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Ben and I just got back from Tiburon. It was lovely weather, and though we didn’t plan our activities, everything just fell together nicely.
We were inspired to go up because our neighbor said he was throwing his wife a surprise birthday party at this particular hotel, and if we wanted we could stay one or both nights at a discounted rate. Ben and I looked at each other and said, “hell yeah!” What a nice excuse to go on a little vacation.
We decided not to push ourselves too hard, so we went up late Friday, missed all the traffic, and took it easy. We made it there in about an hour, by 9:30. The hotel, the Water’s Edge, is right on Main St. in downtown Tiburon, right on the water’s edge (go figure 😉 ). It’s a funny combination of rustic elegance, modern elegance, and pure utilitarianism, which doesn’t really fit together well. The ceiling was high with wooden beams and wooden pillars, but the wood had been spackled and painted to look like … wood. So, almost rustic. The furniture was largely modern, Scandinavian Design looking, except for one lamp with a wicker lampshade. They clearly went out of their way to be elegant, with a down comforter and down pillows, a comfortable arm chair and a high-end flatpanel tv. But there wasn’t a microwave, or a fridge, or a coffee pot. There was just one hanger in the closet-nook (no door), so only one of us could hang up a jacket at a time, and the sink was your basic hotel-room sink, no better than I’d expect from a Holiday Inn. The tub was big and oval, very inviting… but it was about a foot shallower than I’ve ever seen a tub before. The whole place was just a little odd.
Saturday morning we took it slow, meandering out of the hotel around 10 and wandering a block to the Morning Cafe, where we only had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated outside (we could’ve sat inside immediately, but it was such a lovely day). All I can say is, their eggs benedict (I had the vegetarian with avocado on it) was delicious. I ate both eggs and was utterly stuffed.
The hotel’s guidebook said there’s a historical church and botanical preserve just half a mile away, called Old Saint Hilary’s Historical Preserve, with a map indicating approximately where it was, but of course Ben and I didn’t remember to take a picture of it. I had my pocket oracle (aka google maps on my iphone) which helped us remember where we thought it was (it didn’t show up on the map and I couldn’t remember what it was called) and then figure out how to walk there, but we didn’t want to walk along the streets. We kept looking for paths, and since Tiburon is so hilly, we found several staircases going between properties, leading from one street level to the next up the hill. Of course, while we were walking past people’s gardens, we had to peer in and see how they were doing it. Lots of terracing, and I think every single yard we saw was well maintained with beautiful flowers. Being spring-time helps, but … they must all keep gardeners. Everyone, in the whole town.§
Finally we happened upon an open clearing, and noticed a plaque* by the road, and Ben said, “hey that might be it”, even though it didn’t look like much more than an empty hill. Well, it was an empty hill full of native plants and a teeny old Catholic church with a steeple. So we wandered down the path, noticed they were also growing native rocks there, and were very impressed to notice poppies, little yellow daisy-like things, and even some blue-eyed grass in among the brown grass. At the bottom of the hill, there was the church, with a big ol’ sign next to it. I read the sign, and we found out that it had been built in the late 1800s, deconsecrated in the 50’s (why? they didn’t say), and then made a Historical Building in the 60’s. (What did it do in between?) I wanted to go in, but it was closed and the sign said it was only open from 1-4pm, Saturdays and Sundays.
But the sign (the first sign) said there was more native preserve down below the church, so we wandered down that way, admired the rock paths, the rock benches built into the terracing, and the little trickle of water seeping through one of the terrace-walls. A nice old lady asked us if we were from around here, and we struck up a conversation with her about the natives and the church, and we discovered that she’s a docent for the local historical spots, including this one. So she told us a bit about it, and that we should visit the Train and Ferry Museum by the shore.
Then we looked up and noticed, hey the church doors are open, we can sneak in! Apparently there was going to be a wedding in just 15 minutes, but in the meantime we could wander through and see the inside. Our own personal tour! It was a lovely, small, old church, and the pews had cushions with covers that had all been hand cross-stitched since it had become a museum, four of them by the docent herself, and they all depicted native flowers. While we were there, she gave us a flier showing where the other historical points are, and recommended that we go see them.
Then Ben and I wandered back down (the short way, which we hadn’t found going up) to Main St., wandered up to the train & ferry building, which was still closed, and went back to Sam’s Anchor Cafe**, which is just next door to our hotel and very well known. Clearly so, because the wait for a table for 2 on the deck (overlooking SF bay) was over an hour. :-/ Then we thought… wait, we’ve been wandering outside for a few hours, getting way too much sun… wouldn’t we rather sit inside? Why, yes! There was no wait to sit inside, where there were only two occupied tables. So we got food faster, and were happier. 🙂
Then we rested for a couple of hours, and I had stomach troubles :(, so we were late for drinks on the deck for the birthday party, but no one minded; and we met people, drank a bit of wine, and had a nice time. Dinner was wonderful at Guaymar’s, which is a mexican restaurant (not a taqueria). I had tamales with plantain and some kind of mild pepper. They were sweet, a little more sweet than necessary, but had a yummy sour cream (with something extra in it, but I’m not sure what) to go with them. We drank too many margaritas, and then went for a walk just after sunset.
Which meant that this morning we were dragging pretty hard, and didn’t leave the room until 11. Ben was tired and didn’t want to do anything, but once we made it out even he agreed that it would be nice to go for another walk, in the other direction this time. We happened upon the China Cabin, another Historical Building, which from the name I figured must be a little rustic thing that Chinese people had lived in. Right? Well, no. It’s the cabin from the deck of the SS China, a wooden steamship built in New York in 1866 for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, which then steamed between San Francisco and Yokohama and Hong Kong. When it was decommissioned***, it was sent to Tiburon to be burned, but some local guy saw the cabin and said “dude, I want to make a house out of that!”† It’s teeny outside, but amazing inside, with pocket (frosted glass) windows and pocket shutters over the window-openings, each of which easily slides into the wall next to it. One or both can be open or closed. And beautiful moldings and gold (is finials the right word here?) all over the walls and ceiling. It was amazing. And a chandelier, of course. So, we got there long before it was supposed to open (also from 1-4; apparently that’s when all of the historical sites are open), and were reading the sign and staring at the outside, saying to ourselves, “wow, it’s awfully small, how do real people fit in there”§§, when along came an older gentleman (apparently the local Landmark Society is primarily staffed by retired volunteers) who said, “I’m just here to set up and I’ll be back again at 1, but if you want a quick look now, you may come in with me.” And again we said, “hell yeah!” So we got our second personal tour of a historical site.
After that we wandered around, trying to understand where the lagoon between Tiburon and Belvedere gets its water from. There’s SF Bay all around Belvedere, and Tiburon has its little marina and the San Francisco Yacht Club (which therefore isn’t in San Francisco), and then there’s this lagoon. Which should connect the marina and/or yacht club on one side of SF Bay with the SF Bay on the other side, but there’s no access for water to get between. We never did figure it out, but we wandered†† into Belvedere and found more of the little staircases between roads§§§, many of which have names like Corinthian Lane. And beautiful houses, with amazing views, and we watched two gaggles of little boats†††, clearly youth sailing programs, learning to go round buoys. I was highly entertained.
We also made it in to the Railroad and Ferry Depot Museum, which had an amazing scale model of the railroad tracks that used to be where downtown Tiburon now is. Other than that, though, we were tired, and it was full of tourists, and we left pretty quickly.
The other bit of good fortune was about my fork. We’d brought some leftovers Friday night for a snack, and a fork to eat them with, and then left the fork in the bathroom (drying in a glass from having been washed) during the day on Saturday. This morning I couldn’t find it, and thought, “uh oh…” Ben hadn’t moved it, I hadn’t moved it… Yep, it had been “cleaned up” by housekeeping. Oops! So when we checked out this morning I wandered toward the sounds of dishes clinking, and found a guy whose English was just good enough to help me. We looked through the clean forks, the dirty forks… didn’t find it. Then we looked through the leftovers from breakfast, and lo! There it was! My fork had a nice tour of some other guest’s room (and mouth…) this morning! I was very glad to have it back.‡
I took a few pictures, but I haven’t uploaded them yet. So… you’ll have to wait for pictorial proof.
§ Well, Tiburon is a very nice town. Which is to say, very expensive. Presumably they can afford gardeners.
* There are plaques on nearly everything in Tiburon and Belvedere.
** Not to be confused with Sam’s Chowder House, which is just down the street from us. While our Sam’s serves chowder, we were sad to discover Tiburon’s Sam’s does not serve anchors.
*** Seems to me that decommissioning is not all that different from deconsecrating.
§§ Turns out it’s taller on the inside, because it has a popped-roof, which wasn’t as obvious from the outside. So, it really does fit normal-heighted people very comfortably.
† Yes, he said it just like that. You think I’m making it up?
†† They looked like El Toros, but not quite… google tells me they are called Optimists, and seem to be just a bit shorter. A web ad selling an Optimist says there are hundreds of thousands in existence and are very popular learning boats, but the El Toro International Yacht Racing Association website claims that El Toros are the most popular boat on the SF Bay. Despite the fact that the SF Yacht Club is using Optimists. I learned to sail on an El Toro. Horrid little boats, just like bathtubs, but they really are good to learn in.
§§§ Incidentally, Ben-the-tired was the one to suggest the first staircase we tackled. Once we were out and about, he felt much better and we had lots of fun exploring.
††† With all this wandering we did, I’m very glad to have used plenty of sunblock and a brimmed hat, and so I don’t seem to have gotten at all sunburned. Whew.
‡ You have to understand that this is a fork from the utensils that I grew up eating off of, so I’m particularly attached. And we don’t have many place-settings, and I’m not sure that they’re available anymore, and we use forks more than any other utensil in our house. So, I’m very glad we got it back.