According to the park ranger at the Mission San Francisco Solano (which I talked about in Part 2), I was to drive three blocks west, and then make a right on Third Street. Had it been colder outside, I would have walked; but I find the heat draining- like my energy is being sucked from my lifeless corpse- so I couldn’t muster up the will-power to do so. Although it generally depends on the temperature. High 70s, maybe. Mid-80s and above? Nope. I wouldn’t do well living in the desert, although I suppose I’d eventually get used to the heat.
The drive leading up to the estate was long and lined with trees; they acted almost like sentries guarding the gates to a medieval castle. I couldn’t make my car go very fast on it (speed limits, you understand), but that worked to my advantage. The slower speed allowed me to not only get to my destination safely, but also to better enjoy my surroundings. Being so close to the main part of the city, I felt like I was in the countryside, miles away from everyone and everything. Had I been able to find a country station that came in, I would’ve been blasting it out my speakers.
A bike path intersected the road and I slowed down, allowing a skateboarder to cross, before continuing on my way. As hot as it felt outside when I was by the Sonoma Plaza, it honestly didn’t feel as warm here at Vallejo’s home. More than likely due to the level of foliage and trees here. Or maybe it was the breeze that decided to greet me?
Hi, friend! Here’s a little something to soothe ya!
From the parking lot, just beyond a pearly-blue gate I could see a two-storied white house. But before I could get there, I first had to go through the gate into another building just to the right. It was here that I triumphantly brandished my receipt from the mission. I was given a laminated pamphlet with information on the home- and a map of the home’s interior- and sent on my way.
First, though, before going outside, I took a moment to gaze at some of the artifacts on display, amongst which was an old carriage once used by the Vallejo family.
I exited the building and strolled across the courtyard, past one of the fountains on the property. The breeze had died down, allowing the warmth to envelop me once again. Vallejo’s house offered a respite. The first thing I usually notice about some older houses is a distinct sort of smell that’s hard to describe. Like a sour kind of smell, but not nearly as unpleasant.
There were three rooms I was able to view on the first floor; two more were blocked off to the public. The parlor, dining room, and study, all populated with furniture the family once used. What caught my attention, though, was the book collection in the study. Have I mentioned I am a huge bookworm? No? Well, I am. Anything having to do with books is usually guaranteed to cause a gravitational pull.
I remember once, at the library, I went all out and checked out at least ten different books. I couldn’t help myself. The price was right. As there were so many that looked good to me, I went to town, picking out books left, right and center. I didn’t have a bag to put them in, so I piled them into my arms and juggled as I walked them to my car. I barely made it before they were tumbling out of my arms onto the passenger seat. Note to self: bring a bag next time. But I digress.
After I had finished with the first floor, I climbed the narrow, steep staircase to floor two. The bannister was eerily short and I did my best to stay away from the edge.
Up here were the master bedroom, the nursery, and two bedrooms, each belonging to the two youngest of the sixteen (!!!) Vallejo children. I enjoyed some artwork painted by one of them, a daughter. It was proudly displayed on one of the bedrooms. What can I say? I’m a sucker for artwork. Show me a good art museum over an amusement park any day. For example: the Louvre in Paris was like walking through a dream. I could have spent weeks there, soaking it all in. I got way more enjoyment out of it than I ever have on a roller coaster.
I gingerly made my way back down the staircase and exited into a smaller outdoors area that eventually lead me to a ramp that, in turn, lead to a small reservoir. Alongside one end was a brick-lined path and, overhead, wooden archways that, while giving the place an enclosed feeling, still made me feel like I was outside. It was almost like something that you’d see in the English countryside. There was even a fountain gurgling within the reservoir’s depths. To complete the picture, up another pathway, was a small building that had been used by one of the Vallejo sons during school vacations (according to the pamphlet).
I eventually made my way back down the path. I returned to the same building that first greeted me and had a lovely chat with the ranger about the history of the estate. And then it was back to my car, exposed to the sun in all its glory. It felt like a furnace by now, so I did what anyone else would do and opened all the windows to let the breeze in. I browsed my Twitter feed until my car had sufficiently cooled. I even waved hello to one of the rangers as he strolled past. And then I drove home.