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Monday, December 14, 2009

Places to visit in Duncan Mills, CA

Winter is a time when the earth lays down its bounty and settles into a cocoon of replenishment and rest. The season brings much needed rain to Sonoma and so far the prospect looks good. The record breaking frost that came early this year hit our garden with a vengeance, knocking out our datura, lavender and jasmine plants. We are keeping our fingers crossed that Jenner’s healthy soil and its hardy root stock, will help them come back in the spring.

During this season, the joyous time of the holidays brings out the best in everyone. And with no exception, the small quaint town of Duncan’s Mills is as hospitable as ever, offering home baked cookies to visitors browsing the shops. Duncan’s Mills is an interesting town. It was named after brothers, Samuel and Alexander who established a lumber mill here in the early 1870s. The 1906 earthquake leveled most of the buildings and was rebuilt after the turn of the century for vacationers who rode the train from Sausalito to picnic and enjoy the Russian River. The depot showcases a regional museum with a restored Northwestern Pacific railway coach, two box cars and Caboose #2, which was the last train to Duncans Mills in 1935. Across the street at the Blue Heron restaurant and bar, you will find a placard dedicated to stagecoach robber and poet, ”Black Bart”, who allegedly visited here.

We stroll through Antiquarian/Florabunda, where twigs and cuttings lie about the most beautiful flower arrangements artistically prepared and freshly designed for your holiday table. We continue through the village, the valley hills donning the last of their tan summer grass for the green imagery of an Irish seascape and stop off at Christopher Queen Art Gallery. Their collection of 19 and 20th century plein-air paintings is one of the most extensive and impressive in Northern California. We highly recommend visiting, for it is as if you are stepping back in time to a private collector's personal salon. The stunning and beautiful 19th century burled, book matched antique walnut piano on display is a very rare piece, its closest match we found out is located at Stanford University.

We visit our friend, Andrea, at Studio Nouveau who offered us homemade Turkish candies and tea. Her store is a haven for artists and those with a discerning eye for quality hand crafted jewelry. We ran into one of our favorite waitresses shopping there who works at the Underwood CafĂ© in Graton and she gave us a tip to try their mac and cheese with romaine salad on the side recession special. The topic of food, wine and art took over our conversation. The bounty of Sonoma is truly a gift that we sometimes take for granted. The farm to table freshness of the food here, along with the award winning wines, makes it difficult to return back to the city. We purchased a couple of holiday presents for friends and with the thought of food and drink in our minds, we make our way to Guerneville and Dawn’s Bar and Grille.

The bar is decorated in festive holiday ornaments and the sitting room foyer fire glows on the faces of a couple enjoying their fireside chat and cocktails. We always enjoy our visits here, for the staff is friendly, the drinks stiff and the food a great value. We speak to Donald the bartender and find out that they are planning on bringing their piano back to life by adding music on weekends. A great idea, for the river is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the cozy surroundings with friends and family. We glanced at the menu and surprisingly find specials for each night of the week. Here is yet another reason to visit the coast off season and to enjoy the peaceful nature of the country without the hustle and bustle of the city and the stress of tidying up year end business.

We step out into a brisk night sky filled with the glow of brilliant jeweled stars, they flicker with the wishes for a fine holiday season and a new year of health and happiness. Happy Holidays!

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