The last day's pictures are here
Monday was The Big Day, my birthday. Honestly, I couldn't think of anything we could do to top the two days prior, but I was looking forward to seeing what was in store. The day's plans were a mystery to me, (except for dinner), so I had no idea what to expect.
The first stop of the day had us up and out of the house by 9 AM. Following a 45-minute drive to Santa Rosa (and a little bit of confusion in directions), we arrived at our next stop, one that was a genuine surprise to me: The national headquarters of Canine Companions for Independence
' mother has raised several puppies for CCI, so when he found out we would be nearby, he suggested a tour there. Really, this was a most amazing and humbling experience, and I am so glad that we went there.
and provides assistance dogs to disabled children and adults, all at no charge. They use black labs
and golden retrievers
exclusively, and the level of care and training that goes into each dog is simply astonishing. We got to take a tour of their grounds
, and see how they train the dogs after the puppy
raisers initial training, lasting
6-8 months. This is followed by 6-9 months of training at the CCI facility before the dogs are paired with a client, either as a service or companion team (opening doors, picking up dropped items, etc.), a hearing team (alerting the client of a ringing telephone, etc.), or a facility team (therapy dogs). I was extremely impressed with the facility
and with the friendly people who worked and volunteered there.
After the tour it was back to Napa. We grabbed a tasty lunch at a local burger joint then it was on to the next surprise: a day spa
! It was quite delightful: I got a 75-minute massage followed by a pedicure; takaza
got a facial, roho
each got pedicures and Lydia also got a manicure. Even Paul, who got pulled away by work for a few hours, was able to get a nice paraffin hand treatment. My massage was divine, and when Paul rejoined us he brought a bottle of wine for everyone to enjoy as well. Our manicurist, Babs, was delightful and we had a lot of fun bantering and hanging out.
After everyone was properly relaxed and such, we stopped by Oxbow Market
to search for some good local olive oil. We found a couple bottles
that were quite delicious. We also stopped by a very nice wine and cheese bar
and had a couple pints of beer, which were quite tasty. We were quite amused to chat with the bartender there and find that she was from the south side of Chicago.
We ended the day with dinner at Bouchon Bistro
. My food was quite outstanding: I started with an appetizer of cassoulet with duck confit and garlic sausage, followed by the Gigot d'Agneau (roasted leg of lamb served with flageolet beans and a thyme jus) and for dessert a delicious creme caramel. Brendan's boudin blanc was excellent, and the desserts, especially Dan's dark chocolate mousse and Lydia's blood orange pot de creme, were outstanding. Unfortunately, the service was only mediocre (long waits, confused orders), and Dan and Lydia's steak frites were quite lacking for the cost. Still, it was a great experience and I am glad we went. It was a wonderful way to finish off my birthday.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Yesterday (Tuesday) we packed everything up early, leaving the house at 7 AM, and drove down to San Francisco International (by way of the San Mateo Bridge, on Babs' advice, which I'm sure saved us some headaches). We made it there in plenty of time, though our flight turned out to be two hours late departing (one hour of that spent sitting on the tarmac). We got into O'Hare at about 7 PM, and picked up our luggage just in time to miss the Metra train home. Rather than waiting the 90 minutes until the next train, we opted to catch a cab, and I'm glad we did. We saw Brendan and Lydia off at about 9:30 PM, and got to bed at 11 PM.
So here I am, back at work, and quite exhausted. I'm told we have one more experience this evening, courtesy of a certain panda
. That should be quite fun as well!