Last I heard, Redding, CA didn't make the list of "Top 10 Romantic Cities in the US." I'm going to take a stab in the dark and guess we might not even make the top 10 in California. I mean, we're competing against the likes of Santa Barbara, Palm Springs and San Francisco for goodness sake! But I'm here to report that romance actually is alive and well, right here in River City. (Don't worry Mom & Dad, I assure you this is a G-rated post.)
For my birthday last week, my husband asked me what I wanted to do. It thought about a wine tasting party, cruising on a houseboat, a weekend away, and a laundry list of other options. But ultimately what I wanted wasn't a wild party. I did what any other red-blooded American wife would do. I used my birthday as an opportunity to drag my husband on a date that I had been wanting to do for a long time. Throw a birthday in the mix (a milestone birthday, no less) and he couldn't refuse!
He booked us two seats on the River Romance dinner cruise. I must admit, I'm a little torn about writing this blog. Part of me wants to tell you every last detail because it really was the best romantic date we have had in years. Both of us were pleasantly surprised about how much fun it actually was. And part of me wants to tell you to "Just do it," because you're going to love it and I don't want to ruin the experience by sharing all the details. I know some of you may require some additional convincing so I will continue.
The River Romance vessel is basically a tricked-out drift boat that is custom made for doing this fancy dinner cruise. I have a hard time describing a river cruise in Redding as "fancy" without giggling a little, but this was truly no smelly fishing rig floating down the river. The boat had cushioned seats and a clever little canopy that made you feel like you were in your own, private boat.
The oarsmen was fantastic, appropriately dressed in the black-and-white striped shirt and red apron of a true gondolier. As we pushed off from the boat ramp, That's Amore started playing on the stereo and our boat slowly drifted beneath the Sundial Bridge.
All along the route, the oarsmen expertly positioned the boat to keep the sun out of our eyes, give us varying views of the surrounding scenery, and a perfect vantage point to spot wildlife.
About an hour into the cruise, we pulled up on a shallow sandbar in the river and were served a lovely dinner. I didn't have high hopes for a dinner prepared by a Fishing-Guide-by-Day-Romance-Oarsmen-by-Night, but I was pleasantly surprised. We had tasty steaks cooked on the onboard BBQ, grilled veggies, baked potato and salad topped by their "world famous" salad dressing. It wasn't quite a Jack's steak, but certainly flavorful and more than adequate for a meal prepped in the middle of the river (while steering our boat).
The locals also came out to greet us at dinner and kept us company as we dined.
The boat and the dinner were both grand, but the most impressive part was really the river. The Sacramento River runs through this town and we probably see it every day from one bridge or another. Even for two locals that have lived here nearly our whole lives, being ON the river was a whole different experience. For one thing, it's cooler on the river. Way cooler. That water gets spit out of Shasta Dam only a few miles upriver and it is like ice. Even on a summer day with temperatures well into the 90's, it was completely comfortable on the river. I actually wore a fleece jacket. IN AUGUST. It's a big deal, people.
Being on the river gives you a totally new vantage point on just about everything. You notice the Swallows and their mud nests underneath every freeway overpass and bridge. You glide through the backyards of the local rich and famous that can afford fantastic, river-front properties. And it's quiet. Even a few yards downstream from the Highway 44 overpass, the gentle ripple of the water drowns out the traffic rushing past above your head.
In summary, I will say we are sold. If you come to visit from out of town, there is a good chance we will try to convince you to do this river cruise so we have an excuse to do it again. And if you're a local, do yourself a favor. Get on the river!
It's a little bit of Paris romance, right here in River City.