hometown tourist

A Day By The Bay

We live on the Peninsula of the Bay Area in California. We get warm sunny summer days that cool off in the evenings through the mornings. Perfect, for me! San Francisco, on the other hand, can be covered in fog and be on the cool side in the summer. (I always think fall is the best time to visit San Francisco.) Bob and I debated, one sunny Saturday morning, whether or not to risk a morning drive into the city to go to the Ferry Building and Farmer’s Market there. We bundled up in layers (always the best option when heading out and about in the Bay Area) and drove the short twenty-five minutes to the Ferry Building. It was still early, 10:30 AM, but as we walked from the parking structure to the building, it was already warm enough for us to peel off a layer. Gorgeous weather!

We started off by walking all the way down to Pier 33 for our early lunch reservations. The restaurant we went to was fine, but doesn’t warrant the time and space for a write up. We did pass another restaurant on our walk back to the Ferry Building that we hope to try next time.

By the time we arrived at the Ferry Building close to 1, it was bursting with people. It felt like summer with sunshine and warm temperatures. We spent a good couple of hours wandering the building, tasting, buying, and then heading outside to the Farmer’s Market for more tasting and shopping.

Our favorites stops in the Ferry Building include Chris Cosentino’s Boccalone (sausage/salami slices in a paper cone!),  Cowgirl Creamery (great variety – and we end up buying different cheeses every time, although we prefer stinky salty cheeses), and Recchiuti chocolates! Recchiuti is currently my favorite chocolate confectioner in the area – introduced to me by my Manhattan friend, Daphne (thank you)! The chocolate is creamy and rich and the flavors, amazing! My current favorite is the sesame nougat (milk chocolate caramel ganache and a crunchy sesame disk), but I also love the force noir (their darkest chocolate ganache with a touch of vanilla bean) and the fleur del sel (burnt caramel with French sea salt). Actually, I love them all and always have a hard time choosing which to bring home with me.  I tried Miette for the first time, although I’ve always been tempted by the gorgeous cupcakes and pastries in their display case, but never patient enough to wait in the long line. This time I did and bought each flavor of macaron offered. While I still favor Lette in Newport Beach, CA (which are comparable to the macarons I had in Paris) – Miette’s macarons were indeed fine. My favorite was the vanilla (which is odd for me since I’m a chocolate girl) and the hazelnut.

It was a lovely way to spend a sunny summer morning!

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Saturday, Bob and I went to the California Academy of Sciences located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. We wanted to visit the new earthquake exhibit which we found illuminating. It was a bit daunting for Bob to discover that our little house on the Peninsula sits uncomfortably close to the San Andreas fault, but as someone who has grown up along it, I didn’t worry. (We DO carry earthquake insurance.)

The main reason for my desire to go was the same that prompted me to purchase a membership – butterflies. For some reason, butterflies make me insanely happy. Maybe it started with my visit to the monarch wintering grounds in Mexico well over a decade ago. (See my travel article on that visit here.) Here are some photos of my joy.

(I know this isn’t a butterfly, but I love him just the same!)

I hope you’re enjoying your summer!

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Japanese Tea Garden

A few days ago, Bob, my 17yo daughter, and I drove into San Francisco to spend a few hours in Golden Gate Park. We started off at the DeYoung Museum (of which we’re members) to see the Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection exhibit. We enjoyed the photographs immensely. My daughter was thrilled to see photos by Lee Friedlander displayed, including one of her favorites.

After wandering the museum, we headed over next door to the Japanese Tea Garden. I have fond memories of visiting it often as a child and love being able to revisit it as an adult. We started off having tea and snacks and then leisurely wandered the garden.

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A lovely way to spend the day!

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Hiking Close To Home

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We are fortunate to live near so many fantastic hiking trails and parks. Bob and I used to hike often when we lived in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, but that was a long time ago. We decided it was time to take it up again.  We’re starting off slowly, locally, and on fairly short trails of 3 miles or less. Currently, one of our favorite hikes is by Water Dog Lake in Belmont. Trixie, our rat terrier, has decided she loves hiking. We hike maybe 3 times a week, but we walk every day without fail. Trixie gets extremely excited when we get her leash and put on our hiking shoes – but when she realizes we’re not going to the car, that we’re not going hiking but instead going for a walk in our neighborhood, her disappointment is visible and comical.  Poor thing!  I promise to blog about our hiking adventures!

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A Weekend Retreat

We are fortunate to have generous friends who offered us their home in Geyserville for a weekend get-away. Bob and I agreed that we’d focus on relaxing, and not do our usual see-and-do-everything-possible that we tend to do (and enjoy) when we go somewhere new. This was not somewhere new to me as I’ve used this house for writing and reading retreats previously, but it was the first time Bob and I (and our dog Trixie) were getting away there. It was an amazing weekend – and we felt rejuvenated, relaxed, and reconnected after just a couple of days. Wow! Here are some highlights:

Fabulous views all around of green fields, vineyards, towering trees. The was air infused with eucalyptus and oak. All around us birds called, crickets and cicadas buzzed. It was amazing. We went on a couple of hikes that made us feel like we were a world away.

A fuzzy picture taken of a fox that wandered past the house at dusk. We also saw other wildlife – deer, lizards, bats, and many birds (red-tail hawks, turkey vultures, a great blue heron, robins, scrub jays, a hummingbird, etc.)

Bob took this picture on one of our hikes. I love the moss covering the bark.

Sometimes unplanned photos are the best – I wanted to snap a shot of the daisies (are they daisies? I’m less sure about flora than fauna) behind barbed wire, but Trixie decided to stick her head into the shot.

Of course we did a little wine-tasting and dining out and about. This amazing appetizer of triple-cream mozzerella and maitake mushrooms mixed with crispy pork bits was the starter for our meal at Diavola’s in Geyserville.

These flash- fried calamari at Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar in Healdsburg were the absolute best I’ve ever had! They were perfectly crisp and crunchy on the outside and tender (not at all rubbery) on the inside. The tangy-sweet orange chili sauce was delicious!

The best meal we had over the weekend was at Catelli’s in Geyserville. Unfortunately I neglected to take photos. Bob had the Michael’s pasta of penne, mushrooms, sausage, homemade sauce and moscarpone. He thought the sauce was perfectly balanced and the housemade sausage divine. Bob is a tough sell so when he loves a meal, it’s a big deal.  I had the most incredible penne with butter garlic sauce. Sounds dull, but it was so buttery good that I am craving it now!

Of course no trip is ever complete without stopping in a bookstore. Copperfields Books didn’t disappoint and of course I ended up buying a couple of books (including the journal in my hands in the above pic)!

For most of the weekend, though, we read. It was leisurely and relaxing. Bob also played his ukelele and we watched episodes from the DVD set I got for Bob a couple of Christmases ago of The French Chef. (Note to adults: Try taking a sip of wine every time Julia says “butter” and you will end up drunk faster than you can melt butter! LOL We gave up after half an episode!)

Before we packed up to go home at the end of a perfect weekend, we stopped by the Francis Ford Coppola winery. We enjoyed walking through the small museum and gift shop. Did you know that filming for Apocalypse Now was supposed to take 16 weeks but ended up taking a year and a half due to troubles and mishaps? And that Coppola so believed in the film that he financed it himself? That’s dedication! And rough work for cast and crew in the jungles of the Philippines!

This is the desk and chair used in most of The Godfather films.

I loved all the displays – seeing the original script for The Godfather, Coppola’s handwritten notes of the actors he was considering, and this one, his Oscars!

It was a lovely weekend retreat for sure! We may try to do another similar one down the coast in the near future! Thanks to our friends for letting us stay at their fabulous home!

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Hipstamatic and Me at the Farmer’s Market

Thanks to Urbanarchiver for inspiring me with amazing photos from around the world and for recommending the iPhone photo app Hipstamatic. It’s a fun app with multiple lenses, flashes, and “films” that takes interesting photos – not ever quite what you focused on nor expect. I had a blast on Sunday taking photos while Bob and I shopped at our local farmer’s market.

Artichokes are one of my favorite veggies to eat – steamed and drizzled with Brianna’s Zesty French Dressing.

Bob grilled these onions for dinner – they were sweet and delicious!

We didn’t buy any carrots. We’re growing our own (Kyoto carrots) in our garden.

I could have snapped photos of the fruits and veggies all day!

I love orchids. My sister gave me one once, but I couldn’t keep it alive for long. Sigh.

Fun topiary plants!

We sampled our way through the market. We bought some delicious local cheese. (I was too distracted nibbling on samples to take photos, unfortunately.)

Till next week when we shop again!

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Sunday Drive

The weather was fantastic this past weekend here in Northern California. Bob and I, and our dog Trixie, decided to take advantage of it and go for a long drive up the coast.

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We took off from our home in the Peninsula and drove north on the 101. We drove into San Francisco, and as always, I admired the fabulous architecture of my birth city and detested the traffic. 😉 I never ever get tired of the glorious sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. Truly awesome!

From there we drove past Sausalito and onto Highway 1. What amazes me about living here is that we have cities, mountains, oceans and beaches, the bay and intertidal zones – all within an hour or so drive. I love living here!  The windy highway up and over the mountain pass made me slightly queasy so we stopped in downtown (really just a short street of shops and restaurants) Stinson Beach for a rest break. Trixie (our rat terrier) was allowed to have breakfast with us on the patio of a cute cafe where she made friends with a yellow lab at the next table.

Back on the road, we hit the coast and were awed by the amazing sight of ocean and sand and rocky cliffs. Having no plan other than to enjoy the scenery, we continued driving. Soon we found ourselves in the Point Reyes National Seashore and followed the signs to South Beach (dogs on leash allowed).  Fabulous! We stood there watching and listening to the pounding surf. The signs warned visitors not to wade or swim due to great white sharks, shifting sands, and strong undertows. No worries. I had no desire to dip my feet in that awesome surf.

It was time to turn around and head home. We admired many birds along the way (egrets, turkey vultures, red tail hawks, and tons of ducks) and even when we hit a little traffic over the mountain, we didn’t mind (too much).  We were greeted by a glorious San Francisco skyline as we headed back over the bridge back home to the Peninsula. Truly a wonderful and fabulous day!

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Spring seems to be coming early here in the Bay Area of Northern California. Having lived in the Midwest, New England, and the Northeast made me better appreciate California seasons. (Yes, we DO have seasons! But as Daniel Tosh says, we just skip the sh*tty ones. 🙂 ) Bob has definitely taken to being a Californian (he grew up in Upstate NY)!

While our fruit trees are just barely beginning to bud, our neighbor’s cherry tree is in full gorgeous bloom.

Photo taken by Bob

Of course, Bob and I will be leaving this lovely spring weather and heading for much cooler temps very soon! Be sure to come back to find out where we’ll heading (next week)! Happy Valentine’s Day!

– posted by Debbi

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