Bats in the belfry

Since we happened to be in Fresno we thought we’d check out one of the local sights; the Forestiere Underground Gardens. This Italian guy; Baldassare Forestiere, decided one day that he wanted to build a catacomb garden and started digging back in 1906 and by 1923 he had over 10 acres worth of catacombs and it was only because he died early that he didn’t get to 20 acres. Well, when we got there just minutes after one of the tours left and the next one wasn’t until an hour later. We decided we didn’t have time to wait for that and got back on the road instead.

There was another attraction we wanted to see before going further south; The Winchester Mystery House. It was built by the widow to one of the presidents of the Winchester Rifle Company which left her with a hefty pile of money. Upon her husband’s death she moved out to San Jose in 1884 and started the construction of the monumental house which stayed under continuous construction; 24 hours a day until the day she died 37 years later. When she died, the house had 160 rooms, all designed by the lady herself. The house has all manners of oddities, like a door opening up to an 8 foot drop, a chimney ending just inches from the ceiling, a staircase in the ceiling, a window in the floor, the list just goes on. I love it when rich people go bananas!

Anyways, we drove back to the coast, on a maddeningly boring straight road. Four hours or so later we pulled up to the Winchester house. The tour went through 110 of the rooms and we learned that the lady Winchester was obsessed by the number thirteen and when something in her house didn’t match up to said number, she tended to fix it. For instance; the chandelier she ordered from Germany that came with only twelve candles she fixed by soldering an extra candle to the middle of it (it was an electrical chandelier). The add-on was crooked and looked awful, but at least there were thirteen candles…

She had also constructed rooms from which she could spy on any of her many servants. She paid them in cash every day, that way she could fire them without trouble, which she also did quite often. The house was also filled with winding staircases with very low steps because lady Winchester had arthritis and couldn’t lift her feet more than a couple of inches. On the whole an enjoyable experience.

Next up was to get back to the coast. That meant driving north through the very hilly Silicon Valley where we passed by all the places you’ve heard so much about; Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mountain View. The place we were heading for is called Half Moon Bay and lies right on the coast. Just when we came within the city limits we saw a bunch of very cool dinosaurs painstakingly welded together out of sheet metal. We immediately stopped and snapped a few pictures of the beasts and also wandered around the shop of the guy that built them. There were quite a few cool creations there, one that specifically caught my fancy was one of those gas heaters you see in cafés to which he had welded palm leaves and coconuts. It looked quite stylish!

Half Moon Bay also had a nice beach that we walked along for a bit before heading down to Santa Cruz for the night.

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