On a cross country family trip when I was a teenager, my mom drove me absolutely nutty by constantly pointing out local flora as we drove up the coast of California.
“Look! That’s Bird of Paradise!” my mother exclaimed when we stopped at a scenic overlook. I lay warming my back on the hood of the rental car, shirt rolled up my chubby belly, acned face to the sun, trying with every bone in my teenage body to ignore my mother. I figured a Bird of Paradise could fly like any other bird, and I didn’t give her the satisfaction of opening an eye to the sky.
I answered her, barely lifting my head: “I am SO tired of being the TOURIST Family—YOU, DORIS, your husband MORRIS, and your kids BORIS, HORACE and DELORES – you ALL make me SICK! If I see one more Bird of Paradise, I am going to kill myself!” I made my mother so miserable on that trip she cried. I still feel guilty.
Fast forward about 40 years. I eventually learned that Bird of Paradise is indeed a very beautiful flower. I also learned to appreciate my mom for all her talents, especially her talent with flowers.
I returned to California last week, with my husband (sans children—we have learned a thing or two,) on a trip to Sonoma County to celebrate the end of my breast cancer treatments: Surgery, chemo, radiation. It was a long, hard winter, and I was ready to drink wine, relax and have a massage.
On the first morning, I found myself walking alone, amongst the beautiful streets around Healdsburg, straight out from the Hotel Healdsburg in Town square. Within minutes I was in the suburbs, and could not help noticing the flowers. They were everywhere. In the front yards of Every. Single. House. And they were just magnificent.
I could name the roses and the artichokes (who knew they grew in regular people’s yards?) but that was about the extent of my knowledge of the Flora—I never became my mother—at least in this one respect.
It was only when I saw this- a little white house surrounded by, you guessed it- Birds of Paradise—that I started to sob. “Look! There’s Birds of Paradise!” I could hear my mother say. And I couldn’t stop sobbing. But I had to keep walking; I couldn’t stop to cry…I had wineries to visit.
It turns out that walking while sobbing is a great way to start healing.
And from that early morning walk that first day in Healdsburg, I started the process of becoming whole again.
Because it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you start your day tasting Chardonnay at 10AM, and finish your day tasting Pinot Noir at 4:00PM.
It is hard to feel sorry for yourself as you bike around vineyards.
It is hard to feel sorry for yourself as you picnic by a creek in the back of a vineyard with a chilled bottle of Chardonnay.
It is hard to feel sorry for yourself as you hike among the magnificent Redwood trees in Armstrong Park.
It is hard not to heal in Healdsburg. After all, it’s in the name.
I have now officially begun the slow process of getting better, evidenced by the slow growth on the top of my head, turning me into someone that I don’t necessarily recognize (way too much gray.) I know I will never be the same, but I know I will heal fully. Now all I need to do is dry out.
Indulgent 4 Day Sonoma Itinerary
Healing or not, this is an awesome trip! Stay in the fabulous town of Healdsburg—either Hotel Healdsburg (which I loved- great service, fabulous concierge, lovely spa) or their companion Hotel H2. Staying in town means not having to drive to dinner…and both of those hotels are beautiful and provide a great breakfast and bikes that you can grab and go!
Day 1 (arrival)
Head out for a walk after breakfast. Notice the flowers, especially the Birds of Paradise.
Wine tastings of choice
Lunch at Shed in Town
More wine tasting or shopping in town
Dinner at Willi’s Seafood
Grab a bike from the hotel and take a morning bike ride around the Vineyards near the hotel (they have a 4 mile loop and a 12 mile loop.)
Wine tasting(s) in morning
Grab a sandwich for a picnic lunch at Dry Creek General Store, bring to nearby Truett Hurst winery, taste, and then buy a bottle of chilled wine, and picnic on their magnificent grounds by the creek while you lounge in their Adirondack chairs
Massage at the Hotel Healdsburg
Enjoy a formal, delicious dinner at award winning Dry Creek Kitchen
Workout in hotel (or don’t.)
Wine Tasting(s) on the way to Armstrong Park (45 minute drive from Healdsburg.) Buy sandwiches along the way, take a nice long hike and picnic amongst the Redwoods.
More wine tasting (if you can stand it.)
Dinner at tiny Scopa (our favorite, but you have to make a reservation really early because it is really tiny!)