Posts Tagged ‘gold rush’

There’s nothing like house guests to propel you off the couch and out of the house.

It seems that every time we have visitors, we discover something new in our own backyard. Just when you think you know your neighborhood pretty darn well (especially when your town and all the towns around it are the size of postage stamps), an out-of-towner comes along and opens a previously unopened door and you think, how did I not know about this thing or place or person?

This was certainly the case this past week with my dad out in Drytown from Boston for eight days. We did our fair share of lounging around the house, attempting to keep cool in 100 degree heat, and we revisited some favorite haunts, but we also discovered a few amazing (a-ma-zing) new locations.

Over the year and five months we’ve been living in Amador County, we’ve started to rack up some great restaurants, bakeries, markets, hikes, and other fun local activities that are noteworthy enough to jot down for future days when guests are in town. Until now, though, they’ve been stored away in the cobwebs of my brain. For readers planning to tour the area or for those who just want a glimpse of life in gold country, I’ve decided to add a new feature to the blog, Foothill Finds.

The Foothills are nestled north to south along the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This is where the gold rush took place in the 1850s, and many of the towns here were once booming enough to be considered as potential state capitols (Drytown, which is now just a blip along Highway 49, once had 26 saloons in town!). Today the region is rural and sleepy, but there are plenty of historical points of interest, antique shops, good vineyards, good eats, and gorgeous landscapes to draw tourists to the area.

Foothill Finds will be part travelogue, part travel guide, a section in which I’ll share notes on where we’ve been that’s worth a detour.

So here goes, Foothill Finds, take one.


Point of Interest: Imperial Hotel

Location: Amador City, CA

Activity: Drinks in the garden

Just three miles from our front door is the Imperial Hotel in the charming town of Amador City. We pass through there regularly for bread and pastries at our favorite local bakery, Andrae’s, and I go zipping through on my way to work at the Cheese Shoppe in Sutter Creek. But until last week, it had never occured to us to walk through the doors of the handsome 1879 brick facade of the Imperial.

So when Dad suggested we pop over for a drink, after hearing about the hotel all the way back in Boston, we jumped at the chance to investigate a new watering hole.

We drove the back road from Drytown past the Fremont and Bunker Hill mines and then down the hill into quiet Amador City, my favorite “city” in the area. The hotel sits facing the rest of town with a second story balcony that hangs out over the front of the building. The front door leads you straight into the saloon with an attractive barroom maintained in the style of what one would imagine were the glory days of the hotel.

We thought about sitting with the cowboy at the bar, but the room was heavily airconditioned, and I wanted to sit outside, so we walked through the long, exposed brick dining room to the back of the restaurant, where glass paneled doors led to an unexpected find, a European style garden.

Young olive trees, trellised vines, mini cypress in terra cotta planters, a bubbling fountain, and white globe lanterns overhead made us feel like we had stepped out the door into an Italian courtyard. What a heavenly perch for a pre-dinner drink.

Channeling my mother, my first reaction was, What a great spot for a party! And, as it turned out, they were hosting a rehearsal dinner in the garden an hour after we arrived. Had we not had to vacate our table for the incoming party, I could have easily whiled away the evening there. But an hour-long cocktail was plenty to appreciate the tranquility of the place and to add it to the “must return here” list.

Bastien and I ordered cosmopolitans, and Dad ordered a glass of Chandon Blanc de Noirs. And for $9, we split a Mediterranean Plate with house-made hummus, baba ghanoush, pita, greens with olives and roasted tomatoes. The rest of the menu advertises French and Italian influenced American bistro fare. A few highlights from the menu include Liberty Duck Breast ($29), Chicken Marsala ($23), Pumpkin ravioli ($13), and Bistro steak ($24).

The food, unfortunately, was the one disappointment of the evening. Someone in the kitchen clearly has yet to discover salt, and the hummus and baba ghanoush were completely bland. I can’t report on the rest of the food, as we didn’t stay for dinner, but as you can see from the photo below, our enjoyment was unmitigated by the flavorless appetizer.

It won’t be long before we’re headed back for more cosmos in the garden!



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Uncle Sam

Following on the heels of the county fair is a “better-late-than-never” post on the 4th of July. I might as well get all the Americana out there at once, right? Well, to balance out all this red (and white and blue) blooded American brouhaha, this post will actually be en français. I figured our amis across the pond could use a little introduction to Independance Day. So if you’re reading this stateside, sit back and enjoy the photos of an old-school celebration of July 4th in Nevada City, CA, a sweet little town just two hours north of us in Gold Country.

maison historique décorée pour l'occasion

Suivez-nous sur un petit voyage virtuel dans le passé…il y a un mois en Californie ou il y a 234 ans (1776) à Philadelphie selon votre point de vue! Si vous connaissez déjà l’histoire de la fête nationale américaine, bravo! Vous savez presque autant que moi sur l’histoire de ce pays (mon prof d’histoire américaine au lycée préférait nous faire des cours de méditation que de guerres, battailles, etc. car elle nous trouvait trop stressées!!). Pour ceux qui sont un peu moins au courant des événements du premier 4 juillet, c’est la journée où l’Amérique a signé une déclaration d’indépendence envers les anglais. Le pays était toujours en guerre avec le Royaume Uni et n’a pas obtenu son indépendence pour de vrai avant 1783 quand on a gagné la guerre. Je ne vais pas tenter de vous faire toute une leçon d’histoire (même pas capable!), mais plutôt une visite guidée avec commentaire sur notre journée du 4 juillet 2010 à Nevada City, California.

Happy 4th of July!

De nos jours, le 4 juillet est souvent une journée de défilés en ville, de feux d’artifice, de foires, de pique-niques, de barbecue, et de fêtes familiales et amicales. C’est une journée d’étalage de patriotisme (encore plus après le 11 septembre). Des drapeaux et du rouge, blanc, et bleu (non, pas de bleu, blanc, et rouge!) partout.

Personnellement, je n’aime pas les fêtes publiques du 4. Trop de faux patriotisme. Mais cette année, pour Bastien, il fallait trouver un bon spectacle! Alors, on est tombé sur la fête de Nevada City, un petit village charmant deux heures au nord de Drytown, et typique de la région de la ruée vers l’or. On a passé quelques heures dans une cour de café, ombragée par un platane (le premier qu’on a vu dans le coin qui est dominé par des chênes, des pins, et des séquoias), un bon poste d’observation pour le défilé!

Main Street se prépare pour le défilé

des chaises vides avant le défilé...tout le monde boit un coup au frais!

la déco des drapeaux

Le défilé fête la journée, l’été, l’histoire, la communauté, la politique (de tous points de vues), la comédie. C’est un peu de tout et de n’importe quoi! En tout cas, il y avait une bonne ambiance à Nevada City.

De la comédie, des costumes, de la musique…

la statue de la liberté et ses demoiselles

Le 4 juillet rencontre Halloween

la clown du 4

habillée pour l'occasion

monocycliste en salopette

piano man

De la politique…

voiture d'un candidat pour le sénat de Californie

l'arrivée de l'extrème droite

le troupeau des conservateurs du Tea Party


les verts

La communauté internationale…

le drapeau breton (!!) à côté du drapeau californien

un vieil autrichien porte le drapeau...regardez moi ces quilles!

Des scouts et des pom-pom girls…

les scouts, livreurs d'eau fraîche...il faisait 36ºC à l'ombre!

des vraies majorettes!

L’amour des véhicules…

décorée jusqu'aux roues!

en cabriolet bleu, blanc, et ROUGE!


"Femmes de valeur"

vieux camion de pompiers

camion de mineurs...pouet pouet!

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Chez nous

Home sweet home on the goat farm, July 2008

Without realizing it, when I left for France in July of 2008 I said goodbye to urban apartment life for, perhaps, ever. I was on my way to a 3 month stint on organic farms, and little did I know that I would spend the next 18 months bouncing from goat farm to vegetable patch to vineyard and back. Tucked in between were a few stays with Mom and Dad, a number of nights in the guest bedrooms of generous friends and family, and a month-long rental in a cozy cottage in Sonoma County, CA. For a year and a half, my life fit into several suitcases and a trekking pack that I dragged 3 times to France and now twice to California. I was officially a nomad. My aunt even went so far as to call me a gypsy (in the romantic sense of the word I’d like to think).

But there came a time when my only-somewhat-dormant nester’s instinct emerged, and the urge to have a home of my own took hold. I am a cancer, after all. So when Bastien got a job on a vineyard in California, and his visa finally came through, and we shouted for joy after a full year of planning and dead-end emails and tearing our hair out, I realized it was time to start looking for a home. Okay, truth be told, I had already spent months poring over houses on Craigslist, but now I could actually respond to the ads!

When it came down to it, though, there just weren’t many listings under the Gold Country section of Craigslist. In all of my excitement, I hadn’t accounted for the fact that we were not moving to the Bay Area, nor were we moving to densely-populated Sonoma or Napa. The next leg of our journey was bringing us to Amador County, population 35,000, where there are easily more cows in the county than people (a good thing, I think).

While we searched for a home, we rented out the basement studio of a weekend house in Fiddletown (pop. 200), near where Bastien would be working. The drive into Fiddletown is simply idyllic: rolling hills, a gurgling brook down below, massive oak trees, grazing cows and horses and, at night, all the stars in the sky (no light pollution here!). The town itself, like many others around here, was a miner’s camp and trading post during the gold rush. Today, it retains hints of its past in the old blacksmith and wagon shop, the long-closed general store, the cowboy church (a saloon open only on Sundays for billiards and, I assume, beer), and a defunct (obviously) Chinese gambling hall. There is also a horse ranch, a tennis court, a post office and a community center/library, but no commerce remains on the quarter-mile strip of downtown Fiddletown.

Our studio dwelling, as it turned out, was a converted former brewery with marble floors, thick stone walls, and little daylight. What it lacked in comfort, it made up for in charm, funk and, get this, a pool table in our bedroom.

Bedside pool table

We spent 5 weeks eating with one fork and one spoon (which we alternated…okay, I mainly got the fork) at a massive wood door-turned-table, showering in a corrugated tin stall, and enjoying bedtime pool matches. We were grateful for a roof over our heads and a bed to sleep in, but camping out in a cavern eventually wore thin.

In the end, it was through word-of-mouth (not Craigslist, not Google, not even the Internet) that we found our new abode. A neighbor who had a friend who had a house…and voilà, presto! We went for a look one cloudy afternoon just before dark, and despite the grey, we were smitten with the little yellow farmhouse. Wood floors, old fixtures, a clawfoot tub, and a lot of light. What could be better? Plus an acre for gardening, fruit trees in the yard, horses next door, a crank telephone, and a wrap-around porch looking West to the hills. We were sold. And again we jumped for joy, as we now had a home.

At home in Drytown

At home in Drytown, mid-March

Chez nous, mid-April

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