Thirty five invisible years


DSCN0404Everything was perfect. The 3 days bathed in soft sunshine, warm but not scaldingly hot, like May days often are. The breeze gently stroked the day, making it sweeter than lovely. We were prepared for traffic, so were not surprised to encounter bumper to bumper transit on our way north. Although the GPS forecast an hour and a half drive, we were slightly over three hours getting to our destination!

Finally, we arrived in the delightfully decadent village of Napa, California. Homes ranged from adorably quaint Craftsman’s, to large imposing Centurions’, haughtily surveying the passers-by.   Many of these grand old homes have evolved over the years into either retrofitted office buildings or bed-and-breakfasts.   The Henessey House is one of the latter category, and has been lovingly and expertly maintained to show its warm gentility to guests. These were the accommodations’ that we so enjoyed and appreciated for our anniversary weekend!

We were immediately welcomed when we arrived to an enchanting garden embraced by towering trees. In the middle of this courtyard sat a moss edged, fountain that lazily dribbled water to soothe and coax the weary travelers to unwind.  The surrounding café tables and chairs invite visitors to sit and relax, breathe deep and sigh, as the wine and cheese is served.  The hostess circulated to greet new arrivals, answer questions about all  Napa has to offer, and explain the illustrated maps that are provided.IMG_0607

We were given The Lavender Room, with a sumptuous King sized bed and an electric fireplace to fend off the chilblains should they cause trouble.

A dainty sitting area in the bay window overlooked the front yard, and on the table sat a crystal decanter.IMG_0599

An old fashioned bathroom suite had a lovely new walk in shower, but the traditional ‘water closet’ style flush toilet was the star of the suite. It justifies its continued existence by being both adorably antiquated as well as perfectly serviceable.IMG_0601

Breakfast was served at 9am, but we’re allowed to sleep in til 10am if needed. With the scent of breakfast wafting upstairs however, we didn’t need to delay. The menu included a fresh fruit parfait with clotted cream, fresh baked cranberry muffins with maple butter, and  individual asparagus soufflés. Our companions at the table on this first morning were from Florida, to where they had just retired.   They were visiting friends and family in California, and decided to make a little vacation out of exploring the area. Soon, we were joined by a couple from Vienna Austria, both medical doctors, on vacation exploring the west coast of North America. Their kids were grown, and had gone to university in various parts of the world. We really enjoy this facet of staying at a bed-and-breakfast, so we don’t hesitate to sit at a larger table and welcome any comers!

We chose to have our coffee in the parlor, while we perused the local newspaper. The furniture in this traditionally formal room was very suitable, but alas, not very comfortable.  Delaying moving after such a sumptuous meal is normally a challenge, but not this time!

After taking an exploratory stroll of downtown Napa, it was time to get ready for our dinner train trip! We dressed comfortably but semi dressy, being unaware of what was expected!  As we buffed and polished our appearances, I was surprised to find that the excitement had manifested itself in a bit of a nervous stomach.  I have always loved trains, possibly due to a genetic predisposition, given my family history!

When I was a toddler, my grandfather would take me to Dieppe Park in downtown Windsor, and let me climb in and around Old Joe, the stationary engine displayed there.  Grandpa was a Station Agent for the CPR in Saskatchewan, and Mom spent her childhood growing up in an old train station in Salvador, Saskatchewan.  I spent many an hour on summer holidays at Hazel and Frank’s place in Stirling, Ontario, beside an active track for trains carrying iron ore.  So yes, trains are in my blood.

Occasionally I’ll see a real estate listing of a h one whose price was reduced on account of the proximity to frequently used train tracks. Not an issue in my books!  I’d take it, no problem!

Having seen ads for the Wine Train many years ago, I was very anxious to include this on my bucket list. With a little convincing, Glenn was on board, especially since this trip didn’t involve the expenditure of thousands of dollars!  With Evan and Claire’s wedding on the horizon, we have got to be more careful of expenditures!  Glenn even went ahead and did all the arranging, and chose the beautiful bed and breakfast over the various high end hotels in the area.  Kudos to him, he even chose the B&B over the Andaz hotel at which he has credits from his stays in Shanghai, China.  Sometimes guys WILL choose romance over practicality!

Upon arrival at the station, we were checked in, and served a glass of wine.  This definitely helped my jittery nerves, but did nothing to quell the excitement growing in me.  The seating roll call started, as we were allowed on the train according to our designated section number.  Since our tickets were for the Dome Car, we were of course in section D.  We were soon sitting across from each other, and were each handed a glass of champagne. Almost imperceptibly, the train began to silkily slide out of the station.  As soon as it picked up speed, the gentle rocking motion could be felt.  It was not at all unpleasant, and in fact after several more glasses of wine, it would become quite soothing, almost too much so!

We started our repast with an hors d’oeuvre, our choice of grilled shrimp in crispy wonton, with sweet pea pesto and endive, OR porcini encrusted chicken with serrano ham, grilled bread and mushroom ragout.  We both chose the latter, and it was served was served with Reata “Three County” Pinot Noir 2013.

This was followed by a salad course of Red and Green Apple endive  with Cambozola cheese, hazelnuts, and mustard vinaigrette.  This was accompanied by Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier Blend 2014.  As I gaze at the fellow sitting across from me, I am startled to note the lines that have been carved into the corners of his eyes.  Then he smiles at me, whispers an I love you, and squeezes my hand.  Oh yes, I know you, but I didn’t realize you had gotten so old….

When the main course came around, we did not order the same thing.  Glenn chose the Almond Crusted salmon picatta, with lemon sauteed potatoes, and red wine carrots.  This was accompanied by the Reata ‘Three County’ Pinot Noir 2013 once again.

Predictably, I chose the roasted Beef Tenderloin, with bok choy, roasted root vegetable, mushroom toast, and a pomegranate Cabernet reduction.  This was served with Jamieson Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2014.  This was the costliest wine of the evening, at $17 per glass.

By this time in the evening, we have EACH consumed four glasses of wine, plus a glass of champagne.  We are now told to sit back and relax, dessert will be served shortly.  As glasses of iced water are set in front of us, we eye them blearily, but I obediently drink it.  It is now dark outside of our windows, and I, for one, am struggling with lazy eyelids.  I feel so content, so sated, as though everything that was plaguing me with worry or concern had been brushed away like inconsequential dust.  Everything is good, better than good, really quite perfect.

We talk about the upcoming excitement of the wedding, and how we plan to take two weeks back in Canada.  There is so much to be done in preparation for the wedding, but so much will already have been taken care of by the family in Peterborough.  Claire is lucky to have her mom, sister and brother so close by in Orillia.  I wish we lived nearer, I sigh wistfully, as Glenn nods.  Willa will be getting SO excited, they’ll have their hands full keeping her contained.  I suspect that this will be part of our job, Glenn snickers.

We can feel the train slow down, and the lights of the station appear beneath our windows.    Our sommelier appears once again, and hands us two packages:  one containing souvenir coasters, the other a bag with carefully wrapped champagne flutes.  We thank him as he congratulates us once again, and he is gone.  The train slows to a stop, as the intercom gives us instructions as to what the departure process entails.  Don’t forget to stop by the photo table and purchase your pre-boarding photos!  The line up is long, and I am tired.  I should have sat down and gotten Glenn to go and purchase the photo, but I demurred.  We headed out without our photo, but we have our memories.  What more do we need as souvenirs of this magical weekend?

As we depart the platform, we are bid farewell by the departing train it bleats its soulful soliloquy before slipping into the velvet night.










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