San Mateo County: More than Silicon for Visitors

Michael Martella, co-founder of Thomas Fogarty Winery in Woodside California.
Michael Martella, co-founder of Thomas Fogarty Winery in Woodside California.

You might think that San Mateo County is all about Silicon Valley, and is only a business destination. But this week has proven that wrong, as we set out to explore first the coastline, and then to some small towns in the Santa Cruz mountains.

There are a whole lot of fun things to see and do here in San Mateo, it’s a huge county that stretches from Daly City, just below the city of San Francisco to Pescadero, the tiny farming community far down the coast.

Though Palo Alto isn’t in the same county, it’s also part of their CVB’s promotional reach.

Today we left our hotel in Half Moon Bay after enjoying a dinner at the local favorite seaside Sam’s Chowder House and headed to Woodside, a small town inside the Santa Cruz mountains.

 

The best lobster rolls come from Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay.
The best lobster rolls come from Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay.

It’s a twisty route along 92, passing by a score of garden centers and farm stands. This area is a huge producer of Brussel sprouts and pumpkins.

Juan Camero, who does the press for the CVB, said one of the biggest events of the year is the pumpkin fest, that turns the side of Route 101 into a sea of orange.

Our destination was Filoli, a 654-acre country estate with lush, impressive gardens that was home to two successive wealthy families. Touring the house’s grand sitting rooms and seeing how people lived back in the day is fascinating. Many holiday and themed events take place here and for anyone who loves gardens, this is a must-see.

Filoli is a huge country estate built in 1917 with expansive gardens to stroll through, in Woodside.
Filoli is a huge country estate built in 1917 with expansive gardens to stroll through, in Woodside.

Then we moved on to the Thomas Fogarty winery, where co-founder Michael Martella showed us the views of the distant peninsula and we tasted their wines.

It was fun talking about the nuances of wines with their enthusiastic tasting host, Mike Meck, who said they “breathe, sleep and live for wine here.” They do know their stuff!

We drove down the hill to Palo Alto and visited a relatively new restaurant, Vina Enoteca, owned by Rocco Scardella, who was born in Umbria and runs this big place as well as the cafe/dessert shop next door.  Grilled octopus and an “Impossible” meatless burger hit the spot.  With a large bar and a good crowd even on weekdays, this is already a hit in town, and there is a lot of nearby parking.

Pannacotta dessert at Vina Enoteca, in Palo Alto.
Panna cotta dessert at Vina Enoteca, in Palo Alto.

We had time to stroll around downtown Palo Alto after gazing at the crazy house prices and checking out the new famous restaurant Nobu, that just opened in town. Just to see it, we stopped by for a photo at the HP Garage, the unassuming little one-car building where the computing giant was birthed.

The is beautiful, spread out across so many acres, and besides their graceful buildings, there are a few world-class museums that are free to enjoy.

We stopped into the Cantor Center to view unusual art that we did not understand but tried to appreciate.

The Stanford campus is an architectural marvel, and the art galleries are free to the public.
The Stanford campus is an architectural marvel, and the art galleries are free to the public.

My hotel in nearby Redwood City is now a very recently rebranded Pullman Hotels and Resorts, and it overlooks a pond as well as the hulking glass towers of Oracle.

It’s spacious and comfy and a good place to be for tomorrow when we visit the Computer History Museum and taste some local brews at Armstrong Brewing Co.

Need more reasons to visit?  Check out San Mateo County’s website.

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