Villa Ca’Toga – A little bit of Italy in Calistoga

Earlier in the year I visited Ca’Toga Gallery in Calistoga, California and knew immediately I needed to meet the artist and see his amazing Ca’Toga Villa. So as soon as we had the time we went for a tour which did not disappoint. The artist Carlos Marchiori hand built every piece of this house and prepared the blank property right down to planting every beautiful tree. (His proudest accomplishment by the way which I found interesting.) Between the watercolor murals, sculpture, ceramics, tile work, and his overall whimsical vision it was surreal and genuinely impressive. Carlos peppered genuine old world antiques like wood from a Portuguese monastery and real antique sculpture work from old dilapidated European buildings he brought over in a container in the 80’s. Everything else is hand made. Everything! Originally created as a life size way to display his work to perspective clients it’s clearly taken thirty years to realize a life love and obsession. If the mural look familiar you may have seen his work in multiple locations around the world most notably Las Vegas casinos and other casinos around the world.  I feel very much honored to have seen Ca’Toga Villa, walked the grounds, and met the eclectic and entertaining master.  Add this to any Napa visit for a special and interesting thing to do in the valley.

 

 

Walking among Giants

I’ve been visiting Calaveras Big Trees State Park since I was a kid. Back then there wasn’t a visitor’s center, camping, and all the trails.  That said, they frankly enhance the park and encourage people to repeat their visits. I am happy the park has grown and with it the park’s attendance. The amazing giant trees can only be found in certain areas of our state and the world and they never disappoint. It’s hard to describe or capture the size of these trees but I did my best here with my good ol’ iPhone. I hope you enjoy because Mother Nature did her best when she created these specimens.

This trip I did something I always wanted to do and visited the south grove trail after visiting the main north grove trail first. I’m very glad I did because we were treated with a relaxing and cool respite at Beaver Creek. It was a hot hot day so our feet welcomed the swim.

I can’t wait to go back and hit a few more of the trails to see some of the big trees which are harder to find and take more preparation to plan for. I hope to camp next time so we can enjoy them in the calm cool morning.  These miraculous trees deserve the effort!

Bodega Bay’s Kortum Trail

My husband and I and friends have been camping in Bodega Bay for years and years. We typically camp on the beach in the Sonoma Coast State Parks which is pretty darn glorious. During many of those trips we hiked portions of the Kortum trail which parallels the coast for approximately 5 miles round trip. The mild and maintained trail connects Wright’s Beach all the way to Blind Beach.

Since baby made his arrival in my life two years ago we haven’t been back to the beach or the trail. So finally my Mom and son and I spent the weekend visiting the area and I took the opportunity here to show you some views from the trail. One can see magnificent views of the ocean, beautiful rock outcroppings, lovely wild flowers, seals, birds, rabbits, and sunsets. iPhone photos but hopefully I get the point across.

It frankly does not get much better than this friends.

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Salmon Creek Art Walk, Bodega Bay

While visiting Bodega Bay recently we stayed on Salmon Creek.  The tiny community hosted the Salmon Creek Art walk in part due to a large number of resident artists and secondly due to the sheer beauty of the area and its relationship in general to art.  While baby and my Mom were napping I snuck away and visited a few of the art walk locations and have posted a few of the more “interesting” finds.  A surprising number of people walked up and down the hills looking for the various locations and enjoying the architecture and landscape.  I particularly enjoyed getting perspective in to the interior of some of these adorable and eclectic beach homes.

 

Fisherman’s Fest – Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Fest occurred recently in coastal Bodega Bay, California.  The festival was a fun little stop while in town with my mother and son.  There was something for everyone.  The fest started with a blessing of the fleet, crafts, and tons of seafood.  There were bounce houses, dog parades, and tide pools for the tots.  The festival even boasted a contest for groups to build and navigate a wooden boat in only a few hours.  Naturally the coast guard is on hand for anyone who sunk!  Sadly naptime conflicted with timing so we didn’t get to enjoy watching all of the sailors compete in their handmade boats or go for a very cool swim when they failed.  However, we were able to watch a coast guard rescue demonstration with divers in the ocean and a helicopter adeptly plucking people and dropping them to safety.

CA’ TOGA ART GALLERY, Calistoga

My photography friend and I headed to Napa with the plan to photograph spring flowers. A quick and random yelp search layer led us to the random Villa Ca’ Toga. After seeing some of the images online and having never heard of this place flowers were out the window and we set coordinates towards beautiful Calistoga. Turns out sadly that the tours of the Villa start next week so we settled on the gallery. (Harrumph.)

A visit to the gallery did not disappoint and has well inspired us to take a trip soon to see the Villa which is home to and created by Carlo Marchiori. Carlo is a multi talented and prolific artist whose muse is his own Villa on the outskirts of Calistoga.  Every inch of the Villa is covered in interesting and eccentric art as well as the grounds which appear to be covered in random sculpture.

Who wants to visit the Villa with me?!

 

 

 

California Automobile Museum – Micro Cars

The California Auto Museum, in downtown Sacramento, is boasting its Micro Car exhibit for the first time in seven years with what looks like double the micro cars on display!  They were even hosting a clever Micro Cars and Micro Brews event the evening we visited.  The museum underwent a refresh a few years back and I am happy to see it is alive and well.

The museum typically has a roaming exhibit (Micro Cars in this case), a race car exhibit, muscle car area, historical vehicles, and an area with cars on consignment (to help fund the museum itself and to hopefully fund some heat/air conditioning.)

It is also fun to see the addition of an area for children with several auto related activities which was a bonus for my little boy. Zoom. Zoom.

Effie Yeaw Nature Center

The Effie Yeaw Nature Center, located in Ancil Hoffman Park in Sacramento, has been around as long as I have…longer actually. It’s a small but mighty little center which helps preserve natural area, promote Indian heritage, and protect and aid local sick or injured animals. The center’s highlights were certainly the two beautiful owls lovingly cared for by staff.

The park sits on a glorious part of the American River Parkway which my young son greatly enjoyed. Once he threw what seemed like every river rock back in to the river he insisted we make a second visit to the owls again before we left! That’s a success if you ask me!! img_1175

Indian Grinding Stone

Meet Echo

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Quarry Park – Rocklin, California

Quarry Park in Rocklin, California has changed immensely over the last few years.  What used to be an abandoned quarry filled with water and whatever else fell in there and a barren field full of rattlesnakes and poison oak is now a delightful local park and adjacent adventure park.  Locals can enjoy summer concerts, a lovely short walk around the quarry, a climb on the children’s playset and train or for the more adventurous they can climb or zipline next door.  I love this park and think what they have done with it is genius other than it still seems weird to be placed right in the middle of the city government.

 

UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden

UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden has been on my local list of attractions for a while.  I can’t say why I haven’t gone before but I haven’t.  And after visiting today looking for some fall colors I certainly regret not having gone sooner.  I can say the Arboretum and gardens were not at all what I expected…in a good way.  I expected just a large park with some glorious old trees and a place for my son to run around reasonably free.  Instead, I found a lovely meandering creek called the Putah Creek lovingly surrounded by well maintained gardens and walking bridges.  Visitors can walk the entire thing or sections and can follow both sides of the creek.  They will be joined by runners, students, local residents, gossiping women, and visitors like me.

It is hard to be unhappy in a place like this even with heavy smoke in the air from the Butte Fire raging a small distance away.  Several distinct gardens keep one’s interest while they get their steps in.  Acacia gardens, redwood gardens, desert gardens, and plants and trees from China were the highlights.  Ducks followed us everywhere we went.  This perfect little park is a quiet oasis placed smack in the middle of one of California’s premier Universities.