Vancouver’s Granville Island

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Granville Island in Vancouver is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Set along the waters of False Creek, Granville Island offers visitors scenic views. Spend the day shopping or eating at the various stalls within the Public Market or in the surrounding buildings. Unwind while perusing galleries or drinking beer at the Granville Island Brewery. Enjoy the waterfront while strolling along nearby Island Park Walk. Granville Island has so much to offer that tourists will find it one of the top highlights of their trip.

Getting to Granville Island

Tourists planning to visit Granville Island will arrive either by car, bus, or boat. Granville Island is accessible by car but you will be fighting with other drivers for the few parking spots available. The better plan is to arrive at Granville Island by bus or by boat. To get from Downtown to Granville Island you will board the #50 bus. The route for bus #50 runs through various Vancouver districts. Visitors staying in and around Gastown, Chinatown, Downtown, or Yaletown will take bus #50 southbound. Hop on the #50 bus labeled False Creek via Granville Island and exit at the W 2 Ave at Anderson Street stop. From the bus stop it will be a four-minute stroll to Granville Island via Old Bridge Walk.

A unique way to reach Granville Island is via boat on the waters of False Creek. Two boat companies sail along False Creek, Aquabus and False Creek Ferry. Both boat companies have eight docking locations along the waters of False Creek. You can catch one of the boats in popular tourist locations such as Yaletown or near BC Place at the Plaza of Nations. Boats land at each of the docks every 15 minutes so you won’t have to wait very long to catch the next boat. The simplest thing to do is arrive at the dock and hop on to whichever boat company arrives first.

Once on board you’ll pay the driver the fare to ride the boat. The boats hold between twelve and twenty passengers at a time. Passengers sit on benches next to windows so everyone has a view during the ride. The boats sail quietly along the waters of False Creek and offer a relaxing journey while sailing past the buildings of Vancouver. Exit the boat at the Granville Island dock. From the dock you are steps away from the main building for the Granville Island Public Market.

Granville Island Public Market

The most popular place to visit on Granville Island is the Public Market. Inside this building you will find a vast array of vendors. You can buy baskets of various fruits or bouquets of flowers. Other vendors sell pastries and bread still warm from the oven. Locals decide between fresh pasta and ravioli to bring home to cook later. It’s easy to check off your grocery list at the Public Market.

A few vendors at the Public Market sell food products you can eat on site. Lee’s Donuts is a must for those with an inclination towards fried dough. The Honey Dip Donut is a popular choice and tastes delicious. Enjoy your food with a cup of coffee from either JJ Bean or Petit Ami. If you are in the mood for more pastries and heartier fare stop at Laurelle’s Fine Foods. Laurelle’s is a bakery deli that sells meat pies and muffins. The dough on the meat pies flake right off and melt in your mouth.

Next to the Public Market are more buildings full of shops, galleries, and other food options. Those who wish to sample a local beer will want to swing by Granville Island Brewing. To maximize your tasting opportunity order a flight which allows you to sample up to four different beers. The Island Lager is their original beer and a fan favorite. For a true Canadian experience be sure to sample the Maple Shack Cream Ale. In addition to beer Granville Island Brewing offers a food menu with dishes such as poutine.

Island Park Walk

After you’re finished with Granville Island head to nearby Island Park Walk. This path just on the other side of Granville Island offers views of Granville Island plus residential homes and boats docked at the harbor. The path is especially stunning in the fall time when the leaves have changed colors. Here along the path visitors can dream of living next to Granville Island. Imagine waking up on a weekend morning and heading over to pick up items for brunch at the Public Market.

If daydreaming leaves you famished, at the end of Island Park Walk you will find Go Fish. This popular eatery sells quality seafood dishes from a simple shack. For fried golden perfection order the classic fish and chips. Or try the fish sandwich with either seared ahi tuna or salmon. Afterwards take Island Park Walk back the way you came towards either the #50 bus or to the Ferry Creek docks to catch the next boat home.

 

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Granville Island

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Granville Island 49.270622, -123.134741 Overview of Vancouver, Canada and Vancouver’s Granville Island

 

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Overview of Vancouver, Canada

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Ask ten different people what their favorite thing to do in the Canadian city of Vancouver is and you are likely to get ten different answers. The reason you get varied responses stems from the fact that few places in the world compare to Vancouver. To the casual observer Vancouver is just another metropolitan city. Yet Vancouver differs from other major cities because it embodies diversity. In one day visitors can hike Stanley Park in the morning and then shop Downtown among the masses in the afternoon. Foodies buy produce at Granville Island one moment and enjoy fine dining in Yaletown the next. Convention goers attend meetings at Canada Place and then lounge waterside at English Bay Beach. Tourists walk historic Gastown before slurping noodles in Chinatown. These dichotomies exist in harmony with the diverse people of Vancouver.

With something for everyone Vancouver as a tourist destination appeals to even the most discerning of travelers. First time travelers looking at a map of Vancouver might notice that the city looks like an oyster shell. As anyone who loves oysters knows, you’ll want to crack that shell open and dig into what Vancouver offers. Vancouver isn’t a difficult city to navigate but the easiest way to get oriented is to begin somewhat in the middle of the city in the Downtown district. Downtown is home to the financial and business districts of the city. Among the skyscrapers you will find the Vancouver Central Library. This stunning building is an architectural contrast to the stark skyscrapers. In Downtown you’ll want to make your way to Robson Street. This is one of the main thoroughfares in Vancouver and stretches the length of the city.

On one end of Robson Street is BC Place, a stadium where one can catch either a sporting or musical event. Continuing on and around Robson Street you’ll find a variety of shops. A number of the stores are global brands but a few, such as Roots, are Canadian brands. Few tourists will walk the entirety of Robson Street, but those that do wind up at Stanley Park. If you don’t wish to walk, or don’t have a car, you will reach Stanley Park by bus. Stanley Park is a massive public space with paved paths for bicyclists, roller bladders, and walkers. Here visitors enjoy trees, totem poles, and the waters of the Vancouver Harbour.

To the east of Downtown you will find Canada Place. If you arrived by cruise ship, you will have most likely disembarked at this spot. Besides being a cruise ship terminal, Canada Place is home to a convention center and hotel. Near Canada Place is the oldest neighborhood in the city, the historic Gastown. First time tourists visit Gastown at least once, to see the Steam Clock and a chance to shop for souvenirs. Next to Gastown is Canada’s largest Chinatown. Vancouver’s Chinatown traces its history back to 1885 and to this day is full of shops and restaurants. While in Chinatown you will want to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This tranquil spot is a wonderful place to recharge and center oneself.

West of Downtown, in simplest terms, is synonymous with food. The regions of the West End and Yaletown are quintessential foodie neighborhoods. Here you will find well-established diners among up and coming restaurants. Further west, across the waters of False Creek, is Granville Island. Here at the Granville Island Public Market are vendors galore. Visitors can buy fresh produce, straight out of the oven breads and pastries, and a plethora of other food products.

Regardless of how you spend your time in Vancouver you will find navigating the city easy. Those who enjoy walking will find wide avenues and flat surfaces. Bus routes traverse throughout the entire city. Ferries sail to Granville Island or further afield to places such as the city of Victoria. Vancouver’s rapid transit system, SkyTrain, runs through parts of Downtown. The SkyTrain connects Vancouver to the cities of Burnaby, New Westminister, Surrey, and Richmond. For those arriving in Vancouver by airplane, the SkyTrain’s Canada Line will get you from Vancouver International Airport to your destination in no time.

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Vancouver

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Vancouver Central Library: 49.279754, -123.115679
Robson Street: 49.284605, -123.124824
BC Place: 49.276750, -123.111999
Stanley Park: 49.298319, -123.137684
Canada Place: 49.289124, -123.116498
Gastown: 49.282808, -123.106688
Chinatown: 49.280600, -123.100553
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: 49.279649, -123.103913
West End: 49.285646, -123.130621
Yaletown: 49.275702, -123.119907
Granville Island: 49.270622, -123.134741
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Vancouver Central Library
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver Public Library- Central Branch, West Georgia Street, Central, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Robson Street
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Robson Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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BC Place
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
BC Place, Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Stanley Park
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
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Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park

Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Canada Place
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver Convention Centre West Building, Canada Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Gastown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Gastown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Chinatown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Chinatown, East Pender Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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West End
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
West End, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Yaletown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Yaletown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Granville Island

Overview of Vancouver, Canada
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Vancouver’s Granville Island


Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, Canada

 

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Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island

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Cheung Chau - Hong Kong, China

Cheung Chau

 

Cheung Chau is part of Hong Kong’s Island Districts. Located less than an hour away from Hong Kong Island, Cheung Chau allows visitors a chance to glimpse a different side of Hong Kong.   Here in Cheung Chau is a bustling fishing village. The harbor is full of fisherman working on their boats. At the waterfront vendors sell fish at markets while restaurants serve up fresh seafood dishes. Besides seafood tourists will enjoy Cheung Chau’s narrow streets with their shops, bakeries, and food stalls. Cheung Chau may translate from Cantonese into “Long Island” yet the island itself is small enough to entice visitors for a few hours. This makes Cheung Chau a perfect island for those tourists on a time crunch but still wanting to explore one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands.

Central Ferry Pier 5 - Hong Kong, China

Central Ferry Pier 5 – Hong Kong Island

Cheung Chau Ferry Pier - Hong Kong, China

Cheung Chau Ferry Pier

 

The Ferry to Cheung Chau

Ferries to Cheung Chau leave from Hong Kong Island’s Central Ferry Pier 5. Departures are daily and either on the ordinary or fast service ferry. Ordinary service will get you to Cheung Chau in an hour while fast service will get you there in half an hour. Ticket prices vary depending on which ferry you board and if you travel Mondays to Saturdays or Sundays and public holidays. The most expensive fare is the adult fare on the fast ferry on Sundays and public holidays at $37.20 HKD ($4.80 USD). Ferries that leave from Hong Kong Island’s Central Ferry Pier 5 sail direct to Cheung Chau Ferry Pier.

Boats in Cheung Chau's harbor - Hong Kong, China

Boats in Cheung Chau’s harbor

Fisherman heading to his boat - Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, China

Fisherman heading to his boat

Bicycles along Cheung Chau's waterfront - Hong Kong, China

Bicycles along Cheung Chau’s waterfront

Dried Seafood - Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, China

Dried seafood for sale

Egg custard from a food vendor in Cheung Chau - Hong Kong, China

Egg custard from a food vendor

San Hing Praya Street - Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, China

San Hing Praya Street

 

Arrival in Cheung Chau

The moment you disembark the ferry on Cheung Chau the famous golden arches of McDonald’s will greet you. This fast-food restaurant is on the main road called San Hing Praya Street. If possible resist this American temptation and look back towards the water where you will see an overabundance of boats and fisherman. There aren’t many docks along the waterfront and fisherman make their way back to land on floating platforms attached to shore by ropes. Cheung Chau is an active fishing village and if you are a fan of seafood you will want to save your appetite for dining options other than McDonald’s. Along San Hing Praya you’ll notice rows of bicycles belonging to the hard-working people of Cheung Chau. Cars are not allowed on Cheung Chau so locals use bicycles or small-motorized carts to travel around the island. Continue your introduction to Cheung Chau by exploring San Hing Praya Street. Here you will find shops with souvenirs and food stalls where you can buy dried seafood or desserts such as mochi or egg custard. At the end of San Hing Praya Street is Pak She Praya Road. This road is full of restaurants selling seafood and this section of town is a great place to eat a meal at if you are hungry.

Pak Tai Temple - Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, China

Pak Tai Temple

An altar inside the Pak Tai Temple - Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, China

An altar inside the Pak Tai Temple

 

Cheung Chau Temple

From the Cheung Chau Ferry Pier turn left on San Hing Praya Street. Turn right past the playground at Pak She Third Lane. This street will take you to one of the main temples on the island, Pak Tai Temple. Walk Pak She Third Lane until you reach Pak Tai Temple on the right-hand side. The temple is open to the public but remember, be respectful inside this holy place of worship. Dedicated to the Taoist God of the Sea the temple has four stone lions that great you as you ascend the steps to the shrine. Before entering the temple notice the ornate statues of dragons at the top of the temple. Throughout the temple you will see various figurines and murals such as that of a tiger and their cub.

Steamed buns sold by a street vendor in Hong Kong, China

Steamed buns sold by a street vendor

Tung Wan Beach - Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, China

Tung Wan Beach

 

Tung Wan Beach

From Pak Tai Temple you will walk towards the direction you came, but this time on Pak She Street and San Hing Street. These streets include bakeries selling various steamed buns and food stalls selling different flavored fish balls. From the food stalls and stores take either Kwok Man Road or Tung Wan Road towards Tung Wan Beach. This beach is popular with tourists and locals alike on hot days.   After you’ve enjoyed the sun, water, and sand continue exploring the various streets around Tung Wan Beach. Along these streets are stores used by locals such as apothecaries, grocery stores, and stores selling household goods. As you walk among the streets notice the small altars dedicated to various deities.

A street in Cheung Chau - Hong Kong, China

A street in Cheung Chau

An altar in the streets of Cheung Chau - Hong Kong, China

An altar in the streets of Cheung Chau

 

Tai Hing Tai Road

Make your way through the various streets, heading past the Cheung Chau Ferry Pier and on to Tai Hing Tai Road. On Tai Hing Tai Road is Cheung Chau Market. Inside are various vendors selling meats, seafood, and fruits to locals. Around the market are hawker style food stalls and restaurants. Pick any of the restaurants to eat at and enjoy fresh seafood dishes such as salt and pepper crab or seafood combination fried rice.

Cheung Chau Market - Hong Kong, China

Cheung Chau Market

Salt and pepper crab - Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, China

Salt and pepper crab

Seafood combination fried rice - Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, China

Seafood combination fried rice

After your delicious seafood meal continue to explore the various streets before heading back to Cheung Chau Ferry Pier. Here at Cheung Chau Ferry Pier you will catch your boat ride back to Hong Kong Island.

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Cheung Chau

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Cheung Chau Ferry Pier: 22.208517, 114.028364
San Hing Praya Street: 22.209453, 114.028527
Pak Tai Temple: 22.212387, 114.027883
Tung Wan Beach: 22.210419, 114.029939
Tai Hing Tai Road: 22.205559, 114.026941
Cheung Chau Market: 22.206856, 114.028119
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Cheung Chau Ferry Pier
Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island
Cheung Chau Ferry Pier, Hong Kong
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San Hing Praya Street
Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island
San Hing Praya Street, Hong Kong
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Pak Tai Temple
Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island
Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong
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Tung Wan Beach
Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island
Tung Wan Beach, Hong Kong
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Tai Hing Tai Road
Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island
Tai Hing Tai Road, Hong Kong
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Cheung Chau Market
Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island
Cheung Chau Market, Hong Kong

 

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Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia

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English-speaking travelers will find Hong Kong an accessible gateway to future travel through out Asia. Hong Kong was once a British colony and many who live in Hong Kong today speak English. With the language barrier removed Hong Kong is a perfect city for English-speaking travelers to acclimate to life in Asia. You will find signs and menus written in both English and Chinese. First time travelers will stick to the two main sections of Hong Kong, Kowloon in the north and to the south Hong Kong Island. Victoria Harbour separates Kowloon and Hong Kong Island and to sail across Victoria Harbour you will board the Star Ferry. Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is another way to travel between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. MTR is the fastest way to reach the parts of Hong Kong you will want to visit for sights, food, and shopping. The top two sights for Hong Kong are Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak. Those who wish to shop can find stores in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district and on the streets around and on Hennessy Road on Hong Kong Island.

View overlooking Convention Centre, Victoria Harbour, and Kowloon - Hong Kong, China

View overlooking Convention Centre, Victoria Harbour, and Kowloon

Victoria Harbour

You will enjoy iconic views of Hong Kong while sailing across Victoria Harbour. As you sail through the harbor you’ll be able to take fantastic photos of the buildings on both the Kowloon side and the Hong Kong Island side. If you’re lucky a junk boat will pass by just as you’re snapping your photo to enhance the image. The easiest form of transportation across Victoria Harbour is on the Star Ferry. It is possible to traverse Victoria Harbour underground using the MTR but you won’t see the scenery traveling that way. The Star Ferry operates every 8-20 minutes depending on the time of day. So if you miss the ferry you know another one will be along soon. At the time of writing this article a one-way adult ticket was $2.50 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) on weekdays and $3.40 HKD on weekends and public holidays. Converted into US currency that translates to 32 cents and 44 cents. This low fare makes the Star Ferry one of the cheapest modes of transportation in Hong Kong, and the cheapest way to get between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Sailing over Victoria Harbour towards Hong Kong Island - Hong Kong, China

Sailing over Victoria Harbour towards Hong Kong Island

Victoria Peak

Besides Victoria Harbour the other place in Hong Kong to take postcard worthy photos is atop Victoria Peak. The journey to the top of Victoria Peak is part of the sightseeing. From the MTR Central Station you take the J2 exit, which places you in the middle of Chater Garden, a garden surrounded by striking skyscrapers. From Chater Garden you will continue ahead up Garden Road. As you walk Garden Road you will pass St. John’s Cathedral. The Anglican cathedral may appear out-of-place in the middle of the financial district yet this simple cathedral is an oasis of peace. The cathedral is open to the public during the day unless a religious service is taking place. Continue on Garden Road from St. John’s Cathedral and follow the signs to the Peak Tram Terminus.

Exterior of St. John's Cathedral - Hong Kong, China

Exterior of St. John’s Cathedral

Doorway into St. John's Cathedral - Hong Kong, China

Doorway into St. John’s Cathedral

At the Peak Tram Terminus you will buy tickets to board the Peak Tram. The best ticket to buy is the round-trip Peak Tram Sky Pass, which allows you passage on the tram and access to the Sky Terrace 428. The Sky Terrace 428, located atop the Peak Tower, offers stunning panoramic views of Hong Kong. At the time of writing this article the round-trip Peak Tram Sky Pass for adults is HKD $83 (US $10.64). The Peak Tram operates everyday from 7am to 12-midnight and departs every 10-15 minutes. Both the Peak Tower and Sky Terrace 428 are open from 10am to 11pm (Monday through Friday) and 8am to 11pm (Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays).

Peak Tower on Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

Peak Tower on Victoria Peak

The Peak Tram can get full of tourists so the earlier you can arrive at the Terminus the more peaceful your journey will be. As you exit the Peak Tram you will find yourself right inside the Peak Tower. From here you will go either to the top of the building or outside to the ground level of Victoria Peak. There are shops and restaurants within the Peak Tower and nearby at the Peak Galleria. Within Peak Tower you will ascend multiple escalators to reach Sky Terrace 428. Once there you will see a magnificent view of Hong Kong. Included in the view is the financial and downtown district of Hong Kong Island you walked through to get to the Terminus. You will see a multitude of office buildings, housing, and in the distance Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. Once you’ve soaked in the scenery return to the Peak Tram and retrace your steps back to the MTR.

View From Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

View From Victoria Peak

View From Sky Terrace 428 on top of Peak Tower on Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

View From Sky Terrace 428 on top of Peak Tower

Shopping

In Kowloon shopping is king. Whether you arrive by ferry or subway the moment you disembark your form of transportation you will find yourself in front of a store. Begin either at the shopping centers of iSquare and Tsim Sha Tsui Centre & Empire Centre or by walking Nathan Road with its many stores. In the evening the Temple Street Night Market comes alive in the streets on and surrounding Jordan and Yau Ma Tei.

The entirety of this shopping goodness is in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon. This is a mecca for shoppers looking to buy tailored suits or watches. If you are traveling to Hong Kong with the express intention of purchasing tailored clothing or jewelry you must do your research before your visit. Tourists are easy prey for con artists selling inferior products. Prior to your trip use the Internet to find reputable businesses to make sure the products you buy are of high quality and will last you a lifetime. As for the pushy sales people on the streets just smile and say “no thank you” as you walk by them.

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of Tsim Sha Tsui is too much to handle. For a reprieve and a chance to escape the crowds duck into Kowloon Park, located just off of Nathan Road. This large public park has trees, a garden, and a playground for children. On Sunday enjoy a free demonstration of Kung Fu or a lion dance. Decompress in this sanctuary of serenity before reentering the throng of people on Nathan Road.

Times Square shopping center in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island - Hong Kong, China

Times Square shopping center in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island

On the other side of Victoria Harbour, concentrated in the eastern part of Hennessy Road, is the shopping on Hong Kong Island. This section of shopping is accessible from the Causeway Bay MTR Station. Here you will find the Times Square shopping center and stores throughout the many streets leading off of Hennessy Road. Farther south on Hong Kong Island is the outdoor Stanley Market. Stanley Market is a tourist trap but even so it makes for a great place to find souvenirs for your loved ones.

 

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Hong Kong Sights

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Victoria Harbour: 22.287826, 114.174385
St. John\'s Cathedral: 22.278691, 114.159750
Peak Tram Lower Terminus: 22.278069, 114.159554
Victoria Peak / Victoria Tower / Sky Terrace 428: 22.275883, 114.145532
Nathan Road (Kowloon Shopping): 22.310549, 114.171156
Kowloon Park: 22.298716, 114.171936
Hennessy Road (Hong Kong Island Shopping): 22.279765, 114.182689
Stanley Market: 22.219052, 114.212853
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Victoria Harbour
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong
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St. John's Cathedral
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
St. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong
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Peak Tram Lower Terminus
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus, Hong Kong
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Victoria Peak / Victoria Tower / Sky Terrace 428
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Victoria Peak, The Peak, Hong Kong
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Nathan Road (Kowloon Shopping)
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Nathan Road, Hong Kong
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Kowloon Park
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Kowloon Park, Hong Kong
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Hennessy Road (Hong Kong Island Shopping)
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Times Square, Hong Kong
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Stanley Market
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Stanley Market, Hong Kong

 

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London Holiday Travels

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Christmas tree in front of St. Paul's Cathedral - London, England

Christmas tree in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral

Those of us who are able to revisit countries we’ve visited before are fortunate. Each revisit brings with it a renewed interest in that country. Of course that first trip will always hold a special place in your memories. The next visit may not have that same emotional punch but it may hold even greater surprises. A first time visit often means a hectic itinerary rushing to and from sights and eateries, with nary a break for rest. Follow up trips means that you won’t have that same necessity to see the requisite sights again. You certainly may but there won’t be the same crunch on your time.

National Gallery - London, England

National Gallery

Another visit means exploring areas of the city you didn’t get a chance to the first time. You’re able to eat at different restaurants, or try something else on the menu at a favorite restaurant. The biggest gift in revisiting a country is the opportunity to experience the cities in new ways. Spend time in local coffee shops or parks or even go grocery shopping. Stroll the streets and get in sync with the ebb and flow of the city and how the residents spend their time living there.

Deer in front of Covent Garden Market - London, England

Deer in front of Covent Garden Market

An especially stark contrast is to visit the same city during different times of the year. Doing so can bring an entirely new perspective on a city you thought you knew. You can see how the locals relax under the summer sun versus how they handle snow in the winter. This holds especially true during the winter holiday season as cities are decked out in their festive best. City squares are filled with Christmas market stalls and monuments are decorated.

London Eye Lights - London, England

London Eye Lights

London in December is particularly filled with holiday cheer. Many of the streets, including those leading into Piccadilly Circus, are dressed up in holiday lights and signs. St. Paul’s Cathedral has two Christmas trees, one on each side of the Cathedral. A large tree adorned with lights is lit up in front of the National Gallery as well. Covent Garden Market has a giant topiary reindeer to get visitors into the holiday spirit.

Fireworks and the London Eye - London, England

Fireworks and the London Eye

This festive cheer culminates in a spectacular New Year’s Eve celebration. The best viewing areas are by The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower (often referred to as Big Ben) and across the riverbank from the London Eye. Along the riverbank are crowds of happy people partying and dancing to music being pumped out on large speakers by local disc jockeys. It is behind the London Eye that an array of fireworks is fired into the night’s sky for a dazzling display at the strike of midnight. After the fireworks show the city of London does a nice job of ushering out the crowds through specific streets and back safely to their hotels and homes. To view London through the lens of the holidays gives visitors a newfound appreciation of this wonderful city.

Wherever in the world you may be celebrating, Check Before You Trek wishes you a very happy holiday and a happy new year! May your next year be full of travels to both new and familiar locations!

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London During the Holidays

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St. Pauls\' Cathedral: 51.513845, -0.098351
National Gallery: 51.508929, -0.128299
Covent Garden Market: 51.511732, -0.123270
Houses of Parliament: 51.499629, -0.124648
The London Eye: 51.503324, -0.119543
Piccadilly Circus: 51.510101, -0.134661
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St. Pauls' Cathedral
London Holiday Travels
St.Pauls' Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
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National Gallery
London Holiday Travels
National Gallery, London, United Kingdom
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Covent Garden Market
London Holiday Travels
Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom
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Houses of Parliament
London Holiday Travels
Houses of Parliament, London, United Kingdom
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The London Eye
London Holiday Travels
London Eye, London, United Kingdom
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Piccadilly Circus
London Holiday Travels
Piccadilly Circus, London, United Kingdom

 

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Oxford, Part One

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The English city of Oxford takes just over an hour by train to reach from London. Oxford is most known for the University of Oxford. The University of Oxford boasts over 30 different colleges within walking distance. Just by being in Oxford one feels smarter as if intelligence is increased by osmosis. You will have the urge to duck into a library to crack open a book and study. Even if you are not a scholar at heart, Oxford’s architecture and serenity make for an enjoyable visit. In addition, Oxford has many eateries well worth your stomach’s time. A perfect escape from London, Oxford should rank high on your itinerary as a day trip.

It is possible to visit the highlights of Oxford in just one day. To help plan out your day when you arrive at the Oxford train station stop by the tourist information booth. This kiosk sells for around 2£ a “Quick Guide – Oxford” pamphlet and map. This guide, produced by Quick Guides Publishers, includes a walking tour that will guide you past the top sights. In the guide it states that the walk takes an hour to complete. The walk will take longer if you move at a more relaxed pace or spend extra time at the various sights. Your level of interest will determine the time you spend exploring the various colleges and sights. The colleges aren’t always open to visitors so that may impact your visiting schedule. Furthermore, leave plenty of time to eat at at least one of the many restaurants in Oxford.

Ashmolean Museum - Oxford, England

Ashmolean Museum

Following the “Quick Guide – Oxford” your walk will begin at the Ashmolean Museum. The museum is a straight shot from the train station, an eleven-minute walk. From the train station continue on Hythe Bridge Street and make a left on to Worcester Street. Stay on Worcester Street and it will turn into Beaumont Street, with the museum on the left-hand side of the street. The Ashmolean Museum is Britain’s first museum, with a focus on art and archeology. Admission to the museum is free so if you enjoy museums you will want to budget in time to explore the museum. The museum is closed on Mondays, but open from 10am to 5pm Tuesdays through Sundays.

Martyrs' Memorial - Oxford, England

Martyrs’ Memorial

Opposite from the Ashmolean Museum is the Martyrs’ Memorial. This monument, and the museum, is where your walk will end so remember this location. The monument is in a central location so it makes for a good meeting place if anyone in your group gets separated. The Martyrs’ Memorial is in front of the first college you’ll see, Balliol. Balliol College is one of the oldest colleges in Oxford. Continue from Balliol College to Broad Street where you will find Trinity College and various stores. Here at these shops you can buy souvenirs such as a University of Oxford sweatshirt. At the opposite end of Broad Street of note is the bookstore Blackwell, Sheldonian Theatre, and the Clarendon Building.

Radcliffe Camera in Radcliffe Square - Oxford, England

Radcliffe Camera in Radcliffe Square

As you pass through Old Schools Quad and by Bodleian Library, you’ll find yourself in Radcliffe Square. Here you will find plenty of tourists with their cameras ready. Radcliffe Square is where you will find Radcliffe Camera, one of Oxford’s most well-known sights. This round building is home to the Radcliffe Science Library. After you’ve taken your photos you’ll find the tour takes you past a few more colleges such as Exeter College, All Souls College, and Brasenose College. At this point in the tour you may find your stomach grumbling and that you’re itching for a snack. Fear not as you should find yourself on Market Street and the Covered Market.

Pieminister - Oxford, England

Pieminister

Covered Market has a slew of food stalls ready to fulfill any craving. If you are in the mood for an English dish stop by Pieminister. Pieminister serves hearty pies baked with fillings such as venison or steak. The pie dough is flakey on the outside and soft in the inside with the meat filling soft and succulent. The meat pie is placed on top of mashed potatoes with gravy pored over for the final touch. For dessert have a fresh baked cookie from Ben’s Cookies. One of Ben’s Cookies may be bought for just under 2£. For sale are cookies made with milk or dark chocolate and classics such as peanut butter or oatmeal raisin. Besides food stalls Covered Market has merchants selling fresh flowers, and butchers selling meats such as sausages and English lamb liver. You will find coffee shops, clothing stores, and even a cobbler. A wide variety of shops and food options are available for your browsing pleasure at Covered Market.

Continued in Oxford, Part Two

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Oxford

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University of Oxford: 51.756634, -1.254704
Oxford Railway Station: 51.753288, -1.269913
Ashmolean Museum: 51.755302, -1.260026
Martyrs Memorial: 51.755053, -1.258972
Radcliffe Camera: 51.753425, -1.254012
Covered Market: 51.752195, -1.256583
Christ Church: 51.750643, -1.256597
Bridge of Sighs - Hertford College: 51.754472, -1.253734
Turf Tavern: 51.754685, -1.252968
The Alternative Tuck Shop: 51.755049, -1.251845
Lamb and Flag Passage: 51.757468, -1.258492
Cornmarket Street: 51.752937, -1.258310
Chiang Mai Kitchen: 51.752020, -1.256478
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University of Oxford
Oxford, Part One
University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Oxford Railway Station
Oxford, Part One
Oxford Railway Station, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Ashmolean Museum
Oxford, Part One
Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Martyrs Memorial
Oxford, Part One
Martyrs Memorial, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Radcliffe Camera
Oxford, Part One
Radcliffe Camera, Radcliffe Square, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Covered Market
Oxford, Part One
The Covered Market Oxford, Market Street, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Christ Church
Oxford, Part Two
Christ Church, Saint Aldate's, Oxford, UK
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Bridge of Sighs - Hertford College
Oxford, Part Two
Bridge of Sighs, New College Lane, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Turf Tavern
Oxford, Part Two
The Turf Tavern, Bath Place, Oxford, United Kingdom
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The Alternative Tuck Shop
Oxford, Part Two
The Alternative Tuck Shop, Holywell Street, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Lamb and Flag Passage
Oxford, Part Two
Lamb and Flag Passage, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Cornmarket Street
Oxford, Part Two
Cornmarket Street, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Chiang Mai Kitchen
Oxford, Part Two
Chiang Mai Kitchen Ltd, High Street, Oxford, United Kingdom

 

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London Cuisine Scene

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Through the years England’s cuisine has earned a reputation. The belief was that English food was bland and boring. It is possible that centuries ago English food was tasteless and why to this day people still believe this. Contrary to that notion today’s London has a booming dining scene just as any other major international city. London is home to a variety of different and exciting cuisines. You can eat well regardless of your budget with delicious food accessible through out the city. There are plenty of choices beyond just the traditional pubs to find a good meal. For those struggling to decide between the various dining options the selections listed below showcase a few of the many sides of flavor available in London.

Borough Market

Borough Market Information - London, EnglandIf you are looking to sample a variety of different foods you will want to visit Borough Market. The site of the current Borough Market has had a market there since as far back as the 13th century. The current iteration dates back to 1756. Although Borough Market has existed for a while, a few decades ago it was not even being mentioned in most guidebooks. It wasn’t until recently that Borough Market has become a worthy stop for travelers and foodies. An outdoor location, located under railway lines and beside a church, makes Borough Market an excellent informal eating experience.

There are plenty of options for a quick bite to eat, especially Monday through Wednesday when the market is open for lunch. One such place is Balkan Bites, which serves bourekas, a crispy baked pastry made with fillings such as potato and onion or spinach and cheese.   Another place for a quick quality meal is Le Marché du Quartier which serves succulent duck confit in either a sandwich, wrap, or salad. If you’re looking for a place with seating visit Fish! Kitchen for their traditional fish and chips. For dessert stop by Whirld for a delicious piece of handmade fudge.

Balkan Bites Bourekas at Borough Market - London, England

Balkan Bites Bourekas

Le Marché du Quartier's duck confit sandwich at Borough Market

Le Marché du Quartier’s duck confit sandwich

Dishoom

Dishoom - London, England

Various dishes available at Dishoom - London, England

Various dishes available at Dishoom

Dishoom likens its decor and style of food to that of a Bombay Cafe. To be honest upon first stepping into Dishoom the decor is more reminiscent of a New York diner. Except instead of sandwiches Dishoom cooks up a variety of Indian dishes. Each dish is prepared with an exquisite attention to detail and the correct balance of flavors. For an appetizer try the Keema Pau, a mix of lamb and peas you slather on top of a buttered roll. Fans of butter chicken from traditional Indian restaurants will want to order Dishoom’s Chicken Ruby. The Gunpowder Potatoes won’t shoot your taste buds but they will melt in your mouth. Add a side order of roti or naan to complete your meal. For those with dietary restrictions Dishoom’s menu includes dairy-free and gluten-free dining options and a children’s menu.

Rock and Sole Plaice

Fish and Chips at Rock and Sole Plaice - London, EnglandWhen visiting England one must have a traditional meal of fish and chips. Rock and Sole Plaice is one of the oldest and best fish and chips restaurants in London. In the Covent Garden district, Rock and Sole Plaice has been serving up fish and chips to locals and tourists since 1871. Rock and Sole Plaice is informal dining and great for families, groups, and anyone who wants to eat quality fish and chips not served on newspaper. Rock and Sole Plaice has two floors of seating which allow for plenty of room for every customer. The restaurants aquatic vibe extends to the walls, which have drawings of the various creatures living under the sea. A few different fish are available to choose from when ordering the fish and chips, including cod and haddock. Whichever fish you select know that it will arrive cooked to perfection. The batter on the fish isn’t doughy, but light and crispy. A side of chips, better known as fries, accompanies the fish. A variety of condiments are available to enhance your fish and chips meal.

 

The Tea House

The Tea House - London, EnglandEngland is synonymous with tea and a great souvenir for those back home is English tea. The problem is that many tourist shops will sell overly priced generic teas to unsuspecting tourists. An alternative to tourist tea is to visit The Tea House. The Tea House is in the district of Covent Garden. The moment you walk through the doors a sense of peace washes over you. You no longer hear the noise from the street outside and the tranquility allows your nose to pick up the various aromas wafting towards you. Take your time and peruse the many teas available to choose from on the shelves. There are jars with loose tea for you to sniff to help you with your choice. The teas can be bought in small or large quantities. Buy tea for yourself so when you are back home you can brew a cup and find yourself transported back to the tranquil feeling that is The Tea House.

 

 

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London Cuisine Scene

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Borough Market: 51.505446, -0.091080
Dishoom: 51.512430, -0.126909
Rock and Sole Plaice: 51.514820, -0.125177
The Tea House: 51.513648, -0.124741
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Borough Market
London Cuisine Scene
Borough Market, London Borough of Southwark, United Kingdom
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Dishoom
London Cuisine Scene
Dishoom, Upper St Martin's Lane, London, United Kingdom
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Rock and Sole Plaice
London Cuisine Scene
Rock & Sole Plaice, Endell Street, London, United Kingdom
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The Tea House
London Cuisine Scene
THE TEAHOUSE, Neal Street, Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom

 

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Oxbow Public Market

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First Impressions of Oxbow Public Market

Counter at Fatted Calf

Counter at Fatted Calf

I was immediately interested when plans to build the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, CA first appeared in the news. I’d read that the same architects behind the Ferry Building in San Francisco had helped create Oxbow. The Ferry Building is one of my favorite places to go to in San Francisco. The architecture of the Ferry Building is beautiful. Renovations the architects made to the inside of the building to allow for merchants worked in capturing the essence of the building. There is an easy flow moving between merchants situated inside to those situated outside the building. The plethora of food options combines well with opportunities to view the bay and people watch. The Ferry Building is a great place to spend your time eating or buying groceries.

So when the Oxbow Public Market opened in 2008 I was very excited. I visited Oxbow after its doors opened to the public but I found my visit disappointing. In hoping for a recreation of the Ferry Building I’d set up Oxbow to fail. The building itself was great but there just wasn’t the same energy I’d found at the Ferry Building. There weren’t very many tourists or locals roaming the market. A handful of merchants had set up shop. It felt more like a small town’s barn flea market than the upscale food mecca I’d conjured in my head. It was not measuring up to the promises made in the articles I’d read touting the Oxbow Public Market. I left thinking I wouldn’t waste my time ever returning.

Let’s Try That Again

Pour over coffee being made at Ritual Coffee Roasters

Pour over coffee being made at Ritual Coffee Roasters

Six years later, 2014, I was in Napa and gave Oxbow one more chance. During those six years I’d been back to Napa a handful of times. I visited the surrounding downtown area and each year that area kept improving. New restaurants were always opening, more shopping was available, and the riverfront generated foot traffic. Oxbow Public Market is close to this area, and I thought it might be worth seeing if it also had gotten better through the years.

Going back to Oxbow Public Market wound up being a fantastic decision. Today’s Oxbow is everything I’d hoped it would be. The building itself, both inside and out, has kept up its appearance, and it looks wonderful. It exudes somewhat of a Pacific Northwest market vibe, something that wouldn’t seem out of place in either Portland or Seattle. The building itself didn’t surprise me but what I didn’t expect to find was how many more merchants now occupied both the inside space plus the adjoining property. There is so much more to experience. The Oxbow Public Market now has a liveliness that makes you want to visit, shop, and hang out.

Highlights of Oxbow Public Market

As of 2015 Oxbow Public Market has 24 merchants. You can buy all of your grocery needs, from vegetables to olive oil to chocolates. At the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant you can pick from a wide variety of cheeses. Or you can dine at a few of the various restaurants offered, such as Hog Island Oyster Bar or Kitchen Door. The talented baristas at Ritual Coffee Roasters will fulfill your caffeine needs by making you a great cup of coffee.

There are so many options available inside Oxbow Public Market but two standout merchants in an adjacent property to the main building. Model Bakery serves artisan breads and pastries. Their English Muffins alone are worth the trip. The English Muffins are soft and fluffy in the inside, with the outside lightly crispy. You can order a half-dozen of these delicacies to go. The English Muffins are ideal for breakfast at home, with either jams or cheeses. You can even order breakfast sandwiches made with the same English Muffins. Next door to Model Bakery you will find the Fatted Calf. At the Fatted Calf you can fulfill all your meat desires. The Fatted Calf is a charcuterie and butcher shop. It offers high quality meats ranging from sausages to pates. If you are unsure which of the many succulent meats to buy you may ask the employees for a recommendation.

My suggestion is to head to Oxbow Public Market in the morning when it first opens. You can buy a baguette from Model Bakery, salami from The Fatted Calf, and manchego from the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant. You are now set for a wine country picnic later that same afternoon.

Oxbow Public Market Information:

Located at: 610 & 644 First Street, Napa, California 94559

For information about the merchants at Oxbow Public Market plus days and hours of operation visit: http://oxbowpublicmarket.com/

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Oxbow Public Market

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Oxbow Public Market 38.301679, -122.281623 Oxbow Public Market

 

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