I’m two days’ away from flying to the States for Christmas, so I thought a good way to end my review of my favourite photos of 2013 would be to share one from San Francisco. After a fantastic wee trip over to Sausalito, we caught the ferry back in the prettiest light imaginable. I was finding it quite difficult to take photos, as even on a smooth crossing, staying steady wasn’t easy.
In the end, I was delighted with this one. The angle of the sailing boat against the hazy backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge and the double outline of the hills is satisfying to my eye. And it is a gorgeous reminder of that beautiful city. I only have to see it to smile thinking of both the beauty and friendliness of the city, but also of the constant laughter of being with my family and friend on that trip.
And while I may not be heading for San Francisco right now, I am heading for the same branch of my family….bring on the festive laughter, silly quizzes, adventurous cocktails and love that Christmas seems destined to deliver this year!
Happy snapping to all my fellow bloggers and see you for more snap-sharing in 2014.
When I travelled to California earlier this year, I was hugely privileged to stay for a few days with a friend who lives up in Humboldt County, way up with the redwoods. I took many photos in and around her home, which was full of beautiful details. This is my favourite. I’m a fan of anything rusty and this was gorgeous – the ram’s head is the beater for a triangle hanging by the front door, which could be used to ring out to family and friends spread across the 80 acres of land. It’s a piece of rusty perfection.
For context, here is a panorama taken on the land…
The Cathedral of Mission Dolores is beautifully lit, thanks to the orange stained glass high in the walls. To this day, I’m not sure whether it was the stained glass or the rich wood itself that created so many different hues in these pews. Whatever the cause, I think the effect is wonderful; where the eye expects uniformity, it is given subtle waves of colour.
Lose shoes may well become a photo project in its own right next year. I am always mystified by single shoes lying derelict in public places. How did someone manage to lose it and not notice? Surely not every piece of left footwear is discarded by a drunk or drunken reveller? But if you’re not drunk, why else would you leave one shoe behind?
This particular shoe caught my eye because it’s so neat, tidy, clean and – with the lace still tied – it looks as if the person whose foot had occupied it had evaporated a few moments before.
Perhaps I’ll create the ‘Lost Shoe Bar’. Up high (where you can’t smell them!) shoes on display and every night around a wood burner, folks turn up and tell or sing the tales behind a particular half a pair. If anyone ever walks in with the matching shoe, they get free drinks in exchange for the real story.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already two months ago that I was anticipating the arrival in San Francisco of my dear friend Heather. The wonderful thing about blogging after the event is that it gives me a great way to remember every laugh, every bit of sight-seeing and every glorious glass of California red drunk!
There are many fab things to do in SF and I would put The Japanese Tea Garden right up there near the top of the list. It’s a glorious little corner of delicate loveliness. To get there, we walked up through Haight Ashbury, as we had to have a little look at the ‘hippy’ area.
It was a really bright day, so my pictures of the Japanese Tea Garden aren’t brilliant but hopefully these will give you an idea of how nice it is.
We also sauntered around the Botanical Gardens. I like the way the gardens are divided into the world’s regions, so that you step from one type of flora to another.
The next day’s sightseeing was to Mission Dolores and to see the Mission district murals. The first is San Francisco’s oldest building. It’s thick adobe walls mean that it has withstood all the earthquakes. It’s a wonderful chapel with a cathedral next door and I’m glad I visited.
The murals are great. We didn’t have much time, as we were heading off to meet my Aunt and Uncle, flying in from Atlanta that morning, but what we did see were wonderful.
And then it was time to reunite. I have the most welcoming family imaginable in the states and they all ‘re-adopted’ my friend Heather in super quick time (it had been many years since she had visited Boston with me).
Thursday dawned bright and clear again. No San Francisco fog for us at all! After a morning at the Asian Art Museum, we headed off for Sausalito, for gorgeous ice cream and a very hospitable bar, The Wellington Arms pretending (and failing in the best way possible) to be an English pub!
Friday was Dave’s birthday and it was off to Alcatraz for us. I had underestimated how interesting it would be. The culture snob in me couldn’t figure out what could be so fascinating about a prison. I stand corrected. It was superb. Great location with amazing views back to the city and an audio tour that immerses you in the prison stories. I highly recommend going. Alaz (see what I did there?!?!), I forgot my camera.
The day finished with an undoubted highlight of the trip; supper in a private dining room at Restaurant Gary Danko. Great food, pretty place and the best company.
The menu was mouth-watering.
I started with Lobster salad, moved onto the scallops, main course was seared tuna, then cheese and finally a lovely dessert that I failed to snap!
A few years’ ago I went on a fantastic trip to Cuba (I can recommend Intrepid Travel‘s itinerary – it was a scorcher!). From one two week trip I made six really wonderful friends, three who (now) live in Australia, one in Cuba and two in California.
Janet and Carol, my Californian friends, weren’t on the same trip as I was but it was these two fantastic women with whom I shared most late nights, as most of my group tended to go home quite early. I chatted happily with Janet and Carol in between fantastic dances with their tour leader, Roger.
When I went to Burma in December, it was a real kick to meet up with Carol and Janet for lunch in the capital, Yangon – they were on the last day of their trip and we were on the first day of ours.
As soon as I confirmed that I would be visiting California, I got in touch with Carol and Janet. Not for us a quick lunch in San Francisco – no, the plan was for Janet and I to travel up from the Bay Area to Carol’s place in Humboldt County. I was excited to get into the heart of the redwood forests.
I had completely underestimated, though, just how wonderfully remote Carol’s place was. I had the most fantastic few days, in a place of such peace and calm that if I hadn’t been returning to meet my lovely friend from the U.K. and to reunite with the U.S. branch of my family, I think I may have skipped town altogether!
Janet gamely agreed to travel up Route 1 instead of the quicker Route 101, just so that I could get the feel of the coastal road. Wow, it winds and winds and winds! There were stunning views all the time and it was certainly worth feeling dizzy. For some inexplicable reason, I didn’t take a single photo. I’m blaming the jet lag.
Finally we moved inland and Janet pulled over to let me see my first Redwood Grove. It’s amazing to me that such mighty trees are growing right next to the road – sometimes even beginning to encroach upon it.
After a good eight or so hours on the road, we arrived and Janet pulled off the road onto a dusty track. As we wound up the hill, I was enchanted by the views of meadows. It simply wasn’t what I expected.
That evening we caught up, ate, drank and laughed. All the time, the view from Carol’s deck beguiled me and I came back to it time and again during my few days. I loved it best in the morning, when the breeze rustled the beech tree, the wind chimes sang and the crickets (cicadas?) chirrupped noisily but no other sound could be heard. I meditated, I did some yoga, I read. I was calm.
This short clip doesn’t do justice to it but it helps remind me of the peace…
Carol, Dexter (the dog), me and Janet on the deck:
Janet left the morning after we arrived (all thanks for her for making the trip when she had to dash back!) and Carol, Dexter and I set off for a lovely long hike through meadows and pine woods over to friends about seven miles away. It was a glorious day – clear blue skies but not blisteringly hot.
The next day Carol took me to the ‘Avenue of the Giants’, which delivers what it promises…great big glorious redwoods! Stunning.
It was a wonderful trip and I shall always treasure both the views and the conversations. It has certainly opened my eyes to just how beautiful California is and I will return to see more of it.
Thank you, Carol, for such a lovely visit and to Janet for driving up there!
Next time, back to San Francisco for wine, sight-seeing, family reunions and glorious food!
I’ve had a busy few weeks, so my poor little blog feels rather neglected. I was expecting sun today but as it hasn’t appeared, I’ve finally had a chance to stay in and do a wee bit of editing.
My trip to San Francisco began with the first of many superb brunches at Kate’s Kitchen, just round the corner from my cousin’s apartment. I don’t have photos but I can tell you that if you’re in the area, it’s a must visit. Featured on the front of Jimmy Smith’s ‘Home Cookin’, it’s a great little place with the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had.
Fuelled up, we set off for Marina Green to begin a six mile walk up round by the Golden Gate Bridge, round the coastal path to Land’s End.
The walk gave us a chance to catch up on a few years’ of gossip. It doesn’t matter a jot that I’m 19 years older than Andrew; we have heaps to talk about. I did manage to look at view after view of the bridge, though. I’m sure someone has written a great book about the psychology of bridges, investigating why they have such an impact on us? It’s not just the fantastic engineering; there’s something that goes much much deeper than that. Whatever the deep-seated fascination, the Golden Gate really does have a visual pull and I took too many photos. Here’s my gallery:
Our end goal was Cliff House, the bistro complex on the site of the old Sutro Baths. It’s a stunning location. With spectacular views of the setting sun, we had a hoot of an evening. A friend of Andrew’s works there, so we sat at the bar, noshing on really rather gorgeous food including a scrummy tuna tartare. Entertainment was provided by a very good-looking guy who ‘races powerboats’. I missed a cue early on in the conversation (old age; getting deaf) and thought he meant speedboats, actual boats that people sit in. Nope. We’re talking remote controlled boats; the kind that sad whiskery guys put on park ponds on Sunday mornings. I’m sure it was all BS, as believe me, I had a wee look around the internet and couldn’t find any evidence of him or the well-paid professional circuit he was ‘leading’ in. But it was entertaining stuff, particularly when he said I could ‘take’ his number in case I wanted to hook up later in the week. I didn’t laugh. I played nice.
A fun end to a superb first day of sight-seeting. The hike was the perfect way to start a San Francisco trip – it cleared the jet lag and gave me heaps of views of that international orange bridge.
Join me next time, when I’ll be off to get back to the Land in Humboldt County.
I’ve been so busy since returning from California on Monday that I’m not geared up for blogging with pics yet.
So I thought I would share my top tips before I forget them, as some are quite small but useful.
Number one recommendation: Go to Glide on Sunday morning.
Inspiring, moving and downright uplifting. I’m an atheist and I can tell you that it didn’t matter one bit. It’s the living example of compassion, tolerance and community I’ve ever seen. Marvellous singing from a choir as diverse as you would expect from San Francisco and some of the best voices singing Gospel I’ve ever heard. My friend Heather and I walked passed the Glide community centre to get to the church and it was sobering; some of the most desperate people you will see all queueing to get a shower and some breakfast. But it was real testament to the superb work this community does. Give generously when the collection comes round – these people deserve it. They podcast each week’s celebration, so here’s the one I went to. 5/19/2013 GLIDE Sunday Celebration
And the rest, in no particular order but just as I remember them:
Buy a visitor passport for the Muni, which is the system that runs all the buses and historic cable cars. A week’s pass is $28 and includes unlimited rides on the cable cars, which otherwise cost $6 a pop. You can buy the passports at Walgreens as well as Muni terminals.
On that note, don’t attempt to get on the Powell/Mason or Powell/Hyde cars anytime after about 11 a.m. You will queue. For a loooong time. Instead, ride them early OR ride the Van Ness/Market line up and down California. This passes by Grace Cathedral, so comfortably on the tourist routes but nowhere near as busy.
Grab a BART transfers booklet when you’re waiting for the BART (the underground system) at San Francisco airport. It has every single bus route in it and was 100% foolproof when planning how to get around. You are unlikely to use the BART itself again but the booklet is brilliant.
Enjoy your conversations with strangers. Everywhere we went, people were so open, welcoming and friendly in a way never experienced in Europe. Embrace it, enjoy it.
If you’re staying in Nob Hill (Miranda-like snigger permitted at any time), it’s worth going to MyMy for breakfast on California and Larkin. Don’t go after 9.30 on the weekend, as there will be the obligatory queues but weekdays or early it’s the perfect breakfast. Mind you, you don’t have to go far to get a great breakfast in San Francisco!
The Jazz Center won’t be in any tourist guides yet, as it opened a couple of months’ ago. Do go, even if you’re not going to a gig, as the bar has great staff, gorgeous wine and lovely food.
Don’t try to save dollars by seeing The Legion of Honour and the de Young in one day (you get a discount if you do). These are two fantastic museums, jam-packed with gorgeous stuff (including the biggest collection of Rodin sculptures outside Paris). They need time.
The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is spectacular. Even if you have just a couple of days, don’t miss it.
Oh, an finally, go visit the bar my cousin works in – 15 Romolo. In the alleyway right next to the Beat Museum, it’s a real find. Unusual cocktails and great bar food.
I’m looking forward to spending Sunday editing photos…when a holiday starts with one’s bartender cousin making the perfect Mai Tai, you know it’s going to be lively!