Sara Godwin

Swimming with Manatees : Florida’s Gulf Coast Plus a Thousand Islands and a Fairy Tale Castle in France

In Baby Boomers, Birding, Florida, Health, Parent, Travel on May 15, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Welcome to my very first ever blog post. I’ve been lucky enough to have wandered widely in this world, and I propose to take you with me from now on.

For me, there are three parts to a great trip: The anticipation, planning where we’ll go and what we hope to see. The trip itself, complete with all the sensory stimuli, from the tantalizing scent of bacon sizzling to the incessant itch of no-see-um bites, the sun hot on my back casting for fish, or the lights of the Bateaux Mouches flashing through the arched windows of a Paris apartment on the Seine. The third, of course, is the many memories, and all the tales to tell.

So here’s what’s on offer for anticipation: Winging our way to Florida’s Gulf Coast (look up Pasco County) to swim with manatees (OK, the manatees aren’t guaranteed — wildlife never is —  but they’re a real possibility); snorkeling in the Crystal River, fishing the Florida flats (fish aren’t guaranteed either, but if you don’t have your line in the water, you are guaranteed not to catch anything), plus golf on the Gulf.  There’ll be fun and photos, and some fine food, so come on along the week of May 20th.  I’m new at this, but my personal  technogeek (tall, slim, beautiful, and 12) tells me I can post from my phone, and I have every intention of finding out how.

(A moment of silence, please, for Steve Jobs, the guy who made it possible for me to share my world in real time. )

Next up:

How about Fourth of July in the Thousand Islands, those tiny dots in the St. Lawrence River that straddle the international border between upstate New York and the grand land of Canada? One of those dots is Grenell Island, not far from Clayton, New York.  Thousand Islands has long been a summer resort for those who seek to escape the East Coast’s  heat and humidity. The little clapboard church on Grenell  celebrates  one hundred years of service and services this year.  One of the cottages, of much the same vintage, needs its annual dose of repair, and we’ll be there.  New railings will go up on the second story veranda that looks across the river toward Canada.  A summer morning spent identifying the huge ships that ply their way up and down the St. Lawrence Seaway is time well spent.  Cheat sheets are available identifying the logos of the shipping lines, clearly emblazoned on the stacks of the vessels.  It’s the armchair traveler’s version of going to sea.  One can’t help but wonder where the ships are from, where they are bound, and how long from home they might be. Where I stay is a two-story cottage built by a friend’s grandfather on pre-Cambrian rocks that date from the last Ice Age. It’s still in the family, and every summer, family and friends alike show up to fix whatever needs fixing, and plant the garden (pockets, fissures, and small crevasses in the rock packed with soil)  with whatever needs planting from peas to peonies.

The coup de grace: Remember that apartment I mentioned on the Seine in Paris? A couple of days ago I received a phone call from the friend who lived there inviting me to come stay at  a big, old house in the French countryside belonging to a school chum from France’s highly regarded HEC (Haute Ecole Commerciale — think Harvard Business School or the London School of Economics, but way sexier. It is in Paris, after all.). Further conversation gave me to understand that the big, old house, aka the Chateau de Vermette,  is a 16th century  castle on France’s list of historic properties, a prized part of the French patrimony, once a portion of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s dowry, and now a privately owned castle complete with a moat, multiple turrets, and 30 beds.  Here are the pictures.  We’ll be there in mid-July if I can figure out a way to get there without swimming the Atlantic.  Follow the blog  to find out how things develop.

See you again soon!

San Francisco Fall Antiques Show: An Exercise in the Unexpected

In Antiques, Baby Boomers, Luxury, San Francisco, Travel, Women's Travel on October 25, 2014 at 8:23 am

San Francisco has three major social events in the Fall: Only one of them does not require a ball gown. That would be the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show in the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason, going on right now, and you’re invited. Designed as a fundraiser for Enterprise high school students, it draws everyone in San Francisco who has money or wishes they did. The antiques dealers come from all over the United States and many from Europe to create a brilliantly curated collection of some of the world’s rarest and most precious objects — and those objects always encompass an element of surprise.

The biggest buzz this year was an object that showed no artist’s vision and no craftsman’s skills; basically, it’s a lump. A brilliant lump, to be sure, but nonetheless, it’s a lump: A huge, shiny gold nugget weighing more than six pounds (the dealer let me hold it!) found recently in California’s Gold Country and valued at $350,000. It’s in the first booth on the right as you enter the show, and displayed with it are the uncirculated mint-condition 19th century gold coins found last year in a cache in the Sierra Nevada, the cache valued at $10,000, 000. And that’s just the start!

The show runs today and tomorrow, the cost is $15 per person (the catalog alone is worth the price of admission), and the variety of things to see that people hold precious will intrigue and fascinate you. The people-watching and street scene fashion is also fabulous. Coco Chanel would be proud. Go now.

Photos to follow, so keep checking back. I’ll be posting throughout the day.

The Insider’s San Francisco …

In Antiques, Baby Boomers, Grandparent, hummingbirds, Kids, Luxury, Parent, San Francisco, Travel, Women's Travel on April 23, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Take an extra day or two before and after your business trip and explore San Francisco, referred to by locals as ‘The City’ as though there were no other. And there isn’t, at least, not another city like San Francisco.  Here’s a collection of (mostly) free stuff to do that you really shouldn’t miss.

 

Wave Organ • The Wave Organ, a natural acoustic experience listening to the sound of San Francisco Bay, is located at the east end of the Marina jetty at San Francisco Marina behind the St.Francis Yacht Club. Built like a hobbit house with benches, the Wave Organ has quirky little nooks and crannies for listening to the sound of the water swirling in and out of   variously shaped pipes, pianissimo or allegro, echoed or amplified. Rhythmic, soothing, it’s a lovely place to just sit in the sun and let the seagulls provide the counter-point. It’s best at high tide, but barring that, try for sunset and watch the sun disappear into the Pacific Ocean behind the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

South Park • Channel Cate Blanchett in ’Blue Jasmine’ by sitting on the bench in South Park where Jasmine quietly divorces reality at the end of the film. That bench is at the end of the park closest to Second Street, across from the Mexican restaurant.
South Park is a little piece of Paris tucked between Second and Third Streets, not far from AT&T Park. (Go Giants!) It’s an urban island of spreading trees, bright flowers, green grass, and sunny benches, reminiscent of those tucked into the neighborhoods of Paris.
The seriously Parisian part is at the very trendy The Butler and The Chef bistro at the opposite end of the park, open only for breakfast and lunch. The French toast is made with brioche and the ham quiche has huge chunks of Parisian ham. Try not to swoon.

 

• Budget time for great budget shopping in San Francisco’s best insider shopping destinations: The best consignment shop ever is Goodbyes (actually two shops across the street from each other) at 3464 Sacramento Street in Presidio Heights. Goodbyes carries popular brands (Gap, J.Jill, Chico), American designers (Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Michael Kors), and the serious stuff: Chanel, Dior, and Armani as well as wild boots and shoes.  The vintage selections include designer purses, capes, coats,  and furs.  Meander down Sacramento Street wherever you will.   The shops are uniformly wonderful, offering everything from custom bathing suits  to baby clothes. A word to the wise: The nail shop next to Good Byes offers the cheapest manicures in town at about $10 plus tip.

images

• Want more shopping?   Designer shops featuring everything from clothes to home furnishings, from antiques to boutiques, from sidewalk cafes to busy restaurants are found on Fillmore Street. Walk either direction from Sacramento and Fillmore. Union Street between Gough and Divisidero Streets is chock-full of art galleries, interior design shops, luxury day spas, and great local hangouts like Perry’s (1944 Union Street; 415/922-9022) or the Balboa Café (3199 Fillmore at Greenwich; 415/921-3944). Do a bit of time travel at  the 1861 Octagon House at  2645 Gough Street at Union Street  (415/441-7512). It’s only open on second Sundays, and second and third Thursdays of the month, from 12:noon to 3:pm, and the house is furnished in period antiques.  Don’t miss the charming little park just behind the Octagon House;  It’s a great place to see hummingbirds when the fuchsias are in bloom.

 

 

 

 

Xanadu

• So far, you  haven’t hit a single chain or department store. For those, try Union Square, on Post and Geary Streets between Powell and Mason. Make it an authentically San Francisco experience by wandering down Maiden Lane on the east side of Union Square. Check out Xanadu Gallery (140 Maiden Lane; 415/392-9999) for Asian folk art and antiques in the only Frank Lloyd Wright building in San Francisco.

• Just a couple of blocks off Union Square is a treasure house of rare books: Antiquarian book dealer Richard Haines’ bookshop, Argonaut (876 Sutter Street between Bush and Jones). Argonaut houses a superb collection rare books, maps, and ephemera of San Francisco and early California. Neat note: Argonaut was the inspiration for the bookstore in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’; as Hitchcock himself put it, “This is what a bookshop should be.” Give yourself ample time to browse; once you’re there, it’s hard to tear yourself away.

521513_436051413136217_1083984078_n

• The hottest spot in town is Valencia Street in the Mission District. It’s a wild and wonderful mix of hot new eateries, pop-up stores, funky second-hand shops (one of which shares space with a bike rental shop called Public), traditional Hispanic markets with outdoor produce displays featuring tropical fruits and vegetables , and the best hot chocolate place on the planet. Go to Dandelion (740 Valencia;415/349-0942), on Valencia between 18th and 19th streets, and order the European hot chocolate.

It’s a mouthful of ecstasy. Serious chocolate occurs in other forms as well, but the European hot chocolate qualifies as an epicurean epiphany. (Photo credit:  M. DeCoudreaux)

Scallop Chairs

 

• At the opposite end of Valencia is STUFF (up toward Market Street, at 150 Valencia Street; 415/864-2988), a huge antiques collective with three stories of, well, stuff, from mid-century furniture to name designer costume jewelry to Japanese fishing net floats to stainless steel plated custom office furniture to architectural artifacts, and this description barely scratches the surface. They always have coffee, and often have cookies or cake free for the nibbling. STUFF Jewelry

• Speaking of eating, San Francisco has some of this country’s best food, bar none. The James Beard Foundation recently named Chef Charles Phan’s Slanted Door Restaurant at the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street the best restaurant in America.

Use OpenTable.com (http://www.OpenTable.com) to book your table well in advance of arrival; reservations are notoriously hard to score.

For a local neighborhood feel, hit the 102-year-old landmark Swan Oyster Depot at 1517 Polk Street (Open 8:am – 5:30pm; 415/673 – 2757) on Russian Hill. Swan’s offers every type of oyster known to man as well as San Francisco’s native Dungeness crab, shrimp, and a superb clam chowder. Go early: There are only 20 stools at the bar. Lunchtime almost always has a line out the door, but it moves quickly.

• If you can still walk after going through STUFF, hike up to Market Street (about 2 blocks), and wander through the simply immense art supplies shop called Flax (1699 Market Street; 415/552-2355). If you love paper, notebooks, journals, diaries, Filofax, Moleskine, sketch books, water colors, fountain pens, great pencils, and all the other tools and accoutrements of putting your heart on paper, you will fall hopelessly, helplessly in love at Flax. Click on the link for  their website at www.flaxart.com to see the scale of their offerings. If you’re smart,  you’ll take along two friends:  One  to hold your wallet, and the other to carry a crow bar to pry you out of there at closing time.  

You’re going to love discovering San Francisco!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 49 other followers