Downtown Sonoma's Cottage Inn and Spa is my home away from home. And even though I can drive up in 30 minutes from San Francisco's North Bay area, guests last week from Hawaii and Boston clearly had caught onto the same idea. (One couple was hanging out in the dreamy upstairs Vineyard View Suite after just getting married following 27 years of dating. Another arrived with a group for a surprise anniversary event.)
Romance and relaxation are the overwhelming themes in this architecturally inspired hideaway only a 5-minute walk off the Sonoma Square. But a solo woman traveler like me can comfortably slip into one of the individualized rooms -- most with jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces -- for a timeout from the rat race of the typical day to day. And, yes, there's free Wi-Fi in my suite and public spaces whenever I want to fire up my laptop and check back into the real world.
The Cottage Inn is different from the quaint or "wine country elegant" inns that dot Sonoma. The carefully chosen painting, photographs and sculpture in the rooms and the spirit forms and Buddhas in courtyards and walkways create a soothing, healing presence. Cloistered Santa Fe-style with adobe walls around two converted houses, the inn declares "cozy retreat" whatever your intention.
Now that it's Mustard Festival in next-door Napa Valley through March, vineyards across both valleys are brimming with yellow gold flowers. So the Cottage Inn is a perfect anchor for taking in the wine country sights -- and then pulling back to more serenity in the evenings. I arrange for a Zen Garden Spa treatment, then unwind even more beside the open pit gas fire that burns up through a floor of crushed glass in the Romantico Paradiso Room.
Each room has a unique decor, designed by the late founder, who was an architect. All have similar amenities, including coffee and juice and refrigerators stocked for breakfast. Each morning fresh breads arrive in a basket at the door.The largest North Suite is one of two with full kitchens, and most rooms have open or covered outdoor patios.
I like the convenience, too. Hiking trails and bike routes start nearby and go in all directions, including over to General Vallejo's 19th century estate and historical museum to the west and a vineyard walk to Sebastiani and Ravenswood to the east. Sonoma Square offers some of the Valley's best dining -- including The Girl and the Fig, Cafe La Haye and El Dorado Kitchen, while the former General's Daughter restaurant in an 1864 Victorian on the Vallejo estate is generating a lot of buzz as Estate, the new venture of Girl and the Fig's Sondra Bernstein.