Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Review 1763: Owner, Gloria's Sonoma House
3bed/2bath house just outside of Sonoma, California
September 2005, One week
The house is located in Agua Caliente, a small community of about 700 inhabitants, less than 10 minutes distance from Sonoma town centre. It is at the end of a cul-de-sac and offers total privacy.
The house is a short, 10 minutes drive from the centre of Sonoma along highway 12.
The Sonoma Market is highly recommended: a high-end supermarket offering anything one may need for high-end survival, such as a good selection of sensibly priced wines (a matter of priority here), a very good selection of quality prepared food, groceries, produce, etc. Take "Gloria's shortcut" and turn left from highway 12 onto West Spain Road and then turn right on 5th Street till you locate the parking lot on your right.
This is a "full house" house, which we would gladly transport back to Toronto anytime. An open concept house, in which on the main level the dining room and kitchen are contiguous but separated by a low wall. A few steps lead to the lower level which houses two bedrooms, a large double shower and twin sinks in the bathroom, with an exit from one of the bedrooms on to the tantalizing backyard - more on this later. There are also a couple of utility rooms on the same level.
Upstairs, again only a few stairs from the dining room, there is another large bedroom, a bath with shower, and a large family room, fully equipped with TV, DVD player, VCR and beautiful bookcases with books, games and even puzzles.
The house is lovingly and eclectically decorated with souvenirs collected by the family in their travels, with a distinct nod given to Mexican collectibles.
The "pièce de résistance": a tiled walkout from the lower level or by the cedar boardwalk from the house main entrance will take the fortunate visitor to the patio and garden. Trees and bushes surround the yard, which is set in three levels: the patio itself, the swimming pool a few steps higher, followed by a spectacular short climb to the upper level with its hot tub.
A stone wall separates the swimming pool from the hot tub above. One of the most delightful points about residing in this house is waking up in the morning at the sound of the waterfall which comes to life for a few hours as water from the hot tub spills artfully and soothingly into the swimming pool. A moment of zen.
If you are lucky, the neighbour's cat would be visiting, grooming herself by the hot tub while, bleary eyed, you prepare the first coffee of the day.
If you are even luckier, in the afternoon, as you sip a coffee (or, better, a glass of chilled Cline Viognier) on the patio, a hawk will glide gracefully above and maybe come down to peer closely at you. Skies are blue, peace and quiet, the glass or cup at hand, the hawk watching the neighbourhood; it doesn’t get much better than this.
Gloria and Alex have furnished this house for themselves; therefore everything is of good taste and quality and in good shape, all very organised and spotless. There is room for a good party of 8-10 at the dining table, and outside each of the three levels has many well placed lawn chairs, benches and tables with chairs, large shady umbrellas, etc. Upstairs there is generous space to relax in the family room and some additional privacy can be had in the drawing room adjacent to the entrance.
There are three large and comfortable bedrooms, which could sleep easily six people. Two fully equipped bathrooms, with showers (one of them a twin shower and twin sinks) provide choice and comfort. Gloria prepared an abundance of towels, etc.
There were more utensils in the kitchen than we would know what to do with. We used heavily the filter coffee machine as well as the small toaster/oven. Even made an omelette one day. The corkscrew got a heavy workout too. We could have cooked full meals, but with the Sonoma Market (see above), why?
The pantry was made available to us, provisioned for family survival, with a variety of teas, cereals, conserves, preserves, paper towels, foil, etc. There was ground coffee ready in a jar and more waiting in the freezer.
The large windows of the kitchen offer a gorgeous view of the swimming pool, waterfall and afore-mentioned grooming cat. Priceless.
Problems or Bonuses
I figured out how to turn off the outdoors lights: use the second switch in the lower level bedroom that opens to the patio! I also suggest a more detailed note on the use of the thermostat for heating or air-conditioning.
- If you like dogs, the neighbour on the left has two cute ones, to ease the absence of your own.
- If you can't get a reservation at Cafe la Haye, the neighbour across the cul-de-sac on Eveton Rd. works at la Haye and can get it for you.
- Sonoma Market - enough said.
- The cat.
- The hawk.
Above all, the house itself and its peace and quiet.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Gloria is an excellent host. Our email correspondence resolved questions quickly, the terms were simply and clearly laid out, and as a bonus we received a load of tips on how to enjoy the time in the region.
Gloria was also flexible to accommodate our arrival time and received us with a big smile, hugs, a chilled bottle of Cline Viognier, grapes, cheese and chips. The introduction to the house and its features and fixtures was thorough.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
In fact, since our return home, we have been telling friends and colleagues what a great time we had and will not hesitate to recommend a stay at Gloria’s house to anyone asking.
Things to do in this area
Favourite restaurants: The Girl and The Fig and Cafe La Haye, both in Sonoma.
- Copia, the food and wine museum in Napa www.copia.org
- Domaine Carneros on the way to Napa www.domaine.com
- Di Rosa Preserve right across from Domaine Carneros, but be ready for a two hours tour - otherwise one cannot visit the Preserve www.dirosapreserve.org
- The Olive Press on the way to Glen Ellen www.theolivepress.com
Visit the myriad of wineries in the region, and drive carefully after that...
Shopping: the shopping mall in Santa Rosa and while there, have a corned beef on pumpernickel sandwich at Mac’s Kosher Style Delicatessen, 630 Fourth St.
Provisioning: the beautiful and abundant Sonoma Market.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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