I was asked in a recent blog comment, "I Have to ask now that you have been there a bit, how do you like it? My husband and I are considering it as a retirement location."
So, after being here a year, here's my list of pros and cons:
--Almost perfect weather. Not too cold in the winter, perfect, low-humidity 80's in the summer. We go outside and walk on one of our little trails every day.
--Flowers bloom nearly year round (may be a con if you are allergic to pollen!)
--Access to beautiful vineyards and five-star restaurants (if you can afford them)
--The Oxbow Market has fun fresh food and activities every week. At the downtown park in the summer, there are concerts and free movies, and on Thursday's there's the Chef's market, a kind of free-for-all of kitchy booths, local produce, and fried food on a stick. Summertime - these activities don't go on the rest of the year.
--People are fairly friendly, much friendlier in Napa proper, for instance, than St. Helena. This may go with it, but rents are also more reasonable here.
--Fairly clean air, especially compared to Walnut Creek or San Francisco or Oakland. Important if you have asthma or other lung problems.
--Farmer's markets, fresh produce, and good grocery stores.
--I haven't been able to enjoy these, but if you like tiny local chocolate shops, locally-made ice cream, locally made charcuterie, cheese, olives...well, this is the place.
--Not enough parks, especially with accessible trail walking. I've found two good walking trails: one in the Oxbow Park, which is really small, and another behind the Community College which is long enough to bike on.
--Napa is far from everything. I didn't make it into San Francisco as often as I would have liked, or even into Healdsburg or Petaluma very often. Sonoma and St. Helena are both a good thirty minutes from Napa proper without traffic.
--Not too many doctors. I had to go to most of my specialists in San Francisco and it took me a while to find a primary care doctor accepting patients.
--The hospitals, at least the Queen of the Valley, aren't exactly top-notch. It's run like a small-town hospital - they are friendly and get you in quick (important for say, head injuries or asthma) but the doctors weren't especially competent, and the billing system was midievel. St. Helena's hospital, a 45-minute drive up winding mountain roads (not kidding) has a no-wait ER policy, and the tech stuff was more updated than the Queen. But it's 45 minutes away. Even if you lived in downtown St. Helena, because of the location, it would take 15 minutes to get to the hospital. The Queen has a trauma center; St. Helena's doesn't. St. Helena's does have a heart center.
--As an avid reader, I was really disappointed by the lack of book availability at Napa's library centers - that includes ALL the libraries in the area. And since there's only one bookstore in town, and it's fairly small, you're limited in your reading material. California's population must not read at all, compared to the rich access of libraries in Seattle or Portland, and the lack of bookstores is pretty shameful (at least two closed in the last year in Napa and in St. Helena.)
--If you're not a drinker, and you don't have unlimited money to spend at restaurants, there's not much to do here, especially in winter when everything closes early. Think relaxation rather than cultural enrichment. A young person would be bored out of their mind.
--No shopping. Nearest mall is at least 45 minutes a way. If you need a t-shirt, your choices are limited to Target and Wal-mart. Like many a small town.
--No jobs. I mean, really.
--There's kind of been a ghost-town feel to the downtown area - things are finally starting to pick up, but for a while, it was closed storefront after closed storefront.
A quick peek at the Napa Valley Writer's Conference:
Went to the Napa Valley Writers Conference for a night and attended a reading at the Mondavi winery with Major Jackson and Ron Carlson. It was wonderful to see Major read his work, which I've admired for a long time, and the winery setting was just perfectly beautiful for a poetry reading. Got my copy of Hoops signed (and Major's new book is just out from Norton, though they didn't have copies there, unfortunately.) He read from all three books of his books, and I appreciated the references to classic and pop culture hiding in his work, and his reading style was very laid back and easy to listen to. The prose reader, Ron Carlson, also read some poetry, which ended up being funny stuff. If you get a chance, go to one of the readings they have during the conference - they aren't advertised anywhere except on the Napa Valley Writers Conference web site.
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