Wednesday, March 7, 2012


It was a gorgeous Sunday. The sun was out, the birds were singing, and Art Boy and I decided to ditch the rest of our to-do lists and inaugurate our first annual Act Like A Tourist Day.

This is similar to National Goof-Off Day, which we pioneered a couple of years ago. In fact, there really isn't any difference, except this time we decided to go out and sample some of the fun things that Santa Cruz has to offer. You know, those places where we're always sending our out-of-town guests to get the full SC experience, but we never seem to have time to get to ourselves.

Our various Swedish relatives always rave about the Swift Street and Ingalls courtyard complex out on the Westside, so when our friends, John and Marta, invited us out to Kelly's French Bakery for a light brunch, we were SO on board. The place was packed, inside and out, with happy diners, kids and dogs, lured outdoors by the unimaginably warm, summery March afternoon, but we found a shady table outside where we could hang out, feast on pressed cheese sandwiches and salmon bagels, and watch the scene.

Later, a pleasant stroll a couple of blocks down Swift Street brought us to the Equinox Champagne/Bartolo Wine tasting room. (J and M know the best way to entice Art Boy out into any adventure is to mention the words "champagne" and "tasting" in the same sentence.) Look for the black and gold diamond-pattern sign; the tasting room is down at the end of the parking lot, around the back.

Winemaker Barry Jackson was our genial barman, offering up a wealth of information and droll commentary as dry and effervescent as the bubbles he was pouring. Art Boy detected a hint of apple crispness in the formidable sparkler we sampled, then we segued into the reds of the day. Marta and I are the red drinkers, and while we enjoyed a light, dry Grenache and Cioppino Rosso, it was a rich, velvety Syrah that won our hearts.

In between brunch and wine-tasting, we stopped in at La Sirena. This fun, eclectic antiques store, a favorite haunt on Highway 1 in Davenport for the last two years, has recently relocated to the Swift/Ingalls complex.  (It's on Ingalls St., in the Bonny Doon Cellars building, next to Vero France French Linens.)

French country antiques are the specialty of proprietor Kim Kempke, who has stocked the store with wonderful artifacts culled from her many trips to  France, scouring the back roads for brocantes (junk shops) and vide greniers (village clean-out-your-attic sales). But that's only a small percentage of the goodies on view.

In addition to Old World antiques, La Sirena offers a variety of European laces and linens, international textiles, birdcages, chandeliers, paper ephemera, inlaid boxes, small furniture items, soaps, candles and bath oils, a wealth of silver and ethnic jewelry, and a mouth-watering selection of vintage and modern bohemian clothing—like this fetching black ruffled dress jacket (and beaded bag) modeled by the glamorous Marta. (We thought the Queen T-shirt was a nice touch!)

And don't miss the other specialty of the house: beads! Check out the ropes of African trade beads and other exotic, ethnic bead varieties on display behind the jewelry case. Remember the gift shop in the old Davenport Cash Store,  with its array of global beads and objets d'art? That inventory was collected from around the world by former Cash Store owners Bruce and Marcia McDougal  (Kim's unofficial silent partners), and their collection still provides much of the core stock in Kim's cool new shop.

Tasty treats, excellent wine, and irresistible antiques—take a day off sometime soon and check it out! Why should tourists have all the fun?

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