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Posts Tagged ‘Palace of Fine Arts’


It’s near two hundred days since I slouched atop green Bernal Hill,

Dismissing the dogs drooling over my “Progressive Grounds” wrap.

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I watched with increasing heavy heart the planes fly towards SFO,

Doleful omens that my own flight home grew ever nearer. 

Now, finally, my next pilgrimage is as close as the last,

But it might as well be another two hundred years as days;

With the city again in the grip of World Series fever,

I yearn to bask beneath the evening city’s orange glow.

So much I miss about this cool, gorgeous, dirty, expensive place.

The soulful song of the foghorns out across the Golden Gate.

That heart stopping moment when you crest the hill at Hyde  

And pier, park and prison under a pristine sky come into view.

Community singing with Elvis and Snow White in Club Fugazi 

Before following Casady, Kerouac and Ginsberg to Vesuvio Cafe

Where I sit beneath James Joyce with a glass of Anchor Steam.

Bowing dutifully to Emperor Norton as he leads his latest star-struck

Subjects round the now scrubbed and polished Barbary Coast.

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Standing on stairways in Sunset and Bernal,

Gazing open-mouthed as Karl the Fog weaves his moody magic,

Slicing Golden Gate Bridge and Sutro Tower in half before 

Rendering them clear and whole again in a heartbeat.

Mouthing along to “O Mio Babbino Caro” 

While wrestling a ristretto at Caffe Trieste.  

Devouring warm, thickly buttered popovers by the Pacific

Among the toffs and tourists at the Cliff House.

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Scouring for the latest tie-dye tees in still heady Haight.

Getting through a minor novel on the F Streetcar as it

Clanks and clatters down Market and along Embarcadero.

Savouring the scents of jasmine and lemon on the backyard patio.

Marvelling at the Mission murals and their passion and exuberance

Reassures me this changing city still harbours an independent spirit.   

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Sharing stories of Dead concerts at Lyceum and Fillmore 

In the line for breakfast at Martha’s on Church,

Where the Blackpool boat tram glides past and waves

Its bunting at “Lovejoy’s” ladies taking tea and tiffin. 

Shovelling down “Gilroy’s” garlic fries at the ballpark before 

The circling seagulls, mindful of each innings slipping away,

Prepare to swoop to reclaim their birthright.

Watching a liquid sun decline over the serene lagoon 

Of the soon to be centurion Palace of Fine Arts,

What better resting place after the Lyon Street Steps descent?

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And breathing a sigh of relief as the recycling police

Leave me alone for yet another week. 

These and many more images flood my brain.

But never mind.

For now at least, there’s more baseball torture to

Endure from afar in the dark of the night.

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Having spent the previous day drivin’ south on Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, we decided to take advantage of the remaining time with the hire car to  head in the opposite direction to visit some of the towns in Marin County.  Initially, we had intended to travel as far as Bodega Bay, the location used for one of Alfred Hitchcock‘s most chilling films, The Birds, but another late start (we are on vacation after all) caused us to modify our plans by mid afternoon. 

It wasn’t helped by the fact that my sore throat and cough had developed into a full blown cold, occasioning a consultation with the pharmacist at the nearby Lucky supermarket before we left.  So, having handed over half of our remaining spending money for the pills and syrup, we set off over the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear, sunny morning that was to produce record temperature by mid afternoon.

Our first stop was in Mill Valley for coffee.  As I was feeding the parkaing meter I was asked by a young mother if I knew where The Depot was.  I explained that I was a new kid in the block too, thinking that this delightful, woodland scene could hardly be the locatoin for a branch of The Home Depot.  Five minutes later Janet and I were sitting outside the Depot Cafe, sipping coffees and scrutinising the Marin County map I had just bought in the bookstore linked to the cafe.  The sight of the menu, and the presentation of the food being delivered to other customers, made me regret having had such a heavy breakfast.    

Mill Valley, one of the wealthiest communities in the United States in a lovely, wooded setting, struck us as affluent and civilised.  Moreover, the people were very friendly, notably the proprietor of the  jewelry store who individually gift wrapped the watch, earrings and bracelets I had bought Janet for her birthday tomorrow.

As we drove around Marin County the artists’ and spiritualist colonies for which it was renowned were evident respectively in galleries and establishments like the Vedanta Center and the Spirit Rock Meditation Center.

We had decided to take another drive today not least because we wanted to ensure that we ran the gas down before returning it to Avis.  However, as we drove towards Stinson Beach we realised that if we went much further today we would need to buy more gas.  We did not want to run out on an isolated part of the road.  Fortunately, we found a gas station at Point Reyes Station, a raggedy western style town, where we also had a picnic lunch.  With Bodega Bay still the best part of an hour away we decided to head for Sausalito via Fairfax and San Rafael.

As it transpired, we drove through Fairfax, an attractive town, and its neighbour, San Anselmo, in preference for spending the remaining hour of the shops opening in San Rafael.  However, no sooner had we entered the town then we had passed through it!  Perhaps the downtown area was off the main road.  We considered returning to Fairfax but decided to push on to Sausalito.

We had coffee in the Bridgeway Cafe in Sausalito and sat “on the dock of the bay” marvelling at the crystal clear and deceptively close view of The City across the bay. 

Now, you are never far from an ageing hippie in the Bay Area, and this was no exception as we were entertained by a character who did not look dissimilar from David Crosby (long golden hair, receding hairline, bushy moustache, tassled brown suede jacket) whom we had only seen a couple of nights before.  But that is where the similarity ended.  Whilst he had a guitar strapped across his chest, he only used it a mute prop to his rendition of “standing on the corner watching all the girls go by” (only readers of a certain age will remember this – hardly a west coast hippie anthem).  When he wasn’t “singing” he was engaged in loud and harmless conversation with whomsoever would accidentally catch his eye.  Amongst his rapid fire tips on surviving in today’s world was “if you sit somewhere long enough someone will bring you food”.  Well, it worked for him as a middle aged woman delivered shepherd’s pie to him and his dog (there’s always a dog).

We could have avoided him on the return to our car but that would have required an unnecessary  minor detour.  Inevitably, as we passed by he said “where you guys from, it can’t be San Francisco with a t-shirt like that”, and as if to answer his own question he ventured “Australian” of course.  He then offered his services as a tour guide if we wanted someone to show us around.  He didn’t want paying – all we would need to do was supply a car and buy him dinner.  He would even take a “day off “(from sitting on a bench rapping to every passer by) to help us out.      

After crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge (at a toll charge of $6) we stopped by the Exploratorium and the majestic Palace of Fine Arts, where we spent a relaxing twilight hour watching the world winding down, including joggers, many with dogs trotting alongside them, children in their toy cars and swans elegantly gliding around the lagoon.   We then retired to the apartment for dinner (seafood lasagne).

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In my recent post California Dreamin’……and of Nevada too, I promised, or rather threatened, to burden you with my plans for the San Francisco leg of our upcoming trip.

We have rented an apartment in NOPA (North of the Panhandle) for a fortnight this time, hiring a car for the first week and buying a City Pass, which includes a seven day MUNI passport, for the second.  This will be our eighth trip, the first few of which were only for a few days, so the temptation to revisit the same haunts was strong back then.

But now we are more experienced visitors, and whilst I suppose we cannot shake off the tourist tag, we aim to “live like locals” as much as we can.  We will, of course, still frequent favourite spots such as Golden Gate ParkHaight-Ashbury, AT & T Park, Golden Gate Bridge, Beach Blanket Babylon and the Cliff House, but the emphasis is increasingly on new places and experiences as well as return trips to attractions we have not been to for some years.

With the car we intend to take the opportunity to venture beyond the city to Berkeley, Tiburon / Angel Island and Santa Cruz / Half Moon Bay, none of which we have done more than drive through in the past. 

Time permitting, we would also like to explore part of the northern coast, for example Point Reyes and Bodega Bay (Mendocino may be a little too far).   Given that we will be experiencing our first NHL game between the Sharks and the LA Kings, we will give downtown San Jose a look in too. Monterey / Carmel, the Napa Valley and Alcatraz (by day and night) have seen enough of us in the past, so we will spare them this time.

Back in the city the focus will be more on revisiting sites we have missed on recent trips such as Twin Peaks, Coit Tower and the Palace of Fine Arts / Exploratorium.  In addition, there are places that we have, shamefully, bypassed before that we must visit this time, including the Grace Cathedral, City Hall and the redwood grove at the Transamerica Pyramid amongst others.

New cultural experiences will include seeing our first show at the Castro Theater (Singalong Wizard of Oz?), visiting SF MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and the de Young Museum, none of which we have done before.

I am sure I will be adding to the list over the next four weeks but these are the “must-dos” at present.  Whether we succeed in meeting the challenge will be revealed in the daily blog I hope to maintain during the trip.

In the meantime, if anyone has read this and thought “yes, that’s fine but you have just got to go to………….” please let me know.

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