Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Two weeks in Alameda ... and the Tour de France 2015

Several months ago our youngest daughter asked if I would be willing to stay in Alameda, California, for two weeks while our two oldest grandsons (6 and 8 years old) were to attend an immersion Chinese language summer camp.  This is how I came to spend two weeks in the island of Alameda with my two grandsons and their Chinese au-pair.  My husband stayed near Nashville with our daughter's family that included our two youngest grandchildren (2 1/2 and 3 1/2.)

Our daughter took a week to drive the children across country from Nashville to Alameda, but I flew there.  She flew back and I had her car for transportation while in Alameda.  Even though I spent almost ten years in San Francisco (in the 1960s) I had never been to Alameda.  Alameda is an island, adjacent to Oakland and east of San Francisco across the Bay.   It was established in 1853 and incorporated in 1854.

The children had classes from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm then 45 minutes of Chinese language study at home with the Chinese au-pair (they have been studying Chinese for 3 years at least.)  The school was in the same block where we stayed, and we could see the shore from our window.  I have placed a red mark on the map below to show where we stayed (bottom right of map.)  The purple area across from our lodging is a big shopping center with many restaurants and shops, including a large Safeway grocery store and a Trader Joe's.

The first week there was very cool and foggy with sun only during parts of the afternoons so I did not take many pictures.  I went to the post office in the shopping center to mail several postcards and stopped to take the picture of some pretty purple flowers.  That is when I noticed how close we were to the shore.

I crossed the road and was surprised to see clearly the outline of San Francisco across the Bay.  The following week was sunny and I drove on this road, Shoreline Drive, often and stopped to take pictures and will show more in a future post.

Alameda is a laid-back city, a bit old-fashioned.  It is very quiet during the day with mothers walking with their baby carriages and children, seniors strolling and many bicycles driving around.  The automobile speed is 25 MPH everywhere on the island which was good for me - I could look around as I drove.  Alameda is popular for its Fourth of July celebration which is said to be the second oldest and second longest (3 miles/5 km) in the US, but I missed it since I arrived there on July 6th.  We were staying on Park Street - which is the main business street.  I walked a bit around it and admired the art deco Alameda Theater around one of the corners.  It was opened in 1932 and in 2006 the City of Alameda spent $16 million to renovate it.  (Interior pics courtesy Alameda Magazine.)  Click on collage to enlarge.

Parking is not easy in this city and it took me a while to take pictures of the many pretty houses I saw.  I read that Alameda has more pre-1906 earthquake era homes in the Bay Area than other towns along the coast.  Many Victorian houses are mixed among the old Mission and Craftsman style California houses.

Real estate is not as expensive in Alameda as in San Francisco, but it is still higher than the national average.  I checked the price of some of the least expensive houses for sale - and they were not very large houses.  Here are four of them:  the asking price for the house on top left is $800,000 with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths; top right house is $629,000 with 2 bedrooms 1 bath, 1100 square feet, built in 1913 with no updated kitchen.  Bottom left house is $719,000 with 2 bedrooms 1 1/2 baths and 1100 sq feet, built in 1920.  Bottom right house is $650,000 with 3 bedrooms 1 bath, built in 1915.  Some similar houses have just sold and in many cases they sold for more than their asking price.  An average house a bit more modern is over $1 million.

The downtown area along Park Street does not seem to have changed much from the way it looks in vintage postcards.  It is a designated Historic Commercial District on the National Register because many buildings date back to the 1880s.

Wi-Fi access was practically non-existent in the building where we stayed so I never opened my little notebook computer.  I could not even get internet access on my iPad.  There was a television there, but on the West Coast the Tour de France started at 5:00 am which was way too early to wake up the children.  I only saw the last hour or less each day and I missed watching the Tour.  I did see the last two days of the Tour when I returned home after staying near Nashville for several days.

I was able to look back at all the stages of the Tour de France on the French web.  This site had many videos and photos of the Tour.  The site tells viewers to share the photos with friends.  So, I am posting below some of these photos - courtesy Tour de France, France.  The Tour started in Holland this year.  When it went through Belgium, the King of Belgium came to greet the cyclists.

As the Tour rode in Belgium and the north of France they drove by and also stopped at some of the War Memorials along the way.  The Australian War Memorial is on the top left below next to Chris Fromme of the UK laying a wreath at the Commonwealth Memorial.  They also stopped by Francois Faber Memorial - he was the winner of the 1909 Tour de France and was killed during the First World War.

This year the Tour welcomed the first African team - team MTN-Qhubeka of South Africa.  The team was so proud when Steve Cummings, of the UK but a team member, won the stage on July 18, Nelson Mandela's Day.  Another team member, Daniel Teklehaymanot, of Eritra, won the polka-dot jersey twice (best mountain climber.)

As usual the viewers were shown beautiful landscapes along the way.  There were thousands of spectators lining the route from very young to very old - some in outlandish outfits.

What I like about the Tour de France is that it is really an international event.  The teams are made up of top cyclists from many countries.  Some of my favorites are not even from France - I like Peter Sagan of Slovakia, Mark Cavendish of Great Britain, Nairo Quintana of Columbia and Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland.  In the center of the collage below are the hostesses who deliver the prizes on the podium at the end of each stage.  (Click on collage to see better.)

This year the Tour de France started July 4, 2015 and ended on Sunday July 26, 2015.  It was made up of 21 stages and it covered a total distance of 3,360 kilometers (or about 2088 miles.)  There were 9 flat stages, 3 hill stages, 7 mountain stages, 1 individual time-trial stage, 1 team time-trial stage and 2 rest days.  It was raining on the last stage but when they ended on the Champs-Elysees in Paris the sun came out.  I was hoping that Chris Fromme of Great Britain would win the Tour, and he did.  He was born in Kenya, educated in South Africa and speaks fluent Swahili (see him below in Paris.)

On the side of my blog you can read more on the Tour under the category Tour de France.  I explained some facts about the Tour in a post in July 2009 - you can read it here.  The Tour de France is the world's largest annual sporting event.  It has a worldwide television audience of 3.5 billion people with over 188 countries broadcasting it.  With 4,700 hours of TV coverage 121 different television channels across the world show this race every year.  (Here, on TV in Atlanta, the ceremonies in Paris last Sunday of the end of the Tour were cut short and a NASCAR show came instead...sigh!)  More than 2,000 journalists from many countries attend the Tour each year.  It also attracts 12 million+ spectators along the route who do not have to pay to watch it.  Below is Chris Fromme winner of the 2015 Tour de France and also overall winner of the polka-dot jersey.

Where do you get to watch a live sport event like this for three weeks free of charge?  The French Air Force flies over the last stage of the Tour whether it is a French cyclist or not who is winning.  I don't think this would happen in the US which is so nationalistic about sports (USA!USA!) and somehow it would end up not be totally free to watch.  I may be wrong, but I attended the cyclist events at the 1996 Olympic Games here in Atlanta.  I still remember, sadly, that when the audience realized that no US cyclist was left running the 4,000 meter track cyclist race they left en masse before it was over.  Hardly anyone was watching the winner receiving his gold medal ... It was Italian Andrea Collinelli.


DJan said...

What a wonderful post about this amazing event, VB. I always think of you when I hear about the Tour de France, because you have taught me so much about it. And I am also glad that Fromme won, although I was sad to hear how he was treated by people who watched from the sidelines. It is a testament to the French people that they have never been as jingoistic as we Americans are. And as much as I love my country, I love others every bit as much. :-)

Denise Covey said...

Hello Vagabonde. I'd love one of those cute houses on Alameda. Living on an island sounds dreamy to me. I wouldn't mind one of those cute old houses either. And seeing San Francisco across the water would be amazing. Enjoy your time with the grandies. What a delightful trip for you!

And I did see the Tour de France once, live, at Mont St Michel. So amazing. And it was the year our Aussie, Cadel Evans won. Made it extra cool.

Denise :-)

Elephant's Child said...

Alameda looks a beautiful, restful place. I think those lovely purple flowers are agapanthus - which grow happily here too.
I am not interested in cycling, but always watch some at least of the Tour de France, for the glorious scenery, and for the incredible support.
And I love that the support is not (usually) Nationalistic.
Another wonderful post. Thank you.

GaynorB said...


A wonderful post so beautifully illustrated with photographs. As always I enjoyed reading and discovering another interesting chunk of your life.

We love the TdF and cycling in general. Team GB has made massive strides in their cycling prowess over the past 20 years, and Team Sky are led by the former guru of GB cycling. It makes me very sad to see how Chris Froome and Team Sky were treated by small sections of the public and in particular the French media. It is ironic that the pundits used were 'convicted' drugs cheats. For what it is worth I believe Team Sky is a 'clean' team and it is a great pity that the successful riders of today, from all teams, are suffering because of the past misdeeds of others.

Best wishes

biebkriebels said...

It was a big event in Holland too this year, the start of the "Tour de France". The city Utrecht had prepared for months all things that had to be done and everything went as planned. I watched every day the televison, I like it so much to watch the sceneries of France and to recognize the places where we have been. Chris Froom was the real winner.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Another fascinating and informative post! The Island is so interesting---the prices of those small homes----surprisingly expensive considering the overall square footage.....But I love that it is still like something out of a storybook.
I know how you love the TDF....The scenery in the pictures looked fantastic! So very beautiful.....It sounds like you had a wonderful time on this trip....! And as always, thanks for sharing it with all of us!

David said...

Vagabonde, I lived in Hayward California for one summer and my wife and I have visited the Bay area several times. I've even been to Jack London Square in Oakland...right across from Alameda. you, I've never been there! Weird as I do like to explore. Love that theater and the historic district as well as all of those beautiful Victorian homes. The next time we're out there, Alameda will be on my list to see... Housing prices are crazy out there, that's for sure. For $800K where we live, you could buy a home on the lake with at least 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths...probably around 2400 sq. ft. Or you could buy a couple copies of our home and have money left to invest! I don't understand Le Tour de France...or soccer either. On the other hand my wife does like to watch the Tour. I did note that they had some horrendous crashes this year. Sad for the competitors! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

sandy said...

first off - i love the photo of the cyclists riding by the sunflower fields.

My son has lived in Mill Valley in Marin County for several years and just sold last month to move to Gig Harbor area in Washington. I couldn't believe the prices of the houses around his area where he sold. He has a very very modest 3 bedroom 2 bath approximately 1100 sq foot home which sold for over a million dollars. I love the area and we have gone up probably twice a year over the last 8 years to watch the kids while our son and his wife travel. I'm kind of sad that they have moved and I won't have a reason to go there anymore. I enjoyed your post and that's amazing that your grandkids have had three years of Chinese language lessons. Our son's au pairs (they had three over the years) ...two have been from Brazil and one from Germany -)

Thérèse said...

I learnt more about the Tour de France reading your post than ever before... That's so funny to think about it. A little bit discouraging when you hear all the stories happening backstage... Much more fun here. J'ai tant de bons souvenirs à avoir regardé le Tour de France passer pas loin de notre maison avec mon papa quand j'étais petite.
Very nice of you to show the four examples of houses for sales. It shows exactly what is going on in Alameda.

Rosaria Williams said...

Ah, what wonderful grandparent you are! Your daughter must be really interested in seeing her children become multilingual, sending them all the way to the West Coast for an immersion program. I wish I had insisted my children learn Italian when they were little. I didn't.
As usual, you are full of juicy details and gorgeous pictures in your sharing.

bayou said...

Hello Vagabonde, thank you for all that information about Alameda and those beautiful vintage houses. I wonder how half a bathroom could look like ;-) (house for sale bottom left). A really posh place, though. We were very pleased about the British victory but particularly disgusted by the way some spectators showed their disapproval. There is a big chance that I could visit San Francisco one day. *hope* When you showed pictures on your blog from when you lived there, I became hooked and having never been on the West coast, we shall really try hard to realize that journey. With best wishes from Belgium, take good care.

Amanda said...

I am somehow very good at missing "le tour de France" or not finding what station it is shown but your posts always remedy to the excitement.
Real estate prices are expensive near big California cities and San Francisco is gorgeous and fun!
I am glad your grandchildren are going to be fluent in chinese. They will be like you, speaking multi-languages. I hope all is well in your world and you are having a wonderful summer.

Jono said...

Le Tour was as amazing as ever. I was most impressed by Quintana's performance, but I always have one lingering question. Other than biking for a couple of thousand miles at high speed is there an alternative way to get kissed by all those beautiful hostesses? I realize that I first have to get to France.

Jeanie said...

I always love it when you write about the Tour! I watched as much as I could when I was home but missed the end, being out of cable range. Rick started his own tour of Canada today, riding 750 miles from Lansing to Ottawa and camping along the way. I posted his journal link and route on my blog in today's post if you're interested.

Alamada sounds wonderful -- those houses are great and I love it when a town doesn't change much from the vintage cards we love. Nice, too, for you to get a bit of a holiday and have fun in California and to be with the kids, too. Looks like it worked out well for everyone!

Vicki Lane said...

Alameda sounds wonderful -- if a bit pricey as to real estate. It's good to catch up with what you've been doing.

Nadezda said...

Hi, Vagavonde!
I've never seen Alameda and known that the climate maybe cold in summer in California. It's a surprise! The houses you show are nice but a bit expensive for me :))
The Tour de France was interesting I've watched on TV 'Euronews' channel.
Have a nice week!

Carola Bartz said...

Vagabonde, I have been living an hour north of San Francisco for 14 years and I have yet to visit Alameda. I've never been there! It sounds like a nice enough plae to visit. I actually have plans to go to its huge flea market one day.
Your last few sentences about the Tour de France made me sad. Why can't Americans see other countries win in sports events as well? It's difficult to see anything international live here. The Olympics are never live, only recorded. It's so annoying. And then they mainly concentrate on US athletes. In Germany we could see everything which was so much nicer. Since living here I have become totally unenthusiastic about internationl sports events (and I certainly don't watch baseball or football as I find them so boring).

Kay said...

Alameda sounds like an amazing place. I haven't even heard of it. Thank you for sharing all the wonderful photos. The houses are more expensive there than Hawaii.

Pat said...

Lovely interesting post. The deep blue plant is agapanthus. I had about 15 in an old pot but it has cracked and only one has survived.
I should have thinned them out.
Do you know Gavarnie in the Haute Pyrennees? My French family have just been there and there are photos on my blog.

joared said...

I so enjoyed this post -- reading, photos, commentary! Here I am many years in So Cal, having traveled around the state in years past, including S.F., but have never been to Alameda. Clearly, I've missed an interesting city. I'm reminded of Victorian houses in a community (name forgotten) south of S.F., below Morro Bay along the coast, that my husband and I discovered one foggy night many years ago.

I recall years ago when Russian was thought to be the language everyone should learn, so a family member did. Now, last I knew, his daughter has been studying Chinese. She attends a NYC United Nations school, so I'm hoping that means she may have language immersion experiences with native speakers much as your grandchildren likely have. I think our nation would benefit in many ways if more of our citizens spoke at least one other language(s) in addition to English. Perhaps a Middle East language, Farsi, Arabic? Perhaps, also, our beloved United States is more provincial than many believe.

I enjoyed reading your account of the Tour de France which gives me a new appreciation for the event. Biking had not been a sport I was aware of in my youth. Subsequent years I knew of The Tour mostly in name only. Interest in biking has increased in the years since, and shows little sign of diminishing. Perhaps in time Tour media coverage will become more prominent. Maybe, there will even be an increase in the number of those persons who demonstrate true sports enthusiasts values by supporting the winning best player(s) and/or team through the end of the game, no matter what nation they represent.

Carol Crump Bryner said...

Thanks for another lovely and interesting post, Vagabonde. I'm sorry you missed much of the Tour this year. My husband watches it religiously, and almost hates to travel (unless it might someday be to France) at that time of year.
I lived in the Bay Area near and in San Francisco for a number of years, but knew nothing about Alameda. I loved reading about it and seeing those lovely houses. The house prices in the Bay Area, however, are shockingly outrageous. It's such a lovely spot with its moderate and sunny climate, but I don't know how people afford to live there

EG CameraGirl said...

The price of San Francisco houses is crazy and it's amazing people are willing to pay such high sums!

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