The day before arriving at our two week house/puppy-sitting workaway in Vallejo we decided to spend some time in the city of Oakland. We started by taking a short stroll around Albany Bulb, a former landfill turned park lying on a peninsula just north of Oakland in the East Bay. After exploring the area and all it’s beauty we headed into town to visit “First Fridays”, a street festival which happens.. well, you get the idea.

After we parked Fuego and walked closer to the city centre we noticed a large amount of smoke rising into the air. I asked a man who was also staring up at the smoke if he knew what it was, to which he explained that a new building development caught alight overnight. As quite a few local residents opposed the development he suspected it to be arsen. The closer we walked the more serious the damage looked. Police had blocked off quite a few roads so we were worried that our festival had been cancelled, lucky for us it hadn’t.

The festival had a great vibe to it. There was a real sense of community and everyone was in high spirits. There was a DJ spinning hip hop to a small crowd of dancers and tonnes of vendors selling everything from food to handmade clothes designs. We walked up and down before returning to Fuego, driving out to Vallejo, and finding a quiet street to park and sleep for the night.

The next morning we met Sue, a Philadelphian and devoted foodie who moved to the west coast several years ago. Working as a sommelier, she was the perfect person to get tips for visits to the neighbouring Napa and Sonoma wine regions. It was there that we also met her husband Chris, a passionate outdoorsman with an extensive knowledge of everything in the USA worth visiting. We were so lucky to have these two as our own personal trip advisors. And last but certainly not least, Soloman – their Cavalier King Charles x something puppy who we’d be sitting for the next couple of weeks.

After a few days Chris and Sue left for their Oregon holiday leaving Soloman, their house, and their ridiculous vegetable garden in our care. As we now had a reliable wifi connection and somewhere comfortable to relax, we decided to spend the first few days planning our upcoming route through a number of the USA’s major national parks.

But that’s not all we did. We broke up our planning sessions with a visit to the west coast’s famous (and highly overated) In-N-Out burger chain, took a free tour of the world famous Jelly Belly factory, stopped by Mare Island Brewery for a few Vallejo brews on the water, and found our favourite local Mexican truck La Piñata Taqueria. On most evenings we took advantage of Chris and Sue’s Netflix subscription, getting majorly hooked on a series called “13 Reasons Why”. To our excitement Sue later told us that this series was actually filmed in Vallejo! We of course had to go and visit the locations such as Baker’s Pharmacy and Monet’s soon after. For those that haven’t seen it, that probably means nothing to you.

That weekend we took a trip down to Santa Cruz or “surf city”, and spent some time at a local farmers market before walking the pier and boardwalk and plonking ourselves on the sand. The beach was packed with groups of families, each with their own tent and taste in music. It was a little strange for us to see no one actually in the sun, a little different to the beaches in Australia. After some relax time we grabbed some lunch then shot back up the coast to Vallejo, making a quick stop at the famous big wave surf spot Maverick’s Beach.

The following week we spent visiting the surrounding Napa and Sonoma wine regions. We found that Napa was a little ostentatious compared to Sonoma, which seemed to be a more humble region. Although we had a beautiful stop in Yountville and Oxbow Public Market in Napa, a tasting at the iconic Robert Mondavi was just a little out of our price range at 50USD. We could however afford a tasting at the beautiful Kendall Jackson winery in Sonoma, and were even invited to take a walk through their pristine gardens after.

On our last weekend in Vallejo we visited Moschetti Inc., a small local coffee brewing operation run by a friendly Frenchman and Vallejo legend, Fabrice. Every Saturday he opens his doors to the community for free imported coffee sampling and to give locals and visitors the opportunity to meet new people. We sampled coffees from Central and South America, Africa and beyond, all at no cost. He even has the option of ice and condensed milk, if Vietnamese-style tickles your fancy (it did).

And then our two weeks in Vallejo were over. Chris and Sue had returned from their trip, we had our route all mapped out, and Fuego was clean, packed, and ready to rock. Thank you guys for allowing us to experience your wonderful Vallejo, and for your long list of recommendations. We have quite the trip ahead of us!

Next stop, Yosemite National Park.

– Dek

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