Thursday, February 24, 2011

San Francisco and drive to Napa


Historic Ferry Building
View of the Bay  Bridge
Given this was our last day in San Francisco, A. Paul and I set out to explore as many faces of San Francisco as possible before departing to Napa.  We set out eastward towards the 105 year old historic Ferry terminal which currently operates as a culturally diverse marketplace.  As we approached the terminal, the spire of the building appeared surreal as viewed between the tall skyscrapers on Market Street.  Inside, the aromas of organic goods mingled with the culinary delights of some of the greater chefs in the city.  In the back of the terminal, ferries motored into the bay as cars traveled across the span of the Bay Bridge, connecting  San Francisco to its surrounding neighbors.

Mural along Balmy Alley

Next, we traveled along the oldest street in San Francisco, Mission Street,   that originally connected the Bay to the Spanish Mission Dolores.  Within the few blocks of what is known as the Mission District, over 600 artistic murals cover the walls of the district's buildings.  Two of the more recognized mural projects can be found along the Balmy Alley, developed in the 1970s as an expression of the current social/politcal climate of its residents, and later along the Clarion corridor.  A recent find seven years ago uncovered a 200+year old hidden mural in the Mission Dolores initiating a new project to seek funding to recreate the mural along Bartlett Street in the Mission District.  

Not far from the Mission District is the historic section of town known as the Castro District, once known as Eureka Valley and part of a large ranch owned by a Mexican land Baron, Jose de Jesus Noe.  By the 1880s, German, Irish and Scandinavian immigrants settled in the Valley, building Victorian houses which are still existent in the area. In 1920s the Valley was renamed the Castro District with its own landmark Castro theater.

With the addition of cable cars to the area, the Castro grew into a vibrant working class neighborhood until WWII when much of the population moved to the suburbs.  By the 1970s-80s,  the gay population increased in the district strengthed by its resident shop owner, Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in San Francisco who was assassinated in 1978.  Today, the streets are lined with symbolic rainbow flags and the intersection of  Market, Castro, and 17th street has been renamed Harvey Milk Plaza.

We followed our route southwest on Market and past the highest point in San Francisco, the Twin Peaks, towards the Sunset district, home to the surfers and Pacific Ocean beaches.  The gently rolling waves offered a break from the beat of the city and concrete & glass highrises.

de Young Museum
The long stretch of Pacific Ocean and dunes were a great backdrop to the entrance into Golden Gate Park, one of San Francisco's largest green spaces.  The GG Park encompasses over 1000 acres of woods, ponds, and wildlife and is home to the Academy of Sciences, Conservatory of Flowers, the De Young Museum of Art, Japanese Tea Garden, Strawberry Hill,  Arboretum,  Buffalo Paddock and more.  In addition to these venues, the park setting offers exensive trails for running, walking, or hiking for visitors and local residents alike.

Just outside of the park is the infamous Haight-Ashbury district.  A walk down Haight Street conveys that the population of the street still enjoys a  "Summer of Love" existence.  Home to names such as the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane, the Haight evokes and retains its own sense of identity in San Fransciso.

Along Haight Street
After a cup of java in a bohemian style cafe, we headed north towards the Marina district and onto Fort Mason to visit the SFMOMA Artists Alley.  Fort Mason has has been a part of San Francisco since 1776 when it served as a fortified Spanish  military base.  Since then, its history has had ties to the Civil War, 1906 earthquake, military embarkation from 1909-1962, Panama Canal, and WWII.  By 1960, the port was decommissioned for military use but opened as a  non for profit center in the 1970s to serve its community.   Several buildings at Fort Mason serve as workspace for SFMOMA artists with an exhibit space where visitors may view works. The current show during our visit represented the works of three female artists-Mirang Wonne, Jean Shifflet, and Kathyrn St Clair. 

SFMOMA Artists Gallery
Though we were enjoying our self guided tour of the city, we knew that we still had a drive ahead of us to Napa.  We headed back towards the Marina and took a few photographic opportunities of the Golden Gate Bridge from the northwest corner of Chrissy Field before passing over the suspension bridge.  For those interested, the name Golden Gate denotes not its color but it symbolism, derived from the Greek term Chrysopylae, meaning Golden Gate, and christened by Captain John Fremont upon entering the strait.  The bridge was completed and open to pedestrians in 1937 after a lengthy proposition and battle to build the bridge. 

The drive over the bridge was picturesque as we took in the last sights of the marble city skyline across the bay.  The drive into the wine countryside guided us through gently rolling hills of vineyards and rural landscapes.  We settled for the night in Napa. Tomorrow, we will explore the historic downtown of Napa, St. Helena and travel on to Mendocino, keeping our fingers crossed to skirt the oncoming late winter storm.  We leave you with our final images of our day in San Francisco and drive to Napa.

1 comment:

Gordon Peabody said...

Wonderful photos, very unlike the shote most of us come home the composition and subjects. I just returned from Half Moon Bay, south of SF. The SF shots are wonderful! Thanks for keeping everyone posted.-gordon