No trip to SF is complete without lunch at the St. Francis Soda Fountain and a Mission Mural Walk – especially on a perfectly warm, sunny day. In continuous operation since 1918, the St. Francis Soda Fountain is one of the best diners anywhere ever. I always enjoy the N.Y. Ruben with fries and a chocolate malted milkshake. I also always make sure I am wearing pants with a little give! One of the most fun things about having two teenage girls visiting us was enjoying the junk food that I ate when I was a teenage girl but now avoid as an adult. Our meal at the St. Francis Soda Fountain was a perfect compliment to our diet of Girl Scout cookes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, and Laughing Cow cheese rolled in pieces of salami (but that’s another story). Fortunately, our St. Francis gluttony was balanced by a walk in the Mission and exploring the many beautiful murals there.
The Mission district is covered with colorful, artfully-crafted murals especially along 24th Street. It’s easy to do your own self-guided tour but Precita Eyes Visitor Center has several tours to chose from and lots of useful information about the murals and the area.
A 500-year old Catholic icon, Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most familiar religious figures in the world. In most representations of Our Lady, her eyes are downcast and her head is tilted to the left. The artist, Patricia Rose, turned the head to the right so Our Lady could look into Balmy Way and made her eyes open. Rose said, “she’s a mother so she would have to be watchful”. What a wonderful thought and a most beautiful representation of Our Lady, a figure who gives comfort and solace to those in pain. Comfort and solace, things we all could give and recieve a little more of!
Since 2008, every few months I get together with my good friends, Susan and Meera, to discuss our shared passion for phenomenology**. “What is phenomenology?” you ask. Why, it’s the philosophy of human experience! Although developed by the grumpy and, at times, unpleasant German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, phenomenology is grounded in ancient Greek thinking and shares some aspects with Buddhism. What I love most about phenomenology, is that our experiential realities – that is, our feelings, our sense perceptions, our interpretations, our EXPERIENCES, count as important in understanding and making meaning within our worlds. In this meta-data-show-me-the-numbers driven life, I find it reassuring and delightful that, in phenomenology, our whole-body experiences are valued as knowledge and representations of the truth. I also love that phenomenology gives me a reason to see two wonderful friends every few months, or my “phenomenology ladies” as my husband, Brian, calls them!
It’s not all deep thinking when the three of us get together. We talk about ourselves and our lives, and of course, eat delicious food and drink fantastic wine! Our past few gatherings have been week-end retreats at Susan’s and her husband, Charles’, Santa Cruz Mountain lodge. It’s a lovely place complete with fruit orchards, views of the Pacific, and wonderful wineries to visit – a perfect activity when we need a rest from our scholarly discourse. 😉
As the CCC, I preach the responsible enjoyment of all alcoholic libations. However… Sometimes my best laid plans for moderation go awry especially when I have two fabulous friends in town ready for a night out. Recently, my friends, Kiki and Sue, traveled to SF for business. How lucky was I that they cleared their schedules for an evening of conversation and cocktails with me!
Our festitivies started at the bar at the Four Seasons, or “4S” as we like to call it and ended with dinner at Scala’s. The 4S is a lovely place and a perfect meet-up for ladies as fancy as Kiki and Sue but it’s not a go-to place for me generally. While the service and selection are excellent, it doesn’t have the San Francisco flavor that I love so much – too many men in sport coats with Blackberries and absolutely no hipsters! Still, we managed to enjoy ourselves thanks to delicious Sidecars, delightful bubbly, and excellent conversation.
The highlight of the evening was our late supper at Scala’s Bistro. Scala’s is quintessentially SF. The food is tasty and Italian (are those two words synonyms?) and Natalie, the maitre’d, is the most glamorous, charming person in town. She always greets you with a hug, a smile, and a “how are you, Dah-ling?”. You’ll leave Scala’s feeling full AND like a celebrity. Whether you are local or from afar, I recommend a trip to Scala’s – a true San Francisco Treat!
Needless to say, when the Scala’s staff turned the overhead lights on full blast, we knew it was time to depart. The pain we would experience the next morning was far, far, far from our minds.
I managed to get through the morning with motrin, caffiene, water, and the excitement of getting to spend the afternoon with Kiki! While no marathons would be run, we knew some time outside followed by a late lunch would put us right. The Presidio with its beautiful views and easy walking paths was the place for us.
Recently, I had the good fortune of three wonderful visits to the de Young Museum. These visits were particularly special because I had some of my best BFFs (Best. Friends. Forever.) join me. As the CCC, I never mind doing things alone but any activity is always so much more fun with a buddy or two.
We went see the de Young’s current show, Keith Haring – The Political Line. For you SF-Bay Area locals, this show is a must-see. For those of you planning a visit to SF, the de Young is a must-go. Orginally founded in 1894 as the Fine Arts Building, the de Young is now one of the preeminent museums in the western United States with its extensive American, African, and Oceanic art collections. Its special exhibitions have included works by Dale Chihuly, Ruth Asawa, Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, and now Keith Haring. (The show is on view through February 16, 2015.)
But enough about the de Young, the garden, the Cafe…the real stars of this post are my BFFs!
After enjoying the Cafe and each other, we were ready to spend time in the galleries with Keith Haring, who is the REAL star! Keith Haring was born in 1958 and died of AIDS at the age of 32. His work is colorful, playful, vibrant, and completely radical. Through his art, Keith Haring took on racism, capitalism, power, and repression. He cared deeply about people and his work was an expression of that caring. To me, Haring was the Universe’s muse. The world and its most human concerns spoke through him. Perhaps this is why Haring never did sketches or any preparation for his work. He just started painting, inspired by the human and cosmic energies around him.
My parents and I were thrilled when our cousin, Bambi, and her husband, Dan, paid us a visit. Bambi and Dan hail from the East and came to California to visit one of their sons who was working in San Diego. As part of their West Coast adventure, they rented a car and traveled up the Golden State’s gorgeous coastline and ending in San Francisco. It’s not often that our East Coast cousins come west so we wanted to make their visit super-special. Is there any better way to host out-of-towners than with a trip to the Wine Country? We think not!
In planning our wine county tour, Bambi and Dan asked that we visit a winery where we could learn about how wines are made, in addition to enjoying a tasting. My sister, Joanna, had spoken highly of Medlock Ames, a winery in Healdsburg. When I checked out their website, it seemed an ideal place for learning and tasting. Founded in 1998 by two friends, Chris James and Ames Morison, Medlock Ames creates wines in a completely organic and sustainable way. The winery is powered by solar energy and their grapes are grown without pesticides or chemicles. And yes, their wines are delicious!
During our tasting we were fortune to meet Ames Morison, one of the owners and wine makers. He was generous with his time answering all of our questions about their process. We were so impressed with him and Medlock Ames’ committment to creating delicious wines through environmentally conscious methods. As Dan said to Ames, “what you are you doing is really important and it’s what everyone should be doing.” Very well said, Dan!
If you are looking for a unique and personal wine tasting experience, visit Medlock Ames. It’s bright, earthy, and elegant with a lingering finish of many happy memories! Thank you Bambi and Dan for inspiring us to visit!
A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to one of my three sisters, Joanna, who resides in Concord, MA. Another one of my sisters, Lee, lives nearby and she joined us for one the hardest four-mile hikes I have ever done! Mount Monadnock located in Jaffrey, NH, is a 3165-feet granite monster. It is one of the most climbed mountains in the world (who knew) and was a favorite of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson even wrote a poem about the place entitled, “Monadnoc”.
I was excited about our adventure as any time with two of my sisters is always good. However, at the time, I didn’t realize I would be hiking in a vertical fashion through ice and snow. I laughed when the park ranger said, “It takes about a mile per hour.” I scathingly retorted, “A mile an hour? Don’t you mean four miles per hour?” How the mighty fell that fateful day on Mount Monadnock. Perhaps my first clue should have been when Joanna obliquely said, “There are a few hard spots on the trail I just can’t remember where they are.”
On finishing the trail we were tired and very proud of ourselves. Although, Lee and I whined (a tiny bit) while traversing Monadnock, we thoroughly enjoyed it and were so glad Joanna brought us there.
Now onto the most important question – what libation would best warm our chilly bones?
On a gorgeous Fall day my parents, Bev and Tom, and I paid a visit to Alcatraz island. Alcatraz is one of the premier tourist destinations in the city. If you have not been (this means you, SF denizen!), it is well worth the visit – especially right now. Ai Weiwei’s show @Large is currently on display through April 26, 2015. The installations by this internationally renown, Chinese dissident artist are not to be missed.
Ai Weiwei is a critic of the Chinese government and in 2011 was incarcerated for 81 days on charges of tax evasion that were never officially filed. It is believed that these charges and his subsequent imprisonment were enacted as retaliation against Ai Weiwei’s very public, oppositional stance towards the Chinese government. Presently, he is not allowed to travel outside of China and the Alcatraz show was developed at his studio in Beijing. Somehow, a show about freedom and speaking truth to power in one of the world’s most infamous prisons by a radical, truth-speaking artist seems fitting.
It is important to note that before the Europeans and American military came, the first (and original) inhabitants were Native Californians. There are over 100 federally recognized tribes in California, more than any other state. I could not find any information on whether indigenous people lived on or utilized Alcatraz as a fishing spot prior to its “discovery” by the Spanish.
The Rock’s most well-known Native American history is recent. From 1969 to 1971, American Indian activist, Richard Oakes, and a group of Bay Area native peoples occupied Alcatraz with the intention of obtaining a deed to the island and establishing a university, cultural center, and museum there. Their efforts became unglued when Oakes’ 13-year old daughter was killed during a fall on the island. Oakes left Alcatraz and soon thereafter did the rest of the movement’s members. Largely as a result of the group’s efforts, in 1975 the U.S. government passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.
Don’t miss @Large! It’s moving, evocative, and a relevant reflection of our times.
San Francisco is always on the edge of Right Now. Despite its laid-back approach to life, SF, and its cousin to the south, Silicon Valley, are home to technological innovations that have changed how how we experience the world and each other. Think: Apple, Google, Salesforce, Facebook. While I love living in a city that is one step ahead of much of the nation, sometimes all this “Right Now-ness” leaves me feeling disconnected and adrift (despite all my connectivity and GPS apps!).
To reconnect and re-anchor myself to myself and the world around me, I like to visit to Sutro Heights Park. Sutro Heights is the former home of Adolph Sutro, the 24th Mayor of San Francisco and innovator of his time. Born in Germany, 1830, Adolph came to SF in 1851. He made his fortune in 1859 with the Comstock Load (the discovery of silver ore in Nevada) by developing the Sutro Tunnel – a way draining water from deep underground so that the silver could be mined. How fitting that one of San Francisco’s forefathers would be an entrepreneurial pioneer!
In 1881, Sutro purchased a 22-acre parcel of land in the northwest corner of the city over looking the Pacific. He developed a large Victorian-style garden complete with elaborate flower beds. It required 15 gardners to maintain the grounds. In 1883 he opened the grounds for the public to enjoy.
When I need a mini-vacation, there’s no better escape than to Ocean Beach. At the western edge of San Francisco, Ocean Beach is where the sand crunches beneath my feet and the Pacific’s waves crash beside me – possibly two of the most calming sounds ever! Recently, my mom, Bev, and I took a walk along the 3.5 mile beach to enjoy the sounds and sights of the beach, one of San Francisco’s treasures.
Although my cocktail camping lifestyle allows me to travel to fun and interesting places both in California and beyond, some of my most favorite adventures are in my adopted home town of San Francisco. I do love living in San Francisco! It’s an easy and gentle place with friendly people, instant access to natural beauty, and an urbane sensibility which means that a delicious cocktail or yummy snack is never far away. For all these reasons, San Francisco is a top tourist destination. As the CCC, I want to do my part to encourage visitors to come appreciate this wonderful place by sharing my favorite spots with you!
For many years, I have taken solace in the beauty of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. Developed in 1893, this man-made lake was created as an escape for for city-dwellers. During Stow Lake’s early days, the 3.5 mile path also served as a promenade for horse-driven carriages. It is a special place with verdant landscaping, romantic stone bridges, a 114-foot water fall, and a Chinese Pagoda. There are even rumors that the lake is haunted by the White Lady, a young mother who drown in the lake while searching for her missing baby. Perhaps most enjoyable is that the path around the lake is completely flat – a rarity in hilly SF.
If you are planning a visit to SF, there are many great resources to consult, and I am happy to be another! Feel free to contact me for ideas about your visit to San Francisco.