San Jose

Holland’s Best Market
Falafel’s Drive In
Winchester Mystery House

It’s clear I need to invest in a guide book if I intend to be successful on this trip. Lance and I drove down to San Jose with just one goal—to visit Holland’s Best Market to procure gevulde koeken (almond filled cookies), Cote d’Or chocolate and fritessaus (Dutch style mayo mainly used as a dipping sauce for French fries).

But there on the highway, just a few miles before our exit, I spotted the sign: Winchester Mystery House. “Omigod, we need to go there,” I shouted at Lance who was behind the wheel.

“Can we focus on getting to the market,” he said.

I tend to become a bit over-stimulated on road trips, especially in the presence of roadside attractions and tourist spots that offer the promise of postcards, snow globes and penny imprinting machines.

We located the Dutch Market without much problem and found what I was looking for. While the market is much smaller than I expected, just a small storefront, they have an impressive selection of imported goods, including a handful of fritessaus brands and dozens of varieties of candy, chocolates and licorice.

With gigantic almond cookie in hand we got back in the car and attempted to navigate the back streets of San Jose in search of the Winchester House. As we drove north, we passed a small food stand with a long line. Lance, who is much more observant than I, noted the name—Falafel’s Drive In, and I typed it in my iPhone for more info. Reception was spotty and the page didn’t load until we reached the Winchester House. Turns out we drove by what’s been called some of the best falafel in the county.

The Winchester Mystery House is not what I expected. Granted I didn’t expect to be here at all today, but from what I had watched on different TV specials about the house, I assumed it was located in the country, or on some private estate area miles from civilization. Nope. It’s across the street from a cinema multiplex and a large shopping center. Not exactly spooky surroundings. I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for a tour, and Lance, though willing to take a tour if I wanted, wasn’t exactly thrilled. That dilemma was solved quickly. There was no way I was dropping $26 per person for a tour of a house that I had already seen on TV.

The gift shop and grounds in front of the house are open free-of-charge—the budget tour, I joked. We  spent $1 on two postcards and $0.51 on a souvenir penny. Clearly I’d make the worst parent ever, because even with kids, I don’t think I’d be persuaded to spend that much money on a tour. They’d be scarred and need therapy the rest of their lives. And this is reason #514 why we don’t have any children.

I had worked up an appetite in the half-hour since I ate my cookie and persuaded Lance that we should hit the Falafel stand, and I’m glad we did. Truly, the best falafel I’ve ever eaten. It’s been featured on few food shows and seems to be a favorite among locals—many, many locals. Luckily the line moves quickly. The falafel is fresh and full of herbs and the French fries are tasty and perfectly crisp. The house-made hot sauce is truly delicious, not as hot as smoky and rich, but divine all the same. So good that I threw a few condiment-size containers of the stuff in my purse to put on just about everything I eat this week.


What did I learn from this test trip before the real journey? I need to better prepare, and I’m clearly channeling every 80-year-old grandmother with my tendencies to stuff my purse full of condiments and napkins—just in case I need them.

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