I (heart) San Francisco.

I have nine grandchildren. Anyone who reads my blog or has ever met me knows this fact about me.photo-61 Being a grandmother is my best job yet. As each grandchild graduates from high school, I try to take him/her on a trip. Last year I took grandchild #3 to San Francisco. (I wrote about it here.) This year grandchild #4 requested the same trip. I think, initially, the attraction of the City by the Bay is its frequent presence in television programs and movies. I’m happy to report, though, that there is a great deal more depth than that in today’s youth and once they find themselves in the city, they are as captivated as I am by the history, the art, the people, et al.

photo-50
Flowers, flowers
everywhere, we should have worn some in our hair.

 

Chinatown is a must. We went there twice. The colors, the smells, the lanterns, the people. photo-44 photo-45Wonderful.

 

 

 

 

Some people told us not to miss Pier 39, others told us it was nothing but an amusement park. I disagree with the latter. It’s much more than that.photo-52 One of my granddaughter’s favorite things there was observing the sea lions from above.photo-62 There was one grumpy old fellow (or gal) who defended his territory with a vengeance. Fascinating to watch.

The only thing Iphoto-43 saw that gave the pier an amusement park feel was the carousel. We didn’t ride it but it has some imaginative and interesting animals for those who are so inclined.

photo-46I don’t know why I’m fascinated by the piano-playing stairway, but I am.photo-60 On the left is a photo of granddaughter #3 playing us a lively tune. On the right is this year’s traveler doing the same.

There’s a wonderful produce kiosk on the pier. Fresh fruits and vegetables galore.photo-59  photo-58Ranier cherries and freshly picked strawberries. Does life get any better? Yum!

Almost everyone who goes to San Francisco wants to visit the crookedest road in the country, or so they say. It’s very difficult to get a good shot of the curviness of the road with a phone camera. photo-42I was intrigued by this fairytale-like entry to one of the houses on Lombard Street so I’m showing you that instead.

We had lunch in Sausalito–best crab cake I’ve ever eaten.photo-63



Last year we didn’t make it to Haight Ashbury. I’m happy to say we went there this trip. I, being an old hippie, enjoyed that part of the trip more than my daughter and granddaughter did. photo-47It was (and still is) much romanticized. Truthfully, the only thing I find romantic about it is some of the architecture. photo-49I like the painted ladies. Many of them are being well cared for now and are simply lovely to look at. I think my travel buddies enjoyed the “ladies” too. And H (age 18) loved the huge music/poster store on Haight Street.

I went “heart” seeking again this year. I wrote about the hearts last year so I won’t repeat myself. I will leave you with a photo one of my favorite this-year hearts along with two of my favorite people in the whole wide world.photo-54

 


Advertisements

We left the hearts in San Francisco…

photo(20)Recently I had the good fortune to travel to San Francisco with my youngest daughter S and her oldest daughter H.  I had been to California a couple of times before but this was my first trip to the lovely city by the bay.  I have a serious case of “love at first visit.”

Thanks to Tony Bennett’s famous “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” there’s an ongoing heart presence in various sites around the city.  The hearts pictured in this post are the ones that are on the four corners of Union Square.  photo(21)The only permanent heart is the one Tony Bennett painted.  (See the photos above and to the left.)  Can you believe the fabulous singer is also a painter?

Click here and/or here if you would like to learn more about the San Francisco heart project and the noted artists who have participated.  I am enamored by them and have been thinking maybe I could commission my gifted grandchildren to paint some for my yard and house.  It could happen.

I think this blue one might be my favorite.  I’m a bit of a blue/green girl.photo(41)  I posed my girls in front of it.  I think they added to its beauty.  Moments later a very kind woman came along and took a shot of all three of us. That one’s on my daughter’s camera so I don’t have a copy.  We were grinning and obviously having a fun time.

This notion of taking each  grandchild on a trip after his/her high school graduation started when my ex-husband and I took our first granddaughter to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  She chose the location.  D and I had been there before but Granddaughter E had  not.  We loved going again.  But most of all we enjoyed the company of our 17-year-old.  I still laugh when I remember E’s indignation as security pulled her out of the line, made her take off her hiking boots and answer additional questions while I stood behind the agent and mouthed “Be Nice”.photo(23)  She couldn’t help rolling her eyes.

There are six grandchildren still to graduate and I keep thinking “Ahh, the best laid plans…”  I can’t help feeling a degree of nostalgia.  D and I had planned these little trips together.  I have learned, though, that I’m quite capable of doing them without his help.  And have fun in the doing.

As it happens I will have a granddaughter graduate each of the next four years.  Then I have a break before my second boy graduates and an even bigger break before my little one finishes up.  I’m planning to stay physically strong and financially solvent enough to travel with every one of them.photo(27)  That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

I never know where my writing is going to take me.  I started out intending to write about the glorious time I spent with S and H in San Francisco.  My fingers took another direction.  Sometimes I think they have a mind of their own, kinda like my unruly hair.

Stay tuned for San Francisco, Part 2.

Pat’s excellent adventure.

AshevilleDowntownDayIt is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.   ~ Andre Gide

A few weeks ago my daughter and I drove up to Asheville, NC, to a reading and book signing by Barbara Kingsolver, one of our favorite authors.

Even though Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina, I think Asheville may be the most recognized (by people outside the state) and beloved (by in-state residents) city in the state.  It’s my favorite.

We left Charlotte early enough to arrive in Asheville for lunch and a little shopping.  Asheville is a small city nestled in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.  According to the July, 2011, census report, the population was 84,458, just large enough to have many big-city amenities, yet small enough to maneuver by car without getting too lost.  (Giggle.)  Well, my travel companions might not agree with that last statement.  More on that in a moment.

One thing I enjoy when I’m in this diverse small-town city is the opportunity to eat at one of the many restaurants that specialize in vegan and/or vegetarian meals.  After meeting our friend C at the hotel, we all headed out for dinner at one such restaurant, Homegrown, near the University of North Carolina-Asheville (UNC-A) so we could go from dinner to the auditorium on campus. As promised by DJ, our meals were delicious and prepared with the freshest, best-quality groceries available.  I will look forward to a return visit in the future.

So far so good.  We were fairly familiar with the route up to this point.  DJ had eaten at the restaurant earlier in the year while in town for a conference.  And I had entered the campus from this direction – quite a few years ago.  I probably don’t need to tell you that our first approach to campus was a bust.  We circled out (I was grateful that DJ was driving.) and took another approach.  Thanks to my daughter’s memory which is more efficient than mine, we were successful on our second approach.

Malaprop’s, the bookstore where we ordered our books and tickets, had sent us a very rudimentary map of the UNC-A campus.  My attitude was that it couldn’t be very difficult to find the auditorium at such a small school.  I’m not sure C and DJ agreed with me but they gave me free rein; they humored me.  I figured we could stop and ask a student, a nice young teacher at the gym door, or any breathing human.  One time years ago my daughter told me I would talk to a fence post.  She was right.  I don’t fear strangers.

After several stops and starts to ask if we were headed the right way, we arrived at Lipinsky Hall where Barbara K was speaking.  It was a bit of a trek but we’re all three hardy types and the walk in brisk late-fall mountain air was invigorating.  (That’s my opinion.)

If you’re a Kingsolver fan you know her for The Poisonwood Bible or Prodigal Summer or photo(30)any number of other books.  Her latest, and the one she read from, is Flight Behavior.  I don’t do book reviews but let me say this about Barbara Kingsolver’s work:  She doesn’t write just books; she writes literature.  Many high school English teachers agree with my assessment, as some of her work is required reading for high school students.

photo(31)In my version of Barbara’s words, Flight Behavior is a novel about a number of things: climate change, monarch butterflies, marriage, the Appalachian Mountains, family relationships.  I don’t remember whether she included politics but it’s a word I would add.  I found the book entertaining and thought-provoking.  Every paragraph, every sentence is its own little work of art.  She’s a remarkable author.

Hearing BK read her own work was a rare and special treat for all three of us.  She is a native of the Southern Appalachians as are C, DJ, and I.  Sometimes I’m tempted to think that’s why we like her work, but that fact can’t explain why her writing is wildly popular all over the world.  It does make me have a special warm spot in my heart for her, I think.  And it helps that she pronounces Appalachia correctly.  (Sharyn McCrumb, another of my favorite Southern Appalachian writers explains the pronunciation here.)

I would like to tell you that Pat the Navigator got us smoothly back to our hotel from the auditorium.  Alas, I would be lying if I told you such nonsense.  Suffice to say that the on-ramp we were looking for was cleverly hiding near an overpass and we kept missing it.  I stopped counting after three passes.  Does anyone know if Apple has corrected its latest map fiasco?

Does it get any better than this?!

       “And drivin’ down the road I get the feelin’ that I should have been home yesterday…”  ~ John Denver

I have the good fortune to have friends who own a Christmas tree farm in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina.  I spent the weekend there with four of my favorite people.  Four girlfriends who probably continue to love me because of my flaws rather than in spite of them.  A fifth friend was noticeably absent and we missed her and the many laughs she always provides.

I sing John Denver’s “Country Roads” once I get far enough from the city to feel as if I’m really on my way “home.”  Sometimes I get funny looks from fellow travelers, but I smile at them and keep singing.  This country road takes me right to the front door of “Grandma’s” house.  She isn’t really my grandma but she’s kind enough to allow me to call her that.  She’s actually the matriarch of my friend’s family and the owner of this lovely retreat.  She’s the epitome of generosity, always sending us up to her haven in the mountains whenever we can work it into our schedules.  Once I get out of the car and see the tree sign in the photo above, I know I’m really home.

When I’m in the mountains I love to wander and wonder.  Now that I’m blogging, I always take my phone or my camera and look for photo-worthy subjects.  There are many — up, down, and all around.  I found this thistle gone-to-seed growing beside a little barn.  I think I snapped it because it looks like my hair when I get up in the morning.  Does that mean I’ve gone to seed too?  I’m saying no to that because I found this still-blooming thistle and I gotta tell you — I like the old one better.  All her bits of fluff can drift in the wind and land on fertile ground like Grammy’s bits of wisdom coming to rest in the fecund minds of her grandchildren.  I know, I’m still a dreamer after all these years, but I believe that some of those gentle reminders really do take root and can grow until they are something fine and wonderful.

I took these shots in the late afternoon on Friday.  It was a glorious sunny day with lots of fluffy white clouds, along with a few dark afternoon-shower clouds.  But the showers skipped us.  The tree in the foreground is a Fraser fir waiting for Christmas.  Well, I think it’s a Fraser.  Tree experts, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

As I continued my walk I stumbled upon numerous eye-catching goodies:  interesting stumps and trees, wild flowers and not-so-wild ones, acorns.  Here are a few of the wonders I beheld.

The teapot at the bottom is one of Grandma’s many artful touches that make her home feel so welcoming to us sojourners.


Little altars everywhere…to Pachamama.

Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes.  Pachamama is usually translated as Mother Earth, but a more literal translation would be ‘Mother World.’  ~ Wikipedia

As I was grinding the last of my Pachamama coffee beans today my mind took a little side trip and revisited Peru.  I started to remember some of the references to the goddess Pachamama in the towns and cities of the Andes.  Many companies have chosen to use her name on their products; obviously it’s a good marketing tool.  The divine Ms P is everywhere.  Here, of course, is the coffee package.  I also remember seeing chocolate, tea, clothing, shoes, pet supplies, “health foods,” even musical instruments.  Many fair trade and organic items carry a Pachamama logo of some sort.

I love the idea of goddesses.  Pachamama is the goddess of fertility according to Inca mythology.  She oversees planting and harvesting.  After the Spanish conquest, and because the Spanish forced Catholicism on the indigenous peoples, the images of Pachamama meshed with those of the Virgin Mary.  (Paraphrased from Wikipedia.)  I suppose it was a predictable merger since both are considered “good mothers.”  ( The image of Pachamama on the left is also from Wikipedia.)

As I was reviewing, on the Wiki site, what the guides told us about Pachamama, I remembered the photo at the top of this piece.  Our guides had told us that there were celebrations on the summer solstice and the local people made altars and offerings  to the “good mother.”  I wanted to remember the altars so I took this photo.  I couldn’t get everything in the picture, but above the village on the mountainside I could see some of the famous terraced gardens where crops are grown.  The ancient people terraced the steep land so they could farm it.  We saw numerous terraces as we rode the bus up to Colca.  Here’s a better shot of what they were like.  I still get a sense of awe and wonder and history when I look at this.  Wonderful!

As I looked at the stacked-stone altars I realized I must make one of my own even though the summer solstice was still a month away.  Mine was tiny, but built prayerfully, and with a pure heart, I think.  I have to admit, though, that the first thought in my mind when I saw all those stacks of stones was: “Little Altars Everywhere.”  I even said it aloud several times.  After thinking about that for a moment, I realized it was the name of a book by Rebecca Wells.  It’s the first of the “Ya-Ya” books.  I reread it recently.  It’s a good read — and proof that not all “little altars” are good things.  But that’s another story for another time.

Do you have altars?  Is it human nature to make altars?  I took a stroll through my house while I was writing this post to see what my “little altars” are.  I have several.  I hadn’t thought to call them altars before but that’s what they are.  They are usually images of people I love or things dear ones have given me.  The photo below is one of my favorites.  As some of you know, I have nine grandchildren.  Only two of them are boys.  These are photos of “my boys.”

Somewhere between Arequipa and Colca Canyon.

Somewhere between the city of Arequipa and Colca Canyon I looked out the bus window and saw this beautiful sight.  I knew I had to snap it even though conditions weren’t ideal.  The weird segmented “creature” in the water just left of center is a reflection of my watch band off the window.

On the right side of this photo is El Misti, Peru’s best known and most active volcano.  Its proximity to Arequipa (about 16 kilometers) would mean a major disaster for that city should it have a major eruption.  It’s had many rumbles over the years but no major eruption in about 2,000 years, although our guide kept making reference to a big one about 500 years ago, and I did find data to back that up.  As usual, internet “facts” are only as good as their source and I’m not skilled at weeding out the bad info.  Nor am I so inclined today.  If our guide is any indication, the citizens of Arequipa take a rather fatalistic attitude about El Misti’s ability to wreak havoc on their beautiful city.

High in the Andes we were able to observe the vicuña.  How high?  I’m not sure.  I know that we stopped a little later and were at 16,000 feet, so this wasn’t much below that elevation.  The wool of the vicuña is the softest, most desirable, and most expensive of all the Peruvian wools.  Our guide told us that one sweater from the vicuña yarn would cost $3,000 to $4,000 in American dollars.  One factor is that this beautiful, graceful animal can be shorn only every three years and must be caught from the wild.  In the days of the Inca, only royalty could wear this superfine fabric.  I suppose that would be true today as well at those prices.

The photo on the right shows local vendors hawking their wares at the highest point we achieved on this magnificent journey.  This is the spot where we stood at 16,000 feet above sea level.  When we first got off the bus I felt a little light-headed, but I acclimated quickly.  We had stopped along the way up to drink more coca tea, and we had coca candies to munch on all along the way.  I have never suffered from altitude sickness, soroche, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so I followed the advice of the guides, the literature, and fellow travelers.  Altitude sickness can be quite dangerous and is not to be taken lightly.

Here I am hale and hearty.  Our guide took my picture so I could prove I was there.  Unfortunately, the marker doesn’t give the elevation.  This moment felt like a huge accomplishment.  I don’t know exactly why.  I hadn’t hiked up or anything astounding like that, but I felt as if I were on top of the world, and ready to conquer whatever else I might encounter.  And so we’re off to eat lunch; then on to Colca Canyon Lodge where we will spend the night and partake of the wonderfully soothing natural hot springs.  I’m pretty sure I can “conquer” a bit of food and some hot springs.  🙂

El condor pasa.

The Andean condor is said to be the largest/heaviest flying bird on earth.  We took a sometimes bumpy mini-bus ride up to Colca Canyon in the hope of seeing them as they rode the thermals up and out of the canyon.  The locals and guides know almost exactly what time they take flight on a day-to-day basis.  We followed our guide’s plan and left the lodge early in order to take in yet another once-in-a-lifetime experience.  We weren’t disappointed.  As if on cue, those magnificent raptors accommodated us tourists much as the local Andean people have learned to do.  The birds soared.  The people put on their magnificently hued traditional costumes.  The people don their costumes to earn a few Peruvian soles.  We tourists happily provided the required tips for their trouble.  The condors soar because that’s what they do.  No tips required.

Almost every tourist on the mountain had a camera hoping to get just one decent photo of one huge soaring bird.  The truth is it would take a better camera than mine and a photographer much more patient than I to get a good shot.  The locals have this knowledge in advance so they are at the ready with magnificent photos taken by some professional from who knows where and they sell them to people like me.  I don’t mind telling you I was glad for the opportunity to buy them.  I would love to give credit to the photographer(s) but no such information came with the pictures.  I tell you this in order to tell you that the shot above and the two below are pictures I took of photographs I purchased on the mountain top.

We didn’t see any condors up this high.  The cross on the right of this photo is up on the rim of the canyon where we people were.

The shot below is very much like what I was seeing and might have been able to snap if I were a real photographer.  The fact that I didn’t shoot either of them doesn’t bother me.  I’m grateful that there are talented people who are able to capture them for the rest of us.  Thank you, whoever you are!

I did take the photo at the bottom of the page.  It’s a little like the “Where’s Waldo?” books some of the older grandchildren used to beg for when I took them to the book store.  You may have to look hard to find the condor, but he’s there.  Happy hunting!

Do you remember back in the early 70s when Simon and Garfunkel had a hit song called “El Condor Pasa”?  I loved the song at the time.  Still do for that matter.  I did a little research and found several conflicting stories about Paul Simon’s acquisition of the song.  I have no idea what the truth of the matter is so I won’t comment except to say that I have no doubt about Simon’s integrity.

Daniel Alomia Robles wrote “El Condor Pasa” as a part of a zarzuela, a Spanish operetta.  Simon and Garfunkel made it famous and now it’s the best known song in all of Peru.  We heard it everywhere we went.  If you would like, listen to it here.  I chose this version because 1) it’s beautiful, and 2) this one gives an incredible slide show of Peru, mostly places I saw while I was there.  Wonderful!