Friday, July 29, 2011

Golden Gate Park: Western End

Just to be confusing, the Golden Gate Park is not near the Golden Gate Bridge – you can’t even see the GG Bridge from the GG Park.  The large park near the GG bridge is called the Presidio.

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But back to the GG Park:  This fabulous park is a large neat rectangle about five kilometres long east to west, and about a kilometre wide north to south, making it about 20% larger than Central Park in New York.  It is situated in the north west of San Francisco, with its western end right on the Pacific Ocean.

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To stabilize the ocean dunes that covered three-quarters of the park's area, the first stage of the park's development in the 1870s centred on planting trees, mostly Monterey pine, Monterey cypress and guess what, Australian blue gums.  Like many of the blue gums we saw in California, these were seriously ENORMOUS.

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Even their leaves seemed to be bigger than the leaves of Australian eucalypts.

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These may well be Monterey pine and Monterey cypress. 

There were interesting obstacles along the way.

Nasturtiums, as well as blue gums, seem to have naturalised here.

Laura walks beside the bison paddock. 

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Bison were first introduced to Golden Gate Park in 1891 by the Park Commission, as the native American animals were on the brink of extinction.  Over 100 bison calves have been born in the park since then.  The bison currently in the park are descendents of two bison introduced in 1984 as a gift to then San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein from her husband, Richard Blum.  There probably aren’t two many women whose husbands have given them a pair of bison as a present.

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Bison typically live anywhere from 20 to 30 years. Sadly, after coming home, I learnt that one of the five bison, Tenny, died the day we were there, after an illness.  Tenny was 20 years old.  Then, on July 19th, another bison, 28 year old Pretty Old Cow, also died.

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There were lots of squirrels in the park.

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They were eating seeds that seemed to have been laid out for them.

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The park is a peaceful sanctuary in the busy city.
The tree on the right could be a Monterey pine, with some Monterey cypress behind it.  In the background can be seen one of San Francisco’s typically hilly streets. 

Occasionally we would come across little gardens, with roses…..

…..or nasturtiums…..

….. or foxgloves.

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“In 1903, a pair of Dutch-style windmills were built at the extreme western end of the park. These pumped water throughout the park. The north windmill has been restored to its original appearance and is adjacent to a flower garden, a gift of Queen Wilhelmina  of the Netherlands. These are planted with tulip bulbs for winter display and other flowers in appropriate seasons. Murphy's Windmill in the south of the park is currently being restored.”  (Wikipedia)
We must have been having an “appropriate season” as there were no tulips.

At the western end of the park we crossed the road to the beach.  Laura has never seen this beach without fog.

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Spreckles Lake is named after sugar magnate Adolph B. Spreckles  who also served as San Francisco's Park Commissioner. (Now that’s a good way to get a lake named after you.)  Spreckels Lake is the home waters of the San Francisco Model Yacht Club, so we were entertained by model yachts (and their owners) as we ate the picnic lunch Laura had made for us (prune salad – family favourite!)
The lake featured a stone tortoise where real tortoises could perform gymnastics.
We didn’t stay long, as it was quite cold and windy – Laura saw fit to photograph me with the hood of my jacket fastened tightly (and unflatteringly), and email the photo to Anna and Paul.
As we drove home, just a few hundred metres down the road, the park was warm and sunny, and people were out sunbathing.  That’s San Francisco.

It’s funny how the same names keep popping up.  Adolph B. Spreckles, of Spreckles Lake fame, was the husband of Alma Emma de Bretteville Spreckles, considered by many local historians to be the "great grandmother of San Francisco" and who was the model for the Victory statue in Union Square.  Presumably she didn't have to stand on one leg the whole time she was modelling.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trip to Sausalito


Plan A was that Laura, Pat and I would ride bikes over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and take our bikes back on the ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf.  However, because of the crush of cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge that day, and the limited time we had available, we turned back to Fisherman’s Wharf while still on the bridge.



So, another day, Pat and I took the ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Building on Embarcadero (I love these Spanish names) for three kilometres across San Francisco Bay to Sausalito and back again. 


As our ferry travelled the short distance across the bay, different views unfolded which I found quite fascinating. 


From the ferry, we could see the Bay Bridge leading to Oakland,


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Here’s a moody b&w of the Bay Bridge.


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Here’s the pointy Transamerica Pyramid just peeping over another building, with the San Francisco Ferry Building in the foreground.  The pyramid doesn’t look like San Francisco’s tallest skyscraper from here.


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The recently renovated (2003) San Francisco Ferry Building looks rather beautiful from the water.



Now you can see that the Transamerica Pyramid is indeed the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco.  It has become one of the many symbols of the city.



We could see the Coit Tower, and the fog rolling in from the sea.


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Here’s the Coit Tower a bit closer up.


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On the other side of the ferry, we could see Alcatraz, with the fog rolling in behind it.



Back on the mainland, there are the Transamerica Pyramid and the Coit Tower in the same picture…..


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….while the Bay Bridge recedes into the distance.


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And now, here is our friend the Alien (the Sutro Tower) coming into the picture.  The Coit Tower is just disappearing off to the left.


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As we sail around the far side of Alcatraz, you can just make out the Alien through the ever-rolling fog.  He’s still watching us!


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The Golden Gate is well wrapped in fog.


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As we approach Sausalito, you can see that the GG is still tightly wrapped in fog, but Sausalito is clear. 

Protected by the rocky ridges of the Marin Headlands, Sausalito receives much less fog than San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, even though only a few kilometres away.  This was certainly the case the day we were there - although the fog rolled around the bay all day, Sausalito was bright and sunny the whole time we were there.


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We arrived.

The name of Sausalito comes from the Spanish sauzalito, meaning "small willow grove”.

From its early years, Sausalito has had a split personality. The waterfront has long been home to many boat builders and other marine service industries and craftsmen, and was a centre for rum running during the era of Prohibition (1920-33), while the hills were – and still are - filled with expensive houses.

After WW2, when the Sausalito shipyard closed, surplus boats, ferries, barges, and other floating equipment became a campground for Bohemians from San Francisco, followed by the hippies in the 60s. Residents camped out in boats, built houses on top of barges, and converted ferries into houses. In the 60s, battles with local authorities over the safety and legality of the houseboats began. In time, legal houseboat marinas were created, and the houseboat community became an established part of the community.

As the waterfront has become gentrified and Sausalito has become a major tourist destination, the split between the rich and poor has become less extreme.  There certainly weren’t any poor in evidence when we were there.



The Inn Above Tide – only just.



Pat outside Scoma’s, on the waterfront.

Since the late 19th century, this gracious Victorian, listed in the national register of historic buildings, has graced the Sausalito waterfront.  It was originally the office for a tugboat and ferry service, then in the 1940s became the raucous “Tin Angel”,  then in 1951 became the “Glad Hand”, and is now Scoma’s.

We didn’t have lunch there.


Sausalito is quite flowery:





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Pat liked this hotel.


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You had the feeling that this cafe was as much a place to be seen at as to eat at.  The tables were so far onto the footpath that pedestrians practically had to walk on the street to get past.



Boats and flowers – Sausalito has plenty of both.



Count the dollar signs.


We walked up and down the waterfront, which was pretty, looked at some shops, which were touristy, admired the packed marina, had lunch at a fish and chip shop and caught the ferry back to Embarcadero.


Hmm….. as I look at these pictures, I ask myself what impressed me most – Sausalito, or the journey there and back.



Sausalito sailing.



The Golden Gate was still gently cocooned in fog.


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The Bay Bridge was not.

Under the bridge, you can see the cranes on which George Lucas is said to have based the Imperial Walkers in the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back.  It’s one of those stories which is not supposed to be true, but which won’t go away.


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From Embarcadero (I just love using that word) we were able to catch a tram directly back to the Castro.  A few stops from the end, on hopped a glamorous lady in an elegant yellow dress and a large black hat, with an enormous dog the size of a small horse.



The glamorous lady said it was Black Russian Terrier.  I consulted my good friend Wikipedia, and found that the breed had been developed to serve as guard dogs or for police work, and that the dogs can weigh up to 70kg.  This dog was very well-behaved and lay down for the journey, although it did take up rather a lot of room.

I couldn’t imagine a dog travelling on public transport in Brisbane, especially one that was bigger than most of the passengers.

Another fascinating day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

San Francisco Ferry Building





The San Francisco Ferry Building, designed by San Francisco architect A. Page Brown, opened in 1898, and survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes with little damage.


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Until the completion of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s, it was the second busiest transit terminal in the world, second only to London's Charing Cross Station, but then, with much less use, the building gradually deteriorated.


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In 2003, the building reopened as an upscale gourmet marketplace, office building, and re-dedicated ferry terminal, with an emphasis on recreating the building's 1898 ambiance.


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The clock tower was built in 1898, modelled on the 12th century Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain, and is the largest dialled, wind-up, mechanical clock in the world.  Although the hands and a small portion of the works are now powered by a very accurate electric motor, the entire clock mechanism is still there.

During daylight, on every full and half-hour, the clock bell chime portions of the Westminster Quarters – you can’t miss it! The chimes are a recording and play through several sets of very large speakers in the tower and are not connected to the tower clock mechanism.


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The interior of the building has been renovated as an up-market farmer’s market, selling such produce as   heritage, organic, non-pesticided, very expensive tomatoes.

The “market” featured some rather lovely mosaics to emphasise how organic and “authentic” it is. 

Here are some of them:

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