Monday, August 20, 2007

Saint Barth's & Bella Vista Bed & Breakfast

Almost 20 years ago, J.D. & I were married. Looking at the pictures I see a couple of kids with a beat up old Ford Tempo and a two bedroom apartment. After our wedding reception, we took off in the old Ford to San Francisco to spend our first night at the Portman Hotel (now known as the Pan Pacific). If you haven’t stayed at this hotel, we highly recommend it, as one of the very best hotels in San Francisco, even to this day.

For the rest of our honeymoon, we flew out of the country to a little island in the French West Indies, called Saint Barthélemy. It was a little nerve wracking to fly in a little four-seater Piper plane over a large ocean and landing on a driveway on a small island. I guess it was the wedded bliss that veiled the fear of flying with a pilot who looked like Captain Bligh, hung over after a late night binge. He boarded us while carrying a steel case marked “Emergency tool kit” and we boarded the plane anyway. It was like being in a small sports car in the sky.

St. Barth’s is an island only realized in one’s dream. We had reservations at the Hotel Le Manapany, situated prettily on the north shore’s secluded Anse des Cayes. We had our own cottage and access to a private beach. I still don’t remember how we afforded it, but we had an excellent travel agent at the time. She put the whole deal in a honeymoon package that cost roughly $3,000 including airfare, meals and a Mini Moke car (think golf cart) which easily transported us around the small island paradise. Isle de St. Barthélemy is located in the northeastern corner of the Caribbean Sea, 4400 miles from Paris, 1700 miles from New York, 125 miles east from Puerto Rico, and 15 miles southeast from St. Maarten. A little more than eight square miles, its steep hills divide the island into several valleys, usually open on one side to the sea. Each valley is distinctive, with unique variations of topography, flora, density of settlement, and character of architecture. I remember driving our Mini Moke up one peak where we noticed a yield sign for air craft coming over the hill into the airport.

Since the island was name for St. Barthelemy (St. Bartolomeo), the feast day celebration is a big deal August 24, so we were lucky to be around on that day. The French Navy also docks there on such occasions and you see them wander around the village, where natives and visitors come into contact daily. The native peoples resemble Dutch sheep herders. I know it all seems so surreal. The primary languages spoken on the island are French and English, although most residents come from France and Portugal. We spent ten days there absorbing the wonderful cuisine and people of St. Barth’s vowing that someday we would return.

For this nineteenth wedding anniversary, we opted for a local getaway that I wanted to share with readers as a beautiful way to celebrate a wedding anniversary or special birthday. Once you are there, you feel like you are truly “away” and we only traveled 20 minutes. Some wisdom just comes with age and experience.

Our destination was a new bed and breakfast that opened in Placerville off Cold Springs Road near Coloma. Bella Vista Bed & Breakfast sits on an oasis overlooking the Coloma valley on carefully landscaped grounds. The owners Bob & Kathleen Ash are the perfect hosts in a lovely home that they’ve created for their guests to enjoy. Just down the hill from Gold Hill and David Girard Wineries, this was a wonderful getaway that allowed us to feel as if we had gone away, much in the way we did for our honeymoon. Kathleen and Bob take very good care of their guests and treat them like family. Each room is tastefully decorated, with no detail left to chance. The evening wine and appetizers made us want to stay in for dinner.

The next day we took our whole family to brunch at Sequoia Restaurant, another local treasure situated in Placerville on Bee Street that boasts a lovely atmosphere in an old historic mansion and a chef who keeps the brunch and dinner menu very interesting and delicious.

You don’t have to fly out of the country to celebrate special occasions; sometimes the romance and the ambiance can be found in your own backyard! We wish Bob & Kathleen every success with Bella Vista; it’s truly a beautiful view and one of Placerville’s newest “hot spots”.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at or on the web at

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Work in progress

School’s back?! "Wah...." Not fair. I just finished summer school last week and without taking another breath, I cleaned out Walmart’s school supplies early Tuesday, because the kids start school next week. Reality bites. Without sounding like too much of a whiner, I feel a little overwhelmed. In a last ditch effort to say I participated in summer fun, I am packing the kids, heading north and doing the roughing it kind of camping for 2.5 days…no running water, no electricity. If it wasn’t for good friends, coconut rum and Phase 10, I’d say I was crazy. I should consider medication but who needs a shower for 3 days. Not me. I’ve been overzealous in the sterile arena for the last eight weeks in my microbiology class. Now it’s time to go meet these little creatures, up close and personal in nature. I praise God for the person who invented handi-wipes. You rock.

I just want to say how much I admire all you people that appear to be in master control of your lives, that I desperately try to be you. I see you out there. You have your Franklin Planners, your kids play on traveling teams. You make all your meetings and are home for dinner. Your kids are on honor roll because I see your bumper stickers. You look like you work out and you sure look good. You obviously are carefully tuned up at the hair and nail salons regularly. You amaze me. Yep. I’m pretty jealous. I’ll get over it. You wouldn’t know a flat tire, an IEP or a bad hair day if it smacked you upside the head. You probably see me out there and say “that woman’s messed up”. I’m not really. I am just a work in progress.

I know Bob Billingsley has got the patent on bullets, but I have a few declarations to make, so that I don’t lose my mind this semester, so bear with me as I make a few Fall resolutions.

· JD & I will have a couple date nights this semester. I will talk about something other than the kids and school. I will go to some of his work parties.

· I shall not fall behind. I will carry a planner. I will look at it once or twice instead of pretending.

· I will stay within my budgeted cell phone plan and not go over my minutes. I can stop talking. Really, it’s as simple as “I gotta go, talk to you later...bah bye”

· The kids will not fall behind. They will not grow accustom to loud sighs and repetitive “Did you….?” Fill in the blank. I will try to keep my cool. This requires a straight jacket and a muzzle, but I hear they are on sale right now.

· I will not require medication…yet

· I will go to the gym. I will. I promise.

· I will try to make it to church more than once/week (this is to help with the fifth one above)

· I will make every column deadline. Pat, stop laughing.

· I will attempt to cook more this semester and not from a box. Ha. Funny.

· laundry will be folded occasionally and put away- maybe- well, we’ll see.

That last one makes me dizzy.

After reading this over, it doesn’t seem too hectic. I haven’t put in all the homework I’m going to have for statistics, physiology and human growth & development. I also haven’t included the carpools I’ve signed up for, but hey…if my planner knows about it, it’ll get done by that other woman named Tammy Maher. She always manages to help out in a pinch.

In the meantime, I continue to be a work in progress. So bear with me.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at or on the web at