for Unconventional Women
for Unconventional Women
I’m kicking off a new series where we will visit the hometowns of all the Hummingbird authors—not all at once, but over the next year or so. And because it’s my blog, I’m going to pop the champagne cork and celebrate this series by starting with my own hometown of Winters, California.
Winters is a small town about sixty miles North-East of San Francisco. Our closest city is Sacramento and we have a university (UC Davis) about fifteen miles to our east. Winters has about 7000 people and I like to say it’s one of the only small agricultural towns left that’s within 100 miles of San Francisco. And make no mistake, we are an agricultural town. Walnuts, almonds, and stone fruits are big around here, but we are also a major producer of sunflower seeds and tomatoes. On our own property, we have 200 olive trees (and press our olives every year for oil) and about 400 young citrus trees.
One of the things I love about my town is that while we embrace change we also honor and preserve all those things that make our town unique. What might some of those be? Well, here are a few…
Fourth Fridays - starting in March, every fourth Friday of the month, Main Street is blocked off and we have a Fourth Friday celebration—restaurants cook out on the streets, local wineries and breweries have their beverages available, long tables are set up for people to sit at, local vendors come and sell their goods, and sometimes there is even music. It’s a very social night and it’s almost impossible to go without seeing a ton of people we know.
And then in August, we celebrate the earthquake that destroyed our town over a hundred years ago. Yes, you read that right, we celebrate an earthquake. This festival is actually one of the biggest ones we host and generally several thousand people come in to celebrate…it’s gotten so big that we ended up skipping it last year because, being from a small town, we’ve become unaccustomed to having to wait in lines for things like food and wine and beer. Yes, we’re spoiled.
Speaking of wine, we have two great wineries in town: Berryessa Gap and Turkovich Wines. Between the two of them they put on several wine festivals including one for Tempranillo and one for Alberino. Both wineries produce very good wines and Turkovich has a charming tasting room with outdoor seating whereas Berryessa has a great space right on Main Street with lots of local products also available. I have a special love for Berryessa Gap because it’s where my writers group meets every week…we’re treated very well and we love seeing all the other “regulars” each week.
Now back to festivals…about four years ago, we started a small tractor parade leading to the tree lighting ceremony the first weekend in December. Well, this year I missed it, but my husband said he thought it was bigger than the Earthquake festival and our city manager estimated about 4000 people came into town that night. It’s an overload of lights, tractors, cookies, Santa, and holiday cheer. Honestly, I love it just because not many people get to enjoy a tractor parade to celebrate the holidays.
But what else is there to do in Winters if there isn’t a festival going on, you might ask. Well, we have some fabulous restaurants including the famous Buckhorn Steakhouse and Putah Creek Café, which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives—both are owned by the same family and both are very good. We also have Preserve, which hands down has the best cocktails in town (Buckhorn is close, but I’d still place my money on Preserve) to accompany their farm to fork menu. And two newcomers, The Greenriver Taproom and Yolo Traders Bistro. Of course, we also have a couple of great Mexican restaurants and fabulous tapas café: Chuy’s, El Pueblo, and Ficelle, which sells itself (rightfully so) as a “delightfully random place to eat”.
This blog wouldn’t be complete without mentioning two more places: The Palms Playhouse, which has live music shows every weekend, and Berryessa Brewing Company, a great microbrew with award winning beers. Both are family friendly venues as are most places and events in our town.
I know I’ve just barely scratched the surface and haven’t mentioned things like our summer Shakespeare festival or our brand new, community built park, but this blog would just go on and on if I wrote about every great thing about my town. So I’ll leave it at this and just say that if you are thinking of visiting California, and in particular the Napa Valley (which is our nearest big tourist destination), think about flying into Sacramento and stopping by Winters, the eastern gateway to Napa, on your way. We’d love to have you!
So last week I had a guest blogger from the US blogging about her trip to Scotland. This week, I have a guest blogger who is Scottish (but living the US), writing about her (seriously) amazing trip to Uganda. Her packed agenda may have left feeling in need of another vacation, but it gives us a chance to read about some wild and wonderful experiences. I hope you enjoy!
by Claire Flatley
After much procrastination over this trip my friend Caroline and I decided we were finally going to just get this booked and hope nothing would stand in our way this time. We had been deliberating on the best time with both of our schedules for a few years and finally managed to set aside a couple of weeks in December to take our dream trip and managed to persuade our significant others to join our adventure. For as long as I can remember we had been talking about going gorilla tracking and we were finally going to do it!
After what seemed like months of online research I found this great company called Kori Safaris. They were so reasonably priced compared to the others out there, allowing us to opt for luxury accommodation instead of the budget or mid-range which were our only option with the other companies. We settled on a nine day tour of Uganda, incorporating rhinos, chimpanzee and gorilla tracking, big 5 safaris and whitewater rafting on the Nile.
The first day involved trekking in to see White Rhinos at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, a Rhino re-introduction program which currently boasts 21 southern white rhinos, it’s around 100 miles north of Kampala so it breaks the journey to Murchison falls up nicely and it’s home to the only wild Rhinos in Uganda. It was fascinating and terrifying at the same time to walk so close to these amazing animals, the only instruction given by the guide was to hide behind a substantial tree should they charge. Guess how many substantial trees there were in the area!
We awoke before dawn the next day at Murchison Falls National Park and promptly departed for our game drive in the hopes of seeing the Big 5. We excitedly and hurriedly took pictures of absolutely everything we saw for the 30 minutes of our drive, not realizing that this was just the tip of the iceberg and over the course of the next 4 hours we would be within touching distance of so many of these beautiful animals. Our guide, Godwin assured us that we were extremely lucky that day, in that we managed to see pretty much everything with the exception of leopards.
We headed south again towards Kibale National Park for our hike into the forest to view chimpanzee’s in their natural habitat. Caroline had spent many years working with these creatures overseas and delighted in warning us of all the signs or displays of aggression. It only took 10 minutes of walking before we came upon the first family, from there the clock starts ticking for your allotted hour. What I hadn’t realized at the time was that should they decide to move, you and your guide will hightail it through the forest in pursuit which made it all the more fun. It was such a wonderful experience to be so close and observe these mischievous creatures, although one chap who came back with chimpanzee urine soaked hair may tell you otherwise. Definitely be careful when observing chimps in the trees!
The next stop on our list was Queen Elizabeth National Park, it’s one of the most popular safari destinations in all of Uganda and the Ishasha sector is one of the few places in the world where you can spot tree climbing lions. Surprisingly the park is not overcrowded allowing for ample opportunity to observe the wildlife without having to deal with the crowds.
Finally, it’s gorilla day, we are up early to brave the treacherous mountainous vehicle tracks. In the winter these become almost impassable, it got to the point where we would argue over who got the seats that didn’t have the view down the mountain! Thankfully we all arrived at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in one piece. Similar to the chimpanzee trek, you hike into the forest and the one-hour countdown starts from when you first come upon the gorillas. This was without a doubt the highlight of our trip. It was so much more than we could have expected, we were within 5 feet of the troop we had been assigned and were lucky enough to see the oldest silverback and the youngest infant. An absolutely unforgettable experience.
Our departing flight was not until around 11pm so we decided to fill our last day with a whitewater rafting trip at the source of the Nile near the town of Jinja. We couldn’t wait to get out and experience the Nile’s grade IV-V rapids. We spent an exhilarating half day on the river and would have loved to remain for the full day adventure had we not been flying out that evening. Choose your spot on the raft wisely, if you don’t want to take a dip, the front spots aren’t for you.
Uganda was by far one of the best trips I have ever taken but if I were to do it again, I would most certainly give myself more time for such an ambitious itinerary. Condensing this trip to 9 days meant some very long drives and lots of early mornings. I would say we yearned for a holiday after the holiday!
Tour company - http://www.korisafaris.com/.
Crater lodge (beautiful views) - http://www.crystallodgesuganda.com/
Mweya Safari Lodge (pool with a view overlooking a watering spot) - http://mweyalodge.com/
Arcadia Lodge (stunning views over Lake Bunyonyi) - http://www.arcadialodges.com/
Rafting the Nile - http://adrift.ug/
So for this week’s Travel Blog of unconventional travel for unconventional women, Kara Roberts, a fellow Hummingbird is guest blogging about her recent trip to Scotland…the only thing I have to say about this is that now I want to go to Scotland RIGHT NOW.
Last summer, when a friend of mine said that she was going to Scotland by herself, I took the liberty of inviting myself and she gracefully allowed me to tag along.
The trip got off to an inauspicious start. My flight was delayed by almost nine hours, which meant I missed my connection to Edinburgh. No worries! They’ll route me through London. Yay, London! A bonus I hadn’t expected. Never mind that because of this, the airline couldn’t figure out where I was and it took a solid three days to be reunited with my bags. No worries – shopping!
Then my friend’s flight was also delayed, and she was now going to miss the entire first day of our trip, getting in at 10 pm instead of the more civilized 8 am. We had planned on touring Edinburgh that first day, then driving to a castle in the Scottish countryside to stay at that night, for which we had prepaid. See the problem was, she was our driver. No worries – I’ll take the train! I head to the train station, ask for a ticket to Culcreuch, only to be met with a befuddled look. Graeme, the helpful ticket guy and native of Scotland, had never heard of this place. This is how I knew I was in trouble. Ten minutes later I’m BFF’s with Graeme as well as his co-workers, whom he has called over to help the poor, stranded American. Deb, who is a jovial gal, looks up at me over her glasses and says “But that’s in the middle of noooowhere! Did you know that, dear?” Well, I do now, Deb. I do now.
Eventually it’s decided that I should take a train, then a cab, all of which is made considerably easier by the fact that I STILL DON’T HAVE MY BAGS. When I hail a cab at the city nearest *howeveryoupronounceit, I jumped in and told the driver where I wanted to go and he said "Where?!" and I still managed to be surprised that no one, even getting closer to this place, has ever heard of it.
So, I give him the postcode and he looks it up and says "Oh dear. That's in the middle of noooowhere. Did you know that, dear?"
Yes. Thank you. I did know that.
"Well then, we'll just have a lovely drive out to the country." And off we went. I eventually make it to Culcreuch Castle, hit the pub, have some dinner, and am happy as a lark.
My travel companion finally arrives in the middle of the night, and we embark on our adventure the next morning. We made our way over the coastal town of Oban, which reminds me of a very small Seattle. In other words, it felt like home and I loved it.
Our first stop was at the famous Oban Distillery. The hostess asked if we’d like to do a tour, but when we found out it was an hour long, we paused to think. She jumped on the pause and said "or, you can just go upstairs and drink." And we became best friends with Sally. She gets us.
So, we head upstairs to sit at the bar which has tartan covered barstools and has been around since 1794, and we hit the jackpot with Stuart. Stuart immediately starts gifting us with his knowledge of scotch. He is charming and funny and we buy Scotch for ourselves, scotch for our husbands back home and then head out to have dinner by the sea. Glorious. We end the night by listening to a bagpiper in the lobby of our hotel, and I started my tradition of taking sly selfies with men in kilts. This proved to be one of the most fun parts of my trip.
Early the next morning, we arrive at the dock for our “Three Island Tour” – which was a boat tour of the Isles Mull, Staffa and Iona. I’m excited about the photography possibilities – especially given that it was apparently prime puffin-viewing season on Staffa (an island uninhabited except by these black and white birds).
Our first ship was a large ferry, then bus across the Isle of Mull. As we pull up to Fionnphort, the skies begin to look questionable and the wind is starting to kick up. And when the seemingly "too small to be a tourist boat" pulled up, I thought "this will be fun!" as I saw them handing out yellow sea parkas to the passengers.
That's right – I missed the painfully obvious clues: ominous skies, heavy winds, small boat, parkas.
About 20 minutes into the journey to Staffa, things got fun. Big waves, rolling and rocking, high winds. The skipper started handing out plastic bags, but soon resorted to saying "kindly lean over the side of the ship." We had to stop and wave (while clinging for life to the boat) at Staffa – the water was far too choppy (or “fresh,” as the Scots call it) for us to go ashore. So, puking, but no puffins.
We looked like the cast of Gilligan’s Island when we arrived on Iona, windswept and green. But I quickly recovered, and also swiftly fell in love with this charming, lovely Scottish isle. I visited the Iona Abbey, sat on the beach and visited the small shops. It was incredible and I do so solemnly swear that I left a part of my heart on Iona.
The next day, we started out for Inverness. We stopped along the way to see the viaduct where Harry Potter was filmed, as well as the Glenfinnan Monument. Along the way, we passed many lochs (including one called Loch Lochy, which still makes me laugh. “Lakey Lake” – I mean, are you even trying, Scotland?), and I wondered aloud, having taken no responsibility for the planning of the trip whatsoever, where Loch Ness might be. I pulled it up on my phone, and it was SEVEN MINUTES AWAY. On the road to Inverness.
We, upon arriving at the town of Loch Ness, (and at the advice of a local barkeep), walked through a farmer’s sheep field and found ourselves on a deserted shore of Loch Ness. It was incredible and I was fangirling big time. I will, however, admit to shrieking like a little girl when a stick washed over my foot. What a delightful surprise, to see Loch Ness.
We made it to Inverness, checked into the Strathness House, had a lovely dinner, and finished off the night listening to a dashing older rocker guy (in a kilt, no less) covering everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Neil Diamond.
The next day, we were on our way to Balmoral Castle when another delightful surprise happened: highland cows! (or, “heeland coos”) I had been dying to photograph some, but all the ones we’d driven past were in fields far away. We came around a corner on a tiny road, and there they were – a whole glorious herd of them, right next to the road. I stood there and photographed, and chatted with them, and plotted for the kidnapping of one of their babies (who are fluffy balls of amazingness). I thanked the Scottish travel gods for the blessing of seeing these beautiful creatures up close.
We made it to Balmoral, and befriended (as we do) the gentleman who drove the shuttle back and forth from the main gate to the castle. He told us some “hidden” places to see while touring the castle. On our way back, we struck up a conversation with him, and in the middle of the rather benign conversation, he states “Oh, and the Queen arrived while you were touring the castle.” I’m sorry – what? The Queen had, in fact, arrived while we were touring the castle. We never saw her, though, nor any fanfare. When I mentioned that the arrival of the President of the United States is generally a media circus, the gentleman simply looked at me and said “Well, we’re not Americans.” Duly noted. We are rather unnecessarily hysterical.
We wound up at the gorgeous Tor Na Coille hotel that night, but before turning in, took a drive out to the Dunnottar Castle ruins. While I expected amazing scenery, I was completely unprepared for the beauty of this place at sunset. One of the more incredible moments of my life.
The next day, we drove through the amazingly beautiful Cairngorms National Park on our way to Edinburgh. Our last day was spent in Edinburgh, where we toured many of the famous Harry Potter sites, including the café where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of her novels. We were able to see so many historic sites and we absolutely loved the city of Edinburgh.
I will carry a piece of this trip with me in my heart for the rest of my life. Everything: the beauty of the countryside, the history in its buildings and land, the warmth of its people – all combined to make for an amazing trip.
About the author: Kara Roberts is in the “just thrilled to be here” camp – amongst these many accomplished, talented female authors. Kara has a background in marketing, advertising, copywriting, event planning, and photography. She enjoys writing about the joys and challenges of parenting, adulting, and other (sometimes dreadful) experiences.
Kara has a BA in Film Studies and English from Willamette University, and an MBA from the University of Colorado. A Seattle native, she now lives in northern Colorado with her dashing husband, three charming yet exhausting children, and beloved 13 year old chocolate lab named Finnegan.
She has an affinity for dogs, wine, witty coffee mugs, sarcasm, and has an unhealthy obsession with Grey’s Anatomy. Despite being from Seattle, she loathes the rain, doesn’t eat seafood, and didn’t drink coffee until well into her 30’s.
So a couple of weeks ago we had a girls weekend in Mendocino, California. It was me, my sister-in-law, my aunt, and my exchange daughter (from Italy). At the end of the weekend, my sister-in-law posted a few pics on Facebook with the comment of “Wanderful Weekend!” She did it unintentionally, but I think she just created the new best word ever and I plan to use (and live) it as much as possible from now on.
So what made the weekend the wanderful? Well, aside from being with some of my favorite people, we also had great food, fun drinks, saw crazy waves and weather, and even spotted a whale. If you’ve never been to Mendocino, it’s a small town on the coast about three-and-a-half hours north of San Francisco. The drive is a bit rough if you get car sick, but is also really pretty and winds past several wineries, orchards, and small towns before hitting Highway 1.
Mendocino itself sits out on a bluff and is actually where they filmed all the old “Murder She Wrote” series—at least the scenes that “took place” in Maine. So despite most definitely being a small California coastal town, there is a little bit of the east coast whaling town feel to it. The entire place is walkable and there are boutiques and shopping galore if that’s of interest to you (lots of galleries, jewelry stores, a couple of bookstores, etc.).
We arrived around lunch at ate at Tote Fete . I had the crispy chicken sandwich (because I’m a sucker for crispy chicken sandwiches), my aunt had fish and chips (huge helping, fresh fish, she gave it the thumbs up), my sister-in-law had prawns and chips (same review as the fish and chips), and my exchange daughter had a burger with avocado and bacon which she said was great, though almost too big to eat. The prices are very reasonable and though we ate inside the small café, on a nice day, it would be fun to get take out and have a picnic on the bluff.
After lunch we walked out to the sea and watched the crazy waves then poked around the shops for a bit. At 3PM, we checked into the Mendocino Hotel which is a very charming hotel right in the middle of town. I’d recommend it, but there are probably several other lovely places—the only thing I’ll say though is that if you travel to Mendocino, it’s best to stay in town if you can. There are so many places to walk and just poke around that it’s fun to have that right outside your door.
Around 5(ish) we headed back out to the bluff where there is a bit of a tradition that people gather to watch the sunset. We were lucky to be there on a clear day and we definitely weren’t alone as we watched the sun sink into the pacific—it’s well worth making a point to do this if you are in the area.
For dinner we supped at the MacCallum House —a sort of mainstay of fine dining in Mendocino. The restaurant is located in the old MacCallum house and is lovely. The room we ate in was likely the original breakfast room and it had high ceilings, wood moldings, gorgeous wood floors, and a toasty fire place (it had been a sunny day but it was still January!). The food was good, I’d even go so far as to say very good, but perhaps not so far as to say exceptional. But the ambiance is warm, the building beautiful, and the cocktails super fun. If you’re looking for something less formal, I’d skip this experience and head to one of the many pubs in town, but if you want a lovely evening in a unique setting with excellent service and good food, you should definitely give this a go.
On Sunday morning, we had a lazy few hours but eventually made our way a little bit north and stopped at the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. We walked down to the lighthouse which is housed in a ridiculously cute building that even has a little museum attached to it. Two very cool things about this place: first, we saw whales—January is migration season but it’s always hit or miss whether you’ll see them or not, but we did! And second, you can actually stay at the lighthouse—not the lighthouse proper but there are four houses you can rent and stay in that are right next to the lighthouse. They are all adorable and really, they’d be the perfect place for a writing retreat (you can bet I added them to my list of places to go hideaway).
The last place we stopped was Mara’s Coffeehouse in Fort Bragg. We all had breakfast sandwiches (or burritos) and coffees of one sort or another. I had a dirty chai and it was great…I actually wish I had one now. One of the other charming things about Mara’s is that the walls are covered with photos of animals that are pets of the family that owns the place—everything from goats to pigs to dogs to cats…it lends a warmth to the café and definitely gives it a unique personality.
It was a short but packed visit to one of my favorite little coastal towns. We didn’t have a chance to go on any hikes or kayak in the rivers but rest assured, if you are interested in those types of activities, Mendocino and the surrounding area has them in spades. Makes me want to plan another wanderful weekend!
About the Author: Tamsen Schultz is an avid traveler and prefers to seek out the different or unusual even when visiting some of the more tourist-heavy spots (Capuchin Monastery in Rome, anyone?). Her contemporary novels are set on the other side of the country from where she lives (which may or may not be an excuse to travel) and she’s currently writing an historical mystery set in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, which adds a new dimension to her obsession by giving her a reason to travel in both space and time.
Like the diverse and unique ways hummingbirds migrate, you just can’t stereotype how women travel and we like it like that! Join us to read about new places, hear new perspectives, celebrate how and where we journey, and share some of your favorite adventures.
All Africa Amsterdam California East Coast Easy Travel Girls Weekend Hometown Spotlight Inaugural Post International Travel Kara Roberts Scotland Tamsen Schultz Traveling With Teens Uganda Wanderful Weekend Washington D.C. West Coast