WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE – Sarah Winchester left behind a seven story mansion known as the Winchester Mystery House. It’s now in the middle of San Jose, what was once Santa Clara valley orchard farmland. In 1884 she began with a nearly unlimited renovation budget paid for by the several millions left behind by her late husband. William Winchester was the heir to the estate of the famous Winchester repeating rifle. Based on the consultation of a spiritualist, Sarah lived in the midst of nearly forty years of construction. In her community she endured public scrutiny, engaged in bizarre behavior and believed in occult reasons for her bad luck. She was convinced her torment was caused by the influence of spirits of the dead; due to their deaths caused by Winchester’s rifles. The pictures and description don’t do the house justice, the scale is overwhelming and the house is something to see firsthand. It’s the ultimate Halloween haunted house!
MISSION SOLEDAD – The mission church, named for Our Lady of Solitude, might be characteristic of what settlers came across in California’s early days. The church is isolated, surrounded by huge fields of produce crops. It’s nowhere near a freeway exit situated in-between Gonzales and Soledad. One of the great things is the way this mission depicts history. Inside, there are several rooms of historical artifacts. Outside, the crumbled ruins of adobe walls of the original church.
MONTEREY BOARDWALK – Did you know that Monterey has a rich cultural and historic significance in California? Monterey’s port and wharf were the major entry points to the north, prior to the California gold rush in 1849 (when San Francisco became the dominant port and financial center). Also, Monterey was the original state capital. Where sardines and fish used to come into port, now the boardwalk has a lot to offer visitors. You can find restaurants, fishing cruises, whale watching, gift shops and art galleries. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is world famous for its exhibits. The line goes around the block so make sure to check the website before heading out to the aquarium.
CHABOT SPACE & SCIENCE CTR. – The Chabot Space and Science Center is located in Oakland CA. Three large telescopes (Rachel, Alvin, Leah) are located within observatories on the upper deck. Public viewings takes place on Friday and Saturday, but watch the weather closely. The Pacific’s marine layer often pushes through the Golden Gate in the summer months, up the Oakland Hills. The planetarium show is inferior in quality, compared to its neighbor across the bay, at the CA Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. Its exhibits are mostly geared towards children, but the telescopes should not to be missed! Chabot is the largest public facility of its kind in the USA. The telescope observatories offer the public’s best view from earth, onto the vast distances of the Milky Way.
The Steinbeck Center is located in Salinas, CA. The exhibits are thematic, arranged about his major works. For example: The Grapes of Wrath, The Red Pony, Cannery Row and East of Eden. What did I like? I really enjoyed some of the objects like notebook pages (in his tiny cramped handwriting) as well as Pulitzer/ Nobel awards. Also, the exhibit reinforced the ways that Steinbeck adhered to the adage ‘write what you know’. Salinas and Monterrey are the foundations for his greatest works. What didn’t I like? The exhibit designer had good intentions. But, the visuals are all over the place, sort of like attention deficit disorder. Each sentence or fragment goes along with an artifact, icon or picture. Instead of covering a work at a level of complexity, the choppy execution doesn’t allow the eye to focus on any area in particular. It would have been good to see more depth and less breadth across the space that’s available to the center.