Having been forced by a back injury to cancel our trip to Japan last week, I decided to spend a day in Calistoga, our nearby go-to spot for fun and relaxation. The weather was gorgeous and I could soak in the hot tub and read in a lounge chair, perfect for convalescence.
Calistoga, tucked into the base of Mount St. Helena at the top of the Napa Valley, is famous for it's hot springs, and offers all the rustic charm of a 19th century western resort town. It has never attained the sophistication of neighboring towns like St. Helena and Yountville down the road, so it retains its 1940s aura, in a breathtaking setting beneath the palasades pictured above. Being only an hour and a half from Berkeley, it is a perfect getaway for a day or two of fun. We always go on a weekday, stocking up on baguettes and cheese from the Cheeseboard before we leave, and picnicking on the tables provided by the spa.
|Dean and I poolside at the Calistoga Spa and Hot Springs with his parents in the early 90's|
Dean introduced me to Calistoga shortly after we met in 1989. He had been visiting there for many years with his parents. They always stayed at the Calistoga Spa and Hot Springs, but in warm weather the two of us would just buy a day pass and take advantage of the hot tub, huge pool, sauna and lounge area. These days we like to stop for dinner at one of Napa Valley's great restaurants and head home to our cat.
|Dean, summer of 1992|
|Dean and his mother Ros|
|Another photo of me around 1992|
|Mount View Hotel pool|
After years of frequenting the same spa and finding it more crowded, more expensive and less convivial, we walked across the street to the Mount View Hotel and found that they too sold day passes. The pool area was serene, and though the hot tub and pool were smaller, the private and peaceful atmosphere more than made up for it. It felt like we had arrived at our own private pool in Spain. We have been going there ever since.
|Mount View Hotel swimming pool|
We've gone to Calistoga together close to 100 times now. Many years we've gone for Thanksgiving. It's our tradition to go up Wednesday evening, stop at Mustard's Grill on Rte 29 for a great burger, and continue on to our hotel.
A few years ago we stayed at the Mount View, awoke early on Thanksgiving day to cool mists hovering over the pool, had breakfast in our room, checked out, and spent the rest of the day basking in the warm sun (alone) until it was time for turkey at The Calistoga Inn, our favorite Calistoga eatery.
|I'm enjoying my breakfast sandwich with coffee on Thanksgiving morning|
|A brilliant mid-day display on Thanksgiving|
|Dean clowning around in the bright sun on Thanksgiving day 2014|
Last week after a restful day, it was hot enough to dine on the splendid patio at the Calistoga Inn. We try to get there early enough to get a table overlooking the Napa River and we eat accompanied by birds singing in the overhanging trees and the occasional family of ducks on the water. They have a great chef, and not enough people take advantage of this lovely spot. The Calistoga Brewery is on site, and we particularly like their refreshing Red Pale Ale.
|Patio dining at the Calistoga Inn on Lincoln Ave in Calistoga|
|This time we ordered Chef Nicholas' inspired asparagus and prosciutto salad with arugula and pecorino|
Our other favorite restaurants are Redd Wood in Yountville and Bistro Don Giovanni on Hwy 29 in Napa, both right on our way home. So even if we can't soak in a Japanese bath in Kyoto, a day in Calistoga comes pretty close. It will have to do for now...