Victoria Harbour

Three Days in Victoria BC: Day 3

Linda along the shore of St James Bay on our bike ride

Linda along the shore of St James Bay on our bike ride

Today we want to take a bike ride so at about 10:00 we check out of our hotel and walk past the Parliament up to Douglas St, where we’ve been told there’s a place to rent bicycles. It’s already very warm & sunny. We find the bike rental shop, rent our bicycles, and before we know it, we’re riding along the shore of James Bay.

Wildflowers seen along the bike path

Wildflowers seen along the bike path

Beach on St James Bay near the Coast Guard base - look at all the huge pieces of driftwood!

Beach on St James Bay near the Coast Guard base – driftwood in all sizes from giant logs to tiny splinters!

We return our bikes after a two hour ride and then we walk down to the waterfront. We’re hot & tired from our bike ride (it was fun though) so now we want to do something cool & restful. A 60-minute boat tour of Victoria Harbour is the perfect activity! We decide on The Gorge tour with Victoria Harbor Ferry Co, the same company that runs the water taxis, on an electric boat.

We start the tour at the Causeway part of the Inner Harbor in front of the Grand Empress Hotel. We motor past the Harbour Air Terminal, pass under the “Blue Bridge”, and go by the Port Hope Shipyard, the only shipyard left in the Victoria area.

We pass under this bridge to enter the Burnside Gorge

We pass under this bridge to enter the Burnside Gorge

Beautiful homes line the the waterway as we near Burnside Gorge. Numerous boats are anchored in the middle of the waterway here. The captain explains that people live on some of them and others have just been abandoned because they’re so old they’re no longer worth anything, which is a big problem for Victoria. We get as far as Tillicum Bridge, and then we have to around because of the shallow water & turning tide.

Kayakers in the Burnside Gorge

Kayakers in the Burnside Gorge

On the boat ride back to Victoria Harbour, we’re lucky enough to see the Blue Bridge open to let a larger ship through. The tour ends by taking us by Fisherman’s Wharf and the Floating Home Village.

Irish Times Pub on Government Street where we ate lunch

Irish Times Pub on Government Street

 

After our boat tour, we walk up Government street to have lunch at Irish Times Pub. We sit outside by the sidewalk in prime people-watching territory but (thankfully) mostly in the shade. We order a Strongbow hard cider and share a Forest Mushroom white pizza (made with Brie). I’m not sure what’s Irish about it but it’s delicious.

 

 

 

 

After lunch we stroll back down to the waterfront and walk back to our hotel. We retrieve our luggage and relax in the lobby with the Internet for about half an hour. Then at 4:30 we walk the short distance to the Victoria Clipper ferry terminal. We go through U.S. Customs & Immigration right there in the terminal.
The ferry crossing is very comfortable and we enjoy watching the beautiful scenery go by. Although it’s very windy outside, Mike & I make it a point to go out on the back deck to watch the spectacular sunset.

Sunset from the Victoria Clipper ferry returning to Seattle

Sunset from the Victoria Clipper ferry returning to Seattle

Gary & Rita are there at 8:45 to pick us up – we see them waving as we disembark. It takes a few minutes to go through U.S. Customs & Immigration (what was the point of doing it in Victoria?) and then it’s a short drive back to Gary & Rita’s RV Park. We walk over to our RV in guest parking and sneak in to spend another free night.

 

Three Days in Victoria BC: Day 2

This morning we walk several blocks from our hotel through the grounds of the British Columbia Parliament to a park with a bronze statue of author & artist Emily Carr (with her dog ‘Billie’ & her Javanese monkey ‘Woo’). I have no problem walking this morning – I wore my comfortable sneakers!

Bronze statue of author & artist Emily Carr (with her dog Billie & her monkey Woo)

Bronze statue of author & artist Emily Carr (with her dog Billie & her monkey Woo)

Emily Carr's statue - her monkey Woo

Emily Carr’s statue – her monkey Woo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We catch a bus to The Butchart Gardens, one of Victoria’s most iconic sights. Mike & I enjoy taking public transportation so we can see more of Victoria, including the “non-touristy” areas where people actually live.

The Buchart Gardens

The Buchart Gardens

We arrive at The Butchart Gardens at about 11:30 and spend three hours wandering around, drinking in the beauty. These 55 acres of gardens were created in the early 1900s by Jennie Butchard to beautify the worked-out limestone quarry on their property. Today the gardens are still owned by the Butchart family and receive about a million visitors annually!

 

 

My favorite garden is the Sunken Garden, an old quarry transformed with a riot of colorful tulips, daffodils, and other spring flowers.

The Sunken Garden in The Buchart Gardens

The Sunken Garden in The Buchart Gardens

Ross Fountain in the Sunken Garden

Ross Fountain in the Sunken Garden

 

At the end of the Sunken Garden, there’s Ross Fountain that rhythmically shoots the water in different designs, like the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas but without the music.

 

 

 

 

Mike on a bridge in the Japanese Garden

Mike on a bridge in the Japanese Garden

 

We also enjoy the Japanese Garden and the Italian Garden (it’s a bit too early  in the season for the Rose Garden).

Japanese maple in the Japanese Garden

Japanese maple in the Japanese Garden

The Italian Garden at The Buchart Gardens

The Italian Garden at The Buchart Gardens

After all that walking, we relax in the shade at Butchart Cove Lookout and just gaze at the water.

Looking through the Lookout cut in the trees so we can see Butchart Cove

Looking through the Lookout cut in the trees so we can see Butchart Cove

Greenhouse at The Buchart Gardens

Greenhouse at The Buchart Gardens

At the greenhouse, we take a moment to ask the question we’ve been wondering about: “How many gardeners are needed to keep Butchart Gardens so beautiful?” The answer is anywhere from 50 (in the off-season) to 70 gardeners! We’re also shocked to find out that when all these beautiful flowers are done blooming, they’re simply pulled up & turned into mulch.

 

We take the bus back to downtown Victoria and then walk the rest of the way back to our hotel. We take just a minute to freshen up before heading out again, this time walking west (the opposite direction than we usually walk to the Inner Harbour).

The Floating Home Village at Fisherman's Wharf

The Floating Home Village at Fisherman’s Wharf

 

We walk along the waterfront trail and see a community of charming houseboats. The houseboats turn out to be a in Floating Home Village that also includes shops, restaurants, & fishing boats in an area known as Fisherman’s Wharf.

 

 

The Fish Store - where we bought our dozen oysters for "a buck a shuck"

The Fish Store – where we bought our dozen oysters for “a buck a shuck”

 

 

We get a dozen oysters at The Fish Store (another “Buck a Shuck” special) and eat them at one of the picnic tables by the marina.

 

 

RIVER OTTER at Fisherman's Wharf!

RIVER OTTER at Fisherman’s Wharf!

Five harbor seals are gathered there, begging for fish. The Fish Store sells cut up pieces of fish for the tourists to feed the seals! There are also river otters but there are also warnings not to feed them (Mike is told “They’re vicious creatures – they’ll bite your finger right off.”).

Tourists feed the HARBOR SEALS at Fisherman's Wharf (they buy raw fish at The Fish Store)

Tourists feed the HARBOR SEALS at Fisherman’s Wharf (they buy raw fish at The Fish Store)

HARBOR SEAL at Fisherman's Wharf splashing to get us to throw him a fish

HARBOR SEAL at Fisherman’s Wharf splashing to get us to throw him a fish

We don’t buy any fish because we can watch everybody else feeding them. The seals get impatient if they have to go a while without being fed and splash the people.

Barb's Fish & Chips where we bought our fish & chips - note the huge line!

Barb’s Fish & Chips where we bought our fish & chips – note the huge line!

 

 

 

 

After we finish our oysters, we share an order of fish & chips from Barb’s Fish & Chips, which we also eat at the picnic table while we watch the antics of the harbor seals.

 

 

 

 

Then Mike & I walk through the marina looking at the working fishing boats, and stroll around the Floating Home Village. The eclectic houseboats are fascinating!

After dinner we walk back along the Inner Harbour waterfront. The sunset is so pretty and the British Columbia Parliament Building is all lit up.

Sunset at the Victoria Inner Harbour

Sunset at the Victoria Inner Harbour

The British Columbia Paliament Building all lit up at night

The British Columbia Paliament Building all lit up at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Days in Victoria BC: Day 1

This morning Mike’s brother Gary really went above & beyond his brotherly duty and got up ridiculously early to drive us to the Seattle Waterfront to catch the Victoria Clipper ferry to Victoria, British Columbia. We leave our RV in guest parking at the RV park for a few days.
They call us to board at about 7:30 am and soon we’re settled in our comfortable seats at a table in the upper cabin. We have a great view as our ferry gets underway promptly at 8:00 am.

Whidbey Island with the Cascades rising behind it

Whidbey Island with the Cascades rising behind it

Our route from Seattle to Victoria, BC takes less than 3 hours. I venture outside to the back deck to take some photos but it’s very cold & windy – the speed of the boat is deceptive from inside the cabin but we’re actually moving quite fast. The view as we transit the Puget sound is especially beautiful as we pass Whidbey Island, the Cascades rising behind it. Mike is excited to see a submarine as we pass Port Townsend.

 

The boat slows down as we enter Victoria Harbour so I’m able to step out on the back deck and take photos.

The Victoria Clipper IV, the ferry we took from Seattle to Victoria

The Victoria Clipper IV, the ferry we took from Seattle to Victoria

 

We dock at 10:38 am. After we clear Customs, we walk the short distance from the ferry terminal to our hotel, Harbour Towers. Unfortunately, it’s too early for us to check in but they do allow us to store our luggage so we can explore Victoria unencumbered.

 

 

 

We thoroughly enjoy walking through small parks full of colorful tulips & other flowers down to the waterfront, which is called the Inner Harbour.

Tall ship docked in the Inner Harbour next to luxury yachts and the seaplane airport

Tall ship docked in the Inner Harbour next to luxury yachts and the seaplane airport

Seaplanes at the busy Inner Harbour seaplane airport

Seaplanes at the busy Inner Harbour seaplane airport

Bow of the Pacific Grace tall ship

Bow of the Pacific Grace tall ship

 

We stroll along the waterfront watching the seaplanes take off & land from their terminal, the huge yachts & small fishing boats mingling, and a beautiful tall ship.

 

 

 

 

We talk to Jeff who is a painter on the tall ship, the Pacific Grace. The tall ships aren’t actually not old; the Canadian government commissioned the ships to use for teaching high school students how to sail. The students sail the ships, even taking them in & out of the harbor, under the supervision of a few instructors.

 

 

The Local restaurant where we ate lunch

The Local restaurant where we ate lunch

 

Mike & I stop for lunch at a cute pub near the waterfront called The Local. It’s very warm & sunny but luckily they’re able to seat us outside but partially in the shade.

After lunch we wander around the shopping area by The Local and enjoy the interesting murals.

 

"Buck a Shuck" oysters at Steamship Grill & Bar

“Buck a Shuck” oysters at Steamship Grill & Bar

Towards the end of the day, Mike & I walk along the waterfront again and notice a “Buck a Shuck” (CN$1.00 per oyster) promotion at Steamship Grill & Bar. It’s 4:57 pm so the manager tells us we’re just in time. We’re seated on their lovely deck overlooking the waterfront and order two dozen raw “Paradise” oysters (from Baynes Sound), which are served on a heaping bed of ice with lemon juice in one cup, cocktail sauce in another cup (too sweet for our taste), and shaved horseradish. The oysters are absolutely delicious and we thoroughly enjoy our Happy Hour together – we even see HARBOUR SEALS (as they spell it in Canada) & RIVER OTTERS swimming in the water!

After Happy Hour Mike & I wander down to the water taxi dock and catch one to Swift Street, the nearest stop to Victoria’s Chinatown.

Cute little H2O Water Taxi in the Inner Harbour

Cute little H2O Water Taxi in the Inner Harbour

Mike on an H2O Water Taxi as we pass the Victoria Harbour seaplane airport

Mike on an H2O Water Taxi as we pass the Victoria Harbour seaplane airport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short walk uphill and we’re exploring the few blocks of the oldest Chinatown in Canada, what’s left of what was once a large Chinese community. We enjoy walking up Fisgard Street & down Fantan Alley and end up eating a Chinese dinner at Ocean Garden Restaurant.

I’m wearing “cute shoes” instead of my comfortable sneakers so of course I’ve developed blisters and walking is painful. We go back to the Swift Street dock and call for a water taxi, which takes us back to the dock close to our hotel. I actually take off my shoes and walk barefoot for a while along the waterfront, my feet hurt so badly, but (of course) I make it back to our hotel. Obviously tomorrow I’ll be wearing my sneakers!

Inner Harbour sunset

Inner Harbour sunset

Journey to Alaska – Part 1

I had good intentions of blogging every day as Mike & I drove north to Alaska. But what I didn’t count on was the scarcity of Internet connectivity. So now here I am in the coffee shop in a Barnes & Noble in Fairbanks, Alaska, looking back on our three week journey.

We left South Lake Tahoe on April 15 and spent the next three days driving to Seattle, Washington.

Day 1: Travel 389.5 miles from South Lake Tahoe, California to Klamath Falls, Oregon

It was one of those cold but clear mornings in South Lake Tahoe that make the lake especially beautiful with the clear color variations according to depth: light tan where it’s very shallow, light greenish-blue where it starts to get deeper, and sapphire blue where it’s quite deep. The wind whipped up little waves and the lake was surrounded by snow-capped mountains against the clear blue sky.

One last view of gorgeous Lake Tahoe as Mike & I start our drive to Alaska

One last view of gorgeous Lake Tahoe as Mike & I start our drive to Alaska

As we drive north on CA-89, I keep trying to take a photo of Mt Shasta but there are too many trees in the way!

As we drive north on CA-89, I keep trying to take a photo of Mt Shasta but there are too many trees in the way!

We took our usual route of US-50 east to Carson City, Nevada, and then US-395 north through Reno and eventually back to California. At Susanville, California, we turned onto CA-44 west, also known as the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, which cuts through Lassen Forest. Then we merged onto CA-89 north.

At McCloud, California, we merged onto I-5 north and were treated to fabulous views of Mount Shasta!

Mount Shasta as we drive north on I-5

Mount Shasta as we drive north on I-5

“The way Mount Shasta explodes into windshield view and your hands steady on the wheel.” – Vienna Teng, Shasta (Carrie’s Song)

Weed, California

Weed, California

 

At the tiny (and amusingly named) town of Weed, California, we exit I-5 and start driving north on CA-97. The landscape here is much drier with juniper trees instead of pines.

Grass Lake (Grass Lake Rest Stop)

Grass Lake (Grass Lake Rest Stop)

 

 

 

 

We took a break for a walk at Grass Lake. The lake is very shallow and filled with grass-like aquatic plants.

 

 

Oregon State Line

Oregon State Line

 

We drove through Butte Valley National Grassland, crossed the Oregon state line, and ended up in Klamath Falls, Oregon, where we spent the night.

 

 

 

Day 2:  Travel 259 miles from Klamath Falls to Eugene, Oregon

After a walk along the river that flowed past our KOA campground, we continued driving on OR-97 along the long and narrow Upper Klamath Lake.

Klamath Falls KOA from the walking path along the river

Klamath Falls KOA from the walking path along the river

Walking path along the river in Klamath Falls, OR

Walking path along the river in Klamath Falls, OR

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the spur of the moment, we decided to take a detour to Crater Lake National Park. I hadn’t been to Crater Lake since I was about 10 years old and Mike had never visited. The 37 miles to the south entrance took about one and a quarter hours to drive.

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The drive to Crater Lake National Park

Once inside the park, the ground was covered in snow. It got deeper as we drove and in places it was piled up along the sides of the road higher than the top of the RV. It was like driving down a long white corridor.

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Parking the RV at Crater Lake

 

 

When we arrived at Rim Village, parking was pure chaos. Mike had to navigate through some tight spaces with cars on one side and a snow bank on the other with inches to spare. But we luckily found a place to park when another RV pulled out. I changed into my Uggs and put on my hoodie – it wasn’t very cold in spite of all that snow. Then we walked to a place where we could climb up through the snow, stand on the rim, and see Crater Lake.

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Panorama of Crater Lake

Mike & Linda at Crater Lake

Mike & Linda at Crater Lake

What an incredible view! The deep blue lake was surrounded by snow-covered cliffs that reflected in the still water. We just stood there and took in the breathtaking view. Truly, it was as awe-inspiring as my first view of the Grand Canyon and it brought tears to my eyes with its beauty.

 

After Crater Lake, we drove on OR-138 west, followng the North Umpqua River as it tumbles through a narrow, rocky, forested canyon with walls that tower impossibly high above us.

Near the town of Susan Creek, we stop at the Tioga Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the North Umpqua River, and take a short hike.

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Tioga Bridge over the North Umpqua River

Mike explores the forest along the North Umpqua River

Mike explores the forest along the North Umpqua River

Waterfall on the North Umpqua River

Waterfall on the North Umpqua River

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the town of Roseburg, we crossed the South Umpqua River, which is much more sedate than the North Umpqua River, and get back on I-5 for the drive north to Eugene, Oregon, where we spent the night.

Day 1: Travel 278 miles from Eugene, Oregon to Seattle, Washington

Salad rolls (like spring rolls except without the noodles) - lunch at Thai DK in Portland, OR

Salad rolls (like spring rolls except without the noodles) – lunch at Thai DK in Portland, OR

Our goal for today was just to get to Seattle, but we did take time for a little sightseeing in Portland, Oregon. GasBuddy identified a gas station in a neighborhood near the Williamette River as having the cheapest gas around. The gas station attendant let us park the RV at the gas station and recommended the Thai restaurant across the street for lunch.

 

After lunch, we took a lovely walk in the warm afternoon sunshine past the Williamette Yacht Club and through a park with great views of downtown Portland.

Downtown Portland as we walk along the Williamette River

Downtown Portland as we walk along the Williamette River

When we started driving north on I-5 again, traffic was horrendous, which surprised us for an early Sunday afternoon. It seemed to take forever to get across the Columbia River (the Washington state line).

Mt Hood as we cross the Columbia River in Portland, OR

Mt Hood as we cross the Columbia River

I just loved this sign seen as we cross the bridge over the Columbia River in Portland, OR

I just loved this sign as we crossed the bridge over the Columbia River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traffic improved in Vancouver, Washington but got heavy again right after we passed Olympia. We expected to get to Seattle by 5:00 pm and don’t actually arrive until 6:30 pm. Mike’s brother Gary and his wife Rita live in their RV in a park by SeaTac Airport. They were waiting for us by the gate to let us in and guide us to the “guest” spot where we could park the RV.

We spent a lovely evening with Gary & Rita in their comfortable RV home, eating a delicious seafood dinner and just catching up. It was midnight before we walked back to our RV at midnight to go to bed.

 

 

 

San Mateo Campground

It’s been way too long since I last posted, so let’s catch up!

CA-3 - our campsite until April 1 at San Mateo State Park

CA-3 – our campsite until April 1 at Mateo State Park

 

For the past several months (since December 1st), Mike and I have been camp hosts at San Mateo Campground near San Clemente, California.

 

Rainbow over the MOUT site at Camp Pendleton with San Mateo Campground in the foreground

Rainbow over the MOUT site at Camp Pendleton with San Mateo Campground in the foreground

 

 

 

San Mateo Campground is part of San Onofre State Beach but it’s about 1-1/2 miles inland, nestled in the pretty rolling hills right next to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. We’re often able to watch military training conducted right next to the campground, specially at the MOUT site (a recreation of an Iraqi village used for training).

 

Each time we camp host is a little different from the last and that’s true this time as well. Mike is working as a Maintenance Host here at San Mateo Campground, which means he helps keep the campground clean and repaired so the campers can enjoy it.

While we love the natural beauty of San Mateo Campground and its surroundings, the beach town of San Clemente is just a ten minute drive away. One of our favorite spots to visit is San Clemente Pier, especially at sunset when the surfers are catching that one last wave.

San Clemente Pier at sunset

San Clemente Pier at sunset

 

Surfers have to hike up the trail to their car

Surfers have to hike up the trail to their car

But our favorite activity at San Mateo Campground is hiking the trail to Trestles Beach, a world-renowned surfing beach. You have to REALLY want to surf at Trestles Beach because there’s no parking at the beach – everybody has to hike or bike in and out while carrying their surfboards. There are usually plenty of surfers at Trestles Beach, though, so it must be worth the effort.

Surfers at Trestles Beach

Surfers at Trestles Beach

 

Mike and I don’t surf but the beautiful views of the ocean, Catalina Island in the distance on a rare clear day and the bay towards San Clemente are more than worth the hike.

Looking north towards San Clemente at Trestles Beach

Looking north towards San Clemente at Trestles Beach

Trestles Wetlands Natural Reserve

Trestles Wetlands Natural Reserve

 

Best of all, San Mateo Creek flows just east of the campground to Trestles Beach. A short walk from the beach are riparian and wetland habitats known as Trestles Wetlands Natural Preserve. It’s hard to believe this peaceful area is so close to the I-5 and the commuter train that gives Trestles Beach its name!

 

Wetland near the mouth of Mateo Creek with an AMERICAN COOT

Wetland near the mouth of Mateo Creek with an AMERICAN COOT

David and Giant

Mike & I enjoyed meeting David, who is camping with his service dog Giant. Giant is a Great Dane who helps David in many ways. One is that Giant pulls David along in his wheelchair. Giant doesn’t seem to mind a bit and the affection between David and Giant is very apparent.

David with his service dog Giant

David with his service dog Giant

David with his service dog Giant

David with his service dog Giant

Coleman Valley Road: Beauty Before Breakfast

Just a mile or two north of Bodega Dunes Campground along Highway 1, there’s a turn-off for Coleman Valley Road. Most drivers, mesmerized by the beauty of the Pacific coastline, drive right by. But signs that read “Winding One Lane Road” are like catnip to us. It takes longer than half an hour to drive the ten miles between Highway 1 and the tiny town of Occidental (not counting all the times we stop to take yet another photo) but it’s our favorite drive in Sonoma County.

On one of those rare days when the weather is clear, the views of the Pacific coastline are spectacular.

Magnificent view of the coast looking towards Jenner from Coleman Valley Road

However, this is what it looks like today.

Fog in the coastal range along Coleman Valley Road

We start out a little disappointed that we can’t see the gorgeous view, but as we drive through the coastal range, we begin to appreciate this gentler, more elusive beauty. Cattle appear like apparitions in foggy pastures.

Cattle in the fog along Coleman Valley Road

When we crest the coastal range, the fog begins to clear. The landscape changes from pasture to forest. Redwoods line the road and form a living canopy over us.

Redwoods along Coleman Valley Road

Finally we reach our destination: the tiny town of Occidental. Howard’s Station Cafe in Occidental is hands-down our favorite restaurant for breakfast. We love to sit at one of the tables on their front porch, chat while we sip our Taylor Maid coffee, and linger over a hearty breakfast. Besides omelettes like my favorite Smoked Salmon Omelette Florentine, Howard’s has the best Eggs Benedict, banana-walnut or blueberry pancakes, and an excellent breakfast burrito. If your tastes run more to “healthy alternatives”, you can order dishes like Tofu Rancheros or Organic Brown Rice Scramble. And I haven’t even started on their extensive espresso and juice/smoothie bar!

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http://www.howardstationcafe.com/

And did you notice? There’s an excellent Patrick Amiot “junk art” sculpture of a train and its engineer right below the Howard’s Cafe sign.

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Junk Art In Sebastopol

Mike & I love “junk art” – scrap metal, bits & pieces of broken machinery, damaged household items, and other “junk” transformed into three-dimensional artworks. Luckily, the nearby town of Sebastopol and the surrounding area is a junk art mecca.

The front yards of the houses along Florence Avenue in Sebastopol are filled with junk art scuptures by Patrick Amiot (who lives and works in Sebastopol). You can drive slowly down Florence Avenue to see the artwork but we prefer to walk so we don’t miss anything.

But not all junk art in Sebastopol is found on Florence Avenue.

Junk Art by Patrick Amiot in front of the Sebastopol fire station

Junk Art by Patrick Amiot in front of the Sebastopol fire station

 

 

You can see this sculpture in front of the fire station on Bodega Avenue

 

 

 

and this wonderful Noah’s Ark can be found in front of the Community Church.