Vancation: San Rafael & Sonoma

Early last week, Pete and a few coworkers ventured to the North Bay for a two-day race car extravaganza work trip. I tagged along in the Astro Van (being that it was Pete's only mode of transportation and my only means of slumber), utilizing my plentiful free time to explore the beautiful area. 

On the first day, after I dropped Pete off at the race track work, I traveled to the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, which was not only Frank Lloyd Wright's last commission but also a filming location for George Lucas' THX 1138

I spent a good chunk of time perusing the first-floor "museum," which serves to provide a history of the center's architecture and construction. Frank Lloyd Wright's only government facility, the Civic Center exquisitely illustrates the kinship between building and landscape.

This design philosophy, which Wright coined organic architecture, is prominently displayed throughout the Administration and Hall of Justice buildings, where Wright incorporates a plethora of atria (that's the plural of 'atrium' for those who need to brush up on their Latin), indoor greenery, a blue roof that blends into the sky and simple building materials. 

In reference to the harmonious environmental planning of this eventual national- and state-designated historic landmark, Wright states,
We know that the good building is not the one that hurts the landscape, but is one that makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before that building was built. In Marin County you have one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen, and I am proud to make the buildings of the County characteristic of the beauty of the County.
After my make-shift history lesson, I made my way to the top floors, taking a quick pit stop in the cafeteria for a cup of tea. The view wasn't half bad...

Circle themed
I drank my tea at a snail's pace, admiring the view, keeping in mind that I had nowhere to be for hours. Little did I know that even more brilliance awaited me. I refilled on hot water and made my way to the fourth floor, where I found a door leading outside.

Sweet! A patio! 

With every intention to sit at that table for the next hour, I wisely decided to snoop around first, noting the lush landscape that surrounded me. 

Around the corner, I spotted a trail, which led me to a magnificent set of stone steps. Up I went. 

And the view took my breath away! Not only was it a perfect 65 degrees on the last day on January, but there was no other human in sight. I felt like I owned the place. 

From this hilltop, you can see how the long horizontal buildings artistically link the crowns of three separate hills. In fact, Frank Lloyd Wright first viewed the site of the Civic Center from this hill and proclaimed, "I'll bridge these hills with graceful arches." And that he did.

After living in a van for the past month, this is a lot to take in. The trees! The birds! The mountains! And the roof's blue! So blended with the infinite sky! I'll just get my tent and move in. 

I spent a hearty amount of time at a picnic table on the top of the hill. From there, I cautiously placed my camera atop my tea cup, set the self timer, and posed with this bust. 

It took me three tries. Thankfully, I was alone, or else I'd really look like a fool. 

After my photo shoot, I sat down and jumped on The Hunger Games bandwagon. No regrets there. A couple hours later, I was getting some numb-butt on the picnic table, so it was time for a walk. 

I would like to think that the sign below is now out-of-date, but in college, my roommates and I once kept a real Christmas tree in our apartment until the end of March. Fire hazard, indeed.

Across from the Civic Center is Lagoon Park. And you guessed it, there's a lagoon. And lots of ducks. With lots of duck poop. 

I walked the circumference of the lagoon, catching a runaway pit bull midway. I settled on a bench overlooking the water and without hesitation, continued reading The Hunger Games. 

As the clouds started rolling in, it was beginning to get rather frigid. As much as I wanted to stay outside and enjoy the scenery, I opted for the comfort of Home Sweet Home. 

I settled in the Astro Van with my book, waiting to hear from Pete about meeting him at his hotel. That night, we had a stellar dinner, a bit of wine, beer, dice-gambling and a big big comfy hotel bed to sleep in! Oh, the appreciation for a big bed and space to stand up in nowadays!

The next morning, I bid Pete adieu as he and his coworkers were off to squeal tires work all day. I made my way back to that big comfy bed where I may or may not have watched the entirety of Titanic. 

That brings us to check-out. Losing the privilege of the hotel room, I headed to the lobby to do some vineyard research. I was in wine country and I was thirsty!

I opted for a vineyard about four miles down from the racetrack Pete's work site. From the handful of reviews I skimmed, Viansa Winery had one of the best views in Sonoma and mediocre wine. I was pretty sure their selection would beat my usual Carlo Rossi, so I was in. 

And yea, the views were killer. 

Pleasantly perched on top of a large hill, this winery and marketplace embodies a distinct Italian atmosphere. It is surrounded by copious vineyards, olive groves and flower gardens. It's sublime!

Before indulging, I took a bit of time to explore my surrounds, which made me feel like I was wandering the Tuscan countryside. 

Inside, I indulged in a wine tasting, giving their Arneis, Pinot Noir, Syrah and dessert wine a try. I rather enjoyed the dry, apricoty Arneis. It had an excellent full body and...who am I kidding? I don't speak wine. I liked it because the name "Arneis" literally translates to "little rascal." 

I picked up a bottle for someone special and bought myself a full glass of white to sip on whilst I continued my Hunger Games quest.  

May the odds be ever in your favor- to get me out of that damn chair!