Escape to Sacramento

By Ashley Robinson

Some mornings, I wake up just hating to be in Sacramento. It’s not that I hate Sacramento; it’s that I am restless. The Sagittarius in me is just dying to get out and explore strange new worlds (and seek out life in new civilizations … hmmm … Ashley, don’t reveal TOO much …). I want to be in places I have never been, like an English garden, or standing on a bridge over the Seine or dancing on a South American beach. I have not travelled around the globe as I would like, but I devour travel mags and have a specific bias toward novels set in exotic locals.

There are some mornings where I just can’t be HERE, but my wallet demands I stay put. I would love to just grab my husband, jump on a plane and be out of here, shaking off the Sacramento dust. So, I have constructed a list of places in and around the Grid that can sometimes quench my thirst for escape while letting me save my money for that pie in the sky expedition.

  • On the top of my list almost every weekend is a trip to Le Petite Paris. I love the Parisian atmosphere (while never having visited there, I like to imagine I know the feel of the City of Lights). I love the regulars standing at the marble café bar speaking French, or the sounds of the Little Sparrow (Edith Piaf) belting “Le Vie en Rose” over the speakers while sipping on the best French pressed coffee in California. It is the place for me to go and enjoy being by myself. Everyone has to have a place where they can regroup, and the little café on 19th between L and Capitol is the place for me. I remember one particular late winter morning where it was raining outside, the funky chandeliers glowed a soft gold and the smell of coffee and sugar swelled danced through the moist air. An illegible French Vogue magazine in my lap and a scarf wrapped around my neck, it was the perfect Paris in Sacramento moment I could experience, and a memory often travelled.
  • Mulvaney’s patio. (Probably if I spent less time at this beloved restaurant I would have more money in my account, but nonetheless …) The patio cloistered in vines, the sound of running water and the best food in Sacramento is my go-to place to escape dry summer nights. The air is slow and isolated from the Midtown traffic. The service is astounding and the food takes you out of metro Sac and into the wilderness of Northern California. The escape factor isn’t huge, but it’s enough to make life feel full and satiated. 1215 19th Street.
  • This is a weird one, but I crave this destination some weekend afternoons: Ikea. I have always had a fascination with Sweden … I think it’s the minimalist attitude matched with quirkiness that inspires me. It’s so anti everything I grew up with. Brushed metal lamps, bright pink bed covers and seven consonants strung together. If you let go of the crowds (hard for me), the anxiety of being in a giant maze and the cheap merchandise, suddenly you are in a northern European world of small apartments, smaller kitchens and a life designed to fight back harsh Northern elements. I love it, and could spend all day immersed in this world I can only purchase. 700 Ikea Court.
  • Another store that takes me out of the 916 is Oto’s Marketplace on Freeport. I love this place! Having once dated a Japanese guy, hung out frequently with his non-English speaking parents and visited his family while bullet training through Nippon, I fell in love the culture. I loved the ritual of eating on tatami mats, the okonomiyaki joints throughout Kyoto and the surprising snack foods. Oto’s will take you there: aisles of nori, soy crackers, interesting produce and great cuts of fish. All the merchandise is a journey on its own. Their take-out is phenomenal, the carts are tiny and the people are gracious (no pushing for potato salad here!). If you are looking to widen your grocery store base, Oto’s is a fantastic place to explore. 4990 Freeport Blvd.
  • Late night foreign films at Tower or Crest Theatres. (This should be self-explanatory, no-brainer … and a treat I don’t award myself enough.)
  • Book stores … particularly Time Tested on 21st. However, I would really encourage them to fix the a/c in the old brick space as I would spend significantly more time there. At first, your eyes feast upon the well organized and beautifully acquainted wooden bookshelves overripe with classics and non-fiction. You run your fingers over worn binding and take in the aroma of old ink. I imagine old Jane Austen libraries to be of this environ run by the same lovely owner … until I start sweating all over myself. It becomes so unbearably hot that you are not even in Sacramento anymore. You are in the deep Southern humidity that I would not recommend to any Central Valley native. But up until the heat, it’s a beautiful place to escape. 1114 21st Street.
  • Tapa the World … but late at night. The guitarist sits in the corner strumming a world of dark corners and lusty red wines. Your fingers dip into a clay dish of olives and your eyes play on the plate of grilled vegetables adorned with balsamic reduction. This Sacramento establishment is Sacramento, Spain. The tapa menu is ample and the tables hearken to Franciscan monks. Initial perceptions of low ceilings mature into intimate lighting and the bustling J Street location provide people watching on the patio facing a church. Afterward, if you are so inclined, travel to Morocco (Kasbah Lounge) for hooka and belly dancing next door. 2115 J Street.
  • Finally, and to some, this will sound morbid, but I think there are specific people who enjoy this landmark: the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery. I love cemeteries. It’s not the death that permeates these grounds, it is life. I love to read about the people who once called Sacramento home and if I can find out, how they died. I know, faithful reader, you would say, “That’s not escaping Sacramento.” True. It’s escaping to times that defined Sacramento. It’s feeling the deep loss during the fever epidemic, the legacies of the founding families of Sacramento, or the victories of the first fire fighters. It’s also enjoying the beautiful landscape amidst the marble sculptures. I remember one particular visit in the late fall where that spectacular autumnal Sacramento sunlight came streaming through the pines, danced on the rose petals and surrounded the headstones. I wasn’t in a land of decay; I was in a park of celebration.

Other places I like to go to escape are the high-art galleries of the Crocker Art Museum on rainy afternoons, the cool but neighborhood aura of L Bar on Sunday afternoons for bottomless blood orange mimosas and the outer reaches of the Sacramento River beyond the sprawl around dusk.

Girls on the Grid, do you know of other places I could escape to within the city limits? Is there a spectacular Japanese garden I could feed koi, or a tea room with fresh Devonshire cream to feast on? Post your suggestions so I can check them out for another escapist Saturday.

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  1. Chantel Elder says

    I too am a sagitarrius and know that feeling WELL! There are also tons of places off the grid that are amazing – I found this flower farm that has 800 varieties of day lilly’s that you can picnic at outside placerville. I started to realize that there are tons of places within a couple hours that I have never seen…That helps me a bit too.

  2. Taryn Koval says

    I loved your post.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

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