Had a chance to get back to SFO last week for a couple of days and it was wonderful. I stayed at a little hotel...The Inn at Union Square because of the price and the location. What was a surprise was that the hotel was terrific.
I posted a review on Trip Advisor but in a nutshell it was just off Union Square and because of the price I paid I knew my room would be small and I wouldn't have much of a view - but it didn't matter. There was complimentary wine/beer and treats in the evening as well as a small continental breakfast in the morning. If you were really hungry....Morten's Steakhouse is right next door and they deliver room service.... with a hefty price. Regardless...
The location is wonderful. Cable cars down the street, the Ferry Building within walking distance as well as the SF Museum of Modern Art...which I will talk about in a bit. But what really caught me was how clean this place was. The room was wonderful, the bed comfortable, the linens high quality. AND ..... bathroom was spotless. I mean spotless with LATHER products as their amenities. Needless to say..this is a shoutout for the Inn on Union Square and I would definitely stay their again.
So ...the highlights of the trip.
Back to Hog Island Oyster Company for their wonderful Oysters. As a surprise they were a participating restaurant in the newly introduced Refugee Food Festival that is being held in different locations around the world. I had a chance to talk with the Project Manager for the SFO location and she explained that the idea is to ... on a culinary basis represent different countries around the world to broaden peoples understanding of the cultures that have been brought to them, to appreciate them and to realize that refugees are simply looking for a better way of life for their families. By sharing their culture they may be more readily accepted as well as to show their appreciation for their newly adopting countries. To learn more go to: refugeefoodfestival.com I wish them the best.
This time... the highlight of the trip was a visit to the SFO Museum of Modern Art. They were having a special exhibition of Rene Magritte's work.
Rene Magritte was a Belgian artist. His venture into the interplay of daily objects out of context established him as one of foremost surrealists of his time. Although during his time he wasn't necessarily acclaimed as a great artist due to his work as a commercial artist as well as his use of a subject matter in multiple similar reproductions.....as time went on those in the art world and beyond recognized his genius. Great artists make you look at the world - the common world in a different way...and this is what he did.
The exhibition contains about 70 works that he produced. They are extraordinary. His brilliance was in taking everyday objects and positioning them in non-everyday order. A few examples are below:
I so love to see the works of the human mind and imagination...but what most excites me is when they change our perspective of what we think of as normal and see things in a different way. Much like travel.....
If you are in SFO - I highly recommend going to see this exhibit and just enjoying his imagination. But that isn't all there is at SFMOMA......
I ventured onto a couple of other floors and walked into these....
Modern art - Pop Art - Moveable art - perspective art.....it was wonderful and overwhelming. I never finished walking through the museum. Much like the Louvre - you need to get away after awhile because it is so amazing and it becomes a mindful and sensory overload. I will go back.
The next part of this trip was a visit to the past...the history of the SFO street car and metro system.
There is a very small - and I mean small museum at the end of Market and the Ferry Building. It is a self financed museum with donated space that houses the Market Street Railway Company exhibit. It isn't big.....but it contains a lot of historical information and artifacts on the street and trolley systems of SFO.
It was a fun little museum and the people that run are wonderfully enthused about what they do and what they know......and they will share it with you. Afterwords - I couldn't help but go out and take some trolley pictures:
Finally - just before leaving ..... one last shout out.
Along the wharf we stumbled upon this little Spainish restaurant ....Coqueta. We stopped in for a Sangria and tapas.....Had Heuvos Nacionales........
I tried to take some pictures...but they just don't do this place justice. It is beautiful and the staff was wonderful. So helpful and kind and seemed genuinely appreciative of our stopping in. We were on our way back to the airport so we didn't stay long...but be assured - when I am back down in that area - they will be my next "hot spot". I will let you know.
Safe travels from BK the Travel Guy.
As I wrote earlier I am playing catchup to my travels. Here is the next part of our trip to South Dakota.
This is "The Chapel in the Hills". It was a gift - built in 1969 as a testament to the Evangilical Lutheran Church in America. It is an exact replica of the famous Borgund Stavkirke Church in Laerdal, Norway. It was built in Norway to specifications then deconstructed - shipped to Rapid City and reconstructed. Worship services are held each evening all summer at 7:30 PM by itinerant ministers. They spend a week there - with housing and conduct services.
My great-grandfather was an itinerant Lutheran minister in MN. He traveled the countryside but was - according to my Uncle - a bit of a maverick. He served five churches in the region and would pronounce that Sunday's were the Lord's Day.....and they should go to church.,...even if the only church that was available was Catholic. My Uncle John said that browsing through his room one day long after he died...he found a well-used microscope and two worn books........The Bible and Darwin's "Origin of the Species". A rare combination.....except when you believe that the gift of god is the insatiable curiosity and discovery of the mind.
The Church and grounds are beautiful. Tucked into a local neighborhood you would be hard pressed to find it unless you were looking for it. The grounds are open to picnics and playing amongst the trees. There is a gift shop and cabin that have been created to replicate typical Norwegian housing.
The interior of the church is traditional among Norwegian - Lutheran architecture. It is simple but beautiful in its simplicity. Like a cathedral there is meaning behind the design.
The three arches at the alter as well as in the ceiling structure represent the Trinity. The faces sculpted into the pillars - the four gospels. Outside at the top of the structure - dragon like structures to ward away evil spirits....likened to the ends of the Viking Norwegians boats.....how did Christianity became the religion of the people...by including ancient beliefs with new ones.
In addition to the church there is a small meditation path that leads up the side of the hill. It is for contemplation - reflection and reverence. A merging of nature - mankind and the divine. We were there on a beautiful day...........it was .....peaceful.
Our trip to Mt Rushmore was enhanced by this surprise. Coming from a Norwegian heritage.....and visiting Norway a couple of years ago...in this quiet little neighborhood......it was pure joy to visit and partake in this little slice of Norway in Rapid City, South Dakota !
In my last post I mentioned that I would be catching up on some recent trips I have taken. So here goes.......
On June 13th we woke up and decided to go to see Mt. Rushmore with an overnight in Rapid City. It has been a number of years since we had been there and we just needed to get away and drive for awhile. We knew it wouldn't be a long trip but just long enough across the prairie into the Black Hills of South Dakota.
What made it somewhat reminiscent was that in High School (and yes that was a while ago) just before two-a-day football practices started- as a senior a group of friends headed north from Greeley Colorado to see "the Four Heads". At that time in addition to the steps they had long ramps leading from the parking lot to the observation are and not much else other than a cafe. You would walk up -----we did that and walk back......but we didn't. We would skateboard down the ramps to the parking lot then do it all over again..and again...and again. It was a simpler time... but I digress.
We left Denver heading up I-76 by way of Ft. Morgan and Sterling CO. We cut north to Sidney - Alliance and Chadron NE. It was a beautiful drive. The skys were clear - a deep deep blue. The fields were green and lush and are getting ready to produce their bounty. The slight wind sweeping across them in waves...mesmerizing.
As we approached Chadron - we discovered Chadron State Park. It was absolutely breathtaking. There were a lot of wide open spaces and horizons in all directions on the drive but that day the hills and cliffs of the park stood out with the greenery of the pines. Beautiful.
You enter South Dakota on highway 385 and as soon as you cross the border the highway becomes a well maintained four lane freeway - with very light traffic. We flew. I wouldn't recommend that you break the speed limit (but it was fun).
Coming from the southern direction and heading directly for Mt Rushmore we passed through a portion of Custer State Park - it reminded us of the road to Hana in Hawaii or Taos Canyon in NM. It isn't very long but with the foliage, the curves and elevation gains and losses - it took a little longer to get there than we anticipated. Nontheless - it was a gorgeous day albeit a sometimes harrowing drive.
Finally - we saw it. Mt Rushmore.
We first saw it as we excited a single lane car tunnel that had been carved into the mountainside. Had it not been for the traffic - I would have stopped and framed the shot.....but we ventured on to get the up close look.
Coming into Mt. Rushmore - cars pay $10.00 to park. That is the only fee. The parking pass is linked to your license plate and your car and is good for a year. Pretty cool way to try to get people to return.
Mt. Rushmore is the most visited site in South Dakota and that day with the blue sky you understand why.
It is an amazing site but what is more amazing is the story that goes behind it.
The sculptor.....Gutzon Borglum was 58 when he started the design. Unfortunately he died before it was completed although his son finished the project. He started with the idea to create a monument to Western pioneers like Lewis and Clark but decided to honor the four presidents they thought best conveyed a more national interest and who, started, stood for and preserved the American Ideals. The result is Mt. Rushmore. The intent is to remind us of what they represent until "the wind and the rain finally wipe them away". Pretty haughty ideas.
The sculpting itself was fascinating. They have a museum on the auditorium level where you can read and listen to the stories of the men, women and processes they developed and used to undertake this monumental task.
In realizing the design they had to change it nine times to accommodate the rock. They developed drilling and blasting techniques and hung in wooden chairs using "bumping" drills to take the final or finishing pieces off rock away. They were lowered with pulleys and cranks - just hanging on the face. Yet through all of the 14 years it took to carve the mountain - not a single life was lost. The museum has a wonderful collection of artifacts and stories of the times. The story behind the faces.
Mt Rushmore is a wonder. We spent about an hour and half there. Taking a couple of short trails to the base. Visiting the museum - watching the movie about the undertaking. It was just the right amount of time for us.
Final thoughts: At first and still today I question the idea that we should desecrate nature to honor ourselves. It still bothers me to think that we think so highly of who we are that we would turn a beautiful part of nature, disregard the sanctity of the land of our Native American brothers and turn this spot into our personal tribute. But that decision was made in an earlier time and in a different period. Here it stands. So I look not to the monument itself but to the ideals it and the men represent. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. It is not about the monument but their beliefs, ideals and teachings. Reminding us of who we as a country and what we must work diligently for and aspire to be.....as a people......Goodness or Greatness?.......or maybe........Greatness is the result of Goodness..
....and .....I used to skateboard down the ramps too. We are of a complex nature.
It has been awhile since I made an entry on de Voyag. It hasn't been that I haven't traveled to some great place....I will add them soon but in the last two months we have experienced a different kind of Journey or Journeys to be more exact. Although we have traveled to other destinations we have also experienced the Journeys of the human heart. The JOURNEYS that we all face as human beings. The journeys of birth and of death.
On April 16th - while in Spain we received a call from our daughter that my father-in-law age 95 who had been battling heart issues and had as recently as February had a valve replacement...had taken a turn for the worst. We decided that afternoon that we needed to get home. SO ..... with a few calls and logistical arrangements we flew that night from Malaga Spain to London and then to Denver. We were so glad we did. He recovered for a time and I will write about that later. But what amazed me and still does today is that from across the globe in one night we were able to be home in Colorado.. Travel is so different from what it used to be where you had to plan for months to make arrangements. You can literally make a decision - check the internet - book what ever reservations you need (within reason) and be on your way. The only thing holding you back is you! Back to my story.......
He recovered. But we were so glad we made the decision to come home to be with him. Destination journeys can be postponed, canceled or changed..... being with ones you love - can't. We never questioned our decision. AND .........
No more than two weeks later on the 30th on April we welcomed into this world another beautiful grand daughter. She was born to our son and his wife giving them two amazing girls and giving us five magnificent grand daughters - and I will declare that kind of journey is just if not more beautiful than any destination you can visit.
I would post pictures but we have an agreement in the family that only the parents are allowed to post pictures of their families. In this day and age of internet and privacy concerns - we honor their wishes. But leave no doubt she has already stolen our hearts and we are so thankful she has joined "the clan".
Next.......along comes May and a quick trip to see friends in Sonoma and Napa and a day in San Francisco.
We have been to the wine country of California a number of times and it has always been a treat. But this time was different. I went to visit some old friends from Colorado who have traveled around the world - extensively - and had decided after checking out living in 10 different locations in a number of different countries that Sonoma would be the place to sink their roots. Although having to evacuate five times last summer due to the fires they love it there and their enthusiasm is contagious.
The treated me to wine tasting at Imagery Winery - charcuterie at "the fig and the girl" bistro in Sonoma (to which they supply figs from their gigantic fig tree in their back yard) then home to salmon, salad and conversation. It was easy to see why they love it there. The weather was beautiful and company fabulous........thank you for your hospitality.
I had made arrangements to continue to Calistoga for the evening and eventually to Healdsburg and Santa Rosa the next day as much as I enjoyed the time.....it was time to move on.
Spending the night in Calistoga - I had booked a room at the Bergson. It is a terrific little - not sure - hotel - motel - B&B - none of those descriptions is accurate. It is more like a boutique room at a friends house than anything else. The staff was terrific - the room - as you can see was wonderful and so inviting and in the morning they had a European Breakfast laid out that was included in the cost. Be aware - the only drawback was that it lies directly on the highway. When I checked in that night it was very quiet - the city was literally shut down...but around 5:30 am the cars and trucks started their daily tasks. It wasn't that bothersome but if you are a light sleeper you may want to wear earplugs or as for a room as far away as you can get from the road. No matter - still a great place.
I finished my Sonoma/Napa journey in Santa Rosa. I had broken my screen on my iPhone and through the Apple Store and Genius Bar - had made an appointment to have it fixed in Santa Rosa. This is what I love about traveling. Where it should or could have been an inconvenience the two hours it took to get it repaired made me slow down and find what there was to do in the area. Being flexible is consistent with being patient.
First - I decided to go see the Charles Schulz (Peanuts Creator) Museum. It was Tuesday and unfortunately it was closed.....a reminder - check the internet before going to places just to get an idea of their operating times.
Second - I looked for a local winery to visit.......amazing - Kendall-Jackson has their winery at the south end of Santa Rosa. We have enjoyed their Chardonnay and I thought what a great place to visit. What I found was not just a winery but a beautiful facility that included an exhibition of the different types of wine varietals they grow and gardens that are magnificent. Also got some irrigation ideas for small areas.
It was peaceful with the colors and vineyards in the background just a terrific way to spend the time - waiting for my phone to be repaired.. !!!!!!
After picking my phone up - I journeyed to Tiburon where I stayed at the Lodge at Tiburon. I had been there before for my nephew's wedding - and it was just as beautiful now as it was then. A nautical theme pervades the hotel and grounds - as it should since Tiburon is a small city on a peninsula in the bay. But small city doesn't mean there isn't a lot of traffic and parking can be a problem.. Luckily parking was included in the price - as well as a welcome bag with a little bottle of wine and some snacks. Very nice touch. They have a small pool at the Lodge but it was a little chilly to venture into it for my taste so a stroll around the city was a perfect substitute.The city is quant and beautiful and is easy to walk.
The next day I left Tiburon for some time in San Francisco.........
SFO is a beautiful - interesting - magical and sometimes difficult city to deal with. Like any big city it has its share of poverty, drugs, crime, begging and "street people" It also has opportunities to see the City by the Bay in all of its splendor - especially on a clear day. The beauty is unparalleled. The number of places to visit and experience.....and add the seafood !!!!! YES !!!!! Along with unique - historical hangouts like the Buena Vista which lays claim to creating a recipe for the best Irish Coffee in the country. No argument here!
SFO is a place to visit again and again. Speaking of again and again - I hadn't been there for a number of years so I decided to make a break for ..............Alcatraz !!!!
You need to book your tickets days - weeks or even months online before you go if you want to make sure you can visit. Your ticket price includes the ferry to Alcatraz and admission to the grounds. When you disembark the ferry after you reach the island there is an orientation meeting to have you become familiar with area. It is MANDATORY - but we skipped it....sorry....what I have found in many tours and museums and places to visit that have lots of floors or steps or climbs - which Alcatraz has - is get to the top and work your way down !!!!!! You might be winded when you get to the top......but then as you read the information and guides and stories on the way down you are relaxed and can enjoy your time.
There is an audio guided tour for the prison itself. It is free and you should definitely take it. It was amazing -- again - to listen to the stories from the prisoners as well as the guards and think how awful it must have been - how emotionally barren you had to become to survive the incarceration. Take the trip to "the Rock" you won't regret it and better yet - you won't ever regret never being a prisoner there.
Finally - if you have read this far - good for you and thank you, So I will finish with how I started.
I mentioned that not all journeys are about travel. I also started with telling you about my father in law and coming back from Spain early to be with him and his recovery. Unfortunately it didn't last. He passed away the morning of May 23rd. My wife and her two sisters were with him in his final moments. It wasn't easy for them. It wasn't easy for him. He loved being alive with family and friends and he didn't want to go but in the end - his body just couldn't support his desires anymore.
Bill was a wonderful person. He was grandpa to our kids - but he was grandpa to everyone.......he was kind, thoughtful, caring and an amazing athlete - playing basketball until he was 93. Winning over 65 medals and MVP honors for Senior Softball and Senior Olympics. In our own journeys of life and travel - you could not have found a better travel partner to be with. May you also find you travels to be of constant discovery and wonder and joy - and that you find someone special to share those moments with.........and the simple daily moments of living too. Journey On.........
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.