Thursday, February 23, 2017

80 North: Benicia, Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns


Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns  2060 Camel Rd., 1.7 mi. E of town (it is out of the way; call for directions), (707) 745-5435.  W-Sun 1-4.  $5, 65+ $3, 6-12 $2, 1st W free.  Tours by arrangement.  Situated within one of the 1850s sandstone warehouses on this former military compound, this museum tells the story of this area.

entrance to Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
entrance to Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

Part of its name comes from the fact that a camel corps that served as military pack animals were brought here to be auctioned in 1864.  The animals were housed not in barns but outside in pens, though their food and equipment were stored in what is now the museum.  Many wound up later in Gold Rush country and then were eventually released in the Mojave Desert, where a few got a part in the 1939 movie “Gunga Din.”  Some descendants remain in the desert--sort of like the donkeys in Oatman, Arizona.  The land was originally owned by the Patwin Indians, then became a ranch, then was owned General Vallejo who eventually sold it to the army, which in 1964 sold it to the City of Benicia (it is said that this was the first time the army sold land on the installment plan).  As might be expected, the museum has a display of all kinds of camels,

carved camel at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
carved camel at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

but you’ll also see the elaborate Dolores Webb doll house complete with led lighting,

Dolores Webb doll house at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
Dolores Webb doll house at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

the Benicia history quilt,

Benicia history quilt at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
Benicia history quilt at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

and more ceramic tile murals by Guillermo Wagner Granizo (like those seen along First Street).

ceramic tile camel mural at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
ceramic tile camel mural at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

A children’s activity area has games and coloring pages.  Do take a tour if available, because the docents are passionate about the museum’s history, and most of them have spent plenty of time building display cases and helping upgrade exhibits. 

Out back, an 1857 powder magazine--constructed with bricks carved by Italian artisans from rock quarried on the site--is available to view only by special tour (the same mason marks are seen at the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma.

exterior of powder magazine at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
exterior of powder magazine at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

It requires a short walk over a locked-off road, where we saw a large jack rabbit and were warned to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes.

locked gate at powder magazine at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
locked gate at powder magazine at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

All floors and carvings are original.  In fact, you can still see the writing on the walls put there by German POWS during World War II.

interior of powder magazine at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
interior of powder magazine at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

writing of German POWs on walls at powder magazine at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
writing of German POWs on walls at powder magazine at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

For many years, this cool space was then used to store civil defense materials.  Another warehouse building in back features an interior designed to look like a 19th-century industrial wharf.  It features a small model train display and an operating mine model. 

warehouse in back of Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California
warehouse in back of Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns in Benicia, California

More things to do in Benicia.
 
Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.  

images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

80 North: Benicia, Benicia Capitol State Historic Park + Fischer-Hanlon House


Benicia Capitol State Historic Park  115 W. G St./First St., (707) 745-3385.  Thur 12-4pm, F-Sun 10-5. $3, 6-17 $2.  Historic information, artifacts, and period furniture await visitors inside this restored 2-story, red brick Greek Revival building that served as the third state capitol from February 4, 1853 to February 25, 1854.  Because there were no building codes then and plenty of workers, it was built in less than 5 months.  Most building materials are local.  In the first floor Senate Chambers, each desk is topped by a hat.  Depending on which way the owner planned to vote on the item being discussed, their hat faced either right-side up (yay) or down (nay).  This capitol operated during the heat of the Gold Rush, and hundreds of bills were passed, including one that allows women to own property.  It is claimed that except for a voting technicality, the state capitol would still be here.  After being used as a schoolhouse, a jailhouse, and a firehouse (once it even served as a roller skating rink), this property was restored and opened in 1958 as a state historic park.  Occasional Living History events bring it all to life. 

exterior of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
exterior of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

interior of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
interior of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California




Next to the Capitol in the park is the 1858 Federal-style Victorian Fischer-Hanlon House (135 W. G St.), a renovated Gold Rush-era hotel that also once was a house of prostitution.  It was donated to the state in 1966 and  is said to have a ghost.  The house holds an impressive collection of original period furniture and accessories, including an 1864 Box Steinway made in New York and brought here by ship, and its kitchen features an ornate wood-burning stove and a linoleum floor that looks like an oriental rug.  A carriage house and three-hole out house is behind the house, along with a garden holding a century-old wisteria.  Tours are sometimes available. 

exterior of Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
exterior of Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

1864 Box Steinway piano in Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
1864 Box Steinway piano in Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

dining room at Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
dining room at Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

kitchen at Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
kitchen at Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

bedroom in Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
bedroom in Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

More things to do in Benicia.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.  

images and video ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

80 North: Benicia, art galleries


ART IN TOWN


Lindsay Art Glass  109 East F St./First St., (707) 748-1336.  See a mind-blowing selection of colorful blown glass in this retail shop, and don't miss the sale area located in back.  The studio is often open to visitors, and for a set fee you can sometimes blow your own glass ornament. 

gift shop at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
gift shop at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California

blown-glass ball ornaments at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
blown-glass ball ornaments at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
sale shelves at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
sale shelves at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California

clamping glass demo at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
clamping glass demo at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California

ART AWAY FROM TOWN
Arts Benicia  991 Tyler Street #114, 1.2 mi. E of downtown, (707) 747-0131.  W-Sun noon-5pm.  Free.  Located on the outskirts of town, in a concentrated community of artists who live where they work in vintage buildings in the historic Lower Arsenal District, this art gallery sponsors regularly changing shows. 

exterior of Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California
exterior of Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California

art show at Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California
art show at Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California
 
art show at Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California
art show at Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California

This section of town was originally a staging area for Union troops during the Civil War.  Now many artists have their studios and homes in historic buildings here.  Though these work spaces are usually closed to visitors, they open during Open Studios events held on the first weekend of May and December.

I visited the sculpture studio of Mary Oros.  Formerly a costume jewelry designer, Mary now makes large pieces out of concrete with an armature underpinning.  She uses lots of kitchen items--including spatulas--as tools.  “It all started in the sandbox my dad built for me,” she laughs.  Her “Blue Moves” concrete sculpture took 4 months to complete.  “I’ve never done anything like that before.  I made it as complicated as I could.” 



artist Mary Oros points at her armature underpinning in Benicia, California
artist Mary Oros points at her armature underpinning in Benicia, California


artist Mary Oros next to her "Blue Moves" concrete sculpture in Benicia, California
artist Mary Oros next to her "Blue Moves" concrete sculpture in Benicia, California

More things to do in Benicia.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.  

images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Thursday, February 9, 2017

101 South: Burlingame, Rise Pizzeria


TODAY IS NATIONAL PIZZA DAY! 
Let's celebrate with a great place to go for pizza on a rainy day . . .  or any day.

Rise Pizzeria  1451 Burlingame Ave./El Camino Real, (650) 235-9715.  L-D daily; $$.  Diners form a line at this bustling spot, then place their order with a helpful order-taker at the front, where the pizza-making process in the open kitchen can be observed.

taking orders at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
taking orders at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

making pizzas in the open kitchen at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
making pizzas in the open kitchen at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

The kitchen focal point is two 5,000-pound, custom-designed, wood-fired ovens.  Handmade in Naples, Italy, they are nicknamed Foozi and Nonni in honor of the proprietors's mothers.

pizza pick-up counter in the open kitchen at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
pizza pick-up counter in the open kitchen at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

The clean-lined contemporary interior features high ceilings, attractive elm-wood tables, and wood inlay in the polished cement floors.  It also has a large open-air covered patio heated by a fire pit, where I was warm and cozy on a dismal rainy night.

open dining room at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
open dining room at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

From the simple, pizza-centric menu, I selected several marinated vegetable appetizers--white bean and asparagus; mushroom and red peppadew peppers--which was just right paired with a pizza topped with light-as-a-cloud burrata.  The exceptional crust is made with locally milled organic, non-GMO flour.  From the add-ons, we chose pepperoni and marinated artichokes.  The result was not only beautiful but delicious.  Diners can choose from eight red and eight white pizzas.  

marinated vegetable sides at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
marinated vegetable sides at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
 
burrata pizza with garnish plate at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
burrata pizza with garnish plate at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

Drink choices include wine (some by the glass), beer (many on tap), and house-made lemonade (refills included).  Espresso coffees are made with wood-fired beans.  At first I was disappointed to learn that the soft-serve ice cream machine was down that night.  But then I discovered the “salted fudge brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookie”--a mouthful in more ways than one--and I was in heaven.  I should definitely have ordered an extra one to take home. 

salted fudge brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookie at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
salted fudge brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookie at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California


More things to do in Burlingame. 

Great pizzas all around the world.

Take a great pizza tour in NYC.

Here are some travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

80 North: Benicia


Founded in 1847 by General Vallejo and originally named “Francisca” for his bride, this low-key town was the state capital for a short time in 1853.  (The name was changed to Benicia the same year, 1847, that San Francisco was named.  Old-timers pronounce it “Bah-nish-ah,” though newbies say “Bah-nee-shah.”)  Situated on the Carquinez Strait, about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, it became a very busy port when the town built the area’s first deep-water harbor and gained the ability to dock large ships.  Visiting permits stepping back into a quieter, less crowded time.  Street parking is still free, and the town is bike- and dog-friendly.  Plus, currently city officials are proud to say that they have their first all-female police patrol.

view of Carquinez Strait from Benicia, California
view of Carquinez Strait from Benicia, California

First Street clock in Benicia, California
First Street clock in Benicia, California

First Street is the town’s downtown.  It begins at Military West and runs for 11 blocks, ending at the Carquinez Strait waterfront.  At night, the leafy trees the street is lined with sprout romantic lights.  At the waterfront, you will sometimes see sea lions (you can also often hear them as you wander around the town).  It is also a popular place to watch the sunset.

leafy First Street in Benicia, California
leafy First Street in Benicia, California

sunset at Benicia waterfront with rock heart in Benicia, California
sunset at Benicia waterfront with rock heart in Benicia, California

A plethora of antiques shops is found in the 300 and 600 blocks.  My favorites are:

Blue Goose Antiques  622 First St., (707) 745-1715.  W-Sun 10:30am-5:30pm.  Located inside a vintage house, this focused shop specializes in primitives. 

Charlie’s Attic  632 First St., (707) 205-6960.  Vintage and collectibles.  Named for Charlie, the boxer dog who hangs here. 

The Steffen Collection Antiques  627 First St., (707) 745-1170.  Tu-Sun 10:30am-5:30pm.  Here you’ll find lovely collections of aprons, teacups, and Lucite bracelets.  I saw a two-pronged cherry pitter that I came close to buying.

aprons at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California
aprons at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California

tea cups at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California
tea cups at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California

bangle bracelets at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California
bangle bracelets at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California

At the waterfront end of town, you'll see Benicia Main Street, a well-maintained building that was once the Southern Pacific Train Depot.  It was where both the train and individual passengers boarded “the largest ferry in the world” to be transported across the Carquinez Strait to Port Costa.  Now it holds a multi-purpose shop that dispenses town information and displays town memorabilia in addition to purveying a variety of Benicia-related merchandise and local art.  Additionally, it is the only outlet for See’s candies in town.

painting of Benicia Main Street by Ebba Navas in Benicia, California
painting of Benicia Main Street by Ebba Navas in Benicia, California

See's candies at Benicia Main Street in Benicia, California
See's candies at Benicia Main Street in Benicia, California


As you wander around town, look for the small yellow “This Place Has History!” plaques on historic markers.  Use your smart phone to read the QR code for on-the-spot connection to a website that contains photos and info about the history of that location.  No QR code reader? The same information can be found at m.historicalbenicia.org

purple morning glory in Benicia, California
purple morning glory in Benicia, California

More things to do in Benicia.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.  

images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers