We booked this spring break trip in January during the height of Omicron when cross country flights were around $320 per person. We had a flight credit that had to be used, and I considered myself incredibly lucky to find two roundtrip flights to California for the exact amount of our credit. Even the American Airlines representative was impressed to realize that I did not owe them a single cent more than the total of our account. I was so pleased with my luck that I decided to put my stress induced insomnia to good use one early morning and upgrade us both to first class for an additional $281 per person. Apparently, pandemic travel upgrades are at their best around 3AM.
We’d never flown first class before so we were eager for the experience. We flew out of Philadelphia with a nonstop flight to San Francisco. We began our trip at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott the night before our departure. This is an old hotel connected to Philadelphia’s airport Terminal B with extravagant views of the airport and runways right from your hotel room. If you are like us, you could spend your entire day and night just watching planes take off and land.
Despite the ticketing agent questioning our first class status at the luggage drop the next morning, we were able to check our bags quickly and breeze through security. We eagerly assumed that our first class tickets would gain us access to the American Airlines lounge and made our way to the luxurious gates only to find out that only international first class fliers and upgraded credit card holders are welcome through those doors without a fee.
We then remembered we could access The American Express Centurion Lounge, and quickly made our trek across the terminal to officially begin our spring break adventure. Here we began our journey with a healthy breakfast, hot coffee, and a little morning happy hour before take-off.
We never knew that you could get a real plate and silverware on an airplane, and we each enjoyed a charcuterie and fruit plate at 35,000 feet above. With a headwind of 110 knots, we were grateful for the extra large seats and leg room for what became a much lengthier flight than expected.
Once we arrived at SFO, we exited the terminal in complete awe of the airport and all of its amenities. We’ve flown in and out of SFO before, but we’ve always admired West Coast airports. They all seem brighter and more welcoming than their East Coast counterparts.
We took the shuttle to the rental car terminal and bypassed the counters to pick up our National rental car. Forget the competitors, National is where it’s at. They make renting a car super easy for their Emerald Club Executive Level account holders. Just proceed to the Executive lane, pick your car, jump in (the keys are in the car), and present your credit card and driver’s license at the gate. We loaded up the nearest SUV and hit the road to Napa.
First Stop: Yountville
When it comes to California wine country, we’ve always considered ourselves Sonoma people as we favor that region a bit more. On our past trips, Yountville has always just been a quick stop for lunch when driving through Napa. This time around, we decided to spend our first two nights here. We booked a room at the Four Sisters Inn, Maison Fleurie, which looked as if it were picked up from the French countryside and dropped onto a side street of Yountville, California. We are big fans of the Four Sisters Inns and have stayed in several of their hotels on our trips to California. Maison Fleurie was just as cozy and quaint as the others with their nightly wine and cheese hour and early morning breakfast. With a location that’s easily walkable to all of the nearby restaurants, its convenience and price point make it a more affordable option than some of the other hotels in Yountville. Plus their beautiful outdoor rooftop patio provided the perfect view while snacking on wine and cheese each evening. There was only one downside to our stay here: our phone booth sized bathroom and shower. It was so small that our sink resided outside the bathroom and next to our bed! This was just a minor detail that I neglected to read when booking the least expensive room available. We met a lot of wonderful guests at the hotel and enjoyed meeting and talking to them over breakfast and wine and cheese. Ironically, almost all of them talked about how happy they were with their rooms, especially their large bathrooms. They all laughed unbelievably at the reality of our bathroom situation.
A majority of the restaurants in Yountville are owned by three star Michelin Chef Thomas Keller, as this is the home of the famous French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro, Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc + Addendum, and La Calenda. He’s even got his own garden on Washington Street to supply the restaurants! While we’ve always dreamed of feasting at the French Laundry, we went back and forth about getting reservations considering the cost. Then, on a whim, we put ourselves on the wait list for Easter dinner and left it up to fate. Fate kept our money in our wallets as we never got the call. I’m sure dinner at the French Laundry is life changing, but it wasn’t in the cards during this trip.
Our first stop in Yountville after our very long flight was for a snack of chips, salsa, and guacamole at La Calenda. We had reservations that evening at Mustards and didn’t want to spoil dinner. La Calenda was just steps away from our hotel and we decided to give it a try when we noticed the staff on break out back feasting on plates of food. It looked so good that we decided we must get our snack there.
After a good walk around town to stretch our legs, we called an Uber and began our journey to Mustards Grill. Named for the wild mustard flowers that bloom in the vineyards each spring, Mustards has been serving the Napa community for close to 40 years. With an extensive wine list and a menu that prides itself in deluxe truck stop classics, Mustards is one of those must-try places when visiting Napa Valley. We didn’t plan to only eat fish at Mustards, but after having the Ahi tuna cracker appetizer, we couldn’t resist ordering the daily fish tostada and Ahi tuna sandwich for our entrees. Both were delicious, with the fish tostada being the star of the show.
After a heavy jet-lagged sleep, we were up early on Easter Sunday for breakfast. We were surprised to see the line for Bouchon Bakery was short, so we made our way there for coffee and snacks. With a homemade pretzel and cheese roll in hand, we landed back at our hotel (just behind the bakery itself), and enjoyed a sun soaked morning of Napa Valley goodness. This was just the fuel we needed for a walk to Chandon.
From the Maison Fleurie, you can take a short walk down Washington Street and make a right to walk under the highway overpass. It doesn’t look like it at first, but after you emerge from the overpass and look right, Napa appears. The Napa vineyards of a premium sparkling wine company called Chandon are situated here and with a reservation and just a short walk up the road, you can taste the wine and enjoy the sunshine on their exquisite grounds. Tastings run for about $50 per person, but you can also just enjoy a glass while taking in the incredible view.
After a lovely afternoon at Chandon, we made our way to Bistro Jeanty for an early Easter dinner. Bistro Jeanty is an adorable French restaurant on Washington Street that, we believe, enjoys some friendly competition with Thomas Keller’s French bistro Bouchon just down the street. Bistro Jeanty reminded us of a typical tabac shop in Provence, and we enjoyed every minute of our time here. Our favorite dish was the home smoked trout with potato salad and olive oil. It was different and divine. We sipped the local wine and shared a plate of sole Meunière and reminisced about some of our best French memories before heading back to our hotel to watch the sunset over the vines.
The next morning, we packed our rental car, said farewell to our tiny shower, and headed towards Calistoga. On the way, we stopped at the Model Bakery in St. Helena for Oprah’s favorite English muffin. We wholeheartedly agree that this is, by far, the best English muffin we’ve ever had. Everybody should get one of these English muffins in life, Oprah! Picture it: “YOU get an English muffin, and YOU get an English muffin” as she throws these magnificent muffins of buttery love to everyone in America.
With full bellies and a new fond love of the Model Bakery, we made our way to our next and favorite stop of the whole trip: Calistoga.
Second Stop: Calistoga coming soon!