By Eileen Ogintz
BODEGA BAY, CA, (Day three of seven) — It’s so hard to choose!
We’re at the Bodega Bay Lodge overlooking Bodega Bay on the California Coast —an idyllic spot where there is a path , beaches nearby, the chance for a massage (wonderful hot stone!) and a restaurant serving up the freshest food Sonoma County has to offer.
Chef Jeff Reilly stops off at different farms on his way to work, we learn.
Our room overlooks the water; there are just 83 rooms, each with a fireplace. The place works equally as well for a getaway for couples, girlfriends and families—we met some kids in the hot tub before dinner, in fact. We each enjoy a massage in the cozy spa. There are even “beach cruiser” bikes that let you explore on the beach.
People come to watch the whales, hike among the huge Coast redwoods — some are 1,000 years old and 250 feet tall like in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Guerneville — and of course, eat.
So what to pick for dinner at the Lodge’s Duck Club Restaurant with its view straight down to the water? A nice touch: The wildflowers in glass jars on each table.
We start with local oysters and salad. I opt for Bodega Bay King Salmon with a Pesto Crust served with local corn, sugar snap peas and sweet red bell pepper; my daughter goes for the grilled Rib Eye with mashed potatoes. We end with a peach crisp. Yum! Of course the wines are local too.
In the morning there are local eggs , homemade granola and omelets with Bodega Bay Dungeness crab or one crafted with local veggies and cheese. It’s not that often I have so much trouble choosing from a breakfast menu.
Now I really need a bike ride or a hike!
We switch gears the next night and have a different but equally satisfying experience at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa complete with a dinner we’ll long remember at Sante, ranked among the top 100 restaurants by the San Francisco Chronicle and just renovated last year with a new terrace and menu committed to locally grown, seasonal and innovative California cuisine.
I love that this hotel seems to have plenty for everyone—especially a mom-daughter duo—good eats, morning Yoga, complimentary guided hikes , golf course and an amazing 4,000-square foot spa—one of the few in the country to feature natural thermal mineral waters which flow 1,100 feet directly beneath the inn.
The Inn, situated on 13 acres and planted with blooming flowers, was built in 1927 after the Boyes Hot Springs hotel burned to the ground, built as a replicate California Mission complete with arcade and bell tower. Today guests relax in chairs in the gardens
I also like that this hotel, which underwent a large renovation last year, is in the heart of California’s wine country, a few minutes from the historic and picturesque eight-acre Sonoma Plaza –the largest town plaza in California– with its old-fashioned adobe storefronts, courtyards, tasting rooms, shops. Check out The Epicurean Connection for local cheeses and restaurants like The Girl & the Fig where we enjoyed an indulgent lunch.
We learn that Sonoma is the home of the last Spanish-Mexican mission built along California’s El Camino Real and the location of the Bear Flag Revolt that ultimately transferred California from Mexico to the United States.
But let’s first talk about our stay at the Fairmont—starting with dinner and wine pairing. Each dish was almost too pretty to eat—I started with heirloom tomatoes with summer melons topped with a tiny puff of feta cheese while my daughter had a seared diver scallop. She had a roasted Iberico Pork Shoulder Loin while I had the signature tasting of Niman Ranch Beef—a taste of Filet mignon, Braised Pave a la Bourguignon, and Skirt Steak—meat so tender it melted in our mouths.
We end with a delectable chocolate soufflé—and practically roll back to our room.
Did I mention how comfortable the beds were?