Stairs to Esplanade Beach, Pacifica.

Step down to Esplanade Beach, Pacifica

Shoes on Esplanade Beach with Pacific in the back.

Esplanade Beach was our most recent discovery. We grabbed some lunch from Rosalind’s Bakery (recently featured on a post about my favorite sweet treats) and drove down to Esplanade Beach. Street parking was plentiful. The first impression from above was not too thrilling. We parked near a chain linked fence that was obstructing our ocean view and left us with an uneasy feeling about the safety of these cliffs. The entrance to the beach is on Esplanade Ave, which has multiple apartment complexes. There were a few benches on a lookout above. 

Stairs to the Esplanade Beach in Pacifica

The real treat is the stairs leading down to the beach. This is quite a workout! I did not count how many steps or switchbacks there were but they kept on going. I would recommend slowing down for the last part because the sand on the stairs makes them slippery. 

Looking up at the stairs cliff side with sparse plants and netting.

You can tell that the stairs have gotten an overhaul recently. The plants to minimize erosion haven’t filled out the netting yet.
This is Pacifia’s only official off leash dog beach. We saw a few dogs enjoying the run. Visit Pacifica warns to check out the tide schedule since the beach can be narrow at high tide.  For the same reason,  you should probably refrain from walking here during stormy weather.

Looking up the cliff at Esplanade Beach, Pacifica.

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, September 18th is Coastal Cleanup Day. A great way to beautify these beaches and remove plastic pollution. If you’re really enjoying this you can help clean Esplanade Beach every 3rd Saturday of the month.

How do you step up for your local beaches?

If you relish an outdoor steps workout also consider Communication Hill in San Jose, or the Trailhead stairs in Saratoga.

Bench with spray painted Peace

Find Peace Hiking the Milagra Ridge, Pacifica

Entrance to a bunker with graffiti at Milagra Ridge, Pacifica.

Historically the Milagra Ridge was not known for peace, in fact several 6-inch guns were mounted here in 1948 as part of a project to protect San Francisco. In 1959, Milagra Ridge was known as Nike Missile Site SF-51. Surface-to-air missiles were stationed here and the entire area was fenced and patrolled by guards with dogs. You can still see the remaining bunkers, now spray painted with graffiti. 

View from the Miragra trail towards the Pacific.

These days Milagra Ridge gives shelter to threatened and endangered species, like the Mission blue and San Bruno elfin butterfly, and the California red-legged frog. This makes this park exceptionally vulnerable to human disturbance. Maybe this also explains the minimal parking, about six spaces off Sharp Park Rd. 

Nevertheless nowadays Milagra Ridge offers amazing views, weather permitting, of the Pacific. You can see the Pacifica pier from here. The hike itself was fairly easy. We did loop around for a 1.5 mile hike, and there were some steps involved. But if you are wheel-dependent there are also some paved roads. I was disappointed that the labyrinth was closed off due to butterfly protection efforts.

Labyrinth at Milagra Ridge, Pacifica.

Milagra Ridge is a 239 acres park of the National Park Service Open Space in Pacifica and part of the 119 square mile Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Where do you find peace?

Steps to an overlook at Milagra Ridge trail.

Another option to find a peaceful hike is the Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel.

If you are looking for more hikes with steps I wrote the post for a hike in Saratoga: 

Climb some Stairs in Saratoga

Coffee mug with cocohodo.

Treat Yourself to Something Sweet

Today my mother would’ve been 80. Being German she loved coffee and cake in the afternoon. I’ll definitely have a nice piece of cake and a strong coffee in her honor. In this post I picked five Bay Area bakeries with special treats I love. I am not affiliated with any of the businesses and have not received anything for posting this. (This is not to say I wouldn’t be open to a taste test.)

Pastelaria Adega – San Jose

Pastel de nata at Pastelaria.

One of my favorite sweets is pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry. Pastelaria Adega in San Jose does it right. You can watch them making the tart and stirring the custard in a large copper pot. Besides the traditional plain they also have fruit versions. If you are not interested in custard, maybe try some of their donuts, or savory items?

Wooden Table Baking Co – Oakland

A display of alfajores at the Wooden Table Cafe.

Alfajores – You had me at dulce de leche; put two shortbread cookies around and you get this Argentinian dessert. For an extra indulgence try them covered in chocolate! They also have many gluten-free options.

Cocohodo – Sunnyvale

Machine making cocohodo at Cocohodo in Sunnyvale.

Cocohodo is a traditional Korean pastry, shaped like a walnut, filled with bean paste and a chunk of walnut. If I still had a small child this would be my go-to place. You can watch the machine that makes the pastry right there, while also enjoying their great coffee.

Mini Taiyaki Cafe – Santa Clara

A taiyaki waffle shaped fish.

Another Korean favorite are taiyaki – fish shaped cakes filled with either custard, hazelnut spread, or red bean paste. They are freshly made and come in four fishes. The cafe is actually a hair salon and due to COVID restriction not a sit-down cafe. The taiyaki are fun when they are warm, but they don’t travel well.

  • Mini Taiyaki Cafe
  • 5075 Stevens Creek Blvd
  • Santa Clara, CA 95051

Rosalind Bakery – Pacifica

Croissants from Rosalind.

The artisan bread at Rosalind is amazing, but their croissants are what I crave. The almond one is filled with almond paste, topped with shaved almond, and the crunch is music to my ears.

Where do you go for sweet treats?

Fishing gear at the Pacifica pier

Go Fishing on a Public Pier

I have never been fishing or hunting. I think hunting is a bit too much for survival skills, but fishing seems like an interesting capability to know. 

People fishing on the Pacifica pier.

The other day we went to the public fishing pier in Pacifica. It smells like salt-water and fishing bait. I saw people use shrimp, calamari and little fish as live bait. I am not sure, but I think there might be a distinction of what fish you can catch depending on where on the pier you cast your rod.

People with fishing gear walking on the Pacifica pier.

If you prefer to go fishing on a lake you can either apply for a license or take advantage of the two Free Fishing Days. The last one this year was  on July 4th and the next one is on September 5th, 2020. 

While everyone over 16 years of age needs a license to go fishing, in California, the exception is if you fish from a public pier for your non-commercial use. (https://wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/beach-fishing#320781172-where-and-when-can-i-fish-in-the-ocean-without-a-fishing-license

Fishing rods at Pacifica public pier.

To learn how to fish the California Department of Fish and Wildlife usually offers in person clinics. Well, not right now. But they have videos to teach you fishing.

Have you ever fished on a public pier?

Walking in the cloud at the Devils Slide Coastal Trail.

Walk in the clouds

Sign for Devil Slide Coastal Trail.

The chances of fog are high at the Devil’s Slide Trail in Pacifica. The former Interstate 1 made hiking trail is a 1.3 mile stretch with ocean views on one side and a rocky hill on the other. 

At the Devils Slide Coastal Trail a warning sign: Step back steep cliff.

Numerous landslides made this stretch of Highway 1 a dangerous road. When San Mateo County proposed to have the interstate go over the Montara Mountain Ollie Mayer an activist and environmentalist fought successfully for a tunnel. The Devil’s Slide Trail opened in March 2014 as part of the initiative’s agreement. 

Since it is paved the trail is great for bikers, wheelchairs and strollers. When we arrived two moms just packed their babies into their cars. The slopes make it challenging for wheels and especially on wet days it can be tricky.

View of Egg Rock from Devils Slide Coastal Trail.

I particularly liked the story from one information sign of the reestablishment of the Common Murres colony on Egg Rock, a rock formation peeking out of the Pacific. An already diminishing bird population was erased by the Apex Houston 1986 oil spill. In 1996 a restoration project was started and the birds were tricked into recolonize by mirrors, decoys and broadcast murre calls, a method called social attraction. The Common Murres population grew from 12 in 1996 to 3200 in 2013! If you bring two quarters you can zoom in on Egg Rock with a telescope.

Exit of the south side tunnel at Devils Slide, Pacifica.

Parking is available on the north or the south entrance of the tunnel. Open from dusk till dawn. No parking fee. There is even a bus stop!

Where do you hike in the clouds?


Haoyun Erin Zhao art work for the 50|50 show at the Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica

Get your instant art gratification

View from the main gallery hallway exhibit of 50|50, Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica.

50 artworks created in 50 days by more than 60 artists. Now in its eleventh year the 50|50 show held by the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica is a great success. Artists challenge themselves to create 50 pieces of artwork each on a small canvas in 50 days. 

Main gallery with some of the 50|50 artwork, Sanchez Center, Pacifica.

The work is arranged in 7 x 7 grid and the 50th piece on the side. Everything was for sale, right there. You can be the owner of some special creation and take it home right away. I’ve seen price ranges from $45 to $150. Some artists give a discount if you buy 2 or more. 

Single image viewers, Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica.

If you get overwhelmed by the mass of images you can grab yourself a single image viewer to experience only part of the collection.

Part of Kimberley D’Adamo Green's 50|50 artwork, Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica.

Opening night was August 30th, 2019. We visited on Sunday there were a lot of missing images. Some artists put up a photo of the whole project, so you could identify both what was sold and how the whole collection looked. 

Gallery hours are Fridays to Sundays from 1 pm – 5 pm. The exhibit runs until September 22. 

Have you been to the 50|50 art show in Pacifica?


Sam's Castle, Pacifica

Tour Sam’s Castle

Have you ever noticed the castle up on the hills in Pacifica? It has a fantastic history and lots of stories and artifacts. They open the doors to Sam’s Castle once a month for a tour. I was very happy when I got invited by the Mazza Foundation to see the castle. The Mazza Foundation is a  private philanthropic foundation established by the estate of our founder and last owner of Sam’s Castle, Sam Mazza.

Sam Mazza's throne at Sam's Castle in Pacifica.

The castle was built by Henry Harrison McCloskey in 1908, as an earthquake/fireproof home. Pete McCloskey, former California congressman, learned about his grandfather’s former home while canvassing in Pacifica with his dad. But the true king of the castle was Italian immigrant Sam Mazza. Sam acquired the castle in 1958 and was also the main decorator who had a reputation for collecting eccentric pieces.

Light refreshments after the tour of Sam's Castle, Pacifica.


Our hosts Jeannette, CEO of the Mazza Foundation and Bridget, author of the book ‘Sam’s Castle’ welcomed us. After a short movie of Sam Mazza’s life as a castle owner we learned a myriad of stories, from ghost stories to historical tidbits and tales from contemporary witnesses while inspecting some of the rooms. The tour ended with a light snack in the dining room overlooking the ocean.

They also hold music salons and high teas as special events. Please see the Mazza Foundation web site for details.

Chandelier at Sam's Castle, Pacifica.

A perfect outing for history buffs and location junkies like me. The place is full of Interesting nicknacks – and to preserve these, no one under 18 is allowed inside. I loved the opportunity to see the interior of this unusual place and enjoyed the history.

Have you been inside Sam’s castle?

Disclosure: I was invited to see this place. My review is an honest recapture.




Breath in the peace of Shelldance Orchid Gardens

Breath in the peace of Shelldance Orchid Gardens

Last weekend we tried to escape the smoke by going to Pacifica. Of course everywhere in the Bay Area the air was considered unhealthy to hazardous. My heart goes out to the people in Paradise and the neighboring cities who have lost everything! For us the ocean was a relief. Some salty air, waves crashing.

Succulents and Bromelias at the Shelldance Orchid GardensI also was glad that we took the steep road to the Shelldance Orchid Gardens. Only open on Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am – 5 pm. When you enter you will be transported into a different world. I was reminded of the Botanical Garden in Berlin where the tropical plants are. I started my wandering about in the Northwing and was greeted by Spanish Moss. I found a lot of air plants. Immediately calmed, it was quite a magical moment.

cat drinking out of ikebana dish at the Shelldance Orchid GardensI followed the house cat to her claimed water dish, which also was a ikebana arrangement from last weeks class. They have a beautiful reception room for weddings and other parties and of course there are orchids. I was told people even board their orchids here. In the Conservatory you can admire all different kinds of orchids, but if you find a price tag it means it could be yours.

enjoy the flowers sign at the Shelldance Orchid GardensThe owners, Nancy Victoria Davis and Michael Rothenberg are both artists. Committed in helping local artists, they offer an exhibit space in the art gallery room. Davis and Rothenberg have created a lovely place for the community to get together.

Where did you go to escape the smoke?

 

Sanchez Adobe in Pacifica

Admire the oldest house in San Mateo County

There is plenty of history surrounding the site of the Sanchez Adobe in Pacifica. An important site for the Costanoan Indians, a supplemental mission farm for Mission Dolores, the home of Don Francisco Sanchez (former mayor of San Francisco), residence of General Kirkpatrick, a hotel, a speakeasy, an artichoke storage facility and finally a museum.

An old method to grind cornAt the Adobe house kids can learn a great deal about the first inhabitant  Don Francisco Sanchez and his living conditions around 1845. A school group will rope a ‘cow’, make adobe bricks, or grind some corn.

Remains of the agricultural outpost for the Mission Dolores can be seen next to the house. They are the only known remains of the many outpost that once thrived in the area. The remains of the Mission outpost

Every third Saturday in September is Rancho Day Fiesta, a celebration of early California living.

General admission is free with an option to donate. Opening hours are Tuesday-Thursday 10 am – 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm.

Have you been to the Adobe House?

 

Further reading:

Sanchez Adobe History:

http://www.historysmc.org/sanchez-adobe-history

City of Pacifica – Sanchez Adobe Historic Site

http://www.cityofpacifica.org/about/history/adobe/default.asp

National Park Service – Sanchez Adobe Park

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/ca/ca34.htm

Costanoan Indians

http://factcards.califa.org/cai/costanoan.html

 

Science not Silence, pin designed by Penelope Dullaghan

Stand up for science

April 22nd 2017 is Earth Day and you can support your scientist by marching. Many of the marches end with an Earth Day celebration, or with activities for kids. A great way to introduce the importance of marching for democratic rights to your children.

Science not Silence, pin designed by  Penelope Dullaghan
Science not Silence pin designed by
Penelope Dullaghan

Like the Women’s March on January 21st, the March for Science’s biggest crowds are expected in Washington D.C. But there are eight satellite marches in the Bay Area where you can show your support:

 

San Francisco Start: Justin Herman Plaza, 11:00 AM; End: Civic Center Plaza

San Jose Start: San Jose City Hall, 11:00 AM; End: Plaza de Cesar Chavez

Santa Cruz Start: Santa Cruz City Hall, 10:00 AM; End: San Lorenzo Park

Pacifica Start: 2:30 PM, from Linda Mar Beach to Rockaway Beach and back

Walnut Creek Start: Civic Park, 10:00 AM

Livermore Start and End: Livermore High School; 1:00 PM

Hayward Start: Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center, 10:00 AM

Berkeley Start: Sproul Plaza, 4:00 PM

Here is a list of Earth Day events in the Bay Area:

http://www.bayareaearthday.org/bayareaearthdayevents/

 

Will you stand up for science?