Saturday, June 13, 2009

It Happened In Monterey

Mom and Dad came to visit me in San Francisco! Neither of them had been to Bay Area before, so we had a great week of exploring together. The first weekend that they were in town, we planned a trip down the coast to see a bit more of the area. They picked me up after the Sunday matinee and whisked me off to Monterey!

Our home base for the get-away was the Gosby House, a bed and breakfast in Pacific Grove. Pacific Grove is the town at the point of the Monterey Peninsula and home to Vivolo's Chowder House where the three of us each had one of the best bowls of clam chowder we'd ever had. My friend, Jeff Brewer, recommended the place and we were all grateful. The chowder is served in a bread bowl that has been hollowed out, rubbed with garlic, sprinkled with cheese and toasted before the chowder is poured in. AMAZING.

We arrived in Pacific Grove in time to check-in, get dinner and catch sunset on the beach:

Dad and a Pacific Grove Sunset

Bed and breakfasts aren't always my thing, but the turn-down service at the Gosby House was quite nice

The next day, we set about exploring the peninsula. The first item on our agenda was the famous 17 Mile Drive around Pebble Beach. In addition to being the site of one of the most famous golf courses in the world, Pebble Beach is a gated community situated on the southern coast of the Monterey Peninsula. The drive circles the community, hugging the coastline for much of its length. The views are often spectacular. Along the way, we spotted lots of wildlife: Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Black-Tailed Deer and California Ground Squirrels.

The Lone Cypress stands on a small, rocky promontory along the Pebble Beach coastline and has been adopted as the symbol of Pebble Beach

Dad, Mom & the Lone Cypress

Several Harbor Seals were basking in the weak sunlight at Cypress Point

From Pebble Beach, we continued southward along the coast into Carmel-By-The-Sea. We had a nice Italian lunch in Carmel and did some window shopping before we found the Carmel Mission. The Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is another of California's original Spanish Colonial Missions. The Carmel Mission was founded in 1770 and named for the Archbishop of Milan, Italy: Charles Borromeo. The mission was destroyed in the early 1800's as the Catholics withdrew and privateers sacked the mission. Father Junipero Serra, the Franciscan Friar in charge of the California Missions is buried on the grounds of the beautifully restored mission that is once again an active parish church.

The Carmel Mission as seen from the courtyard

The interior of the Carmel Mission Chapel

Back in Carmel-By-The-Sea, we hit the beach. Carmel Beach City Park is a beautiful white sand crescent against the Pacific Ocean. It would be beautiful enough on its own, but it's also the site of a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home. The Walker Residence is perched on the beach jutting into the Pacific near the end of the city beach. The house and the setting are a perfect match.

Carmel Beach City Park

The Walker Residence - the living room's roof is cantilevered to allow for unobstructed window views in more than 180 degrees. The house really does seem to grow from the cliff.

Monday night, we returned to Pacific Grove for dinner and a movie. We wandered through the Pacific Grove farmers market sampling the amazing variety of local produce that's available in Northern California before we snagged some burgers and settled in to see Up. I loved Up. Such a moving and human story told in such a beautiful way.

Tuesday morning, we visited the Pacific Grove waterfront one last time. Just off-shore, several harbor seals were resting on the rocks and the tide pools right on the beach were full of sea life. Starfish, crabs, mussels and anemones all made their homes on the rocks.

So much life at the edges of the ocean

Dad spotted this Harbor Seal on Monday morning and we were happy to see him again on the same rock on Tuesday

From the beach, we finally visited Monterey itself. We wandered Cannery Row and scoured the waterfront for the elusive Sea Otter. While we didn't spot any otters, we found plenty of souvenirs!

Cannery Row - Monterey, CA - named for the Steinbeck-era sardine canneries that once lined this ocean-front street

En route back to San Francisco, we made a stop at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Big Basin is the oldest of California's State Parks. Its nearly 11,000 acres are dominated by the old-growth Coast Redwoods. Coast Redwoods are the tallest growing species of trees on earth. The trees at Big Basin were humbling. Several trees in Big Basin are more than 300' tall and more than 16' in diameter. To think that these very trees have been growing for, literally, 1,500 years was almost too much to consider.

Dad & Mom inside the hollow core of a living Redwood tree. The tree was hollowed out by fire, but the more than 200' tall tree lives on!

Dad and Mom with a cross-section of a fallen redwood. Mom's thumb marks the tree's ring that indicates the portion of the tree's lifespan that corresponds with hers.

We left Big Bend and I returned to work at the Golden Gate, but my adventures with my parents in San Francisco were far from over!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Biggest Little City in the World

On Monday, Roy and I packed up the car and went for a road trip.  We headed northeast past Lake Tahoe to Reno, NV.  Our wanderlust was inspired by the presence in Reno of the First National Tour of the international sensation Mama Mia! and it's newest Wardrobe Assistant, Wayne Spellman.  Though he left us only a few weeks ago, our paths converge so seldom that it seemed a shame not to go up and say, "Hello!"

For the trip to Reno, we took the scenic route.  We got off the interstate and wandered up through the mountains on appropriately windy mountain roads until this is what lay before us:

We crested the western Sierra Nevada Mountains and saw Lake Tahoe spread out below us.  Snow capped mountains ringed the brilliant blue waters of North America's largest alpine lake and made for a stunning vista.  We wound our way down to the lake's edge and stopped to take some more photos.

w/ Roy at "Inspiration Point Look-Out"

A stern-wheeler paddles into Emerald Bay

The waters of Lake Tahoe are an incredible combination of brilliant blue and crystal clear.  The water is also freezing cold - reaching only into the 60's at its peak in the summer months.  Due to it's extreme depth (estimated at 1,645' - making it the second deepest lake in North America behind Oregon's Crater Lake), Lake Tahoe does not freeze in the winter months as the water mixes from top to bottom.   

Roy and I drove along the west side of the lake enjoying the beautiful scenery all the way around.  We paused for some ice cream in Tahoe City on the shores on the Truckee River (the lake's only outlet).  (Fun fact: Due to it's vast size, depth and limited drainage, a drop of water that falls into Lake Tahoe stays, on average, 650 years.)  We pressed on round the north side of the lake and back up into the mountains toward Reno.

Driving from San Francisco to Reno, we must have passed through a half dozen distinct landscapes and climates: the cool and damp bay area, the drier hills of wine country, the vast fertile fields of the plains nearer Sacramento, the green Sierra Nevada mountains and, finally, the dessert on the in-land side of the mountains.  As we descended into Reno, things got decidedly more arid and brown.  The beauty of the landscape changed from that of towering pines set against the mountainside to flashing neon against the sides of hotels.

 The marquee for Circus Circus

We arrived in Reno around 5PM, got settled into our room and opened the room's connecting door to find Wayne on the other side!  It was wonderful to see Wayne and to hear about his adventures in Hawaii - he even returned with presents for the whole company of Spamalot!  Before long, we were off in search of one of Wayne's favorite dinners: the prime rib buffet.

Just outside our hotel was this retired version of the famous "Biggest Little City..." sign.  

Before long, we wandering up and down "the Strip" visiting many of Virginia Street's fine gaming establishments.  We played arcade games and took in the circus acts at Circus Circus in addition to trying our hands at various games of chance.  Unfortunately, I wasn't very lucky at very many of those game; fortunately, I didn't take along much money...

The "Imperial Acrobats of China" performing hither-to-unheard-of feats of catching-metal-bowls-on-their-heads-whilst-riding-unicycles!

I found it hard to tell how Roy felt about the place...

Tuesday morning, we headed back to the buffet for breakfast before Wayne had to be at load-in.  It was strange to see him headed off to load-in a show while Roy and I only waved good-bye...  Roy and I took the faster route home (up through the Donner Pass!) and were back in San Francisco by mid-afternoon.

TVFMHRW - Reno, featured load-in already in progress at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts

I had a great time road tripping with Roy and visiting with Wayne.  The drive around Lake Tahoe was breath-taking, but it was hanging out with a couple of great friends that was the highlight of the trip!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More Tales of the City

Week #2 in San Francisco brought our official opening night on Wednesday.  It was a little surreal to be preparing for a big opening night that was also performance #1277, but it was fun to have that buzz in the air.  Eric Idle came for opening night along John Du Prez (the show's author and composer, respectively) as did our Associate Director, General Manager and Press Agent - it was quite a night around the office.  The show went super well; the audience obviously enjoyed themselves quite a lot.  Afterward, we all retired to the Hotel Monaco for a fancy opening night party.

Everyone jockeyed for a photo w/ Eric: Geoff, Eric and Ken

Opening night was also Karl's birthday, so we celebrated with a round of cupcakes and a toast.

The San Francisco Chronicle accompanies all their theatre reviews with a cartoon graphic illustrating the reviewer's impression.  For our review, the cartoon man was described as "wild applause".  We're a hit!

Friday, I visited the oldest existent building in San Francisco, the Mission Dolores.  The sixth of Calafornia's 21 Spanish Missions, the Mission San Francisco de Asis (as the Mission is formally known) was established on June 29th, 1776.   The town that grew up around the Mission on the banks of the creek named Arroyo de los Dolores took the name of the Mission and became San Francisco.  In 1782, construction began on the adobe mission building that still stands on the site today.  The current building has withstood several major earthquakes, conversion to a secular building and back again as well as the filming of Vertigo on the grounds (the grave of "Carlotta Valdes" was in the church's adjacent cemetery).  Though the Mission's chapel is still regularly used for services, the Mission Dolores Basilica stands alongside the older structure.  Both rooms are magnificent, in their own way, and both are beautiful places for quiet contemplation.  

The 18th Century Mission Dolores alongside the 20th Century Basilica

The interior of the Mission's chapel.

My visit to the Mission drove home the point that California had a long history separate and apart from the story of the rest of the United States.  The history I learned in school focused on the events of 1776 back east and hardly mentioned the massive colonization effort that the Catholic Church and Spain were undertaking on the West Coast.  To read the list of Spanish Missions in California is fascinating - so many of the Missions have grown into the major cities of modern California (Mission San Diego de Alcala, Mission Santa Cruz, and Mission Santa Barbara are but a few examples).  It's interesting  the way that history is viewed and taught through current prisms - the kids in California get a whole year of California specific history (like the kids in Texas also do).  They build sugar cube models of the various Missions while I was learning the geological history of the Great Lakes...

The weekend passed, as it so often does, in a flurry of shows - it's been quite nice, however, to not have to pack up the show on Sunday evenings.  To just do the show, wish everyone a "great day off" and walk out the stage door is refreshing!  We've all settled into the Golden Gate Theatre and are making ourselves at home.  Admittedly, it's a bit of a shabby home, but I'm happy to be staying for a while longer.  The Golden Gate opened as a vaudeville house in 1922 and later became a major motion picture theater (even boasting a Cinerama screen when that was something to boast about) before suffering a major decline in the 1970's.  The theater reopened as a legitimate venue in 1979 under the joint ownership of the Shorenstein Hayes Nederlander Group.  Today, it feels a bit neglected, much like the "Tenderloin" neighborhood that surrounds it. 

The Golden Gate Theater stands at the intersection of Taylor Street and Golden Gate Avenue just off of Market Street in the heart of Sketchy Town.

Sunday marked both Ken and Merle's birthdays, so a party was in order.  The Spamily celebrated at the Tonga Room with tropical drinks, dancing and frivolity after shot night.  A bunch of us hopped the Hyde Street Cable Car for the ride up the hill to the Fairmont Hotel.  From the moment we boarded the cable car, 'til the moment we left the Tonga Room, I was grinning.  I absolutely love a good tiki bar and the addition of the cable car only made things more fun!

All aboard for the tiki bar!
DVZ, Jame, Roy, Geoff, Ken, Karl & Francesca all caught a ride up the hill

Ken, Merle and Suzanne (Suzanne's birthday was the following Tuesday) share a birthday Lava Bowl

Gurr & Jeff in the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room

And with that, the second week of our engagement in San Francisco came to an end.  I've been enjoying my stay here and am excited about having a whole month still ahead of me in which to explore and ride cable cars!