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(Part Five of the 2015 edition of the Cottage Diary
which began way back in 2001)

The Surprise Treat

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

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NOT a Québec cottage scene!
I took the picture on the right this morning.  Palm trees?  Signs on that building across the street reading “University of San Francisco” and “Bank of America,”!??  This certainly doesn’t look anything like a scene from our Québec cottage!

The fact is, Heather and I are in San José, California.  We’ve come here at our daughter’s invitation.

Earlier this year, Rachael called us and said, “I want you to come to California for August 19.  It’s a surprise.”  She would not reveal what the surprise was, except to add, in light of the fact that she’s been happily married for about a year, “... and it’s not a baby!”

So, ever the dutiful parents, here we are. 1  And the surprise, now revealed, has been a total delight.

Rachael and Michael kept us completely in the dark right to the very end.  They booked themselves, and us, into a San José hotel, and in the late afternoon today bundled us into their car and set off.  Before long a sign said “Saratoga,” and we found ourselves driving through a community of upscale homes set in a forest.  A very mountainous forest, I might add.  The road we were on began to twist and turn, snaking upwards, higher and higher.

Every once in a while Rachael would say “Close your eyes!  Don’t look!” for apparently we were passing something – possibly a sign or a billboard – that could tell us what awaited us at our destination.

Then I did see a sign.  It read “The Mountain Winery,” so I began to think that we were being taken to a wine-tasting.  But we entered a parking area and there were hundreds of cars!  People in day-glo vests were directing traffic, for indeed we were now in a long line-up of vehicles trying to park.  So the “surprise” could not be any sort of wine-tasting – not if it involved this many people!

We parked, and walked along a path, with grape vines on one side and kiosks selling food and wine on the other.

Then we caught sight of a large amphitheatre – seats built into a natural depression in the mountainside.

In due course we were in those seats, and enjoying a concert by my favourite living jazz artist: Diana Krall.

What a delight!  The music was, of course, fabulous.  But the setting – from our seats we could see a great swath of California’s coastal mountains and part of the Central Valley – was breathtaking.

It seems that in the mid-1950s the owners of The Mountain Winery saw the potential for a concert venue, right there in that depression on the mountaintop, and so it was built.  Over the years the place became as much known for its concerts as for its wine!  The acoustics are as fine as any of the great European opera houses, and the view is unforgettable.

I will not attempt a music review here, but I will say this: Diana Krall is a great musician and performer; she is also a celebrity of the highest order; and yet, she does not hog the limelight.  Tonight she happily showcased members of her group, some of whom are as accomplished on their instruments as she is on hers.  I’m as much a fan of Anthony Wilson, her guitarist, as I am of Diana herself, and he was in fine form tonight.  As well, I had never before heard of Stuart Duncan, a jazz violinist who played a number of solos.  He is amazingly talented, reminding me of Stéphane Grappelli.

So the “surprise” that our daughter and her husband prepared for us was a total success, and will be a cherished memory for a very long time.

Tomorrow we return to Canada.

Rachael and Michael – and their dog – will come along too, and spend a few days with us at the cottage.

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The Mountain Winery Stage
The place is just filling up, while a guitarist performs.  Soon Diana Krall will be onstage, playing to a packed house.

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Next: Family Time!!


1  Regular readers will know that we fly inexpensively, as parents of an Air Canada flight attendant.  This allows us to plan and take short trips like this.  Of course, flying standby can mean that we might not get on our flight – or indeed on any flight, if they’re all full – but on this occasion we arrived in California in plenty of time for Rachael’s surprise treat.
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