City of contrasts

It’s taken fifteen years to come back to San Francisco but on the shuttle bus to Petite Auberge up near Nob Hill it’s like we’d never left.

tricking the eyes
tricking the eyes

San Francisco is a one-off … a city all on its own – sparkling Harbour waters crossed by the dull-orange (International Orange paint) span of the Golden Gate Bridge;  its innovative architecture, much with cutting-edge safety designs … as you’d expect for a city poised over the San Andreas Fault and those two opposing plates in a constant ‘head-butt’. As they say, something’s gotta give.

Down by the water, the buildings’ foundations go down into reclaimed land, sand actually, and you know what happens to sand when it super-heats (i.e. by friction in an earthquake) – yes, it turns to molten glass. Ancient Chinese proverb? When earthquake hit, head for hills.

image 1

San Francisco is also a city of great contrasts – a middle-aged woman bedecked with bling (the non-fake kind), makeup and hairdo unable to disguise her age, and laden with parcels as she exits a designer clothes store, pauses at the traffic light.

Beside her stands a grey-haired, black man, his face deeply-lined; his dark suit too large for his shrunken frame as he braces against the rush of a passing bus. He holds out a paper cup and shakes it. “Change? Any change?” The woman studies the Don’t Walk sign across the road until the lights turn red, then she’s gone.

There are other more delightful contrasts though – lush city gardens, but across the Bay, the bare, brown and beautiful hills of Marin County; neat architecture of the older style San Francisco terrace houses back-dropped by glass and metal towers.

The Flower Sellers - Diego Rivera
The Flower Sellers - Diego Rivera

One of my favourite buildings is the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Here I also have a task – to find another pair of perfect earrings.

If you know me well, you’ll recognise my earring addiction – not just any earrings though – I know what I like. Whenever Ross was working in California over the past twenty years he brought me back a pair (he has good taste in earrings, if not in clothes). Those from MOMA have outlasted, outdone all the others. They are designed and made by artists and it shows.

I find a perfect pair at a reasonable price, and as a bonus, in MOMA’s wonderful art collection I come across my favourite Diego Rivera painting. He was a Mexican artist of the early 20th C, a painter of the people for the people and once married to Frida Kahlo. The Flower Sellers – intense, colourful, solid shapes; stoic, patient faces of the couple as they go about their work.

By luck we decide to pay an extra $5 to see a photographic exhibition by an unknown (to us) American photographer, Richard Avedon.

the bee-keeper

Turns out he’s one of the most famous image-capturers of the 20th Century. I’ll let a couple of his pictures do the talking. Check out the link too.

The Bee-keeper

the snake-skinner
the snake-skinner

Highlights of San Francisco:

  • The Petite Auberge – B&B on Bush St (thank you Expedia.com.au) with fireplace and the feel of the French countryside. All included h’orderves at 6pm, full breakfast with Edith Piaf singing in the background. We end up in the honeymoon suite because I’d asked for a quiet room – apparently all the rooms are quiet.
  • Must sees: The De Young Museum Art Gallery and the city’s Science Museum.
  • Les Joulins Jazz Bistro in Ellis St where Ross connects up with barman and fellow jazz sax player, Charles Unger.  The music grooves and so does the food.  charles unger
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