Monday, January 21, 2008

Two North Beach Institutions

It had been over 20 years since I last saw "Beach Blanket Babylon," the only-in-San Francisco cabaret that spoofs modern culture. With my parents visiting, I decided to see how the show was holding up.

Beach Blanket Babylon has been running for over 30 years, so I probably last saw it during its first decade. The theme remains the same; the story of Snow White's efforts to find true love. About one-third of the show looked familiar. However, the majority of songs and skits were new since I last saw the show. The performance was completely up-to-date. There was even a musical number spoofing Hillary Clinton crying the day before the New Hampshire primary.

The singing is still good and the costumes are still zany. The satire is wacky and the hats remain the biggest you'll ever see. At least two of the performers, Val Diamond and Renee Lubin, were in the show when I last saw it. If you've never seen Beach Blanket, then I highly recommend seeing it on your next visit to San Francisco. If you've been before, you'll get a good laugh if you go again.

Beach Blanket Babylon performs at the Club Fugazi, 687 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd. (Green Street) in North Beach. Shows are at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sunday matinées are at 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. and are the only performances that minors may attend.

While in North Beach, I decided to dine at another North Beach institution: North Beach Restaurant. I had never eaten here and figured, after living in San Francisco for 29 years, it was about time to give North Beach Restaurant a try. Walking into this restaurant was like time traveling back to the 1950s. Waiters were in tuxes and the menu looked like it hadn't changed since the restaurant first opened in 1970. While our waiter was very friendly and the food acceptable, I can't recommend dining at the North Beach Restaurant. There are far better Italian restaurants in San Francisco. Unfortunately, most of them are not in North Beach.

If you are planning a trip to San Francisco and want help planning your vacation, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

See Mating Elephant Seals

The largest mainland breeding colony of northern elephant seals can be found at Año Nuevo State Reserve. You have not seen anything until you see two-ton elephant seals battling over a prospective mate. The reserve is located about 90 minutes south of San Francisco on Hwy. 1 between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz.

Elephant seals may be found at Año Nuevo throughout the year. The breeding season runs from December through March. Adult males begin arriving in December and begin to battle to become dominant. The winners of these fights do most of the mating. By late March, the adult seals leave the park and only the weaned pups remain. In the spring and summer, adults return to the park to molt. During the fall, yearlings come ashore.

Año Nuevo is worth visiting at any time. However, seeing the seals breed is particularly fascinating. The breeding season runs from December 15 through March 31. During this time, visitors may only see the park on a guided walk. Advance reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling (800) 444-4445. The molting season runs from April 1 to August 31 and the fall haul-out season from September 1 to November 30. During these seasons, you will need to pick up a free permit for a self-guided hike from the entrance station. Try to arrive early to make sure you get a permit and have enough time for the hike.

A visit to Año Nuevo is a uniquely California experience. If you would like a private tour that includes a visit to Año Nuevo, please feel free to call me at (866) 326 - 4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Haas-Lillienthal House

San Francisco is well known of its Victorian architecture. There are thousands of Italianate, Stick, and Queen Anne houses that can be seen from the outside, but there is only one home that is regularly open to the public as a museum.

Built in 1886, the Haas-Lillienthal House was a private residence until 1972. Today, the home is a museum, complete with period furnishings. A visit to the Haas-Lillienthal House includes a docent-led tour of the small garden and many of the rooms. You will also learn about the Haas and Lillienthal families who were (and are) prominent in San Francisco's Jewish community.

If you are interested in Victorian architecture and/or history, you will enjoy touring the Haas-Lillienthal House. The museum is open on Sunday, Wednesday, and most Saturday afternoons. More information is available on the museum's website or by calling (415) 441-3000. The museum is located at 2007 Franklin Street (between Washington and Jackson Streets).