TRAVELLING THROUGH THE BACK ROADS OF GILROY, WATSONVILLE, SALINAS & CARMEL

We discovered a whole new world of Northern California when we took the back roads to Gilroy, Watsonville, Salinas and Carmel.  The arrival  experience to these towns via the back roads was delightful and so different from the highway experience. We got to see a very different side of these towns famous for their produce, wineries and art deco buildings.These towns are located in the verdant Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz & Monterey counties that is home to “Artichoke capital of the world,” and  “Salad Bowl of the world.”

For our road trip we used Google maps with the option to avoid highways.We discovered that in some parts of our journey we lost our phone connection, but that was ok with us. We started off from Silicon Valley and our goal was to enjoy the ride and not be stressed about when we reach Carmel.Typically, you can reach Carmel in about 90 minutes when you travel via highway 101 that runs like a deep, ugly gash through these verdant towns.The highway experience totally robs you of a delightful drive through these towns to discover and savor new vistas, food and wine along the way.

Our first stop was Gilroy. For the first time I saw the Uvas river that flows through this region. We stopped at a vista point and watched a fly-fisher lost to the world of fishing. Now, this is not a common sight in the humdrum activities of our existence in Silicon Valley.

Gilroy Gilroy Gilroy

After spending some time at this vista point by the Uvas river we hopped back into our car and continued driving through  to Gilroy. The road looked kind of familiar to me when it suddenly dawned on me that we were on a road where a bunch of wineries are located. In the past I had traveled to this part of Gilroy after exiting highway 101. I had not traveled to Gilroy using the back roads and that is why I did not recognize the road right away.  We made a quick stop at Kirigin Cellars and tried a flight of red and white wines. The wine tasting at Kirigin Cellars are free. And, if you are a cricket fan then you may like to wander to the back of the winery and take a dekho at the cricket filed. Apparently this is the only winery in Northern California that has a cricket field.

kirgin Cellars

 

After that pleasant break at Kirigin we continued on our journey and bowled along a narrow and winding road flanked by thick vegetation on either side. We drove past Mount Madonna County Park and descended into Watsonville, which is famous for its fruits and vegetables. We drove through mile after mile of farmland growing berries, apples and other crops.

I suddenly spotted a sign for Gizdich Ranch and we decided to take a break and look around and find out more about this place. I had heard a lot about the famous Gizdich Ranch pies at my local grocery stores, but had never bought one. I realized that I had never had a slice of their pie either and that needed to be rectified right away.

Gizdich Ranch turned out to be a delightful experience, where we discovered fresh pressed apple juice, freshly picked apples and a very, very long line to get a slice of that famous Gizdich Ranch pie. The lady ahead of me in the pie line recommended that I try the Dutch Apple pie, and that is what we got. The pie, apple cider and apples were a big hit with us. Next time I go to Gizdich Ranch I am picking up a full pie and not settle for a slice of that heavenly pie. Why is there no picture of the famous pie you ask. Well, I got to save something for my next visit, right?

Gizdich Ranch

Gizdich Ranch

 

Gizdich Ranch

 

Gizdich Ranch

Gizdich Ranch

We left Gizdich Ranch and made our way to downtown Watsonville in search of Mexican food. We ended up at Jalisco Restaurant in downtown Watsonville and had a tasty meal of vegetarian burrito. After we had fed ourselves it was time to resume our journey to Salinas.

We slowly made our way through the narrow back road to Salinas  known as America’s Salad Bowl. We were flanked by farms on either side as we drove down to a town that I first encountered in John Steinbeck’s work. Boy! this town was a total surprise with its wonderful downtown and art deco buildings. We did not stop by the Steinbeck library or his home saving those visits for our next trip to Salinas. We stopped by the visitor center in downtown Salinas and discovered a trail of wineries just a few miles down south. Since it was already past 4 pm that left us with little time to explore the wineries of Salinas.

Salinas

 

Salinas

We had a wonderful cup of coffee in one of the cafe in downtown Salinas and continued on with our unhurried drive to Carmel. It was a little after 4 pm when we left Salinas for Carmel.

We had been on the road for a little over 6 hours and were surprised how relaxed we felt. I had never taken the back roads to Carmel. We were in  for  lots of little surprises as we meandered through the narrow mountainous roads to Carmel. The surprises were the wonderful glimpses of Carmel valley as we drove down into the town. By the time we arrived in downtown Carmel it was a little past 7 pm. The place was packed with visitors and tourists. We slowly made our way to Carmel Bakery & Coffee House where we had some pastries and coffee. The bakery is over 100 years old and is a popular place to nosh.

Carmel Bakery

After walking around for a bit we reluctantly got into our car and made our way back home via Highway 101. Yes, we ended by using the highway back home.

If you have never taken the back roads to Gilroy, Watsonville, Salinas and Monterey may I suggest you give it a spin? It will make your day. It certainly made our day.

Here are the places we visited on this trip.

Kirigin Cellars11550 Watsonville Rd, Gilroy, CA 95020

Gizdich Farm: 55 Peckham Road, Watsonville, CA 95076

Salinas in Monterey county

Jalisco Restaurant: A 618 Main Road, Watsonville, CA 95076

Carmel Bakery: Ocean Avenue, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923

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Happy 4th – Old Tyme Celebration at Columbia State Park, California

4th of July Parade, Columbia State Park, California

4th of July Parade, Columbia State Park, California

One of the best places to see an old-fashioned or should I say “Old Tyme” 4th of July  Parade in Northern California is the one at Columbia State Park. It is a couple of hours drive as the crow flies east from San Francisco Bay area. Columbia is a Gold Rush town and the parade is infused with elements from mid-19thc. If you are lucky you may even get to see someone who looks astonishingly like Mark Twain. Twain, if you did not know, wrote his first story “The Jumping Frogs of Calaveras,” while he was in this part of the world during the famous Gold Rush period.

Here are some pictures of that old-fashioned 4th of July Parade that is definitely worth seeing. Remember to dress right since it gets pretty warm out there. Take plenty of water and wear a hat. If you get there real early you may want to go to  the local ice-cream parlor and grab a cool treat .  Stay after the parade when they have all sorts of fun thing to do including dancing.

VIDEO: BRIAN BOWE ON GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL JULY 24-26, 2015

 

Garlic. The smell of stinking rose will tickle your nose as you travel south on Highlway 101 from San Jose to Gilroy. Located about 25 kilometers from San Jose, Gilroy is often described as the “Garlic Capital of the World.” And it comes as a surprise to many people when they discover that Gilroy is part of Santa Clara county, which is home to many Silicon Valley hi-tech companies. Agrictulture and farming was a big part of Santa Clara county before hi-tech companies made this “Valley of Heart’s Delight” their home. Gilroy located on the southern corner of Santa Clara county continues to preserve some of that agricultural tradition to this day.

Every year for 3 days the Gilroy Garlic Festival draws thousands of people to the event that celebrates garlic in many different forms from ice-cream to wine to fries and much more. The money collected from the festival is then distributed to various charities in the area.

What is in store for this year’s 37th Gilroy Garlic Festival,? How did Gilroy become the “Garlic Capital of the World?” We spoke with Brian Bowe, execuitve director of Gilroy Garlic Festival to find out. Tune in to find out what he has to say.

This year’s Gilroy Garlic Festival is from July 24-26, 2015. For tickets and information please visit here.

VIDEO: THEODORA LEE OF THEOPOLIS VINEYARDS

Theodora Lee is a lawyer & owner of Theopolis Vineyards located in Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino county Mendocino county is located right next to Sonoma, and is famous for its stunning coastline, food and wine. While  Napa and Sonoma are famous for their vineyards, neighoring county’s Anderson Valley in Mendocino has its own share of vineyards.

Theodora first discovered the wine growing region of Northern California as a young lawyer. About 10 years ago she bought a few acres of land in Yorkville Highlands and started her vineyard. She mostly grows Petite Sirah grapes.

We caught up with Theo as she prefers to be called at BiteSV conference in Santa Clara, and got to talk to her about the wines from her vineyard. In this video Theo is talking about their wine made from Symphony grape, which is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris. The wine has a dry, crisp finish as she puts it.

We have a longer interview with her coming up.

VIDEO: MUIR WOODS POST CARD

Muir Woods National Monument is located a few miles north of San Francisco past the Golden Gate bridge. Named after John Muir, the famous naturalist, this place is home to old Redwood trees that are hundreds of years old. Some trees are about 800 years old. There are 6 trails of varying lengths and levels of difficulty to walk around and explore this wonderful area. Muir Woods is open 365 days of the year. The entrance fee is $7 and is expected to to up to $10.

TRAVEL TIPS:

Wear good, walking shoes and remember to carry a jacket with you. The road leading up to Muir Woods is narrow, and do watch out for bikers. The park gets awfully crowded during holidays and weekends and finding a parking spot can be difficult. Plan to spend at least half a day exploring the place. If you are in a hurry, a couple of hours will also do. If you have the time you can go up to Mount Tampalpais (Tam)  from Muir Woods. The road is narrow and steep in some places as you wind your way up the road. Once on Mount Tam, there are a couple of trails to walk around and explore. There is a trail from where you get a splendid view of San Francisco city and Marin county. If you are there towards late afternoon you might even see the fog roll in from the Pacific Ocean and envelope the whole city.

There are two beaches close to Muir Woods:Muir Beach and Stinson beach.

And if you have the time and inclination you can  grab a cup of coffee in downtown Mill Valley.

SAN FRANCISCO TRAVEL POST CARD

San Francisco

San Francisco

Post cards. Remember getting those colorful post cards from your family and friends when they visited a new place or city? As a kid I used to collect these post cards, and pester folks to send them to me. Sometimes, a kindly neighbor would give me their old post cards their “foreign” friends sent them. Somewhere in my house I still have a couple of shoe boxes with a stack of post cards. And then there were the colorful calendars with pictures and captivating images of places and people from different parts of the world. I remember those intensely vivid Eastman calendar that featured scenes from Germany. Or, was it ORWO calendar? These postcards and calendars transported me to different places around the world and kindled my curiosity about their culture, food, music and food. A picture speaks a thousand words was so true for those of us who grew up in the pre-Internet age.

Anyway, I digressed. In this digital age those old tyme postcards are not cool. What is cool are video post cards. Every week I shall (attempt) to share a video postcard from my travels. Hope you enjoy these travel cards.

Here is the first travel post card from San Francisco. San Francisco, or the city by the bay is a compact place filled with interestingness. Here is a quick dekho at San Fran, please don’t call it ‘Frisco. We zip across the city from the iconic Golden Gate bridge to the Bay bridge, Nob Hill, and Land’s End.

Quick Travel Suggestions:

If you have less than 24 hours in San Francisco here are a couple of things you can do. San Francisco is a food obssessed city and there are lots of neat little cafes, dives and wonderful restaurants to suit your budget. Head down to the bottom of Ferry Building Marketplace on Market Street to grab a coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee and a sandwich from Cowgirl Creamery. Don’t sit in. Head straight out to the back of the building and park yourself in a sunny spot and  do some people watching. Maybe you can play Otis Redding’s “Sitting By The Dock Of The Bay,” while you are noshing that sandwich?

Alternatively instead of the Ferry Building head to the Fisherman’s Wharf area  in a cable car.The best part of riding the cable car is you will catch tantalizing glimpses of the city and its steep streets.At the wharf grab one of those famous San Francisco sour dough sandwiches at Boundin Bakery and then head down to taste that famous glass of Irish coffee at Buena Vista Cafe. Be warned, it will be crowded.  And if you still have some room then mosey over to Ghiradelli Square and indulge in a sweet treat at the famous chocolate store.

Now, if you are a little bit adventurous mosey up to China Town and the neighboring Italian neighborhood of North Beach. And if you are really, really adventurous then head over to Golden Gate Park and Cliff House. All these places are easily accessible via public transportation or by foot. Let me clarify – you can reach both these destinations by bus and then walk around to explore.

Wear comfortable shoes and don’t forget to grab your jacket. San Francisco weather can be very deceptive and it can go from being warm and toasty to cold within hours.

Gandhi in San Francisco

Gandhi in San Francisco you ask? Yes, there is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi tucked away in one corner of San Francisco’s Ferry Building. You may miss it if since it is located a little away from where folks sit on the bay and watch the water, boats and the traffic on bay bridge. In fact, I almost missed it the first time. I discovered it the second time when I stepped out of Sur La Table, the speciality kitchen store and spotted the statue. A couple of days ago it was his birthday (Oct 2), and I happened to be in the Ferry Building and decided to go pay him a visit.

Here is a collage of pictures from the Ferry Building area along with the wonderful view of the San Francisco bay bridge that connects San Francisco to East bay towns like Berkeley and Oakland.

If you happen to be in San Francicso’s Market Street area walk down to the bottom of the street towards the bay and  you will see the Ferry Building. And inside the building are a cluster of food shops and restaurants like Cowgirl Creamery, Strauss Family Creamery, Blue Bottle Coffee, Acme Bread, Frog Hollow Farm and much, much more. And if you are lucky, you may just be able to visit the wonderful Farmer’s Market on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday.

Tucked at the back of the building are a bunch of benches, where you can sit and watch the boats come and go or simply enjoy the sun sitting by the dock of the bay.And by the way remember that famous song Sitting By The Dock of the Bay of Otis Redding? He wrote that sitting by the dock of the bay in Sausalito, which is just yonder across the bay.

If you are in the mood, to visit Sausalito  you can jump into one of those ferry boats and go over this picturesque town and sip your coffee sitting by the dock of the bay in Sausalito.