California wine country

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It was finally time for Paul’s birthday surprise…

We had a total of 5 hours from our conference hotel check out until our check in at the South Coast Winery Resort and Spa. It took an hour and a half to drive through the desert, back through the mountains to get there. We were looking to kill some time, which doesn’t happen often.

It was rainy when we left the desert. We made a couple of stops through the mountains to take pictures of the contrast between the sunshine when we arrived to the clouds and mist on our way out. We stopped for lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant which was more like a fast food joint, nothing to really write about. We were hoping to check out some unique shops, but there was nothing to see. There were a few ranches with blocked off driveways and even more run down trailer homes. We ran into some rain and patches of fog, but ended up getting to the resort early. Very early..

As we got closer to our destination, the rolling mountains turned into sunny vineyards. There were billboards announcing that we were entering wine country. Then we started passing wineries. It was hard to keep our destination a surprise much longer.

Paul’s drink of choice is wine, the drier the better. My drink of choice is craft beer. I’ve heard that we have things switched around a bit…the guy is supposed to drink beer and the girl is supposed to drink wine in the relationship. We never have been much for social norms… So a birthday surprise had to include a trip to wine country.

As I mentioned, we arrived early. Quite a few hours early to be exact. We went to check in expecting to be turned away. Instead, we were very warmly welcomed. Paul was given a bottle of wine for his birthday and a free room upgrade. We were moved from the main hotel to a villa that had a fireplace and Jacuzzi. The customer service there was top notch. I kind of wanted to sneak the lady home in my suitcase and have her work for us.

After checking in, we headed down to the winery for tasting. It cost $18 for 5 tastes. We went twice over our time there and were waited on by Danny. Again, excellent customer service. He was wonderful. Some of my favorite wines were California Girl and the 2014 Riesling. Typically, at home, we do not have to pay to taste wine. In between samplings we are given crackers to cleanse our palette. It wasn’t that way here at all. We were given generous portions though and I felt a little tipsy afterwards.

The following two evenings, we ate supper in the winery’s restaurant. It was rather pricey, however comparable to a fine dining establishment at home. They had specialty foods such as lamb and calamari with unique sauces. The first night I ordered a pasta dish. Even though the portions weren’t huge, I couldn’t eat it all. My acid reflux went wild while on vacation, probably due to stress of traveling and eating different foods. Immediately the head chef came over and asked me if I was satisfied with my food. It was the second day that they used their new menu and they were very concerned that I was not happy since I did not eat all of it. I might’ve been the first person that they tested it out on, but I did like it and couldn’t offer any negative feedback.

The next day, Paul and I tried to get into a tour of the winery but they didn’t have any opening that didn’t conflict with our plans to go to the spa. Paul and I both got massages. It was rather pricey compared to at home. The massage was good, except that my stomach was still upset and I had to pee half way through which was bothersome.

Afterwards, Paul and I hung out at the pool. We sat down between a couple with two adults daughters, one being in a wheelchair. On the other side of us was a large group of young, rather intoxicated, women celebrating an upcoming wedding.

It was at this time that I became aware that Arabella and my mom were arguing. Seeing a woman with her disabled sister brought back memories for me. I think that since I had to give up a great big chunk of my childhood to take care of my disabled brother that my mother owes me a few days to get away stress free. Maybe I shouldn’t feel that way, but that is how I honestly feel. I want my mom to lie to me and tell me that everything is great even if it is not. I had to get involved and try to fix things which made things worse. Then the worry set in. Why is it so hard to relax?

I overheard the young women next to me complain about their grandmas. I felt some irritation at their drunk banter. Oh, how I longed for my grandma to be alive again. Then Paul and I went to the hot tub full of the wedding party girls. They actually thanked us for putting up with them. Apparently some of the other pool patrons weren’t quite as tolerant. We told them we were from Wisconsin. We didn’t know better.

Once the girls found out that we were married for 19 years, they started asking for advice. There were a couple newlyweds, the rest were single and looking for the secrets of marriage longevity. Paul said that he really had no idea at all what he was doing, we just adjust and make things work. Neither of us grew up seeing what a healthy marriage was like. Then I left Paul in the hot tub with a dozen bikini clad women that were half my age. I wanted to shower and get my items out of the spa before it closed. Someone asked why I would leave my husband alone in the hot tub with all of those young women. I replied, “Why stop trusting him now after being together over 20 years?”

I headed back to the spa to shower. I heard the mother of the woman in the wheelchair struggle to shower her daughter in the small stall next to me. It seemed like an overwhelming ordeal and I felt compassion for them. But they did not let her disability get in the way of her swimming and having fun with family even though it was difficult. I zipped in and out of there before they even finished showering.

We had a great time at the winery. We found the room to be very affordable. However, we ended up spending more money on other amenities such as the spa, eating there, and then of course there was the wine…

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