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
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
86 Cañada Road, Woodside, California 94062
Tuesday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
General Admission $20 adults

Central Park San Mateo
Rose Garden
Open day light hours

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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Local Writers at the San Mateo County Fair

My Award Winning Short Story on the Wall

Yes go to the fair for sunshine, double stacked corn dogs, a block of curly fries melded into the shape of a fry basket, pig races and carnival rides but also consider stopping in at the Literary Stage. Yeah, the San Mateo County Fair held a mini writing conference sandwiched between the fine art and quilt displays inside the main exhibition hall the third week of June.

I was especially excited to visit the Literary Stage this year because I knew I had won two Honorable Mentions for my writing. Out of roughly two hundred submissions I made it to the acknowledgement level. Every piece of writing submitted to the fair was on display hanging on the walls of the literary area. While I was searching for my name I encountered a pleasant surprise. I found that the third piece I had submitted also won Honorable Mention!

Two of my pieces that won have been featured on this blog. Little Free Library, is a post about micro neighborhood book lending and A Decade of Imitation Fruit is a guest post on the topic of the literary journal I have been producing for the past ten years. A new short story based on a comedy sketch that I wrote, The Birthday Committee was also featured at the fair.

Winning stories, essays and poetry are put into an annual anthology Carry the Light: Stories, Poems, and Essays from the San Mateo County Fair. The publisher of the fair’s anthology, Sand Hill Review Press, works closely with local authors many of whom are also members of the California Writers Club San Francisco Peninsula chapter. CWC helps organize the Literary Stage and performs judging duties for writing entries. The anthology, publisher and CWC are great resources for writers in San Mateo County and beyond.

Darlene Frank’s Workshop, Photo by Eva Barrows

The Literary Stage hosts a variety of events for writers to learn about the craft of writing, authors to read their writing to an audience and an opportunity for readers to buy books from local writers. This year I caught my CWC friend Darlene Frank’s workshop on “Creating Your Most Powerful Writing.” For about an hour and a half Darlene outlined how writers can identify and execute writing with a clear purpose. It was fun to hear a fellow writer share their process and to take the time to think about my own writing in a supportive environment.

After listening to writers that I’ve come to know through CWC read from their award winning work at the Literary Stage author’s panel I am inspired to continue submitting my work to the fair. I hope to move up a notch next year and take home one of the big fluffy ribbons!

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Seal Point Park Rehab, San Mateo, CA: Guest Post at Wild. Here.

Catch my writing this week on the Canada based Wild. Here. blog that discovers nature in urban areas. I explored Seal Point Park on the San Mateo, CA shoreline and found that the park has an unexpected history. Come enjoy a beautiful California spring day with me at this intersection of urban life and nature.

Wind Tuba Sculpture, Photo by Eva Barrows
Wind Tuba Sculpture, Photo by Eva Barrows
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Parkside Aquatic Park: Urban Beach in San Mateo, CA

Playground and Beach, Photo by Eva Barrows
Playground and Beach, Photo by Eva Barrows

I caught a glimpse of Parkside Aquatic Park a few months back when strolling along the opposite side of the Marina Lagoon. The sandy beach with children happily playing in the water surprised me as I wouldn’t expect such a park in the middle of San Mateo!

Picnic Area, Photo by Eva Barrows
Picnic Area, Photo by Eva Barrows

Yesterday, I was in the area and decided to go take a closer look at the park. It is located in a residential area and hidden behind homes. Since it was a weekday there were few children around but adults on lunch breaks were there taking in the view.
The park was alive with shore and sea bird activity. Birds dominated the water, sand and dock. A few sand-castle remains, evidence of human activity, held strong but the sand was firmly imprinted with bird tracks.

Dock with Birds, Photo by Eva Barrows
Dock with Birds, Photo by Eva Barrows

During the weekends of May to September, California Canoe & Kayak rents out small boats and stand up paddleboards at the park. I am putting this on my list of activities to do next year. The lagoon would be a great place to try out different water sports.
Parkside Aquatic Park is a beautiful place to take in the scenery, swim when it’s warm and play in the sand!
Location: 1595 Seal St, San Mateo, CA 94403

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Early Voting With the Masses

I decided to vote early this past Monday November 7th by going to the San Mateo County Registration and Elections office to get it done. I swung by the location mid-day and found there were very few places to park as the official parking lots were full. I decided to come back later in the day hoping for easy parking and short voting line. When I came back, I lucked into a good parking spot but the place was still hopping with motorists and pedestrians all eager to get their voting completed.

Long Line!, Photo by Eva Barrows
Long Line!, Photo by Eva Barrows

There was a hefty line to wait in but it went quickly. I filled out an intake form and asked for a paper ballot. Soon, my name was called and I got to pick up an individualized “vote by mail” packet and filled it out on the spot. As I was voting I overheard a poll worker say, “There have been so many votes that one of the electronic voting machines had to be rebooted.” Then pretty soon I heard her say to the people standing in line, “Great news, we’ve had so many voters that we have had to reboot the vote by mail computer.”

Vote by Mail Box, Photo by Eva Barrows
Vote by Mail Box, Photo by Eva Barrows

The line of voters was even longer when I left at 4:30pm with only a half hour left before the location closed for the day. A steady stream of cars drove up to the curbside vote by mail box and people slid their ballots in. I felt proud of the residents of San Mateo County for making sure they voted!

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Oh Deer! Not Skittish at Crystal Springs Reservoir

The deer at Crystal Springs trail in San Mateo, CA don’t hesitate to graze wherever they want. These guys didn’t flinch when runners, families and bicyclists passed them by.

Crystal Springs Reservoir, Photo by Eva Barrows
Crystal Springs Reservoir, Photo by Eva Barrows
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Searching for Vietnamese Sandwiches: Kat’s Vietnam House Restaurant Review

I had a hankering for a good Vietnamese sandwich. You know, tasty meat mixed with kimchi on a French sourdough roll. The sandwich seems out of place at an Asian restaurant but makes sense when you remember the French colonized the region back in the day.

Kat's Vietnam House, photo by Eva Barrows
Kat’s Vietnam House, photo by Eva Barrows

I looked up local Vietnamese restaurants and found that Kat’s Vietnam House serves the sandwiches I was looking for. Kat’s is located in an industrial meets family friendly area of San Mateo, in the Laurie Meadows strip mall at 35 Laurie Meadows Dr., San Mateo CA 94403.

Interior of restaurant, photo by Eva Barrows
Interior of restaurant, photo by Eva Barrows

When I arrived around 1pm, I was the only customer and a few others trickled in while I was there. The interior was dark due to limited natural lighting. Some of the tables were used as restaurant/office supply storage however there were plenty of available places to dine. The walls were decorated with the pictured large repeating motif.

Variety of noodles, photo by Eva Barrows
Variety of noodles, photo by Eva Barrows

I enjoyed the visual aid of the different types of noodles the restaurant uses. Each type is labeled in English and Vietnamese so that you are sure to order the correct noodle, preventing order confusion.

The waitress greeted me promptly. She answered my questions about how the meat is sliced for the sandwiches – advising the pork is a cutlet and the chicken was in strips. I ordered the chicken sandwich and a Thai iced tea. The meal was brought out to me within ten minutes.

Vietnamese sandwich with Thai iced tea, photo by Eva Barrows
Vietnamese sandwich with Thai iced tea, photo by Eva Barrows

The fixings (lettuce, lightly pickled carrot and cabbage, cilantro), chunks of dark skin-on chicken meat in a sweet sauce, and fresh French roll were all there. The bread was of a flaky consistency when I had been expecting a lightly toasted interior and sourdough crispiness. The Thai iced tea was sweet and refreshing.
I enjoyed my lunch at Kat’s but am still on the hunt for the *perfect* Vietnamese sandwich because I’m a sucker for the lightly toasted!

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