July 29, 2009

Hawai'ian Steam Vents

July 26, 2009

5 Great Trails in the Presidio of San Francisco

We all need a little more exercise these days and finding something fun, easy to do, is cheap or free and with a lovely bit of scenery was a big goal.

For 218 years, the Presidio served as an army post for three nations. World and local events, from military campaigns to the rise of aviation, from World Fairs to earthquakes, left their mark. Come enjoy the history and beauty of the Presidio. Explore centuries of architecture. Reflect in a national cemetery. Walk through an historic airfield, forests, or to beaches, and admire spectacular vistas.

The San Francisco Presidio contains miles of bike paths, walking trails and hiking trails, including the well photographed and jogged Golden Gate Promenade, along Crissy Field.

Here are five great - FREE - walking/hiking trails within the Presidio, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Check out the Presidio's great website for the most updated maps because they are adding new trails and overlooks as we speak! Download your free map too.

  • Bay Area Ridge Trail
  • Juan Bautista Anza National Historic Trail
  • Coastal Trail
  • Ecology Trail
  • Batteries to Bluffs Trail
All of these trails have great spots for award winning photographs! You can stop along the way and even enjoy a picnic so bring water, wear comfortable shoes and have lots of time. There will be lots of history to soak up along with some memory making moments, I promise. An experience you won't forget.

Fun Fact: Herb Alpert, Grammy Award-winning bandleader of the Tijuana Brass, played in the 6th Army Band at the Presidio during the 1950's. Alpert later claimed the structure and discipline of the Army helped him with his music.

July 21, 2009

Natalie Portman Featured in FINCA Mexico: Stories of Hope

If you were ever curious about this blog's sidebar and the content there, wonder no more. Much of the content is static, as it is just fun to share interesting links. There is an actual list of books and music that are honestly on my MP3 player and on my bookshelf. Further down the list is a FINCA badge that is there to simply remind all of us that very little separates us on this planet, that we share many of the same issues.

The badge is also there to share the connection I have with Natalie Portman and Village Banking. I believe as a global citizen:

  • It is my duty to help others outside of my own country
  • Borders are often a state of mind
  • If we empower women, we help the future
  • Micro loans are effective
  • A rising tide lifts all boats

It is interesting how Gwyneth Paltrow easily gets popular media coverage for her Spanish language skills and her possible move to a home in Spain, while Natalie Portman quietly and without fanfare creates a documentary "FINCA Mexico: Stories of Hope” showing the success of micro credit.

Give a little and change a lot...www.villagebanking.org

“FINCA Mexico: Stories of Hope” is a moving new documentary featuring Golden Globe Award winner Natalie Portman—FINCA’s Ambassador of Hope—visiting clients of the FINCA program in Mexico to learn of their struggles, triumphs, and determination to craft a better future for their families. The film was directed by Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary director Juan Carlos Rulfo. Ms. Portman, who also serves as a co-chair of the Village Banking Campaign, created the film to offer FINCA supporters a more in-depth view of a program in action and open a window into the daily lives of FINCA clients.

Watch and learn more about the power of microlending in Mexico. Go to FINCA and see how you can help create a village bank and lift millions out of poverty by 2010. You can make a difference.

July 17, 2009

Bali and sort of living dangerously

There was a time when we lived overseas and traveled on a regular basis to various international destinations. At one point my passport was so full that I had to go to my local embassy and get extra pages sewn in before we could leave the country. It was required that we, as permanent legal aliens have extra empty pages in our passport, ready for various official government re-entry and exit stamps. It is doubtful you can bluff your way through a mistake like this at an airport immigration desk.

There was one period years ago now, January found us in San Francisco, then we spent a week on Kauai before returning to Tokyo. A few months later we escaped Japan for a long weekend in Hong Kong, followed a couple of months later by a week long vacation on the island of Bali before ending the year back in San Francisco to celebrate the holidays with family. It was a pretty thrilling year and the week on Bali was particularly exotic and magical – along the lines of living out our very own version of The Year of Living Dangerously.

Besides its mystical beauty and the serenity of its people, the island of Bali offers incredible dining opportunities. Years ago throughout the week that we were there, we ate at many roadside cafes, enjoying Bali Hai beer paired with tasty skewers of juicy grilled pork. And much to our surprise, our fabulous exotic vacation ended with one of the most memorable dinners we have ever had.

It is both practical and economical to hire a driver to ferry you around the island. The island is not that large but for a first time visitor, trying to get yourself to the many shrines sprinkled across the island and into the hills during a week is asking a lot.

Most of the Balinese that we met on this Indonesian island were incredibly honest, and the driver we hired turned out to be the perfect guide. Wayan showed us so much of the beauty offered on this island - from the batik artists to the coffee plantations. When our week ended and we were on our way to the airport at Jimbaran, we asked him to choose from one of the famous seafood restaurants situated on the water of Jimbaran Bay. We wanted our last meal to be special.

Wayan didn't disappoint. He stopped in front of a series of low slung buildings. He said he'd wait for us and we walked into an open-air restaurant that was mostly empty. A hostess showed us to a table out on the sands not more than twenty feet from the waterline.

The front of the restaurant was very low key with a series of fish tanks, each with different sorts of fish inside. They must have had tuna, rock cod, grouper, barracuda, snapper, squid, shrimp, and lobsters. We had a beer and enjoyed the view of brightly painted fishing boats anchored off the coast, talking about what we had experienced, our hostess returned to lead us back to these tanks to choose our fish for dinner!

We came back to our table with its legs buried a foot deep in the sand and now dressed in a colorful tablecloth. Sitting there you can see how the area got its reputation for having renowned stretches of beaches and brightly painted fishing boats - because we counted six of those boats anchored not far from our table.

Our meal was the best, it was the tastiest and freshest fish and we even managed to convince Wayan to let us buy him a beer. Our little stretch of paradise with its white sands was just the perfect place to end our trip. Even the blue water sparkled for us like a disco ball, as the sun set and Balinese and Javanese music played (we still have a CD of it too). This last evening before our flight back to reality will always be a treasure to me.

July 12, 2009

Travel Writing @ The Writing Salon in Berkeley on July 25

I have no vested interest in promoting The Writing Salon. That said, I have taken a couple of workshops from them in the past and enjoyed them a lot. Therefore when I saw this upcoming travel writing workshop in my inbox and I wanted to share it with anyone out there interested.

A little about The Writing Salon: The Writing Salon is a school of creative writing for adults (ages 18 and up). We offer small classes (of 6 to 13 students), held in comfortable, colorful, living room-like settings, complete with fresh-brewed coffee, tea and munchies. We are a big enough organization to offer a wide selection of classes and teachers, but small enough to ensure intimacy and individual attention. Our 5 to 9-week courses and one-day workshops include classes in every genre: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, screenwriting, playwriting and magazine writing.

Saturday, July 25th, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Berkeley
$95 members/$110 non-members REGISTER

Do you love to travel? Keep a travel journal? Why not take the next step and turn your daily scribbles into salable articles? You can do this by learning two things: 1) how to improve your storytelling abilities, and 2) how to market your work.

“I’ll lead you through the steps of writing a travel story and then targeting and querying your markets (short story anthologies, newspapers, magazines and ezines),” says instructor Lisa Alpine. “We’ll also discuss ways to generate other travel-related sources of income, such as writing press releases and doing guidebook research. Whether you’re writing about your neighborhood or rafting down the Zambezi, you can develop specialty travel angles that open up publishing avenues beyond the Sunday Travel Section—and still pay well. So come launch your career as a travel writer!”

Lisa Alpine: Curiosity about what is beyond the curve of the horizon has fueled Lisa Alpine’s voyaging since she left home at 18 to live in Paris. She has owned an import company (Dream Weaver Imports in San Francisco), published a newspaper (The Fax in Marin County, CA), written a travel column for 12 years for the Pacific Sun, and taught dance and writing workshops around the world for two decades. Her travel essays appear in numerous anthologies, including I Should Have Stayed Home, Hyena’s Laughed at Me and Now I Know Why, and Lonely Planet’s Tales From Nowhere. She is often a guest speaker at numerous travel writer’s conferences, and is a member of Wild Writing Women.

July 9, 2009

5 Sad Expat Memories From Overseas

When we lived overseas in Tokyo, though a great experience and wonderful opportunity that we would not have missed for anything, there were many sad moments. I've hesitated to share any of them before because I did not want to sound like I was whining or ungrateful. That is far from it and now that time has moved on, I think it is healthy to share. My experiences may help other expats who feel the same longings and mixed emotions.

Five of my most sharp and sad memories were:

  • Not being able to pick up the phone and call California on a whim because of the 17 hour time difference
  • Staying in Tokyo for Christmas
  • Being "skinny" by California standards but an XXL by Japanese size charts
  • Getting homesick but not being able to tell your friends because they thought you lived an exotic life of luxury
  • Seeing this commercial for a local bank with all the local San Francisco sights that you missed, and hearing Tony Bennett sing I left my heart in San Francisco
If you live overseas and have feelings of melancholy, it is okay and natural. Even if you are living in the lap of luxury in your new surroundings, there is nothing wrong with missing your old life. Try not to dwell in the sadness but see it as a way of appreciating what you had at home, and as an opportunity to learn how to live well in another culture and environment. Experiencing diversity and other cultures in an intimate way, such as an expat, can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Ganbatte kudasai!

July 7, 2009

Pea Soup Fog in San Francisco

What so many visitors and residents love about San Francisco in the summer, others despise. One persons natural air conditioner, is a freezing ice berg of a climate to another. Where do you fall on this spectrum? Do you know that it will always be colder at Ocean Beach by several degrees than at the Giants baseball ballpark?

Do you find the fog serene? How do you feel about the haunting sounds of the horns shouting their warnings on the Golden Gate Bridge? For sailors and those who love the sea, there is nothing more invigorating than the sharp smell of a salty breeze or its brisk feel on your cheek.

Come visit San Francisco in the summer and enjoy not only its landmarks but savor the micro-climates of the city. Read the San Francisco Chronicle, the local paper to find or avoid the fog zone.

July 2, 2009

Moss Landing Monterey's Country Cousin

Moss Landing is a delightful and often overlooked little town on the coast - between Santa Cruz and its more famous neighbors to the south, Monterey and Pebble Beach.

If you drive the coastal and mostly scenic Highway 1 between San Francisco and Hearst Castle or Santa Barbara, you will find yourself going through this town of less than a 1,000 people. Just don't blink.

by sfcphotography

With the agriculture in the area, one of the nicest and juiciest fruits grown locally are the strawberries. Come to town and savor all the strawberries you can hold during the annual Watsonville Strawberry Festival on August 1 and 2, 2009. I like this festival way more than the Garlic Festival in the town of Gilroy, several miles north. Garlic ice cream? Never. Strawberry cake? Always!

Another unique aspect to this part of California, is the workers and the migrant labor. An interesting by-product are the snacks sold at the road side stands. These spicy nuts are typical and perfect with an icy cold Dos Equis beer.

We love Moss Landing and a huge bonus if you take the time to visit, is their quite famous antique fair. Late July is their amazing street fair and worth stopping to see if you are looking for deals. Monterey and Pebble Beach may get all of the attention, but Moss Landing is more than the country cousin.
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