• St. Helena, California

    St. Helena, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

The first thing I see is Footcandy. I’m immediately attracted to the store with the colourful name and must go inside. The sophisticated upscale shoe store is filled with designer names like Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. Brightly coloured heels, sling backs and sandals line the walls. Instantly, I know I’m going to like this town.

St. Helena, California is a quaint little place in the Napa Valley, located about an hour north of San Francisco, halfway between Calistoga and Yountville. The downtown centre, known as Napa Valley’s Main Street, is lined with more than 50 shops, including one-of-a-kind boutiques, gift stores, bakeries, galleries and a one-screen movie theatre. In fact, no franchises are allowed in the town, with the exception of an old A&W store.

The art lover in me is fulfilled by a visit to Caldwell Snyder Gallery, where landscape pictures hang elegantly in the bright airy space. In sharp contrast, the eclectic collection in I. Wolk Gallery peaks my interest, with artwork that includes a white glowing hangman’s rope dangling from the ceiling and a skull with matches protruding from its head in the shape of a mohawk. I’m told I. Wolk has amazing parties, with snakes in jewellery cases and skateboarders zooming by.

I wander into Pennyweight, a gift shop with assorted items from leather smartphone cases to wine-inspired door hangers. At Woodhouse Chocolate, there are rows of little bites of chocolate-covered heaven made up of flavours like espresso, dark hazelnut and champagne truffle.

Feeling hungry, I stop at La Condesa, a local restaurant named after Mexico City’s Condesa District. I sip on a Prickly Pear Margarita, a vibrant pink drink with a kick, and indulge in a flight of homemade guacamole before digging into a fresh roasted chicken taco with citrus rub, onion and salsa.

My stomach full and my shopping craving satisfied, I’m ready to head to the vineyards.

Photo gallery

On the street in St. Helena, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

Gifts inside Pennyweight in St. Helena, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

Inside Caldwell Snyder, an art gallery in St. Helena, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

A flight of homemade guacamole at La Condesa, a restaurant in St. Helena, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

A taco flight at La Condesa, a restaurant in St. Helena, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

Yountville, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

A vineyard near Yountville, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

Enjoying the wines at Paraduxx. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

The bustle inside Oxbow Public Market in Napa, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

Spices for sale at Whole Spice, a shop inside Oxbow Public Market in Napa, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)

Spirit tastings are offered at The Original Napa Valley Distillery, inside Oxbow Public Market in Napa, Calif. (Photo: Siobhan McClelland)