Well, I did finally finish my academic "please-oh-please-take-me" journal write-on. I took it to the post office and sent it certified mail as we left town for a weekend of bliss. The end of school-related work took a while to be real. In the car, I kept asking myself, what do I have to do next? Then I'd smile and think, "nothing."
E's parents were in town, so the four of us drove south on the 101 from Silicon Valley until we reached Soledad, where we went on a tour with the winemaker at Paraiso Vineyards. Paradise. Literally. Winds, Mountains, Grapes. Some of the highest quality-to-price pinot noirs being made in California today. What more could I want to start my vacation?
After a leisurely lunch and the purchase of too much wine, we drove south to our eventual destination, the sleepy fishing town of Morro Bay. Our hotel had breathtaking views, a fabulous restaurant, and a bird-filled estuary next door (a huge blue heron watched us without moving while we laughed at the cacophony of a bird-watcher's dream). The original plans had called for a more popular beach destination like Santa Barbara or Pismo Beach, but we all agreed that we made the right choice with a less tourist-filled destination.
The weekend just kept getting better, and now, I feel on top of the world thanks to several wonderful discoveries and experiences:
1. Portable Hot Tub Technology. Enough Said.
2. Long gorgeous drives in the country to reach and taste wines in the Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles Wine Country, and San Luis Obispo Wine Country.
3. Going to Hearst Castle for the first time.
4. Going to the Madonna Inn for the millionth time with my grandparents. (If you've never been, it's an experience not to be missed.)
5. Dinner at Windows on the Water. Two nights in a row. It was that great. The view of sunset over morro rock brings a silence to the restaurant--it's too beautiful to describe. The bouillabaise was the best I've ever had (besides my mother's), and the cilantro-grilled shrimp were perfectly spiced with black pepper. The wine list is extensive and full of local selections (which tend to be much more reasonably priced than their more well-known Napa and Sonoma cousins). And dessert? Well, I'm not much of a dessert person, but the lemon mouse inspired me to try one this summer.
Now, I'm home, relaxed, with memories of ocean views, wine geeking, and my belly full of excellent food. I joined one of the wine clubs of the wineries we visited (thankfully, one of my previous memberships has expired) and have plans to join one more when I get around to it.
It was the perfect gluttonous celebration of the great things in life: Family. Food. Relaxation. Sleep. Wine. Mountains. Ocean. Conversation to tie it all together.
Now, finally, I'm ready to go back to being a working stiff. Has it really only been 9 months?
Here's to hoping I can button at least one pair of my work pants after the weekend of stuffing myself silly.