Celebrating 40 Years of Life + 26 Years of Friendship
Last year a couple of my best friends from high school and I started planning a Napa Valley girls’ getaway to celebrate us all turning 40 this year. We’ve known each other since we were 14 (26 years! math!) and we wanted to make it a point to celebrate this milestone together. They both live in the Bay Area and have kids, so I was happy to fly out their way for our getaway.
Way back at the end of 2017 we booked a cottage at Indian Springs Calistoga to ensure we could get the dates we wanted. Our trip took place last week, and although it was short we had a total blast! So of course I’m recapping it here.
My flight to San Francisco left Dulles very early so I got picked up by a Lyft at 4am. Good times! Dulles was a complete ghost town when I arrived. You don’t see empty airports very often. Pics or it didn’t happen, right? Witness:
My flight went smoothly and I dozed on and off, though I wanted to defenestrate something when I discovered that my seat wouldn’t recline. Not cool on a long flight!
My friend S picked me up at the airport and we immediately started chatting like we’d seen each other the day before. But we realized we hadn’t seen each other since our friend’s wedding TEN YEARS AGO. It’s the best, though, when friendships feel like no time has passed. We picked up our friend M in San Francisco and she surprised us with adorable tote bags that said “40 & Fab” with fun gifts inside (more on that later). Then we commenced our road trip to Napa.
We stopped in Yountville for sorely-needed coffee and treats at Bouchon Bakery, a Thomas Keller spot (he’s also chef of a little place you may have heard of called The French Laundry, among others). I had a delicious bread pudding, my friends grabbed lunch, and we bought some macarons for later.
When we arrived at Indian Springs our cottage wasn’t ready, so we headed to nearby Sterling Vineyards to taste wine. We spotted an aerial tram ferrying people up a hill and hoped we wouldn’t have to take it in order to do a wine tasting. I was feeling overheated, dehydrated, and exhausted, and the thought of being enclosed in a small space while suspended in the air sounded very scary. Turns out the gondola—the only one in Napa—is the sole option for the Sterling tasting experience, but we braved the short ride up…and it was TOTALLY worth it. Look at that view:
We tasted Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malvasia. They were all quite good, though the Malvasia was a tad sweet, which is not my jam. From there we returned to our resort and got a tour of the spa facilities until our cottage was ready. How cute was our little home away from home?
Once we got inside our cottage I needed to collapse and rest in the air conditioning. By then it was 4pm and I had been up since 12:15am Pacific time! While I rested, M and S went to the pool for a pre-dinner beer.
I had made a dinner reservation for that night at the resort’s restaurant, Sam’s Social Club. After showering and gussying ourselves up we headed over there and immediately decided we NEEDED The Girl’s Getaway cocktail:
We started off with a couple snacks to share, the hummus and the house-made ricotta with pepper jelly. Holy hell, that ricotta was amazing!! It was so sweet and creamy. Definitely my favorite thing from the meal. Because we had a couple starters I got an app as my meal: Di Stefano burrata and tomatoes, which was also delicious. You cannot go wrong with burrata.
M had mentioned to our server that we were celebrating our 40th birthdays. After our meal, our server brought us a sparkling wine toast, which was so lovely of her! We were too stuffed for dessert so we headed back to our cottage, opened a bottle of wine, and chatted while sipping wine out of the cute Swig wine cups that M included in our tote bags. She also brought colorful Sharpies so we could write quotes from the trip on our cups, which was SUCH a great idea!
I went to bed around 9:30pm because it had been a VERY long day for me and I was still on East Coast time.
The next morning we got up and snacked on cheese, crackers, and fruit that S had thoughtfully brought for us. I had made spa treatment appointments for us in advance so we headed over to the spa for some #treatyoself time. My friends each got a massage and I got an anti-aging facial—my first facial ever!
The esthetician was a tad horrified when I started describing my skin care routine because it involves so many products. She recommended dialing it back and not trying so many new products all the time. I’m now considering canceling my Play! by Sephora subscription because it encourages me to test new shit out on my face each month. She did say that my skin looks good and made some recommendations like only use a physical exfoliant once a week (I typically use a scrub every other day). Same for acids: once a week. My esthetician also recommended a couple products from the new-to-me brand Osmosis, which they use in the spa and carry in the gift shop. I bought one of her recommendations (the other was sold out), which I’ll cover in this week’s Friday Five.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first facial and emerged with glowing skin:
After our spa treatments we spent some time drinking cucumber water and relaxing by the spa’s beautiful Buddha Pond. You can’t go in the pond, but it’s fed by a mineral geyser and you can see the steam rising off the water and from the water pumps in the distance:
After the spa, we changed into our swimsuits and filled our Swigs with rosé that I had brought from DC. Then we headed to the adult pool for some more chillout time. M had included a beach towel in each of our tote bags—and each towel was monogrammed with our high school nicknames. HOW AWESOME AND THOUGHTFUL IS THAT?! I now have my very own “Herman” towel and I love it. 😀
We started off at the adult pool:
It was HOT out, and even after cooling off in the pool I needed some rest time in the AC. I went back to the cottage to literally chill out for an hour or so while M and S stayed at the pool. As an introvert it’s exhausting for me to be around people 24/7, so taking time for myself is necessary.
After my rest I headed back and met M and S at the main pool—an Olympic-sized mineral pool built in 1913. We got wine and snacks from the pool bar and continued chatting away. The three of us NEVER had a shortage of things to talk about the entire trip!
After pool time we cleaned up, dressed up a little, and took a short stroll into downtown Calistoga for dinner. We ate at Bosko’s Trattoria, a cute Italian place on the main street. I had a four cheese pizza, which was EXACTLY what I needed. I was too excited about all the cheese to take a pic before stuffing it in my face. After dinner we went back to the cottage, opened another bottle of wine, and caught up some more. Obviously the theme of our trip was sip & chat. 😛
We didn’t have anything planned Thursday morning so we began the day with coffee and snacks in the cottage again. Then we returned to the mineral pool and got prime seats under the awning. We spent some time soaking in the pool, which is 82 to 102°F—it feels like warm bath water. So relaxing!
We had a couple wine tasting appointments in the afternoon, which S’s coworker had kindly arranged for us. The drive to the wineries was so picturesque! The scenery reminded me of driving through Tuscany on my honeymoon.
First we went to Alpha Omega Winery in St. Helena. The property was gorgeous, the wines tasted amazing, and the staff was super friendly and knowledgable. We started off at the indoor bar because air conditioning. After cooling off we moved to the patio and enjoyed the rest of our wine tasting there. How pretty is this setting??
We each bought wine at Alpha Omega and then headed to our next appointment at Peju Winery, a short drive away. Again, the property was gorgeous! Though I imagine you’d be hard pressed to find a dump in Napa.
There was a gift shop in the lobby where I immediately spotted a bowl of Soaprocks—soaps that look like gemstones. I found a labradorite soap and was like “THIS IS MINE NOW NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE IT.” Clearly I bought it right away.
Our experience in the tasting room at Peju was a great time, too. The server was so entertaining to chat with, and we tasted some interesting wines—including a red blend called Province that was served chilled. It was such a light red that it looked like a dark rosé. We each bought some wine at Peju as well.
Before leaving Peju I had to get a photo of their grapes on the vine:
We headed back to Calistoga and went to Hydro Grill downtown for dinner. The place was kind of a dive bar and grill and the food was nothing special. I ordered the spinach and cheese ravioli with tomato sauce and I SWEAR the sauce was Chef Boyardee. By that time I was so hungry I didn’t care. We also got creeped on by two older men; when we walked in they both turned around and stared at me and wouldn’t stop staring until they left (fortunately, they left before us). Hey guys? Don’t be creepy. It’s not that hard.
On the walk back to Indian Springs we stopped at the local market to look for gifts. As I was walking past one of the registered I spotted bags of candy labeled “Hermann the German” and I basically lost my shit. When your nickname is Herman and you’re of German descent, you’re pretty much legally required to buy these. So I did. (Also, S had said that her phone kept trying to autocorrect “Herman” to “German,” so the candy was 110% fate.)
When we got back to the cottage after the Hermann the German excitement we did a rinse-and-repeat of our wine and chitchat.
We didn’t have much time in the morning because I had a 2:40pm flight out of San Francisco, about an hour and forty-five minute drive from Calistoga. Plus, my friends wanted to stop at the Napa outlet mall on the drive back. They managed to squeeze in a little souvenir shopping downtown while I was packing, and they ran into the creepers from Hydro Grill at a store. One of the men made some random comment to them about how he knew he’d find them in the toy section. I was glad I had stayed behind so I didn’t have to encounter those men again. #STOPCREEPING
As we were loading S’s car with all of our stuff, she noticed ash on her car. There are major wildfires in California right now, and it looked like Calistoga was starting to see some effects. The light was weird that morning, too—it was similar to the eclipse light last August…very eerie:
We only ended up having about 20 minutes to spare at the outlet mall but M and S got some shopping in. I didn’t buy anything because my suitcase was already overstuffed!
Omitting a photo of the foggy drive over the Golden Gate Bridge would be a travesty, so:
I was sad to have to say goodbye to my friends and to leave Napa. But we had an amazing time together, short as it was, and we’re already plotting a trip for next summer. And when the wine shipments I ordered from Alpha Omega and Peju arrive, I’ll be able to relive the trip by drinking the wines with John!