Monday, February 23, 2009

Andy Goldsworthy in San Francisco

Environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy frequently makes works that are ephemoral; that disappear with time. However, San Francisco is home to two permanent installations.

The first work, Drawn Stone, was commissioned by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 2003 for the entry to the new de Young Museum. Installed in 2005, the work features a continuous crack that represents the meeting of the North American and Pacific Plates near San Francisco. This faultline is what ruptured in 1906 resulting in the Great Earthquake and Fire. Nearby are large stone slabs where visitors can sit to contemplate the installation.

The second work, Spire, was installed in the Presidio last year. The work is a tower comprised of 35 cypress trees that were removed as part of the replanting of the Presidio's historic forest. Spire is located near the Arguello Gate and the Inspiration Point Overlook. A special exhibit on Goldsworthy's work at the Presidio is located at 49 Moraga Avenue (next to the Officers' Club). Goldsworthy at the Presidio is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. through May 3.

There is yet another Goldsworthy piece on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto. Stone River was completed in 2001 and is located southeast of the Cantor Art Center, near the corner of Museum Way and Lomita Drive. The flowing wall is made with stones from buildings that were destroyed in the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes and is the largest sculpture on the campus.

If you would like to take a private tour of San Francisco and/or Palo Alto that includes these works by Andy Goldsworthy, please phone me at (866) 326-8237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

San Francisco to Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle in San Simeon is definitely worth a visit. William Randolph Hearst's unfinished home is an architectural wonder and houses many priceless pieces of art. Five tours are offered of the estate. Tour 1 is suggested for first time visitors as it provides an overview of the castle and grounds. Tours 2 and 3 focus on different parts of the castle. Tour 4 takes you through the gardens and Tour 5 lets you experience the castle at night. I highly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance as tours frequently sell out.

Each year I get asked if I can do a day trip to Hearst Castle. The short answer is, "no"! San Simeon is halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The drive via the inland route from San Francisco takes about 5 hours. The scenic route through Big Sur along CA Route 1 takes about 6 hours. If you want to visit San Simeon from Los Angeles, the trip takes about 4.5 hours.

While a one-day tour from San Francisco is not really feasible. A round-trip, overnight tour via Big Sur would be a great way to spend two days. Or, if you are traveling to L.A. from San Francisco, take the scenic coastal route and overnight in San Simeon or nearby Cambria. Then take an early morning tour of Hearst Castle and continue on to Los Angeles. Alternatively, you could include a visit to Hearst Castle on a longer visit to California's Central Coast. In addition to Hearst Castle, you could visit Monterey and Carmel; Big Sur; wine country around Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, or Santa Barbara; the city of Santa Barbara, and other coastal communities.

If you would like to take a private tour that includes visits to Big Sur and Hearst Castle, please phone me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Civil War Era Fort Point

When I have children on a San Francisco tour, I frequently include a stop at Fort Point. Built from 1853 - 1861, the fort was designed to protect San Francisco Bay from enemy attack. Fortunately, the cannon never needed to fire against enemies, only for testing. We are also fortunate that the builders of the Golden Gate Bridge decided to save the fort from demolition in the 1930s.

Visitors to Fort Point can learn much about the history of San Francisco and the role of the Army in the city's life. Children enjoy looking at the cannons and climbing to the top of the fort for views of the Golden Gate. Adults may find the various exhibits of more interest. Docents dressed in Civil War uniforms are frequently present to answer questions about the fort. In addition, a number of activities are scheduled each day. The cannon-loading demonstration is particularly interesting.

Fort Point is open Friday - Sunday from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Even if you are visiting on a day when the fort is closed, a drive down Long Avenue and Marine Drive provides great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. You may also see surfers testing their skills under the bridge. If you are very lucky, you could see dolphin in the Bay. Twice in 30 years, I have seen dolphin and both times I saw them from the parking lot adjacent to Fort Point. I frequently bring guests to Fort Point on foggy days as the view of the Golden Gate Bridge is better than from the vista point above.

If you would like to take a private San Francisco tour that includes a visit to Fort Point, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mosaics and a View

Standing at the top of Grandview Park I had a 360-degree view of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate, San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Park, the Sunset District, and downtown San Francisco. I climbed quite a bit to get here as the park sits on the top of a hill that rises to 820 feet above sea level, but the view was worth it.

Grandview Park is not convenient for most visitors as it is located in the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood on the west side of San Francisco. However, if you are staying near Union Square, take the N Judah streetcar at one of the MUNI Metro stations on Market Street. Make sure you get a transfer and exit the train at 9th and Judah. Transfer to the 66 Quintara bus and travel to 16th and Moraga. You can also continue on the N Judah to 16th Ave. and walk three blocks south to Moraga.

When you get off the bus, look east and you will see a long stairway covered with mosaics climbing the hill. More than 220 local residents donated funds that resulted in the mosaic of the ocean, moon, and sun. As you climb the steps, look closely and you'll find the names of the contributors who made the steps possible. Be sure to turn around and admire the ocean view.

When you get to the top of the steps, you'll be at 15th Avenue. Look to the right and you'll see a small set of steps that connect lower and upper 15th. When you get to the top of this stairway, you'll see a long flight of wooden steps that will take you to the top of the hill. Enjoy the view as you wander through the small park.

If you want to grab a bite to eat during your outing, there are many small, inexpensive restaurants along Irving Street and on 9th Avenue between Lincoln and Judah. You'll find Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, American, Ethiopian, seafood, Greek, and other restaurants.

If you would like to take a private San Francisco tour that includes a visit to Grandview Park and the mosaic-covered stairway, please call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.