Culture vulture

A Parisian in America

A Parisian in America

Photo by C. Owsley Rain

Priorities of place
A fine antidote to feeling jaded about the place where you live is to be visited by a traveler from a distant culture.

For instance, when our Parisian friend Martin arrived on Saturday night for a one-day visit in Chico, the lovely I. Daphne St. Brie and I had to devise a sequence of events that would best illuminate our beloved stomping grounds.

After a post-airport tour of Sacramento, a conversation-filled drive up Highway 99, a short night’s sleep and a hardy breakfast, we went out for a walking tour of Chico with the dogs, Sam and Stella, who tugged us to One-Mile, where the creek was on the verge of overflowing Sycamore Pool, providing an impressive roar as it surged over the dam.

Leaving the park we surprised the dogs by proceeding down Third Street to the base of the water towers, around the block to the News & Review office, down Second Street to Broadway for a viewing of the false-window mural above Collier Hardware, then through the children’s park, where Sam and Stella provided amusement by drinking from a tiny handheld paper cup that someone had conveniently discarded near the water fountain. The amphitheater, with its flooded stage and benches, gave Sam a chance to take a dip in the floodwaters before we took the trail along the creek through the deserted campus. From there we circled back downtown to scoff at the slow progress on the Plaza Park and make a stop at Shubert’s Ice Cream to pick up dessert for later.

Martin was impressed by the healthy profusion of trees throughout our walk—particularly a heavily laden grapefruit tree on Seventh Street—and by the many busy gray squirrels that scampered around the streets and up the trees.

Depositing the dogs at home, we jumped in the car and drove to Neal Road, then past the landfill and into Paradise. Along the way we saw a big wild turkey strutting through a lush, stony meadow and later a group of deer browsing amongst a group of welded metal sculptures by the road.

On the trip down the Skyway to Chico we stopped at the Scenic Overlook, where we pointed out the cliff used for so many attempted suicides over the years and tried to snap photos of the buzzards swooping into the canyon.

From there, the next logical destination was Upper Bidwell and a climb up the pinnacle of Monkey Face to the panoramic site of our wedding (seven years ago June 4!), where it was noted that Chico looked more like a forest than a town because the view was of an expanse of trees with few visible buildings.

The hiking made liquid refreshments mandatory, so a jaunt to the Sierra Nevada Taproom for a sampler platter of fine local brews followed. Afterwards, we were privileged to be invited to preview the gorgeous new Grilla Bites in the just-finished brick complex at 196 Cohasset Road, where we enjoyed a delicious, healthful snack and a bit of socializing with owner Fred Marken.

And, finally, we indulged in some grilled buffalo steak, local LaRocca zinfandel, farmer’s market salad and that fabulous Shubert’s Chocolate-Peanut ice cream at the home of my in-laws. All in all, it was a gorgeously full day.

I’m sure the exquisite beauty and flavors of Chico will be a topic of conversation in Paris for weeks to come.