We flew down on Sunday, July 25th and arrived at the Oakland Airport. First on the agenda was a stop to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. I have been wanting to see it since I was about 8 years old and saw it on Ripley’s Believe It or NOT! For those of you who haven’t heard of it, like Jon, Sarah Winchester was the widow of the 2nd President of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Her only child died in infancy, and her husband died when she was in her forties. She bought an 8 room farmhouse in San Jose, hired a team of carpenters and set to work renovating and adding on. Legend has it that her spiritual advisor told her that she was cursed, and that she must build continuously in order to confuse the spirits of the people who were killed by Winchester guns. At the time of her death, her home had 160 rooms and all sorts of crazy architecture. Of course, I didn’t realize that now it is right in the middle of San Jose. There is a mall across the street, and a huge movie theater right next door.
So, the final verdict…. It is touristy, and we had to wait about an hour for our tour. They do small group tours though, so you can ask questions and interact, and they give you enough time to look around. It was certainly worth it and we had a great time. It had it all: a door that opens onto a second floor drop, windows that look into other rooms, skylights in the middle of the floor! You can see the progression of her insanity – at the beginning her renovations made the home much more ornate, but then later it seemed to get more “builder grade”. I wish they would have told us about the ghosts though! It did make me wonder if she had lived today, would she had been deemed insane and committed?
We drove to Napa in the late afternoon. Once we checked in to our lodge, we drove around downtown Napa a bit and got our bearings. We had dinner at ZuZu, a tapas place in downtown Napa that focuses on locally grown ingredients. Their mussels were fantastic! Their paella was good… but we’ve had great paella at a couple other places. I’m still looking for a paella that can beat the paella I had in Grand Rapids, Michigan of all places!
All in all, the first day was a great day. The only low point was definitely Jon hitting the squirrel running across the onramp on the freeway. We had to drown our sorrows in wine.