22 July 2008

Redwoods & Castle

We slept until we wanted to get up (Are you seeing a pattern here??) after another wonderful night's sleep. We had breakfast of cereal, fruit, tea/coffee in our cottage then headed out for Armstrong Redwoods State Preserve.

When we got there, the visitor center and entrance booth were both closed. If you wanted to drive through the park, you were supposed to self-register for the $6 fee but hikers could enter for free. The trails were well marked and signed so we decided to just hoof it on the Pioneer Trail to see the giant redwoods.

It was a very nicely laid out park. The main trails through the park were not very long but took you by all the main attractions (the BIG trees) and the signs along the way provided a lot of interesting information. One section of the trail was designed specifically for blind hikers. There was a rope strung at a convenient height along the trail so a person could just follow the rope down the trail. All the signs on this section were in braille in addition to regular printing with information and suggestions about what to listen for (woodpeckers, song birds, insects, etc) and textures to feel (redwood bark, moss growing on trunks, etc).

By the time we got through the trails with all the stops, the visitor center was open and the parking lot was full. We started to go up the (very steep) East Ridge Trail but it was lunchtime and hunger drove us back down and toward town for food.

We went to Guerneville (nearest town) for lunch. We ate panini at a small wrought iron table on the sidewalk in front of a cafe/bar on the main drag through town. While eating, we called the castle (Castille de Amoroso) to make reservations for a tour and wine tasting for later that afternoon.

We wanted reservations for 3:15 because we didn't really know how far we were from the place or how long it would take us to get there but they wanted us to take the 2:15 time. We finished eating as soon as we reasonably could and started in that direction.

We made it only a couple minutes late. An employee there got us caught up with our tour group and we completed the tour of the big stainless steel vats where the wine is fermented, the catacombs under the castle where the barrels are stored, the castle proper (grand hall, court yard, knight's hall, torture chamber, etc), and then went to the Knight's Bar for our wine tasting.

We tasted 12 wines that they sell only at the castle directly or via mail order. It was very good wine (mostly) but we didn't buy any. We were mostly interested in the experience of tasting wines and seeing the castle.

We headed back to Petaluma where Alan napped while I read. After that, we walked downtown to window shop for a restaurant for supper. We ended up at a place having "tapino Tuesday"...which was basically tapas plates for $5 each and $5 glasses of wine. We had 3 plates and one glass...and could have done with only 2 plates. It was good stuff, though...salmon cake, 3 kinds of bruschetta, a little pizza with cool stuff like pesto and goat cheese on it. We checked out and walked a block or so closer to our cottage at a candy/gelatto store we'd been eyeing since hitting town. We got there just as they were closing and ate our gelatto on the way back to Serendipity.

We planned or next day then hit the hay.