Our stay in Danville, California (a wonderful small town just outside of San Francisco), was a trip highlight for me. I had so much to say about it that I broke it into Two blog posts.
See part 1 about the lovely town of Danville itself (you’re missing out if you don’t know about Danville yet!) and the beautiful property we stayed on there. See this second half for the best ever Chanson family photos in Napa and San Francisco, as well as details of a friend visit and a bonus “Breanna’s life reflection” at the end.
THE NAPA TOUR…
Ever since we moved to California, I’ve wanted to see Napa. More for the beautiful scenery and unique experiences than for the wine even! It just felt like the Californian thing to do. Never in my visions though did I imagine taking an almost-two-year-old with me to these well bred wineries with their giant stacks of delicate wine glasses and dangerously high lookout spots. But there I found myself, googling “toddler in Napa”.
We chose to do some of the more kitchy things in Napa in hopes they would entertain Celia more than just watching her parents drink wine, while yelling at her to not touch that $800 block of cheese.
So for our first stop, we chose a castle! We thought it would be lame and made out of foam painted to look like brick. But we found out it’s actually a legit Tuscan-built castle that was moved over to California!
It was beautiful and Celia loved the grass (again with the grass… poor little city girl!), the flowers, the moat, and the farm animals out front! She also spent plenty of time exploring the special nooks and cranny’s that only the magic of a castle can do justice.
When we approached for our wine tasting, someone stopped us to let us know they had a special room for people with kids, where we could taste in peace while our daughter colored and sampled grape juice to her heart’s content!
Which worked out perfectly for all of us! Especially since the kids area looked like an awesome dragon dungeon!
We couldn’t have been happier with our visit to Castello di Amorosa and highly recommend it to anyone crazy enough to bring a toddler to Napa.
Next we headed over to Sterling Vineyards where we rode the arial tram leading to the winery. Celia did NOT enjoy the tram at the start. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen these looks of fear on her face before!
But she soon relaxed and we enjoyed our view of the lovely lake, tree tops, and hundreds of sheep below us.
The chill vibe at Sterling and the progressive wine tasting stations with plenty of walking (or running if you’re Celia) space, solidified that it was the great toddler in Napa place we’d heard it was.
Both the employees and the patrons alike seemed to actually enjoy having Celia there! As did I! She did her happy- toddler-bobblehead-run around in her tiny little sun dress and gold sandals, while carrying her water cup and cheers-ing us at our tasting stations.
She even made herself a new friend with the only other toddler in the building! Which resulted in us befriending her parents and gaining an offer for a place to park our RV when we stop in NYC!
It was late enough in the day that things were closing and we were ready to begrudgingly head home after just two stops on our entire “Napa experience”. However, our new friends had said that the Francis Ford Coppola Winery was open late and worth the long drive to get there. This was another one I’d come across as highly recommended for toddlers, since it’s complete with a swimming pool….
… open space tasting veranda….
…. and a movie memorabilia museum….
… and it did NOT disappoint!
Though our camera battery did, so we had to rely solely on iphone photos for this beautiful portion of our day!
It may have been the moment, the wonderful time of day, or the movie magic, but this was my favorite stop we made. The drive there was lovely, and the fact that we were there near closing time made it feel like we had the place to ourselves in some ways. Celia free roamed around the Godfather mock-up pavilion, as we soaked in the moment, thankful that we’re able to bring our daughter to places we enjoy sometimes rather than being forced to live soley in playground land now that we have offspring.
Of course, it was the end of a long day so there were some of these moments too…
But overall, it was lovely. Our little trooper sucked it up and managed to charm waiters and diners alike as we had an enjoyable meal in the vineyard view restaurant.
It may be a cheesy to visit the kinds of places in Napa that cause people to say it’s gotten way too commercialized, but since we were “those people” who brought our kid to wine tastings, it was perfect. No one shamed us about bringing our child along, and we could’ve spent several more days doing this in kid friendly spots like these! Plus it gave us an excuse to go the places we secretly wanted to go to anyways, since we actually are the lame tourists who want the Napa “experience”, even more than the world class wine it has to offer.
THE SAN FRANCISCO VISIT…
San Francisco will always hold a special place in our hearts because it was our honeymoon spot, the location of our most spontaneous trip together, and was where Scottie took me for a surprise babymoon/ten year anniversary celebration trip. We love that city. But the only time we’d ever been there with Celia was when I was pregnant with her on the afore mentioned babymoon. So we didn’t really know how to do San Francisco with a kid. We decided we’d just go with low expectations and wing it.
The only planning ahead we did was to find at least one spot that Celia would enjoy playing at. So we went to the Children’s Creativity Museum, which turned out the be the highlight of our day in the city! It had some of the coolest kid activities I’ve ever seen!
I wished Celia was a little older so she could’ve enjoyed the animation lab where kids made their own animated videos using clay figures they built themselves! She did dabble in some of the big kid activities though like building topography maps with sand….
… and using the robot coding center where older kids created code telling robots to draw, complete a maze, or throw a ball. They had a person assigned especially to help younger kids like Celia, “build code” to play music on the robot! Seriously, where else but San Fransisco, would have a museum where toddlers learn to code?!
There was tons of stuff for kids Celia’s age to do like paper crafts….
… put on puppet shows….
….enjoy the reading room….
… and construct things with Lincoln logs and other building supplies.
One of the coolest activities she did was color a car that was scanned in and projected onto the moving city filled with other items kids had colored.
But above all, our favorite feature there was the music video room. Where kids pick out costumes, a song, and a background before they put it all together in a karaoke style music video. So basically it’s a room filled with mini Elsas belting out “Let it Go” like it’s their life’s purpose.
Celia picked out matching sequin gold and black costumes for us (it fit her a little differently than me!), and sang, not just her very favorite song in the whole world, but one of her very favorite things about life period… The Happy Birthday Song. She whispered through three verses before grabbing the mike, pushing me aside, and busting out her loudest “happy to” at the very last second.
After the museum we aimed for any part of the city that had a parking spot for our huge truck on this busy holiday weekend. Luckily, we found ourselves parked by the very hipster Ferry Building Market Place at Pier 1, so we had plenty to see and do there.
It was a fun day, but it just made me want more time there than we’d planned for. No matter how many days we had in San Francisco, I think I’d always want more.
People ask me all the time about what I’m most excited for on this trip. Hands down, my answer is the people we’ll see along the way. Both the new and interesting people we love right away, like Mark and Diana (see Danville Part 1 about them), as well as old friends we miss a ton, like Mark’s daughter Julia and her husband Gabe. We’ve been friends with Gabe and Julia for about 10 years and there’s something so special about our relationship. Just an evening watching our kids play together in the backyard felt like a jolt of rejuvenation during this fast-paced season of life.
These are the kinds of reunions I was hoping to find on this trip and are what led me to say yes to Scottie’s crazy cross-country idea in the first place.
We had the unexpected surprise of not only spending time with our old friends and meeting Julia’s dad and Step-mom, but also of meeting both of their entire families who were all in town from different places! I always love getting to know a little more about the history behind the people I love by meeting those who’ve influenced them along the way.
Thank you Gabe and Julia, for giving us a reason to stay in such a great town that we grew to love, and for giving us the means to stay there by finding us a temporary home! We were so happy we got to spend so much time with you and we were grateful for every second of it! Love you guys!
GETTING REAL FOR A MINUTE…
When we were in Napa, Scottie noticed how many of the empty-nesters we encountered throughout the day, looked at us enviously. Like they were remembering the good old days with their own children at Celia’s age. One older gentleman approached us at dinner to compliment Scottie on what a good dad he is and how sweet Celia is. The emotion he was trying to contain as he said it, reminded us that this is it… this is our life, the only one we have. And we need to find ways to feel it, remember it, and love it; whether we’re having a wonderful dinner in Napa, or awake with a teething child in the middle of the night.
People with grown children tell us all the time to cherish these moments because they go so fast. It’s so hard to fully comprehend how to do that, but I want to try. I hope it’s good enough to just soak it in and do my best to be present and grateful, because even those few things are so hard for me to do in the midst of it all. But it’s all I’ve got.
I think this quote from “This Is Us” (an incredible TV show you should be watching!), by a character who is asked what it feels like to be dying, perfectly sums up the way I want to live…
“What does it feel like to be dying?”
“It feels like all these beautiful pieces of life are flying around me
and I’m trying to catch them.
When my granddaughter falls asleep in my lap,
I try to catch the feeling of her breathing against me.
And when I make my son laugh,
I try to catch the sound of him laughing.
How it rolls up from his chest.
But the pieces are moving faster now, and I can’t catch them all.
I can feel them slipping through my fingertips.
And soon where there used to be my granddaughter breathing and my son laughing,
there will be nothing.
I know it feels like you have all the time in the world.
But you don’t.
So, stop playing it so cool.
Catch the moments of your life.
Catch them while you’re young and quick.
Because sooner than you know it, you’ll be old.
And there’ll be no more of them to catch.”
So I think maybe it’s like that. Like I need to “catch the pieces flying around me while I’m young and quick”. But it means I need to be off my phone. I need to be out of distraction mode. I need to be in the moment. I need to be grateful. I need to get over myself and my self-pity. I need to focus on others around me and the big picture.
Even as I’m reading this, the thought of applying it sounds terrifying. Which is crazy, because it’s probably the best thing I could ever do for myself, my family, and my life. But change is scary. Improvement is scary. And giving up things I’ve come to rely on, both physical things like technology, and emotional coping mechanisms like pity parties, is scary and painful. Because once that layer of protection is removed, there’s bound to be other things underneath that have been covered up because they’re even worse than the covering.
So here we go. Into real life. To face it and to feel it. To stop coping and start experiencing. To remember, retain, and know I did my best with what I was given in the present.
P.S. If you STILL don’t know what the big deal about Danville, CA is, you’re missing out! Read Part 1 to hear about our experience there.