We all know living or visiting the North Bay is a ticket to paradise. But even in paradise life can get hectic. So with the idea of starting the New Year on a relaxed note, here are some ways to chill out, decompress, and perhaps even find your Zen.
The Zen of bees
Walking briskly along Sonoma Plaza, Randy Coffman is overheard on his phone. “The bees are all over the place. I’m going to try to get them into a box.”
On this bright summer day, Coffman, president of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wine Country Group with offices in Napa and Sonoma, was hurrying over to the State Park Visitor Center Barracks Gift Shop to corral a swarm of honey bees. They had taken up residence on the barracks wall. And they were considered a possible threat to the many visitors streaming by.
Absorbed as he worked to contain the swarm, a woman walked by and called out, “You have certainly found your Zen.” He looked up and responded, “I sure have.”
Coffman explained that while he feels like he has been tending bees for a couple of minutes, when he’s done “I realize I’ve spent hours, even whole afternoons, tending hives. This truly is a Zen moment for me.”
Napa Valley Bee Company owner Rob Keller laughed when told about the encounter. “The Zen of beekeeping. That’s rich and really goes to the heart of beekeeping.”
While we all can’t keep our own bee hives, you can have your own personal beekeeping experience with the Napa Valley Bee Company. Keller leads private tours of some of the 25 bee apiaries he maintains across Napa Valley. Many are located at Napa’s most storied restaurants and locations like The French Laundry in Yountville and Long Meadow Ranch in Rutherford.
Keller customizes half-day long tours to visitors’ beekeeping experience levels. A “Beekeeping 101” tour will be much different than a tour for experienced beekeepers.
“We’ll usually meet at a local café for a cup of coffee and plan out the day that is custom tailored to the client’s desires,” he said.
Tours cost about $300 per person.
Grace Lutheran Church Labyrinth, Saint Helena
If you want to literally walk along a path to Zen, visit the outside labyrinth at Grace Lutheran Church in St. Helena.
“Walking the labyrinth without speaking offers a contemplative, meditative way to gather your thoughts,” said Deb Covington of Napa, before she began her morning walk. “This is a place for people to come together and newcomers are always welcome,” she said.
Grace Lutheran Church’s maze is an exact copy of the one in Chartres, France, about 60 miles southeast of Paris, which was built in 1201. It is considered the gold standard in labyrinth layout.
The retired Reverend William “Mac” McIlmoy came up with the idea for a maze at Grace Lutheran Church and it was completed in late 2017. It is outside, free to the public, and open 24/7 all year.
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Calistoga
“It’s never crowded here. I can take a nice, long walk and not run into crowds of other people,” said Jan Bennett of Calistoga, enjoying the peaceful ambiance of Bothe-Napa Valley State Park.
An outdoor excursion along hiking trails, creeks and open land is a great way to let the burdens of everyday life melt away. And along with Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Napa boasts dozens of local, city, county and state parks.
Within minutes of starting down a path in a park, hikers no longer hear street noise or other rumblings of city life. A local park is a great way to let the stress of a hectic day slip away.
Bennett co-owns Lovina Restaurant in Calistoga. She called this is an easy escape, especially after someone gave her a parks parking pass as a gift. “It’s easy. I don’t have to pay an entrance fee when I drive in. I can park and start walking.”
Jen Freeman is visiting Bennett from Los Angeles. Freeman said after a rough day, “it’s nice to get out and move. Bothe has great trails to walk.”
“And the paths are flip-flop friendly,” Bennett added, “meaning you can walk in flip-flops or other comfortable shoes, because the paths are even, gentle and inviting. Being outside, in this natural wonder, helps me feel connected to the season.”
Annual parking passes cost $70. The one-time daily parking fee is $8.
The Meritage Resort & Spa Day Pass, Napa
If your state of Zen is more physical relaxation than meditative, locals and visitors can indulge in a Spa Day at many of the Valley’s world-class hotels.
“It invigorates me. It gets the stress out,” said Alex James of Sonoma, who was visiting the Meritage Resort spa with his husband, Chad.
The Meritage Resort & Spa is one of many Napa hotels offering Spa Days. You do not need to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy their spa. You can book a day pass at the spa and not have to stay overnight.
Alex and Chad have been married for four years and decided to treat themselves to a spa treatment.
Chad said they chose the Meritage because, “it was close enough to us for a quick, simple, really nice escape. An escape from the world.”
Spa treatments are $165 and up.