Santa Clara and San Mateo: Silicon Valley and Nature Preserves

It was once said that “the coldest winter ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” (my fact-checker let me know Mark Twain did not say this). With that very hope in mind, we decided to escape the heat this weekend and hit San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Sadly, there was no escape from the heat; on the bright side we had a heck of a great time touring around these two history-filled counties.

Let me also explain here that we partially left to escape the La Tuna Canyon fire, burning not too terribly far from our house –we thought William’s school (St. Francis Xavier) was toast. We learned a couple of things: (1) we live really close to La Tuna Canyon (who knew!), (2) living “next door” to a fire station was a good choice, and (3) thank god for our neighbors who kept watch over the neighborhood –nothing burned down!

We also learned an invaluable lesson: don’t “wing it” when planning the trip because all hotels in every surrounding city might be sold out! We must have called everyone in the peninsula and every response was same: we are sold out. We later found out it was because of a summer concert series featuring Cheap Trick, Foreigner, and a Led Zepplin cover band. As an aside, the next day was headlined by Nickleback -hotels had plenty of vacancy on that day!!!

We viewed 63 total sites -most just plaques on the side of the roads. However, those sites that had a proper building/site where magnificent!

We drove up Friday night and awoke at the Hayes Mansion which was beautiful. The class and elegance of the gilded age was alive and present. We made our way to New Almaden to see the site of the old quicksilver (mercury) mines and discovered a wonderfully preserved historic town –as in the whole town was an historic site. We stopped in at La Casa Grande and honestly it was wonderful! It was a neat and well preserved house/geology museum and gave a complete overview of the town. Natasha, the “park ranger” waiting on school kids was a sweetheart and ever patient with William and Charlotte answering every one of their questions. She was rather impressed by their acumen and our mission.

We then followed up with the Paul Masson Vineyard –go, just go and hang out on the terrace. Access is limited but the site it spectacular with views in every direction. William asked if we 

were on top of the world –honestly it felt like we were.  Next on the hit parade was a historic park in San Jose. Historic buildings have been moved here to preserve them. It was like walking back in time and William and Charlotte got a crash course in using a printing press.

We kept wandering and ended up at St. Joseph’s Cathedral -wow! Also visited the “First Normal School in California” (the heart of the San Jose State University). On our way out we discovered the “Little Italy” neighborhood of San Jose and ate at Paesano’s (yum!).

Sunday was spent in San Mateo county, starting with Pescadero; if you have not been, please go. This is a town full of life but stuck in time. We meandered up the coast and hit Fioli as it was closing. I guarantee we are going back here to spend more time. The grounds, the house, the history is overwhelming. Next came one of my favorites, the Woodside Store –tucked neatly in a valley overgrown with trees.

For all the fun and adventure, we experienced on Saturday and Sunday, we decided we needed a little more. Monday morning started calm enough with a stroll through Union Cemetery 

Our near-death experience was celebrated with a stop at Harris Ranch for steaks and potatoes –a William and Charlotte favorite.(awesome) and then we headed to (or tried to get into) the Gilroy Hot Springs. I won’t tell you how we got in, let me just say that we quickly rectified the decision by turning around and going home! About 200 yards into the 1 mile (paved road) walk to the site we encountered a rattlesnake. As soon as it was gone I turned around and in the action of taking a second step both William and Christine yelled “Stop!” In front of me: another rather large rattlesnake. We immediately decided to do an about-face and retreat

We are now on the back-end of the number of historic landmarks left to visit with a little over 400. Looking back at the 630+ sites we’ve visited I can honestly say it has been an amazing journey. The state of California and the people we’ve encountered have been amazing (for the most part). Our love affair will continue and, although so far everything has been awesome, the best may be yet to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.