Why I Love: Sonoma

IT’S THE HISTORY. IT’S THE diversity of food, from restaurants to markets to semipermanent food-trucks. It’s the out-of-state license plates ringing the Plaza on weekends. It’s the eight-acre Sonoma Plaza itself: families having picnics, occasional Tai Chi enthusiasts or Morris dancers, the rose garden(s), the three fountains, the bridge over the duck pond, the ducks, the former chickens, the sundial, even the smelly gingko tree. It’s the farmers’ markets (year-round on Friday mornings, May to October on Tuesday nights). It’s that many of my basic needs (pharmacy, grocery and pet-food stores, post-office box, synagogue, landlady) are within walking distance. It’s the community spirit, already concentrated in the county of Sonoma but even more so in the city of Sonoma. It’s the architecture: the 110-year-old City Hall, the Mexican-era barracks and mission, the adobes, the stagecoach-era hotels, the variety of houses on tree-lined streets. It’s the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art on Broadway, especially Wednesdays (free admission!). It’s also the history museum in Depot Park with the three old railroad cars parked outside. It’s the sense of place, and the intimate knowledge born of having covered news here for years. It’s the people: friendly, eccentric, passionate, mellow; many of whose family names adorn the street signs. It’s the Fourth of July parade and fireworks display. It’s also the smaller (but no less spirited) annual Sonoma Valley High School homecoming parade. It’s seeing people I know everywhere I go. It’s walking through the historic Mountain Cemetery, and up the big ol’ Schocken Hill it sits on; it’s also the hill’s Overlook Trail, built as a defiant backhand to someone’s ill-fated idea to install a high-end hotel. It’s the creeks and streets and bike trails and walking paths. It’s the horses at the corner of East Spain Street and Second Street East and the cows at the corner of Verano Avenue and Fifth Street West. And it’s that I have lived here for more than a third of my life.

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