Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So Much for Sunny California

So far my trip to California has been all wet...really wet. It has rained every day that I've been here and looks to continue raining for the next two days. Granted, I'm not in Southern California, but that wouldn't make any difference. It's pretty much raining all over the state. Storm drains are flooded, waterfalls can be seen dropping from buildings and rushing rivers run in the streets next to the sidewalks. Did I mention it's raining?

On the bright side (and there is one) it's warmer than back home in Ohio (by at least twenty degrees) and I'm on vacation (which is always a bright side.) Now, for the real bright side of the rain...the rainbows. It rains a lot back home, so heavy rain and thunderstorms are nothing I'm not used to; however, seeing a rainbow is not that common. I've seen two in the past two days!

The first rainbow I saw was in San Francisco while driving down Lombard Street (the "crookedest" street in the city/state/world.) I looked up and there was a rainbow arching over Coit Tower.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my telephoto lens on my camera, but I was able to capture the rainbow. The picture looks fantastic when you see it full can really see the rainbow.

Today, while driving on El Camino Real in San Mateo I saw my second rainbow in two days! I was able to capture the rainbow with my iPhone. The photo doesn't do the rainbow justice, nor does it capture the beauty and scope of the rainbow.

This rainbow was unusual, although you can't really tell from my photo. This rainbow was a full arc from the Belmont hills on the left to the San Francisco Bay on the right. I could see the rainbow starting on one side and ending over on the other side. The closer I got to the rainbow, you could see a beautiful pink glow on the left where the rainbow started. Like I said, my photo doesn't do it justice, but it does at least capture this unusual phenomenon.

So, while my vacation has been dampened by rain, it has been brightened by the rainbows. And, maybe if I'm really lucky, I'll find a pot of gold...after all, California is the "Golden State."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I'm On My Way...

Well, I am on my way to California. Literally. I am writing this post from the airplane. This is the first flight that I've been on that offered the wi-fi service, so I'm excited to have this opportunity to post from above. I am somewhere in the middle of the US. As I look out my window I see some snow covered peaks, but I'm not sure where I am. It's a little over two hours into the flight, so the flight is about halfway over. So far it has been fairly turbulent. Not the worst I've experienced, but certainly not the smooth ride we all hope for. They're just resuming cabin service after it had to be suspended due to a patch of turbulence. Hopefully, the rest of the flight will be somewhat smoother, but the pilot said it would be pretty bumpy the whole way. More posts to follow once I am actually in California. In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and relax and try to enjoy my flight as much as possible.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Only Four More Days and I'm Late Packing

Well, my next trip to California will be starting in four days. Am I ready? Yes. Am I ready? No. I am beyond ready to go on vacation, but have not even begun to figure out what I'm taking.

Normally, I pick clothes out at least a week ahead or more. I start with a huge pile, stack them on the bed next to my suitcase. Then, I go through the clothes and weed stuff out. Then, I pack the clothes in my suitcase, leaving it in the suitcase for a few days. I then go back through the clothes in the suitcase trying to make sure everything I'm taking I want to take and that I have everything I need to take. I try to pack only one suitcase, because I prefer to only have carry-on. Carry-on baggage saves time at the airport and, these days, saves money.

I also always check the TSA website ("What to Know Before You Go") before I leave to make sure there are no updates to the security rules and regulations. So, besides my suitcase I usually have a tote or a purse that falls within guidelines so that I can carry on some reading material, my iPod, noise canceling headphones, and my netbook (so I can write blog posts on vacation). I also save time at the airport by checking in online the day before; you can generally check-in 24 hours in advance. That way I don't have to wait in lines at the airport. If you do a little advance planning, your trip will get off to a much smoother start.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sea Lions Anniversary Postponed at Pier 39

Since the majority of the sea lions have left their home hangout at Pier 39, the Pier has decided to postpone the celebration of their arrival 20 years ago. The Pier and the Marine Mammal Center plan a bigger celebration later on this year when the sea lions (hopefully) return to their San Francisco home. However, the Marine Mammal Center docents will still be available on Friday, January 15 and Saturday, January 16 by the K-Dock at Pier 39 to provide information about the sea lions and their recent unusual behavior.

Free in San Francisco - Part 2

When talking about free things to see and do in San Francisco there are many options. In this post are some of the more scenic options (though the very scenic Marin Headlands were mentioned in my last post.)

See the San Francisco Botanical Gardens for free in Golden Gate Park.

It is free to visit Golden Gate Park and there are many activities in the park that are free. You can visit the Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. The San Francisco Botanical Gardens has over 7,000 varieties of plants from around the world, so there is always something pretty to see no matter the season. There are free, daily docent-led tours of the botanical gardens and a free children's story time held on the first and third Sundays.

Flowers seen in May at the Botanical Garden.

You can also, for free, see the bison who live in Golden Gate Park at the Bison Paddock. And not too far away is the Dutch Windmill with the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden.

A Golden Gate Park resident at the Bison Paddock.

The towering Dutch Windmill is 75 feet tall.

Drive up the hill from Golden Gate Park along the Great Highway (turns into Point Lobos Avenue) with the Pacific Ocean bordering on your left. You will quickly reach the restored Cliff House and the adjacent ruins of the Sutro Baths in the Sutro Historic District. Park rangers and docents lead walking tours for those interested in either the natural or cultural history of the area.

Use some of the money you've been saving to dine at the Cliff House.

Work up and appetite or burn calories exploring the Sutro bath ruins.

Back in the Marina District past the Presidio you can find the Exploratorium and the Palace of Fine Arts. The Exploratorium is not free, except on the first Wednesday of each month, but it doesn't cost to walk around the grounds and view the remaining structures from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition.

Palace of Fine Arts is located in the Marina District.

One of the best ways to see San Francisco and its many sights is by driving the 49 Mile Scenic Drive. Best of all, it's free! The drive starts at the Civic Center and ends at SFO. It covers much territory and many sights in between. According to an article published several years ago by the San Francisco Chronicle, the entire drive takes about four hours...without stops. When you;ve reached the end of the drive, be sure to visit the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library & Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum located at SFO, admission is free. The airport also has many art exhibits located throughout its terminals.

Coit Tower is a popular tourist destination.

Coit Tower, situated atop Telegraph Hill, offers spectacular views of the city; while not free to take the elevator to the top (admission is $5.00) you can enter for free to view the 1930s era murals depicting the common worker as as well daily life in San Francisco.

The murals were a New Deal Public Works of Art Project.

Due to the topography of San Francisco, you actually don't need to visit Coit Tower's observation deck to get spectacular views of the city. Telegraph Hill is situated high enough to offer up fantastic views without the additional height of the tower. However, if you can swing it, definitely go to the observation deck as the views are unmatched. Coit Tower has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2008.

Views from atop Telegraph Hill.

Spectacular views offered from the observation deck of Coit Tower.

One things to keep in mind is that a lot of the attractions in San Francisco have free or discounted admission for kids and/or seniors. There are also several options to get reduced admission to multiple attractions and transportation by purchasing discount cards such as the Go San Francisco Card or the San Francisco City Pass.

Finally, neither this post nor my previous post are by any means a comprehensive listing of things to see or do for free in San Francisco. If you know of things that are fantastic and free, let me know and I'll include them in a future post.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Free in San Francisco

In a previous post I mentioned some things to do around San Francisco and other California locales that are free. For this post I'm focusing exclusively on free things in San Francsico. Some of the museums in San Francisco that offer free admission on special days are the deYoung Museum, the Legion of Honor, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (free on the first Tuesday); California Academy of Sciences (free on the third Wednesday); the Exploratorium (free on the first Wednesday); and the Asian Art Museum offers free admission on "Target First Free Sundays." This year SFMOMA turns 75, so in celebration of their anniversary is offering free admission the weekend of January 16 through Monday, January 18.

DeYoung Musem offers free admission on the first Tuesday.

California Academy of Sciences is free on the third Wednesday.

The Cartoon Art Museum offers "pay what you want" on the first Tuesday of the month. The San Francisco Railway Museum and the Cable Car Museum both offer free admission, as well as a look into the heritage of these public transportation options. Also offering free admission is The Randall Museum, operated by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, and featuring a variety of changing and interactive exhibits, as well as permanent areas that include a live animal area, a wood shop, art and ceramics studios, a lapidary workshop, a 188-seat theater, a greenhouse, and gardens. The Wells Fargo History Museum offers both free admission and a free audio tour. The Pacific Heritage Museum, currently featuring the exhibit "The Art of Tea - China and Beyond" is another museum offering free admission.

See behind the scenes of cable car operation at the Cable Car Museum.

San Francisco is a beautiful city that offers many sights besides museums. While there may be extras that cost money, there are also many ways to enjoy these sights without paying any fees. The most obvious way to see the sights is to take a self-guided tour. There are free maps of San Francisco that you can pick up at the visitor's center or from newspaper boxes that line the streets, especially near Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39.

You can walk across the Golden Gate Bridge (it costs a toll to drive across.) Once on the Marin side of the bridge, visit the Marin Headlands. They offer spectacular views and are free to visit. Back on the other side of the Bridge you can visit the Presidio and Fort Point for free. You can also take advantage of many free places to see and things to do throughout the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

View of San Francisco from the Marin Headlands.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point.

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is free if you don't plan to board any of the vessels at the Hyde Street Pier, but is a reasonable $5.00 (valid for seven days) if you want to explore the vessels in more depth. As of October 2009, admission to the vessels is free on the first Sunday of the month. Also part of maritime history are the World War II submarine USS Pampanito and the World War II Liberty Ship S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien which are both located at Pier 45. These two vessels are not free to board, but you can view them for free from the pier.
The Musee Mecanique is also located at Pier 45 and admission is free.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Eleven Days and Counting...

Vacation starts in only 11 I ready, I ready, no. I am so ready to go on vacation, especially since it is cold and snowy at home with more snow on the horizon. However, I have a lot of things that need to be done to get ready, including things at work. So, I will be very busy for the next 11 days both at home and at work. Especially since I still need finish researching new places I might want to go.

One of the places I may be going is to a ski resort. Not that I probably will be skiing (I'm way too klutzy), but the BF skis and wants to go. So, I might be gong to a ski resort. I'm not sure what else there is to do at a ski resort besides ski, but I will certainly let you know. One thing I do know is that it still won't be as cold at the snowy ski resort as it is at home in Ohio. And, that's a good thing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Few Sea Lions Return to Pier 39...

A few sea lions showed up on the morning of January 4 to their normal hangout spot at Pier 39. Maybe they are waiting for the Pier to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their arrival on January 15.

They're back! A group of sea lions was spotted this morning h... on Twitpic

Speculation is rampant as to where the sea lions have gone, but at least the Pier 39 website is back to running the sea lion webcam. Hopefully there will soon be lots of sea lions to view.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Less Than Two Weeks to California

Well, barely less than two next trip starts on the 16th. Since, it's very cold at home today (it was 9 degrees when I woke up), I am looking forward to knowing it won't be that cold while I'm on vacation. I'm also looking forward to the many fun things I hope to see and do while in California.

Tuthankamen's famous burial mask, on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Photo Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

One of the thing that I know I will be doing is going to the "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" exhibit at the DeYoung. I've been looking forward to this exhibit and am happy that I'm actually going to be able to see it. Apparently, with the purchase of your ticket to the exhibit, you get a Pharaoh's Gold Card offering discounts at some participating Bay Area restaurant and retail merchants. Discounts always help ease the pain of ticket prices...hopefully I'll be able to use at least one discount while I'm in San Francisco.

In conjunction with the King Tut exhibit, the DeYoung's sister museum, the Legion of Honor, is hosting the exhibit: "Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine." The Legion is also currently hosting the exhibit "Cartier and America" and, since I also make jewelry, I am interested in seeing the Cartier exhibit. However, I am most interested in seeing the King Tut exhibit--which runs until March 28--so I know for sure I will be seeing it.

More on what I'll be doing in upcoming posts.