14. SAUSALITO, CA

(Alert! Start with Day 1 of our “30 Days x 30 Cities” blog series to follow this trip from the start)

We arrived in Sausalito just before the sun started to set and were met by our host, Tanya (pictured below carrying a miniature-sized version of herself), outside of her home.

She was bubbly and warm and gave us a million suggestions for places to eat and things to do.

We decided on Avatars for dinner, despite the fact that they featured bad camera phone photos of diners licking their plates clean. They billed themselves as "Purveyors of Ethnic Confusions since 1989" and the online reviews were kind of funny so we couldn't resist. (If you're wondering, the meal really was quite good and the owner / waiter was as colorful and confident as the reviews warn...)

We overstocked on fresh fruit and veggies at a farm stand we passed on our way into town, so breakfast the next morning was in our suite, below Tanya and her family. It was rewarding to prepare a meal for ourselves after almost two weeks on the road. As it was with Italy, cooking was the first thing we missed about being away from home.

After a quick trip to the market — where we crossed paths with adorable Angelo (above, not attached to Tanya) proudly donning a "Made in Italy" badge — it was time to venture out. Our first stop was lunch at the highly lauded Fremont Diner, situated right along our path to the wineries of Sonoma County.

The irony of eating southern comfort food in the heart of wine country aside, the open air meal (complete with the bravest chicken we'd ever met) was quite dreamy. While Carolina cooking is respectable, the views are no match for Sonoma.

That afternoon, we visited a quiet, emerging vineyard as well as some more well-traveled territory, before a spontaneous search on our phone for regional Port makers.

Low and behold, the only port wine maker in Sonoma County was just a half hour away and still open for business. We headed to Sonoma Valley Portworks, in the hip little town of Petaluma, CA to learn about, sample and purchase some of their finest.

With a few bottles in tow, we drove back to our nest in Sausalito. That night we cooked our first full dinner of the trip, toasted with ruby-filled glasses, and ventured into town to overlook the Bay.

Though the twinkling lights of San Francisco called from the distance, we first had to answer the call for one more trip North...