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A large house in the Napa Valley near San Francisco
My name is Lee. I am near the end of a long career teaching British and European history at Chapman University in Southern California. My wife, Mary Jane, retired two and a half years ago as a teacher of the visually impaired in the Huntington Beach High School District, also in Southern California. We sold our house in Irvine at the end of 2013 and bought one in Napa soon after. I now commute back and forth between home and work, about 500 miles, until I finally retire in a couple of years. We have used Intervac for exchanges three times in the mid-1990s and in the summer of 2016 (7/21-8/17). We traded houses with couples in the London area--Ealing, Highgate and King's Langley, and this summer in Tavistock in Devon. This time around we are looking to trade with someone in Ireland or Scotland. We would like to stay about three weeks in July, August and September of 2017.
Our house in Napa was built in 2001 and is 2569 sq. ft. (sorry about the English measure) on two levels. We made some substantial changes over the past two years including installing hickory floors and plantation shutters downstairs as well as blackout blinds and Berber carpeting upstairs. Also, everything inside was repainted (the two main downstairs rooms and all hallways are beige, but the colors of all the other rooms were chosen from the palette used by Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West). The upper floor has three bedrooms, one a master ensuite with a Jacuzzi tub and shower, and a second full bath. The master has a king sized bed and the other two bedrooms have queens. The lower floor has a fourth bedroom (which we presently use as an office, but for which we have a blowup bed), a bathroom with a shower, two large main rooms and a kitchen (with all the usual appliances including a wine fridge, of course, a dishwasher, a large fridge, granite counters, an island with seating and a gas stove), which opens onto our family/tv room. The lower floor is very much of an open concept design. We added French doors and a 400 sq. ft. deck out back where we have a gas BBQ grill and where we often eat dinner in the summer. There is also a separate laundry room, a pantry, and a large two car garage. There are high or cathedral ceilings throughout. Quite a bit of art work is hanging everywhere, the result of a lifetime of indiscriminate collecting. There are two TVs, a 65" downstairs and a 55" upstairs, both hooked up to DirecTV, a satellite purveyor. Also, wifi and a computer are available. The house has central heating and air conditioning. We have lots of board games including most of the traditional ones.
The house is located on a 1/3 acre lot on Redwood Creek, which you can peer into over the back fence or from the master suite. It will be dry in July, August and September. The slope down to the creek is covered with blackberries. Though we are very much within the Napa city limits, the large number of big trees in and around the creek leaves the impression that you are out in the country. Deer wander by from time to time and even occasionally come up into the front yard. Because our short deadend street is located in a neighborhood well off the main roads, and because the house is located at the end of a 200 ft. driveway off this deadend street, there are no cars passing by. In fact, we hear little traffic noise either in the front yard or the back. We have just completed a two year-long substantial re-landscaping, which should be completely grown in by the summer of 2017. We planted apple, plum, peach and lemon trees. They should be producing next year. Everything is on an automated watering system and a gardener comes by weekly.
We have two daughters who live within 40 minutes and my wife has a sister and two nephews, and their families, who have houses within a mile. There are two other houses along our driveway. Both families are about the same age as us and are quite nice. One of the wives is English.
The City of Napa is at the south end of the Napa Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area), one of the premier wine growing regions of the world. There are 400 plus wineries that you can visit in the valley and just as many in the next county to the west, Sonoma. This area north of San Francisco is also famous for its craft breweries-- Lagunitas, Russian River, Bear Republic, etc.--and cheese makers. The Napa Valley is known for its restaurants including two three star Michelin ones and many more that are almost as good and much cheaper. Some food critics have described the French Laundry in Yountville as the best restaurant in the world. The valley is in fact a sort of Disneyland for adults and there are tons of things going on all summer long. There is even a full-sized castle near Calistoga, really a winery, of course. It's about an hour to San Francisco and about the same to the ocean. Bodega Bay is the closest beach on the Pacific. The Gold Country and the really big mountains are about two hours to the east. The greater Bay Area (Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz) has about 15 million inhabitants so that there really is something here for everyone.
We have two cars that we are willing to exchange. For ordinary travel you will probably want to use the Hyundai Santa Fe, a mid-sized two wheel drive SUV. We also have a 2001 Range Rover, which is a hoot to drive, but is a gas guzzler and uses the premium stuff. Your choice. However, there are quite a few places in California where a four wheel drive vehicle might be useful, some quite close by.
There is an express bus from SFO to Napa approximately every two hours. Evans Inc. buses stop once and take from 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 hours to reach Napa.
- 2 Adults
- 0 Children
- 1 Exchanges made
- House Type: House
- Environment: In the suburbs
- Bedrooms: 4
- Bathrooms: 3
- Sleeping Capacity: 7
In my house
- Pets - Not allowed
- Small children - Allowed
- Home exchange
- Air conditioning
- No smoking
- Car necessary
- Use/Exchange of car
Our Destination Wish List
Nearest Airport: Oakland or San Francisco - About an hour
Napa has about 75,000 people and is the largest city by far in the 30 mile long Napa Valley. It is located at the south end nearest to San Pablo Bay, which keeps summer temperatures mostly in the 80s F during the day, the low 70s after 7 pm and the high 50s by midnight. The climate is quite dry and there are few insects, which allows us to leave the French doors open onto our deck for much of the day and in the evening. The other much smaller cities in the valley are Yountville (8 miles north of here), St. Helena (15 miles) and, at the north end, Calistoga (25 miles). Most of the valley outside of these cities is in an agricultural district (almost entirely grapes now) in which residential, commercial and industrial development is severely restricted. It is 6 to 8 miles wide at its widest and there are only 2 roads running north/south from end to end. The valley is surrounded by low mountain ranges on three sides, but the floor is mostly flat, which makes it a very popular biking venue (we have some bikes).
Our house is in the northern, mostly suburban part of the city. The historic downtown area is about 3 miles away on the Napa River, which is tidal at this point. The city is only about 20 feet above sea level and mostly flat. The downtown is a tourist destination and has many fine restaurants and about 30 wine tasting rooms. Strict building codes mean that there is nothing in the city, or indeed the whole valley, over five stories high. Though the house is in a part of the city zoned strictly residential, there are plenty of places to shop about a mile away.
What visitors do in the valley is taste wine and Cabernet Sauvignon is king, though every other major grape variety is also grown. All the major French Champagne makers are here, for instance. There are always tons of things going on, but among the regular attractions are the Wine Train from Napa to St. Helena and back, and hot air balloon rides over the valley early in the morning, both of which require reservations well in advance. The next county to the west, Sonoma, is also a wine destination with many interesting towns to visit--Petaluma (actually Marin County), Sebastopol, the City of Sonoma, and Healdsburg. To the south is the rest of the Bay Area including San Francisco, which is an hour away. SF is probably the prettiest big city in America. Of course, there are really big mountains to the east of us and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The closest beach is also about an hour away.
What most people who have not visited California, or have never left one of its urban centers, don't understand is that most of the land in the state is government owned and mostly unoccupied. There are parts of the state where you can walk hundreds of miles without seeing a building of any sort. Even the greater part of Napa County is rural or even wild. Most everyone lives on the Napa Valley floor or the coastal plain to the south. There are dozens of wilderness walks less than an hour from the house! Of course, California is famous for its state and national parks. Yosemite, effectively the oldest national park in the world, is just five hours away. At 1,168 sq. miles, it's larger than some countries. There are many beautiful state parks that are much closer.
- We do not have children.
- We do not have pets.
About Our Family
My wife's name is Mary Jane and my name is Lee. We are in our mid-60s. She is a retired teacher of the visually impaired while I still work as a professor of history at Chapman University. Our principle residence is the Napa house, which we have owned two and a half years. I have traveled to the British Isles almost every year for the past 30 years, oftentimes with Chapman students. In fact, I will be taking students to London for 10 days in January of 2017. Mary Jane will be coming over with me, as she often does. We are addicted to West End plays.
We have two daughters and two grandsons, all of whom live at the north end of nearby Contra Costa County. Our son lives in New York City. One of Mary Jane's sisters lives about a mile from us with her husband. Two of her children, with their children and spouses, also live in Napa.
We are very low key people. We both read quite a bit. I like to putter in the garden, though I leave the heavy lifting to the professionals. Mary Jane does a bit of everything. While traveling, we are addicted to walking tours, especially the historical and architectural types. We have done hundreds of them. We also like to do wine, cider and beer tastings. We go to many plays and like classical, folk and Bluegrass music.