Sara Godwin

Archive for 2014|Yearly archive page

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
$350,000 worth of gold au natural

$350,000 worth of gold au natural

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Not all that glitters is gold, or silver, for that matter.  The proof is in this spectacular glass chaise brought from Paris by Steinitz (Steinitz@steinitz.fr)

Not all that glitters is gold, or silver, for that matter. The proof is in this spectacular glass chaise brought from Paris by Steinitz (Steinitz@steinitz.fr)

A cache of 19th century gold coins found buried in tin cans in the Sierras  by a couple out walking their dog.  The estimated value of the  stash: $10 million.

A cache of 19th century gold coins found buried in tin cans in the Sierras by a couple out walking their dog. The estimated value of the stash: $10 million.

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.

A mystery menorah, believed to have been made in Eastern Europe over a century ago, no one seems to know when it got here or how it got from there to here. (danielsteinantiques .com)

A mystery menorah, believed to have been made in Eastern Europe over a century ago, no one seems to know when it got here or how it got from there to here. (danielsteinantiques
.com)

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 • South Park is a little piece of Paris tucked between Second and Third Streets, not far from AT&T Park. The entire park is currently undergoing a major renovation that includes new trees, new turf, shiny new architecturally innovative play equipment , as well as new benches and picnic tables.  Word on the street is that the beautifully redesigned space will open to the public at the end of February, 2017.

Once the chain link fencing comes down, you can channel Cate Blanchett in ’Blue Jasmine’ by sitting on the bench where Jasmine quietly divorced reality at the end of the film. You’ll find that bench  at the end of the park closest to Second Street, across from the Mexican restaurant.

A small urban island of spreading trees, bright flowers, green grass, and sunny benches, filled with children playing and people walking dogs of every shape and size, it is reminiscent of the jewel-like parks that contribute so much of the charm of  Parisian neighborhoods.

The seriously Parisian part is at the hyper-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 at 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 a wild variety of 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 hand-embroidered baby clothes to raincoats and warm sweaters for dogs.

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• 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 park-like garden just behind the Octagon House;  It’s a great place to spot 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  the only Frank Lloyd Wright building in San Francisco at 140 Maiden Lane for a uniquely dramatic take on how commercial space should be designed.

• 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.

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• 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.

• After decades at the corner of Valencia and Market Street, the immense art supplies shop called Flax (415/552-2355) has moved into space at Fort Mason. 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.

The visitors bonus they never even mention? The Fort Mason location offers glorious views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and a very good chance to spot sea lions and harbor seals, not to mention seagulls and pelicans.  Just steps away from Flax, dine at Greens, the nationally recognized vegetarian restaurant. With a seat by the window, you can watch  yachts maneuver in and out of the San Francisco Marina, and container ships putting out to sea.

You are going to love discovering San Francisco!

The Best-Kept Birding Secret in the United States

In Uncategorized on March 26, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Savvy Traveler Blog

This migratory green jay shows off  brilliant plumage This migratory green jay shows off brilliant plumage Green jay from another  angle in McAllen, Texas Green jay from another angle in McAllen, Texas Chachalacas scurry along Birdwatching Center at Bentsen -Rio Grande McAllen, Texas Chachalacas scurry along Birdwatching Center at Bentsen -Rio Grande McAllen, Texas A Great Kiskadee , once known as the Kiskadee Flycatcher, snatches insects out of the air and small fish out of water. A Great Kiskadee , once known as the Kiskadee Flycatcher, snatches insects out of the air and small fish out of water. Buff-bellied hummingbirds are found, nowhere else in the continental United States. Buff-bellied hummingbirds are found, nowhere else in the continental United States.

Southwest Texas is an edgy sort of place, located on the edges of Mexico and the U.S., along the edge of the Rio Grande, at the edge of land and water,  just 70 miles west of the Gulf Coast, at the southern edge of the continent.  Here,  Mexican, Tejano, and Anglo cultures, English and Spanish, swirl and blend into a melange best known as Tex-Mex. This cultural potpourri makes for great food — think chimichangas, carne asada, and horchata. Here, fertile river delta irrigated farmland bumps up against native thorn…

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Half-a-Million Reasons To Go To Nebraska — Now!

In Baby Boomers, Birding, Grandparent, Kids, Nebraska, Parent, Sandhill cranes, Travel, Wildlife, Women's Travel on March 4, 2014 at 11:50 pm

IMG_9828It’s dark, it’s cold, and just a few feet away are hundreds upon hundreds of sandhill cranes, all of which  have flown thousands of miles,  to land at what amounts to a pinpoint, geographically speaking.  Sandhill cranes gather in huge numbers, the largest bird migration in the Americas, riding the winds of the Central Flyway from Mexico, Texas, and New Mexico.  Their destination? A 75-mile chunk of the Platte River  between Kearny and Grand Island, a tiny landing strip given its context smack in the middle of   the North American continent. The Platte is a braided river, with slim strands of shimmering shallow water crossing and weaving  around an ever-shifting pattern of narrow sandbars. Gathered on these sandbars to roost at night, the cranes are protected from predators. Standing in densely-packed flocks, their collective body heat helps mitigate the icy cold of both air and water.  This is their staging area, where the cranes spend about three weeks resting and replenishing their stores of fat in order to fly north to the nesting grounds in northern Canada, Alaska, and Siberia.

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No one I know would hesitate for a moment to sign up  to watch the wildlife migration across the Serengeti Plains of Africa, and most would regard it as the trip of a lifetime . People from all over the world do it every year. Yet a migration of magnificent birds — sandhill cranes stand four feet tall, not counting their two-foot long bill,  and have a  7.5 foot  wingspan that’s wider than most people are tall —  is practically a national secret.  Even knowledgeable birders, the kind of folks who routinely book trips to go see birds they can’t see at home, often don’t know about the sandhill cranes and Nebraska.  Jane Goodall  has called it ‘one of the top ten animal migrations in the world’, and she’s spent enough time working with National Geographic to know.  Here’s your chance to be one of the cognoscenti, and by comparison with traipsing off to Africa or South America, it’s a bargain, too.

The cranes begin arriving at the end of February, and leave in April, so March is the moment.  Book now. The migration peaks in mid-to-late March, and there are a several crane festivals that are  richly informative and well worth attending.  These organizations offer guides, tours, blinds, information centers, and the opportunity to see sandhill cranes by the thousands:   The Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center , (402) 797-2301; e-mail Audubon Nebraska)  ,  the Rowe Sanctuary (308) 468-5282), and Crane Trust (402/797-2301) .  Make an appointment, so you’re sure to have a place on a tour and in the blinds.

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Sandhill cranes roost in the Platte River during the night, and their ‘lift-off’ early in the morning is one of the wonders of nature.  For the full drama, get to the blind before daybreak.  Being Nebraska, the Great Plains sunrise is spectacular all by itself; add in the magnificence of hundreds of birds taking flight simultaneously, and it’s a memory you’ll treasure for the rest of your life.

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This is a perfect ‘take the kids or grandkids’ trip.  Bundle them up warmly, bring a big thermos of hot chocolate and plenty of trail mix or energy bars, and make sure they know how to use binoculars.  Let them use their cell phone cameras to tweet their friends.   What child wouldn’t be fascinated by a bird taller than they are that can fly  170 to 450  miles per day — and as much as 500 miles a day with a steady tail wind?   And do it at 38 miles per hour? Or a bird that dances until it finds just the right partner, a mate it will stay with for the rest of its life?  A bird that can live to be 40 years old, that every year flies north thousands of miles to nest, and then turns around and flies thousands of miles south to spend the winter where it’s warm.  Here are some intriguing math puzzles: How many wingbeats does it take to cross a continent?  How many days would it take to drive — or walk– that distance?  Tall, slim, elegant, and able to fly across entire continents, cranes have the power to fascinate anyone who gets near them.

The first time I went on a  ‘Crane Watch, ‘ as they call it in Nebraska,  my husband and I took his mother, then in her late 70s and recovering from a broken hip, and his 12-year-old niece.  Mom had her walker, and the niece had a video camera.  We got the kid out of school by promising her teacher that she would produce a video that her whole class could watch when she returned.  That led to a crash course in camera angles, keeping the camera steady, approaching wildlife slowly and silently, and narrating raw footage so everyone knew what they were seeing on film. It all came together in that glorious moment when the credits rolled, and it said, ‘By Sarah Hudson’.  Mom hated her walker, and flatly refused to use it, so she tromped along the farm roads beside the corn fields, with the two of us anxiously trotting alongside, trying to keep up with her.  She had the eyes of a hawk, and I suspect she spotted more cranes than the rest of us put together.

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We spent quite a bit of time just trying to find cranes at first: None of us knew that the cranes use their bills to smear mud all over their feathers, so they blended in perfectly with the brown stubble fields.  We had been driving past the fields for an hour before we twigged to what we were seeing.  If several had not flown, we  might never have seen them.  Why cranes cover themselves in mud is one of the great ornithological mysteries.  Speculation has suggested everything from camouflage to killing feather parasites, but the answer remains as yet unknown. A doctoral dissertation anyone?

Just as the sun sets — and prairie sunsets are famous for their color and cloudscapes — the cranes return to the river to roost on the sandbars, safe from coyotes and foxes. Both of the centers offer evening viewing from their blinds. The last time I saw the cranes was a year ago, and we watched the cranes return by the light of a full moon.  If you can schedule that, do it.

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One last footnote.  The year that I first saw the cranes in Nebraska,  twenty years ago and more, I flew out on June 25th at ice-out  to visit a lodge in Bathurst Inlet, Northwest Territories, which is about as far north as you can go in the NWT without falling off the edge of the earth. We knew the sandhill cranes came through on the last leg of their northbound journey, so we looked for them every day.  Our stated mission was to follow the caribou migration, research for a documentary film on North American migrations.

We never found the caribou, and we never spotted any sandhill cranes. As research went, it was a bust.  We were loading our gear into the Otter that would take us back to Yellowknife when one of the other guests came running up, pelting as fast as she could go.  “Your crane,” she panted.  “It just landed behind the lodge.”   We dropped our packs, and dashed off behind her.  And there it was: A solitary sandhill crane.  The timing was just about right for a bird that had been in Nebraska when we were there.  As we watched, it lifted off the ground, made a sharp left turn and began winging its way to Siberia.  It still makes my neck prickle.

There’s nothing else like this, and you’ll never forget it.  Go!

Crane Festivals this year are from March 20 to April 6, 2014.  These websites list all the activities they’re offering:

http://nebraskacranefestival.org/

http://visitkearney.org/sandhill-cranes/

http://rowe.audubon.org/calendar-events-7

http://www.cranetrust.org/sandhill-cranes/

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