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April 2017


Francis Ford Coppola Winery

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Today we went to Francis Ford Coppola winery in Geyserville.  It was spectacular, he is the guy who directed the Godfather Trilogy films, amongst many other great films and his winery is massive and very much stands out amongst the great wineries of Sonoma County.  The vines cover many, many acres and on the bushes grow many, many different varieties of grapes.




At the winery there is wine tasting and at this one you can actually stay for a holiday, there is a hotel attached, very smart hotel so it’s not within my budget but we went to taste some wine anyway.  There was some really expensive wine there but the way I look at it, no matter how much you spend the hangover is the same in the morning.



The people I am staying with don’t drink so we didn’t taste many but we got to see the splendour and did the tour of the vineyard and cellar but there is also a shop where they sell many other products which complement the wine.  One of the best things about this winery is the museum dedicated to all the films Coppola has directed.




There are many wines made at this winery and they include Archimedes, Eleanor, Francis Coppola Reserve, then there is the Storytellers range, Sofia, Directors cut, Director’s, Director’s great movies, Diamond Collection, Rosso and Bianco and Vortre Sante which are all collections of very fancy wines in very fancy bottles.



When we visited it wasn’t very busy as it was a week day and the weather was not good, it was unusually raining, so we had the chance to have a good look around, it was a beautiful place and you could tell a lot of money had been spent there and was still being spent by many visitors.




The wine Eleanor is a new wine made in honour of Francis’s wife whom he greatly admires and attributes with playing a huge part in his and the family’s success.  A lot of his wines have won many awards not least Eleanor which has won Gold for the Sommelier Challenge 2016.



When I say a museum in honour of his films I mean the car that was in the film Tucker is on display, the desk that Corleone sat behind in the Godfather, the costumes from Dracula as well as lots of other memorabilia all take pride of place in the wine house and shop.  Also there is a large ship on the second floor, I’m not sure if it was from a film or if it is there for effect, either way it looks fab!


There are also posters everywhere, pictures of Francis with famous stars of the movies and there is a big cabinet with all the Oscars won and academy awards.  It is a beautiful place where what’s on offer is more than just wine and it was great to see all the memorabilia while tasting the wine.  But at the end of the day my favourite was a bottle of Pinot Noir Cherry Blossom which we bought from Trader Joe for $3.99!!!!



Sonoma County the wine region of North California

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The last couple of days have been wonderful, the weather not so much, but the people I am staying with treat me like family, they are such lovely people, two ex-doctors, the lady is very interested in natural health and treating the whole person, they are very interesting and have very interesting lives and families, I have spent a lot of time chatting to them both and we have a lot in common.


On the first day I helped them weed the garden, they have a small vineyard and they told me the grapes pretty much look after themselves but they are landscaping and developing their garden all the time, they have plenty of fruit trees, a vegetable patch, lots of flowers etc., it is a wonderful home too with beautiful views.  Yesterday the weather was ok and very sunny in the afternoon, I had to take my cardigan off to weed it was so hot, the peace and tranquility is only spoilt by the odd appearance of a small plane flying into Healdsburg small airport nearby.


The beauty of these warm countries is the extra special things that happen in nature, there were hummingbirds buzzing around the Montbretia, lizards scurrying along the vegetable patch and plenty of bees making honey.  The lemon tree outside my room is so full of lemons it looks like it will collapse under the strain.


The lady of the house is very much into eating healthy foods and eating home cooked foods, she made a lovely Philipino curry with Quinoa for our meal today.


During the afternoon the man of the house took me in the pickup to the lumber yard to fetch supplies for the landscapers doing the garden, it was a lovely spin into the town of Healdsburg where lots of Redwood trees grow along the roadside, not as big as the Giants but only because they are so young, but still very impressive.



Today there was rain forecast so they took me to Santa Rosa to do some food shopping and told me to choose whatever I needed.  We went to Trader Joes, a huge health food shop, the variety of different health foods there is amazing, the juices alone are wonderful, so many different fruits and healthy organic fermented drinks too.  They stock everything you need for a healthy diet.  The lady told me that in California more-so than other parts of USA the people are very health conscious so Trader Joes is a busy supermarket.


Bought the apple juice but not the Dorritos, how about the size of that pack? Enormous!!


We then went to Costco, a warehouse bulk buying type of shop, my hosts pay for membership cards to enable them to use this shop and while we were there they got me a cash card for petrol when I hire my car in the next couple of weeks.


They say everything is bigger in the USA!!

We went home and had a lovely lunch of fresh chicken, kale salad with pumpkin seeds and cranberries and sauerkraut bought from the supermarket with delicious apple juice, called cider over here.


Massive muffins!!

Next the man of the house took me to the wineries in the area where all the tourists go for wine-tasting.  See the next installment for the amazing photos of these fantastic wineries.


The sign on my bedroom door!!! LOL!!


Flying to San Francisco

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I had a bit of a panic the day before my flight to San Francisco, I logged into British Airways website to check in online but when I tried to enter my details I was informed, for the first time, that I needed an ESTA to travel to USA? What the hell is one of those I thought?  So of course I googled it and sure enough I did need one.

An ESTA is Electronic System for Travel Authorisation which is needed to travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme VWP.  When I read this I had a bit of a meltdown, I looked on the BA site and there was a link to apply for one so I did it immediately not knowing how long it takes, there was a problem with the site and it wouldn’t accept payment, I tried a few times and it just wouldn’t accept, so I tried ringing BA and basically they told me there was nothing they could do, I had to sort It out myself, I tried again to make payment and this time it was accepted, I paid 14 dollars and they told me that the decision on whether my application had been successful or not would be made in the next 72 hours and I was supposed to be flying in 17 hours.

I had to sort food out for my kids as they were all coming for tea to wish me bon voyage, so I got on with the cooking and we all had tea and I checked the website again later and by this time it was about 6pm and I had been accepted, panic over I could fly to the USA after all PHHHeeeewww!!!!!


That night I didn’t sleep much, went to bed about 9ish was up by 1.30am ready to drive to Manchester airport.  I left at 2.15am and arrived at the car drop off point at 5.45 am which is not bad, the best thing about driving through the night is the little traffic there is on the road.  I caught the shuttle to Terminal 1 dropped my bag off and awaited my first flight of the day with Aer Lingus to Dublin.


First flight done, lovely hour or so spent in Dublin airport which is another lovely airport, it’s a good job I love airports and planes, it was an epic day today.  I was then fast tracked because of my crutch onto the next flight of the day from Dublin to Heathrow this time on a BA plane, again seated in the middle seat, which I hate, but due to me checking in late online all the window seats were gone! Gutted!! Anyway it was another pleasant flight.


But the piece de resistance was the next flight, from Heathrow to San Francisco on the Airbus380, a massive double decker plane.  It was huge; I loved it so much I just had to ask if I could see the cockpit.  As I was at the boarding gate I asked the stewardess if I could visit the cockpit and she looked at me as if I was mad and laughed and said “no we don’t do that kind of thing”.  I was first on the plane, I was allowed to board early because of my crutch so I asked the steward named Ian who was greeting me onto the plane and he phoned the pilot who agreed, so I went to the cockpit, it was amazing to see all the controls, talk to the three pilots who talked me through the control panel and had some photos with me. One pilot showed me their sleeping quarters and where they eat their food.  It was amazing to think that this tiny space controlled such a massive machine.  I was awestruck, so excited I could hardly speak, needless to say it made my day very special and the best flight I have been on, it was even better then when I flew business class home from Thailand on Thai Air and that was pretty spectacular.


I went to my seat and settled in, again I didn’t have a window seat but at least I had an aisle seat, I was in the middle bank of four seats and I was on the one aisle end, a lovely couple from Idaho sat next to me and I made friends with them on the way, Karen and Derek, we exchanged details and they invited me to Idaho the next time I am in the states, it turns out that they like to travel like me, on a budget, using couchsurfing and Airbnb.  I got on really well with Karen and we chatted a lot during the 11 hour flight, I also watched Absolutely Fabulous film and it was Absolutely Fabulous, so funny, I loved it.  I also started watching Australia but there wasn’t enough time to watch it all.


The stewards on the flight were wonderful, especially Ian and Karl, they were very friendly and gave me plenty of wine lol.  I managed to make the shuttle bus which was leaving for Santa Rosa at 6.30pm to meet with the lovely people I am staying with in May in Sonoma County, the wine region.  The shuttle bus had to go over the Golden Gate Bridge on highway 101 to reach Santa Rosa so I got my first glimpse of the bridge, Alcatraz and Sausalito.


I met a lady on the bus who had just had some bad news, she had just arrived at the airport for her flight when she had a phone call to tell her of a death in the family so she had to get back on the shuttle and go back home, she pointed out some sights to me as we drove to Santa Rosa.

I was picked up from Santa Rosa by the lovely people I am staying with and taken to their home, which is a lovely house in the middle of the wine country, the names of the streets are Chablis lane, Reisling road etc. It’s a beautiful area and they live in a beautiful house.  I have my own little flat in the basement with doors out onto the garden.  I had a small meal when I arrived then went to bed as I was exhausted it has been a very tiring but wonderful day.  Meeting fabulous people, going wonderful places and that plane!! JUST WOW!!!!


alcatrazfrombusNot a very good picture but that is Alcatraz in San Francisco bay at dusk taken through the bus window!


San Francisco Airportsausolito

Another blurry bus window pic but this is Sausalito where I’m going to cycle to, the houses here are all floating houses built on the water.


Do you know the way to San Jose??? La la la la la!!  The mad road system coming out of the airport, worse than Spaghetti junction!


On the shuttle bus to Santa Rosa!