Monday, March 3, 2008

Trip notes: San Francisco

Cool and damp conditions prevailed during my recent and very first expedition to San Francisco.

Accessed by streetcar from the hotel, I located the Asian Art Museum: a sizeable facility loaded with relics from all corners of Asia to include China, Persia, Southeast Asia, Korea, and Japan. A journey through the museum follows the spreading path of Buddhism as it reached across the region.

Here is a duo of fierce military warriors as they stomp upon evil demons, more than likely safeguarding a palace entrance or other royal structure.

Fierce, indeed!

Rod puppet from Indonesia…frightfully authentic-looking.

Chinese Fu dog

A provocative and at times rather explicit exhibit, collections on loan from of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, entitled drama and desire is featured on the first floor. Strikingly designed paintings, screens and hand scrolls, wood block prints reveal the existence of courtesans, white-faced geisha and kabuki actors in the pleasure quarter of Edo (now known as Tokyo) in the 1600-1800’s. Displays including make-up and hairstyle techniques, cherry blossoms, peonies, maple trees, costumery made from fabulous silk fabrics, kotos (Japanese zithers), kimonos and obis, gawking passers-by, parody, dancing and drama in theaters, brothels and samurai soldiers expose this risqué aspect of Japanese culture known as the “floating world” which was rigorously monitored by the ruling government.

Best to leave little ones out of attending this segment of the museum. A number of displays are quite x-rated, as one might imagine.

Britex Fabrics

Throughout the four floors of this shop, huge sales were taking place. Crowds inspected the vast multi-colored assortment of fabrics, ribbons and other sewing embellishments and then lined up to purchase selected bargains.

Shopping not only permits a peek at what designers have to offer, but also to take in skillfully restored local architecture. A stop at Neiman-Marcus on Union Square and a glimpse upward upon entry reveals a glass-domed, gilded, stain-glassed rotunda. Originally a department store known as the City of Paris built during the Gold Rush era, N-M restored the building for their use in the 80’s preserving the rotunda. Striking as the daylight pours in. Another store not to be missed in the west coast flagship of Williams-Sonoma also located on Union Square. Three floors of W-S foodie goodies are accessed by dual stairwells on each side. Multiple displays of cooking tools and equipment collected by Chuck Williams, founder of W-S, during trips to French flea markets can be seen in wall-mounted Plexiglas boxes. Something to see.

A journey on a streetcar down Market Street lead me to Bell'occhio, a petite French-influenced boutique for a few stationery and decorative items to carry home with me.

Alcatraz… The Colonel and I took a brief boat excursion out to the “Island of Birds”, Alcatraz on our last eve in San Fran. I was amazed at the extent of the island after seeing it from shore, appearing much smaller. Gardens, a home for the warden and his family, barracks, a lighthouse situate on the Rock. An informative audio tour directs one through the cell house corridors and rooms as it passes on stories from the past. At present a national park, Robert Kennedy, and then the Attorney General closed the facility for use as a penitentiary as it became too costly to maintain. Efforts to escape were thwarted by tough currents and extremely frigid water temperatures. The visit reaffirmed my hope never to spend anymore time in a prison than a tourist's visit provides!

The first night the Colonel and I dined at the Cityscape atop the Hilton which offers a dazzling, all-inclusive, illuminated view of the city at night. A salad worth trying was the tender butter lettuce (melt in the mouth butter lettuce), persimmons and walnuts with cheesy, though light buttermilk dressing. A glazed baked salmon done perfectly well for me, butternut squash, mushrooms and spinach…a unique combination of vegetables serve as an entrée. Delicious! The Colonel feasted on lobster bisque, thick and heavenly with a sea bass entrée accompanied by another nice assortment of veggies. Dessert was a cranberry apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, which we split and hot tea, of course. Well worth a visit when visiting this city.

I was disappointed to learn that I had just missed the exhibition of opulent furnishings and personal objects from Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon, her private getaway located on the grounds of Versailles. Apparently the structure is undergoing a restoration and renovation, permitting French officials to approve a traveling exhibit of these decorative objects and interiors. I believe San Francisco is the only stop for this exhibit in the United States.

Next journey leads me to Savannah for Saint Paddy's Day revelry!

1 comment:

tut-tut said...

Great tour! I'd especially like the fabric . . .