California-based editor and travel writer Kristen Cashman gets a bit restless when she doesn’t have at least one airplane ticket in her possession. A native of Boston, USA, at age 16 she moved with her mother to Milan, Italy. There she discovered the heightened aliveness that came with being in a foreign culture, and she’s been chasing that buzz ever since. Coral reefs, redwood trees, kale, and dark chocolate are a few of her favourite things.
Read on for Kristen’s charming California secret:
Most of those who visit Northern California’s Wine Country flock to rustic-chic cities like Napa, Healdsburg, and Sonoma. But for those who are looking for a real hidden gem, the lesser-known village of Freestone is the place to go. Nestled in a picturesque valley in West Sonoma County, it offers myriad multi-sensory delights and a laid-back, small-town feel. Freestone stretches across only about a half mile from one end to the other. It is home to a handful of unique establishments that make for just the right kind of indulgent day trip.
The undisputed first stop – Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary is everyone’s favorite. It boasts the only Japanese cedar enzyme bath in the United States and a spa treatment like no other. The 90-minute bath ritual begins with an herbal tea service in a private Japanese garden. Next you soak in a steaming aromatic blend of cedar, rice bran, and plant enzymes imported from Japan whose vapors purportedly ease aches and pains, detoxify and deeply relax the body. For next-level pampering, follow your bath experience with a 75-minute massage or facial.
Then, stroll down to Freestone Artisan Cheese, select a few of the region’s to-die-for European-style cheeses and buy a bottle of local olive oil to bring home.
Because the ideal complement to cheese is freshly baked bread, follow your nose over to Wildflour Bakery. Wildflour’s brick oven cranks out 9 to 12 varieties of bread each day, as well as biscotti, scones, and cinnamon-raisin sticky buns. The queue often snakes outside the door, but it’s worth the wait. After you sample the offerings and choose your favorites, take your goodies outside, settle on a bench in the bakery’s lovely garden, and delight yourself.
With relaxed muscles and a full belly, hop around the corner to the Joseph Phelps Vineyards tasting room. Savor your “tasting flight” as you feast your eyes on the vineyards and distant redwoods lining the hillsides. Phelps offers wine lovers the best of both worlds — the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that thrive in Freestone’s coastal climate, as well as the Cabernets and Sauvignon Blancs of their warmer, inland Napa Valley properties.
19th century extravagance at its best, Freestone is nothing short of a time travel. And for those who want to get the best of both worlds, there are water sports to indulge in as well.