Sonoma and the East Bay

My California trip continues. We hit the road fairly early and took the Richmond bridge again across the bay. This time we stayed on the highway all the way to Healdsburg. Downtown Healdsburg centers around a pretty park. We were entertained by a lone guitar player who knew all the songs from the 60’s. We were impressed when he did a perfect growl while signing Pretty Woman. Small boutiques selling high end clothing surround the park.

We brought a picnic lunch and needed to find a place with tables. Following our Google god, we discovered an out of the way picnic area on the Russian River. It was delightful.

From there we went in search of wine. We got lost on the way and ended up detouring on the 258 acre grounds of the Montage Healdsburg resort and spa. It was very inviting. We looked it up, it was over $1600 per night. Apparently they have several restaurants open to the public.

Back on the road, we stopped briefly at Hanna Winery so my friend could pick up a bottle of her latest favorite. Then it was on to Alexander Valley Vineyards for a tour. They give free tours twice a day and do not charge for tasting. Plus their wine is excellent. They have been in business since the 1960’s and are serious about their Green initiatives.

The following day it was off to Oakland and the East Bay. We had our mandatory stop at the alma mater and an old watering hole we used to frequent.

Our final stop was the Mountain View Cemetery in Piedmont. I went mainly for the views but there were some nice mausoleums as well. Some of the notables were Domingo Ghirardelli, Chocolate King; James Folger, Coffee Pioneer; and Anna Head, founder of the Head-Royce School in Oakland where a couple of my friends attended.

San Francisco and Point Reyes

I recently returned from visiting old friends in San Francisco. I had a great time visiting old haunts and exploring new ones.

First stop was Golden Gate Park and a walk around Stow Lake. We saw lots of turtles. Stow Lake is located between John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive – west of the Japanese Tea Gardens.

Somehow it had never registered with me that San Quentin maximum security prison is located right on the Bay. It must have a fantastic view. It is the oldest prison in California opened in 1852. It sits on 432 acres and houses about 3,776 occupants. It is easily seen as you cross the Richmond bridge from the East Bay to Marin County.

San Quentin

We were on our way to Point Reyes National park about an hour and a half northwest via Sir Francis Drake Blvd. The road took us through Roy’s Redwoods Preserve and Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

We stopped at the visitor center at the entrance to Point Reyes and headed towards the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself was closed off but the views were spectacular.

Next day was dedicated to The City. We spent the day wandering around the neighborhoods and enjoying the energy. We strolled through Chinatown, stopping to look at all the treasures to be found in it’s small crowded shops. We stopped for lunch at a restaurants where everybody spoke Chinese and shared large dishes.

After cutting through some familiar places in North Beach…

…we ended up at the Ferry Building, a large commingling of many foods-cheese, chocolate, meat, bread, baked goods, produce and dry goods.

We took a trolley from the Ferry Building to the Wharf and wandered down to Scoma’s for a few drinks. Scoma’s is a restaurant located at the end of Pier 47 that has been around since the 1960’s. The waiters wear white coats and black ties and the menu consists of fresh-off-the-boat seafood. Plus they make a good cocktail.

Next week – the wine country and the East Bay.

Global Nomads at the Spanish Steps


In high school I spent a long weekend in Rome with my best friend, Pearl.  We hopped a train in Lugano and arrived in Rome after dark.  Pearl had grown up in Rome and her godmother was going to put us up.  We had to wait a while before our ride showed up and the Italians were swarming us trying to fix us up with a cheap hotel.  A woman who was traveling with us went off with one of them.  We wondered if we would see her again.

We wandered around Rome for a couple of days seeing the sights.  St Peter’s, the Pieta, the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel, the Coliseum.  But our most favorite thing to do was walk down the Via Veneto and eat gelato.

On one occasion we ended up at the Spanish Steps.  We were thinking about climbing them when this guy came up to us and said,

“Where are you from?”

Not a good question to ask us.  We were both Third Culture Kids who had lived our entire lives moving from one country to the next.  Pearl had grown up in Rome, was half Japanese, and currently called Tokyo home.  I had already lived on five continents and currently called Nigeria home.

“We’re not from anywhere”

“Come on, you have to be from somewhere.  Where are you from?”

“I’m from Tokyo”

“I’m from Nigeria”

“Okay…. Hey I’m from California!!  The greatest place on Earth!  California is the best!”


Pearl and I looked at each other, turned, and walked away.  The last place we wanted to be was with a loud American who though he was great.

So we didn’t climb the Spanish Steps.

But we did enjoy an amazing 5 course meal in a packed restaurant where we never heard a word of English. I remember the tortellini soup to this day.

Now that was Roma!!

Mills College

Mills College was originally founded in 1852 as a young ladies’ seminary.  It was the first women’s college west of the Rockies.

Aurelia Reinhardt, PhD, was born in 1877 and served as President of Mills College in Oakland, California, from 1916-1943.  My grandmother was born in 1886.  Somehow or other, my grandmother knew somebody who knew Aurelia Reinhardt.  When she learned that I was going to Mills College she gave me a photograph album.  Here are the photos.  Some of these places are still there today and some are not.  Mills made headline news in the 1990’s when economic troubles threatened to force it to go coed.  The students and alumni rallied, protested, and raised enough money to keep it all women.


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