Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Recent happenings

January 25, 2013

The sun sets early, it rains fairly often and some Arctic air settled over the city a few weeks ago. All that means we haven't traveled much since getting back from Boston (hence the absence of recent blog posts). But that isn't to say that we have just been twiddling our thumbs. Our recent happenings:
  • We bought a guitar! Ben has wanted to take up guitar again, and though he was tempted by an iPad mini, he choose an instrument over a new gadget. 
  • We finally cashed in a Groupon for a month of rock climbing. We were pleasantly surprised at our upper-arm strength, thanks to the pull-up bar in our apartment. But while it's fun for a month, we don't think we'll be renewing our membership. There are more exciting activities to pursue (ideally tango and sailing).
  • Last weekend we drove down to Carmel with some friends to spend a day at Refuge Carmel, a hydro-thermal spa. The spa is based around the idea of a rejuvenation cycle: 10 minutes in a steam room/sauna; 10-60 second dip in freezing cold water; 10-15 minutes of relaxing; as much time as you want in a hot tub. You're supposed to repeat the cycle 3 to 5 times to "energize and relax your body and mind" and to cleanse your body of toxins. We didn't think too hard about the science behind it and enjoyed the chance to sit out and relax for a day (yes, it was 78 degrees in January).
  • We're escaping the city this weekend for a couple of days in the Russian River Valley. We plan to visit wineries on Saturday and enjoy a nice long motorcycle ride on Sunday. Our poor bike hasn't gotten much quality use lately.
  • After next weekend, I'll finally get to say I've skied out west! We booked bus tickets for a day of skiing at Kirkwood Resort, near Lake Tahoe. 
- Steph

Our first trip to wine country!

January 1, 2013

We returned to California just in time to miss the snow in Boston. How lucky, you might think, except I had been pining for snow. It never snows in Buenos Aires or San Francisco, and even our ski trip last winter/summer was devoid of real snow. To get over our jealousy, we did the obvious: spent a day touring wine country.

Ben was driving so we couldn't drink that much and we had to choose our route judiciously as it's at least an hour each way. Russian River, where my mother claims the best wines are made, was too far, as was Kunde Estate, where the movie Bottle Shock was filmed. And the internet wasn't very helpful, providing such diverse descriptions as "beautiful grounds and tasting room" and "located on a hill with sweeping views, and a fun tasting room experience."

We decided to keep it simple: a stop at Cline Cellars, one of the first vineyards you reach in Sonoma and one of the few to offer free tastings, lunch in Sonoma to sober up, and then a ride through Napa and Sonoma valleys.

The tasting room at Cline Cellars was packed when we arrived, even though winter is the least busy season for wine country (they harvest the grapes in September/October). The vineyard is known for its Zinfandels and Rhone varietals and they sell their wines at Trader Joe's for a pretty good value. We bought a bottle of their Oakley 82 White, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Palomino, Viognier, Malvasia and Sémillon. Their Oakley 82 Red was one of our favorites, but we're all stocked up on reds at the moment. Then we continued on to the town of Sonoma.

It's funny how places remind you of places that remind you of places. Sonoma reminded us of Cafayate, an Argentine wine town, which reminded Ben of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It has a beautiful plaza surrounded by shops and restaurants, and we're excited to return again to explore more.

Refueled by "New Haven-style" pizza (that's a thing?), we started out on what we expected to be a beautiful drive. But leaving Sonoma, we were on a fairly standard, crowded suburban road with an occasional vineyard to admire. Then we turned off onto Trinity Road to cut across the mountains from Sonoma Valley to Napa Valley, but rather than an exhilarating mountain pass (like this one over the Santa Lucia Mountains), the road was cold, poorly paved and offered almost no scenic views. We got a quick glimpse of Napa, then got on the freeway for a long, cold drive in the dark back to San Francisco. We can't wait until spring when we'll have more daylight for our rides.

But one of the best things about living in California is that we feel no urgency to see everything right away. In Argentina, we knew we had a limited amount of time to do everything — we hiked for two weeks in Patagonia, for example, and have no idea when, if ever, we'll make it back. But the opportunities to explore Sonoma, and Mendocino, and Monterey are endless. We aren't worried by what we miss on each trip; instead, it just inspires us to take off again the next weekend.

- Steph

2012 in Photos

Happy New Year!

2012 was an amazing year for us. We commemorated its awesomeness with a photo album on Facebook. (You should be able to view it even if you don't have an account.) It's here.

- Ben