Sausalito, CA: A Valentine’s Day Destination

by Donne Davis on February 16, 2010

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Lately I’ve taken to reading the San Jose Mercury News‘ “Staycation Specials” in the travel section. [Staycation is a newly coined word for a period of time in which an individual or family stays home and relaxes or takes day trips from their home to area attractions.] Last month one of those headlines caught my eye:

The marriage deal
The longer you’ve been married, the more you’ll save on Valentine’s Day at Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa in Sausalito, CA. The “Sweetheart Deal” package offers couples a 1 percent discount off their stay for every year of their marriage. The special includes a rose, a bottle of champagne, chocolates, and a 30-minute massage in their spa.

“Wow,” I told my husband, “we’d qualify for a 42% discount and it is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Let’s celebrate our 42nd Valentine’s Day in Sausalito!” I booked a room the next day.

Sausalito is a picturesque waterfront town that resembles a Mediterranean hillside village. It’s just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge with great restaurants and spectacular views, when it’s not socked in under a blanket of fog. The Casa Madrona is situated on the main thoroughfare, directly across the street from the ferry terminal that serves San Francisco. Originally built in 1885, it is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

As a teenager, I loved hanging out in Sausalito. The old Village Fair, a four-story honeycomb of open-air shops carved out of an old ferry parking garage, featured a miniature “crookedest street in the world” leading up from street level. It thrived during the 1960s through the 80s. The crooked street is now stairs and all the shops are gone. In 2000, a real estate investment firm acquired the Casa Madrona and Village Fair and expanded it to its current 71 rooms, an 85-seat restaurant and a spa.

On this sunny Valentine’s Day the fog had lifted and Sausalito was sparkling, welcoming lovers, friends, and families from all over the world. Pairs of all ages, speaking dozens of different languages, strolled along Bridgeway, arm in arm, holding hands, riding tandem bikes, perched on the waterfront rocks with their picnic lunches, or walking their dogs.

Poggio’s, the Italian trattoria located at the base of the Casa Madrona, was our first stop after dropping our bags next door at the hotel. We sat at one of the sidewalk tables and enjoyed a salad with greens from their organic garden, sprinkled with slivers of sunchoke, a root vegetable also known as a Jerusalem artichoke.

After lunch, we joined the throngs of people window-shopping and took in the views of Belvedere and Tiburon, two small towns across the bay from Sausalito. The sailboats and yachts were out in full regalia, whipping about in the wind with the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge off in the horizon. We returned to our room just in time for my complimentary massage in the spa.

Our Valentine’s Day dinner was a short block down Bridgeway to Angelino’s, popular with the locals because of  its southern Italian dishes. Two classics got high marks: linguini con vongole and my favorite Italian dessert, tiramisu, which had outstanding coffee flavor.

This morning the town was completely enshrouded in fog, creating a magical quality to the water. We caught glimpses of ghostly images of sailboats floating in the fog. We heard the Blue and Gold Ferry’s fog horn blast as it disappeared in the thick mist and headed for San Francisco. Appropriately, we had breakfast at the Lighthouse Cafe before we checked out. Owned by a Danish couple, one of their specialties is fruit pancakes. I ordered raspberry and blueberry and they were the lightest pancakes I’d ever eaten.

We took a few souvenir photos before we packed our suitcase into the car. Heading back up the windy road towards the bridge, I told my husband we are blessed to have celebrated 42 Valentine’s Days together and to continue to enjoy new adventures, even when they’re in our own backyard!

{ 1 comment }

Susan Adcox February 22, 2010 at 7:38 am

I’m so jealous! Sausalito is one of my favorite places in the whole world. The first time I saw it, about 25 years ago, I told my husband that I had found the place I wanted to retire to. Now that I’m retired, though, Sausalito is a little too far from those grandkids–about two thousand miles too far, to be exact. But I would have loved to have been there on Valentine’s Day, and our discount would have beaten yours–45 years together!

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