Posted by Nancy D. Brown

Inn at OccidentalI love the fall and winter in Northern California, particularly the wine country. The out-of-state visitors have returned home, the crowds have thinned and the package deals begin to appear. I wrote about my winter trip to Sonoma's Inn at Occidental on the Uptake Lodging blog. If you are looking for a place to re-charge your batteries, even for twenty four hours, this is a great place to visit. Of course, I recommend several days in this area, as it is so close to the beach, Sebastopol and wineries in the Russian River Valley.

When I arrived on a misty February Monday, I was surprised to see adults and school children sitting on the curb in the village of Occidental. Cyclists in bright logo gear began to trickle in. I checked into the Inn at Occidental and asked owner Jerry Wolsborn what the fuss was about. Turns out the 2008 Amgen Tour of California was about to wiz by. While the exact route has yet to be posted on the Amgen website, I do know that Santa Rosa will be a staging area for Lance Armstrong and his fellow cycling team in February of 2009.

Located off the Bohemian Highway, the Inn at Occidental doesn’t have cell phonetowers. In fact, the only thing towering overheadare redwood trees. “Having lived in Marin for 10 years, I’d never been to Armstong,” said Wolsborn. The 805 acre State Reserve is “under utilized,”added Wolsborn. From horseback riding, to wine tasting or relaxing at the nearby Oasis Day Spa, the Inn is an ideal launch pad for a wide array of activities.

Osmosis Meditation Garden

Ten minutes away, in the blink-and-you’ll miss-it town of Freestone, I was treated to an Osmosis Cedar Enzyme Bath and a 75 minute Swedish Esalen massage. Before my treatments I was invited to stroll the Japanese meditation garden and sip herbal tea in the sitting room over looking the bonsai garden. I have to say, this was one of the best massages of my life, and I’ve had my share of massages.

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Another high point of Freestone is Wild Flour Bread Bakery. Be warned, the organic bakery is only open four days a week, Friday through Monday, including holiday weekends, except Christmas day. The scones are delicious.

Sonoma Lodge Room

Before you arrive, you’ll want to check out the rooms on-line. Each room or suite, offers a distinct personality. All rooms feature overstuffed down beds and fireplacesand include hors d’oeuvres in the evening and a Sonoma Harvest Breakfast in the Wine Cellar dining room.

Room prices range from $259 for traditional rooms, to $359 for suites with hot tubs, to $679 for the two bedroom Sonoma Vacation Cottage. Check on-line for Internet and Mid-Week specials. The Inn at Occidental is a member of Unique Inns. 

Cell phone update: Owner Jerry Wolsborn sent me an e-mail to say that Verizon cell service has arrived in the village of Occidental.  For those visitors wanting to stay connected, this is a good thing.  For the rest of us, hit the "mute" button on your cell phone and have another glass on wine.  Cheers.