MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
Sailboards skitter across the breezy bay waters far below, as we bridge the gap from San Francisco to the Marin Peninsula across the Golden Gate. Stretching over forty-two hundred feet, it was the world’s largest bridge when opened in 1937 and although the record has been surpassed many times, it continues to exemplify an icon of unique beauty.
Driving fifteen minutes north of the Golden Gate, is our home base for the weekend, the charming village of Mill Valley, where narrow tree-lined streets boast delightful shops and up-scale restaurants. Protective hills that border its three sides offer endless trails for hikers and cyclists. And the towering backdrop of Mount Tamalpais creates an Alpine-like village feel.
Founded in 1834 by Irish-born, John Reed, the head of this narrow and heavily-wooded valley was a prime location for his thriving saw mill. Today, just a few blocks from the popular hub, the restored landmark still stands amidst Old Mill Park’s redwoods. Other historical keepsakes include the 1902 Outdoor Art Club structure, that serves as a meeting site for town events. Since 1905 this locale has also been home to the Dypsea Race. Every year, thousands of participants run this grueling seven miles of madness that goes from Mill Valley’s town square to Stinson Beach. (via the 2,600 vertical foot rise of Mount Tamalpais!)
Our weekend home base is The Mill Valley Inn, a sophisticated boutique-style hotel where pampering guestrooms, an executive penthouse suite and creek-side cottages are all decked out with posh Tuscany-style interiors.
Many offer Franklin fireplaces, and some, like ours, spoil with soaker-tubs big enough for two (trust me!). A wine and cheese spread is offered every afternoon and a continental-style buffet of oven-baked pastries, waffles, seasonal fruits and fresh-squeezed juices fuels us every morning before heading out to see the sites. Yum!
Hiking in this region is reported to be phenomenal, whether you venture up magnificent Mount Tam, do an all-dayer on Marin's Dipsea trail which links the Mill Valley core to the Pacific Coast, trek through the misty redwood groves of Muir Woods, or, like us, simply explore a few of the trails that are closer to home.
A short distance from the inn, we stroll along a creek-bed that parallels winding Throckmorton Drive. The scattering of prestigious thatch-roofed homes appear protected from mankind’s nearby urban sprawl. This community, metaphorically, resembles the prosperous folk who reside here; those who choose to escape the maddening San Francisco crowds in an effort to discover some peace and tranquility.
Working our way back and around the town, we browse and savor the flavor of the Mill Valley Market, a historical family run grocery store that made its debut back in 1929. Row upon row of gourmet edibles tantalize our taste buds, a delightful deli department gets us drooling and the many aisles of wine and beer offerings satisfy the fussiest connoisseur.
With food in our bellies, we're recharged and revitalized to continue our walking tour. Sauntering along the winding sun-splashed streets, we check out local talents in the string of art galleries, browse through everything-you-need-to-get-fit sports shops and take a break at the Depot Bookstore and coffee bar (AKA the original railway station) that whips up a wonderful latte.
Lytton Square is the central hub and meeting point of Mill Valley. Here we're entertained by variety of folk, both young and old. Some frolic on skateboards, other challenge on chessboards and a few create on art boards. For more browsing and buying, a short ten minute drive will lead you to the seaside town of Sausalito where more artisans sell their wares, musicians reveal their talents and sailboats bob in Richards Bay. This enchanting artsy community is much like its neighbor, Tiburon, located on the opposite side of the bay. They both offer world class dining, play a historical role in the development of the bay area, and have accessibility to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf via the Blue and Gold Fleet Ferries.
Diversified arts, street entertainment, and a great romantic retreat is what we found. Outdoor adventure, exquisite dining, and wonderful vistas is what we enjoyed. A quote from our taxi driver, as we were heading out of town, summed it up perfectly, when he proudly stated, ‘There’s so much to enjoy in Mill Valley, it’s really hard to keep this little piece of paradise a secret.’
Mill Valley Inn
PHOTOS: As attributed below.
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