Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Paradise revisited — Sausalito still shines

The Sausalito Sealion, by sculptor Al E. Sybrian, has been basking
on a rock in the San Francisco Bay since 1966. 

Just off the Golden Gate Bridge north of San Francisco, the idyllic community of Sausalito draws visitors around the world. I was lucky enough to live in Sausalito for seven years in the 1980s. Even luckier: I met my husband Ken in Sausalito. Ken was no tourist  he had lived there his whole life.

Sailboats in Sausalito

After meeting one day at the meat counter of Golden Gate Market, Ken and I dated, fell in love, married, and eventually bought a house 30 miles north of Sausalito in a much-more affordable city. (More about Novato, Calif., in a future blog post).

This is the little market in Sausalito where Ken and I met.

Recently, we travelled from France to the U.S. for a month-long visit with family and friends. Ken and I spent a day in Sausalito retracing our steps and sharing Ken's memories of growing up in paradise.

First, some background ...

The first natives of the area now known as Sausalito (from the word saucito, meaning "little willow) were the Coast Miwoks, peaceful hunter-gatherers who thrived on the shores of the San Francisco Bay. The first European settlers put an end to all that when the Spanish ship San Carlos arrived on the scene in 1775.

In 1838, English seaman William Richardson, married to the daughter of the head of the Mexican military garrison in San Francisco, was given nearly 20,000 acres of land. Richardson built his hacienda and prospered in Sausalito, at least until he lost his fortune and sold the land to the Sausalito Land & Ferry Company. This real estate development company attracted buyers from San Francisco. Ferries and eventually railroads turned Sausalito into a busy transportation hub and home to wealthy folk from across the bay and upper-class British expats.

Stairway from to a toney Sausalito home along Bridgeway

Along with the chichi, the town attracted a vibrant, diverse population of workers: boat builders, merchants, fisherman and railroad workers from Portugal, China, Italy and Germany. Bootlegging was big in Sausalito during Prohibition.

Alcatraz as seen from Sausalito. The federal prison operated from 1935-1963.

In 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was completed, effectively putting the railroad and ferry out of business. But during World War II a major shipyard on the town's waterfront brought in a huge number of workers and their families. Nearly 100 Liberty Ships and tankers were built in Sausalito during the war.

A bit of Americana, along Sausalito's Caledonia Street

The post-war years brought artists, writers, musicians, actors and eventually hippies to Sausalito creating a bohemian vibe that remains today, even among the exorbitant rents and throngs of tourists.

(Thanks to the Sausalito Historical Society for much of the information above.)

Sausalito scenics ... 

There are few more pleasurable places to stroll than along the bay in Sausalito, especially on a sunny day. The shops and restaurants in town cater to tourists, but there are some areas that are particularly local.

Elephant statues from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition
at Plaza Viña del Mar in Sausalito

Plaza Viña del Mar in Sausalito
The corner of Bridgeway and Princess St. in downtown Sausalito

Sausalito's tourist office

Ondine's and the Trident restaurants on the bay

"Explanation Point" at Sausalito City Hall

View of some fishermen and sailboats from Dunphy Park in Sausalito

Where we lived ...

Ken stands in front of the house in which he grew up
on Bridgeway in Sausalito.

Long before I came into his life, Ken briefly lived in
a small apartment down this narrow alley in Sausalito.

I lived in the lower portion of this house in the Sausalito hills
(on Crescent Ave.). Eventually, Ken moved in, too.

This sweet little cottage, located on Ken's parents' property in Sausalito,
was our home for a couple of years.

Where we played ...

Where it all began: Ken and I first met at the meat counter
at Golden Gate Market in Sausalito.

Fred's serves THE BEST French toast ... it's made with vanilla ice cream.

Chris, owner of the Venice Gourmet in Sausalito, remembers
Ken after all these years. We had a delicious lunch here
(no charge for the sweeping views).

A colorful piano at Dunphy Park offers a chance to pretend to tickle the ivories.

The no-name bar in Sausalito

The Little League field in Sausalito was named for Ken's dad, Konnie Knudsen.

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