April 30, 2013

Filoli Gardens :: Half Moon Bay Attractions

Filed under: Half Moon Bay Activities — Tags: , — Rick Ellis @ 2:48 pm

By Rick Ellis. Filoli Center (just 10 miles from Half Moon Bay), is a magnificent 650 acre country estate, located about 25 miles south of San Filoli Concert StageFrancisco, California, at the head of the beautiful Crystal Springs Reservoir near the charming village of Woodside. Owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation since 1975, it was built between 1915 and 1917 for William Bowers Bourn II — the owner of one of the richest gold mines in California and also instrumental in bringing water from the Sierra Mountains to thirsty San Francisco.  Bourn called his dream home Filoli, taking the first two letters of his personal motto: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.”  In addition to making it his principal residence, Bourn envisioned Filoli as a focal point for Peninsula high society gatherings, and so it has been and continues to be.


As innkeepers, we always enjoy sending our Half Moon Bay bed and breakfast guests to Filoli because we know they are going to have an incredible and memorable experience. The gardens are some of the most beautiful on the West Coast and the house is a 36,000 square-foot mansion, full of art and antiques. The principal designer, San Francisco architect Willis Polk, used a free Georgian style that incorporated the tiled roofs characteristic of California.  If it’s lunchtime while you’re there, the visitors’ center offers a truly delightful array of sandwiches, soups, salads, pastries, and other delicious goodies. You can have lunch under the trees in the courtyard.

Filoli Gift Shop

The 16 acres of gardens are structured as a series of formally enclosed spaces framed within brick walls and clipped hedges, which open one from another, providing long axial views, in which profuse naturalized plantings of hardy and annual plants contrast with lawns, brick and gravel paths, formal reflecting pools, framed in walls and clipped hedging in box, holly, laurel and yew and punctuated by massive terracotta pots and many narrowly columnar Irish yews, originally grown on the estate from cuttings. Filoli gardens is an outstanding example of the Anglo-American gardening style.


Filoli is about so much more than gardens, though watching them change with the seasons is one of the great joys of being a supporter — a “Friend of Filoli” –and a regular visitor.  In Summer and Fall the tennis court hosts a Sunday Jazz Series where those fortunate enough to get tickets can enjoy a catered luncheon under market umbrellas; being served fine local wines and beer while a prominent jazz act entertains from the stage.  During breaks, attendees promenade through the gardens as in days of old. The Christmas Season finds the Mansion decorated in full Victoriana, and visitors can buy the decorations right off the trees and walls. It’s a major source of operational fund raising, and a chance to see how the Season might have been celebrated in years past.  Festive luncheons and dinners are also highlights of the Season.

Filoli Gardens

Filoli has served as the backdrop or setting for a number of movies and television shows, most notably as the Carrington mansion in the opening credits of TV’s  “Dynasty“.  Most actual filming took place on sound stages in Hollywood, but some critical scenes were shot on location in the Filoli mansion.  “Heaven Can Wait” and “The Wedding Planner” also featured key scenes shot at the mansion.


Open 6 days a week (closed Mondays) from February 5 until October 27, Filoli is well worth a couple hours of your time, soaking up the peace and beauty of the gardens and exploring the house – don’t miss the “high tech” kitchen, circa 1930’s.


February 13, 2013

Piano Sounds its Last Notes in Half Moon Bay

Filed under: Half Moon Bay Local Culture — Tags: , , , — Rick Ellis @ 11:29 am

half moon bay pianThis week in Half Moon Bay, California something very special and unique is drawing romantics, music lovers, and the curious to the beach to witness and celebrate the end of the life of a venerable grand piano.  Having reached the stage where repair is no longer feasible, a decision was made to set up the old instrument on the beach, overlooking the ocean, where passers-by and amateur musicians could tickle the keyboard and where, at sunset, a local pianist would give a mini-concert, accompanied by friends playing their respective instruments.  This Friday, February 15, it all comes to an end. 

Read the full story: Piano Sounds its Last  Notes by the Ocean  in the article from Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle. This local landmark will be missed be locals and visitors to our Half Moon Bay bed and breakfast alike.

April 11, 2011

Juried show in Half Moon Bay highlights Coastside talent

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Rick Ellis @ 11:55 am

A juried competition sponsored by the Coastside Art Gallery and Wine Bar in Half Moon Bay is on view at its neighboring institution, the Coastal Arts League Museum, through May 2. A reception in honor of the artists will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday.

The show includes paintings, photography, ceramics and more. All artists live or are employed on the coast (between Devil’s Slide and Pescadero, west of the Skyline ridges).

Included in “Scenes of the Coastside” are Martin Bradley, Vickie Coe, Diane Costello, Patricia Daley, Bonnie Dunham, Kathryn Ellis, Michael Ensslin, Cheri Halsema, My-Xuan Ho, Steve Iacopi, Marie LaPrade, Patricia Madson, Emily McCormick, Doug McCurdy, Sasha Nealand, Erika Perloff, Sharon Scott, James Shull, Roy Smith and Deb and Michael Wong.

Also showing are top selections from the 2010 juried exhibit: Scott Anderson, Gregory Burke, Diane Burns, Joe Irber, Jeff Klagenberg, Marie Mahtesian and Jane Mountain.

The Coastal Arts League Museum is at 300 Main St. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Fridays through Mondays. Call 650-726-6335 or visit

March 26, 2011

Kathy in “Scenes of the Coastside” exhibition

Kathy Ellis , Old Thyme Inn’s Innkeeper and resident artist, received an invitation to present two of her recent plein air oil paintings, to be hung in the Scenes of the Coastside show, running from April 8 until May 2, 2011 at the Coastal Arts League facility on Main Street in Half Moon Bay, California.

The spectacular, rugged Northern California coast, mountains, peaceful valleys and small towns provide subjects and inspiration for many of Kathy’s recent works.  She paints regularly with Peninsula Outdoor Painters (POPS) and Los Gatos Art Association (LGAA) Plein Air Groups.

The works to be shown are titled  Stage Road Farm :

and Wild at Heart:

Kathy hopes that her friends and fellow artists will come to view the show.

March 11, 2011

A Different Morning in Half Moom Bay

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rick Ellis @ 10:56 pm

This morning, March 11, 2011, began like most other mornings: I was sleeping peacefully, then I awoke.  The insistent ringing of the phone arrested my slumber — at 5 AM.  It was my grand daughter calling to tell me that a tsunami was on the way.  Through the fog of sleep I tried to grasp her meaning.  A large wave of water was moving in the direction of my little California coastal village, at a high rate of speed.  Things could get very nasty, very quickly.  She was already headed over the hill, to safety when she (bless her heart) thought of her old grand pappy and called to get him moving in the same direction.

Once I got the concept of the unthinkable firmly in mind, it was time to awaken my wife.  She, level headed in the face of adversity, was immediately clear about what action to take:  we leave, NOW!  At that early hour nobody knew what might be headed our way.  The TV news folks said that Japan had been hit by a massive earthquake, and that the resulting tsunami was probably on the way across the Pacific.  It could be the apocalypse or it could be nothing, but it didn’t seem to make any sense to stick around and see.  We had several guests staying at the Inn, so we couldn’t leave without awakening them, telling them what we knew, and letting them decide for themselves in what manner to meet their fate.  We did that, then we joined the throng of neighbors heading in their cars to higher, and safer, ground.  Of course Darby the Dog went with us.

Sitting by the side of the road at the top of the mountain, listening to talk radio for news, we had time to think about what it could mean, had this been a real emergency.  We thought of the people of Japan, and wished them well.  We thought of friends and family and what we would or could do, should a tragedy like this befall them.  And we thought of all the things we meant to do to prepare for something such as this, most of which were left undone, having been assigned a much lower priority than the mundane tasks of living and running our business.  Yet those tasks literally could have meant the difference between surviving a cataclysm, or falling victim to it, had this been more than a drill.

After several hours by the roadside,  the critical moment — when the tsunami was scheduled to strike the coast —  passed and relatively little actually happened in our part of the coast.  Like many other temporary refugees, we started back to town, to our lives, and to an otherwise beautiful day.  Yet somehow, it just didn’t seem the same.  True, we dodged the bullet today, but the thought that it could come again, in any one of several forms (we do, after all, live only 8 miles from the infamous St. Andreas Fault), made us think about preparations.  Somehow I think they will have a much higher priority in the near future.

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