December 31, 2009

Packing Light, Packing Just Right - Thursday Thirteen

Since my first solo trip, at the age of fourteen, where I had to pack and carry my own suitcase from start to finish, my goal has been to pack just right rather than just light. Granted my first solo trip was to a city two hours away driving. However for me this trip included a four hour bus ride, a thirty minute subway ride and then walking five city blocks - at fourteen. Cue ABC After School Television Special on runaways for the visual and of everyone who saw me along the way, the friendly and the too-too friendly.

The struggle to manage my bag left me determined to carry only what I knew would be used. No more cursing an overweight bag as it digs into your hands or strains your back every time you lift it. Besides, who needs twenty t-shirts for two weeks, unless you are menopausal and are having night sweats. How many shoes will be worn? Seriously, the average traveler only needs two pairs. My shoe cobbler (we still have them in San Francisco) told me to switch my shoes back and forth daily so each has a day to breath and retain its shape.

After long trips and short hops, here are my favorites that top my recommendations every time:
  1. A warm big scarf, like a Pashmina
  2. Wool gabardine slacks in black
  3. A big silk scarf in a rich pattern
  4. Khaki slacks
  5. White long sleeve fitted cotton blouse
  6. Black flats with cushion inserts
  7. White tee shirt
  8. Cardigan
  9. Casual shoes with a bit more support
  10. Trench coat
  11. Striped blouse with French Cuffs
  12. Tote with zipper closure
  13. Pullover Sweater

Let me explain how we got here. A big oversize warm scarf can be used as a blanket, a pillow and a scarf everywhere on the trip starting with the plane. My idea of wool gabardine for slacks is due to their versatility. They hold up well after you iron them and can be dressed up or down, and black goes with everything.

For me a great investment is a nice heavy silk scarf. It is a light weight version of the warm scarf but this also can go beyond your neck. With a twist, you can wear a silk scarf as a belt or as a really pretty hair tie. These are styles I have pulled off before and with great results for a dressy look.

The rest is about layers for warmth, occasion and wrinkles. When you layer your clothes, it is easier to hide wrinkles that you can’t get out, like using a trench to hide those stubborn pant creases. Also if your shirt is rumpled, folding a cardigan over your shoulders helps and keeps you warm. For a nicer dinner out, using the shirt with French cuffs tucked around the outside of a sweater always looks pretty.

So don’t think you can’t travel light and still have all the right stuff in your bag. And don't forget that a zipper tote will always be a good idea to keep thieves out of your stuff, and to keep your maps and notebooks in. I've had LL Bean canvas totes for years.

Get out there this new year and see the world, it’s worth it.

December 29, 2009

Save money but eat well in San Francisco

Sometimes when we travel we sacrifice a little on the food budget. We take chances and eat from taco trucks. We eat street food. We may skip meals. If you come to San Francisco there are many ways to eat well for less money, more than you may expect.

Some of the best places may be a surprise to visitors, but worth a try I promise. San Francisco enjoys the benefits of having so many citizens who are from other countries and cultures. We have lots of wonderful restaurants and cafes that offer foods from around the world.

You will likely get a better tasting - and inexpensive - meal if you try one of the many burrito shops, taco trucks, ramen shops or steam tables than if you went to a restaurant advertised in the lobby of a hotel.

Here are four of my favorites:

Yank Sing 2 Go - steam table Chinese food
El Gallo Giro Taco Truck - tasty soft tacos
Sapporo-ya - savory ramen shop
La Corneta Taqueria - best burrito

December 26, 2009

Matadors in Ronda, Spain and Plaza de Toros

Driving the road to Ronda in Southern Spain can be treacherous. However if you survive, you are rewarded by a beautiful white washed hill town. Try visiting in November like we did, and you will have fewer cars to battle with on the narrow roads.

Once you arrive, you must visit the Plaza de Toros! This famous bull ring is one of the oldest operation bull rings and is the home to modern bullfighting and worth seeing.

Read through the brochures they give you, and with the additional information posted with the displays, you will definitely get the sense of rivalry between the style out of Ronda and the style of bull fighting in Sevilla. The matadores from Ronda give you the impression that they are all about skill and precision with weapons, while their colleagues in Sevilla are all about flash and dancing around. I’m just saying that is what I picked up from the English translated signage.

We bought tickets which included access to the museum and that made it for me. Besides the detailed history of the sport, the exhibits included stunning displays of the riding gear for both the horses and fighters.

We got to walk freely through the bull ring as well, and experience the thrill of racing for cover behind the false wall, as if a bull was chasing us! Ole! I can’t say I would pay to watch a bull fight, as I do feel for the animals, but after going through this arena and museum, I have a better understanding for those who do.

Random Fact: In 1994, US singer Madonna shot her music video, Take A Bow, in the bull fight arena.

We walked all around, from the entrance to the back stables with its equine residents. It is unique to be able to get such close up access to a working bull ring. It wasn’t difficult to imagine attending a bull fight here, though we read that most still travel to Sevilla these days.

December 22, 2009

Rock of Gibraltar Tunnels and Pillar of Hercules

What stood out on this trip for me was the historical significance of The Rock. This is the first place I have visited with evidence of human habitation going as far back as Neanderthal man! The first inhabitants were the Phoenicians, around 950 BC and one of the Pillars of Hercules is considered the Rock of Gibraltar.

The Pillars of Hercules was the phrase that was applied to the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The northern Pillar is the Rock of Gibraltar. When you walk up to it, be sure and look at both sides!

Staying on the Costa del Sol, most of the beach towns are within an easy driving distance to Gibraltar. You could definitely spend the day and enjoy yourself. The area reminded me a bit of Tijuana, Mexico in that there were loads of people who obviously made the daily trek back and forth across the border for work. When we walked across the border it was simple to negotiate directly with a cab driver to take you to see the sights rather than try and walk it alone.

Besides getting to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, you should be sure and go INSIDE the Rock. Truly you can see a side of this area just as significant, by going inside the many tunnels. These are self-guided tours but I suggest you check out the Great Siege Tunnels.

The Great Siege of Gibraltar was an unsuccessful attempt by Spain and France to capture Gibraltar from the British during the American War of Independence. This was the largest action fought during the war in terms of numbers particularly the Grand Assault of the 18 September 1782. It was the longest siege endured by the British Armed Forces, as well as being one of the longest continuous sieges in history.

By the end of World War II, they had carved out over 30 miles of tunnels! I only climbed around a tenth of that but it is worth getting this unique perspective by checking them out during your visit.

And the other cool – literally – historical destination is St. Michael’s Cave. These limestone caves are in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Be careful because they are very dark inside and there are stairs that can be slippery. However if you go, be prepared to see stalactites that are out of this world!

December 20, 2009

Help Me Ronda, I have Spanish Vertigo

Besides having an amazing meal at Don Miguel Restaurant, my favorite time spent in Ronda, Spain was at its famous bullring and walking along the vista points staring out across the valley.

Ronda, Spain is simply a stunning hill town, one of the many white washed villages in the Andalusia region and not too far from the resort town of Marbella on the Costa del Sol. We drove up one of the narrow roads, in about an hour, with a mixture of motorcycles and bicyclists keeping us company.

It is not for the faint of heart since many of the signs you will pass along the way, warn you of dangers from tailgating motorcyclists.

We took our time and as we entered the town, easily found parking in a lot that was off the main street and had an attendant. Walking through Ronda, you can’t miss the many vantage points to stare out across the valley. We found one at the end of a beautiful park, and a small back street named after the actor and director, Orson Welles.

He apparently loved this town as did Ernest Hemingway, and spent many summers living in the old town quarter. He even had his ashes spread across the bull ring!

If you can handle it, walk along with Orson Welles, past the Plaza de Toros and toward the Parador de Ronda. This Parador built in 1761 is in the former town hall, in the center of the city. You will find it next to the Puente Nuevo and with one of my favorite views.

Having stayed in paradores in the past, I am definitely coming back to stay here! My experiences with them in the north of Spain were wonderful, and I booked them directly online, in English. If you travel to Spain or Portugal, there are paradores that will not only be a great way to experience the area, they are perfect for families. Most of the lodging is not that expensive considering they are historical buildings and they always offer meals with regional menus.

Next: Plaza de Toros

December 8, 2009

Gibraltar: Much more than an Ape Haven

Gibraltar was ceded by Spain to Great Britain in perpetuity, under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Spain wants it back but a majority of Gibraltarians strongly oppose this and Britain will support whatever the Gibraltarians want. In 2002 the government put it to a vote and this unusual relationship continues. During our recent visit, it was clear that everyone looked pretty happy the way things were. We saw loads of people enjoying pubs and shopping along the downtown streets.

When you visit Gibraltar your itinerary must include the Great Siege Tunnels and a tour of the Rock itself. There is a tram that will take you most of the way up the Rock, but to get the true birds-eye view at the very top, you should book a taxi. Depending on the number of people in your group, the taxi will cost the same or less than the tickets for the tram.

Only taxi cabs have permits that allow them to carry you to the very top, the tour buses all stop mid-way, as does the tram. Part of the reason is the steep grade and narrow width of the road, portions of which fit only a single car or van at a time.

On your tour of the upper portion of the Rock, you will be able to see the Apes. They call them the Barbary Apes or Macaque. They caution you around the monkeys because they might bite if you get too close. Look at what happened this summer to American Pie Actor Jason Biggs! The monkeys can "act" friendly (and who doesn't think it is cute to watch a mama carry her baby around) but even the smallest will likely try to grab any food or interesting looking objects if you get too close.

The next time "The Rock" is mentioned on television or in text, my first thought won't be the former wrestler turned actor anymore. Realistically my first thoughts will be tied between Alcatraz Island and now Gibraltar. Since San Francisco is my home it is natural to immediately think of this famous prison that held the likes of Al Capone. However what is even cooler for a traveler, is that now my memory will include this amazing land off the coast of southern Spain.

Next: Great Siege Tunnels

December 6, 2009

Camels! Camels! Camels!

A highlight from my day trip to Tangier in Morocco, North Africa was being close enough to touch the incredibly calm and hardworking camels. Their faces tell a story that I would be interested to read.

I couldn't stop staring at them as they carried someone around on their back. If we had been at a dude ranch or some beach resort, I would expect to see the frustrated nag horse to plod along or the rebellious horse kick up their hooves in surly defiance. It was mesmerizing to watch how serene the camels were as they carried their passenger. No spitting as one might expect from the general stereotype stories, only a bumpy ride for a squealing tourist.

And then there was the baby camel, getting exposed to the foreign visitors. It looked like it might be the baby of one of the working camels. It reminded me of Winged Migration, the documentary that showed how the cameras got so close to film the birds, simply by exposing the sounds that cameras make while the birds were still in their shells and soon after hatching.

Why do camels cross their legs like that? The green rope kept the little guy from going anywhere but what was worse than seeing him tied up for me, was seeing all the flies settle on his face. It is a disturbing image, so I'm including the only photo I could get with just one fly showing.

Boy do I sound like some loony liberal, big-hearted, animal lover or what?! Well, I say so what. Maybe I anthropomorphize animals just a little, but is that so wrong? I consider myself just a little extra empathetic rather than an extreme animal rights liberation type. We could all do with a little more empathy these days. And besides, isn't he cute?! I just love the sleepy eyes and pursed lips, not to mention those crazy long eyelashes!

December 4, 2009

Tangier, Morocco: Day Tripping in Southern Spain

My only reference points before going to Tangier, Morocco were one of my favorite movies, Casablanca and the 1973 song Midnight At The Oasis from my childhood.

Cue Maria Muldaur singing Midnight At The Oasis and you have my first impression as our high speed ferry pulled into port. We went with a tour group out of Tarifa and our ferry got us from Spain across to Africa in 45 minutes. The body of water you cross is where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean. Literally.

There are longer ferry routes from this part of Spain to Northern Africa, but taking the bus south less than an hour from Marbella to hop onto this high speed catamaran is worth it. It was quite enjoyable watching the coast of Spain fade back and as North Africa approached.

As we arrived, the day exploring Tangier was off to a great start by an unscheduled "welcome" from a departing fishing boat. That quick moment of spontaneous warmth from a stranger gave me such a positive feeling that I took about hundred photos or more during our visit. Normally my biggest problem is worrying about making people upset if I attempt to take their photo, and I am notorious for being awkward about asking first, which means I typically take more scenic or inanimate object shots. But not this time!

Next: Camels!

November 25, 2009

Alhambra in Granada: Notes from Southern Spain

One of the most beautiful palaces and gardens that I have ever seen or walked through are located in Granada, Spain. Calat Alhambra or more commonly known as the Alhambra, is simply a palace and fortress. However once you experience it in person, it is not so simple, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the intensity of its beauty and architecture.

Once the residence of the Muslim rulers of Granada and their court, the Alhambra is now one of Spain's major tourist attractions exhibiting the country's most famous Islamic architecture, together with Christian 16th century and later interventions in buildings and gardens that marked its image as it can be seen today.

Here are the first in a series of photos from my visit. Let me say at the start that the Alhambra is an experience that takes time. My three hours gave me just a taste of what is open to visitors year round. I certainly plan to return again in the future.

Where to start? We chose the outside gardens before moving on to the interiors. The Palacio de Generalife, (Architect's Garden) was the summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid sultans of Granada. Built from 1302-1309 and redecorated from 1313-1324, they were my first stop. With finely detailed structure and impossibly colorful landscape, The Generalife is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens. Walking through it you definitely need flats because the walkways are paved in traditional Granadian style with a mosaic of black and white pebbles on their sides (think round or oval river pebbles from your own garden).

There is a sense of peace and tranquility from the thoughtful maze of hedges. You feel yourself slowing down, breathing deeply and not just because of the pebble walkway. The smell from the flowers perfume the air. You can find yourself walking among many people without seeing them because of the structure of the arched hedges. It is very impressive.

I cannot imagine what it would be like during the summer months. This is the most visited site in Spain with over 2 million people coming through each year. November was gorgeous. We had mild weather and few lines. We did have tours all around us from various countries but it felt quietly manageable. Our visit and navigation between buildings and the gardens was easy.

It is the 21st century and the guides and guards at various spots all had walkie-talkies. You have a half hour window to get into the main palace, then can have as long as you like to walk through it. However if like us you either walk slowly or get lost, any guard will help you. We had a tour guide from the gardens radio the guard ahead that we were on our way, literally running to make our 2:00 pm ticket window.

With the extensive grounds and our short visit, returning at another time of the year is something I plan to do. Given the beauty of what we saw in November, I bet it would be even more stunning to see what other flowers are blooming, especially in spring.

Coming next: Arabesques

October 27, 2009

Amazon Kindle vs Other e-Book Readers: Help Wanted!

So my first long trip out of the country is coming up. This time around my search for the perfect packing list is already wearing me out. One of the biggest problems for traveling light, on my trips anyway, comes down to my listening and reading material (Surprise! You probably thought it would be my number of shoes). For this trip my listening will be relegated to my Apple iPhone and all the music stored on it.

However my reading material will be a combination of Stanza and other apps that I have downloaded already. The sticky wicket here is that I also need another resource so that when one battery is being recharged, I can still keep myself entertained. We have some long flights and layovers to manage.

Now comes the expensive and confusing part, what e-book reader do I commit to? The number of choices out there are overwhelming for this e-book newbie:

  • Kindle DX (it just came out in May)
  • Barnes & Noble nook
  • Sony Reader
  • iRex iLiad
  • Jinke Hanlin e-Reader
  • CyBook by Bookeen
The Kindle is marketed as more suitable for displaying newspaper and textbook content. Does anyone out there have any of these readers that want to leave me words of wisdom in the comments?

Should I scrap the whole idea and just bring along some magazines like the Economist and the Atlantic? I will be in Spain mostly and will have access to decent power outlets, if that matters. What do I do? If there is anyone out there with an opinion or better yet, experience with one of these readers while traveling, and has the time to leave me their two-cents I would be grateful.

October 25, 2009

Climate Change and Enormous Spiders

One doesn't have to travel far to experience drama and excitement. This spider is alive and "kicking", and living in a web in my town. shudder

Sometimes mother nature in your own backyard or porch, produces the best "costume" for Halloween.

October 18, 2009

Pumpkins and a Prius in Petaluma

Fall is such a beautiful time of year to visit Northern California. Half Moon Bay has fields of golden and orange pumpkins, rows and rows of Brussel sprout stalks. The coast offers horseback rides along the beach and restaurants serving bowls of clam chowder and lobster rolls.

If you drive toward the Central Valley along Highway 580 and 205, you will see road side stands and corn mazes to watch the kids race through.

Make your way north to towns like Petaluma, Sebastopol or Olema and all around you will be the sights and smells of fall. Gorgeous green thick grasses with sleepy cattle. Buy seasonal Gravenstein apple juice, a thick hand knit sweater, local clover honey, or creamy goat cheese wrapped in a fig leaf at any of the quaint shops populating the main streets.

So much color. Glorious sights and smells. Wonderful small towns that hark back to dreamier times. A great way to celebrate the season for sure.

October 7, 2009

California Farmers Markets - A New Export?

It is amazing how there are so many farmers markets in Northern California now. We seem to have them popping up in city neighborhoods, in empty parking lots and in larger more beautifully organized places like the San Francisco Ferry Building. They make great weekend destinations that's for sure.

Besides buying local foods, supporting local businesses, a great benefit of going to a farmers market is the people interaction. You will encounter street performers with an open guitar case play music for children.

The people running their own stalls seem so much more engaged than at a supermarket. Some try to entertain you while selling their wares. Some open markets will have food stands. There you can often meet start up restaurants that will try hook in new customers by giving away free samples.

Above is a photo taken at a stand selling Afghan foods. The saleswoman was incredibly polished and smooth with her style. She entertained us with her quips then hooked us quickly when she whipped out a sample that combined several spreads mixed together on a thin bread called Bolani - she called her snack "Afghan lasagna". It was really delicious!

Farmers markets also allow people to test out new and different produce like unusual variations of beans, squash and flowers. Walking through the stalls, I was amazed to see the various types of vegetables and fruits. Some I had never seen before.

There were Asian favorites like bok choy and lots and lots of tomatoes. I think this is a type of squash but I don't know. It was being sold at a couple of stalls.

California is unusual and I wondered how many farmers markets are currently in other states. Thanks to the internet, I found a great way to learn about local markets in the rest of the country. Local Harvest is a website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

I will definitely use this resource when I visit other parts of the county. Farmers Markets are certainly going to be a destination for my domestic travels from now on.

October 2, 2009

America's Best Idea - Yellowstone

National Park in Wyoming is a favorite place of mine. It is unforgettable. Everything is enormous, the sky and diversity of animals all living within the park borders. Here is a photo taken several years ago on our drive to the Lake Hotel in the center of the park. It was an incredible experience seeing nature find its way through that burned landscape.

Watching the Ken Burn's series this week has been wonderful. It certainly reminded me of why we should all support public television. It also reminded me that we have had leadership in the past that valued places like Yellowstone, and set aside thousands of precious acres for future generations.

September 23, 2009

Bay Area Book Signing, The National Parks: Our American Landscape

Scott Kirkwood, editor for National Parks Magazine, sees thousands of images of national parks each year. “As much as I enjoy spending time reviewing images of Acadia’s cliffs, Zion’s peaks and everything in between, there’s a point where I start to think seen it. When the magazine sends a photographer on assignment to Glacier National Park, he’s got to execute a shot that not only screams ‘Glacier’ before the reader even sees a caption, but also whispers something new to those who have visited the park dozens of times. Like painting a still life that reveals something more than just a bowl of fruit, it’s not easy to do. But Ian Shive does it. I’m still trying to figure out how.”

Being a photographer myself - who wants to go beyond the average image but struggles - I admire greatly the person who delivers something special, something more in their photographs. Compared to Ansel Adams, award-winning photographer Ian Shive will be in San Francisco to sign copies of his first book, The National Parks: Our American Landscape.

Shive's images have appeared in many publications spanning the globe including Time Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, National Geographic, Popular Science, The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Popular Photography and Outside Magazine.

Supporting our national parks is more important than ever, especially with what we know now about the impact of global warming. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to the National Parks Conservation Association.

Stop into any of these locations, meet the photographer and get your beautiful autographed copy of this amazing book.

Saturday, September 26 - 2:00pm
Borders Union Square
400 Post Street
(between Mason St & Powell St)
San Francisco, CA 94102

Sunday, September 27 - 2:00pm
Borders San Rafael
588 Francisco Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94901

Monday, September 28 - 5:00pm
Barnes & Noble
1725 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95815

The National Parks: Our American Landscape (Earth Aware Editions, August 2009) presents a wonderfully updated photographic survey of the nation’s greatest treasures. Seen through the eyes of the National Parks magazine photographer and International League of Conservation Photographers member Ian Shive, America’s National Park System comes to life through a collection of more than 200 new photographs.

Sponsored by the National Parks Conservation Association and the International League of Conservation Photographers, Shive’s first book of photography is a journey to the places that have long inspired him. “Since my youth,” Shive writes, “I’ve seen the national parks as the last authentic vestiges of America’s wildest places — symbols of its one-of-a-kind spirit.”

And on September 27, on Public Television will be the start of the new Ken Burns series The National Parks: America's Best Idea a six-episode series directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan.

[Above is one of my favorite pictures. I took this photo from inside the gorgeous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, California.]

September 12, 2009

Everywhere and Nowhere Travel: Your Own Backyard

So today I decided to make this a personal post, not about travel outside of the US or even my beautiful city of St. Francis, but what it is like to travel about my own backyard.

When I started this blog many years ago it was to share my love of travel and photography, hoping that it motivated folks to get out and about, to embrace the world around them. This motivational tack is still my focus because I think many people need prodding to get out and about, especially further than their own backyard.

However in order to better understand the person who doesn't want to leave their backyard for the great outdoors and cities that require plane travel, I thought it was a good idea to look inward today.

The landscape is pretty nice but it reminds me of that town in Spain.....

September 8, 2009

The Day My Husband Was Famous

Spending a few days in Kyoto, Japan, we were walking and visiting the shrines when these girls fell for my husband in his leather motorcycle jacket. It was a proud moment.

September 7, 2009

Tuscan Fields and Friendship

I have a wonderful friend who lives outside of Florence, Italy. We met when we lived in the same apartment building, the Domus Minami Azabu, in Tokyo, Japan many years ago. She is Brazilian and wonderful. We became fast friends in Tokyo and have carried our friendship forward over the years, though we may only write every few months.

A couple of years ago we met up for the first time since we parted ways in Japan. She now has a young son and a wonderful house in a small town that she and her husband used to visit when they were first married. He is from Florence and so they returned to be near his aging parents and other family and friends.

When we finally met, she made a point of sharing with me all the wonderful back roads that I had never known existed during my previous vacations in the area. Before I knew her, I had no idea that you could drive forever and never see another car our tour bus for hours. And be minutes from the city center of Florence.

My dear friend truly has inspired me to be open to exploration off the beaten path, even when returning to a favored city and region like Tuscany.

This photo I took from our car window reflects the lush area and its intense color that seems to just seep into my camera lens. Whenever I look at this photo it reminds me of our friendship and its growth over the past ten years. I feel our friendship growing and spreading across Italy to California and back.

Maybe we will continue our journey south to Brazil and her homeland. I look forward to that possibility.

September 1, 2009

Summer Concerts in Sierra Foothills

This summer ended with a bang for us. We got a chance to savor the final sleepy days with hundred degree temperatures and evening outdoor concerts and picnics in the low foothills of the Sierra Mountains.

Ironstone Vineyards and Winery is one of several vineyards that offers you lovely location to enjoy good food and great music. We have been a few times now and this last series was topped off by listening to the great jazz piano player, Diana Krall (who is married to musician Elvis Costello).

Here is the stage before she arrived and while the sun was still shining. We had a great buffet dinner beforehand. If you go, it is about two hours from San Francisco or an hour from Sacramento. Ironstone offers a great line up of artists including Chris Isaak and others.

August 13, 2009

Golden Gate Park Day - How to Spend the Afternoon

piece of recycled denim by sfcphotography

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is so huge that you could easily get overwhelmed trying to decide how to spend your day there. Fortunately most of the key museums and park activities have great people behind them and so have quite extensive information on websites.

The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California is now open for business after many years of construction and rebuilding after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. It is a destination that will satisfy young and old.

[Fun fact: Levi Strauss Co donated 200,000 pairs of jeans for the insulation of the new museum. Ultra Touch is a U.S. company that makes denim insulation for houses and commercial buildings too]

This entire concourse in Golden Gate Park is such a wonderful destination for any trip to San Francisco. As you travel through the park, you will find a golf course, places to fish, see roaming buffalo or sail a model boat.

At the very end of the park, resting against the edge of the Pacific Ocean, at Ocean Beach you will find two places to rest and enjoy a meal. The Cliff House is a landmark from 1863, but with several options for dining based on price and atmosphere. Also close by, and truly at the edge of the park, next to the old Dutch Windmill is the Beach Chalet and Park Chalet. They are offer casual dining with incredible views and great food.

Top 5 Attractions in Golden Gate Park:
  1. California Academy of Sciences - get your smart on!
  2. De Young Museum - get your arts and creative juices flowing!
  3. Japanese Tea Garden - feel the serenity of Japan...omm
  4. Steinhart Aquarium - dive into watery depths of awe!
  5. Convervatory of Flowers - smell your way to heaven...ahhh

August 9, 2009

NorCal Day-tripping with my iPhone

We recently took a drive east about two hours for a little change of scenery and for warmer climes. Summer in San Francisco is incredibly chilly compared to the rest of the Bay Area.

San Francisco is a great starting point for day trips. In two hours you can go from a foggy urban city to a sweltering wild west town. These images are from my new iPhone. We stopped along a quiet road on the way to Jackson.

August 3, 2009

Tasmanian blue gum is too aggressive

Take a close look because the Presidio of San Francisco is replacing all of these with cypress and pine trees. With 300 acres of eucalyptus, pine and cypress, the 123 year old Presidio is changing and redefining its historic forest.

Check out the Presidio Trust’s reforestation efforts here...

The forest is the most dramatic example of how people shaped the Presidio’s landscape. Its 60,000 trees provide an important wildlife habitat (the forest is home to more than 250 different species of birds) and contribute to the Presidio’s National Historic Landmark status.

In the late 1800’s the Army began the prodigious task of transforming the Presidio from mostly open dunes to a richly forested, park-like reserve, similar to New York’s Central Park. Following a plan developed by Major William A. Jones, the Army planted some 100,000 trees over 14 years along the Presidio’s ridges and entrance gates. The first trees, donated by Adolph Sutro, were planted in 1886, on Arbor Day. The eucalyptus, pine and cypress groves accentuated the post’s size, sheltered it from the winds and created a clear visual distinction from the surrounding city. It was the Army’s most impressive accomplishment in landscape architecture. No other military installation in the nation has ever undertaken landscape planning on such a grand scale.

The relatively short period of time during which the trees were planted however, created an “even-aged” forest. And while the eucalyptus have thrived, the cypress and pine have begun declining simultaneously. Presidio forester Peter Ehrlich is leading an ambitious effort to revitalize the forest over the next several decades.

“The goal,” says Ehrlich, “is to create an ‘uneven-aged’ forest that can be more easily sustained and will be a healthier forest in the long run.”

Each year the Trust replants two to three acres of pine and cypress. Since 2002, more than 2000 trees have been planted, with a careful eye says Ehrlich “towards preserving the qualities that define the forest’s character, like the orderly, military alignment of the trees.”

Staying one step ahead of nature is as Ehrlich puts it, “a daunting challenge.” One he has, at times, met with the latest scientific methods. Several years ago, in the face of an outbreak of pitch canker disease among Presidio pines, Ehrlich and his staff, along with foresters from U.C. Davis identified, then cloned Presidio pines that showed resistance to the disease. In 2004, more than 140 of the experimental, disease-resistant trees were planted. Five years later they appear to be thriving.

Current efforts are focused on finding a less aggressive and invasive replacement for the Tasmanian blue gum, a eucalyptus tree that can live to be 300 years old and is the most populous tree in the Presidio. The new tree Ehrlich says would look the same as a blue gum and be the same height, “only without the aggressiveness.”

August 1, 2009

Within Fort Point in San Francisco

Fort Point has stood guard at the narrows of the Golden Gate for nearly 150 years. It has been called “the pride of the Pacific,” “the Gibraltar of the West Coast,” and “one of the most perfect models of masonry in America.”

Fort Point was built between 1853 and 1861 by the U.S. Army Engineers as part of a defense system of forts planned for the protection of San Francisco Bay.

These photos were taken on different days but I never get tired of standing inside Fort Point. What an amazing perspective to have on the Golden Gate. Can you imagine what it was like over 100 years ago to be here, without the bridge?

Fort Point is a national historic site and one you shouldn't miss if you come to San Francisco.
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