March 31, 2014

: Richmond, Pt. Molate Beach Park; things to do

warning sign at Pt. Molate Beach Park in Richmond, CA

80 North

view of Richmond Bridge at Pt. Molate Beach Park in Richmond, CAPt. Molate Beach Park  on Western Dr.  Free. 

Long ago, the World War II fleet was fueled here.  Now city-owned and cleaned up, this quiet little bayside park is the perfect spot for a picnic (tables and barbecues are provided).  The expansive view includes the San Rafael Bridge, Mt. Tamalpais, and Red Rocks Island—which was recently for sale for $12 million.  Keep your eyes open for harbor seals, wild turkeys, and osprey.  And though kids will enjoy playing in the sand, it isn’t recommended that anyone wade, swim, or fish in the calm water.  The area is famous as the location for the 1955 movie, "Blood Alley," with Lauren Bacall and John Wayne.  Continue on this road, which later becomes rustic and curvy like the road to Hana, to a former Chinese fishing camp which is now a houseboat colony. 

More things to do in Richmond.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

March 28, 2014

: Richmond, East Brother Light Station; hotel review

80 North

East Brother Light Station B&B in Richmond, CA

East Brother Light Station  (510) 233-2385.  5 rooms; 3 stories.  Open Thur-Sun.  Unsuitable for children under 18.  Some shared bathrooms.  Evening snack, dinner, & full breakfast included.  No smoking; no pets. 

After driving down a road that resembles parts of the twisty road to Hana (we saw a huge herd of goats cleaning up the hillside shrubs), guests enjoy a 20-minute, quarter-mile boat ride over to this still-operating circa 1874 Victorian lighthouse.  Then, having escaped the real world of TVs and radios, there's really not a lot to do on the 1-acre island that surprisingly is mostly paved over with concrete.  Most visitors just take it easy and sit around and exclaim over the magnificent views or try their skill at solving the game puzzle that permits access to a bottle of wine.  One room is inside the old fog signal building (it is the least expensive and most private) and four are in the keeper’s house that is part of the lighthouse.  An elegant, four-course California-French dinner served with wine is prepared by the innkeepers--who between them also act as waiter, dishwasher, and boat captain--and a full sit-down breakfast is served at a long dining table in the morning.  Note that October through April an automated foghorn sounds every 20 seconds around the clock.  Earplugs and plenty of wine are provided.  Because of a water shortage—the island collects and filters rainwater in the original 70,000-gallon cistern—only guests who stay two or more nights are permitted a shower.  The light itself is now a modified Frenel lens with no moving parts and LED light.

More things to do in Richmond.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image and videos ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


March 26, 2014

Richmond: Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park; things to do + restaurant review

ter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, CA

80 North

Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park  1414 Harbour Way South/Cutting Blvd., (510) 232-5050.  Daily dawn-dusk.  Free. 

Between 1941 and 1945, the four Kaiser shipyards here produced 747 ships (519 Liberty ships, 15 landing ship tanks, 142 Victory ships, 35 troop transports, 24 small Liberty ships, and 12 frigates)—more than any other location.  This unusual urban national park is dedicated to the effort here during World War II on the civilian home front.  If you’re wondering why Richmond, the town has a deep-water harbor and a plentiful work force.  And it is interesting to know that the oldest ranger in the National Park Service— a 92-year-old woman, Betty Reid Soskin--works here.  

Visitor Center  Daily 10-5.  Begin your visit by viewing “Home Front Heroes,” a short and extremely interesting film about Richmond during World War II.  Be sure to take a guess about what is in the Rosie lunch box at the check-in area.  Real life Rosies are sometimes available to chat with.  I had the good fortune to meet and hear stories from 90-year-old Rosie Mary Torres, who worked here as a journeyman welder from 1943 to 1945.

Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA

Craneway Pavilion  (510) 215-6000.  Built in 1930, this immense building was originally part of the West Coast’s largest Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant.  It produced Model As.  During World War II, it was converted to assemble jeeps and Sherman tanks and to outfit military vehicles.  After the war, it went back to civilian production and closed in 1955.  Retaining its architectural integrity and offering walls of windows with expansive bay views, today it is one of the largest event spaces in the Bay Area.

A Celebration of American Rhone Wines is sometimes scheduled.  The Rhone Rangers is the leading national organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone wines. More than 90 winery members will pour.

Assemble Restaurant in Richmond, CA

Assemble Restaurant  (510) 215-6025.  L M-F, D W-Sat, Sat-SunBr; $$.  Located in what was originally a boiler room, this restaurant keeps the industrial decor drama of the building’s natural bones with exposed pipes and high ceilings.  Expansive windows look out to the bay.  Produce from their Victory Garden, located on site is used in some dishes.  The menu changes regularly, but starters might include unusual spiced boiled peanuts or housemade barbecued potato chips.  The lunch menu presents items such as a wedge of iceberg lettuce with Green Goddess dressing, chicken pot pie with cheddar cheese crust, and a blackened catfish sandwich.  Dessert brings on German chocolate cake, key lime pie, and carrot cakes.  Cocktails, draft beers, and wines by the glass are available.

Assemble Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rosie the Riveter Memorial  1401 Marina Way So., on site of Shipyard No. 2.  Located in a waterfront park where the Kaiser Shipyards once operated, this memorial is a short, scenic walk along the SF BAY Trail from the visitor center.  The  sculpture depicts a hull under construction and includes Rosie images and history.  It measures 441 feet--the length of a Liberty ship--and honors American women’s labor during World War II.

Red Oak Victory Liberty Ship in Richmond, CA

Red Oak Victory Ship  1337 Canal Blvd., berth 6A, on site of Shipyard No. 3, (510) 237-2933.  Tu, Thurs, Sat, Sun 11-3, weather permitting.  By donation:  $10, seniors $4, under 5 $2; pancake breakfasts $6.  This World War II transport and ammunition vessel was built in 88 days and is the only remaining Victory ship built here in the Kaiser Shipyard.  Officially a military and Merchant Marine Memorial Ship, it served also in the Korean War as a cargo ship and in the Vietnam War as a mail ship.  Call ahead for a guided tour.  World War II films are shown in the evening monthly.  Fundraiser pancake breakfasts are sometimes scheduled aboard.  The thousands of new Hondas you’ll see parked in the the surrounding area are imported and transferred from this still-active port.

More things to do in Richmond.

A Rosie the Riveter story about my own family, centered on San Diego's World War II airplane factories.  

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

March 24, 2014

Walnut Creek: The Ruth Bancroft Garden; things to do

century plant-agave franzosinii-+guide Adrian D’Souza, at Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA

Greater East Bay

The Ruth Bancroft Garden  1552 Bancroft Rd./near Ygnacio Valley Rd., (925) 944-9352.  Tu-Sun 10-4 Apr-Oct (best bloom); W-Sun 10-4 Nov-Mar.  $7; under 12 free; 10am tour free with admission. 

When Ruth Bancroft was in her 60s, she started this 3-acre dry climate desert garden on what was originally a walnut orchard.  Now age 105!, she still lives in her home on the property but others help tend the garden.  Recognized as a premier dry garden, it displays specimens from all over the world, including desert plants, drought-tolerant plants, unusual succulents, and California natives.  An important
3 Washingtonia palms, at Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA
collection of African aloes range from the size of your thumb to over 20-feet high and sport brilliant blooms that are particularly colorful in late winter and spring.  A large variety of cacti and succulents grow in greenhouses, and a trio of tall Washingtonia palms—the only palm native to California—are nearby.  Rarieties include a large tropical kapok tree that blooms pink in September and an unusual Argentine jelly palm, and the single hybrid “Glenn Davidson” aeonium that Ms. Bancroft started her original garden with is still here.  Consider bringing a picnic so you can stay a while and enjoy the peaceful surroundings, and don’t forget to visit the cuttings shop to purchase a special souvenir plant (most are “pups” from the garden).  Bancroft’s private home garden—which includes bulb, herb, and rose beds--can be viewed only during a special tour scheduled each spring.  Other special events are held regularly and have included a birder’s walk, a Mother’s Day tea, and a fall fruit-tasting tour. 

More things to do in Walnut Creek. 

More gardens.

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

March 21, 2014

Philo: The Apple Farm; things to do

101 North

The Apple Farm  18501 Greenwood Rd., in Philo, (707) 895-2461.  Fruit stand:  Daily 9-5; later in summer & fall. 

One part of this enterprise is a 30-acre certified organic farm with more than 80 varieties of apples ripening at different times from August through October.  The bounty and related products are sold at the property’s Farm Stand. 

The other part is a cooking school operated by the original proprietors of the highly acclaimed French Laundry restaurant in Yountville.  The school strives to simplify everyday cooking and to get participants back in their kitchens preparing daily meals and enjoying it.  On Farm Weekends everyone gets hands-on experience, preparing and consuming Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and dinner, and Sunday brunch.  According to owner Sally Schmitt, it is “like a house party with some cooking lessons thrown in.”  Students learn to use what is already in their garden and pantry and also learn to use the best ingredients while doing the least possible to them.  Participants get 3 hours off on Saturday afternoon to hike, bike, or visit local wineries on their own.  One guest room and three cabins are available on the premises.

More things to do in Philo.

Things to do in nearby Boonville.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image courtesy of venue

March 19, 2014

Berkeley: Troy Greek Cuisine (CLOSED); restaurant review

interior of Troy Greek Cuisine on College Ave. in Berkeley, CA

80 North

Troy Greek Cuisine  CLOSED  2985 College Ave./Ashby Ave., Elmwood, (510) 666-8500; L-D daily; $. 

Situated in a sweet little space with an upstairs loft for overflow, this spot serves up delicious Greek items.  We shared both a Greek salad made spectacular by its tasty dressing and a pita-wrapped gyros sandwich filled with a beef-lamb mix, lettuce, tomato, onion, and tzatziki.  Wraps come in two sizes and include a vegetarian-friendly Melitzana made with grilled eggplant and feta.  Souvlaki wraps made with chicken, lamb, or beef are also available and can be ordered as entrĂ©e plates, which isn’t a bad

Greek salad atf Troy Greek Cuisine on College Ave. in Berkeley, CA
idea because our wrap wanted to fall apart.  Also on the menu are mousaka, pastitsio, a killer hummus, and exceptional Middle Eastern falafel that are crispy on the outside and moist on the inside and served with tahini.  Delicious red and green housemade sauces are provided in squeeze bottles.  Fat Tire and local Pilsner Urquell beers are on tap.

More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

March 17, 2014

Berkeley: Philz Coffee (closed); restaurant review

interior of Philz Coffee in Berkeley, CA
iced mint mojito at Philz Coffee in Berkeley, CA
80 North

Philz Coffee  CLOSED  1600 Shattuck Ave.  Daily 7am-8:30pm. 

Personally, I think the baristas here can be a tad too cheery.  They spoil what could be a cooler, more unfriendly, beatnik-style ambiance.  Sitting outside on the sidewalk is pleasant, but if you’re here to work or surf, upstairs is quieter (though it is seemingly impossible to ever find an empty seat there).  The mostly liquid menu includes an array of coffees (I favor the yummy mint mojito iced version), a heavy hot chocolate, and some pastries and a good baklava.

More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

March 14, 2014

: Oakland, The Gardens at Lake Merritt; things to do

880 South 

Vireya rhododendron at The Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA

Japanese black pine in Bonsai Garden at The Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA The Gardens at Lake Merritt  Free.  No dogs. 

In addition to rhododendron and succulent gardens, this expansive property includes a Japanese Garden with a koi pond and small waterfall and a Pollinator Garden with a “bee hotel” (did you know that there are 1,600 native bee species in California?).  You’ll also see mature dawn redwoods, a giant old Angel’s Trumpet tree, and a bunya-bunya tree that dates from the 1915 World’s Fair.  All this and the largest collection of outdoor cool-weather palms on the West Coast, the largest collection of Vireya rhododendrons on the U.S. mainland, and a
Sensory Garden with 30 kinds of sage, too!

A Bonsai Garden exhibits more than 150 bonsai trees--among them a 400-year-old Japanese black pine that was brought to the U.S. for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and a Dalmyo oak that is the oldest in cultivation in the U.S.  The trees range in age from 30 to 1,000 years old.  An assortment of suiseki viewing stones is also displayed.  The gardens have been pesticide-free since 1998, and an effort is made to recycle and reuse everything.  An adjacent Lawn Bowling area has been here since 1910.

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland.

More gardens.

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers