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June 19-24, 2015
Written June 20+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
After settling in at the hotel, we had some time for a little bit of touring. Our goal was simply to see the capitol building, but along the way we visited the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, founded in 1850 and, I assume, the reason this place is called "Sacramento". This colorful church could hold its own against those of Europe!
We started with a happy hour snack, an ornate cheese plate, accompanied with one margarita. (We need to get M. off the meds, so she can join me in a drink.) After a quick cleanup break back at the hotel, we returned for a halibut and pork chop dinner. Marianne's fish was excellent, but the server's recommended chop was a little too fatty for my taste. Nevertheless, the service and ambiance was first class and we discussed the lack of such a place back in Fresno. I suppose it's the difference between serving a city with customers coming from the farm industry versus one populated by government lobbyists!
Saturday morning we drove up to Grass Valley. We killed a couple of hours before our hotel room was available by shopping "downtown". Seems like a nice small Sierra foothills town. (More interesting than the "Gold Country" towns we had visited a few weeks before.)
Our school bus ride was scheduled for 2pm. While waiting, we ran across John and Helen McKay, acquaintances from decades ago in Brazil. We got first choice of (small) bus seats, and then toured Grass Valley as we picked up other wedding guests. The ride out to Smartsville (really, that's the name) was a fun preparation for the festivities.
Megan and Anders' wedding itself was spectacular and the reception was equally special. It certainly deserves a diary page all to itself, so here's a jump to THEIR page:
On Sunday morning, I posted pictures from the wedding, and then we headed out to Lake Wildwood for a morning brunch with the wedding families. All the younger folks, including the bride, look none the worse for the wear of the day before. Our older crowd was just thankful for a quiet, peaceful, breakfast buffet by the lake. Barbara, mother-of-the-bride and nominally our contemporary, still had the energy of the "kids", while she enjoyed the "let down" from week and months of wedding planning and execution. Well done Barbara (and Megan, and Mike, and all the other family and crew that worked so hard and successfully)!!.
We faded early from the brunch party and headed back to the hotel to make Fresno calls to settle home affairs. All seemed good at home, so we were cleared for the post-wedding part of our trip.
We worked in a trip to neighboring Nevada City, for little or no purpose than to just see a bit more of the surrounding Sierra foothill towns. When we got there, we found downtown blocked off for the 55th running of the Nevada City Bicycle Classic. OK, we resolved to be bike fans.
It was a great opportunity for me to try to take action sports shots, something I have almost zero experience in but for which my camera (a Canon 7DII) has reportedly great capability. I think I demonstrated that photography is more person and less equipment, but I enjoyed trying. Another 50 or 100 opportunities and I'll grow into the camera.
On Monday, we left the Sierra foothills and headed to wine country ... for a table. Here's the story. A couple of months ago, we were babysitting Ava and Sam and we took them shopping, or rather we took them to Kolkka, a furniture and home store that Marianne had wanted to go to. The kids were great, tolerating adult stuff (as long as we worked in a treat or two), and Marianne found a new coffee table, or at least a catalog picture of the table. We would have to order it and arrange delivery.
Stephanie, the very gracious owner, took us up on our offer to go pick up the table ourselves. We made the offer because the Kolkka factory is near Napa, and who could pass up an excuse for a visit to the the heart of California wine country. That's why we found ourselves driving west, from the Sierras, through even more California farmland, and over hills to the vineyard valleys.
Much of the drive passed through farmland that resembled our Fresno area, except the farms were more prosperous and the rivers actually had water in them. Probably a connection. We made a brief stop at the Charter Family Fruit Stand for some of the best peaches we have had this season. From there, it was up into the golden and green hills of Bear Creek Valley, site of a large fire some years ago, something we hope will not be repeated this dry year.
The Kolkka factory turned out to be a wonderful experience. Fernando, the factory manager, showed us the whole operation, from bare metal input to furniture-out-the-door. Everything is custom made and Fernando's enthusiasm for his craft and crew was infectious. Stephanie had given permission for pictures, so I'll tell the story visually.
Tuesday started without plans. Before and after our hotel-provided "continental" breakfast, we wandered through downtown Sonoma and ended up focusing on the local history. The town dates from the Spanish times, even before the gold rush that settled much of inland California. Over the next almost-200 years, it seems Sonoma managed to keep a mix of old and new and the area around the eight-acre city center square is ringed with a mix of buildings that reflect the history.
Vallejo's home and headquarters was a house he had ordered as a kit in 1850. Knowing the value of heavy, adobe walls, he had the kit's walls built to encase adobe walls, making the house comfortable, even in Sonoma heat. (Nowadays, we call this "passive cooling and heating". Not so new.) The State Park display is furnished as it might have been in the 19th Century. We were struck with how livable the house seemed - a tribute either to Vallejo's taste or to the Park Service's decorating skill.
Along with some knowledge, we had acquired a good appetite. The dinner at the Swiss Hotel was remarkably good, with pasta dishes for both of us that had quite original and flavorful sauces. After dinner, we joined the crowds across the street at the Sonoma Tuesday Farmers' Market.
And that was that. The four-hour drive home was completely uneventful, and now we are back home in Fresno, experiencing the 107F heat, almost 30F more than we had enjoyed in Sonoma. I think I'm ready to go back!
John and Marianne
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