Travel There: The de Young Museum at Golden Gate Park

deyoung tickets07242014This trip to San Francisco was my second, so I’d already knocked out these San Francisco points of interest:

Jane’s Must-See Attractions in San Francisco

Golden Gate Park

I’m convinced I saw the very best of San Francisco on my first trip, but that didn’t make me any happier about missing Golden Gate Park.  We actually got into the park, but it was the end of the day and both the driver and the navigator were exhausted.  So the park was a must-see for this trip.

At the top of my list in the park was the de Young Museum of Fine Art, so that’s what I plugged into the GPS.  Last time we’d been to the park we didn’t have our electronic buddy, which explains why we were so disgusted and disgruntled.  This time we did have it, but we ran into another problem.  The GPS was telling us to turn into the park at one location and there were all kinds of signs telling us we couldn’t.  Finally we found a sign directing us to enter for de Young parking.  Victory!

deyoung brochure07242014

Instead of folding it up and putting it in my pocket, I should have studied the map. Following my nose wasn’t a good idea.

The De Young

I confess, I don’t do spontaneous well.  By the time I visit a museum, I’ve usually studied the map ad nauseum and know exactly where in the museum I want to go.  Having not had the opportunity to do that, we walked into the de Young and followed our nose.  Unfortunately, at the beginning, our nose didn’t lead us to much stuff we really wanted to see.  Maybe that’s the reason so many people claim they don’t like museums – they’ve been following their noses around!

Different strokes for different folks, but we all know what we like.  Bill and I are less fond of modern and tribal art than we are traditional figurative art.  Bill told me to just put up the map and enjoy myself, but that wasn’t very good advice.  We saw every piece of modern and tribal art in the museum, before we found our good stuff.

Now once we found our good stuff we were plenty happy and we took a long time perusing delightful pieces. Here’s a few samples:

Rainy Season in the Tropics by Frederic Edwn Church

Rainy Season in the Tropics by Frederic Edwin Church

California Spring by Albert Bierstadt

California Spring by Albert Bierstadt

Petunia by Georgia O'Keefe

Petunia by Georgia O’Keefe

Not everything was paintings.  There were some sculptures and decorative arts, but these were the postcards I picked up in the gift shop.

View from the Hamon Tower

View from the Hamon Tower

After our tour of the art, we went up in the Hamon Tower.  The view was actually quite amazing.  The light was not cooperating, so we didn’t get a good shot of the city vista – which would blow your socks off – but this picture gives you an idea of what you see directly below, when you’re up there.

Food Time

To my list of favorite places to eat in San Francisco I’d like to add the de Young Cafe.  Its a nice crisp modern sort of place that sits next to the Sculpture Garden.  Outside is patio seating and there were people sitting out there, but it was a little chilly for my Texas blood.  While we ate, we were serenaded by a big orchestra playing in the Temple of Music across the street.  It doesn’t get much better.

Kudos delivered, I’d like to have a do over.  This is one of those cafes where you really should have some sort of idea of what you’re doing before you actually get to the selection part.  They have a card menu to order from, they have pre-made snacks and sandwiches available to browsse and then they’ve got a sort of coffee bar, but that has a blackboard menu that you might miss before you get around to ordering.  So, if you ever go, check out ALL the options before you make a selection.

One Last Thing

Everybody but me probably already knew this, but if you’re also out of the loop, San Francisco actually has TWO Museums of Fine Art.  The Palace of Legion of Honor and the de Young.  The Palace is out by Lincoln Park and may be one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen.  I know the view from the portico is certainly one of the best.  The grounds were covered with brides having their pictures made with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

If I only had time to see one of the museums, I would choose The Palace, for two reasons.  One being the spectacular nature of the venue.  The other being that the art is more classical.  Also, now that I’ve seen them both, I think I’d be quicker to return to the Palace.  I wish I’d had time for the special exhibition of Impressionist portraits they had while I was there.  However, you should take time to see both at least once and then choose your favorite based on your own taste.

After our meal we headed out to explore the rest of the park.  Join me next week to check it out.

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Travel Here: Well, Maybe Not Exactly Here

My view of Wylie from my office window.

My view of Wylie from my office window.

If you’ve been following me on Fridays you know we’ve just moved to Wylie.  It’s a part of my beloved Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, but nothing about it is very metro.  I need to get used to that if I’m going to live in the rural backwater of Heath, but for now, it’s a shock to my system.  Travel Here will stay a part of my blog, but please understand, when I say “here”, I don’t exactly mean right here, in Wylie.  I mean here in the Dallas area.

What About Wylie?

OK, so what about this place we’ve moved to?

The Good Stuff:

  • Reasonably close to my bestie’s house
  • Reasonably close to the house we’re building
  • Reasonably close to George Bush Turnpike, which will get me to everything else
  • Reasonably close to Firewheel Town Center, which is OK for shopping, restaurants and movies
  • An amazing Kroger Marketplace is close
  • A branch of Capital One, my bank, is nearby
  • Pretty much every fast food joint imaginable is around the corner and Raising Cane’s is within striking distance
  • The high school mascot is a PIRATE …how can you not love that!

The Not So Good Stuff

  • We don’t love the floor plan, the garage or the low ceilings of our rent house
  • Kroger Marketplace is NOT Market Street, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Central Market, which all used to be close to me
  • A Raising Cane’s within striking distance doesn’t compare to a Hook Line & Sinker I can walk to!
  • I’m church-homeless – AGAIN!
  • I do not have a creek/private nature preserve
  • Adding 20 minutes to the drive to work is no fun, even when you only have to go in twice a week

First Impressions

All that being said, I’m here now and the eventual result will be our wonderful new home on a pond by the 3rd hole of the Buffalo Creek Golf Course, so I’m not going to whine too loudly.  I have made some interesting observations however:

  • Folks here are real nice, if you run into them outside your neighborhood – especially at the nearby Capital One and at the Dairy Queen drive-thru.  They chatted me up like I was their long lost cousin. (Perhaps that was because I had Precious with me.)
  • They’re not so friendly if they live in your neighborhood.  I’ve gotten one tentative wave so far, but not so much as a nod or a meeting of the eyes from anyone else.
  • In West Plano most customers at Chipotle ordered chicken or veggie burrito bowls with brown rice and black beans.  At my new nearby Chipotle they order beef burritos with white rice and pinto beans.

I just keep telling myself that this is temporary.  I really live in Heath!

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Heading to Heath: Did We Find Our Rental?

Is this finally Home Sweet Home, for now?

Is this finally Home Sweet Home, for now?

Monday night things looked grim.  Yet another landlord had nixed our six-month lease issue and the list of issues with our friend’s house was growing.  After we saw it, we realized the house didn’t have a straight-forward answer to our pet issues. My Precious is house-trained to use a doggie door, but the way the house was set up, we didn’t know where we could put it.

That Left the Wylie House

The Wylie house was our only option, if we didn’t rent my friend’s house.  When Bill first saw that house in Wylie, he hated the floor plan, but that bad floor plan was looking a whole lot better, now.  We had one month, minus one day, to find a place to live.

The Wylie house was within our budget and that counted for a lot.  My friend’s house was 10% over our budget and we’d have to maintain the pool.  When you’re building a house, budget is very important.

Wylie was also a lot closer to our build.  Not only would it take much less time going back and forth, but the gas consumption and wear-and-tear on the car would be less.  Oh yes, and we could get there without going on the tollroad – a savings of over $14oo if the build takes six months.

Then there was my puppy.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  She needed a straight shot out her doggie door to her potty space.  She’d had that for fourteen years.  Even if we had figured a way to route her through a sunroom, we’d never have gotten her all the way around the pool before she stopped to do her business.

All things considered, we had to reconsider the Wylie house, bad floor plan and all.  But first, we had to find out if the owner would allow us a six month lease.  Tuesday night, we crossed our fingers and called the Wylie landlord.

Then Out of Nowhere!

The Wylie landlord called back with good news on Wednesday morning.  While Bill was filling out the application, I got a call out of the blue.  An agent I’d talked to on the weekend was calling to let us know her owner had re-canted on the pet thing.  I reminded her that we also had the six month’s lease issue.  We discussed it a bit and she said her landlord would be a fool not to take our contract.  So we decided to go take a look.

It was perfect!  We loved the floor plan.  It was in our budget.  It was three miles from our build.  There were several possible doggie solutions.  Life was good.  We called the agent back and asked her to find out about the six month thing.  We only wanted one landlord checking our credit.  We take our credit score very seriously.

Euphoria Sets In

We were feeling a whole lot better.  We didn’t have an answer yet, but certainly something would work.  Wouldn’t it?

Well, “out of nowhere” didn’t work.  The agent had been so sure, but not sure enough.  I was standing in the grocery store when she called me back and I wanted to throw something.  I called Bill and he sent the application to the Wylie landlord.

We’re Approved

I didn’t sleep much Tuesday night.  Intellectually I knew our credit was great and that we’d be approved, but there had already been so many landmines.  I won’t keep you guessing anymore.  We were approved.  In fact, we’ve moved in and the bad floor plan is a lot better than we thought it would be.

But while we worried about finding someplace to live, a lot more happened.  Come back next week and I’ll catch you up with our build and maybe tell you a few moving adventures.

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Travel There: Pinot Days in San Francisco

Pinot Days Brochure

Pinot Days Brochure

If you recall, this vacation went through a number of alterations before becoming a reality. In one of the original stages, a trip to Wine Country was penciled in, but by the time we went, Napa and Sonoma had been erased. Instead we enjoyed Pinot Days at City View At Metreon.

How We Got There

When you’re visiting your hip nephew in San Fran you do all kinds of cool things.  Take it from me, Uber is cool.  It’s like a taxi, but a lot more chic.

Since all I did was go along for the ride, I don’t claim to know all the details, but to quote Uber “request, ride, and pay via your mobile phone.”  That means you don’t call or hail a cab.  You request a ride at a certain time with the app and the car shows up.  If you wonder if you have time to go to the bathroom, the app tells you where the car is and how long before it will be to your pick-up point.  You don’t have to ride in a cab either.     A sleek black SUV picked us up and the driver was dressed very professionally.When we left the wine event my nephew punched a few buttons on the phone and by the time we got downstairs our car was waiting.

Uber’s website says they do have taxis, but that wasn’t our ride.  Nephew says it’s about the price of parking and since we were going to a wine tasting without a DD it was a lot cheaper than a DWI.  Dallas is an Uber city, but I haven’t Ubered here yet.  Let me know if you have.

Where It Was

Meteron is like nothing I know of in Dallas.  It’s like NorthPark‘s Food Court on steroids, but the anchor store is a Super Target and for kicks there’s an AMC Cinemark.  You got it?

Well, upstairs there’s something called City View which is a huge event space.  They do weddings, corporate events, whatever.  The “restaurant-centric mall with multiplex” is amid the Marscone Center and City View overlooks the Yerba Buena Gardens.  Yeah, it’s cool.

How It Wa2014-06-21 16.56.19

I’m just going to be straight with you.  This wasn’t the most fun I ever had tasting wine.  I used to live on the Central Coast and spent Sunday afternoons at Castoro Cellars Tasting Room, Edna Valley Vineyard and other local wineries.  My first date with Bill was to a function called Art and Wine at the Dallas Museum of Art.  We’ve been to Dallas Opera Wine Tastings. We have also been to other wine festivals, like the Paso Robles Wine Festival.  We know from wine tastings.

The Metreon was cool and I loved looking out over Yerba Buena Park and San Francisco’s Financial District.  However, I got a little tired of Pinot and there was a crowd.

I love wine, but I’m no wine connoisseur.  Were I a wine connisseur, I’m sure the opportunity to compare so many Pinots in one afternoon of tasting was euphoric.  However, there were so many people crowding around the tables that there was really no way to have a decent conversation with the winemakers and that’s one of the things I like best about a tasting.

There was also nowhere to sit.  There were community baskets of crackers and cheese to give your palate a break, but no where to give your sore dogs a break.  Am I glad I did it?  Yes!  Would I do it again?  Probably not.

But come back next week, because we’re going to Golden Gate Park.

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Heading to Heath: Will We Find a Rental?

You can't live here either!

You can’t live here either!

I believe in the power of prayer and friendship. Early on a Saturday morning I made a post on Facebook, “Mission Find-a-Rental is in full swing. I’m hearing a lot of ‘But you have to sign a year’s lease!’, ‘Pets? I don’t think so!’, and ‘Sorry, it’s been leased.’ I think I need a little prayer coverage on this project.”

Help Was on the Way

Almost immediately things improved.  I got some good advise on next steps and the prayer warriors went to work.  One friend offered a guest room.  Another offered up a one bedroom condo.  Another friend had just bought a rental property and offered it “friend-priced” and without a lease term.  None of those exactly fit the criteria we’d set, but they were all better than homeless.

That afternoon we ventured out to look at some properties, hoping that someone would fall in love with us, in spite of our pets and our six months lease.  The pickings were mighty slim.  There was our friend’s new rental, but it was about twenty miles and $3.92 toll away from Heath, not to mention that the “friend price” was still a little steep for our budget.  There was one house in Rockwall we’d seen, but we hadn’t confessed we only wanted six months, yet.  We had an appointment to see a house in Wylie on Sunday and were trying to get an appointment with another.

The Sunday Tour 

So, Bill wasn’t crazy about the house we toured.  We drove by every other possible rental in all the communities on the eastern side of Dallas, but each one seemed worse than the other.  We were stumped.  We decided that first thing Monday morning we’d confess to the Rockwall agent that we wanted a six months lease.  If Rockwall rejected us, that left my friend’s house.  Still no more perfect than it had been the day before, but looking a whole lot better.

Down to the Wire

Monday marked thirty days until we had to be out of our house.  Bill called up the Rockwall agent, did his best sales thing and was shut down – completely.  Other than that, we had one more appointment we’d set.  We decided to go see my friend’s house after that, because then we’d know there were no other options.  Our budget would be busted and every time we went to the build, we’d pay about $8 in tolls.  That adds up fast.

What were we going to do?  Come back next week and I promise, there’s still hope.

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Travel There: San Fran Brunch Bites

Who wouldn't go to San Francisco to visit this little guy?

Who wouldn’t go to San Francisco to visit this little guy?

For us, the main attraction in San Francisco was Jack. He’s our grand-nephew and being one year old was still brand new to him when we got there. Imagine all the wonderful things you can do with a darling one year old boy and insert them here.  We also enjoyed some great food.

In the Thick of Things

Jack’s parents are hip.  Really!  Dad went to Greenhill, graduated from Wharton School of Business, got married in a museum and is an investment banker in the gaming industry.  If I wrote a novel about him, people would think I made him up.  Mom also went to Greenhill, has her MBA from UTD, had a ballet commissioned for her wedding reception and she spends her days being Jack’s mommy.

So, of course, they live in the coolest part of San Francisco.  From atop their building you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower and the Bay Bridge.  They’re blocks away from Fisherman’s Wharf, Washington Square Park and the crazy intersection of Columbus and Broadway.

Brunch at Original Joe’s

Saturday morning after Jack’s morning routine was accomplished, we took a stroll to Original Joe’s.  In San Francisco you stroll a lot.  It’s not a car-centric society like LA or Dallas.  There are plenty of cars, but you don’t drive one unless you have to.

The beautiful Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is also on Washington Square.

The beautiful Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul also faces Washington Square.

Original Joe’s faces Washington Square Park on Union Street.  The restaurant may be a San Francisco classic, but once I was inside, I thought I was in New York’s Little Italy.  Black and white tile floors, lots of woodwork, tuxedo-ed waiters, white linen tablecloths, gleaming chrome and brass;  and the aroma of marinara permeates it all.

 

The food?  OMG! We stuck to the brunch menu, enjoying treats like Crab Cake Benedict, Brioche French Toast and other amazing goodies.  The food looked so delicious when it arrived, I dove right in!  The prices are reasonable, but not cheap.

Brunch at Cafe Francisco

Sunday morning Bill and I ventured out on our own to Cafe Francisco, just around the corner from our nephew’s condo.  For me, this brunch spot felt more San Francisco-ish than the more famous Original Joe’s.  The space had for many years been an artist’s studio and along with serving great Belgian waffles, Cafe Francisco is also an art gallery.

If I lived in my nephew’s condo, I might just convert my kitchen into a gym and have all my meals at Cafe Francisco.  The prices were so reasonable that I doubt you can cook at home for so cheap.  The menu is not extensive, but it’s got everything from breakfast to Mediterranean salads to amazing cheese plates paired by the Cheese School of San Francisco.  I wish I’d gotten back over there to enjoy a bottle of wine and one of those cheese plates.

These were not our only gastronomic adventures in San Fran.  After brunch at Original Joe’s we went to Pinot Nights.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about that.

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Heading to Heath: Mission Find-a-Rental Revisited

No Pets Allowed!  One Year Lease Required!  Still on the Market!

No Pets Allowed! One Year Lease Required! Still on the Market!

With my list in hand I started to make calls. It was an eye-opening experience.

It’s Off the Market

About the first zillion calls I made for rental houses were completely useless.  The houses were “off the market,” “leased,” “gone” and other wise unavailable.

This is when I started worrying.  I’d thought this was going to be easy.  Do a little research.  Make a few calls.  Take a little walk-through.  Rent a house.

It’s Available, BUT…

Finally, I found a few (very few) homes that were actually available – but only up to a point.  We were starting out with two strikes against us….make that three.  The first two were Precious and Princess.

For the uninformed, Precious is my beloved Shih Tzu.  She’ll be 14 years old in a few days.  She doesn’t shed, stink, bite, chew or otherwise mess up our house.  She’s trained to use a doggie door and does so like a trooper.  Outside, all she needs is a small area cordoned off for her business.  I understand that there are dogs who will destroy everything in their path, but those dogs are not Precious.

Princess is our cat.  She was rescued from the pound and is a few years younger than Precious.  Like all cats, she very low profile.  She uses her litter box without fail.  She’s both spayed and de-clawed.  She does not chew or claw or any other nasty stuff.

I know everyone says that about their pets, but mine really are virtually invisible, except for the gallons of love we get from them and the occasional outrageous vet bill.  We’re willing to pay pretty much any pet deposit anyone wants to charge, because as long as it’s refundable, we know we’ll get it back.  (Shame on those folks who want the pet deposit to be non-refundable and you know who you are.)

Anyway, there are a lot of landlords out there that won’t even consider renting to people with pets.  I think this is a cause someone should take up.  Used to be you couldn’t rent if you had kids.  That’s called discrimination this day and time.  My pets are my children, so if you won’t rent to us, then you’re discriminating against me.  If you know of a petition I can sign somewhere, I’m in!

The Other Problem

The final hurdle between me and a rental was a one year lease.  Now it would have been very easy to lie about the whole thing and let the chips fall where they might, but that’s not how I do things.  We were willing to sign a six months lease.  We were willing to pay more per month and we would have even paid a penalty, but we were turned down left and right.  No shoes,  no shirt, no service!

So what happened?  I’ll tell you next week.

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