Visit 100 Years Ago Today at History San Jose – Part 2

San Jose’s Pacific Hotel

After exploring the Trolley Barn, we discovered our pancake breakfast had worn off. We walked down the wide street of San Jose’s History Park wondering if we could order up a hot dog for lunch. Turning a corner, we faced the Pacific Hotel, a replica building that grounds visitors with a sense of what the city of San Jose originally looked like. The first floor of the hotel houses O’Brien’s Ice Cream Parlor. O’Brien’s a local favorite for candy and ice cream from 1868 through the mid-1900s. Since it was the only food-related establishment in sight, we walked into the white counter, mirrored, air-conditioned shop.

What’s for lunch? Ice cream!

I asked the ice cream server if there were any other places serving food in the park and the answer was no. So I went ahead and ordered a hot fudge sundae for myself and a chocolate milkshake for hubby. We ate, a little guiltily at first, but finished our sweet treats trying to remember if we ever had a lunch like this before.

Electric Light Tower

Back outside in the warm afternoon sun, we set out to explore the rest of the park’s extensive grounds. The replica Electric Light Tower catches visitor’s attention rising above the park. John photographed interesting geometric designs looking up through it. The original was erected in 1881 at a busy downtown San Jose intersection and was quite a spectacle then.

As we continued down the block, we met up with Rosie the Riveter across the street from the replica 1869 Empire Firehouse. Rosie looked like a real person from afar. I thought she was checking out the firehouse but discovered she’s a statue.

Rosie the Riveter across from Empire Firehouse

The dark wood paneled Stevens Ranch Fruit Barn at the back of the park is a museum sharing Santa Clara Valley’s history as an orchard and farming community before its transformation into Silicon Valley. Next to the barn are a few samples of migrant worker one-room houses giving an idea of what living conditions on area farms was like.

Historical homes of founding San Jose families were moved to the park. The preserved homes help tell the story of the families that used to live in them. Some of the structures are furnished to re-create what life was like during the period of the home. Other homes are sponsored by cultural groups displaying cultural relics and exhibits. We peered in windows, walked through homes, and peeked in backyards. It dawned on me that we were amongst the highest concentration of outhouses in the Bay Area, maybe even the entire state of California. Little wood structures – painted similarly to the home they sat behind – covered rickety wood benches with centered cutout.
Closing out our trip to San Jose’s History Park we stopped by the print shop on the way out. A docent and member of the printer’s guild spelled my name backward and upside down demonstrating typesetting. She showed us how a few of the printing presses ran leaving us in awe of how time intensive (and dangerous – squished fingers?) printing used to be.

It’s really amazing how much history is available to explore in one place – San Jose history, California history, transportation history, immigrant history and much more. Activities happen throughout the year featuring different aspects of the park. Come once to explore all of the buildings, and then come again to focus on just one area of interest, if you can narrow it down that is!

Find visitors information for San Jose’s History Park here.

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Visit 100 Years Ago Today at History San Jose – Part 1

Associated Gasoline Station

Recently my husband and I were looking for something to do that would divert us from our everyday life. We couldn’t go great distances for our getaway but we could go back in time. How’s that done? You may ask.

I was pretty sure that San Jose has a collection of old buildings open for touring. We looked into it and confirmed that a section of Kelley Park houses San Jose’s History Park . After a big pancake Saturday breakfast we were ready to visit history.

History Park’s main entrance at the end of Phelan Avenue opens up to a wide pedestrian-only tree lined street – huge wood barn on the right and historical homes on the left. We veered right toward the crusty Associated Gasoline station and the blacksmith shed with early farm tractor out front. Taking in the scene by snapping pictures, we spun back to the Trolley Barn.

Electric Horseless Carriage
Electric Horseless Carriage

Caught Up in the Trolley Barn

Trolley Barn volunteers – train and trolley enthusiasts – greeted us and shared their wisdom about some of the vehicles found inside.

14 Car Batteries and Charging Station

The 1914 electric-horseless-carriage caught my attention. I was amazed that a car from so long ago runs on 14 car batteries (no gas) and has the capability to be re-charged. I did “know” that different car manufacturers tried out different fuel sources – electricity being one of them. But I’d never seen a car with a carriage inspired frame filled with 14 car batteries before. And it works!

Vintage San Jose Trolley
Vintage San Jose Trolley

The barn houses several vintage trolleys that volunteers preserve, display and give rides around the park on. We got to check out a 1930s era streetcar, with a guided demo on how to start it and clang the bell to get pedestrians off the tracks.

Later in the day we rode the outdoor track around the perimeter of History Park. The car we were in was open air at the ends – nice for warm San Jose days – while the middle of the car is covered.

Steam Engine
Steam Engine

I highly recommend the Trolley Barn to car, train or trolley buffs. Don’t miss their special Transportation Day celebration held on Father’s Day every year. All the cars and trolleys – that are able – are taken out for a spin.

Cable Car Ride
Cable Car Ride

Catch up on our adventure at History Park next week: Ice Cream for Lunch at O’Brien’s, Wild West to Orchards and Housing Cultural History – all covered in Part 2.

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Getting to the Top of Nob Hill Ain’t Easy – San Francisco, CA

Powell Street Cable Car, Photo by Eva Barrows

Nob Hill, a San Francisco neighborhood that rises 376 feet in elevation at a 25 percent grade is not easy to get to. The top of Nob Hill is home to silver baron, James C. Flood’s 1886 mansion and properties of other San Francisco elites past and present. No moat or portcullis needed to keep the riff-raff away, mounting the hill itself is deterrent enough.

The past two years I’ve attended the San Francisco Writers Conference held at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel perched at the top of Nob Hill. Reluctant to drive myself into the heart of the city I’ve experimented with different methods of transportation to the conference. Each method is a strenuous adventure.

Nob Hill Views Down Mason Street, Photo by Eva Barrows

Via MUNI Bus

Surfacing from the Powell Street BART station into a rainy cityscape, I attempted to track down the MUNI bus that would take me to the top of Nob Hill. With a bus number in mind from my review of the online bus schedule, I could not find where it stopped. I stuck my head inside the door of another bus loading passengers and asked that driver where to catch a bus that went up the hill. She directed me back across the street giving me another bus number to find.

Rainy View from Mark Hopkins Hotel, Photo by Eva Barrows

Pouncing through puddles I arrived at a bus shelter where the rain continued to come down. After a ten minute wait, the bus came and I crowded into the back door. I slogged my way to the front to pay not wanting to get in trouble for fare dodging. Before I put my money in, however, I asked the driver if he was going to the top of Nob Hill. He said, nope. He let me off at a corner where another bus that did go up the hill would make its stop. I waited under the canvas awning of a storefront amongst other commuters. The awning became heavy with rainwater and unleashed a wave of water on top of our heads.

Soaked and impatient I decided to walk up the hill myself instead of waiting for the phantom bus. I was running late and needed to get to my post at the conference. One leg lunge after the other I slowly pulled myself up the incline. Huffing and puffing like I did hiking Lower Yosemite Falls, embarrassed by my out-of-shapeness. Claiming victory at a turtle’s pace, I made it to where the sidewalk plateaued. Out of breath, outerwear drenched, shirt soaked in sweat, I arrived at the conference.

Powell Street Cable Car Turn Around, Photo by Eva Barrows

Classic Cable Car

The next day I decided to try catching the cable car up Powell Street which runs directly to my destination. The rain clouds had dispersed to reveal a sunny blue-sky Saturday morning. I bought my seven dollar ticket to ride and got in line with hundreds of tourists. The day before, (when it was raining) nobody was in line to ride the cable car. That was when I should have taken it. I wound up watching ten cars be turned around at the end of the track to take brimming loads of people up the street. As I waited I began to strategize. I was running out of time, I was going to be late for the conference, again. I noticed that people were hopping on the cable car further down the street. But only a few people were being let on at a time. It seemed that I had a greater chance of getting on sooner if I just stayed where I was. Finally, I had my turn to ride the wooden antique cable car clanging up the hill.

Fairmont and Mark Hopkins Hotels, Photo by Eva Barrows

By Car – Hired or Self Drive

Okay, technically I didn’t hire a car to take me to Nob Hill for this year’s conference. I asked my husband to drive me there. Luckily he felt sorry for me and dropped me off across the street from the hotel. I would say by far this is the best way to get to Nob Hill, stress-free (for me) and super direct (no puffing up any hills.) I had some time to watch cars start the descent down Mason Street. Kids in back seats screamed as parents lifted their feet off the break downhill. Remember that? Hands in the air like you’re in a roller coaster, and WEEEEEE, the car goes sharply downhill? Yeah, that was fun.

San Francisco City View from Mark Hopkins Hotel, Photo by Eva Barrows

If you do drive yourself to Nob Hill time-limited street parking and pricy garage parking are available. Also, consider using Uber or taxi to arrive at your swanky destination.

Top of Nob Hill at Sacramento and Mason, Photo by Eva Barrows

Hoofing it aka Walking

I really really really don’t recommend walking to the top of Nob Hill. It can be done but if you’re going up there for a fancy dinner or want to impress anyone with your appearance do – not – walk. I watched as other people struggled to get to the top of the hill. A woman who appeared to live in the area replaced a trip to the gym with a hike up Nob Hill. Wearing workout clothes and clinching a bottle of water, she slowly made it up the street. Her face was pink and sweaty, she gulped for air. An old man plodded up the Mark Hopkins block and paused to hold a trunk of a tree to steady himself. A young woman walked her Labrador up the same block, the dog’s haunches visibly swayed as he climbed.

InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, Photo by Eva Barrows

My Recommendation

The most comfortable and direct method to surmount Nob Hill is to have someone drop you off. But this can be cost prohibitive if the person taking you isn’t related. The second best way is taking the cable car during an off-peak time. Otherwise, you’ll have to drive yourself mentally prepared to pay for a parking garage.

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Writers on a Boat: Eireene Nealand and Eva Barrows Talk Writing (Part 2)

Eireene Amongst Boats
Part 2 of 2 Part Series

The sun pours in from the cabin windows and from the open hatch above. A cooling breeze wafts into the cozy space smelling of salt and seaweed. The bark of harbor seals, the “ting ting” clang of various ropes hitting against wrapped sails, and the ever-present seagulls squawk overhead. Eireene and I share our thoughts on writing tucked inside the boat docked at Half Moon Bay California’s Pillar Point Harbor.

The Nest: Tales from Bela Rechka, book written by Eireene Nealand, Photographs by Megan Lueneburg, available on Academia.edu for download

Uncommon Approaches to Structure

Eva: I like to base my writing around dialogue. Just focusing on what people would say and then tightening it up and trying to make it sound funnier. I don’t really have jokes, it’s just the situation that’s humorous.

Eireene: Did your family go back and forth a lot?

Eva: Sometimes we’d have a banter.

Eireene: I don’t think I ever learned that.

Eva: You didn’t banter?

Eva Writing in a Boat

Eireene: Yeah, I’m too serious. (laughs)

Eva: But you had music? All of your family members know how to play instruments?

Eireene: Yes. I think it helps to have that. I really write by the sounds of language a lot. So I think I paid a lot of attention to songs. As I write I’m hearing the tones and the sounds. A lot derived from poetry. I love overhearing conversations.

Eva: Right I saw some of your snippets.

Eireene: I’m trying to figure out what to do with the snippets.

Eva: So are you going to take those and make a story?

Eireene: I need to figure it out but I think that’s actually going to be my style. It’s going to have to do with how many conversations I’ve ever heard. Cause I’ve been doing it for years. I have giant files of people’s conversations.

Eva: Do you go back and look at them?

Eireene: Every now and then and I’ll modify them a little bit. And I’ve also learned a lot about storytelling. People are so good at telling stories out loud to each other like in coffee shops. I’m amazed people just visualize the whole landscape and they have a good sense of pacing.

Eireene: Nothing happens in the one little snippet but then you put another snippet next to it…

Eva: It’s like a collage.

Eireene: I like that one little story will connect to another story and deepen it. One sort of becomes a metaphor for the other one.

Eva: You’re kind of like a reporter.

I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.

Eireene: I’m more of an arranger. Same with the historical stuff. I just get open to facts and mash them together. I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.

Eva: I think of structure as beginning-middle-end, if it flows, if it makes sense, but you have a different scope of structure.

Eireene: I like the detours.

Eva: Do you usually know what the meaning is when you start or does it appear?

Eireene: By the time I’m done writing it’s totally something else. I usually have the beginning and the ending and I stick with those things pretty strongly. Then I spend years writing the middle.

I like the detours.

Eva: So what do you want to get that down to? A couple of months?

Eireene: I’m learning so much. There’s a structural thing about how the beginning and ending are related that you just have to figure out. You can actually, hopefully, this is how I plan to save time in the future —you can sit and think about that a lot then know.

Eireene Nealand’s stories, poems and translations have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Chicago Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Poetry International, Catamaran, Sidebrow, WHR, elimae, and The St. Petersburg Review, among other places. Her work has received multiple awards including a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing, an Elizabeth Kosova Fellowship, and an Ivan Klima Fellowship. To her degrees from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, she recently added a Ph.D. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied proprioception, a neurobiological phenomenon that allows us to see textures and shifts. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, where she writes and translates Russian, Bulgarian and French prose and poetry.

Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Eva writes about local places, people and events on her website www.evabarrows.com. She founded the online literary journal Imitation Fruit www.imitationfruit.com in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since. Her writing has appeared in the California Writer’s Club, Fault Zone Uplift anthology, and the San Mateo County Fair’s, Carry the Light fair winner collection.

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Writers on a Boat: Eireene Nealand and Eva Barrows Talk Writing

Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay, CA
Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

The bay sparkles. Clear blue skies overhead and fishing boats flit across the calm water. Eireene Nealand and I take over her sister’s green sail boat docked at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, CA.

We tell ourselves that we’re actually going to do some writing once we get inside. Eireene takes my bag of crab cake sandwich and fries so I can keep my balance stepping onto the back of the boat. She assures me I won’t fall in the water.

Eva Getting Used to Boat

She unlocks the cabin hatch, slides it back and moves the ceiling panel so we can make our way inside. We sit across from each other on padded benches with a multi-use pop-up table between us. Eireene heats up water in the micro kitchen lining one side of the cabin. She sips tea and I eat my lunch.

The boat gently sways back and forth. I take out my digital voice recorder. She agrees to an impromptu interview. For a little context, Eireene is a poet, short story writer, European language translator and holds a Ph.D in Literature and MFA in Creative Writing. So, I have lots of questions for her as I’m in awe of her resume.

I start with the basics.

Siege of Leningrad and the Office Breakroom

Eva: What’s your favorite type of project to write?

Eireene: I like writing weird connections with history. I wrote a story about Lake Ladoga the Siege of Leningrad. It was about a girl in California who felt she was suffering then she learned about the Siege of Leningrad and was like “Wow my life’s not so bad!”

I like writing weird connections with history.

Eva: Do you fantasize about Eastern Europe?

Eireene: I did fantasize about the Communist Revolution when I was younger. But then I went and visited and found it wasn’t so romantic.

I did a whole story about that. It was really great that people had a big dream and the big dream had a lot of awful things to it. But how much worse would it be if there was no big dream and there was just awfulness?

Eireene: What do you write about?

Eva: I try to write about something that’s happened to me. I blow it out of proportion like a Seinfeld episode.

Eireene: Do you stay away from politics?

Eva: I keep it casual. In, The Birthday Committee, which is a funny story, I have a character in the office breakroom and she’s watching CNN and it shows a bomb going off in Syria. It’s not really a comment on Syria it’s a comment to the story. It’s a war zone in the breakroom.

Eireene: What kind of settings do you like to write about?

Eva: Things I’m familiar with. A lot of my writing has been about things that’ve made me mad. I want to go back and reinvent the moment. Become empowered in some way. It’s never a big deal. It’s just something that’s bothered me. The settings are small and familiar, the breakroom at work, the college campus out in the back fields, a coffee shop confrontation.

Eireene Not Reading

A Family of Characters

Eireene: It’s interesting a lot of other people have written about my family but they do it in a completely different way than I would do it. They draw on all of these hippie stereo types.

Eva: How many articles have there been?

Eireene: There’s been two major ones about the idea of a hippie family. I think they do a really good job. A better one than I could do. I can’t get at real life directly. It seems like you’re closer to real life.

Eva: I write about my husband a lot. Like things he does that influence me. He’s usually like “oh god you’re writing about that?” I’m not writing deeply about myself, kind of expressing myself.

He’s the other character in my life.

Eireene: I notice a lot of writers have this break-through moment when they fall in love and write about the other person.

Eva: But I’m not even gushing about him though.

Eireene: Yeah you’re just tracking his behavior. You’re noticing him a lot because you’re happy. One day I aspire to write that kind of story.

Eva: He’s the other character in my life.

**More of our discussion will be posted on the blog next week. Come back to find out how two different writers approach structure in writing.

Eireene Nealand’s stories, poems and translations have appeared in ZYZZYVAChicago Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Poetry International, CatamaranSidebrowWHR elimae, and The St. Petersburg Review, among other places. Her work has received multiple awards including a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing, an Elizabeth Kosova Fellowship, and an Ivan Klima Fellowship. To her degrees from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, she recently added a Ph.D. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied proprioception, a neurobiological phenomenon that allows us to see textures and shifts. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, where she writes and translates Russian, Bulgarian and French prose and poetry.

Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Eva writes about local places, people and events on her website www.evabarrows.com. She founded the online literary journal Imitation Fruit www.imitationfruit.com in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since. Her writing has appeared in the California Writer’s Club, Fault Zone Uplift anthology, and the San Mateo County Fair’s, Carry the Light fair winner collection.

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Abundant Holiday Spirit at the Dickens Christmas Fair, Daly City

Christmas Carolers, Photo by John Barrows

They say it’s the smell of roasting chestnuts, the scent wafting through the busy streets of recreated Victorian London at Daly City’s Cow Palace. The warm sweet smell floats on the crisp ocean air even before we make it into the building. Later in the day, a friend would offer me a chestnut to taste. Eager to try it, due to the advertised aroma, I was disappointed when the nut turned out to be ordinary.

Eva, Hard Cider and Ghost of Christmas Present, photo by John Barrows

Besides the delicious smell, the Dickens Christmas Fair transports visitors to another time and place through many theatrical methods. One of the most obvious conveyances is what people are wearing – royal officers in uniform, Queen Victoria parading in a silk ball gown, unsettled Mad Hatter, and everyone else working at the fair in mid-1800s period correct costumes.

Hundreds of noses are deep inside newspapers

Another striking visual is the use of newspapers. When entering the fair, you’re given a newspaper detailing all of the festive events. Hundreds of noses are deep inside newspapers…a scene that’s extinct nowadays, only to be revived at the Dickens Fair.

Friends at Dickens Fair

Guests are welcome to wear whatever fanciful outfits they’d like or not get dressed up at all. I’m a half-hearted costumer myself. I’ll wear historical dresses I’ve sewn to costume dances but I don’t feel like wearing a hoop and corset all day at the fair. There are too many practical things to consider: clearance to pass people on the London streets, sitting comfortably at a crowded picnic table, and especially maneuvering in tiny bathroom stalls.

A little effort was all we needed to feel like we belonged

My husband and I opted for hybrid costuming. He wore a tuxedo coat, top hat and black jeans. I wore a Victorian-inspired velvet jacket over my normal clothes. A little effort was all we needed to feel like we belonged at the fair.

Mark Twain, Drawn by John Barrows

Last year at the fair, I noticed a parlor room with art easels set up for drawing. My husband, an accomplished artist, would have lots of fun participating in something like that. So he brought his backpack full of art supplies and took part in two different life drawing sessions. A string of interesting characters sat for the artists: Mark Twain and a sprightly green fairy to name a few. Unique participant activities like this are sprinkled throughout the London buildings.

Posing for Artist, Photo by John Barrows

My new partner confirmed that I did, in fact, know the choreographed waltz well.

While my husband was occupied with art, I ran off to Fezziwig’s Warehouse accompanied by friends who met us at the fair. Fezziwig’s is a large dance floor where costumed dancers and performers lead guests in vintage dancing. A live brass band, Bangers & Mash, play polkas, waltzes and other dance music. Free of my husband I got the chance to dance the Congress of Vienna with another partner. My new partner confirmed that I did, in fact, know the choreographed waltz well. It felt strange however dancing in pants when I’m used to a swaying dress!

Weird Science, Photo by John Barrows

My friend and I got in to see the much anticipated Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue. The show was an interesting mix of history lesson and naked people. If you’re over the age of 18 and want to get a seat for the French Postcards pick up your tickets early at the telegraph office – seating runs out quick!

Dark Garden Corset Shop, Photo by John Barrows

When Postcards ended for the evening, Cow Palace event security was out in full force. My trio was actually escorted to the exit during the sweep of the building. My husband was surprised at how fast the day went and couldn’t believe it was already time to go. Every trip to the Dickens Fair brings opportunities for new experiences – activities to try, characters to meet, shows to watch. But something that always remains constant is the wish for a very “Happy Christmas.”

Charles Dickens, photo by John Barrows

Plan to Go:

Weekends through December 17th, 2017

10am – 7pm

Cow Palace in Daly City

https://dickensfair.com/

 

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Get Lost In a Hay Maze at Arata’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay, CA

Pumpkin Minotaur, Photo by John Barrows

I thought the window of opportunity to get lost in the gigantic hay maze at Arata’s Pumpkin Farm in Half Moon Bay was closed. I’d been looking through pictures taken late September a few years back. The pictures captured green corn fields, dingy yellow stacked hay bales with orange pumpkins dotting the dusty earth. It was already mid-October. I realized it might be too late in the month to spend an enjoyable afternoon at the farm.

Farm Equipment, Photo by John Barrows

Last year, my husband and I went to Arata’s the weekend before Halloween. Which was a big mistake. All of the parking spaces around the perimeter of the farm were taken when we got there. Farm staff directed us to drive up to the top of a hill. Pumpkin hugging pedestrians swarmed around our car on their way back up the hill. After much searching, we arrived at a muddy parking spot on the hill’s plateau. Then we became a part of the stream of people bounding downhill to the festivities.

Pick a Pumpkin, Photo by John Barrows

Once inside the farm I realized I wasn’t going to enjoy myself. People were standing in half-hour long lines to get tickets to the amusements and to buy pumpkins. The hay maze itself was full of frolicking children and parents. Yes, that’s what the maze was created for but I was used to a relaxed saunter through the maze not a frenzied push. So we wound up walking around the farm to stretch our legs, then hiked back up to the car without a 30lb gourd and slowly drove through the crowd back out to HWY 1.

So when I started thinking about the pumpkin farm this year it was already coming up on two weeks before Halloween. But my mind started plotting a way to go to the farm and enjoy it even though it seemed like the odds of having a great time were slim. I kept my work schedule light for Friday and asked my husband to take Friday off too. We made our escape mid-day and headed to the coast.

Start of the Maze, Photo by John Barrows

In years past we’d stuff a backpack full of sandwiches and drinks to eat inside the maze. I’d bring a beach towel to spread out on the moist ground in the nook of a dead end. Maze-goers gasp in surprise when they stumble upon us eating our deli sandwiches. We shake our heads at them and say in unison “dead end.” But this year we stopped at a seafood restaurant on the way to keep things simple.

South HWY 1 greeted us with views of crashing waves, clear blue sky over the ocean and brownish green rolling hillsides. Turning into the farm we had our choice of front row rock star parking spaces. I stepped out of the car to notice an autumn chill that hung on the air even though the sun warmed my skin.

We weren’t the only ones at the farm on a Friday. A school bus load of kids and plenty of families were around picking out pumpkins and participating in the festivities. But there was no problem getting our maze tickets and we were quickly on our way to getting utterly lost.

Picking a Path, Photo by John Barrows

The epic play structure was vast enough, twisty enough, tall enough (four bales of stacked hay) to obscure the view of average height participants. We had the choice of portals to take to get into the heart of the maze. After a few wrong guesses we found the right path.

After several years of stalking through the Arata Farm maze I’ve noted some tricks that can help you make it through in better time – if that’s what you’re going for. If you’ve hit a place in the maze where there are several choices to make, wait and see if people come out frustrated from one of those paths. Then don’t go that way. Notice if people leave trash inside the maze, you can use this as a marker and know you’ve already tried the route with the soda can. Also the maze builders like to put in gates made of hay. Go through these gates – they were put there for a reason.

John Found One, Photo by Eva Barrows

Once we made it out of the maze we scrutinized pumpkin size and shapes. My husband picked out a tall medium 20 pounder. I was surprised to find a bin full of orange pumpkins with what appears to be legions of bulbous green and orange warts. I decided to go for the diseased looking pumpkin because I won’t need to decorate it at all. It was born scary.

Scary Pumpkin, Photo by Eva Barrows

I don’t recommend going to Arata’s this coming weekend. It will be a mad house. Mark your calendar for the end of September or first two weeks of October next year to discover the maze. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Why Lodi? Fun, Food and Wine in California’s Central Valley

Wine Grapes, Photo by Eva Barrows

I never really thought about Lodi and I wasn’t sure where it was on the map of California. Visions of swinging metronome cow tails propelling flies and golden fields of waving grain pop into mind when I read the Evite inviting my husband and me to Lodi for a family celebration.

The town of Lodi is located in the vast farming region of California’s Central Valley, I learn as my husband researches area hotels. We decide to make a weekend of the trip not wanting to feel rushed to get back to the Bay Area after the festivities.

Chicken at Winery, Photo by John Barrows

The family party was held at Micke Grove Regional Park where there’s a ton of things to do. Kids enjoy a small zoo, carnival rides, playgrounds and other activities. The large picnic shelter booked for the party shaded us from the 90-degree summer heat. Cupcakes exposed to the sun’s rays melted into a sweet congealed mess.

When it was time to say goodbye to the family, we found our hotel on a long strip-mall motel lined thoroughfare. Some establishments screamed for remodels or even tear downs. Thankfully my husband picked out a fresh looking AAA approved hotel. The blue swimming pool called out to me from across the parking lot to take a refreshing dunk but my travel partner wanted to explore downtown instead.

Wine Tanks, Photo by John Barrows

So we got back into the car and directed the GPS to navigate the way to Lodi’s historic region. The Lodi marque that stretches across the main road into downtown welcomed us. The arch was reminiscent of Spanish colonial architecture – white adobe bricks, red Spanish tiles and hanging brass bells. Surrounded by early 1900s buildings showcasing Lodi’s flourishing industries – bridal shops, breweries and wine tasting rooms.

The Lodi Beer Co. was our choice for dinner and we didn’t regret it. Beer brews in large vats that fill the center of the room with restaurant seating placed around them. Beer label banners full of colorful artwork hang on the walls like heraldry banners in a castle. When our food and beer arrive we fall in love with our meal. The food I had in Lodi was delicious everything from the hotel make your own waffle breakfast to our pub food.

John on Winery Grounds, Photo by Eva Barrows

During our time in Lodi, we put the proliferation of wine tasting rooms and local winery marketing together and decided there must be some wineries in the area worth visiting. On checking out of the hotel the receptionist recommended Michael David Winery.

On the way there we passed new housing developments with modern shopping squares complete with Starbucks on the way out to the fields. Pretty soon we were amongst hundreds of rows of grape vines.

Sunflower in Garden, Photo by John Barrows

Michael David was a wood-paneled ranch-style building with a wrought iron fence protecting it from the road traffic. A homey diner with sturdy wood furniture serves breakfast and lunch and shares a room with a gift shop selling local produce shifting off into a wine tasting bar. The room was packed with people waiting for a seat in the diner. I followed someone I saw go outside near the wine bar.

Water Feature, Photo by John Barrows

Once outside trickling water, outdoor furniture – couches, glass-topped tables, oversized shade umbrellas – and a second tasting area in a modern building were before me. The large fermentation tanks set just outside the public area of the winery with colorful billboard-sized wine labels wrapped around them.

First, we went to check out the grounds. The water feature was a huge rocky pool with waterfalls creating soothing background noise. Several wine-sipping nooks were set up around the shaded pool from above and below. A bridal party in flowing resort wear took over the largest sitting area where bottles of wine were shared.

Eva and Grape Vines, Photo by John Barrows

Bocce ball courts were set up near a flower garden full of colorful blooms. Small kids romped in a gated children’s play area with a slide and Wild West façade. Right next to the play area was a chicken coop with several red hens. This extensive wine sipping area abutted the onsite grape vines. Large purple grapes hung on the healthy vines.

We went back to the quieter tasting room in the modern building. The room had high ceilings, wood beams, and extensive windows. The cool countertop felt good under my bare arms as the day was already a hot one. My husband and I shared a tasting of limited and reserve wines, keeping tabs of which one we liked the best. We decided on the 2015 Ancient Vine Cinsault made from Lodi grapes.

A little tipsy after the wine tasting we relaxed in the shade next to the water feature. The sound of clinking wine glasses and laughter drifted on the warm breeze.

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A Curious Saltbox on California’s Coast

Johnston House, Photo by John Barrows

Driving over the gravel road that swoops around the front of the historic ranch house we bounce in our seats. Climbing slightly in elevation acres of empty farmland stretch out before us on the way out to the Pacific Ocean. A variety of hearty coastal grasses blanket the field in thick tufts and thin seed laden stalks that brush against the breeze. Green rolling hills cradle the estate to the East with larger forested hills beyond.

The view of the ocean often times obscured by wispy fog or diffused by sea mist was clear for our visit. The ocean carved inland up the coast to the crescent shaped Half Moon Bay.

The James Johnston House built in 1853 doesn’t have a stitch of architectural ornamentation but manages to be the most striking historic home on the Half Moon Bay coast. From head-on, the home is two stories, painted simply in white with ample glass pained windows trimmed by forest green shutters as the home’s sole decoration.

Johnston House – Photo by John Barrows

Approaching the house from the side reveals something unusual: the roofline slopes down to one story in the back. Ah yes, it’s the two stories becoming one at the back that catches Californians cruising past the site off guard. I liken this architectural maneuver to a hi-low dress hemline but on a building. This style of home is called “saltbox” and was a popular colonial design originating around the 1650s on the East Coast.

James Johnston, a gold rush entrepreneur, built his saltbox home while established Californio families lived in Spanish adobe and his American peers were putting up in vogue Victorians. Johnston’s sentimental choice of architecture was based on the home he grew up in, in Ohio.

Whizzing by on the highway before I knew much about the James Johnston House, I thought that it could be a Civil War movie set. I’d never seen another structure like it. An out-of-fashion Yankee Colonial in gold rush era California connected the frontier to the deep rooted nation established back East.

The home became abandoned over time and was unprotected from the stormy coast and grazing farm animals. A picture of the home from 1965 shows the back one story level had been hacked off, the exterior paint stripped and window frames void of glass. The coastal community and outside preservationists recognized the uniqueness of the structure and worked over many years (mid-1960s to present) to bring the Johnston House back to life.

Side View Photo by John Barrows

Walking up to the house, visitors pass a rose garden with white picket fence. A pair of partially salvaged fence posts atop weathered wood pillars mark the walkway.

Entering the home through the back door, the brown shingled roof hovers inches away from our heads. The one story section of the home houses a small gift shop and museum office. Victorian costumed docents greet us and start the tour at the front of the house. Our tour guide wears sneakers with his black pants and burgundy vest, eager to show us around.

Bedroom Photo by John Barrows

Original Johnston family furnishings are on display throughout the house along with period correct decorations. A sample of the original wallpaper was found preserved inside a Catholic alter within the home. The paper, mostly white featuring strokes of silver, was recreated and placed on the walls. The white of the paper keeps the interior of the home bright and cheerful on cloudy days.

One bedroom was left unpainted so that visitors can see the fine locally sourced redwood paneling that was used as building material. A patch of wall beam is uncovered by paneling to display the mortice-and-tenon construction work used to create the home.

The living space that was created by the dramatic roof slant is triangular in shape and runs the whole length of the home. I stood comfortably at the start of the room but ducking is required to occupy the lower region. The space was used to house ranch workers and was also available to coastal travelers needing shelter for the night.

Kitchen Photo by John Barrows

The docents comment that they find new items in the house during the monthly tours. A “new” child’s rocking horse in the kids room or a new painting on the wall of the living room. Continued restoration projects and gardening help bring the house back to life inside and out. The coastal architectural curiosity reminds passersby of another time and another place.

The home is open to tours January through September on third Saturdays between 11am and 3pm.

http://www.johnstonhouse.org/

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3 Historical Peninsula Gardens to Visit

Gazebo at Gamble Garden, Photo by John Barrows

Looking for a quick escape from the daily grind? A local garden may be just the place to breathe deep and collect your thoughts. There’s a number of in bloom historical garden get-a-ways throughout the San Francisco Peninsula. Grab your sun hat and check out these relaxing respites.

Gamble Garden, Palo Alto CA

Gamble House, Photo by John Barrows

Gamble Garden is tucked away in Old Palo Alto, a neighborhood of older homes with architectural variety. The garden surrounds the 1902 home of Elizabeth Frances Gamble descendant of Procter & Gamble’s co-founder. The garden is close to the Stanford Shopping Center and University Avenue, a perfect spot for a mid-day retreat.

Scarecrow at Gamble, Photo by John Barrows

An edible herb garden with sun faded scarecrow greets visitors entering the gardens from the back of the property. Sunshine fills the gravel lined walkways off the central gazebo. A bush trimmed into the Easter Bunny patiently awaits the seasons to change back to spring.

Gamble Garden Sundial, Photo by John Barrows

At the far side of the property a tranquil water fountain trickles, its sound mingles with that of the breeze flowing through the tops of surrounding trees. A circular rose garden, encompassed by a 6-foot tall hedge, offers droopy white blooms shedding petals to the ground.

Rose at Gamble, Photo by John Barrows

Benches dot the property situated under shade trees invite guests to stay awhile. Watch birds, bees and squirrels move about their daily garden life.

Filoli, Woodside CA

The Peninsula is home to an English country estate museum house and extensive gardens. The home at Filoli estate was completed in 1917 with the gardens following soon after. Filoli is a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Filoli Pools, Photo by Eva Barrows

Prepare to meander and contemplate in Filoli’s many gardens. Soak up the sun’s piercing warmth with clear blue sky overhead framed by a variety of swaying tree tops. Eye catching lush green lawns complement red brick footpaths. The fountains and reflecting pools produce the soothing sounds of water.

Garden Passage at Filoli, Photo by Eva Barrows

As the afternoon progresses, watch the fog push over the coastal redwood hills at the foot of the property. The seeping dry ice effect of the cascading fog creates a feeling of magic.

Wonder further back into the gardens, passing through archways in ten-foot tall hedge walls. Discover a variety of vegetation throughout the property: rose garden, herb garden, and squash gardens to name a few.

Filoli Manor, Photo by Eva Barrows

Find activities enjoyed by the inhabitants of the estate placed throughout the garden. A relaxing spa like pool house offers seating for visitors steps away from the sparkling swimming pool. Tennis courts are a short walk from the home and placed at the outskirts of the garden. Walk all of the way to the back of the gardens and find the “High Place” a great place to look out over the estate.

Central Park Rose Garden and Japanese Garden, San Mateo CA

Central Park Rose Garden, Photo by John Barrows

San Mateo’s Central Park was once the site of a mansion estate. The ornate brick and iron fence lining El Camino and the cast iron dog statue guarding the rose garden are remnants from that time. The rose garden with trellis gazebo and the many tree varieties throughout the park are cared for by the San Mateo Arboretum Society.

Central Park Rose, Photo by John Barrows

The rose garden is full of colorful flowers abuzz with honey bee activity. Sniff the buds of pink, yellow, white and red roses. Check the names on the plates next to each rose variety because they can be pretty funny like “Hot Cocoa” or “Barbra Streisand.” A row of benches line the garden under shade trees, a perfect place for visitors to sit and smell the roses.

Central Park Garden, Photo by John Barrows

Don’t miss the Japanese Garden in Central Park. It’s walled off by a traditional Japanese wood wall with a large gated entrance. Step inside to experience a peaceful escape in the middle of downtown San Mateo. The garden is built around a central koi pond with tons of large and playful koi pushing around tree debris at the water’s surface and splashing in water spouts.

Buddha in Japanese Garden, Photo by John Barrows

Walk around the pond on a slim pathway, under dangling trees or cross the water on stone bridges. Several pagoda temples and statues made of stone or bamboo are placed throughout the grounds. Relax on the tea house benches to take in the colorful fish and idyllic scenery.

Japanese Garden, Photo by John Barrows

Visiting the Gardens:

Gamble Garden
https://www.gamblegarden.org/
1431 Waverley Street, Palo Alto CA 94301
Free admission
Garden open daily during daylight hours
Main House open Monday through Friday 9 am-2 pm

Filoli Estate
https://filoli.org/
86 Cañada Road, Woodside, California 94062
Tuesday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
General Admission $20 adults

Central Park San Mateo
Rose Garden
http://www.sanmateoarboretum.org/
Open day light hours

Japanese Garden
http://www.cityofsanmateo.org/3319/Central-Park-Japanese-Garden
Monday through Friday 10 am to 4 pm
Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm

Free admission
50 E 5th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

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