SONOMA -- History, scenery, entertainment and tranquility abound
throughout Sonoma County.
The history starts within the boundaries of the city of Sonoma,
itself -- great dollops of it within a few-block downtown area.
Foremost among the historical structures is the Mission San
Francisco Solano de Sonoma, the 21st -- and last -- of the chain of
missions started by Rev. Junipero Serra. It marks the end of the
"King's Highway" or El Camino Real, as it was originally named.
Commonly known as the Sonoma Mission, the structure was dedicated
in 1824. Tours of the site are available daily.
Another site of interest to visitors, especially history buffs,
is the former home of Gen. Mariano Vallejo, the commandant of the
Sonoma garrison under Mexican rule. His 20-acre estate, known as
Lachryma Montis (Latin for "Tears of the Mountain"), was built in
1851 -- after the U.S. had taken control of the area from the
Mexicans. Vallejo then served with some distinction as an officer
within the U.S. administration.
His two-story, Yankee-style home is open to the public for a
nominal charge. It became a state historical monument in 1933.
An often overlooked period of California history is recalled in
the northeast corner of the city center plaza, where the Bear Flag
was raised in 1846, proclaiming California an independent republic,
free of Mexican domination.
The revolutionary exercise was conducted with Vallejo's
connivance and approval. The "independence" was short-lived; 25
days after the flag went up, a naval gunboat captured the Mexican
regional capital at Monterey and claimed all of California in the
name of the U.S.
The revolutionaries -- all Americans in search of breathing
space -- voluntarily relinquished the republic they founded without
a shot being fired, and joined the U.S. side.
Visitors in search of the wonderful wineries of the Sonoma
Valley -- Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Sebastiani, Buena Vista Carneros and
at least two dozen more -- would be well advised to stop in the
Sonoma Plaza for a while beforehand.
Many of the wineries offer guided tours; others have
public-access spaces, where visitors can enjoy picnics and games
after touring the premises.
Hot-air ballooning in the skies over the vineyards, boating and
fishing, golf and more are available throughout the county.
For more information about the area and for sales aids, contact
either of the following two organizations.
Sonoma County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Address: 5000 Roberts Lake Road, Suite A, Rohnert Park, 94928
Phone: (800) 326-7666 or (707) 586-8100
Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau
Address: 453 First St. East, Sonoma, 95476
Phone: (707) 996-1090