Out & About

Day Trip: St. Helena

Monday, April 14th, 2014

We had such an amazing time in St. Helena with our inlaws last weekend we went again on Saturday to dine and shop! The spring weather has been spectacular with gorgeous blue skies so we couldn’t resist. I always take my camera along to capture the sights …

st helena day trip

St. Helena is a little town nestled between Calistoga to the north and Rutherford to the south in the heart of the Napa Valley and it makes for a fabulous day trip for anyone visiting the region.

napa valley map

map from here 

One thing a lot of tourists do is catch the Wine Train in Napa that takes you all the way up to St. Helena and back. We rode the sunset dinner train years ago with friends which was so fun but if you catch the lunch train during the day you will get the benefit of amazing vineyard scenery during daylight hours.

napa valley wine train

If you’re driving or biking along the main road into St. Helena your head will turn nonstop from left to right to take in all the sights. The landscape is covered with hillside vineyards and peppered with wineries, inns, and shops with idyllic grounds where you can stop to taste olive oil, cheese, and of course wine!

st helena winery

 

long meadow ranch tastings

           winery st helena

 

inn in st helena

It’s impossible to squeeze it all into one day but it’s worth visiting just to savor the sights and flavors.    

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Lemurs & Lenses

Monday, April 7th, 2014

What a great weekend we had! My mother-in-law and her husband came to visit so we took them to a place we’ve always wanted to see and only 30 minutes from our home called Safari West. If you’ve ever wanted to visit the Wine Country, this place is yet another reason to do so. Safari West is not a zoo, it’s a 400 acre preserve in the heart of Sonoma County that is home to several hundred animals and bird species native to Africa and South America, many of them endangered. Together with the kids and grandparents, we set out on a perfect spring day with sunny skies on a safari adventure! 

In anticipation of the visit, I rented a 18-200mm lens like I’ve done before to capture the animals in their habitats. It came with a hood and allowed me to zoom out to capture wide panoramas and zoom in to capture faces! 

lens rental

I love the idea of “try before you buy” so this was a great opportunity to take this versatile lens out for spin – I rent from Borrow Lenses and pick up at a local photography shop. This one is so great for vacationing outdoors when you take along your DSLR – the range of 18-200mm allows you to capture so much while on the go and without ever switching lenses.

The adventure begins on an all terrain vehicle (it felt a little like Jurassic Park) with an experienced guide and you ride all the way through the preserve up and down and into valleys where different animals live on a two hour tour. 

all terrain vehicles

 

guide in preserve

Some of the animals come up right next to the vehicle which is so cool but many of the animals are 20 to 100 feet away. Some habitats are enclosed (rhinos, cheetahs, monkeys) but many are not.

Antelopes and giraffes and zebras cross your path as you travel around, here’s a glimpse at a few of creatures captured on this beautiful preserve. There are hundreds of animals here, these are just a few favorite shots straight out of the camera using the borrowed lens.

lemur on branch

 

zebra in preserve

    

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