Back to Moneterey for round 2! This time I went with my parents, so the whole family was along for the ride. Kody (my brother) was getting ready to move back to Seattle, so we were there for one last visit, to help him pack and whatever else needed to be done.

It really is a beautiful corner of the U.S. Kody used to be in the Army, and though he was a civilian by the time he moved to Monterey, he lived close to the Defense Language Institute, so he took us on a tour of the base.

Montery

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There were pieces of the old Berlin Wall. My parents of course wanted all combination of photos of the family.

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We also checked out a little museum on the grounds, and some old canons (which my brother stuck his face into). The DLI has been located at the Presidio of Monterey since 1946. It’s an absolute gorgeous location. It was started during WWII for people to learn Japanese and continued with Russian during the Cold War. Today the demand is for Arabic languages, as that’s obviously where the focus is now, but you can learn any language possible here. It almost makes me want to join the military and learn a foreign language. Almost.

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The next day my mom and I rented a car for the day and drove down along the Big Sur coast (and stopped at every tourist shop we could find) while my dad and brother went golfing.

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This place is the definition of ruggedly beautiful.

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I had to pull over at every turn out to take pictures. The scenery just doesn’t quit! I’ll stop talking and let you enjoy the views.

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The following day we all got up early and drove up to Napa Valley. Due to traffic and several stops, it took us all day to get there. It’s not the most scenic drive, but it’s worth the trip! Once we checked in to our hotel, we went in to town to have dinner and a delicious bottle of Napa Valley wine.

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Then it was back to the hotel for bed. We had an early morning hot air balloon ride to catch!

Up until this point, I’d never been in a hot air balloon, so I had no idea what to expect. We drove out to the site where the balloons were laid out on the ground, slowly filling up with air.

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I took pictures of every stage. It was really neat to see them go from these small packed up bags to the enormous balloons they became. It takes longer than I thought it would to get them upright, but once they were full and the baskets were standing, we hopped in.

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Then it was up, up and away!

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Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have much wind that day. The pilot took us up and down, and we drifted a bit, but I’ve been told that normally you travel some distance. It was still fun for me though, as the scenery was beautiful and you could see for miles!

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I never realized how the wineries built their grape fields in and around the hills. Any flat land has been cultivated to make wine. It’s really quite beautiful from the air.

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My parents had a lot of fun, too!

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All too soon it was time to land. We watched the first balloon make a 10.0 landing, right next to the road. They certainly deflate a lot quicker than they inflated!

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Monterey

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Once our balloon landed and everything was packed away, we were taken to a nearby hotel for champagne breakfast. We had several choices of food, and of course, the champagne was free flowing. Unfortunately this olive tree is the only picture I took of the entire thing. I’ll do better next time.

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Then it was over to the wineries for tastings and tours! Our first stop was the subject of the movie Bottle Shock, Chateau Montelena in Castara. The wine was delicious, and grounds were lovely to walk around.

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Next it was over to Sterling Winery. I loved all the grapes lining the drive, and I even snuck one off the branch to try. It was possibly the best tasting grape I’ve ever had.

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This was the most industrial of the wineries we visited. They had the largest facilities and the most structured tour. It was fun and we learned a lot, but I think I preferred the smaller productions better.

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Our final stop on our tour was the Castillo di Amorosa. This was a neat winery as it felt more like I was in an old castle in Spain or Italy than a house in northern California (which was probably the point).

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Such old world charm! I would love to sit here and drink wine all day.

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The tasting area was located in the lower level, surrounded by everything you could ever want to buy. It was hard to resist temptation, but I managed to leave the whole experience with just a coaster from each location.

Finally it was time to make the drive back to San Francisco to catch our evening flight back to Seattle. My brother was following in his car a few days later. Visiting him in Monterey and the surrounding areas had been great fun, but it’s really nice to have him home where he belongs!

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2 thoughts on “Monterey Part 2: Big Sur, Napa Valley

  1. Thank you so much for including Castello di Amorosa in your beautiful blog. Let us know when you plan to visit again and we’ll meet you on the Drawbridge.

    Warm regards,

    Jim

    Jim Sullivan
    Vice President, Public Relations and Marketing
    707-967-6278

    1. Thank you Jim! My family and I had a lovely time at your winery.

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