Western Hills Garden a Gem

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There is so much to see and do in Sonoma County. There is the coastline, the Russian River and the party town of Guerneville. You can wine taste in Healdsburg or Sonoma. Great food abounds in Petaluma and throughout the county. Many of the historic Italian dining rooms dotted throughout the western county are still serving lunch and dinner. One that holds many memories for me is Union Hotel in Occidental, California. I don’t know how young I was the first time I rode in the car from Occidental, up and over Coleman Valley Road and dropped down to Highway One and the Bodega Bay on the other side. Dramatic scenery abounds and if it is foggy it adds an element of terror to the ride. I have a romantic spot in my heart for Coleman Valley Road.

When my Auntie J sent me the notice about the Western Hills Garden reopening for visitors this summer and I saw the address (16250 Coleman Valley Road), I got a little thrill. We needed to go on Saturday because that is the only public day that I generally have free. I saw that dogs on a leash were welcome so I packed up Lulu the adventure dog and we headed to Petaluma to pick up my Auntie.

IMG_4468We drove the backroads through Valley Ford to Occidental. Coleman Valley Road deadends in to the middle of town. The garden is part way up the hill from town on the right. There is parking along the road. The garden and plant sales are open Saturday from 10 – 4 as well as Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment.

The entrance fee is $12 for adults. The garden provides a map but the 3 acres of paths are straightforward. Lulu was so excited by the smells of garden cats and wild animals. We were excited by the amazing plants–oversized lilies, large rhododendrons, and a tremendous diversity of plants.

We saved some time for plant shopping. I found some specimens that are hard to find in most nurseries. Now that I have so much shade, I can consider some plants that couldn’t survive in my Central Valley garden with hot summer sun.

IMG_4478I’d go back to shop for plants (no entry fee needed) or to show the garden to friends. It is always inspiring to see a truly well designed garden.

We returned to Petaluma via Sebastopol and to Amy’s Drive In in Rohnert Park. Amy’s features delicious vegetarian diner food. It is just a block from an In-N-Out if you prefer a double-double.

 

 

My Renewed Passport in the Post!

I just got my renewed passport in the mail. It was a quick turnaround taking just 2 weeks without paying extra for speed. I mailed it on October 16, which turned out to be the last day of the federal government shutdown. Maybe mailing it on that day sounds like an act of faith, but I brimmed with confidence in the State Department and the US Postal Service when I dropped my old passport and my check in the mail. I have had a passport since I was 16 years old and I retain a certain nostalgic attachment to this travel document and the inscription inside: “The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”American Eagle

When I renewed my passport in the past they returned my old passport with a hole drilled through it like a used deck of cards from a casino. Alas, this time I did not get my retired passport back. Gone forever are the stickers from The Kingdom of Cambodia and 10 years of country stamps (when I could get customs to stamp it).

My new passport is covered in stiffer navy blue paper and every page is designed to inspire, from the Liberty Bell and quote from George Washington, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair,” to a space vehicle on the back inside cover. Does this mean that I will need my passport if I go on a voyage to the moon?

There is new electronic technology incorporated so there is a new admonition to not bend or “expose to extreme temperatures,” so if I go to Antarctica I will need to insulate my passport! There is also a new page of important website addresses that made me look for the ubiquitous, “Like us on Facebook.” I guess the State Department has not stooped to that yet.

My overall impression is a document that is no longer as serious as dignified as passports of yore. In fact, it rivals the US Park Service “passport” for information and childlike inspiration with drawings of eagles, buffalo, cowboys and longhorns. However, it acts as the passport to enter foreign countries and legally return home and that is serious and inspiring.

UPDATE: I received my old passport in the mail on November 4. Not sure why it was sent separately, just glad to be reunited.