Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vallejo, California

August 17 - 21, 2013:

As we had a short 35 mile drive to Vallejo, California, no big rush to leave Marin.  So, we walked over to the Larkspur Circle which is a vibrant popular shopping plaza directly across from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, to their Saturday Farmers Market.  We bought some fresh Tomatoes that were the best I've had since leaving New Jersey.  They bring back old memories of being in the Tomato field and plucking them right off the vine and eating them.

We took the longer route to Vallejo going north and east around the San Francisco Bay to avoid the Bridge and traffic.  It was an easy drive until we got off at the exit, we could see the RV Park on the service road, but couldn't make the hairpin turn onto it.  We ended up in a development which luckily had a big open area for an easy turnaround.  This RV Park is safe, I think, but borders on the "Hood", there are homeless types hanging out under the Route 80 underpass just down the street.  Also if road noise bothers you, this is not your place, pretty much constant Route 80 road noise. Otherwise the campground itself is quiet, full hookup, pull through spots and very convenient to the Vallejo Ferry making it easy to get into San Francisco. 

It has been a very busy week so far, a day in San Francisco, a day in Sonoma and last, but not least, a dental visit to pull a tooth.

From Vallejo we took the Vallejo Ferry, which takes about an hour and is a very scenic ride.  Actually more than a scenic ride, coming into this harbor is a 3D I-Max of motion, sun, clouds, water, wind, smell, land, sky, birds, boats and city, a sensory overload.  We then took in the sights and smells at the Ferry Building, which has one of the greatest food markets we have seen anywhere.  I am now addicted to the chocolate almond donuts !  Then across the street to the San Francisco Railway Museum operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI).  They have excellent exhibits on the history of the San Francisco Bus, Trolleybus, Light Rail, Streetcar and Cable Car system.  They highlight, as they should, their incredibly successful old PCC streetcar program.  They procured old streetcars from all over the country and world, restored them in their original colors and run them on the "F Line".  It's sort of an extension of the Cable Car system and very cool.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Vallejo Ferry

Vallejo Ferry at San Francisco dock

Twinkles had to feel the Beans

Classic Trolley car

Twinkles at the controls

View of the Ferry building

We walked from the Ferry Building to the National Maritime Historical Park, about 2 miles, along Embarcadero street and the waterfront.  There is more than the usual tourist activity this year due to the Americas Cup trials currently taking place.  We walked out on one of the piers and by chance were there just as the defending US boat "Oracle Team USA" passed by.

America's Cup race boat

The Park visitor center has great exhibits and artifacts on the nautical history of San Francisco, for sure one of the greatest ports in the World.   Those days are now gone, since the advent of Container shipping, things have moved to the Port of Oakland, California.  The Nautical Park continues on the Hyde Street Pier where real historic ships are on display. We ran out of time, (our time management was not so good), and only had time to go on one ship, the Balclutha, a steel square rigger built in 1886.  It was a perfect day in the city, the fog stayed away, it was warm and sunny.  It seems like whenever we take jackets, we don't need them, when we don't take them, we freeze ?

Poster in visitor center

The beach front at the National Maritime Park

On the deck of the Balclucha

Ocean liner leaving San Francisco

 A ride to the wine growing mecca of Sonoma, a serious wine lovers tourist trap with lots of Italian and French speaking tourists and other well to do and artsy looking types.  On the flip side, Sonoma is also a very historical town that played a prominent role in California history.  

The usual story, another town populated by 1,000's of happy native Indians until the Spanish arrived to civilize and convert them to Christianity.  Mission San Francisco Solano is the northernmost and last of the 21 Missions and the only one built by the Mexicans.  This marked the end of the " El Camino Real" road which linked all the California Missions.  We have been unintentionally following this road lined with it's bells all year.  As Mexico won independence from Spain, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Comandante of the San Francisco Presidio was sent to establish a new Presidio and town which became Sonoma. In 1846 the "Bear Flag  Rebellion" took place in Sonoma, General Vallejo was arrested and a republic of California flag was raised in the town square.  California officially became a US State shortly thereafter.  General Vallejo was quite an amazing guy and somehow survived this period of turmoil and eventually became a United States senator.  Vallejo was also the one who started the wine growing in Sonoma.  The city of Vallejo is also named after him.

A copy of the original California Bear Flag

Interior of the Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma

Sonoma is the end of the "El Camino Real" or King's Highway

Sign in Sonoma store window

Sonoma area is known as "The valley of the Moon"

The Sebastianni Theater in Sonoma

Cow made out of Wine corks in Sonoma

Bear Flag rebellion Monument in Sonoma

Tomato's and Fig's for sale at Sonoma Farmers Market

Of course Grapes are for sale too !

Music at the Farmers Market

Coming up is a visit to the beautiful town of Sausalito, keep watching !
  Twinkles and Slick

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