Saturday, April 02, 2016

Regency Romances and All Things Snoopy: A Weekend in Santa Rosa

A few weeks ago, Facebook let me know that one of my very favorite authors, Julia Quinn, would be at a book store in Santa Rosa on April 1st. "Her only Northern California appearance this year!" it said.

I looked at my calendar--a Friday! I did the math in my head. Leaving from work in Sacramento, I could easily make it to Santa Rosa by 5:30, have some dinner, and be at the event well before its starting time of 7:00. Because it was an evening event, and Santa Rosa has other things that make me very happy (hint: a very famous cartoon Beagle and a round-headed kid are very celebrated there), I went all-in and booked a hotel room for one night. If I'm going to be in Santa Rosa, there's no way I'm ignoring the Charles Schulz Museum.

Of course, I was there last June, but the museum is very good about rotating its downstairs exhibits. It's not a huge museum, but it's an incredibly loving tribute to the genius of Schulz...and I was delighted to learn that instead of missing it, I was just in time to see one of the best exhibits (in my opinion) they've done: Snoopy and the Red Baron.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to the first reason I planned this little adventure.

Before I could meet Ms. Quinn (oh, hell, I'll just call her Julia), I had to check in to my hotel...and because I was feeling a little bit splurge-worthy, I chose Hotel La Rose, a historic hotel in Railroad Square that I've walked by many times in previous visits and always admired from the outside. It wasn't outrageously expensive, but it also certainly wasn't the Motel evidenced by my happy gasp when I opened the door to my room--with a key, not a key card--to a huge, beautiful room. (Seriously huge. I started to regret that I hadn't brought my fitness hula hoop with me.)

King-sized bed. Do you know how tiny I was in that thing?

My view out the window. All the windows have flower boxes.

A little art work.

The corridor.

The lobby.

This is the exterior. On the left side of the building in this pic,
second story, the two windows closest to the corner of the
building were my room.

I wandered the immediate area looking for dinner, but found nothing that pleased me. I did, however, say hello to some favorites.

I love this statue. I love that Santa Rosa loves Schulz.


Fabulous neon sign.

I decided it would be best to get over to the book store, Copperfield's. It was about three miles away in a large shopping center, where I found a duck sign, the shop itself (marvelous independent bookstore, may it never perish), and a burrito place waiting for me with an enormous, delicious, rice and bean burrito to soothe a hungry teacher's soul.

I arrived back at the book store about twenty minutes before Julia was to get started. There was already a small crowd gathered, but I managed to snag a chair in the front. And then, precisely at 7:00, I turned around and she was walking in, with a big smile on her face, and we were all tittering happily at her.

I've followed Julia on Facebook for a while now, and she is always very gracious and engaging with fans. I'm delighted to say that in person, she's just the same--funny, sweet, and very, very interesting. This is a Harvard grad who started med school before deciding she really just wanted to write novels. The whole hour was really just a fan Q&A, as she hates preparing speeches and prefers to let her readers guide the discussion with questions. She was mostly asked about how she gets a novel finished, her work style (it involves a lot of Starbucks), and how she organizes all of her many characters (her most famous books are the Bridgerton books, eight siblings in Recency England, with eight different books chronicling their romantic mishaps).

I had to get the fangirl picture.
 Promptly at 8:00, the event organizer signaled "last question" so Julia could start the signing line. I waited a good thirty minutes for my turn, but everyone was relaxed and happy so it didn't feel that long at all. Plus, I appreciated that she was taking time with each person, really talking to people and letting people take pictures with her. I asked the lady behind me if she'd be willing to snap a pic with my phone for me.

My favorite author and I!
When I got to the front of the line, the event organizer asked my name so she could tell Julia (who then asked how to spell it because she personalized her signing in my book). I told the organizer that I had driven all the way from Sacramento to meet Julia, and the organizer, in turn, said, "This is Megan. She came all the way from Sacramento tonight!"

"Oh my God, really?!" Julia grew up near Santa Rosa and knows her California geography. She was so flattered I'd driven all that way.

"When I saw this was your only event in Northern California, I just had to come!!" I told her, too, that I was making a weekend of it, going to the Schulz Museum, too. She had mentioned during the talking part of the evening that she loves flying into Santa Rosa because the airport logo features Snoopy.

So all in all, it was a really great event--my first author event, actually--and I walked out of there really happy that I'd made the drive--it's about a hundred miles from Sacramento to Santa Rosa (not necessarily as the crow flies, just as the roads go).

When I got back to my hotel, I parked in the designated lot, which just happens to be shared by a coffee shop that is catty-corner to Hotel La Rose. I had been hoping to chance upon some dessert and a hot beverage, and was delighted to find this shop stays open into the evening. I got a cookie and some hot chocolate, and sat down to enjoy some live jazz for a bit before heading back to my room.

Peeking in at the lobby from outside.

I woke up way too early this morning, as I always do in unfamiliar beds. After a shower and repacking my bag, I headed downstairs to take advantage of the continental breakfast. Nothing was remotely near open at 7:30 in the morning, and most of the Railroad Square area stays closed until 10:00, as does the Schulz Museum.

I had a stroke of brilliance, however, and by 9:00 I was meandering into the Target at Coddingtown Mall to get a couple things I needed and had figured I'd get on the way home.

Great old turning sign. The other side says Town.

By 9:45, Sylvie was parked at the museum, and I had wandered across the street to The Warm Puppy for a cup of tea and a scone by the fire. It was just a bit overcast this morning, so this was perfect.

No disposable paper cups at The Warm Puppy. Nope, we get
our tea in Snoopy mugs. 

Schulz used to come to The Warm Puppy every morning--he
was very much a creature of habit, as am I. They keep his
table reserved for him to this day, which makes me happy.

Finally, it was 10:00 and I was off to the museum.

From the Peanuts Movie.

Last summer, this was being painted in preparation for the
upcoming exhibit. 

I always end up taking a picture of this because it's just so
astounding. That's about 2/3 of it. The whole thing is a good
30 feet in height, I think.

Why I was there...

The art painted on the walls for this exhibit was perfection.

From the museum's web page:

As Snoopy envisioned himself soaring through the clouds in pursuit of his nemesis, the infamous Red Baron, he sat atop his doghouse, which he imagined to be a real British biplane known as a Sopwith Camel (Schulz once said, “Can you think of a funnier name for an airplane?”). He wandered through parts of Europe that World War I aviators genuinely traversed, stopping in caf├ęs to quaff root beers and flirt with French lasses. In everything he cartooned, Schulz strove for authenticity, a point made especially clear by his Flying Ace storylines. 
The Flying Ace is my favorite Snoopy persona. Maybe because of my own connection to the Air Force? I don't know, but it's always made me happy.

This was an animated projection on cloud cut-outs. Clever!

Just outside of the Flying Ace exhibit...after I had giggled my way through the original strips there (some signed to people, "with love, Sparky" in his hand), I found the Best. Thing. Ever. The museum has set Lucy's Psychiatric Help booth (formerly outside), and some other large props like Snoopy's dog house and his supper dish, against backgrounds from the recent movie, and provided props. They encourage people to take all the pictures they want.

You know I so did.

Of. Course. I. Did.
Next, I wandered through another temporary exhibition, about Peanuts and football. There was more delighted giggling. Seriously, friends, Peanuts was a funny little strip.

This is Charles Schulz pulling the football away from Bill Melendez, the late animator who voiced Snoopy and Woodstock. His voice, through archival footage, was used in the recent movie, and I love this so much.

Shortly after I snapped the above picture, a little girl walked by me, yelling "AUUUUGH!" in Charlie Brown style. I burst out laughing--I love that a new generation is falling in love with Peanuts, even 15 years after the death of its creator.

Who doesn't find this funny?!

I wandered upstairs to see the permanent exhibits, but I didn't spend a lot of time there. Mostly I just wanted to pay my respects to the recreation of Schulz' studio, using his original drawing board, complete with the worn-down spot where he drew Peanuts strips for fifty years.

 Then it was back downstairs, where I asked a nice couple if they'd get a picture of me. Because I really, really, really needed to do this. Obviously.

I stopped to tell the docent on ticket-taking duty that every time I leave this place, I have a huge smile on my face. He grinned at me and said, "Believe me, me too. It never gets old." I told him--a white-haired older gentleman--that I'm a life-long fan.

"Oh, me too!" said he.

I wandered over to the Snoopy Gallery and Gift Shop, and yes...I bought some stuff. Last year, I bought Belle and Spike dolls, with the intention of eventually rounding out the available dogs from Snoopy's siblings. Today I bought Marbles and Olaf, and probably would have bought Andy, but they were out. I'll get him another time, along with Snoopy in his little matching t-shirt. Then I'll have the whole set (as they haven't done dolls for Rover and Molly, sadly).

So tonight, Marbles and Olaf are perched on my piano, making me grin foolishly. They'll look adorable in my classroom next year.

I drove home through Wine Country, not stopping to take pictures, but just enjoying the stunning views as I meandered along. It's so nice to be in a position to have these little adventures from time to time.

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