Ye Old Railway Tunnel in Norden

Ah, Lake Tahoe! Quite possibly one of my favorite places in California. I used to go up there every so often as a kid. Happy memories. When my family and I stayed there, we’d camp out at a cabin in King’s Beach. It belonged to a relative. Just four rooms with a steep roof and large backyard, it was the perfect getaway for a few days. Close to the beach, too.

This time, I’d be staying with a relative right smack in the desert: a beauty in its own right. But before arriving there, I’d planned to a few things along the way. I mean, if I’m driving three or more hours (traffic dependent) from wine country to Reno, I may as well make a day of it.


Since it was a Sunday, I went to the early morning service for church and left almost immediately after that. After I stopped to get an iced tea, of course. And then: ROAD TRIP! Ah, the joys of flipping through radio stations you don’t often hear to see which one you like best.

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Lachryma Montis: General Vallejo’s Estate- SSHP, Part 3

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.

Continue reading “Lachryma Montis: General Vallejo’s Estate- SSHP, Part 3”

Mission San Francisco Solano- SSHP, Part 2

Situated across the street from the barracks (in Part 1 of my trip to Sonoma State Historic Park) was the mission. It was part of the El Camino Real: a road that connected almost two dozen Spanish missions and stretched from San Diego to Sonoma. Cool, no? You can see the bell-shaped markers alongside wherever the road itself once was (or is). I’ve included a picture of one just above.

I stepped along the front porch and opened the solid wood door and found myself in a small entry way. Behind a desk sat a park ranger. I paid the $3 that would allow me into the building; not expensive and the one-time fee would also allow me entry into Vallejo’s estate and, if I so desired, the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park. I didn’t ultimately go there this time; but I shall, perhaps, in the future.

In what had once been the dining room were water-colored pictures of most of the Spanish missions that dotted the El Camino Real. According to the laminated pamphlet I was giving upon entering the building, these were done in the early 1900s. I took my time gazing at them. I loved that someone had taken the time to do all these at one point in history.

Nowadays, all you have to do is point a camera and…click! So fast and easy. Back then? Painting and sketching was easier- and less expensive- than taking a picture with one of those clunky cameras. And then you had to wait for the film to be developed, too. As I admired the pictures, I recognized another one I’d been to in Carmel probably around twenty years ago? I know I had been in grade school then, but I don’t remember much else about that venture. Continue reading “Mission San Francisco Solano- SSHP, Part 2”

Sonoma State Historic Park- Part 1

Sonoma State Historic Park is situated to the north and northwest of the Sonoma Plaza- an attraction all its own with the grassy expanses, play equipment, memorials, and ponds full of ducks. I parked my car alongside the plaza and stepped out into the warm summer air. I stretched, locked my car, and stepped onto the sidewalk. I then made my way toward the first historical site of my venture.

According to a park ranger I spoke to, the Sonoma Plaza and, in fact, the town of Sonoma, was originally developed by General Vallejo, a soldier in the Mexican army (in case you’re wondering if the town of Vallejo is named after him- it is. The town of Benicia is named after his wife).

The Sonoma State Historic Park comprises of the location of Vallejo’s first home, his later estate, and the barracks that originally house soldiers of the Mexican army. It’s a fascinating history that would take a long time to explain; but I highly encourage you to do a little digging and read about it yourself!

The first part of my self-guided tour comprised of the Casa Grande servants’ quarters, the Toscano Hotel & kitchen, barracks, and not the Blue Wing Inn. It was originally built to house soldiers and also played a role in the gold rush. But I didn’t think to go in it. Don’t ask me why. I will next time I’m in Sonoma. I did, however, explore everything else.

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Napa Farmers’ Market

I was able to find a close enough spot to all the stalls. Luck of the draw, yo. It was crowded. I donned my hat (I woke up too late to sufficiently do my hair, so- hey, presto!- fashionable head piece it was) and a light sweater and I was good to go!

The sky was filled with clouds, yet a hint of sun peaked though all the same. It grew in prominence throughout the morning, the heat and chance of sunburns along with it. Coupled with that were the strains of live music winding its way through the stalls of farmers’ wares.

A good friend was meeting me for our market foray; but I ended up arriving a few minutes before her. There was a van that had been converted into a small coffee shop; it’s power generator buzzed happily. I took one look and thought, coffeeeee…much in the same way a zombie might out and go braaaaiiinsss…or something like that. Boy, did I ever need a pick-me-up, and I here I was, about to get a cup of that nectar of the gods. I ended up ordering a latte. Yes, it was delicious.

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The Sign and the Leprechaun

Some background before I get started. The year is 2013 and I’m visiting college friends and a dear cousin in the Los Angeles area. In the meantime… sight seeing was the order of the day.

On this Sunday morning, the time was roughly 10:00 am and I wouldn’t be seeing my cousin until later in the afternoon. So I had time. And it was the weekend. No traffic to deal with. Whew!


Fun fact: The best time I’ve found to get anywhere in Los Angeles- on a weekday- is between the hours of 10:00am and 2:30pm. Otherwise, it’s like watching paint dry in slow motion as you’re sitting there on the claustrophobic webs of asphalt.


I didn’t yet own a smartphone at this point. So, old-school handwritten directions nestled safely beside me, I set off from my hotel in La Mirada. From there, without traffic, it usually takes around forty minutes to reach where I was headed.

I didn’t have much planned for this sightseeing venture; but a visit to the Walk of Fame was a must for me. I found a parking garage close by and pulled in. There were signs pointing toward the VIP “we’ll park your car for an extra fee” section and the regular “you still have to pay a parking fee” section.

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The Journey Begins

I’m keeping the prompted title that WordPress gifted to me on this first post. I can’t think of a better one. “The Journey Begins.” Journey, as a noun, is defined as an act of going from one place to another. Because that is exactly what this blog is intended to be about. Traveling. Hence, Natalie’s Travels. … Continue reading “The Journey Begins”

I’m keeping the prompted title that WordPress gifted to me on this first post. I can’t think of a better one. “The Journey Begins.” Journey, as a noun, is defined as an act of going from one place to another. Because that is exactly what this blog is intended to be about. Traveling. Hence, Natalie’s Travels.

Obviously: my name is Natalie. That’s all you need to now for now. I am currently 31 and have a passion for traveling and exploration. (Cue Bilbo Baggins dashing out of Bag End. I’m going on an adventure!) I reside an hour or so north of San Francisco, in the heart of California’s wine country. I’d get more specific; but if I told you, I’d have to make you disappear. State secrets and all that. Shhh.

Cue the silence. Crickets. Throw in a clear night sky with twinkling stars, then you and I sitting on a large blanket, gazing up at the heavens. We’re talking about ways and means and far off places and, maybe, we’re sipping on mugs of tea.

“Since you live in wine country, why not write about something wine related?” You wonder aloud. An owl flies overhead and we pause mid-conversation to watch.

Fair question. The answer? Wine related topics will definitely merit the occasional mention. I mean, come on. I live in wine country. But this blog will also be about non-wine adventures I’ve had, near and far. People I’ve met. Places I’ve explored. That kind of thing. I want you to experience things the way I did. Live vicariously. Get your own ideas of places to go. Enjoy my adventures as much as I did, and then go have your own!

When I was little, my parents would always take my sister and I on their anniversary vacations with them. My dad would take my sister and I camping, too. Road trips, holiday trips. And it was all so glorious and gave me a thirst to see more more more! I had to get out there and experience life.

You know what also fueled my wanderlust? Reading about all these cool places in my history and geography books. Places like Stonehenge, the Eiffel Tower, Mount Rushmore, and the pyramids at Giza. (Spoiler alert: I’ve been to three of those places. They were glorious.)

That’s part of the reason I’ve started this blog: I love to travel and…drum roll…I love to write. When I was a kid, I would always be writing little stories and plays and such. But it was reading the Harry Potter series that really made me want to go for more than the just the little stuff. I wanted to be a writer. I had to. I felt it in my blood. Thanks for giving me that thirst, JK Rowling.

Long story short, I began writing Harry Potter fanfiction, way back in 2003. Then I branched out into other fandoms and, eventually, original fiction. But that didn’t pan out (maybe in the future). So, I thought: let’s switch genres. I like reading travelogues. Bill Bryson never fails to elicit a laugh. Cheryl Strayed made me want to hike a freaking mountain. If those two can do it, why can’t I?

Dude, I mean… I like to travel. I like to write. Why not combine the two?

And there we have it.


IMG_7977(Photo taken by yours truly, at the Marin Headlands.)