To Plan A Trip

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Look for the Sonoma County Tourism Program at www.sonomacounty.com or call them at 707-565-5383. The Northern California Handbook (Moon Travel Handbooks) contains excellent information on both history and practical matters.

Sonoma County lies about 40 miles north of San Francisco and, at about 1,600 square miles, is much bigger than the neighboring and rivalrous Napa County. Still, Sonoma’s partisans claim it offers a more intimate, less commercial wine experience. I stayed in three places, scattered across the county, and found them all appealing. The Hotel La Rose in Santa Rosa was built a year after the 1906 earthquake and wears its age well. Recently refurbished and listed with the National Trust’s Historic Hotels of America, the hotel sits in a restored section of downtown known as Railroad Square; the nearby depot is beautifully restored and in use as a visitors’ center. Several surrounding structures and the La Rose itself are built of locally quarried stone and are considered prime examples of the craftsmanship of the county’s Italian masons (call 707-577-8674 or visit www. hotellarose.com ).

In Glen Ellen, the heart of Jack London country, I spent several nights in a cabin in the woods, managed by the Glenelly Inn and luxuriously furnished with microwave, fireplaces, and wraparound deck. This would be a good candidate for a week-long stay (707-966-6720; www. glenelly.com [click on Glenelly Properties]). The area called the Valley of the Moon is where London lived, ranched, and tended vineyards from 1903 until his death in 1916. His property and cottage, the ruins of the mansion he and his wife built that burned before they could move there, his grave, and the house his widow lived in and turned into a memorial to his life and work—all belong to the Jack London State Historic Park.

A third lodging, the Inn at Occidental, is a rambling Victorian whose genial host fills each room with the American antiques that are his passion. The Inn is located in the Russian River Valley, only eight miles from the roiling Pacific (707-874-1047; www. innatoccidental.com ). To get to the ocean, you can follow beautiful back roads to the hamlet of Bodega and beyond that to the fishing village of Bodega Bay. In Alfred Hitchcock’s scary 1963 movie The Birds , children flee in terror from the Bodega schoolhouse to arrive in moments at the Bodega Bay waterfront, but the two are actually five miles apart. Several buildings featured in the movie still stand, including the schoolhouse, which recently opened for tours (707-876-3257; www.bodegaschool. com ). The owner, Mary Lean Taylor, says the film is especially popular in Germany, and when foreigners arrive in Bodega, “they like to pretend the birds are chasing them, and they run down the hill screaming, as if no one ever thought of it before.”