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Historic Sonoma

by Patricia M. Lee

istory abounds in that part of northern California known as the “Valley of the Moon.” We have traveled many times in this beautiful valley but always wanted to stay right on the plaza in the town of Sonoma. We finally spent a night at the Sonoma Hotel which intrigued us with its history and location set on the corner overlooking the town square.

The original property dates back to the 1880s when Henry Well, a German immigrant, built and opened a dry goods store and butcher shop on the first floor, with a community center and social hall on the second. In the 1920s the Sebastiani family bought it and opened it as a hotel. Then in 1999, Craig Miller and Tim Farlan remodeled it, added modern amenities and decorated it with antiques and French country furniture reminiscent of an inn in Provence. Guests enjoy a continental breakfast and afternoon wine tasting in the cozy lobby. The original stone fireplace and clapboard ceiling add to the décor, and the favorite corner seat by the window looks out on the plaza. The adjoining restaurant, “The Girl and the Fig” can be entered from a convenient lobby entrance. As the title indicates, figs of any concoction are the main focus of their menus. An unusual aperitif is the fig champagne.

Sonoma Plaza, with its well-groomed lawns, walking paths, shady trees and a small pond with cavorting ducks is the setting for the City Hall, Carnegie Library and Visitor’s Center. A memorable spot on the corner displays a bronze statue of a figure unfurling the Bear Flag, the symbol of the California Republic; in 1911 it officially became the California State Flag.

We will return soon to “The Valley of the Moon.”

The plaza is also used for picnics and festivals of every kind; Olive, wine, movie and art festivals are popular. Surrounding the square are many interesting boutiques, historic buildings and small alleyways to explore. Cafes, restaurants and cheese and wine tasting rooms tempt the palette.

Across from the plaza is the San Francisco de Solano Mission. Founded in 1823 by Padre Jose Altimira, it is the only one established under Mexican rule and the last of 21 missions settled in California. Restoration began in 1911. A half mile from the plaza, at the foot of the Sonoma hills, lies General Mariano G. Vallejo’s home, built in 1851 on 220 acres. Named Lachryma Montis (Tear of the Mountain) it has many artifacts and objects from the 19th century.

Our overnight stay at the Sonoma Hotel wasn’t nearly long enough to cover all the activities and historic places. We will return soon to “The Valley of the Moon.”

The Sonoma Hotel: tel:
707/996-2996, 800/468-6016; www.sonomahotel.com.

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The Sonoma Hotel
Sonoma Hotel photo