San Francisco Time Lapses…
Wednesday December 04th 2013, 10:36 am
Filed under: Jibber Jabber
Adrift from Simon Christen on Vimeo.
Paradise x SF from Maniego Media on Vimeo.
I don’t seem to ever tire of time lapses over San Francisco. The fog is reminiscent of a hidden ocean that us who are below it rarely realize it’s beauty. Penny and I actually sat on top of the Hawk Hill in the Marin Highlands and watched the sun set a little yesterday. Going to have to re-visit sometime soon.
The List 2013
It’s that time again. The holidays have descended upon us and you’re stumped at the thought of what to gift everyone. As I’ve said every year, I certainly do no need any more items, but should you be generous and insist on benefiting me with an act of kindness - who am I to resist? This said, this year’s list is composed of stuff that I will most likely purchase, and in some instances have already ordered, but these are the items I most look forward to and if not me…hopefully it would be the catalyst into a perfect gift for someone else.
In no particular order:
What makes a truly great gift is something practical in nature, but also of grandiose. A Mont Blanc pen and Rolex watch have been the benchmark of this statement for generations. However, it’s Heath Ceramics that I secretly covet. Although there is china and in my cabinets, Heath’s deep serving bowls is what ramen and wintery soups should be served in. I also secretly covet a set of Heath shallow bowls for Penny’s water and food service.
Goorin Bros | Trucker Hats
One could never have too many. Crystal may argue otherwise.
Speedvagen Road Bike
I haven’t fully decided if I want a Road or CX Speedvagen, but someday. Someday.
Roolen | Breath Humidifier
Not sure about you, but I’ve never exactly fancied a humidifier. Then again, I have never fancied a thermostat either. Design should integrate with living, and this humidifier does just that. It’s also good for one’s skin I’ve been told.
Craft Roasted Coffee Beans
Craft coffee beans is no different than craft beer, craft spirits, and other handmade products. Although the beans come from similar locations, they magically change in the hands of each roaster. Always open to new beans from new roasters.
Burton | Custom X
Truth be told I’m not sure if I want another Burton deck or a Ride or a Arbor, but I do need a new snowboard and with my first potential trip on 1/1/2014 I need to have this figured out.
Vaughn Duffy Wines
Although my wine habit severely diminished this year, and quite honestly I don’t believe it will pick up next year either but I did find a producer I’m incredibly fond of and continue to follow. Sarah Vaughn and Matt Duffy of Vaughn Duffy make outstanding and exciting wines. I’m continuously impressed with every bottle of theirs I open, and if you’re not buying for me I strongly urge you to purchase some for your own consumption.
Red Wing | 3140 Leather Desert Boots
While we browsed through Brooks Brothers on Saturday I stumbled upon their shoe display. Not realizing that they cross-sold Red Wing I picked up the 3140 model and thought…”I could live with these.” Hence, they’ve now made the list.
Rancilio | Silvia V3 & Rocky Grinder
It’s been years that I’ve been adding, subtracting and trying to justify an espresso machine. This year I just decided to toss the practical and logical side out the window and going for it. Although utilitarian looking the Rancilio won out for bang v. buck reasons, and now with the holidays in sight being able to wake up and make myself a cappuccino downstairs w/o getting dressed is going to be a perk. Pretty excited about this.
Well, happy shopping!
If you asked me a year earlier if Thanksgiving and Relaxing belonged in the same sentence I would have told you that you were mad. However, this past weekend was one of the most relaxed I’ve ever been. Typically we jump from house to house for Thanksgiving but due to a strange series of events we found ourselves completely free for not just Thanksgiving but the entire 3 day weekend which followed.
Early on we decided that whatever we ended up doing we were going to involve Penny, as she’s officially part of the wolf pack now. This veto’d out all restaurants, and hotel buffets were questionable as although Penny’s a medium dog…she’s still a dog and we were fairly certain CA had laws governing such things. Instead of over thinking it, we decided that we were going to cook an entire, if not most, of an Thanksgiving meal at home. Crystal was more enthusiastic about this task than I was, especially after I found out that I was in charge of the turkey. Did I mention I somehow ended up buying just the turkey breast? Our turkey had no legs and wings…
Crystal took care of most of the side dishes, I may have assisted in some prep work but she very much successfully pulled off potato gratin, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green beans all on her own.
One catch about hosting Thanksgiving dinner is that the host ends up usually cooking all day, which does not leave much prep time for lunch. Crystal thought ahead and prepared a quick and decadent caviar lunch. Champagne, Caviar, Salmon Mousse. Perfect. Also, by this time I was able to somehow work off my minor case of food poisoning I someone obtained earlier in the day.
There were no awkward silent gaps during the evening, we didn’t have to dress up, we drank, ate and danced however we wished and best of all we involved Penny in every step of the celebration. After all, it was her first Thanksgiving and also her first taste of turkey.
The rest of the weekend was spent by launching headfirst into the holidays. Black Friday shopping, Lunch at the Rotunda, Stocking Stuffers, and an amazing pre-fixe Roman meal at Chiaroscuro last evening. We were thankful for free time and the ability to do as we pleased this weekend. All jest aside we’re thankful for a phenomenal year and the ability to enjoy each other’s company as much as we do. Thankful for the experiences, the fellowship, and the laughter that we bring to each other, as well as everyone else who’s made an impact on our lives. It hasn’t gone completely according to plan, but what ever really does? We were able to cross some items off our list, and looking forward to checking more off in 2014.
Hope all of you enjoyed your weekends as well.
Istria & Plitvice…
This is it, the highlight of our Croatia segway - Istria & Plitvice. Istria by all other names is known as the truffle capital of the world, and Plitvice Lakes is recognized as a World Heritage Destination. As with all things that are worthwhile, the journey here was not easy. Although we wanted to relax for a few days longer at Hotel Lone we departed and explored the northern coastal towns and eventually realized we were way behind schedule and our casual curiosity turned into a near fear driven frenzy.
First, the more pleasant part of this trip - Budzet and truffle hunting.
It is suffice to say that if one truly has not experienced the sheer decadence of truffles without a truffle meal in Istria. We’ve had truffles, but it’s typically a slice here and a slice there, as you can see this was how every course looked. Covered in truffle slices, enough so that I still have the earthy aroma in my nostrils and taste on the tip of my tongue.
I doubt it is a meal we’ll soon forget. Not to mention there was no fuss or fanfare that surrounded this place. It’s sheer existence seemed to be in sheer solitude.
We arrived a week or so before they opened truffle season, so although we could have easily foraged for them ourselves we decided to enjoy the walk through the woods and imagine truffles at the base of every tree as we made our way back to our rental.
With bellies full, we headed south toward the coastal town of Opatija. It was here where I believe we took a drastic misstep.
It’s tough to stop somewhere as scenic as Opatija and not take in the sights slowly, especially as one realized that one may never return. We took our time, and in hindsight this was where we could have made up some time.
Opatija dazzled us and we were caught up in its romance - champagne, gelato, and desserts as well. We stayed here an hour or so too long which would result in the scariest road trip of our lives.
Lost in a foreign country with a foreign language, no street lights, civilization and essentially the opening of any great horror film was the setting we were driving in. Empty concrete and brick homes, remnants of bombings spotted the green countryside that we were driving through, and as sun set the fog lifted and people retreated. Not having any idea where we were or how far our destination was - our nerves settled in for the long ride.
As we arrived at our hotel in Plitvice the front desk greeted us with some form of distilled spirit of which I now forget. Congrats, you survived in a sense. I have never been so happy to check into a hotel, and the following morning we headed to Plitvice Lakes a short 2 kilometers from our hotel.
The pure energy of the rushing waters, and clarity of its waters astounded us. I mean, even Crystal motored about on her own - in nature no less.
Plitvice does not disappoint. Bring your hiking shoes, some water, snacks and a camera. You’ll want to capture your experience, and above all - make sure to use the restrooms before departing on the trail system as there is only one bathroom on the trail and I guarantee that the rushing of water is going to make you think about that before it’s anywhere near.
Highly recommended, and I am so happy that both Crystal and I were fortunate enough to experience such a destination together. It’s moments like these that I’m reminded just how much enjoyment and a godsend that a partner with a similar mindset could be.
After Plitvice we headed to Croatia’s capital Zagreb for an evening of cafe life and then we catch our plane home…but first a quick stop in London.
When we were planning this trip Crystal asked if I wanted to go explore Switzerland or somewhere else. If there was one destination I was sure of, it was Croatia, and as a result after we wrapped up Venice we jumped onto a ferry and arrived in Rovinj. If I had to describe my initial impressions of Croatia in 3 words it would be “Crystal Clear Waters.” Croatia is stunningly scenic. Old, and maybe crumbling…but scenic.
Our ferry ride was anything but pleasant. Having paid for first class seating allowed us to avoid the constant air conditioning of stale recycled air, but also allowed us to break out a bottle of wine amongst other things once we were stopped at port for some 3+ hours due to another passenger’s visa issue. Incredibly annoying and this meant we arrived in Rovinij near midnight. Had to pile into a cab with a couple of visitors and played musical chairs until we reached our hotel in Lone Bay.
…but wow did our hotel ever make up for our craptastic ferry ride. The hotel itself was designed to please every sense and one’s soul. It was a modernist statement in a nature preserve, and the food and service at its restaurant nourished our souls. We went to sleep happy, and woke up with a cat-like curiosity the following day.
We explored Lone Bay in the morning. Crystal clear but frigid waters, than met up with Sunny and Julie as we boarded a ferry to a couple islands.
Lunch in a somewhat tropical setting was extremely enjoyable. Filling our stomachs once again, quenching our thirsts, and exploring ruins.
Aside from this there is very little to do in Rovinj other than explore old town. It’s a trip back in time, but lots of surprises around steep corners.
The highlight of our Rovinj stay I would have to say would be Hotel Lone. I could have spent an entire month just bumbling around here, and also our first foray into Croatian wine.
Next up, we attempt driving in Croatia and explore Istria.
We caught the train from Como to Venice, which I need to give credit to Crystal for planning our entire transportation itinerary, and was reunited with Sunny and Julie. The train ride was uneventful but Venice sure knows how to make an entrance, as it’s literally a city built in the middle of where one is not supposed to exist.
Everyone seems to tell you one thing or another about Venice, and that’s either A) visit it before it sinks into the ocean B) it’s dirty, and not worth visiting. Venice was really on Crystal’s agenda more than mine but part of this package is that we give to get and since we’re not in Italy every weekend we made Venice a destination. I’ll tell you this much, it is worth a visit and although it is dirty - trash literally piles up over night and takes most of the following day to sort out, you will develop memories that will last you a lifetime. In addition if you care about architecture or ancient history there are some magical sights, or if you’re the romantic you’ll have to cross the Bridge of Sighs in Doge’s Palace as Casablanca did.
In a nutshell I believe you could do Venice in 3 days. Take a couple of days to see all the necessary sights, and absorb the venetian lifestyle in between being awed. You also don’t have to like or particularly enjoy water, but you must not be afraid of it as you’re literally surrounded by it. Although I’m not afraid of water, I certainly did not go out of my way to touch it as the canals from where I stood did look disgusting. This is also worth mentioning that most of the seafood sold and served in Venice is shipped in from clean waters a distance away.
We stayed near Doge’s Palace which was central to everything, also this is where I need to give credit to Crystal for choosing hotels/lodging in metropolitan areas (we learned this lesson from our Paris trip). This also afforded us with the opportunity to tour San Marco’s Square, Doge’s Palace, and Casanova’s fabled footsteps before the eve of our first day. Little did we realize that we would literally cross by the Bridge of Sighs multiple times a day for the forthcoming short future.
Venice was also the first location where I could heavily steer my diet of land animal, red sauce, pasta or pizza and gravitated toward seafood in multiple preparations. We were also fortunate enough to try everything from a multi-course tasting menu to a simple bistro meal to something called ‘cicchetti,’ which is simple some form of ’salad’ smeared onto a piece of bread. Think crostini with a plethora of toppings.
Out of our meals in Venice, having known what I know now, I think I would have been perfectly satisfied had we had cicchetti and wine for every single meal, oh…and roasted/grilled baby octopus. Those were simply devine. Build your own tasting menu, as you go, of sorts. One afternoon we literally dedicated to cecchetti and went from one cecchetti shop to the next. Absolutely worth it. You’ll also see people drinking what’s known as a ’spritz’ which draws it’s influence from the Austrian Empire and is composed of Aperol, Prosecco and usually some fruit cuttings. The verdict is still out on this one, although we weren’t fans.
There is also little forgiveness in the pathways of Venice. The entire city is composed of rock, there is no give as one walks across town and over many of it’s bridges. Make sure to bring and wear comfortable shoes that are apt for walking.
There are many sights to see, and the architecture is quite varied from the rest of Italy. I also had my most ‘embarrassing’ museum visits here as well. You can see the Ca’ d’Oro from many vantages, especially the fish/farmer’s market and it’s gorgeous. However, if you do visit it make sure you take the stairs upstairs as it’s more than just a garden. We walked in, wondered around the courtyard and literally walked out wondering what I paid admission to see from what we were able to see from outside. After a short sit at a nearby hotel we decided to return and ask “was that really it?!” - turns out there’s an entire two floors above us that we skipped. There’s some art exhibit, but you’re really paying to stand on the chiseled balcony - it’s gorgeous.
Although I’m a big believer in lasting and eternal love, we don’t believe in participating in love locks. There are many locations around Venice where this is popular. Buy a lock, write your names on it, lock it and toss away the key. Being raised with an environmentally conscious mentality this sounds a whole lot like unnecessary littering and environmental damage. Proclaiming one’s affection for one thing, destroying public property and damaging the ecosystem is something else entirely. This said, if we were to do something like this I would have had our names engraved and ensured the lock could not be cut or easily removed with a pair of bolt cutters. The general outdoor code rings true for me here, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”
If you enjoy the arts, and even if you don’t, Venice is an excellent place to participate in opera or an orchestra. We decided to patronize a string quintet as we were sick of history, churches, renaissance art, and everything else one expects in Italy. I believe tickets were maybe $50 a piece but when else could you sit maybe 5 rows deep (it was open seating), and arrive in shorts and a t-shirt? Thoroughly enjoyed this evening, not to mention the stroll back to our hotel under Venice’s starry skies.
We even got to preview the Acqua Alta in San Marco’s Square.
To sum things up, do visit Venice and do it with an open mind and an inclination to smile. Visit what the tour books and guides tell you to, and to trail-blaze and write your own story in Venice’s cobble stone’d pathways. Enjoy every moment of your visit to Venice, as it is grand and it is a worthwhile visit, and if you wish go on a gondola ride, but if you’re to do one thing - be a Venetian and enjoy the cicchetti.
One day I’ll get around to properly sorting the 35,000 and accumulating photos I have on Flickr, but for the moment this is the best I could do. If that wasn’t blunt enough I didn’t exactly take many photos of my grand father from my mother’s side and although I’ve been trying to search through my Flickr photo stream for a photo it’s nearing impossible - so this snapshot of a buddhist hymn from his funeral will have to do.
I was close with my this grand father when I was a young child. Being his second grand kid and first male of his daughters, however we grew ever slower apart as visits lengthened out and reasons to gather dwindled to a great holiday or milestone birthday every now and again. This said I do have some wonderful memories. He was a passionate man, passionate about dogs, gardening, family, his Cadillac amongst other things. He was also the first care taker I’ve come to know, as my brother and I spent many evenings and over nights at my grand parent’s Sunnyvale house. I credit their house for my love of exposed ceiling beams, minimalist construction, and open layout. However the one memory I’ve cherished and I believe everyone should have a similar memory was that every time we went grocery shopping that both my brother and I would pick out a toy (I guess grocery stores had toys back then). The one toy that I can vividly recall to this day was a molded plastic Godzilla. It was an ugly creature, but it’s memory carries on.
I wish that he finds peace, paradise, or whatever it is his soul seeks and that we’ll keep his memory alive the only way we know how.
Published in Departures Magazine…
This is not the first time, and certainly not the last time that my photos were published but this is one of the few times where the publication actually meant something to me. Departures is a magazine mailed to Amex Platinum (maybe Gold) and higher subscribers. Before ‘life’ happened I looked forward to receiving Departures every month to figure out where I should travel and what I should visit. Fate just so happened that Departures contacted me shortly after our Rome visit to use one of my photos for their 10 Labyrinths Worth Visiting article and slideshow.
I’m glad I visited the Capuchin Crypt, but I doubt I’d do it again. The tour literally lasts maybe 15 minutes and it’s in the middle of modern Rome. Rome however is definitely, without a doubt, worth visiting.
The next publication I’m expecting is going to hit home for us, but I’m looking forward to it. Hint: it’s Christmas themed.
Also, I do realize I never got around to posting the rest of our Europe adventure. I’ll have to do that when I have a minute.
Scrub and Bubbles…
Penny is living the easy life. Hangs out. Eats. Sleeps. Strolls. Urinates. Poos. Gets oodles of attention. Gets a bath here and there.
I gave her a bath yesterday. She’s now fluffy, smells great, and looks absolutely adorable. I on the other hand ended up partially wet, the bathroom looked like a disaster, and I apparently had an entire bathroom to clean.
You see, Crystal usually cleans the bathroom and has always cleaned the tub/shower. I was responsible for ensuring the kitchen, cooking area is clean and dishes washed. We usually split the vacuum duties depending on who has more time. However, because she was feeling under the weather I volunteered to clean the entire bathroom. My first task after the Penny bath was to wash down the shower/tub area, and this is where I got familiar with the Scrub and Bubbles family.
I had two canisters of the stuff, one with a mega-frother, or some giant spread nozzle that allowed me to cover the entire surface area of the shower/tub with a thick foam of hard working scrubbing bubbles. Or so I thought. After a quick scrub with a bristled brush I thought I was done. Oh how naive I was. After you scrub, you had to wash the stuff off and I wasn’t sure how to do this. I naturally started to fill a bucket to throw sheets of water on the walls to wash the stuff off, at some point in this process the shower accidentally came on spraying me with water in the process. In short, I walked out of that shower fully clothed and nearly was wet as Penny. To add insult to injury, Crystal inspected my work and pointed out areas I missed and I had to repeat the entire process. Oh joy.
To sum things up I was not the happiest camper, in fact I believe I may have picked up some rare and unknown and unidentified bacterial disease. Just gross. I was also not sure how the shower/tub got so dirty, I mean it looks fine to the naked eye, and finally I’ll have to figure out if Penny or Crystal sheds more. Hair everywhere and in everything.
Tip your maids well.
No, We did not meet George Clooney…
Leaving Tuscany was a love/hate deal. Well, not exactly that extreme but our Tuscany visit felt short and I did not feel like we turned over every stone. Part of the reason being was due to the weather as well as a general lack of planning on my part. Regardless, this leaves room to revisit. Off to Lake Como we went, but first a stop in Parma.
Parma is literally a small town which one is capable of walking through in one afternoon. Again, a juxtaposition between medieval and cosmopolitain exist side by side.
Our only goals in Parma was to sample prosciutto di parma and well as parmesan cheese. Both I am happy to report that we were successful at, and with that we continued north to Como.
Lake Como was incredibly scenic. The crystal blue waters stretched for as far as one’s eye could see. The mountain scape dotted with hillside villages and country homes. We certainly felt at peace, even with the uncooperative and unpredictable weather.
There’s really not much to do in Lake Como except relax and enjoy each other’s company. The entire area is generally older and sleepy in nature. Being close to the Swiss border it’s easy to find both Italian and Swiss fare. I guess we can say we’ve had proper fondue now as well.
One of my favorite excursions from our hotel was our afternoon in Bellagio. Rather then heading straight to the small downtown area we took a backroad loop around and really got to explore Bellagio as well as take in some astonishing views. However it did begin raining and we scrambled toward downtown to find a bite.
Despite the rain, we were all smiles. Completely at ease and the picture of relaxed. The food was fairly good. Well executed, but I was simply happy for the first time of this trip I was eating something other than red meat and pasta. Fried fish and rice was a simple, but satisfying lunch. Lovely little bistro if you find yourself in Bellagio.
We also spent a good deal of time at Villa Carlotta. If botanic gardens is your thing you should check this place out, even if they’re not this is a extraordinary estate that would benefit anyone for a few hours.
Who would have thought there was a bamboo forest anywhere in Italy?
Finally we did spend a great deal of time at our hotel. It was tough not to as the weather was cold and damp, and our hotel really spoiled us. Indoor spa, food, treats, wine, cigars…it was going to be a tough good bye.
However, Venice awaits and I was excited to meet up with Sunny and Julie again.