Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Grass Valley, Empire Mine State Historic Park

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Empire Mine State Historic Park  10791 E. Empire St., (530) 273-8522.  Daily 10-5.  $7, 6-16 $3; cottage living history $2 age 6+; tours free, schedule varies.  Once the largest and richest hard rock mine in the state, the Empire Mine operated for more than a century--from 1850 to 1956.  Though it still holds millions of dollars’ worth of gold, the ore is too expensive to extract.  The mine is now a peaceful 805-acre state park with grassy expanses and tall pines.  The Gold Rush started here in 1850 with a stubbed toe in what is now the parking lot.


headframe at Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley, California
The mineyard illustrates many facets of the business and allows visitors to look deep down into a lighted mine shaft.  Nearby in the mineyard office, a scale model shows the underground presence of this and other mines in the town (it is amazing to see all the tunnels and shafts). 


prairie diamond ring at Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley, California
And don’t miss a visit to the blacksmith. I got myself a prairie diamond ring made from a nail, which I am wearing to replace my own missing wedding ring (you can buy these in the gift shop for $1, as well as a vial heavy with gold leaf for $8.50).  Among approximately 12 miles of hiking trails are self-guided backcountry paths and an easy 2-mile loop Hardrock Trail.  Picnicking is not permitted. 


exterior of Bourn Cottage at Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley, California
The stone Bourn Cottage (also known as the Empire Cottage), was designed and built in 1897 as a summer home for William Bowers Bourn II and his wife Agnes by his hunting buddy, Willis Polk.  It is in the style of an English country manor and features hand-planed heart-redwood walls.  The surrounding 13 acres of formal gardens include an antique rose garden planted in 1905, several fountains, and a reflecting pool.


Living History character at Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley, California
On Living History days, many of the characters mentioned above come to life, and since this cottage was a showcase of technology you might even see a demonstration of the magic of electricity. 


fresh roses in Bourn Cottage dining room at Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley, California
Springtime at Empire Mine is held each Mother’s Day, when the gardens are at their blooming best,  and includes Living History programs.

More things to do in Grass Valley.

More things to do in Gold Rush Country.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways. 

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Monday, October 27, 2014

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Grass Valley; background, visitor information, antiques shops

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GRASS VALLEY
A Little Background
It was here, in what was once the richest gold-bearing region in the state, that gold mining became a well-organized industry.  Hard-rock mining began in 1850 and since then more gold was taken out in Nevada County than ever was mined in the entire rest of the world!  Many advanced mining techniques were developed and first used here. 

Visitor Information
Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce  128 E. Main St., (800) 655-4667, (530) 273-4667.  M-F 9-5, Sat 10-3. 

As is true in most Gold Rush towns, there are plenty of
antiques shops:


Antique Gallery  202 W. Main St., (530) 272-2327.  This small, clean shop features a stone wall and a nicely curated collection.  It specializes in lighting, pottery, and tin toys. 


Antique Palace  138 E. Main St., (530) 273-8043.  Daily 10-5.  This sprawling store has a mish-mash of vintage goods.


The Clocksmith  217 W. Main St.  This small shop has original brick walls and a nice selection of clocks and silver mixed with some contemporary items. 

Grass Valley Antique Emporium  150 Mill St., (530) 272-7302.  This medium-size shop is worth a browse.  

More things to do in Grass Valley.

More things to do in Gold Rush Country.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.  

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, October 24, 2014

101 North: Mill Valley, shops


Both of these shops are within an small indoor shopping area at 31 Sunnyside Avenue.


Weathered Nest shop in Mill Valley, California
Weathered Nest  #3, (415) 226-8336.  This sweet little gift shop purveys antiques, tarted-up furniture, and accessories—think fragrant sachets, useful magnifying glasses, and maybe a vintage bird cage.  It is a pleasure to browse, and I’ll be back for Christmas shopping. 


Village Music shop in Mill Valley, California
Village Music  #5  (415) 388-7400.  Sat 12-5 & by appt.  Some call this the best record store in the world.  Record is the operative word, as there are no CDs here.  Only things made from vinyl.  You’ll find more than 500,000 78s, 45s, and 33 1/3s.  Music royalty have mad the trek:  Mick Jagger came in one day, followed by John Lee Hooker several days later.  The owner now operates the tiny space as a hobby, and so has cut way back on hours. 

More things to do in Mill Valley.

Even more things to do in Mill Valley. 

More top hikes from around the world.

An overnight escape to Mt. Tam.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

80 North: Berkeley, Great China


Great China  2190 Bancroft Way/Oxford St., downtown, (510) 843-7996.  No reservations.  L-D W-M; $$. 


dining room at Great China restaurant in Berkeley, California
This restaurant has moved a block from its former small space that burned to the ground in 2012 and has morphed into a large, sleek open room with industrial-style decor.  Specializing in authentic Chinese cooking with an emphasis on Shan Dong cuisine, it remains as popular as ever.  To avoid a long wait, we sat at the counter/bar.  In conversation, two Chinese ladies sitting next to us revealed to us that in their plastic bag were the bones from their Peking duck order, which they were going to take home and make into soup.  They shared an order (a full duck) of what they declared to be the world’s best Peking duck—and they should know, being from Beijing (formerly known as Peking).  We know what we’ll order next time!  But apparently, many people like the tea-smoked duck even better.  It is a half-duck portion served on bone and featuring crispy skin.  Another popular choice is fish dumplings filled with hand-cut fish as opposed to the machine-processed mousse that you usually encounter.  But our order was already placed for two lunch specials, both of which are house specialties. 


shredded pork with garlic sauce at Great China restaurant in Berkeley, California
 Mine was a tasty, tangy shredded pork with garlic sauce.  The portion was large enough for me to take home leftovers for my next day’s lunch.  My dining partner had the walnut shrimp, which were large and tender and perfectly fried.  Each lunch special comes with hot-and-sour soup, a crunchy salad, a fried spring roll, orange slices, and rice (white, brown, or fried)—plus a fortune cookie for dessert.  Note that complimentary home-style kimchi is available upon request, and MSG is used lightly in mostly the blander dishes but you can request that it be omitted from your order.  And wine lovers will appreciate the selection here and will want to know that wine-pairing dinners can be arranged for a group of eight or more.
Great China on Urbanspoon

More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

Here are some travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, October 20, 2014

101 North: Mill Valley, Background Information

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MILL VALLEY:  A Little Background

Thought of by many as the quintessential Marin, this tiny town originated as an enclave of vacation cabins built by San Franciscans eager to escape the city’s notoriously cool summers.  It is said more professionals per capita live here than in any other community in the country.  The town rests at the base of Mount Tamalpais, the county’s principal landmark. 


exterior of The Depot Bookstore and Cafe in Mill Valley, California

interior of The Depot Bookstore and Cafe in Mill Valley, California
The unofficial center of town is The Depot Bookstore and Cafe (87 Throckmorton Ave., (415) 383-2665.  Daily 7-7.).  Once the town’s Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot, it offers both indoor and outdoor seating and a plethora of reading material.  The board menu lists coffees, sandwiches, soups, and pastries.

More things to do in Mill Valley.

Even more things to do in Mill Valley. 

More top hikes from around the world.

An overnight escape to Mt. Tam.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.
 
images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, October 17, 2014

101 North: Mill Valley, Old Mill Park and Mill Valley Market

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Old Mill Park  On Throckmorton Ave./Old Mill Rd., (415) 383-1370.  Free.  Holding the town’s namesake 1834 sawmill, this pretty park is sheltered by an old-growth redwood grove and offers idyllic streamside picnicking.  A rustic sun-speckled playground area has picnic tables, some of which are inside a circle of giant redwoods.  The park is famous as the beginning point of the 7.5-mile Dipsea Trail leading to Stinson Beach. 


Picnic Pick-Up
Mill Valley Market  12 Corte Madera Ave./Throckmorton Ave., (415) 388-3222.  M-Sat 7-7:30, Sun 9-7.  Family-owned since 1929, this small but well-stocked grocery sells everything required for a fabulous picnic.  It specializes in locally made products and even grows some of its own produce.  An extensive selection of honeys, mustards, green olives, vinegars, salad dressings, and jams are on the shelves, and a deli/bakery tucked in the back dispenses prepared salads and baked goods.  

More things to do in Mill Valley.

Even more things to do in Mill Valley. 

More top hikes from around the world.

An overnight escape to Mt. Tam.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.


image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

101 North: Sausalito, Background Information

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SAUSALITO:  A Little Background


view of San Francisco from Sausalito, California
People come from all over the world to stroll Bridgeway, the main street in this warm and sunny town.  A former fishing village, Sausalito is often referred to as California’s Riviera and is now a magnet for both artists and tourists and remains a pleasure for both.  Restaurants and boutiques abound, and the view across the bay to Tiburon and San Francisco is stellar.


hillside stairway in Sausalito, California
Take time to climb some of the intriguing hillside stairways found throughout town.  Once shortcuts to brothels and speakeasies, they now lead to beautiful bay views.  Excelsior Lane is the longest.  A warning—the largest source of income for the city is parking fines.  It is interesting to note that Jack London wrote the opening chapters of The Sea Wolf here.



Vina del Mar Park in Sausalito, California
Viña del Mar Park  Bridgeway/El Portal, downtown.  Named for Viña del Mar, Chile, which is a Sausalito sister city, this sweet little triangle-shaped park is known for two features left over from the Court of the Universe (which was designed by Sausalito architect William Faville) at the 1915 Panama Pacific Fair and Exposition in San Francisco:  its fountain and twin 14-foot elephant statues (known as Jumbo and Pee Wee).  They were moved here by ferry when the fair closed, and are not the originals but instead concrete versions made from a plaster cast.

More Information:
Sausalito Chamber of Commerce  1913 Bridgeway, (415) 331-7262. 

Visitor Center and Historical Exhibit  780 Bridgeway, across from Poggio Restaurant, (415) 332-0505.  Free.  The Sausalito Historical Society operates a small museum inside this former icehouse originally located on Caledonia Street.  Exhibits include photos of the building of World War II’s Liberty ships. 

More things to do in Sausalito.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, October 13, 2014

101 North: Sausalito, Casa Madrona Hotel

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Casa Madrona Hotel  801 Bridgeway.  63 rooms.  Some kitchens & fireplaces.  Full-service spa.  Pets ok.  Valet parking $24.  Nestled against a picturesque hill above Bridgeway, this hotel offers lodging in either a converted 1885 Victorian house in back--the oldest structure in Sausalito, it is now dubbed The Mansion--or in newer, tastefully decorated contemporary rooms sprinkled down the hillside amid fragrant, blooming gardens and featuring water views.


The Alexandrite Suite at Casa Madrona Hotel in Sausalito, California
The Mansion features tall doors, lovely original wood and tile work, and an ultra-luxurious Alexandrite Suite that is popular with celebs and which has its own exercise room and a secret passage.  Think Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd from the past; lips are more tightly sealed about the present due to non-disclosure clauses. 


Poggio Trattoria The Alexandrite in Sausalito, California
Under separate ownership, elegant Poggio Trattoria specializes in classic northern Italian fare.  Diners feast on delectable items such as crostini topped with Tuscan chicken liver, twice-cooked Tuscan vegetable-and-bread soup, and delicate wood-roasted whole fish with fennel.  Rustic pastas and grilled chicken are also very good, and don’t miss the killer Caesar salad.  Reservations advised.  Valet parking $24.
Poggio on Urbanspoon

More things to do in Sausalito.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, October 6, 2014

101 North: Mill Valley, Piazza D’Angelo

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Piazza D’Angelo  22 Miller Ave., (415) 388-2000.


 interior of Piazza D'Angelo in Mill Valley, California
Designed to resemble an Italian town square, this large and comfortable restaurant has a retractable skylight over its main dining room and an Italian villa-style garden area for al fresco dining.  Terra cotta floors, original modern art, and contemporary Italian music combine to set the mood.


tagliatelle Bolognese at Piazza D'Angelo in Mill Valley, California
Rotisserie-grilled meats are excellent, as are the antipasti, risotti, and pastas, which are available in both full and half sizes (my favorite is the housemade tagliatelle pasta with Bolognese sauce).  Tasty pizzas baked in a wood-burning oven are also an option.  A rich tiramisu dessert, served in an oversize stemmed glass, is ample for two.
Piazza D'Angelo on Urbanspoon

More things to do in Mill Valley.

Even more things to do in Mill Valley. 

More top hikes from around the world.

An overnight escape to Mt. Tam.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.


images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, October 3, 2014

San Francisco: Schroeder’s

Schroeder’s  240 Front St., Financial District, (415) 421-4778.  No reservations for front.  L M-F, D M-Sat; $$-$$$.  Dating back to 1893, this is the oldest and largest German restaurant on the West Coast.  It was closed for a while, but recently reopened with new owners.  


beer hall at Schroeder's restaurant in San Francisco
The open, updated interior includes a beer hall with communal picnic-style tables in the front, which is separated from a more formal restaurant in the back by floor-to-ceiling, see-through black mesh curtains.  Decor highlights include massive circular chandeliers that mimic those I’ve seen in German Oktoberfest tents, a large display of vintage steins through which you can view the open kitchen, and cleaned-up original dark wainscoting and Herman Richter murals from the 1930s.  On the Friday evening I visited, the front was packed and hopping with an after-work crowd.  Many people crowded around the vintage rosewood bar and others sat at tables drinking enormous boots of beer (they come in 2 and 3 liters).  The back dining room where I sat was more subdued.  Though the food is clearly described as modern Cal-German, it seems that many diners complain that it is not traditional German.  I loved the seasonal pickled vegetables that included carrots, cauliflower, little cocktail onions, and shredded fermented turnips.  And though I liked the spaetzle, it was actually more like a corn salad, with teeny tiny little spatzels the size of corn kernels mixed with actual roasted corn kernels and some ricotta.  


bratwurst at Schroeder's restaurant in San Francisco
Bratwurst comes with sauerkraut, sour pickles, and hot mustrd, plus a soft roll that is perfect to sop up the sauce; but I noticed too late that my particular brat was undercooked (be sure to always check any sausage anywhere before you eat it).  


wiener schnitzel at Schroeder's restaurant in San Francisco
Wiener schnitzel was crispy but could use more flavor.  


Black Forest dessert at Schroeder's restaurant in San Francisco
The Black Forest dessert, which I desperately wanted to be the traditional Black Forest Cake of my dreams, was in reality a few delicious cherries and carmel corn mixed with a kirsch reduction atop a slab of dark chocolate.  Next time I’d like to sit in the front with the smallest boot and try the potato pancakes, which I hear are a must, and the sauerbraten, which I hear is coming soon.  
 
images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers