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Trip Report Trip Report--Mendocino checked off bucket list

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The trip to Mendocino was wonderful. We both thank you for all of your help. Loved it a lot, learned a lot, saw a lot, ate a lot…

What we loved:

Our hotel, The Little River Inn. The room was big and beautiful with comfortable furniture, a deck overlooking the Pacific (it was across Highway 1, but you could barely see the highway), a wood burning fireplace which was set up for us every day -- with lots of extra wood outside the door if we needed it , and a spacious bathroom with a walk in shower and a Jacuzzi for two. The service was wonderful--very warm and gracious. We felt like well regarded returning guests. Really nice.

We got a call the second day we were there telling us we had a package at the front desk. They would deliver it along with the DVD we were borrowing to watch on the player in our room. The package was truffles made by the chef and a bottle of wine from the Anderson Valley.

We had breakfast at the hotel every morning. Each morning we ordered something different and each morning we had a wonderful breakfast. (see more about the breakfasts on “what we learned.” I am only sorry that we didn’t get a chance to try them for dinner.

We are very grateful to Gualala Lisa for the recommendation. If we ever come back to Mendocino, we will stay here.

The Anderson Valley which we discovered quite by accident. We have “done” Napa, Sonoma, and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. They are all terrific, but none of these have the coastal redwoods (or the coast!). What a splendid surprise. We went twice.

Fort Bragg was a pleasant surprise. We’d been apprised of the botanical gardens (thank you Forum advisors) and the Mendocino Cookie Company (the chocolate brownie cookie goes great with the 2008 smoky Pinot Noir). The gardens were lovely -- the bluff overlooking the ocean was sublime. We saw pelicans flying in formation, golden eagles, hawks, gulls…and more. All the while we heard distant bagpipes which were playing for a memorial service of a bench being dedicated. (How nice is that? A resting spot for those who would be embraced by the sea and the sky in memory of a woman who loved the gardens. What a grand memorial!)

The artists’ coop there was good and there were interesting shops as well.

We loved the dinner--the food, the setting, the service, the walk after we ordered and before dinner in the beautiful garden overlooking the sea--at the Albion River Inn.

The full moon! By sheer happenstance we timed this trip with both the full “superior” (closer to earth than any other time of the year) full moon and the height of rhododendron season. We enjoyed the show at the Botanical Gardens and the Kruse Rhododendron Preserve at Salt Point State Park (which we just happened across on the way back to San Francisco).

We loved the lighthouse at Point Arena and the whales spouting off the coast. And Laura’s Tacos in Gualala. It made us laugh to come across cattle in the road on the way back to San Francisco.

What we learned:

Most important lesson is to remember that it is the journey, not the destination. We happened on the Anderson Valley by accident. What a lucky accident. It was one of the highlights of the trip. The moral of this story is: go with the flow, let it happen, play it as it lays, yada yada yada (my spell check hates that).

Another lesson is that we were not the only ones to have the idea of a trip up the coast from San Francisco. On a Saturday. On a beautiful Saturday. Between the hordes of like minded people and the construction (!!!) we made it to Point Reyes in 2 ½ hours. Seriously. What is that? 40 miles from San Fran? So we had a nice lunch at the Station House Café and changed our route. We went up to Petaluma, went on 101 until we cut over to 128---our magical route through the Anderson Valley.

We also learned about gluttony. At our hotel breakfast I wanted the Juevos Rancheros at our hotel (eggs, bacon, salsa, sour cream--maybe cheese too?) with corn tortillas. But they had a vegan Ranchero as well. No bacon or eggs, but peppers, spinach, chilis, avocado, beans on a fried tortilla. Iasked if they could be combined. The waitress said no problem. Jeff ordered it too.

I think the chef was trying to see how much food he could actually put on one plate -- turns out, A LOT. It was delicious. Really delicious. Super delicious. We tried, but we couldn’t begin to finish it.

We also didn’t eat another meal that day. At 4 in the afternoon we got a little hungry and had wine (we’d spent the afternoon at the Anderson Valley--seeing Handley, Navarro, and Talouse vineyards--but we drank the delicious smoky 2008 Pinot we’d bought the day before from Lula Vineyards) and cheese and crackers. By the time we got around to ordering room service, the kitchen was closed. Oh well, maybe we’ll be back.

Final lesson is to look at your luggage tags. I was traveling with a brand new gray suitcase. By the time I got to the baggage claim (I’m pretty slow and went to the wrong one initially) there were only 5 or 6 bags there. There was one gray one. I even checked the name tag and saw “Jeff “on it (my husband’s name). I didn’t check the last name, but took a Super Shuttle to the FABULOUS Nikko Hotel at Union Square.

Another lesson is that when you over tip (hey, I waited tables through college--I always overtip for good service) make sure and get a card or a number. We could have used it.

Jeff met me there, we talked for a while and decided to go for a walk. I wanted to change into something warmer so I looked in “my” suitcase. You guessed it.

You know how nice airlines are when they lose your suitcase for a few hours? How, when they finally get it, they bring it to you at your hotel (even if it is a $60 cab ride) ? Well, when you steal (albeit inadvertently) someone else’s suitcase and want to swap it for yours … not so nice. We needed to bring back Jeff the stranger’s suitcase to get our own. Of course. Too bad I hadn’t gotten the phone # of the Super Shuttle driver which would have made it cheaper and a bit easier.

One more final lesson: don’t let the GPS direct you to your airport hotel. We got a ridiculous run around and unnecessary tour of San Bruno--more than we would ever want to see.

But it was a great trip. Filled with good times, good food, and good luck. And now, good memories. Thanks so much to all of you who gave me such good advice.

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