion Arguello. Concepcion was the Commandant's dark-eyed daughter, only 15 years old, but already reputed to be the most beautiful girl in the province.

Rezanov was overwhelmed! During his stay, he wooed and won her. Despite the difference in ages and religions, he gained the consent of her father. The Count sailed away, after promising Concepcion that he would return for her as soon as he received the permission of the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches for their mixed-faith marriage. Concepcion swore she would wait for him.

Due to the long and tedious nature of travel at that time, Concepcion knew that her wait would be at least several years. But a decade passed, and more, and still she waited. It was 1842 when Sir George Simpson of the Hudson's Bay Company arrived in San Francisco with the news that Rezanov had fallen ill and died. The tragedy had occured at the border of Siberia on his return trip home, 36 years before.

As one writer told the story, a shocked listener said, "But, his enamorada is here... in this room."

After a deathly silence, the faded Concepcion spoke. No, she died, too.

San Francisco Bay was discovered late in history, considering how long explorers sailed up and down this coast, and how often they missed finding it. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first, in 1542. He almost reached the great bay when severe storms drove him south. A half-dozen others, including Sir Francis Drake, who actually went ashore just a few dozen miles north in Marin in 1579, had no idea they had sailed past the greatest protected anchorage on the Pacific Coast. Not until 1769 was its existence known. During Gaspar de Portola's overland expedition a scout saw the big bay from a hill down the peninsula.

A Presidio and the Mission Dolores were established in what was called Yerba Buena, later renamed San Francisco. The peninsula was mostly sandy so the Mission Fathers pastured cattle on the rolling hills across the bay in what is now called Oakland. When wood was needed for building, or new spars and water for visiting ships, they sailed up the bay to Marin, or Napa Valley.

After Spanish rule ended in 1820 and independent Mexico relaxed trading restrictions, more American ships from New England arrived to trade hides and tallow. The Spanish and Mexicans did little farming and mostly ran cattle, which is about all they had to trade for manufactured goods. This was the time of Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, a good look at the life of the earlyCalifornianos.

Another romance we know of had a much happier ending. It took place in the 1820s when Maria Antonia Martinez, whose father was the new Commandante, met William Richardson, the first foreigner to settle here. (Apparently, all commandantes had beautiful, nubile daughters.) Richardson deserted from the whaler Orion. Within a year he was acting as Captain of the Bay, teaching the populace carpentry, caulking, navigation and making time with Maria.

Two years later, William and Maria were married. William, now baptized Antonio, became a naturalized citizen, which put him in line to receive a big land grant. Don Antonio was a busy lad indeed. If you take the Marin ferry, look around before you arrive in Sausalito; you are in Richardson Bay.

Gold was discovered in 1848, about a hundred miles east of Sacramento. Tens of thousands of men flocked here from all over the world, each determined to dig the yellow metal from the earth. For some, there was another reason for taking off for the distant Cal-if-or-ny-ay: it seemed to be a good chance to start over after a few mistakes had been made. A popular gold rush ballad went:

Oh, what was your name in the States?

Was it Thompson or Johnson or Bates?

Did you murder your wife and flee for your life?

Oh, what was your name in the States?

The few women who came also planned to find gold, although they had no intention of digging in the dirt for it. Instead, most made their fortunes by establishing Houses of Horizontal Pleasure.

In the century and a half that followed, San Francisco became a big city. The other areas around the bay, like Marin, Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, Berkeley, Oakland and Half Moon Bay down the peninsula, developed into unique places, each with its own charm.

This book offers a number of different ways to achieve a romantic weekend in any one of these locales. The choice is yours.


B & Bs, Inns, Hotels


I have seen purer liquors, better segars, finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger Dirk and Bowie knives, and prettier courtesans here in San Francisco than in any other place I have ever visited, and it is my unbiased opinion that California can and does furnish the best bad things that are obtainable in America.

Hinton R. Helper, 1855, Land of Gold: Reality vs. Fiction

Some places call themselves bed and breakfasts, some inns, and others hotels. Inn seems to be the preferred title, since both hotels and B&Bs sometimes call themselves that. What's the difference anyway?, you may ask. Strictly speaking, a bed and breakfast is someone's home; a place where the owner actually lives and rents out a spare bedroom or two to make extra money. This arrangement stems from a concept started long ago in Europe. In this home-like setting, prices are often much lower than commercial alternatives. In the US, the last 20 years have seen the number of bed and breakfasts explode. People have purchased large, older homes, specifically to establish a bed and breakfast. The result has often been that rates are as high or even higher than those found at nearby hotels.

According to the dictionary definition, an inn is a commercial establishment that provides lodging and food for the public, especially travelers. The majority of inns listed here fit that description well. Most actually provide a complimentary breakfast and a few serve three meals a day. The three-meal plan is a convenient option when you don't feel like going out for lunch or dinner. Many inns are set in beautifully refurbished classic homes; often old Victorian mansions. There is a decidedly different feeling that goes along with staying at a well-appointed inn, rather than at an ordinary hotel.

San Francisco is blessed with more pleasant, small hotels than any other city in the US. The other areas around the bay do not have as much to offer as of yet. The so-called boutique hotels of San Francisco will frequently serve wine and cheese in the afternoon in addition to a bountiful breakfast. High levels of service can be expected and rooms are furnished with antiques or good reproductions.

You will find many examples of all three types of accommodations  here. We have tried to describe each facility in detail, ranging from practicality to atmospheric characteristics. Whatever type of lodging you select, you'll have a pretty good idea which one will be best foryour romantic weekend.

Booking Inns & Hotels

Most inns and hotels are full in the summer months. It is always best to reserve ahead, especially for weekends when vacationers flood the area. A one-night minimum deposit via a credit card is almost always requested. Once upon a time, September and October were the best months to visit San Francisco.