Nazi Germany haunts European river cruise; Part 2 of 2 blog installments

 

 

We recently completed an 800 mile river cruise on Grand Circle Cruise Lines, from Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  The voyage took us through about 700 miles of Austria, south and central Germany.  History reaching back over a thousand years, stunning scenery, and, almost everywhere, remnants of Nazi and the Third Reich’s awful reign. 

I am a history major, and had read the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, and other World War II tomes – but was not prepared for the somber tone invoked by seeing the devastation foisted on these countries by the Nazis.  In my blog of November 21, I shared our experiences with the history of the Nazis we encountered in our first week’s voyage (Nuremberg, other towns); this is a short report of what we experienced in our final week in Germany and upon entering Amsterdam, Netherlands.

We cruised to Regensburg at the confluence of Danube and Regens River.  With Roman/Italian influence, it is Germany’s largest medieval city with buildings dating back 1,000 years.  Much of the city was devastated in the war.  When my first column ran in the Record newspaper, local reader Craig Hubbard sent me an interesting email – with his permission, it is reprinted below:

Your column brought back so many memories that I had to respond. Over many years my wife and I took about 13 Grand Circle trips. We always found they were the best. We took The Great Rivers of Europe tour quite a few years ago and enjoyed it very much.

Your column brought back some great memories. When in Regensburg our guide explained how, in 1945 during WWII, the Nazis destroyed a section of the big bridge to prevent the allied armies from advancing. However the Americans just built a pontoon bridge and kept on going.   I suggested that he could add that it was completely dark that night, it was raining and it was really unseasonably cold. I remember it very well because I spread my sleeping bag out on the big wide, and warm, hood of my half-track and rolled over that scary floating bridge–having told my driver that if he drove us into the Danube he would be in big trouble.  (If you are wondering how I could be here to remember that night I am 91 years old.) 

The second mention was of stopping at Passau. We tied up right at the city square and there was a lot of confusion because the “New Nazi Party” was holding a rally and a large group of anti-Nazis were there to challenge them. I heard that there were 2,000 police in the city to maintain the peace. I left the ship and followed a police officer who was taking pictures of the mob and I followed along taking my own pictures. When I returned to the ship my fellow travelers suggested that it was dangerous to go down there. I told them the last time I was in Passau they were shooting at me.

So much for my stories. I just wanted to tell you that I have read and enjoyed all of your travel series and have made many of the same trips. Keep up the good work!

Craig Hubbard, Stockton.

We made Frankfurt, another industrial city almost totally destroyed in the war, and took a bus tour through the city and onto Heidelberg (“blueberries mountain” in translation), in the warmest portion of Germany.  With the old Heidelberg University and a big army base, it was favored by the Allies and not destroyed in the war, retaining its original centuries-old charm).

We docked in Koblenz, passing multiple historic and crumbling castles. Koblenz is home to the massive Fortress Ehrenbreitstein (the largest in Europe), which controlled the valley from the 10th century until destroyed by French in 1700s. We were moored near the German Corner, with its huge statue of Emperor Wilhelm I, at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosul Rivers.  This is a country controlled for centuries by war-lords, though World War I and World War II were of entirely different scope and terror!

Our final day in Germany was in the old Romanesque town of Cologne, one of largest and most powerful medieval towns with 14,000 citizens, today Germany’s fourth largest city. Another industrial center, it was 98% destroyed in World War II and completely rebuilt with an eye towards preserving it’s storied history.  We walked through the mighty cathedral, and around the neighborhoods, seeing pictures of these neighborhoods lying in smoldering ruins just 69 years ago.

Our final port of call was Amsterdam, where we booked three additional days on our own.  Water, canals, boats and bicycles everywhere!  And, invaded and occupied for several years by the Nazis, Third Reich influence hangs heavily over the city. Over 103,000 Amsterdam Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps by the Third Reich; most of them perished.

We toured the Secret Annex, for over two years home to Anne Frank, her sister and parents and four more, in hiding from the Nazi invasion. After their arrest, only one of the eight, father Otto Frank, would survive brutal treatment by the Nazis.  The former hideout and adjoining museum is worthy of hours of contemplation on the terrible times that Nazi Germany brought upon so many European countries.

On our final day, we toured the Amsterdam Museum (housed in a former orphanage) and the huge Rijksmuseum; with Van Goghs, Rembrandts, Manets and many more.  Each museum houses somber memorials to the Netherlands and World War II’s impacts on its citizens.

For more insight on our European river cruise, and my earlier blog on Third Reich history, see my blog; http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valleytravel. Thanks for voyaging with us; consider adding European river cruising to your future travel adventures!

When to go: For best deals on river cruises, going early or late in the season (I.e., January-March or October/November), and booking “Last Minute” can save big bucks.  We booked our November 1-15 cruise six weeks out, got airfare to Europe included in the tour price and saved about 45%.  

What to take: Good walking shoes, clothing for changeable weather, your passport and camera and binoculars!

Where to eat, where to stay: These river cruises come with a full gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner included on board your floating hotel (the ship); several “off-ship dinners” are also included in historic restaurants! In Amsterdam, we booked a nice motel near the Amsterdam airport for about 70 Euros per night, and found convenient transit back into the city.  Working out of a Rich Steve’s Amsterdam Guide, we found all the attractions and a number of good restaurants.

For more info: Grand Circle Cruises, go to www.gct.com, or (800) 221-2610.  For best prices, search “Ways to Save” on their web site.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in your world!

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Cruising the grand rivers of Europe/central Germany to Amsterdam, 2014: Part 2 of 2

 

Bamburg's old City Hall, dating to the 14th century, stands resolutely on an island in the River Regnetz.

 

 

[This is the second of two parts on cruising the great rivers of Europe; Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, Netherlands]

With only one previous trip to Europe (Paris, 15 years ago); we had long dreamed of a fun and efficient way to see Europe after we retired.  Relying on recommendations from friends, we booked a river cruise from Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  This report shares the second half of our 16 day journey aboard the River Harmony, a 340 foot, three-deck luxury river cruiser.

We began a week ago in Vienna, with time to tour the city by coach and on foot.  Vienna, long home to the Habsburg Alliance, Strauss, music and majesty!  The Danube is Europe’s second longest River (at 1794 km), beginning in Germany’s Black Forest and emptying into the Black Sea (Russia’s Volga is longest).

In following days we cruised up the grey Danube, through the Wachau Valley, with cliffs, vineyards, bucolic river towns and old castles, past Linz and the stunning Melk Abbey and Monastery in Austria (the first monks began the monastery in 1089!). 

Our next stop was Passau, Germany; across the river high on a bluff was a huge fortress, dating to 1499 – the Veste Oberhaus, overlooking the three rivers that merge here (the Danube, Ilz and Inn Rivers). Overnight, our ship cruised to Regensburg; with Roman/Italian influence, it is Germany’s largest medieval city.  At the confluence of Danube and Regens River, here buildings date back 1,000 years to Roman times. 

At Kelheim, we entered the Main/Danube Canal (opened in 1992) and soon crossed the European “continental divide”, where water flows north in the Main River to the North Sea, or south in the Danube to the Black Sea. Soon we reached Nuremberg, where the Nazi legacy still stands in mute testimony to those terrible times, from huge Third Reich citadels to Room 600, home to the war criminal trials.

At Bamberg, we reached the Main River.  A delightful old town, it is part of the Franconia area of Germany. The old City Hall (portions dating to the 14th century) on an island in River Regnitz is truly memorable; the Imperial Cathedral, Romanesque style; with architecture of 15-18th centuries was also not to be missed. 

We sailed into Wurzburg on November 9, the anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down 25 years ago.  Wurzburg was a vital medieval city, shaped in large part by its Baroque prince-bishops, whose Residence built in 1720 to 1744 is truly stunning in both its size and art gallery, with 14th to 19th century masterpieces.  The town’s old bridge, dating to the 15th century, is ornamented by Baroque figures and also noteworthy by having a delightful wine bar on its north end! 

Further down the Main, we made Frankfurt, another industrial city almost totally destroyed in the war, and took a bus tour to Heidelberg (“blueberries mountain” in translation), in the warmest portion of Germany, with the old Heidelberg University, 30,000 students and a big army base (favored by the Allies, the town was not destroyed in the war, retaining its original centuries-old charm).

We cruised by Wiesbaden (connecting to the Rhine River), an international town known for its spas for health and bathing, then past Rudesheim, another medieval town known for its fine dining, Reisling and red wines and several castles dating back 1,000 years.  By now, the immensity of Germany’s history was almost overwhelming, with each old river town rivaling the other!

We made port in Koblenz, passing multiple historic and crumbling castles. Koblenz is home to the massive Fortress Ehrenbreitstein (the largest in Europe), which controlled the valley from the 10th century until destroyed by French in 1700s. We were moored near the German Corner, with its huge statue of Emperor Wilhelm I, at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosul Rivers.

Our final day in Germany was in the old Romanesque town of Cologne, today the fourth largest German town (it was one of largest and most powerful medieval towns with 14,000 citizens). Another industrial center, it was 98% destroyed in World War II and completely rebuilt with an eye towards preserving it’s storied history.  We walked through the mighty cathedral, and around the neighborhoods, seeing pictures of these neighborhoods lying in smoldering ruins just 69 years ago.

Our final port of call was Amsterdam, where we booked three additional days on our own.  After bidding goodbye to our crew and fellow ship-mates, we settled into a nice motel near the airport, and took the train into the central Transit Center.  Water, canals, boats and bicycles everywhere!  The Transit Center has parking for thousands of bikes, the city offers bike lanes set apart from autos and pedestrians and almost everyone cycles!

Another day, we toured the Secret Annex, for over two years home to Anne Frank, her sister and parents and four more, in hiding from the Nazi invasion.  Over 103,000 Amsterdam Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps by the Third Reich; most of them perished.

We walked through the Red light district and passed coffee shops with open marijuana sales, quite the liberated society!  On our final day, we toured the Amsterdam Museum (housed in a former orphanage) and the huge Rijksmuseum; with Van Goghs, Rembrandts, Manets and many more.

I will offer up more detail on the Anne Frank story, and our time in Amsterdam, on my blog on Friday; http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valleytravel. Thanks for voyaging with us; consider adding European river cruising to your bucket list!

When to go: for best deals in river cruises, going early or late in the season (I.e., January – March or October – November) and booking “last-minute” saves big bucks. We booked our November 1–15 cruise six weeks out, got airfare to Europe included in the tour price, saving 40%.

What to take: walking shoes, clothing for changeable weather, visa, camera and binoculars.

Where to eat, where to stay: River cruises offer a full gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner on board your floating hotel; and several “off-ship dinners” are also included in historic restaurants.

For more info: Grand Circle Cruises, go to www.gct.com, or (800) 221–2610. Find best prices by searching “Ways to Save”, seeking last-minute offerings.

For additional travel inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valleytravel; or contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in your world!

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Nazi Germany haunts European river cruise (an addition to my earlier blog)

Hitler addresses a crowd of 800,000 troops and Hitler youth at a huge rally at the Nuremberg Zeppelin Field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We recently completed an 800 mile river cruise on Grand Circle Cruise Lines, from Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  The voyage took us through about 600 miles of south and central Germany.  History reaching back over a thousand years, stunning scenery, and, almost everywhere, remnants of the Nazis and the German Third Reich’s awful reign. 

I am a history major, and had read the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, and other World War II tomes – but was not prepared for the somber tone invoked by seeing the devastation foisted on these countries by the Nazis, when touring through Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

Our cruise and tour began in Vienna, Austria, long home to the Habsburg Alliance, Strauss, music and majesty! We toured St. Stephan’s Cathedral and enjoyed the city, a marvel of old medieval structures, baroque classics, the Imperial Palace and many other mansions of colossal proportions. Here is where Hitler chose to make his first foray into annexation of nearby countries by warfare, having been born in Austria and feeling long-slighted by his childhood home.

Our tour took us past the Heldenplatz (Square of Heroes), the grand ediface where in March, 1938 Hitler delivered the Anschluss, annexing Austria into Germany. Hitler was born in Braunau, Austria near the German border, and with a miserable up-bringing, had felt slighted by his home-country from his childhood.  Cheering crowds of German/Austrian citizens welcomed the Wehrmacht’s invading troops; and no shots were fired.

Soon, we entered into Germany on the Main/Danube Canal (opened in 1992), crossing the European “continental divide”, at 1332’, where water flows north in the Main River to the North Sea, or south with the Danube to the Black Sea. 

We sailed through Germany past a number of old towns devastated during the war, but none more so than Nuremberg. This city was once the capital of the Roman Empire, and Hitler chose to make his mark on this area in particular.  The city was also a natural industrial complex, and had ability to both accommodate and help fund some of his heinous projects.  Nuremberg was almost totally leveled by Allied bombing, but portions of Hitler’s dreams remain.

Remnants of Nazi architecture are found throughout the city; the Luitpoldhein, a huge Zeppelin Field  and exhibition grounds, which hosted huge gatherings of 250,000 to 800,000 troops, members of the Hitler Youth, and other party faithful.  Nearby is the Luitpold Arena, never finished, which was to have been an indoor, 50,000 seat, show-place arena!  It is now used as the Hall of Records for war data.  Included in our tour, the huge red brick SS Barracks, with balcony for Hitler to welcome troops. 

Our tour took us past the Grand Hotel, home to 300 journalists who were covering the Nuremberg Trials at the end of the war.  And, the notorious Court Room 600, where the trials took place from November, 1945 to October, 1946, was nearby.  Nazis on trial saw only the adjoining prison, elevator and courtroom for a year.  Hemingway, Marlena Dietrich and other celebrities attended the trials. Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels were dead; but  Speer, Hess, Krupp, others were tried here; the onset of the Cold War ended the trials early.

Wurzburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, we visited them all – each devastated by Allied bombing and battles to drive Germans back.  In each case, the cities were rebuilt, with an eye to preserving the architectural integrity and structures that were destroyed in the war.

Next week, we will bring you more on our Germany and Netherlands river tour, and another installment on the Nazi devastation brought upon Germany and the Netherlands, and, in particular, the family of Anne Frank (and more than 100,000 other Amsterdam Jews rounded up by the Germans).

When to go: For best deals on river cruises, going early or late in the season (i.e., January-March or October/November), and booking “Last Minute” can save big bucks.  We booked our November 1-15 cruise six weeks out, got airfare to Europe included in the tour price and saved about 45%.  

What to take: Good walking shoes, clothing for changeable weather, your passport, camera and binoculars!

Where to eat, where to stay: These river cruises offer full gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner is included on board your floating hotel (the ship); several “off-ship dinners” are also included in historic restaurants!

For more info: Grand Circle Cruises, go to www.gct.com, or (800) 221-2610.  For best prices, search “Ways to Save” on their web site.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in your world!

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Cruising the grand rivers of Europe – Vienna, through Germany to Amsterdam, 2014 (part 1of 2)

Historic church on the Danube, with ruins of ancient fortress in hills behind.

Above, top to bottom: Historic church, with fortress ruins behind on the hill, along the Danube; our ship, the River Harmony, passing through massive lock at night on the Main-Danube Canal, and, view through fortifications of the Veste Oberhaus, overlooking the town of Passau, Germany, below.

Melk Abbey church interior is a wonder of wood and gold highlights.

Melk Abbey Church is only a small part of the abbey, almost 1,000 years old.

Horses await customers for their buggies outside Vienna’s St. Stephan’s Cathedral.

Have you always wanted to visit Europe?  Or, taken a short trip and felt lost in the immensity of Europe’s history and diversity? My spouse, Susan, and I have been retired for about a year and a half, and have discussed how to best tour Europe, and our world beyond the US and Canada, for far longer. Until now, our only foreign travel has been to Paris for eight days, 15 years earlier.

It took a visit to Susan’s hometown of Spokane to turn us onto river cruising in Europe. We spent several summer days with good friends who raved about the four river cruise voyages they had taken on Grand Circle Cruise Lines. Hence, this fall, we got busy checking out the options.

From photos and guidebooks, we knew that Austria, Germany and the Netherlands were scenic countries, rich in history and culture. So, we checked out Grand Circle’s website and discovered methods to save – booking late season and last minute – and booked a 16 day cruise from Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, Netherlands.

So, on Halloween, off we went, flying to New York City – long a favorite, we spent a day and night, and continued on to Vienna on KLM airways, the Dutch airline. We were met at the airport by Grand Circle reps, and bussed to the River Harmony, our 340 foot, three-deck luxury river cruiser, a floating hotel.

With 70 suites, a massive lounge and dining room, the ship offered a comfy home for 16 days of cruising and day-touring a dozen old river cities along the Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers.

Among the 34 crew members were our tour guides; Michaela, Barbara and Elena. Each day, groups of 40 passengers would tour historic towns under the informed guidance of these escorts.

We overnighted in Vienna, long home to the Habsburg Alliance, Strauss, music and majesty! We walked around and through the St. Stefan’s Cathedral, enjoyed the city, a marvel of old medieval structures, baroque classics, the Imperial Palace and many other mansions of colossal proportions. Our tour took us past the Neue Berg, where, in March, 1938, Hitler announced the Anschluss, annexing Austria into Germany.

That night we cruised up the Danube, crossing into Germany on the Main – Danube Canal (opened in 1992), cresting the “European continental divide”, at 1332 feet, where water flows north in the Main River to the North Sea, or south in the Danube into the Black Sea. Our German captain explained that our cruise followed “Route 66″, with 66 locks ranging from six to 80 feet elevation gain or loss, on our voyage to Amsterdam, some 800 miles away.

The Danube was a major trade and military highway from Emperor Charlemagne until the end of the Crusades. It is Europe’s second longest river at almost 1800 km, beginning in Germany’s Black Forest and emptying into the Black Sea (Russia’s Volga is longest). Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz would be more aptly titled the Gray Danube Waltz!

By the next day we had cruised to Melk, Germany, famed for the Melk Abbey and Monastery; the first monks begin the monastery in 1089!
On our tour we saw the Rules of St. Benedict – a copy on display was 900 years old, explaining the rules monks lived by. The massive monastery offers the Hall of the Saints, 196 meters in length, deifying dozens, and contains 497 rooms and 365 windows!

Joseph II, in his Cyclical of 1794, noted that wood delayed the decay of the body and its return to the earth; hence he had crafted a “service coffin”. With a trap door in the bottom, the coffin was lowered into the grave, a trap door in the bottom was sprung, the body would remain – and the coffin was pulled up for reuse!

Our next stop was Passau; across the river high on the bluff was a huge fortress dating to 1499 – the Vesta Oberhaus, overlooking the three rivers that merge here (the Danube, Ilz and Inn Rivers), making it Germany’s Pittsburgh! In town, the old Town Hall has the high water markings of the flood-prone Danube, dating back to the 1400s, including second-highest in 2013 when second stories of buildings along the mighty river were flooded.

At St. Stephan’s Cathedral, we toured another huge church, testimony to the wealth of the Catholic Church, with the largest pipe organ in the world, 17,774 pipes. Under the main altar are the crypts of a dozen bishops, signifying the reverence they felt towards their leaders.

Overnight, our ship cruised to Regensburg; with Roman and Italian influence it is Germany’s largest medieval city. At the confluence of the Danube and Regen’s rivers, here buildings date back 1,000 years to Roman times. We hiked the hill to tour the Castra Regina fort’s remains, containing a stone inscribed in 179 A.D. during Marcus Aurelius’ reign. The old city hosts St. Peter’s Cathedral, with outstanding features of beautiful stained-glass windows and towering spires. The town also sports the old Stone Bridge, built in 1146.

Outside of Regensburg, we were treated to a home visit with Christina Schon in the little town of Biberbach. Christina, 40-something, works as a nurse; her husband is a contractor, her son works for Audi and daughter is apprenticing with the state government. She noted she pays about half her salary to state and church taxes and healthcare (universal for all Germans).

She is happy with Germany and it’s European leadership and delighted by the reunification 25 years ago of East and West Germany. Christina added they still face the challenge of assimilation of former East Germans, (“they were not used to working very hard”).

Next week, we share our second installment, including visits to Nuremberg, Bamberg, Wurzburg, Heidelberg, Cologne and onto our final destination in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

When to go: for best deals in river cruises, going early or late in the season (I.e., January – March or October – November) and booking “last-minute” saves big bucks. We booked our November 1–15 cruise six weeks out, got airfare to Europe included in the tour price and saved about 45%.

What to take: good walking shoes, clothing for change of the weather, your passport, camera and binoculars.

Where to eat, where to stay: the nice thing about these River cruises is that a gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner is included on board your floating hotel; and several “off-ship dinners” are also included in historic restaurants.

For more info: Grand Circle Cruises, go to www.gct.com, or (800) 221–2610. For best prices, search “Ways to Save” on the website.  For ninety more pictures of the Austria and Germany portion of our trip, see my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/j.timothy.viall/media_set?set=a.10152856084579106.1073741831.824324105&type=3

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valleytravel; or contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in your world!

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California Auto Museum and nearby Old Sacramento offer exciting day or weekend-trip

This line-up of early Ford automobiles sets the tone for the California Auto Museum, with over 150 classic autos from days gone by!

The tail fin of a 1959 Cadillac celebrates perhaps the “zenith year” in tail fin popularity among American classic cars!
This huge 1933 Lincoln Limo once was the car of A. P. Giannini, head of the Bank of Italy, which would become the Bank of America.

 

Ford Model T, converted with a kit to a snowmobile, ushered in the first use of the term 'snowmobile' in American vernacular.

1965 and 1966 Ford Cobras take center stage!

With the weather changing, you might be thinking of nearby destinations where one can tour indoors and discover what made America great.  Consider a day trip to the California Auto Museum and nearby Old Sacramento.

The California Auto Museum was originally the Towe Ford collection, and moved to its current location in the late 1980s.  It’s just a half mile south of the Old Sacramento, making an auto museum tour, linked with a stroll through Old Sacramento a natural (and with short distance between, the two are easily walkable, or, bikable)!

The Auto Museum offers a unique collection of over 150 classic American and foreign autos, ranging from 1885 to current day.  And, the museum hosts regular traveling displays of specialty cars (Nissan offered “the Future of Hydrogen Vehicles” recently), so the experience changes by the visit. 

From early, affordable kit cars, to the Ford Model T, to luxury cars like Cadillac and Packard, to exotic models like Ford Cobras and Lamborghinis, the collection has cars that you, your parents and grandparents once drove and treasured.

One of the more impressive cars is the huge 1933 Lincoln KB Salon, with V12 engine, one of only 50 built. Owned by A. P. Giannini, founder of the Bank of America, it offered 150 horsepower, every creature comfort of its day and cost $4500.

Walking through the expansive museum buildings, we saw specimen examples of a 1965 Mustang, 1969 Boss Mustang, 1957 Ford Fairlane retractable hardtop, huge 1959 Cadillac and a host of Ford Crestliners, Edsels Thunderbirds, pickups and more.

Other unique autos include a 1921 Ford Model T, with a kit converted into the first snowmobile, a 1938 Rolls-Royce 25/30 sports sedan originally priced at $35,000 and a 1912 Metz (two years later, a Metz would be the first auto to reach the floor of the Grand Canyon),

A lineup of old Fords includes a red 1908 Ford Model T Touring, a 1907 Ford Model T Roadster,  1906 Ford Model K Touring and 1904 Ford Model B Touring.  They evoke the words of Henry Ford: “I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It shall be large enough for the family but small enough for the unskilled individual to easily operate and care for – and it shall be light in weight that it may be economical and maintenance. It will be built of honest materials – for the best workman that money can hire – after the simplest designs modern engineering can design. But it shall be so low in price at the man of moderate means my own one – and enjoy with this family the blessings of happy hour spent in God’s great open spaces”.

Nearby Old Sacramento experienced dramatic “Gold Rush Fever” in the 1850s and grew rapidly; today, much is preserved for visitors! 

Old Sacramento was the world’s seaport to the gold mines, birthed the Pony Express, anchored the Transcontinental Telegraph and the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad.  By 1860 Sacramento had grown to be the second largest city in the west, eclipsed only by San Francisco.

For today’s visitors, it’s a step back in time, with much of the area looking just as it did 150 years ago; buildings and then-modern amenities remain just as they were.  Old Sacramento is home to seven museums, quaint shops offering period-authentic goods, plenty of kid’s activities, scores of inexpensive to upscale restaurants and a variety of places to stay overnight.

Many of the museums present “living history programs”, with docents acting out the part of Gold Rush  residents and business people – from period-correct engineers and conductors at the California Railroad Museum to docents dressed in their finest 1860’s clothing at the Sacramento History Museum.  Take a carriage ride or a train ride and it’s like you were part of the historic western action in this former boom-town!

Within a few blocks are the California Military Museum (closed currently), the California State Railroad Museum, the Delta King Riverboat (built in Stockton in 1927), the Huntington & Hopkins Hardware, the Sacramento History Museum, the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum and the Wells Fargo History Museum.

Calendar a visit to the Auto Museum and Old Sacramento – with classic cars, bustling shops and eateries, living history amid world-renowned museums, kid’s and adult activities – it offers an exciting family experience!

How to get there: From Stockton, it’s 50 minutes; take I-5 north 45 miles to Sacramento, exit on J. Street and follow signs to Old Sacramento.  From Old Sacramento, go south on Front Street a half mile to the Auto Museum..

When to go: The California Auto Museum and Old Sacramento are open year-round, the autos and many of the attractions are indoors, so even inclement weather should not prevent your visit.  Watch www.oldsacramento.com for special holiday celebrations, too!

What’s nearby:  To the north, the Jedidiah Smith Recreation/Bike Trail; to the west, Raley Field (home of the Sacramento Rivercats baseball team) just across the Tower Bridge; and just east, the State Capital, the Crocker Art Museum and downtown Sacramento.

What to take: Good walking shoes and your camera!

Where to eat, where to stay: Old Sacramento offers a host of inexpensive to upscale dining options.  For coffee, pastries and light fare, we enjoy Steamer’s Coffee House; for upscale dining the Firehouse Restaurant is a local institution.  Several options for waterfront dining include the River City Café, a classy and scenic bistro, or aboard the Delta King!  Overnight lodging is available on the Delta King and the nearby Embassy Suites (beside the historic Tower Bridge). 

For more info: California Auto Museum; CAautoMuseum.org. 2200 Front St., Sacramento, CA 95818; phone: 916-442-6802. Open seven days a week, 10 AM to 6 PM.  Admission, $8 general, $4 student, $1 off for senior and AAA membership.  Old Sacramento Business Association, 980 9th Street, Suite 400, (916) 442-8575, info@oldsacramento.com.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the west!

 

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Downtown Stockton; history comes to life on classy downtown walking tour!

 

Historic B&M Building, between the new Cineplex and Hotel Stockton, is one of downtown's oldest buildings and now home to the Downtown Stockton Alliance and the Visit Stockton organizations.

Tour of Hotel Stockton Lobby is part of the route, with insight offered by Manuel Laguna, tour guide from the Downtown Stockton Alliance.
Kelly Howard of Friends of the Fox gives tour group an in-depth tour of the historic Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre.
Cort Tower was originally the Bank of Italy, then Bank of America Tower.

 

With the discovery of gold in Coloma in 1848, the Sierra foothills faced a surge of immigration like the world had never seen. These 49ers streamed from around the US and the globe, more than quadrupling California’s population in the following 10 years.

Stockton became the port city for the Mother Lode mines, with thousands of miners and their supplies arriving by ship, horse, wagon train and more.  The town that Capt. Weber so meticulously laid out grew in rapid fashion, to become one of the largest cities and downtowns in the state, rivaled in the north only by San Francisco and Sacramento.  Our growing agricultural empire added to Stockton’s early success, as ag suppliers, implement makers, banks and retailers grew to supply the fast-growing regional economy.

Stockton grew and its downtown blossomed with it, becoming one of the state’s most attractive and largest downtown commercial centers, adjoining a bustling port open to the world’s sailing ships. Today, much of that old commercial empire remains, on the waterfront and nearby, as Stockton recreates a new, energetic downtown by building upon its storied history.

Stockton was the first city in California not named in Spanish (named for Capt. Weber’s friend, Commodore Stockton), and was California’s first planned community due to the foresight of Weber. Its growth spurred hotels and theaters, and soon the downtown had a score of each and a lively entertainment district with a host of restaurants and night spots!

Recently, a group of 30 docents from the San Joaquin Historical Society embarked upon an informative and eye-opening walking tour of our historic downtown.  The Downtown Stockton Alliance and Friends of the Fox Theatre provided expert tour guides for the three-hour session that covered about 10 blocks and took in a large part of Stockton’s most historic building stock.

We started at the old B&M building, (Bridenbach and McCormick Building), circa 1865, once the Philadelphia House, then the Hotel de Mexico and other uses.  Sandwiched between the new Cineplex and the old Hotel Stockton, the building is a beauty, now home to both the Visit Stockton and Downtown Stockton Alliance organizations.

The adjacent Hotel Stockton, built in Spanish Mission Revival style, was built over Weber’s Hole (once home to hot water baths before the hotel opened in 1910 as a first class gentleman travelers hotel).  It was fully renovated recently by the city, is now home to downtown apartment dwellers, and the new French 25 Restaurant, a fine place for a respite on your own tour.

Our journey led us east along Weber Avenue, past the Tretheway Building (the former Argonaut Hotel), built in 1892 in Victorian – Romanesque Revival style. This handsome building once had a much taller false front – part of it came down as result of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake – and was rebuilt a bit less grandiose!

A block further east, and a half block up Sutter Street is the S. H. Kress building, opened a week after the Fox California Theatre in 1930. A Commercial – Art Deco structure with entrances on both Main and Sutter, it was a welcome addition to the Stockton downtown scene as the nation entered the depression. Refurbished and now home to the Stockton Bar Association, thanks to Cort Companies.  The Kress is next door to the old Elks Building, circa 1908, a handsome Beaux Arts-Classical Revival 5-story building.

Right across the street, the lovely 10 Story Cort Tower was built as the Commercial and Savings Bank in 1915 and enlarged after a fire in 1924. Renovated 25-some years ago by Grupe Company, and further modernized by Dan Cort, it is now one of the more popular office buildings in the downtown area.

Heading back west on Main, one passes Stockton’s first skyscraper, the 8-story Stockton Savings and Loan Society (Bank of Stockton Building), built in 1908.  Diagonally across the intersection is the California Building, opened in 1917 for the new Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank, designed by George Kelham, a prominent San Francisco architect who designed the St. Francis Hotel and the San Francisco Public Library.

Next door is one of our downtown’s showplaces, the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre.  It opened in 1930 with 20,000 people lining up to get a look and to see the movie “Up the River” starring Spencer Tracy. A grand showplace with over 2,000 seats, it was home to musical acts, vaudeville and movies, active until the 1970s – and almost torn down to be replaced by a parking lot. 

The Fox reopened again in the mid-1990s, and 10 years ago, received an $8.5 million restoration by the City of Stockton. A large donation from A. G. Spanos Company allowed Spanos to rename it the Bob Hope Theatre.  We took in a delicious lunch at Cancun Restaurant; consider lunch and libation at places like French 25, Casa Flores, Yaso Yanni or several dozen good downtown stops. 

Our tour of downtown took us to Weber Point and the downtown waterfront, with stunning views of the Deepwater Channel, Stockton Ports Ballpark and Stockton Arena.  Inside Weber Point Event Center, on the southwest corner, you’ll find the footprint outline of Captain Weber’s home on the point named for him, as well as a monument that outlines Weber’s early history as founder of our city.

Stockton emerged from bankruptcy at end of October.  Perhaps heralding a new day, the month of November will see Vince Gill, The Mesmerized Tour, The Thin Man (classic movie), Alice Cooper, six Stockton Thunder hockey games and the Run and Walk Against Hunger come to the Fox/Bob Hope Theatre and Stockton Arena (see, bringing over 30,000 people downtown.  As in the good old days, they will frequent downtown’s restaurants and night spots, and see glorious sunsets over the Deep Water Channel.

Contact the Downtown Stockton Alliance and Friends of the Fox Theatre for your own special tour that brings history to life!

What to take: Good walking shoes, camera and binoculars!

Where to park: The Stewart-Eberhardt Parking Garage is just south of Weber, and can be entered from either Center or El Dorado Streets.  From there, it’s just a block walk to the Hotel Stockton and the B&M Building.

More info: For a downtown Stockton historic walking tour, contact the Downtown Stockton Alliance, www.downtownstockton.org, Manuel Laguna, mlaguna@downtownstockton.org, 209.464.5246; for a tour of the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre, contact Friends of the Fox Theatre, Kelly Howard, Kelly_howard@comcast.net, 209.858.9114.

Next week, we’re off to Vienna, Austria for a European river cruise, and will bring you a two part feature on cruising old Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, on a budget!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/valleytravel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the west!

 

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San Francisco’s Hyde Street Pier, once part of US Hwy. 101, offers living history amid historic ships!

 

The stately three-masted, square-rigged Balclutha, built in 1886 in Scotland, was a workhorse for California for many years; it's open and decked out for daily, realistic historic tours on the pier!

Only the Captain and his family had luxury quarters on the 1886 Balclutha; the balance of the 29 person crew lived a much more Spartan lifestyle!
Across the pier from the ferry Eureka is the old Eppleton Hall, built a hundred years ago in England, a side-wheel steel tug that once plied the Bay.   The Balclutha lies at anchor to the right in this photo.
Aboard the old ferry Eureka are over a dozen classic cars that once made the voyage, including this 1931 Chevrolet Depot Hack, a type of taxi that served the SF waterfront.
Two of the first items of history on the Hyde Street Pier are an old Steam Donkey engine, that displaced the work of horses and mules via steam power, and a 20′ tall paddle wheel off an old ferry boat.
Hyde Street Pier entrance as it looked in the early 1930s, when the ferry Eureka would load scores of autos and trucks, and hundreds of passengers for the run from SF to Sausalito.  Soon after the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, this ferry route ceased operation.

Step back in time to the days before the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge inter-connected portions of the Bay Area. Up to the late 1930s, ships were the life-blood of the San Francisco Bay, bringing goods from around the world and moving passengers and vehicles throughout the Bay before the bridges took the life out of the ferry system.

Offering living history of the days before the bridges’ completion are the two anchors of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, the National Maritime Museum, overlooking Aquatic Park, and the Hyde Street Pier, on the park’s eastern edge. Both yield a memorable tour – enthralling for kids – which can be as brief as an hour or take up the better part of the day. Fortunately, Fisherman’s Wharf is right next door – for libations and great food.

The Hyde Street Pier was built in 1922 for automobiles and passengers bound from San Francisco to Sausalito. The ferry route was part of US 101 until the Golden Gate Bridge opened in May 27, 1937 (the pier closed its Sausalito service right after the iconic bridge’s opening). Also helping lead the demise of the Bay’s auto and passenger ferry system, the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge opened six months earlier, on November 12, 1936.

Along the pier are more than a dozen historic ships and boats, ranging from the small to very large, ships that brought life and commerce to the San Francisco waterfront.  Ships include the 1886 square-rigger Balclutha, 1895 schooner C. A. Thayer, 1890 steam ferryboat Eureka, 1891 scow schooner Alma, 1907 steam tug Hercules, 1914 paddlewheel tug Eppleton Hall, 1915 steam schooner Wapama and scores of smaller watercraft. 
One can walk the pier at no charge; to tour the vessels, cost is $6 for adults, kids under 16 no charge, open 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM.  If you have a Federal Senior pass (cost, just $10) you get in free and can bring four others along with you!

The ferry Eureka, built in 1890 and measuring almost 300 feet, was the last auto ferry in service, sailing the bay until 1957. Inside on the auto deck, don’t miss a dozen classic cars from the ferry’s hey-day. They include a 1931 Chevy Woody Depot Hack (taxi), a 1924 Dodge Express Wagon, a 1937 Diamond T pickup, a 1927 Nash sedan and a handsome 1933 Packard sedan.

Further down the pier is the 1886-built, three-masted, square-rigged Balclutha. In the stately ship’s 128 years, it lived many lives, hauling California wheat to Europe, fishing for salmon in Alaska and hauling timber from the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco.  Built in the Glasgow, Scotland shipyards on the Clyde River (Clutha is Gaelic for Clyde), it is one of only three (of 10,000) ships built at that shipyard to survive today!

Blaclutha’s 29 member crew worked long days and long nights. The main deck, and the two decks below, are decked out just as if the crew had recently departed, with cargo below including canned salmon, produce from the San Joaquin Valley, fine window glass from Scotland and more. Kids pay rapt attention during the ship tours offered twice daily! Even though we missed the afternoon’s scheduled tour, a park ranger gave my buddies and me a marvelous, personal 30 minute walking tour of the old ship!

Another ship with a direct Stockton connection is the Alma, a 59 foot scow-schooner built in 1891.  It was built with a very shallow draft to be able to sail throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Deltas – 130 similar scow schooners were built to supply and ship agricultural products from ports like Stockton, Woodbridge and Lockeford (the Alma takes guests on regular Bay cruises for an additional fee).

Adjoining the pier is the Aquatic Park Historic District, boathouse and National Maritime Museum.  The museum tells more of the story of SF Bay history and how ships played a major part in the city’s evolution.  The park offers stunning views of the bay, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge – all at no charge!

How to get there: The Hyde Street Pier is 90 miles from Stockton, about 1.75 hours.  Take Interstate 5 south to Tracy, I-205 west to I-580 and continue across the new Bay Bridge (the concrete sections were made in Stockton); once in San Francisco, take the first exit to the right (Essex Street), follow the signs to the Embarcadero, then go left to the pier (take your binoculars!).

What’s nearby: National Maritime Museum is just a block from the Hyde Street Pier, as is the Hyde Street Cable Car turnaround.  Two WWII warships (liberty ship USS Jeremiah O’Brien and submarine USS Pampanito) are just two blocks east at Pier 45, in the thick of Fisherman’s Wharf, with fishing boats, many restaurants and plenty of tourist attractions.

Ft. Mason is just two blocks further west, separating the Aquatic Park District from the Marina District; visitors can walk or bicycle a path through the old fort to the Marina District, with ever-more stunning views of the SF waterfront at every turn!

What to take: Good walking shoes, snacks, drinks, sunscreen, a good map or GPS unit, camera and binoculars!

More info: For the San Francisco Maritime Historic Park and it’s Hyde Street Pier, go to www.nps.gov/safr/ or call 415-447-5000.   For the USS Jeremiah O’Brien, http://www.ssjeremiahobrien.org/ and the USS Pampanito, http://www.maritime.org/pamphome.htm/, both docked at Pier 45; for fees to tour the Pamponito or Jeremiah O’Brien, see the web sites.

Next week, we’ll give you an arm-chair view of a walking tour of historic downtown Stockton and the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre!
For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/valleytravel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the west!

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Travel Notes; upcoming events worth your notice!

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park; photo courtesy of the State Park

‘Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein’, the classic film runs on Friday, Oct. 24 at the Fox CA/Bob Hope Theatre, brings Halloween fun early (with costume contest for the kids), organ concert included, and tours of the venerable theatre following the movie!

Sometimes the best travel ideas are either “close to home”, or, somewhat esoteric.  Here are a couple of each, coming soon:

Classic Movies at the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre, Stockton:

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein – Friday, October 24 at the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre, downtown Stockton (doors open 6 PM, entertainment and organ concert; movie at 7 PM).

Bud and Lou play freight delivers who think the exhibits they are delivering to a house of horrors are fake. The fun and fright begins when the monsters turn out to be real and alive. The boys get tangled up with Dracula, played by Bela Lugosi, the Wolf Man, played by Lon Chaney, Jr. and, of course, the Frankenstein monster, played by Glenn Strange. This hilarious fright-fest was released in 1948 and is considered to be A&C’s best picture.

The Thin Man – Sunday, November 23, doors open at 1 PM, movie at 2 PM.   William Powell and Myrna Loy star as Nick and Nora Charles in this first entry in the Thin Man series. After a four year absence, one time detective Nick Charles returns to New York with his new wife Nora and their dog, Asta. What starts out to be a vacation turns out to be hard-core sleuth work as Nick is drawn into the investigation of the murder of a former associate. Released in 1934 and based on Dashiell Hammett’s best seller, this picture was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture in 1935.

Events at the San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum in Micke Grove Park:

Pioneer Farm Fest, Friday, October 24, 9 AM at the San Joaquin Historical Museum in Micke Grove Park

Monthly San Joaquin Historical Society meeting, Monday, October 27, 6 PM, including potluck dinner.
Program features Mr. Frank Tortorich who will talk about the California Immigrant Trail across which the Elliot family came to California with the light freight wagon in 1859 that is now displayed at the museum.  A fifth generation Californian and historian, he will discuss the Mormon trail (or the Southern Trail or Hope Valley Trail) and it’s branched which saw more more than 20,000 pioneer trekkers in 1849, reaching more than 100,000 annual trekkers by 1852. Call the museum office at 331–2055 or 953– 3460 for insight and to sign up.

November 7–9, Sandhill Crane Festival at Hutchins St., Square in Lodi, and surrounding countryside.  Cranes have been visiting the Lodi/Woodbridge area long before the two towns were settled.  They return each year at the end of their migratory journey, some from as far away as Siberia.

The festival celebrates their return, with informational and inspirational programming, and wonderful viewing opportunities.  For 18 years, Lodi’s Sandhill Crane Festival has celebrated the return of the cranes, partnering with the City of Lodi, the Festival continues this November, welcoming visitors and offering the annual splendor of the Sandhill Cranes.  For more insight, go to www.cranefestival.com, or call 800-581-6150.

Sutter Creek Winefest – 17th annual wine fest Will take place on Saturday, November 8, 4 to 8:30 PM in Sutter Creek.  We attended last year’s event in this cutest of all Gold Rush towns, just an hour from Stockton. Stroll Main Street where 25 shops will offer tastings of different Amador County wineries; at 7 PM, the Sutter Creek Auditorium will host the grand finale which features music, desserts and dessert wines, silent auction and more. Tickets in advance, $25, or $30 at the event; for information, 209.267.9038.

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown will offer a behind the scenes shop tour on Tuesday, November 11, Veterans Day. Tour-goers will have the chance to get a close-up view of repair work on Sierra No. 28, an historic workhorse steam locomotive.

Visitors can peek into the roundhouse to watch the work being done. Sierra No. 28 has been disassembled and work is being done in welding steel plates to replace corroded material. Reassembly will soon begin, and progress can be followed on Railtown 1897′s blog, www.railtown1897.WordPress.com.

Once repairs are completed, number 28 is expected return to service in the parking 2015. Cost for the tours is included with park admission – five dollars for adults, three dollars for youth ages 6 to 17, kids five and under, free. Information: 209.984.3953, or www.railtown 1897.org.

For more inspiration on other travel destinations in California and the western United States, see my blog, http//blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel, or contact me at tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the West!

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Shenandoah Valley, CA offers wineries, lovely scenery and Plymouth and Fiddletown history!

Final Summer Concert at Helwig Vineyards draws a large crowd of revelers to enjoy the band.

A Sierra thunderstorm brews over the Shenandoah Valley, picture taken from Fiddletown foothills.
Vineyards at Karmere Winery stretch into the nearby Sierra foothills.
Beautiful fountain frames the vineyards at Bella Piazza Vineyards
Friends Jan Bell and Pat Moore sample wines at Karmere’s lovely French Chateau-inspired tasting room.
Sun sets over the Shenandoah Valley, during closing summer concert at Helwig Vineyards.

Travelers on historic California Highway 49 will be familiar with the Shenandoah Valley, just east of Plymouth, CA.  The valley is quickly becoming known for its award-winning wines, activities centered around the vineyards and a deep sense of California Gold Rush history surrounding the area!

Shortly after gold was discovered in nearby Coloma in 1848, the Shenandoah Valley began producing wines.  Zinfandel prospered in the valley’s loamy and granitic soil, and some of the state’s oldest Zin vines reside here.  In the 1970s, Sutter Home began producing popular zinfandels from the Shenandoah’s distinctive grapes, raising awareness of the valley; it gained appellation status in January, 1983.

Since then, the valley has achieved acclaim as home to some of the state’s best Zinfandel wines, as well as syrah and other new award-winning wines.  The appellation now encompasses over 10,000 acres and well over 2,000 acres in vineyards.  It’s growth has helped fuel a resurgent tourist industry in nearby Plymouth and Fiddletown, as well.

A recent tour took us to a handful of family-owned wineries, each with a distinctive flair.  First stop was Karmere Winery, which we have visited several times.  With a beautiful French Chateau-inspired tasting room and perfectly manicured grounds opening out to acres of surrounding grapes, it hosts many weddings and parties. Their syrahs, barberas and zins were all tasty, and the ‘Naughty Bawdy’ wine was a hit with our party! 

We happened upon Helwig’s final Summer Concert, featuring Gregg Rolie, original lead singer for Santana – scores of revelers danced until past 9 PM; we’ll return next season! Helwig’s Wine Club was intriguing, with many member benefits including free tastings, bottle and case discounts, discounts on concerts, tours of their wine caves and discounts on a nearby bed and breakfast in Sutter Creek.

Our next stop was Wilderotter Vineyard, where we sampled delightful sauvignon blanc, Grenache rose and petite syrahs.  This boutique winery continued our impressive tour, with carefully manicured grounds, a warm and cozy tasting room and informative staff.

Another delightful vineyard is Borjon Winery with a host of wine offerings, three choices of wine clubs and five annual events, ranging from the Vino Neuvo to the Vino De Los Muretos.  Once again, we resolved to return for one of their coming events!

Final stop was Bella Piazza Winery, with tasting room, a stunning reflective pool and grounds looking out to the vineyards and valley beyond. Their zins, syrahs and a selection of varietals merit close attention; we also found their zin port of special interest.

Nearby Plymouth and Fiddletown are rich in Gold Rush history and offer explorers a wealth of interesting historic sites, shops, restaurants ready for touring! And, at 1,000 to 1,500 feet elevation, both are generally well below the Sierra foothills snowline, making sunny fall or winter days the perfect time to tour!

Fiddletown traces its Gold Rush history back further than Plymouth (though Plymouth, located on Highway 49, is larger and better known). Fiddletown was established by prospectors from Missouri in 1849, and quickly grew in the 1850s and 1860s as a center of trade for many mines located nearby.

Miners were known, during the dry season when water for their hydraulic mining ran low, to just “fiddle around”, hence the town’s name.  During the city’s boom years, it numbered almost two dozen businesses, a handful of taverns, blacksmith shops, bakeries and restaurants. With a post office, church and school, it was a full-fledged city.

The town soon grew to over 2,000 residents, with over half Chinese, who worked the mines and established many of the early businesses (some of these still stand, though in a state of disrepair; the local Fiddletown Preservation Society is working to refurbish several structures).

While touring the several remaining blocks of old Fiddletown, be sure to check out the Chew Kee Apothecary (a rare “rammed earth” building dating to the 1850s), the other old Chinese merchant buildings, C. Schallhorn’s Blacksmith and Wagon Store and the Fiddletown Community Center with the giant fiddle over the door!

Nearby Plymouth traces its history to the 1870s, when prospectors stopped there in search of quartz and gold. For gourmet travelers, the new Taste Restaurant in Plymouth is a must-stop, drawing rave reviews from around the region. The city has a cute public park with bandstand, the old Plymouth Hotel and other eateries, all grouped along several old-town blocks.

Both Fiddletown and Plymouth are known as “Gateways to the Shenandoah Valley” and make logical stops.  While touring the area, take time to explore a variety of scenic back roads rimming the Shenandoah – watch for wild turkeys and deer, both found in abundance in this bucolic setting!

What’s nearby: Plymouth, on Hwy. 49, is just a mile from the edge of the Shenandoah Valley, while Fiddletown is about six miles away on Fiddletown Road.

How to get there: From Stockton, the Shenandoah Valley is about 60 miles, 1.5 hours.  Take Hwy. 88 northeast, then Hwy. 124 north, connect to Hwy. 49 north to Plymouth, then follow the Shenandoah Road east to the valley.

What to bring: Binoculars, camera, good walking shoes!

To plan your visit: For insight into Karmere Winery, go to www.karmere.com, or call 209.245.5000, located at 11970 Shenandoah Road; for Wilderotter Vineyard, www.wilderottervineyard.com, 209.483.9170, 19890 Shenandoah Road; for Villa Toscana and Bella Piazza, www.villatoscano.com, 209.245.3800, 10600 Shenandoah Road; for Helwig Winery, www.helwigwinery.com, 209.245.5200, 11555 Shenandoah Road; for Borjos Winery, www.borjonwinery.com, 209.245.3087, 11270 Shenandoah Road. For insight into Plymouth food and  lodging, go to: http://www.historichwy49.com/amador/plymouth.html.

For more inspiration on other travel destinations in California and the west, see my blog, http//blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel, or contact me at tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the West!

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Teardrop travel trailers gather on California coast (Teardrops, Part 3)

Last weekend, a dozen teardrop trailer owners gathered on the California coast just above Jenner and Ft. Ross, at Ocean Cove campground.  This gathering is an annual affair, the second weekend in October – here are pictures from the last few years.

Each year, a number of quality trailers, including several with full galleys in the back, join in the fun gathering. One, homebuilt teardrop, built by a single female out of Santa Rosa, had a very creative “pop-up”, giving the trailer 6 feet-plus of headroom. Very nicely done!

Several added additional square feet of living space, with creative add-on tent covers, as you’ll see in the pictures.

The combination of gorgeous California coastal weather, creative owners and a beautiful setting made for a nice weekend! 

 

 

The arguments for teardrops are several-fold: most weigh only 800 lbs. or so, hence they can be towed by almost any vehicle.  They store in a garage or beside the house, so no need to store them for $100+ per month somewhere.  They are hard-sided, so, spouses don’t worry about bear attacks; and, they are always loaded with your camp gear; so it’s easy to “hit the road on a moment’s notice”!  And, they range in price from $3,000 to about $8,000, depending on how tricked out, how large, how new they are – so they don’t break your budget!  One can always find a selection on eBay or Craig’s List, or at local dealers throughout N. CA (just search for “teardrop trailer”)!

For more inspiration on other travel destinations in California and the west, see my blog, http//blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel, or contact me at tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the West!

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer; he retired in late 2012 after almost 10 years as executive director of Stockton's Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Before that, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape ... Read Full
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