Immigrant House at Heritage Park in Mountain View

Admire the Tiny House at Heritage Park, Mountain View

The entrance to the Immigrant House at Heritage Park in Mountain View and an information signage in front.

Heritage Park at 771 N. Rengstorff opened in 2016 to show off Mountain View’s history as a farm town. The grand jewel of the 1.2 acre park is the 1880s-area Immigrant House. Once thousands of these tiny houses were homes for the immigrant workers of the Valley of Heart’s Delight. With a footprint of about 400 square feet it is basically a tiny bedroom and a kitchen area. Immigrant House is Mountain View’s last such cabin.

Interior of the Immigrant House, a kitchen setting.

Thanks to the Kiwanis Club, a grant from Google, Santa Clara County, private donors, and the Friends of the Immigrant House, the Immigrant House moved twice and landed at its permanent location. Currently, due to the pandemic,  there are no guided tours for the inside of the house. But you can take a peak and see the lovely decorated interior. The front room shows a table with two stools, a shelf and a kitchen cabinet. The bedroom has a tiny bed.

The oven was also used for cooking. The information signage in front briefs us that the cost of rent in the 1930s and 1940s was $11 per month. A whopping $161 in today’s terms. To put this in perspective, farmworkers.org lists the farmworker wages between 1929 and 1933 to $1.90 a day.1 Assuming a 6-day workday, monthly wages are about $46. This means rent would have been roughly 1/4 of their income, and clearly counts as affordable in today’s terms.2

80-year-old windmill at Heritage Park, Mountain View.

Other amenities of the park are the 80-year-old windmill, bees, and a community garden. The 130 trees originate from the previous owners and include 30 different varieties. There are tree identifiers placed next to them. Hopefully the annual Harvest History Festival, celebrated in September, can resume this year.

It is great to see the historic significance of the workers of the Valley of Heart’s Delight in the focus of this park. 

Have you been to Heritage Park?

If you’d like to peek into local history I’d also recommend the Los Altos History Museum. They have another tiny house example of this time period, a tank house.

Footnotes

1“As the Depression deepened, the growers slashed wages and laid off workers. Between 1929 and 1933, wages dropped from $3.50 to $1.90 a day.” https://www.farmworkers.org/strugcal.html

2Affordable Housing: Affordable housing is generally defined as housing on which the occupant is paying no more than 30 percent of gross income for housing costs, including utilities. https://archives.hud.gov/local/nv/goodstories/2006-04-06glos.cfm

Android Lawn Statues surrounded by caution tape

Hope for Reconstruction of the Android Lawn Statues, Mountain View

Foam sculpture of a donut, partly destroyed.

The Android Lawn Statues were always an interesting excursion to show visitors. On my last visit, about a week ago, this place looked appalling. Caution tape was around the perimeter. The figures, which are larger than life sculptures of each new Android operating release, were either busted or completely removed. Named after sweet treats and candy, like Kit Kat and cupcake, these Android figures are made from foam.

Oreo Android figure wrapped in caution tape.

After the 2018 pie release, Google decided to go on a more boring route. The releases are now designed by numbers, starting with 10, which has an Android head peeking out of the zero.. For 11 and 12 you can see a virtual 3-D model. Interesting maybe to a nerd to find some inscription on the back – but unfortunately, it lost its cute appeal.

The lawn statues garden is located on 1981 Landings Drive; the Google merchandise store used to be steps away. Google decided to close down the store and now only has an online version. 

Hope is on the horizon

Hope is on the horizon
Google's Charleston East building is still under construction.

Google’s Charleston East (Google’s futuristic new campus) is almost here and they promised to open the first floor to the public. Watch this video by Tech Insider (​​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGx-sYIFHmE). The circus-like canopy shape introduces another interesting office building to Silicon Valley, joining Apple’s spaceship and Nvidia’s triangular headquarter. Or like the Bjarke Ingles Group architects call it: “smile-shaped clerestories”. In a report from the Mountain View Voice in February of last year, Charleston East’s public access could be revised to just allowing non-Googlers to enter on the west side of the building. Amid security concerns the tech giant might also put a, none the less pretty, wall around its campus.

Funny also, that the Android Lawn Statues have a neglected Facebook page, with a link to an Android fan site, but no official Google page.

I understand that these are office buildings and there is no responsibility to share anything with the public. Nevertheless, visitors to Silicon Valley long to see evidence of the high tech giving back to the community – even if it’s only in the form of some large foam statues. 

Have you been to Mountain View? Here is my list of 50 things to do in Mountain View.

A man walking

Hide inside a Giant Redwood, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Welcome sign to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Start of the New Year with a hiking challenge at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. First Day Hikes is a nationwide program to promote a healthy lifestyle. To start off easy I recommend the 40-acres Redwood grove at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The loop trail is a 0.8 miles flat hike. The loop starts at the visitor center, which is only open Friday – Sundays from 10am to 3pm. During the rain it gets muddy, so it isn’t wheelchair accessible, at least in the wet months. If you’d like to learn about the park while on the trail I recommend downloading the audio tour and then start on the right hand side of the loop. This way the audio clues are counting up. The parking fee is $10 per vehicle.

The beginning of the loop trail.

We did enjoy the rain and were somewhat covered by these 1,500 year old trees. There are a few possibilities to ‘hide’ inside one of the giants. The largest is the Fremont tree, it was the campside of the Fremont exhibition which surveyed the shortest route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. A whole family can fit inside the Fremont tree. You should bring a flashlight to look around while inside. The other options are more covers than hiding spots. But nevertheless they give you a close encounter with these majestic trees. 

In addition to the 0.8 loop there are a few other trails with different difficulty levels and terrains.

I'm in a tree

In January, each Saturday at noon, there will be an Old-Growth Redwood Tour. Check out their event page for even more educational fun.    

Have you ever hid inside a Redwood tree?

A couple enjoying the view at the College of San Mateo.

Enjoy the View at the Farmers’ Market, College of San Mateo

Pumpkins at the farmers' market, College of San Mateo.

The farmers’ market at the College of San Mateo is most likely voted for ‘Best View for a Farmers’ Market’. Every Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm you can shop for local produce, grab some lunch, listen to some music, and sign up for your compost class. A list of vendors can be found on the webpage of the Pacific Coast Farmers Market, but they also do a great job updating their facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CollegeofSanMateoFarmersMarket/, to highlight seasonal produce.

View of the Dumbarton Bridge from the College of San Mateo.

Nothing says fall like huge pumpkins. Other stands sold apples, one had an amazing variety of succulents, and of course there were lots of stands with everything else in season. The Buds contributed their music and had two little girls dance to it. Our discovery was the ramen stand, where you can buy concentrated broth and fresh noodles.

The Buds are playing while two little girls are dancing.

And, like I said, the view is outstanding. Even on a cloudy day you can see San Francisco and the Dumbarton Bridge. The planetarium has an atrium that is perfect for enjoying your lunch. 

The College of San Mateo is located at 1700 West Hillsdale Boulevard. Parking is available at the Galileo parking lot, next to the planetarium. Don’t worry there are signs.  

People eating lunch on the steps to the planetarium.

What is your favorite farmers’ market?

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, farmers’ market in Silicon Valley is in Mountain View. About every town has their own farmers’ market with their own feel. Try them all!

A fuzzy cactus with a bright red flower.

Find What’s in Bloom at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek

A group of cacti, one with a yellow flower.

At the entrance to the Ruth Bancroft Garden you’ll be handed a map to see what’s in bloom. If you want to come prepared, print it out from their website. The fee to see the succulent garden is $10 for adults with discounts for seniors and children. An amount well spent if you like succulents and drought resistant plants. There are large varieties and they have some in bloom each month.

Two buckets with parasols at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek.

If you go on a sunny day make sure to pick up a parasol to shade you while exploring. The murals at the entrance are also noteworthy, but inside it is spectacular. Large cacti and palm trees vying for attention together with the huge varieties of succulents. The fruits are interesting as well, but please don’t touch the prickly pear, they have thorns. 

Water lily at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek.

This is the perfect environment for lizards. They will zip by and then stop to look at you. The koi pond with the water lilies was an added surprise.

Afterwards check out the adjacent nursery. Cute succulents arranged in a pot and, of course, a large variety of sempervivum, cacti and other drought resistant plants.

Bench at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden with 3.5 acres is larger than the Arizona Garden in Stanford. Both are equally spectacular. On selected evenings between 5:30 and 8:30 pm, November to January, the garden transforms into the Garden of D’Lights and they promise to ‘glow your mind’! Tickets are available at their website and cost $16 – $24 for adults and children between 6 and 15 pay $8 to $12.

Opening hours are:

March – October

Tuesday – Thursday: 9AM to 4PM (last admissions at 3:15pm)

Friday – Sunday: 10AM to 5PM (last admissions at 4:15pm)

November – February

Tuesday – Sunday: 9AM to 4PM (last admissions at 3:15pm)

Do you like seeing blooming succulents?

Castro Valley Marketplace sign

Meet up with some Friends at the Castro Valley Marketplace

Seven Hills Baking Co inside of Castro Valley Marketplace.

We are all ready to go out again to meet friends. I know, the mask mandate for indoor places has been reinstated. Nevertheless you could go to the Castro Valley Marketplace, shop and hang out at the many outside tables. This is a much smaller version of the San Francisco Ferry Building, but they both talk to the foodie in you. Castro Valley Marketplace has olive oils and spices, an artisan bakery, and a butcher, a sushi counter, and a brewery. All of this gets put together with a natural food store. Oh, and the basement has a cellar and lounge. You immediately get why their slogan is: “Only good things, only good food”.

Outside patio of the Castro Valley Marketplace.

We visited on a Sunday with the brunch crowd. There was a band playing outside and people were enjoying themselves. Nobody seemed to mind the 50 minutes wait for their food order. This space is made for gatherings. If you want to grab a quick bite you might choose the prepared foods at Castro Valley Natural Grocery. This, by the way, is Castro Valley’s first locally owned, independently operated, and certified green whole health market. Besides the tables outside there are a few tables upstairs. The upstairs right now hints at the potential for more gatherings with a pop out kitchen. Future plans are to have cooking classes and local makers to share their talent and products.

Formerly the Daughtrey’s department store, the Castro Valley Marketplace had its grand opening on July 9th, 2021.

Castro Valley mural inside of the Castro Valley Marketplace.

You can find the Castro Valley Marketplace at 3295 Castro Valley Boulevard.

I did not receive any compensation to publish this blog post. 

Remember my post from two weeks ago: Treat yourself to something sweet? If you were looking for the alfajores and did not have time to stop by the Wooden Table Cafe in Oakland, you can find them at the Castro Valley Natural Grocery store!

The entrance to the sensory garden.

Relish with all Senses – Sensory Garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt

Squirrel drinking out of a fountain at the Sensory Garden, Lake Merritt.

I did give you a little break before I write again of yet another garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt. You enter the Sensory Garden through a tile covered archway. It right away heightens your senses. You smell the mint and other herbs and notice all the colorful flowers. The whole garden is planted in raised beds that make it easy to touch the plants. The smoothed edged bricks are guidance for the visually impaired. The path meanders towards a shady seating area. We were delighted to watch a squirrel drink from the beautiful fountain. 

The former Herb and Fragrance Garden, established in 1978, got a makeover in 2004 through a collaboration of members of the Oakland East Bay Garden Center, the City’s Public Works Agency, and members of the Hillside Gardeners of Montclair. If you wish to help out and further experiment with your senses you are welcome to volunteer every third Saturday of the month in the morning.

Mint at the Sensory Garden.

The Sensory Garden is part of the Gardens of Lake Merritt at

666 Bellevue Ave, in Oakland, located near the South-West gate.

Which one is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Previous posts of the gardens were:

Bonsai next to a sign for the Bonsai Garden of Lake Merritt.

Pick your Favorite Bonsai, Gardens of Lake Merritt

Maple bonsai at the Bonsai Garden, Lake Merritt.

In last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee at the Gardens of Lake Merritt I mentioned there was more to come. The bonsai garden, the only all volunteer based bonsai garden in the U.S., is an outstanding display of this Japanese tradition. Over a hundred little trees in a pot are presented. The oldest is over 1,600 years old!

Suiseki bunny

Open since 1999 the Bonsai Garden also features a collection of suiseki stones. Suiseki stones, also known as viewing stones, are stones that suggest a scene from nature. They are usually displayed as found and not modified. 

The cedar entrance gate to this garden is by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakaguchi from Northern California.

The gate to the bonsai garden by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakuguchi.

The Gardens of Lake Merritt are free, but donations are appreciated.

What is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Here is a link to last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee.

Entrance of Nola's Iris Garden, San Jose.

Admire the Multitude of Irises at Nola‘s Iris Garden, San Jose

Iris in bloom.

Nola’s Iris Garden is an insider tip for iris lovers. The garden is only open April – May. So, mark your calendars if you like irises!

I drove up Sierra Road, the east foothills of San Jose. Halfway up my ears started popping and regretted that there is no place to stop to admire the view over San Jose.

Fountain surrounded by irises at Nola's Iris Garden.

Nola’s Iris Garden sprawls a whooping 5 acres of irises of all colors and sizes. I counted four different garden areas. If there was a pattern to these areas I was not able to see it. They all had a mixture of colors and great names like Pass the Shades and Wishful Thinking.

There is no admission to see the garden. In fact, it is not obvious that you could purchase these irises. They definitely have their website set up, so you can browse and contact them if you made a purchasing decision. 

Iris at Nola's Iris Garden, San Jose.

Opening hours are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Nola’s Iris Garden is located 4195 Sierra Road in San Jose.

Do you have an insider tip for me?

Read the post about the iris garden in Willow Glen. It has a fascinating history! 

50 things to do in Cupertino

Explore 50 Things to do in Cupertino

Since Tuesday we are officially ordered to ‘shelter in place’. So I like to take this time to introduce you to my series: ‘50 things to do’. I try to find 50 things to do in a city nearby. It is an interesting challenge and I enjoy discovering every aspect of a city.

Bowling balls at Homestead Bowl, Cupertino.

In my latest ‘50 things to do’ I discovered Cupertino. Most of you might know Cupertino as Apple’s headquarters, but this is not all this city has to offer. I was really surprised to see how many interesting options for sports they have. From disc golf to archery, hiking in the hills, and yoga in the park. This city also has two bowling alleys and an ice rink!

aquarium at the Cupertino library

There are some cool outings for kids, too, like the 16 feet wide aquarium in the library or the Deer Hollow Farm at Rancho San Antonio. If you like to explore local history you’ll be able to enjoy a few fascinating finds.

If you have any suggestions of places that I might have missed I’d love to hear from you!

Are you ready to explore Cupertino (virtually)?