Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cityscape from the Eyes of a Visitor

The San Francisco skyline is famous for its downtown buildings or the Financial district. In all my travels at SFO, my only viewpoint of the SFO skyline is at the Golden Gate Bridge Marin vista points. It has been a puzzle on my part how to capture the SFO skyline at a closer distance. Now, I realize that taking a ferry from Marin to SFO is the best way to appreciate the SFO skyline up close. 

Taking the ferry already offers a lot of beautiful views, such as the sailing boats; a view of the Coit Tower, TransAmerica, and the Financial District. Furthermore, when you reach the Ferry Building, you will be welcomed by a buzzing activity of visitors, ferry passengers, shopkeepers, and more. There's just so much going on at SFO; a boring day is definitely out of the question.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rides, Candies, Games, Prizes: Carnival Galore

Oh to be a kid again...full of innocence and happiness. No worries and just all play.
But who says adults can't be just like a child?
That's what me and a colleague just did! 

It was a bright late afternoon, we headed towards the Sonoma-Marin fair and were set to have fun. 
Fun it was indeed. 

Fairs were the age-old and traditional entertainment before the now famous park themes of Disneyland, Six Flags, Universal Studios and many others came about. Most counties (as far as I know) in Northern California held fairs every summer. The fairs were enjoyed by the young and the young at hearts. There were many shows; from dog shows to the fastest piglet race. They were awesome and cute by the way. Fair games were abundant too, although you could not always win or bragged the ultimate prize, but what matters most was the fun and it was already the greatest prize. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Beautiful Morning

The sun had just risen and the garden was abuzz with activity. It was a beautiful morning; fresh from the late night shower and nature was up and about. It smelled of fresh air. The flowers were a bloom as if to bathe in the morning dew. Insects were busy hopping from one flowering plant to another.

An early morning walk and paying attention to nature is a great alternative to meditation or prayers. Appreciating nature's beauty is a great way to start a day. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Going Downtown at San Francisco

In continuation of that adventurous day in San Francisco, aside from exploring Chinatown, a colleague and I visited other parts of the town. Why not, right? We are already in San Francisco, better explore all the places as much as we can. 

Our trusty map brought us next to Lombard, the famous crookedest street* in SFO. It's actually not the crookedest street in SFO, Lombard is just famous for it because it offers a beautiful view of the bay and added to it are the picture perfect houses and street. I missed the chance to take a picture of a cable car in the middle of the street. I was so busy and concerned with catching a ride to Lombard that I had to set aside the desire to take a photo. The cable car was full of tourists and I barely enjoyed the scenery along the way. Nevertheless, an old cable car ride is a must try in SFO. 
I had to check out Japantown. Every time I visited SFO, Japantown was always not on the itinerary. Now I know why, there aren't a lot of attractive landmarks to take photos. Japantown is also smaller than Chinatown. It is not as festive as Chinatown, it is very simple. You can skip it from the list unless you are looking for authentic Japanese food.

Our last stop for that day was Union Square. It was so full of life, there were a lot of yuppies and there was an event going on. There were so many things to see and explore at Union Square especially the boutiques. It felt strange to be in the heart of San Francisco, amidst the hustle and bustle of the people who flocked the town. It was a good feeling though. If given more time, I would have wanted to explore a little bit more of Union Square. We ran out of time. We had to hurry our steps towards the ferry building to catch the last trip back to Marin County. 
It was an adventure-filled day and not even an ill-mannered red-neck could put a downer on my memory during that day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chinatown a Place on Its Own

It was my second trip to Chinatown, SFO; it was almost 9 years since the last time I had been there. This time around, I didn't bring a car, but I took a public transport from the Embarcadero area. It was the first pit-stop of an adventurous day in SFO. The funny thing was, Chinatown was not very far from where we embarked the MUNI (an SFO public transport); it was just a couple of blocks away.

The place had not changed a lot. It was still the same familiar streets and corners. It was a sight-seeing haven with many shops that offered window-shopping opportunities. Each shop in Chinatown except for specialty shops almost carried the same items as it's next door shop. Some of the items sold in Chinatown made me think of home since there are a lot of "made in China" products too in the Philippines. 

There were a number of buildings that were renovated or probably just repainted. It was a good thing that they made sure to preserve the look and feel of the area. There were a lot of whimsical Oriental lanterns, the prominence of the color red, the very distinct Chinese roofs on its buildings, and the inexpensive souvenir items were but only a few of what the place can offer. Chinatown is a place in the middle of SFO that definitely feels like you are in another zone.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Crocolandia - Starring the Crocs and its Neighbors

I remember that my hometown once boasted a zoo. It was situated atop the hilltops of Cebu, but when I had a chance to visit the zoo years ago, it was a sad plight of animals and a not so well taken-cared of zoo. It was not the zoo I imagined it should be. 

Years had passed and now a new place for animals, Crocolandia, opened its doors to the public for educational purposes. It is not a zoo, but it's a home for a number of crocodiles. The biggest crocodile is named Lapu-lapu. If I remember this right, it may be 15 yrs old or more. Crocolandia also houses an ostrich, who likes the crowd a lot; she doesn't run away if a crowd gathers near her fence, rather she cackles and makes a lot of happy sounds. You will also find a few birds like the native "kalaw", an owl, a parrot, a Philippine eagle, and many other small birds. Other exotic reptiles also live there such as iguanas and phythons. There are also some animals that can only be found in a foreign land, such as a deer. 

  • It's best to go there very early around 8am on weekends if you want to take photos of some animals and if you want some quite. The place attracts a lot of educational trips for students. 
  • You can bring your own food and use the picnic area, but if bringing food is a hassle, they have a small canteen. Soon to open is a Cheaverz resto. 
  • Entrance fee is around Php80.00 per person. 
Biasong, Talisay (6332-2731842)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Touring Northern California: A Mini Guide - Part I

Work sometimes requires travels to our US head office for mostly half of the year. Being away from family and friends in a foreign land makes me home sick. To get by each day and especially on weekends, I think of the travel as an opportunity to explore cultures and new places. 

If I'm in the US, I reside in Petaluma, one of the cities in Sonoma County. It's a 45 minute drive from San Francisco passing by the Marin County and not far from Sonoma is Napa. Northern California is a playground of beautiful landscapes, architecture, history, and culture.

Going out to places is most often costly due to entrance fees, fares, parking, etc. I know that there are many ways to explore a county and its neighboring destinations without spending too much. Here's a PART 1 compilation of some Things To Do (without the aid of tour agents) from the "road less traveled" spots (so to speak) to popular tourist destinations in Northern California.

Here are some Tips and Places to explore if you happen or plan to be in San Francisco and Sonoma. 

It's located along the Marina Avenue in San Francisco. The place has a vast expanse of green fields where you can enjoy picnics, watch locals and tourists, fly kites, enjoy the San Francisco bay, play ball, and admire the million-dollar homes along the avenue. The Marina boasts a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and The Alcatraz

Golden Gate Bridge Vista Points
There are many spots in SFO and Marin counties to appreciate the grandeur and beauty of the hanging bridge known as Golden Gate. This is a must see attraction if you happen to be in Northern California.
Guide links: Some Known Vista Points

Palace of Fine Arts 
This place makes me appreciate nature and makes me realize that man made structures can harmoniously co-exist with nature. It's a wonderful experience to just sit back and relax at the park benches or on the grasses. Enjoy the birds, the calmness of the pond, the cool trees, the people, and the massive pillars of the Palace of Fine Arts structure.
Guide links: Fine Art Details, National Park Service, Only in San Francisco
The park is a wonderful surprise to me. I could not believe it that just a few minutes from downtown is a park with many trails that provide various overlooks and vantage points. Spring is the perfect time of the year to discover the trails especially if you love the verdant scenery of the mountain slopes.
Guide links: Flickr landscapes, Sonoma County Parks, Visit Petaluma

Petaluma is the first city in Sonoma County if you come from San Francisco. It is a quaint town with many historic architectures. The downtown gives a glimpse of dated architectures from the past.
Guide links: Visit Petaluma

Related Post:
Touring Northern California: A Mini Guide - Part II

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bodega Bay, Not Your Usual Beach Scene

In all my travels to California, I had never been to Bodega Bay. Every time I took the exit from the freeway in East Washington, Petaluma, I always saw the sign "This way to Bodega Bay". I thought that it's just another beach and why would I even bother going to beaches in the US when in my country, Philippines, boasts a lot of beautiful beaches. 

One weekend, a colleague and I went to explore the Bodega Bay. It was a nice and warm day and the drive to the bay offered a variety of views: verdant mountains and the vast expanse of the ocean. When we arrived at the bay, it was so windy and chilly, but we could not pass the opportunity to discover the place. 
We drove up to the Goats Rock beach and explored the mesmerizing views offered by each beaches along the coast, such as Rock Point, SchoolHouse Beach, Portuguese Beach, etc. The splashing of the big waves is a welcome break from city life. I never realized that less than an hour from our place was a breathtaking view of the Pacific ocean and natural rock formations carved by mother nature herself. Now that is art in its grandest exhibit. 

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