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If you are in the San Jose are and would like to go winetasting, but don't have the time or inclination to deal with a venture to Napa or other California regions, don't worry - there are several very good wineries close to the city. Each of the following have good to great wine, atmosphere, and friendly advice on wine.
Cooper Garrod: www.cgv.com
Savanna Chanelle: www.savannahchanelle.com
David Bruce: www.davidbrucewinery.com
Slighty further, but an easy day or even afternoon trip, are several wineries in the Santa Cruz mountains: www.winecountrygetaways.com/santa-cruz-winery.html
Written Sep 3, 2006
This family theme park is situated on the outskirts of Gilroy just off of HWY 152 towards Watsonville. It has been a few years in the making, surviving near bancruptcy, and finally gaining financial rescue from Paramount-the same company that owns Great America and the movie company.
Unlike the typical hot-pavement-and-no-shade parks, this is set in a lush garden area in the hills. Bonfante Gardens is also home to the "Circus Trees" which look like carefully grafted tree branches in odd looking shapes and designs.
The rides are mostly for kids, but they are still fun to ride as an adult. Like all parks, food is overpriced, and since you cannot bring outside food or drinks, you are left to buy their overpriced refreshments.
The best bargain is admission because if you have a Great America VIP Season Pass, the admission is FREE! Otherwise, it is about $30. Parking is $7.00 per vehicle.
The rides and theme of the park is geared toward agriculture and environmental awareness. The park pays homage to local agricultural capitols of the world like Gilroy, "The Garlic Capitol of the World" or Castroville, "the Artichoke Capitol of the World." Eco-facts are found on various signs around the park, rides are various vegetables and fruits, like garlic, strawberries, artichokes, or bananas. Be sure to take a ride on the Swan Paddleboats. They were a favorite to the kids and parents alike.
Updated Aug 18, 2003
Address: 3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy, CA
Schurra's Candy Factory is the best place to buy chocolate in the south bay area. It has been a local favorite for several generations. While See's Chocolates are well known and distributed in many places (airports, etc.) you have to go to the store to find Schurra's items, which are bound to be more fresh. They specialize in chocolates that are molded into different shapes, but have a good selection of bon bons, etc.
Written Sep 29, 2007
Address: 840 The Alameda, San Jose, CA 95126
Phone: (408) 289-1562
Taken on the grounds of Villa Montalvo, an art and cultural center not far from where I live. This year, Seal, Vanessa Williams, Michael Bolton, and Indigo Girls will be performing there. Villa Montalvo also has occasional lunch events with famous authors.
Written Apr 26, 2005
On the San Jose State University campus there is a monument/statue recognizing the most popular medal ceremony of all time: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the two black American sprinters standing on the medal podium with heads bowed and fists raised at the Mexico City Games in 1968. They were teammates at San Jose State University.
This event was a milestone in America's civil rights movement. The two sprinters planned a non-violent protest in the manner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Smith won the gold medal and Carlos the bronze In the 200-meter race, and as the American flag rose and the Star-Spangled Banner played, the two closed their eyes and bowed their heads in protest.They were subsequently suspended from their national team and banned from the Olympic Village.
While the event was very controversial - many think that political statements have no place in the Olympic Games. Many, however, were moved by their actions, seen as a part of the impacting 1960s Civil Rights movement.
The 200m silver medallist in 1968, a white Austrailian participated in the protest that evening by wearing a OPHR badge. His place on the monument is empty.
Written Sep 29, 2007
Mission City Coffee Roasting
With so many coffee shops in the area, sometimes it is nice to find one with a little local flavor. Mission City does that. It's located in a pretty big, older building that defies the trend toward the tech or modern look. Most of the tables and chairs are old, providing character if not a somewhat wobbly seating.
This place can get busy at times, with college students and locals hanging out, taking advantage of the wireless internet available, or just stopping by. A few evenings a week they have local musical talent or an open mike, and on Sunday afternoons there is live jazz. From time to time fairly popular regional groups even make it here: The Hot Club of SF is scheduled for a night in May, 2008.
Breakfasts and lunches are served here, along with the usual array of coffees, teas and snacks.
Written Jan 26, 2008
Address: 2221 The Alameda, Santa Clara
Phone: (408) 261-2221
This large plaza is right in the center of downtown, ringed by the Art Museum, The Tech Museum, The Fairmont and St. Claire Hotels, and several other notable buildings. Throughout the year the plaza is used for civic events and outdoor music shows, such as the San Jose Jazz Festival in August. During the winter holiday season the park takes on a festive atmosphere with "Christmas in the Park," which includes an ice skating rink set up between the palms next to the Fairmont - a beautiful setting for a family outing.
This is the oldest continuously used public open space in the city, dating back to the late 1700s when this was a Spanish settlement. It's been used as a parade ground, cock-pit, race-track and public hangings.
In 1993 the park was named in honor of Cesar E. Chavez (1927-1993), the community organizer and founder of the United Farm Workers Union, who was a resident of San Jose.
Written Feb 10, 2008
Mission San Jose was the 14th of California's 21 Spanish Missions, and was founded in 1797 to extend the El Camino Real northeast of Santa Clara Mission. The permanent church building was begun in 1805 and completed in 1809 using giant redwoods for roof beams and leather straps in place of scarce nails. By the 1830s the mission had quickly grown to one of the most successful in California with some 2,000 local Ohlone Indians and perhaps 350,000 cattle. In 1833 the mission was "secularized"--or privatized--by the Mexican government, then plundered and left to decay.
During the Gold Rush of 1849, the mission was used as lodging and a small American town sprung up in the area. By 1858, the US government returned portions of the mission lands to the Catholic church, but in 1868 an earthquake completely destroyed the church and various other buildings. The mission church you see today was actually constructed in 1985 and is a near-replica of the original.
The city of San Jose grew around the location of the Spanish "Pueblo" constructed in what is now downtown. This mission was built about 15 miles away to keep the Indian converts away from the temptations of the city and to help protect the eastern approaches to the area. The area around the mission was known as the city of Mission San Jose until it merged with its neighbors to become Fremont.
During my visit to the Mission, it was closed (10am to 5pm), but I strolled the grounds for 20 minutes. One side of the church contains a small cemetery with numerous gravestones from church leaders and later pioneers. The other side of the church contains a small garden and the visitors center/museum. The front of the church is flanked by a wall along the cemetery and has a giant set of red steps leading to the front doors. Between the visitors center and the church you can see the foundations of the original church, along with three wooden beams that have survived. The gardens and church foundation ruins are accessible even when the visitors center is closed.
Updated Jun 11, 2007
Address: 43300 Mission Blvd at Washington Blvd, Fremont, CA
Phone: (510) 657-1979
There are two well known rose gardens in San Jose, the Municipal Rose Garden (my next tip), and this, the Heritage Rose Garden. This garden is exceptional as a display of many varieties of specialty roses, a garden that can be appreciated by gardening experts or just the casual visitor.
The garden has a self-guided tour that takes you through different sections and rings where you can find Old Garden Roses (Gallicas, Albas, Damasks, Centifolias, Mosses, and other old European, mostly once blooming roses); crosses of the once blooming Old Garden Roses with Chinas, Teas, Musk and Autumn Damask roses; hardy rugosas; Portlands, Bourbons, and Hybrid Perpetuals; exotic Chinas and Teas; Floribundas and Hybrid Teas; Shrub Roses and more. That is a lot to take in for one garden.
They also have docent led tours.
Updated May 6, 2008
This mission church is located on the campus of Santa Clara University, neighboring San Jose. Santa Clara Mission is the site of the oldest continuously used established college in California, which was founded right when the California gold rush was in full swing around 1851. It was the eighth of 22 missions that lined California from north to south. The first church was built 1777 by banks of Guadalupe River in what is now downtown San Jose, and the present replica was constructed in 1928-29 after the previous one burnt down.
The mission is named for St. Clare of Assisi, founder of the order of nuns called the Poor Clares. The Franciscans transferred ownership to the Jesuits in 1851, who founded Santa Clara University.
Even though it is a relatively new church building, it is beautiful to see. The grounds of the university campus surrounding the church make it a nice, quiet place to visit, with little road noise and green spaces around it. Their web site has a lot of historical information.
Written Aug 7, 2008
Address: 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
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