Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Somewhere New: Sonoma, CA

The rolling hills of Sonoma Valley are golden in a more consistent way that I've previously experienced   wheat fields to be. From the car window the hills look incredibly soft. The tall grasses and wheats that shine in the evening light look like a downy blanket that could swallow you whole into a nestled nook. 
In reality of course we knew it would be stiff grass that, rather than caress us would thresh our skin and irritate our eyes. Somehow knowing the reality did not deaden the urge to stop the car and run out into the field. 
We traveled on a two lane highway passing small town after small town, each with its mysterious Spanish name and smattering of cute stores and homes.
We pulled into the condo complex that would be our home for three nights in Sonoma. Someone was parked in our designated spot under the shade so we pulled into a guest spot under the unrelenting California sun, grumbling about pretentious spot-stealing jerks.
A lockbox by our door held our key - only it didn't. The box was empty. 
"Are we in the wrong place?" Pang said, her eyes getting large and worried.
We heard movement from inside so we ventured a soft knock. 
More shuffling. The door was opened by a very large man. A mesh shirt was pulled tight over his round belly and his sweatpants seemed to sag under the pressure that sat on their band. Disheveled frosted blonde tips and puffy eyes sat atop his smile.
"Oh I wasn't sure if you were coming tonight or tomorrow, come on in! I'm Chi Chi."
Pang and I threw looks at each other of "WTF? Chi Chi? and followed him into the dark.
"Goodie is here too but he's sleeping in our room. I fell asleep on the couch. Oh girls, that couch is not a good place to fall asleep."
Chi Chi had receded into the dark folds of the couch. We had stopped just  inside the doorway, peering in.
"I'm sorry but who are you?" Pang managed to squeak out. 
Chi Chi laughed and a stirring from the bedroom produced Goodie who stretched and greeted us, a sleepy, lisping bear of a man.
So began our weekend sleepover in Sonoma. 

Downtown Sonoma is a giant square with squat buildings all facing in towards each other. An updated, posh, well hydrated version of what we think of as Old West towns.
Wine bars abound and oysters are quite popular as well, although this is no coastal village. Drive twenty minutes out and you're in the vineyards. It's strange that such a seemingly small town hosts such a world famous collection of grapes. 

 Before shooting Jesse and James' wedding (check out Pang's post for the wedding) we spent a little time poking around Sonoma. One of our favorite little spots was Cafe Scooteria - part vintage Vespa garage, part coffee joint. Of course Pang being a coffee snob (her words and maybe my words too) we had to try it out. One of the best chai lattes I had on this trip!

Pomegranate Tree in front of the Mission San Francisco Solano
Another interesting thing about California that you don't see on the East - missions. 
Mission San Francisco Solano sits on the east corner of the Sonoma square. While the historic unpleasantness of missions doesn't necessarily appeal to me the architecture and gardens always do. 

 After doing some location scouting around town we stopped at Sunflower Caffe and Garden for PBR and Blood Orange Sodas. Yum! While we didn't get a chance to have a glass of the local grapes we did eye up the cute little patio at Hawkes Vineyard and Winery. Maybe next time.

In the end none of the spots we scouted ended up being used - but it was kind of a fun way to spend the day. Plus we got to try out some "model faces" and peek into people's yards.

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