FOOD & WINE Memoir U.S.A

Napa Valley – The Generous Campers

Inca to Inuit - Napa

With at least a third of our nights in the US spent under canvas, Lyndsay and I had started to consider ourselves pretty good campers. Something that Lyndsay, especially, probably never thought would be the case.

But needs must, and with our eyes and stomachs firmly fixed on the Californian coast and the culinary delights it had to offer, we headed towards Napa Valley in search of a spot to pitch our tent for a week before Lyndsay’s sister, Kayleigh, came to meet us in San Francisco. We had planned to travel with Kayleigh to LA, and so we were saving for the Big Sur, seafood, and wine.

With all this camping we had become quite accomplished at finding decent campsites, and when we drove into the Boothe Napa Valley State Park  just outside St Helena, a tiny town deep in wine country, we knew we had chosen well.

Inca to Inuit - Napa

Inca to Inuit - napa

The Napa and Sonoma Valleys, as well as surrounding wine regions, are famed for not only their wine but also their beauty. The roads wind through the vines that line the valley floors and beyond cliffs rise on each side of the valley creating a stunning backdrop. As we drove up Sonoma Valley it was clear that this was a pretty incredible place to live. All kinds of fruit are grown here as well as the grapes for wine, and with almost year-long summer the living is easy… if not a tad indulgent.

Inca to Inuit - Napa Valley

Inca to Inuit - Napa valley

In all honesty, the region seemed to be the home of the wealthy, and understandably so based on its location and the quality of the harvests. Wineries line the route up the valleys with many having built huge wine tasting buildings, each more opulent than the last, vying to outdo one another with their abstract and individual designs.

Although our initial impressions of the campsite were good, if you stay in one place in a tent for long enough you’re bound to find some issues. There have been a number of places on our trip where the mosquitos were bad, but in this particular campsite, they were awful. They were incessant. It was like it was the day after Ramadan. It was time to feast and the feast was us.

The other issue came in the form of the showers which Lyndsay coined ‘danger showers’. They were quarter operated, and as our current thriftiness extended to showering also, we were trying to take the shortest showers possible. This meant we had to guess how long we had left before the water stopped, a game that almost always left us with shampoo still on heads and shower gel under armpits. Danger showing later led to Lyndsay coining a phrase that prioritised the washing of the most important body areas, “face, faff, pits”.

This particular campsite was also the place we met two of the most generous people we have met on our trip, Mark and Danielle. They were fellow campers, but in a different camping league than us. While we had been cooking omelettes and vegetarian fajitas, they were cooking bone marrow and steaks.

Mark and Danielle had come for the weekend from San Fran with two of their friends, and they were kind enough to invite us to come wine tasting with them. We duly excepted their offer and the following day drove down the valley to meet them at the amazing Alpha Omega winery tasting house, a beautiful building surrounded by fountains and vines.

inca to Inuit - Napa Valley

As we drove in we realised it was compulsory valet parking and we made quite the entrance. We pulled up to the valet and opened to car door with a huge screeching sound that we had got quite used to, but obviously wasn’t familiar around plush wineries. With an apologetic look, I handed over the keys of our mud-splattered, scratched 19-year-old Honda CRV and told the valet not to bother trying to open the drivers window, because it wouldn’t.

Inca to Inuit - Napa

We had a great time and the wines were delicious. Mark and Danielle invited us to spend the evening with them back at the campsite, and on our return, they cooked the most amazing meal on the fire including corn, bone marrow, and steak. One of the best meals we had had since BBQ in Texas. After a few too many wines and local IPA’s we headed back to our tent and went to sleep totally satisfied with blurry heads and bellies full.

Inca to Inuit - Napa Valley

Both Lyndsay and I were really taken by Mark and Danielle’s willingness and kindness to invite total strangers to join them and share their food and wine. They were even kind enough to invite us to come and wash our clothes when we arrived in San Francisco.

After a successful week of camping and saving in the beautiful wine region, we said goodbye to the campsite, the mosquitos, and the danger showers, and with fond memories of our stay we headed towards San Fran with the anticipation of two weeks of fun and sun on the California Coast.

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