A Great Small Town by a Great Big City: Danville, CA (Part 1)

Next stop on our trip… paradise. Otherwise known as Danville. A small little town in the Bay Area, about an hour outside of San Francisco. It’s the kind of place I’ve heard referred to as “Mayberry” more than once. We loved our time there so much that we stayed an extra day… then two… then four.

(Side note: Our stay in Danville was such a highlight for me that I have two blog posts worth to say about it. See this Part 1 to learn about the special town of Danville itself and the beautiful spot we stayed there. Then venture to Part 2 for my fave ever Chanson family photos in Napa and San Francisco, as well as details of a friend visit, and bonus “Breanna’s life reflections” at the end.)

THE HOUSE…
The reason we had the luxury to stay in Danville longer than planned was because our thoughtful friend Julia, asked her dad and stepmom if we could park our carhouse in their driveway. Julia gets her generous spirit from her dad, which her stepmom also shares, so they said yes. And we soon found ourselves in the magical landscape that is Mark and Diana’s home.

This house was a haven to us. The driveway was private so we had our own peaceful retreat right in the middle of town. Everyday we woke with the “tough” decision of staying in our relaxing villa, or enjoying all the wonder in the area around it.

More often than not, we opted for the respite of the house.

There was grass in the front yard for Celia to play in, which is heaven to a Venice Beach born child where the grass is covered in either human or dog pee… and you never know which.

Then there was the backyard. And just… wow.

First of all, it was huge. It backed up to a creek with nothing but wild greenery, running water, and deer who walked right past us in the yard multiple times a day.

Amongst twelve different seating areas and a countless variety of lovely trees and birds, there was also tons to do! Like bocce ball, archery, horseshoes, a tree house, swing, and the grandchildren’s toys to enjoy.

The yard was especially rejuvenating for Celia because it was a place away from all the “don’t go over there’s” and “don’t touch that’s”, which plagued her on the many adult portions of this stop, like when we went wine tasting in Napa or hipster boutique shopping in San Francisco (read about both in part 2). Here she had the space to run, play, and independently experience her own version of exploring and learning about the world. 

Then there was my favorite part about the backyard…. a piano/library cottage! Yes! A tiny little house dedicated only to music and reading. What a dream come true! At least for me, who now has a new life goal to aspire to (that includes first learning to play the piano)!

Mark and Diana were only in town for a couple of the days we were at their home, and one was their anniversary, which they chose to spend with us! As soon as we met them, we immediately regretted our “perfect” situation of having the place all to ourselves, and realized we would much rather have had more time with Mark and Diana than privacy! As their eclectic, and non-Swedish furniture home portrayed, they were uniquely interesting and intelligent people with more fascinating thoughts and life experiences than most of us will ever have. They were deep thinkers, heavy readers, and extraordinary-life livers. The kind of people who’s anniversary I’d like to crash every year!

We were so thankful that once again, we were warmly welcomed into a place that felt like home during a time when home is such a difficult thing for us to grasp, and when we need it so badly. Thank you, Mark and Diana. For giving respite to these weary travelers, and for showing us what it looks like to travel often, while still doing home really well.

 

THE TOWN…
If I were to dream up the ideal small town, it would have charming small town hot spots, as well as key amenities I don’t want to do without; familiar faces and places I love, but close enough to new people and areas to keep life interesting; plenty of individual space for all, but still walkable so I can enjoy the year round perfect weather and beautiful landscape. OK, so maybe I didn’t make this place up. It’s Danville.

We spent our days in Danville walking down a tree-lined path behind the suburban neighborhoods, to the local downtown area. A space that’s complete with it’s sweet small town bookstores and restaurants, right next to the favorites you want like Starbucks and Trader Joes.

Celia’s first chocolate milk… she’s a fan.

Danville is close enough to San Francisco that even their local places are of higher quality than in small towns where there’s no competition and you just get what you get. We LOVED our lunch at Gotta Eatta Pita and our stop at the Yogurt Shack for Celia’s first ever frozen yogurt experience did NOT disappoint!

Along our walks people smiled, stopped to talk, and even checked on me when I was waiting for Scottie to pick me up at the store. Even the big kids were nice to little Celia at their famously beautiful parks with clean slides that we were reasonably confident didn’t contain syphillis like I worried the ones back in Venice did.

We even got to experience a true-small town community event! The kind I dream about being a part of when watching Gilmore Girls or Hart of Dixie! It was the Danville 4th of July parade.

Which was not just any parade, or any holiday. In Danville it’s like THE parade and in some ways, THE holiday! 

Everywhere we went, we heard locals bumping into friends or regulars in the store asking one another if they were going to the parade. The only acceptable answer to that question, being a resounding “yes”! This was dually noted when we walked around the downtown area and realized that the entire town of Danville was staked out in sidewalk chalk and lawn chairs the day before. 

The actual parade itself was just like I always imagined a small town parade would be, filled with various businesses, clubs, and organizations that made up the local community. Hugs, hellos, and squirt gun blasts were exchanged freely as friends and family members passed by throwing prized swag to onlookers!

The biggest shock to us came when the parade ended… and people actually picked up trash on the ground! In fifteen minutes, the street was cleaner than it had been before the parade. That may be one of the most amazing sights we see on this entire cross country road trip. 

We met all kinds of people at the parade, including a lady who walked all the way home with us. Strangers just don’t stay strangers in Danville!

Later that evening, we left Danville and headed over to another nearby town for fireworks. It was a totally different small town vibe, but still complete with the community spirit that the 4th of July seems to rally.

The fun we had at the fireworks was a great grand finale for the memorable 4th of July the Danville parade started for us. 

It’s easy to say that Danville is the kind of place I could stay in forever… if only it weren’t for those famous Bay Area prices and our inability to pay them.

Don’t forget to stop by Part 2 for other details about this trip highlight. Including the promised favorite family pics in Napa and San Francisco, details from our friend visit, and some of my thoughts on life as we know it.

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