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Today's multi-faceted Golden State presents an ever-changing and forever evolving West Coast stage for residents and visitors alike.  California’s rich history combined with the State’s celebrated temperate climate, snow-capped Sierra Nevada and famously rugged coastline paint a dramatic panorama of a land set along “the edge of the earth” -- a land that has always beckoned.


California’s History

In the beginning and for centuries thereafter, this vast length of Coastline was inhabited by Native Americans who respected the land’s natural wealth and savored fruits from its rich rivers and glistening sea – a sea later to be named the Pacific.


In the Fifteenth Century, after the Vatican divided the world, gifting half to Portugal and the remaining half to Spain, the Spanish King inherited much of today’s western United States, including California, as well as most of the Latin American hemisphere.  Mexico became the prized New World capital of Madrid’s monarchy and served as the colonial seat of Spain’s ruling Viceroyalty.  All power, affluence and “high society” became centered in New Spain’s capital, Mexico City.   


In stark contrast, the vast “Northern Frontier” that extended remotely beyond the Rio Grande and included today’s California remained a relatively ignored and forsaken territory.  Traditional American history superficially remembers this early Spanish era in terms of Franciscan missions and occasional, seaside military outposts, failing even to note the famed “Camino Real,” the Royal Road built by the King of Spain to connect the length of “his” New World West Coast to his colonial capital of Mexico City – a “road” that today is known as Highway 101, California’s major north-south artery.


In the early decades of the Nineteenth Century, Mexico won its independence from Spain and, in so doing, inherited the same Northern Frontier that included California.  Mexico’s control of the West Coast, however, soon became increasingly challenged by Anglos migrating from the US East Coast.  Although the ensuing Mexican American War forced Mexico to give up control of the West Coast, the indelible impact of both Spain and Mexico on the future “California” remains even today.  Many of the State’s place names – Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose -- signal the rich heritage of both Spain and Mexico.



At roughly the same time as The Mexican American War, gold was discovered in California.  The cry was heard around the world, and the rich gold fields of the Sierra Foothills just east of Sacramento soon became an overnight Mecca, internationally known as the “California Dream.”  The discovery of the precious metal hastened California’s admittance to the Union just as the Gold Rush brought talented immigrants from all over the world to the new State.  California’s celebrated wine industry today began with Nineteenth Century immigrants, often Italians, who brought Old World vine croppings to establish the State’s first vineyards.  Such “Old Vines” remain the pride of today’s emerging Shenandoah Valley vintners, clustered in Amador County where gold was first discovered.



Although Napa Valley has now become an internationally-recognized brand, known the world over for fine wine, California boasts many other prominent and emerging wine growing regions.  Some of these AVAs include Sonoma, Mendocino, Marin, Monterey and the Sierra Foothills.  Today, wineries thrive everywhere throughout the Golden State.  No longer willing to be satisfied with merely Napa or Sonoma, seasoned connoisseurs now delight in the discovery and sampling of emerging vintners in such historic gold mining communities as Grass Valley.



The uncontested majesty of California’s Pacific Coast will always attract those who are inspired by the Ocean’s beauty and its powers of renewal.  The sea with its gentle breezes and mystical sunsets serves as a magical magnet to Californians and visitors alike.  On any given day of the week, Scenic Highway One – the magnificently engineered and extraordinarily well-maintained road that so famously – and seductively -- hugs the length of the California coast – attracts an appreciative audience made up of cyclists, plein-air painters, hikers, photographers, equestrians, balloonists, surfers, sun worshipers, boaters.  The sea and its curvaceous coastline are the perennial draw, forming the dramatic backdrop to this treasured state road.



Opposite the sea but also running the full length of California’s interior is the Sierra Nevada, a formidable, snow-capped mountain range that separates the state from its immediate neighbor, Nevada.  Nestled high within the Sierra is Lake Tahoe, a Northern California, four-season sports haven just a four hour inland drive from San Francisco.  Half way to Tahoe—two hours from San Francisco -- are the Sierra Foothills with their historic, Nineteenth Century gold mining towns and treasured “Old Vine” vineyards. 



Because quality of “destination” is so important to hospitality’s success, this brief introduction to the “many faces of California” is intended only as a beginner’s primer to the State’s impressive wealth of travel destinations that serve, in part, to attract visitors and travelers from all over the world.  The reader is encouraged to explore California in much further depth by visiting websites such as


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