Summer in San Francisco is often so cold because of the chilly wind in the air!
This is the warmest jacket I own. And that’s a hot coffee. Before the end of the evening I was also wearing a scarf and gloves. And I was still cold.
I love San Francisco. I love almost everything about this city and have even come to mostly love the weather. I certainly don’t miss Arizona summer afternoons. But sometimes I do miss Arizona evenings. I miss being able to wear a tank top and not take a jacket and get to enjoy that lovely warmth on the skin with the occasional cool desert breeze. I’ll definitely have to soak that up next time I’m there!
This is what my beautiful city looks like when you look at it from the top of Twin Peaks, which is right outside of San Francisco’s historic Castro district. I do love my city for so many reasons!
I recently went on a walking tour of the Castro neighborhood. It was a free tour through City Guides SF, which offers terrific free tours. This admittedly wasn’t my favorite of their tours I’ve been on but I did enjoy seeing the architecture of the buildings in this historic San Francisco neighbornhood, exploring a few hills and alleys I’d never gone down before and of course checking out the historic Castro Theater that I’ve always loved.
The organ player is always my favorite part of seeing a movie at Castro Theater.
Festival season has started in San Francisco.
Easter here is kind of the first big event of the year but then in April comes the two-week long Japantown Festival followed by the How Weirde Street Fair and that pretty much announces the start of several months of non-stop options to go to some sort of street fair or festival in the city every single weekened. They each have their own flavor, often related to the neighborhood they’re in. When I first moved here I burned myself out going to so many of them. Now I usually pick one for every month or two and leave it at that.
How Weirde Festival was actually one of the very first San Francisco festivals that I ever went to. I didn’t actually like it much when I went seven years ago, but that could have been where it was held or the mood I was in or the people I was with. I went again a few years ago and still didn’t like it but I know for certain that was because I was in the midst of depression and the overwhelming sensory overload of this event was just way too much for me. This year I went and stayed for a few hours and actually had a really nice time.
It was a sunny-but-not-too-hot day. I got my face painted, which I always like. I saw a little bit of street theater. I looked at a little bit of art. I bought some sour lychee licorice. I considered buying a super cute vest made from upcycled bicycle tube tires. And I did a ton of people-watching. For many people this event is about the ten stages of danceable music that are set up. For me it’s all about the people watching! Everyone comes in costumes and silliness and it’s just entertaining to see what everyone’s chosen.
That’s San Francisco.
I went to Calistoga for my birthday. I learned about Napa vineyard Castello di Amorosa, where I did some wine tasting (more photos here). Here are a few more things I enjoyed during that trip:
The vineyard had a small bunch of farm animals including a few huge sheep.
I treated myself to a bunch of candy because it was my birthday so I could. As you can see in the right corner there I got mself a candy grill to put on my teeth. I had way more fun than someone should have with that at my age.
There is a set of old trains that were turned into shops. Awesome.
I ate at a cafe in downtown Saratoga that had a variety of random pretty decorations including some butterflies.
One of the downtown alleys had a set of murals I liked. This one had a woman sweeping up leaves and the leaves actually continue down off the wall onto the ground in a way that makes the picture look more 3-dimensional than it is.
The spa that I stayed at had a cute little seating area outside that included a huge chess set.
The morning of my birthday I awoke to a big hot air balloon passing over head. I used to see them a lot in the winters in Tucson and I never see them anymore so that was kind of a fun treat.
As I mentioned yesterday, I went to wine country last weekend for my birthday. In seven years of living in the Bay Area, I’d never been to wine country before (minus a failed trip that ended in eating at a chain steak house in the area and leaving without seeing any vineyards). There are many vineyards that you can tour and each one offers something different. I only did a tasting at one, but it was one worth checking out: Castello di Amorosa.
Castello di Amorosa is a huge, beautiful castle in Napa Valley. The man who built it was in love with castle design. He toured all around and looked at the world’s best castles then he designed this one, incorporating his favorite elements of other castles. He had the castle handcrafted using old materials, like imported European stone, as well as old techniques (like hand chiseling the stone) so that the castle would look like the old castles that he loved.
It was originally supposed to be an 8000 square foot building; it grew into an amazing eight-story structure exceeding 120,000 square feet. It’s beautiful to tour and I was lucky to be there on a great day. I did an hour long tour to see the structure as well as various areas where the wine is made and stored. The wine is stored inside of caves underneath the castle to take advantage of the naturally cool temperatures there. Castello di Amorosa specializes in small batch Italian wine.
There are probably thousands of barrels of wine here, some of which age for several years before they are sold. I did a tasting so I got to try a bunch of different wines that they offer. I’d already tried one of their popular ones before when a friend brought it home after a wine country trip. It’s called Fantasia and it’s a sparkling light red wine – very unique.
This is the Great Room of the castle. The frescoes were hand painted and took about two years to complete. They represent images from other Italian castle frescoes. The owner’s friends and family are worked into the designs subtly as well. If I remember the tour guide correctly, the guy above the big fireplace (which is a working fireplace, by the way) is the owner’s grandfather.
Castello di Amorosa uses a mixture of super modern technology and ancient practices to make their wine. Where technology improves the process, they use it, but where it takes away from the wine quality then the go the old school way. That’s not common among winemakers today.
The castle is filled with tons of different replicas of various things including armor, old torture devices and more. It must have been so fun for the owner to seek out and collect these items for his castle!
It was a fun trip. And I took a lot more photos so look for those on the blog tomorrow!
There are probably dozens of farmers’ markets in San Francisco. The most well-known is the one at The Ferry Building, which happens (in peak season anyway) three times per week with the biggest day being Saturday. I actually don’t usually go to this one. It’s overpriced and overcrowded. But every once in awhile I’ll go because it does have the most variety, some fun live music and good ready-to-go food vendors.
Some random images I’ve taken recently while down by the waterfront of the Embarcadero and South Beach here in San Francisco:
City Guides SF gives free (by donation) walking tours of the city every day. I’ve done a bunch of them and always learned something interesting. One of the ones I did awhile back taught me about the historic San Francisco murals inside of the Rincon Center building in the Financial District. I was in that building again recently and snapped some photos of those murals.
There are more than two dozen murals that tell the story of San Francisco’s history. They were painted in the 1940′s as part of the WPA arts program (as were many of San Francisco’s murals). They were painted by a Russian painter and there was some controversy around them related to The Cold War but they are now an important part of San Francisco’s art history.
After going hiking at Castle Rock State Park recently I stopped for dinner in Saratoga Springs. This is such a cute little touristy town.
It’s filled with vineyards and opportunitites for wine tasting. Sadly I wasn’t actually in a wine mood after hiking so I’ll have to back some day for that.
Nopales from Casa de Cobre in Saratoga Springs, California
What I did do while I was here:
- Walked along the main street, reading the menus of various restaurants and doing some window shopping
- Truffles tasting at a chocolate ship; it was good although nothing beats my favorite XO Truffles in North Beach in San Francisco
- Stopped into an antique store and saw some cool old perfume bottles although mostly it was dishes that were here
- Stopped into a gift shop that had High Heel Shoe Shaped Wine Caddies that were adorable
- Had dinner at a Casa de Cobre
And I read the signage on a historic home on the main strip, musing upon thoughts about the people who may have lived and worked in this space over time.