April 02, 2007
On a quiet night, anywhere in Los Gatos you can probably hear the occasional, faint sound of a train rumbling on by down on Winchester Boulevard, or perhaps as it crosses Southewest Expressway at Bascom. It used to be that the train extended into downtown Los Gatos, and, in fact, the trainline ran all the way to Santa Cruz in one direction and San Francisco in the other, right through Los Gatos. The land once claimed by the trains is now filled with cars and constitutes the town of Los Gatos’s largest parking lot, set perfectly between two busy roads: University Avenue and North Santa Cruz Avenue.
With the congestion and danger of driving on the weavy-windy Highway 17 to the beach, having the train route re-established from Silicon Valley to Santa Cruz may be a good idea and it is not an infrequent debate. At a minimum, it should be on the table for discussion – even if the route didn’t go directly through downtown Los Gatos anymore.
I would agree. Between overcrowding on the roads and the crazy way in which some people drive (you’d think it were a video game with no real consequences if a turn were missed!), plus the cost of gas and concerns for the environment, I believe that the train talks should be revived.
People in Santa Cruz County don’t want the commute to be too convenient, though. And so there are many protests each time a discussion surfaces about a tunnel under “the hill” or a train going over it again.
I’m not a City Planner and I can’t tell you the ins and outs of the whole discussion. Truthfully, I wouldn’t even know who to ask about it, either.
Meanwhile, though, in Los Gatos we can continue to instill a simple love of trains. At the corner of Blossom Hill Road and University Avenues, Los Gatos enjoys two interconnected parks: Vasona Lake County Park and Oak Meadow Park (belonging to the town). One of the unique features of these parks is the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad, which runs from one park to the next. A friend of mine from southern California, Jay Freeman, brought to my attention an ad for a video about how the railroad works – and the ad is a video of the train in action itself.
In addition to the practical reasons for considering the train’s reestablishment between here and the coast, this video clip reminds me of one more: riding the train is fun.
March 25, 2007
More Haunted Places in Los Gatos
When people first hear that there are ghosts in Los Gatos, they want to know – right away – where they are! The old cemetery location doesn’t surprise them, at least not once they hear that there’s a former graveyard that now has shops residing there.
But aside from a final resting place, where else are there ghostly sightings and activities?
One of them is the popular Los Gatos party destination, The Opera House. Apparently it’s just too much fun to leave! Seriously, the ghost there is said to be a woman – she has been seen and heard so many times, by so many people, that it is one of the few spots absolutely not in doubt to be inhabited by a spirit of a former human being. One of the most remarkable things is not just that she has been seen and heard, but that she has even been photographed.
But not to worry, whatever her name is (there is some dispute about that), she is known to be benevolent. I spoke to several employees there myself a few years ago. Those who’d had an experience of her (not all had, but many did) all claimed that she was kindly, protective. One told me that this gal has a conscience. The worker wanted to sneak out early but amazingly, the door was unable to be opened until her shift was over. Scary? The woman I spoke with said no. “She was not about to let me leave early – this is a ghost who’s ethical”, she confided.
March 18, 2007
Los Gatos is a wonderfully diverse place to bring or enjoy a date, or just spend time with your loved ones, whether you’re 15 or 105. If you’re looking for a romantic place in Silicon Valley, you’ve got it in Los Gatos!
For the young, and the young at heart, a great creative outlet in Los Gatos is Petroglyph, where you can try your hand at pottery designs. We have several momentos from there around our home. It’s nice to have useable art too – our daughter made a teapot eons ago that she continues using to this day. This is a fun spot ,and for dates, it can really break the ice to have something to do beyond talking. I recommend it highly as a starting point, especially if this is relatively early on in the relationship.
Parks can be naturally romantic (if there are not a lot of screaming kids, anyway). Los Gatos boasts many, many excellent parks. Oak Meadow Park is usually called “The Airplane Park” by local children as it features an old WWII plane – one of very few left in parks around the nation (it is a decommissioned USAF T-33 Jet). It also offers a neat hand-painted carousell and a small guage railroad, the Billy Joans Wildcat Railroad, which runs from Oak Meadow Park (owned by the town of Los Gatos) into adjoining Vasona Lake County Park. Vasona is really a resevoir but it’s sooo pretty and you can rent either sailboats or paddleboats and enjoy the many, many scenic (and romantic) views. So bring your honey to the parks. Walk through Oak Meadow and get nostalgic. Indulge in a ride on the merry-go-round and another on the train. Feel playful. Then go out on the lake – where it’s quiet and peaceful and the views are lovely. My first nomination for “Great Places to Kiss” in Los Gatos, then, is out on Vasona Lake, taking in a view of the hills (El Sombroso on the left and El Sereno on the right as you look toward the coastal hills and downtown Los Gatos). By the way, the Parks and Rec department offers sailing lessons in the summers and they are open to kids too. A couple of years ago, Jim and I had Clair and Brian do this class and as their grand finale, they sailed us around the lake. That was a trip. But I digress. Back to romance in the park. Something else about the Vasona – Oak Meadow setting is that there are free concerts in the summer! The series is called Vasona Vibrations and it’s every Saturday from 5 – 7pm. So the parks are a fun and scenic date place, but they are also very kid-friendly too. Allow a couple of hours.
My next nomination is really more of an adult venue. Another beautifully romantic spot worthy of kissing is Testarossa Vineyards. Located at the historic Jesuit Novitiate (built in 1888), it is essentially a downtown Los Gatos spot but with some elevation. The building is old, the wine is great and the valley views are timeless! We enjoy bringing visitors there for tasting. The patio with the view is very inviting and feels like something out of a & (Los Gatos has no & Bs, but that’s another post). A little wine, a view, and thou: what more could you want?
Many parts of downtown Los Gatos beckon for dates. The town is overflowing with bars, restaurants, and desert shops, among others. You could hardly go wrong to just stroll down Main Street or North Santa Cruz Avenue and see what you find, maybe ending up at Dolce Spazio for some yummy gelato. But I particularly like Old Town on University Avenue. It’s a bit bustling, but I’d start at Steamer’s for a drink…Then stroll across the street to the older part of Old Town, and just browse (and probably buy) awhile. Both the California Cafe and The Wine Cellar have outdoor seating, if the weather is right and you want to people-watch. Both are great restaurants. The California Cafe has tables near the windows which enjoy a view of the hills – great ambiance. And the Wine Cellar has booths for cozying up ( they aren’t nearly as dark as they were 30 years ago, but are still dating material). Personally, I think fondue makes for a romantic meal – and if you think so too, do make it to the Wine Cellar, as their fondue is fantastic. But either way, you really can’t go wrong.
After the meal, perhaps a stroll through Border’s Books is in order. Or not – your choice! If it’s not too cool, walk to the back of Old Town. There’s a small amphitheater there. Concerts and plays used to happen in that spot, and sometimes now you catch a person just playing a musical instrument there. A pedestrian bridge beyond the amphitheater will take you over the freeway (highway 17) to Forbes Mill (now a Los Gatos history museum). There’s something nice about just making that little walk, and for some reason it has always struck me as romantic too. So my third nomination for most kissable spots in Los Gatos has to be somewhere on or near this pedestrian bridge linking Old Town and Forbes Mill. One time it might be by the old museum itself, another time at the amphitheater, and maybe another time – I know, a shock – right on the bridge with the whole world seemingly passing underneath.
There are many other nooks and crannies around town which may inspire a romantic moment. The many trees and hills and views, together with some beautiful old architecture and fun shops, can certainly make romance feel imperative in Los Gatos. It’s spring. And I think I must be overdue on a “date night”. Don’t tell my kids! (It’s my kids pictured above, in May 1996 just before my sister’s wedding in Boston, MA.)
March 13, 2007
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Most joyfully, the feast of St. Patrick falls on a Saturday this year. That means that things will be hopping in dozens of pubs around the bay! Are you ready to have a great time? There are tons of opportunities, including right here in Los Gatos!
But first, do you know who St. Patrick was? And do you know why the date is celebrated? Briefly, St. Patrick was not Irish himself, but was a missionary (and a priest who’d become a bishop) in the land where he was once held a slave after being abducted by pirates. St. Patrick died on March 17th, in possibly 461 or 493 – as with many saints, we’re not entirely sure. (Catholics celebrate as a feast day not one’s birthday, but one’s death day – as it is considered birth into heaven.) And yes, how typical for the Irish to celebrate a death with drinking! I’m sure you’ve heard of Irish wakes. To “wake” the dead is really to lay the person out for a period of grieving (and remembering, and celebrating) before the funeral. An added advantage is to allow enough time to see if he or she isn’t simply comatose instead of dead. You wouldn’t want to be buried alive! Enough on drinking and dead people….
So where are the local parties?
Each year, the biggest blowout in Los Gatos for St. Paddy’s Day happens at C Hannigan’s, located just off N. Santa Cruz Avenue (close to Highway 9) at 208 Bachman Avenue. It’s an all-day Festival with live music and rowdy good times. Tel 395-1223 Hannigan’s actually has events every single day this week leading up to Saturday’s bash. St. Patrick’s Day tickets are $50, must be bought in person at the bar.
Another spot that’s bound to be filled on Saturday is #1 Broadway, located not on Broadway, but near it at 102 S. Santa Cruz Avenue. The band Sage will be performing at 9:30pm – $10 cover charge. Tel 408.354.4303
And in Sunnyvale, The Golden Bough is being performed at the Sunnyvale Community Theater (550 E. Remington).
For more events in the greater San Jose area this Saturday, click here.
And something fun I stumbled onto is a site which is a bit about the Irish language, with brief audio clips of words & phrases in Irish. It is all on the All About Irish site.
So Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Remember to wear your green!!
March 10, 2007
One of Los Gatos’s More Haunted Haunts
Yesterday, an article I wrote about Haunted Real Estate was published on Real Town. I have received a ton of emails about ghosts and people’s experiences with them in the last 24 hours! I have never had so much fun reading email.
So I thought you folks might like to know about some of our haunted spots, right here in beautiful, charming, upscale Los Gatos. There are so many stories that it’s hard to know where to begin!! Today I will address just one of these interesting locations. More to follow in later entries, I promise! This will be “Mary Pope-Handy’s Los Gatos Ghost Tour”.
Cemeteries tend to give people the creeps, so let’s start there. If you are local to Los Gatos, you probably know that the Los Gatos Memorial Park is actually in San Jose, with a Cambrian Park zip code, out on Los Gatos-Almaden Road. How did that happen? Well, usually you want the burial grounds to be a little bit out of town, right? The Los Gatos Memorial Park began in 1888 (first burials in 1890) and was initially called the Los Gatos Cemetary. By the late 1800’s, Los Gatos had expanded such that the in-town graveyard was just too close, so it was decided to move folks from their final resting place to a “more final resting place” out in the country. (It has no website, amazingly, but you can see great photos of this park by visiting an “unofficial” site at www.LGMP.com.)
Where was this old cemetery? It was located at the corner of Highway 9 and North Santa Cruz Avenue and bordered roughly by Village Lane and the old train tracks. (The land for the train is now the long parking lot parallel to University Avenue and North S. Cruz Avenue. As an aside, North Santa Cruz Avenue was called Cemetery Lane easy of Hwy 9 then!)
It should be noted, too, that not only were there people laid to rest at this location, but it’s also possible that someone was killed there in 1906 when an interurban trolly car jumped its tracks and crashed at the same location – approximately where Double D’s stands today.
The town’s leaders tried to move all the bodies, really they did. From 1890 through 1924, they did a relocation of the town’s dead to the new country location. But some family members could not be located to obtain permission to move their deceased loved ones. After the bodies were moved (or most of them), the land was converted to the Hunt Brothers Cannery and housing for cannery workers for awhile. Today it’s a bustling part of our downtown and houses many shops and some restaurants, the most visible of which is Double Ds. Is it haunted? You’d be surprised if I said no. Several of the businesses there do, indeed, have paranormal experiences and it appears that some of the folks initially buried there still consider this their home. Yes, it’s haunted. Very haunted.
Blog entry by Mary Pope-Handy,
Los Gatos Enthusiast,
Los Gatos & Silicon Valley (San Jose area) Residential Real Estate Specialist and
Realtor, CRS, ABR, SRES, ASP, CNHS, RECS, E-Pro,
Do not use without permission, please.
February 20, 2007
View From Los Gatos
To the left is a photo I took a few weeks back from the far edge of Los Gatos – up on Harwood Road (where you aren’t allowed to park your car so this shot was taken from the window of my automobile). That’s downtown San Jose in the distance. Behind me are the Santa Cruz Mountains, aka the Coastal Range. Across from me, beyond downtown San Jose, you see the eastern foothills. Beyond them, at some distance, is the Central Valley.
This valley, the Santa Clara Valley, was once known as “The Valley of the Heart’s Delight”. Los Gatos lies at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains and is a town you’d need to pass through to get to Santa Cruz and the beach. It s a vibrant part of life in SIlicon Valley, though it has only a little industry (Netflix being the biggest Los Gatos employer and tax generator). Most homes don’t have a great view like this, but many do have views of the hills – and those are lovely too.
How’s the Los Gatos real estate market?
So how’s the market in this very scenic corner of the valley? Well, it depends on your price point. For Los Gatos, the most affordable (i.e., really middle class) housing is going fast. Inventory is low. In fact, in January there were 100 homes for sale (not a lot) and as of this moment, there are just 89. We have 36 homes “pending”. Most of these are not at the high end of the spectrum. Prices in our fair town (not a city, but a town – just to be clear) range from a low of $799,000 to over $15 million for single family homes. By and large, the homes under $1.5 million are flying off the market. But there just aren’t that many buyers for homes over $10 million.
In my own neighborhood, Belwood of Los Gatos, there are about 500 homes and last year about 10 of them sold. This is an exceptionally low-turnover neighborhood. Prices in 2006 averaged about $1,230,000 for a home with about 2400 square feet. Right now there’s exactly one home for sale, it’s not far from the average size but it’s listed at $1,380,000. Will it sell for that much? I have no idea. If it does sell close to that price, we will know that prices are rising again. I cannot wait to see this home myself – naturally I want my home to appreciate in value (that is, until I think about my kids hopefully being in the housing market themselves in 10 years…then I hope it just climbs very, very slowly). You can check out the housing situation in Belwood by visiting my site, www.BelwoodOfLosGatos.com and clicking on the “Homes Info” button, or navigate there directly by using this link: http://www.belwoodoflosgatos.com/more/index.cfm?Fuseaction=more_11917
Historical information for recent years is on the following page, which you can reach at the top of the Homes Info page.
So how’s the market? If you are the owner of a high end home and you need to sell, you will say it’s awful. If you own a nicely updated, well priced middle class home, you would say it’s a market that is great for sellers and a little rough on buyers. If your home is not in great shape or is not priced in the bottom third of its competition, you might be convinced it’s a terribly strong buyer’s market. Truth is, it is close to balanced for most homes. It can be a win-win market, but everyone has to be realistic and be prepared to do a little work. But that would be true for most worthwhile things in life: they tend to need a dose of realism and some effort.
December 01, 2006
Any time of year, a favorite place of mine to hang out is Old Town Los Gatos. A few years ago it was revamped, and in all honesty, I think it lost a lot of its charm then, but much of it does still remain and despite changes, it’s a great place to be and relax. There is a little bit of large topiary that remains – once there was a huge selection of it – and the outdoor theater still invites people to sit around and visit, if not see a show or hear music these days. It’s my hope that some of the “old” benefits of lingering at Old Town will one day return.
Some things don’t change. The Wine Celler is my favorite restaurant, not just in town, but anywhere. It offers a wonderful menu , including fun things like fondu and cheese boards, a nice variety of wines, and even live music. Additionally there’s patio seating upstairs in nice weather, but always a wonderful interior ambiance in the cellar itself. The people who run The Wine Cellar, the Hauck family, are as nice as the food is good.
I began visiting The Wine Cellar as a teenager and pretty much dragged all my friends there, especially on a weekend night if Gritty and Gravel were playing. (Does anyone know whatever happened to those guys?) I was a “regular” and I often asked them to play Desperado. They humored me. And I kept returning with new people week after week. As it turns out, my better half (Jim, now my husband of 21 years) was there many of those nights too. We would not meet until many years later, but now the restaurant is one our kids like too. I guess it was meant to be!
Another wonderful place in Old Town is directly upstairs, and that’s the local Border’s Books. My family and I are there a lot. I have been joking about buying stock in the place, actually. (I was there yesterday – bought Moving The Chains, a book about my famous cousin that happens to mention both my sister and my brother – and then indulged myself by having a latte in the cafe while skimming through the book for awhile.)
And a nice place to take a friend for a drink after work is Steamer’s. This place has a fantastic wine buyer and I’m only sorry that I don’t remember his name to give him credit – but he’s extremely good at matching the right wine to the right food, he’s friendly, and he’s fun to talk with. Steamer’s has some cool food and a nice atmosphere too.
I miss the outdoor shows in the open air theater. I miss the theater where Borders now stands too. I miss all the topiary that used to grace Old Town. But so much of the old charm remains, and so many wonderful people work the restaurants and shops, that even “progress” did not ruin what may be the very best part of our wonderful town. If you haven’t spent time there, please do. Neat shops, neat people, neat place.
November 26, 2006
Los Gatos Annual Real Estate Trends
|SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES||% Change from Year Before|
|Area||Year||Sales||Median Price||Average Price||DOM||New Listings||Sales||Median Price||Average Price||New Listings|
November 25, 2006
Los Gatos is home to many great things, many great ideas too, but also home to many fascinating people who are successful in their own fields. The list includes CEOs, sports celebrities, and other famous people. Wikipedia lists several of our Los Gatos contemporaries who are very well known, and if you live here, you do bump into them at Whole Foods, a restaurant, or maybe your child’s school. They’re just normal people, trying to lead normal lives. I, for one, won’t bug them if I see them in public or at some function where we happen to be together. I once spent a year in a body cast and it made me appreciate, deeply, how important it is just to be treated like a “normal person” – no matter what the circumstances are.
But Los Gatos has often been a popular place among those who could choose to live or visit anywhere they wanted – this is not a new experience for our pretty town. John Steinbeck lived here and wrote “Of Mice and Men” in those days. Charlie Chaplin came to visit and was seen a few times at the old Lyndon Hotel in the days when he was filming at Niles Canyon (a district of Fremont). The famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin lived in Los Gatos, up near the Holy Names Sisters convent and the Jesuit Novitiate, for a bit of time in his childhood. It was a treasured time for him.
Want to read up on well-known visitors? Take a look:
Visiting Movie Stars:
In addition to all the famous (and those of us who are not-so-famous) people who have enjoyed making Los Gatos home, there was a time in which ordinary, but very ill, people would pilgrimmage here too. The climate was so favorable it was prescribed. Did you ever wonder about the fact that Los Gatos was so small, but for many years had two mortuaries? Many of these sickly folk did improve here, but many others did not. Read John Baggerly’s surprising bit of history as Los Gatos, the health refuge: http://www.losgatos.com/history/climate.html .
Finally, some residents just won’t leave, even when their earthly life is over. If you are interested in our (mostly) unseen residents, please visit a page on one of my websites dedicated to Haunted Real Estate. Los Gatos is a featured location and I discuss there the old cemetary (which has shops over it now) and other places where the townsfolk remain in spirit.
November 21, 2006
Belwood of Los Gatos, Belgatos and Surmont areas of Los Gatos
On the far eastern end of Los Gatos lies a friendly and active neighborhood of about 500 homes: Belwood of Los Gatos, and also the Belgatos and Surmont neighborhoods – all of whom now share a cabaña.