travel with mamawolfe: Relax at the Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort in Calistoga

Greetings from Calistoga, California!

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Most people think of the Napa Valley for wine, of course, but there is SO much more there than driving around doing tastings. Quaint towns such as St. Helena, Yountville, Healdsburg, Sonoma and Calistoga each offer chances for a romantic weekend spent riding bikes, walking the town, antique shopping, eating our unbelievable fresh northern California produce, and most of all, relaxing.

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Have you ever been somewhere and immediately had that feeling that this will be a place you come back to over and over again?

That’s exactly how I felt when I first slipped into one of three mineral pools at the Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort in Calistoga, California. Bliss. Perfection. And I instantly knew that this was going to be an indulgent 24 hours and that, yes, I would definitely be back. Calistoga is one of those tiny towns that’s off the radar of most people, but since it’s divinely close to my home, it’s an easy day or overnight trip. For us, a once-a-year overnight-without-kids is about all we can manage with our schedules-last year we had a great trip to Healdsburg!

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The Roman Spa isn’t an over-the-top fancy shmancy kind of spa; it’s clean, comfortable, quiet and if a girl wanted to, she could indulge in all the spa-type treatments…but me? I’m perfectly just happy indulging in what The Roman Spa is best known for – their mineral pools. Their website describes The Roman Spa as “ A hot springs paradise of invigorating waters intimately set among flowering Mediterranean gardens, private patios, splashing fountains, and a staff dedicated to your ultimate relaxation and pleasure. This is the perfect Calistoga hotel and spa to explore the wine country, stroll through Calistoga, sample Napa Valley’s best restaurants, or pamper yourself with intimate spa treatments” and I’d have to agree.

Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort artichoke
They even had artichokes growing outside the rooms!

One of my favorite spots, after soaking in one of the three mineral pools, was right here! I preferred the outdoor pool, which is kept around 94 degrees-perfect to float around, book in hand, and feel the minerals working their magic. For those who enjoy the heat, there is an indoor pool kept around 100 degrees, and an outdoor HOT jacuzzi that hovers around 105!

Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort
Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort outdoor pool

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I found it super relaxing to sit in the shade and read – I finished L.Y. Marlow’s great World War 2 love story, A Life Apart, while I was there!

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Calistoga has basically one main street, but it is chock-full of fine dining restaurants, cafes, and cute bistros like the one we chose for dinner, All Seasons Bistro. I always check Yelp when I travel for reviews and ideas, and this place came so highly rated we knew it would be perfect. It surely didn’t disappoint…

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Since it was a weeknight, we had our choice of seats. We wanted to be right in the middle of the action of this quaint little spot. I loved the black and white tile floors, the RED ceiling, and full, old fashioned bar running along one side.

To start, I had one of the most delicious salads ever – their roasted beets, organic mache and arugula, with shaved pickled fennel, feta cheese, toasted pistachios, and citrus vinaigrette. Oh-my-goodness was it good! The red and gold beets were thinly sliced and placed on the bottom of the salad like a little treasure! The shaved fennel was just subtle enough to add a tang, and the light dusting of feta added a creamy touch. It seriously would have been enough for a meal in itself, but there was so much more to choose from!

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One of their most highly rated plates is the risotto with spring vegetables, and I can see why. The risotto was perfectly al dente, the sauce gently coating each grain with yummy goodness. The veggies were crisp and fresh, adding gorgeous color and texture. I could have eaten the whole plate; well, I did share a little…

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John went for the braised lamb shank served over creamy polenta, a touch of braising juices, Swiss chard, crispy shallots, and just a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds to give a little burst of happiness in your mouth. Decadent. He loved every bite!

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And yes, there’s always room for dessert…as long as you have time to take a long walk afterwards! I couldn’t resist their specialty: warm dark chocolate torte served with housemade cookies and cream ice cream, topped off with a ‘drizzle’ of rich, fudgy chocolate sauce. When we cut into the torte, the warm fudge sauce just oozed all over the plate, making one gooey, chocolatey ball of yum. Yep. As good as it was, we could hardly finish it.

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After a walk, a nightime swim and a solid sleep, it was time for breakfast. Calistoga is kind of sleepy, but we found a ‘traditional’ diner, Cafe Sarafornia.  According to their website the story of their name is thatCalifornia’s first millionaire—Sam Brannan—bought up the geyser lands in the upper Napa Valley, on the prospect that it would be a great place to build a resort for his well-heeled San Francisco friends. When asked what how he intended to accomplish this feat while co-imbibing with said friends, Mr. Brannan was purported to have said, “I’m going to make it the Calistoga of Sarafornia!” (what he meant to say was the “Saratoga of California” after the then world-famous Saratoga Springs in New York). Hence the name of the town, the name of the diner.”

I like little trivia bits like that.

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We managed a light breakfast…

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…because we were heading for a morning of mineral baths, reading, relaxing, and then LUNCH in Napa on the way home!

We found this little treasure on Yelp as well – it’s called Melted, and their tiny cafe specializes in sandwiches-melted, of course! This one is called “It’s Been A Long Time Cousin” , and after one bite we knew why the hostess asked us if we like it HOT! WOW! Roasted chicken breast, jack cheese, habanero salsa with a side of pickled okra all on this crispy waffle type bread…amazing. Oh-and a cup of warm tomato soup for dipping, too!

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 The much milder “Bread Crumb Trail’ featured turkey, Jarlsberg cheese, candied yams, cranberries and chive aioli, all on that mysterious waffle bread…how do they do that?

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 And, sigh, after a nice lunch on their patio, it was back home. 24 hours of soaking, reading, relaxing and EATING sure did a body good!

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Travel with mamawolfe: Healdsburg and Camellia Inn

Once a year, my husband and I get to take a weekend away to a bed and breakfast – you might remember our last adventure to Hanford House in Sutter Creek, California.

20130721-100702.jpgThis year our destination was Healdsburg, California, and in true road trip style, we made several stops along the way.

I love watching Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and when I travel and don’t know where to eat, I always search for a place Guy Fieri has visited – so far, I’ve never been disappointed.

We stopped at La Texanita in Santa Rosa, California, and were delighted with our meal.  You seriously don’t want to miss this food – the chicken huarache was one of the best I’ve ever had!

La Texanita huaraches
La Texanita tacos

Simple veggie tacos were so yummy, made with homemade tortillas…what a difference a tortilla makes!

La Texanita huaraches
La Texanita huaraches

After enjoying a sunny table outside and stuffing ourselves silly, we finished our drive and landed at Camellia Inn in Healdsburg.

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I love to take photos of the room before we mess it up!

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We had so much space to spread out; I could have stayed here for weeks!

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The rooms were beautiful, yet comfortable. It felt like a real living space, not something manufactured to look like one.

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Our room was tucked off the side of the main house, but just a short walk across the covered veranda took us into the dining room/living room area. I loved discovering all the collections!

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Just to keep pampering us, the owners of Camellia Inn host a wine and cheese tasting by the pool at dusk. We settled into the chairs, enjoyed the gorgeous warm evening and finished just a few bottles of local Zin.

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One of my favorite parts about this weekend was that everywhere I found myself I was able to sink in and enjoy the moment, the food, the wine, and the people. Downtown Healdsburg has a huge array of restaurants to choose from, and we eventually settled on Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar. Our appetizer of fried calamari could and probably should have been an entire course.20130721-101021.jpg

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But we had read about the warm lobster roll sandwich, so we had to try that,too!

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As if we needed more food…but couldn’t resist the home made breakfast served family-style in the dining room.20130721-101101.jpg

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If you like botique-style shopping, Healdsburg has a lot to offer. We usually go for the antique stores, but on this trip I was entranced with these bright colored fabric and festive designs.

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For us, no trip to Healdsburg would be complete without a stop at Madrona Manor, the country inn where we were married 19 years ago.20130721-101149.jpg

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It still takes my breath away.

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Now, there’s an organic vegetable garden lining the path I walked during my bridal procession.

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The cutting garden is astounding – rows and rows of flowers, so many different colors and textures. I wanted to stay there all day.

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I can’t say enough good things about Healdsburg; it’s really one of those places where you can just sit back and enjoy the day.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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An Early Morning Walk

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”

Henry David Thoreau

The way the morning light hits it just so... #...
The way the morning light hits it just so…

One of the luxuries of summertime is the beauty of an early morning walk, something I know I will miss as September creeps closer. Sharing these images might just let me hold onto them a little bit longer.

 

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Summer zinnias in northern California

I’m one of those people that walks around with a camera in my hand…I’ve found it helps me pay attention to those small moments in life.

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Rainy morning in northern California

Even when it’s raining…which rarely happens in the summer where I live!

Lavender in Oakland, California
Lavender in Oakland, California

One glorious summer morning my son and I headed off to spend the day with my aunt and uncle. Cameron wanted photography lessons, so my Uncle Paul took us to the Oakland Cemetery-it was a crystal clear day with gorgeous views, but I kept my camera on the little things.

Stargazer lilies in my garden
Stargazer lilies in my garden

Sometimes I don’t make it out of my own backyard…but that’s sometimes ok.

Arboretum trees in northern California
Arboretum trees in northern California

When I do go out, the university arboretum is one of my favorite walks. There’s always something interesting to see there.

Tahoe sunrise
Tahoe sunrise

I love it here. I love it in the snow, I love it in the rain, and I love it in the glow of the sunrise.

 

Tahoe City bike trail to Squaw Valley
Tahoe City bike trail to Squaw Valley

This summer I even loved it on an early morning bike ride from Tahoe City to Squaw Valley and back! Not as easy to take photos without falling off my bike, though.

Arbor in Healdsburg, California
Arbor in Healdsburg, California

Whenever I travel, I try to find some small place to photograph. This was right outside our hotel room.

Dia de los muertos store in Healdsburg, California
Dia de los muertos store in Healdsburg, California

This wasn’t actually taken on an early morning walk, but I was walking…I’m infatuated with dia de los muertos decorations, and this store was full of them!

View of Nicaragua from the air
View of Nicaragua from the air

This morning I spent in the air, so technically this qualifies as an early morning photo! Most of our mornings in Nicaragua were early, but spent in the back of a  pick-up truck driving to the work site.

flower of Nicaragua
flower of Nicaragua

I love this image I took in Granada, Nicaragua. The beauty of the flower against the harshness of the stone wall exemplifies the absolute disparities that exist in this lush and beautiful country.

Hollyhock in my garden
Hollyhock in my garden

Back in the seclusion of my own garden, I found my hollyhocks still holding on. These old-fashioned flowers are stubborn; they keep shooting out and blooming until I pull them up and gently gather their seeds to scatter again next year.

Arboretum bridge
Arboretum bridge and beauty in Davis, California

Back at home, back to my special place to walk.

Majestic Mt. Shasta, California
Majestic Mt. Shasta, California

My daughter shot this out the passenger side window while I was cruising down I-5 one early morning. It took dozens of shots, but it was worth it. It’s rare to see Mt. Shasta not covered in clouds. Maybe someday I’ll walk its peak.

Flowers of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon
Flowers of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon

My daughter was very patient with me on our college tours. She knew that when she turned to me and I wasn’t there, all she had to do was look for the nearest flowerbed and she’d find me.

University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington
University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington

We’d had a very long drive before this walk…but as I got out of the car, I couldn’t help but be a bit awed by the beauty of this campus. As we continued to walk around the university of campus, I wasn’t disappointed.

Meadowlark and coffee in Medford, Oregon
Meadowlark and coffee in Medford, Oregon

Ok, I’ll admit it. There was no early morning walk this day. I had just woken up after driving 550 miles the day before, and all I wanted to do was savor my dear friend Dawn Wink’s first published novel, Meadowlark, while sipping my coffee.

It’s not always about the walk. Sometimes we can find our small moments right next to us, inside. A blessing for the whole day, indeed.

 Many of these photos were posted on my Instagram account – I’d love to connect with you there, too.

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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