Archive for the 'San Francisco' Category

San Francisco – Everyday Insider!

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Every chance I get to ride a vintage carousel, I ride it! There are SO few of these gems left, and their craftsmanship needs to be admired up close and personal. So, when you are at the San Francisco Zoological Gardens, this is the second “historic” experience you can have!

This rare menagerie Carousel is one of only 14 left in the world, and it is one of only seven Dentzel Carousels remaining in the United States!

The antique Eugene Friend Carousel is located near the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo. It was made by master carver, William Dentzel in about 1921.

The carousel concept began as early as the 1100s, when Arabian and Turkish horsemen played a pseudo war game. Italian and Spanish crusader spectators described it as a “little war,” or garosello and carosella, in their respective languages.

Part of the event was a ring-spearing tournament in which the men would ride at full speed and try to spear a small ring hanging from a tree or pole, and, indeed, even early American carousels still had brass-rings as part of the experience. How they were used I’m not quite sure, but in such a way the 19th and 20th century term for “success” was coined as “grabbing the brass ring”.

I think the ring was at the edge of the compound and people used to reach out from the twirling carousel to grab it. The inherent danger, on what has become a child’s world tool, is undoubtedly why this practice is no longer part of the experience.

But the adventurous crusaders brought the game back to Europe where it evolved into an extravagant display of horsemanship, which was called carrousel in French.

By the 1700s, some Frenchmen decided to build a device for (somehow) training young noblemen in horsemanship. This became the beginning of the carousel as we know it.

During the 1800s, carousels became geared toward amusement rather than practical horsemanship.

By the 19th century, wagon-maker Michael Dentzel began to construct and operate carousels in Germany, where there was a long tradition of inspired woodcarving..

His son, Gustav, carried the idea to America in 1860, where the Dentzel family became renowned for its intricate woodcarving, craftsmanship and “menagerie” style, depicting many different kinds of animals, not just horses.

The Zoo’s Carousel was named to honor Bay Area philanthropist, Eugene Friend. This particular merry-go-round showcases the lavish, expensive, intricately detailed, lovingly hand-carved wooden artwork which disappeared during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Modern carousels are made of cast metal and fiberglass, sadly.

The antique Dentzel Carousel has 2 chariots and 50 animals, which include: horses, giraffes, ostriches, tigers, lions, pigs, rabbits, cats and even a reindeer. They are individually embellished with whimsical details and jewels.

It’s now 3 million revolutions and counting, since its placement at the San Francisco Zoo in 1925!

The historic Dentzel Carousel has undergone a complete renovation and then successive restorative upkeep.

In 2000, after spending almost 1,000 hours on each animal, the restorers have painstakingly and lovingly recreated each sculpture as originally intended.

In addition, the carousel received a new set of hardened steel gears cut to the original Dentzel specifications, and a new drive system with electronically controlled motors, along with new steel bearings. The Zoo also tended the interior and exterior carousel building and roof, which were repaired and repainted. The project totaled $1 million.

So, it will bring pleasure for generations and please support its upkeep in every way you can.

Dentzel Carousel – Fee $2 per child

Adults may ride free when standing next to a child with a ticket.

Enjoy your visit!

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

San Francisco – Museum of Modern Art

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I am continuing with a list of Everyday Insider! (TM) events or venues which tourists to San Francisco can use to enjoy California life with the locals.

Come celebrate the 75th Anniversary of San Francisco’s renowned Museum of Modern Art, until January 16, 2011. Founded in 1935, SFMOMA was the first museum on the Pacific Coast devoted to modern and contemporary art.

I remember the Museum being in the Veterans Building, near City Hall. Now, it is housed in a wondrous new building, in alignment with it being a museum for modernity.

First, a little history — on January 18, the San Francisco Museum of Art, under the leadership of its founding director Grace McCann Morley, opened on the 4th floor of the War Memorial Veterans Building on Van Ness Avenue. This was where the United Nations charter was signed after World War 2.

It was endowed with a gift of 36 artworks from Albert M. Bender, which included “The Flower Carrier”, 1935, by Diego Rivera. Bender’s collection established the nucleus of the permanent collection. In a further, remarkable display of generosity, Mr. Bender donated more than 1,100 objects to the museum and endowed its first purchase fund before his death in 1941.

SFMOMA became one of the first museums to recognize photography as a fine art. That’s an amazing concept now!

“The Anniversary Show brings together more than four hundred works from the collection, highlighting moments when the history of the museum has intersected meaningfully with the history of art.”

The Museum has always been adventurous and it was here that Jackson Pollock’s first solo museum exhibition happened in 1945. Porcelains, paintings, sculptures are all fodder for us viewing the world through the eyes of artists who interpret what they see far differently than the rest of us do.

I like the piece by Barry McGee, “Untitled, 1996/2009”, which is featured on the website, but personally, I have a hard time deciding what I think excellent modern Art is.

I know what I like, but taking responsibility for sharing a ‘new vision’ or using ‘new materials’ is often problematical as to whether I think it “qualifies” as Art.

I think a lot of other people feel this way. But, there are adventurous artists who are fleshing-out this movement and they deserve the chance to shape your life, so visit.

Periodically, there are Curator Talks, and this might be something to aim for is you would like to understand more.

This next event looks interesting on the roster —

At multiple locations (check the Museum site) Rebecca Solnit’s “Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas” Solnit’s forthcoming book “Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas” re-invigorates and reinvents map-making to chart not just space and place but people and time, using her 22 inventive maps.

From July through December, SFMOMA is issuing copies of seven maps, and each map launch is united with a series of Live Art events featuring many of Infinite City’s collaborating writers, artists, and cartographers.

Two maps about Identity are featured in October 2010.

Find information on the SF Museum of Modern Art.


San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) – Trip 33

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

These are the last stops on the San Francisco 49 Mile Drive roster, and frankly, their order doesn’t make any geographic sense. But these become singelton, of-choice venues. No need to go to them, except if there is a reason, with the exception of the Art Museum.

Moscone Center, is San Francisco’s main convention center – named for a poor mayor, in my opinion. It offers more than 1 million square feet of space, and is one of the biggest column-free exhibit halls in the United Sates. Also located in the central blocks of Yerba Buena Gardens are the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Rooftop children’s area.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is housed in an impressive new building, and it is the principal center for modern art in the Bay Area. I may bring an article about it at a later date.

AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants national baseball team, evokes the intimate feeling of classic ball parks across the land, is located in SoMa, and is near the Bay. It is a new sports park.

Other Sports Arenas: Monster Park is the home of the San Francisco 49ers (football) – again taking it’s name away because of funding. The original venue was Kezar Stadium, on the edge of Golden Gate Park, where it is now just a running-track. Football has taken over San Francisco’s former baseball park, which also has had a constant change of names, as “sponsors” required their corporate name to be attached. For me, it will ALWAYS be Candlestick Park, as it was originally designed, and I think that should have been respected. Evidently, so did the voters. It is now Candlestick Park, permanently via a winning ballot measure. It is located out on a promentory of San Francisco Bay, but the surrounding neighborhood is not a particularly good one. The team will head to Santa Clara in 2014.

The Cow Palace, in South San Francisco, has been the indoor arena which has hosted several presidential political party conferences, as well as sports contests, trade shows and entertainment events.

San Francisco International Airport, which is whi14 miles (24 km) south via the freeway. It is San Francisco’s gateway to the Pacific and to the world. There are several ways that you can use to come into the City from there. I’ll probably write an article more specifically on this topic.

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) – Trip 32

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Today, we are continuing with a list of Everyday Insider! (TM) venues which tourists to San Francisco can use to enjoy California life with the locals.

This special place survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, due to the innovative architecture of one brilliant man!

The Old San Francisco Mint is an impressive 1873 building, and is a virtually unique example of Federal Greek-Revival architecture; it is also the starting point for the Barbary Coast Walking Trail.

In the next months, the Old Mint will return to the public eye and take its rightful imminence in Bay Area History as a beacon for the area’s history, culture and events.

This is sorely needed in San Francisco as it is one of only 4 major US cities which does not have a major institution dedicated to telling and show-casing its own history and culture, achievements and the City’s contribution to global culture.

The Mint Project hopes to establish The Mint as the gateway for all SF tourist activities and it will include a major Visitors Information Center, and you will be able to see the vaults.

The project will be a prime example of “green”, environmentally-sound, historic preservation, at its best.

The Old Mint is one of the most important national historic landmarks in the United States. Built between 1869 and 1873, the Old U.S. Mint is one of the few significant buildings in the center of San Francisco to survive the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

During its 63 years of minting operations, the building played a vital role in the national economy – as it produced over 59% of US gold and silvercoinage and bullion,  less than a year after construction!

And, the vaults in the building was the secure repository of one-third of the nation’s gold reserves during the Great Depression!

Now, with the planned restoration and conversion, this National Historic Landmark will again be a center of service to its community.

Its architect was Alfred Bult Mullett (Apr.7, 1834 – Oct 20, 1890). Mullett was an American architect who served from 1866 to 1874 as the Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury Department. His work followed trends in the Victorian style, gradually evolving from Greek Revival to Second Empire to Richardsonian Romanesque.

The Old Mint serves as a rare monumental example of the late Greek Revival period, and its original construction epitomizes late 19th century “fire-proof” building technologies, construction techniques and noteworthy craftsmanship. It had a “floating foundation”, which is probably why it survived the Earthquake, intact.

When restored, the unique mix of experiences at the Mint will include:

* A themed, interactive  chronology of San Francisco Bay Area History
* Official San Francisco Visitor’s Information Center
* Multiple Learning Centers – including StoryLab and Innovation Wing
* Bay Area cultural retail (e.g, food, beverages, merchandise)
* Historic event rental spaces – large courtyard, U.S. Treasury Vaults

Upon leaving the Mint’s Visitor Center, tourists will be able to chose from more than 100 Historical and Cultural Threads, organized by historical era, cultural identity or subject matter, and thereby create a personalized itinerary, for whatever length of time they have, to discover and experience the whole Bay Area region.

Various walking and motorized tours will start from Mint Plaza.

A smart phone mobile telephone platform will deliver additional content layers, enabling visitors to customize itineraries,  to satisfy their personal areas of interest, both inside and out of the Mint building.

The Old Mint a central downtown location which is next to public transit:  BART and Muni (Powell Station), the Cable Car turnaround and is walking distance from many hotels.

Learn more about the Oral History Project of San Francisco.

Learn more about: SF Mint Project.

Enjoy it when it opens.

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) – Trip 31

Friday, September 17th, 2010

If you have been watching the Great Food Truck Race on the FoodNetwork in the United States or online at then you will be aware that the French cuisine Food Truck business named Spencer On The Go, is owned by San Franciscans and we are heading into the part of town where they are usually parked!

As we head to the South-of-Market (SoMa) district, one which has been revitalized, over the last 3 decades, you will find this fantastic chance to eat authentic French cuisine, at much more reasonable prices, than in a bricks and mortar restaurant.

The chef is Laurent Katgely. Their team came in third in the Race, and deserved to be in the final two. The other team which beat them, by only $37, was SO ordinary with nothing to teach! I hope the Vietnamese Nom-Nom truck will win; they are a savvy team.

It’s such a shame that it was not a face-off between pure French and Vietnamese (which has lots of French influences).

On the Race, Laurent had the hardest time finding authentic ingredients, and yet he made amazing, tasty, professional well-regarded food. Nom-Nom had the second hardest time finding their ethnic ingredients, while Grill It All – the other finalist, had NO problem finding ingredients or unadventurous customers.

In San Francisco, at Spencer on the Go, you’ll be eating at the four-wheeled French takeaway, in a parking lot, but it’s fabulous food and at night the patrons of Terroir wine bar across the street, in SOMA, come pouring out for Laurent’s meals!

Laurnet Katgely may not be a typical San Francisco chef, as he was born in the French Alps. He began cooking at just 14 years old and attended culinary school in France. Upon moving to America in 1992, Katgely worked at New York’s Lepinasse and then he moved out West to take the Executive Chef post at Pastis in L.A.

In the Bay Area, Katgely has worked at several highly respected restaurants and now, with his wife at his side, they decided to open his own French restaurant, Chez Spencer, in 2002.

More recently, as I’ve said, Katgely is the force behind “Spencer on the Go,” San Francisco’s only mobile French bistro. Katgely aims to keep all prices less than $12 and he rotates the menu often, including:
___ escargot puffs
___ grilled sweetbreads
___ mushroom vol au vents (puff pastry canapes)
___ boeuf bourguignon with truffles
___ curried frogs’ legs
___ Provençal ratatouille stew in a cup (vegetarian)
___ snail pops on a stick
___ skate braised with capers
___ frog’s legs with curry

— go into the Terroir wine bar and order a glass to top off your meal.

Laurent is going for gold with this highly-experienced menu, so you won’t find anything predictable, and the meals which I saw him make in that little kitchen were amazing! They were well-received by people in all parts of the country, during the Race, many of whom had never had such authentic French meals, if any at all. He was uncompromising in his detail and quality, and to be beaten by $37 by a group of burger-hacks is a deep blow. The prize money on-the-line is $50,000.

But, when visiting San Francisco, you can either go to the lavender color Food Truck or his regular sit-down restaurant nearby, Chez Spencer.


Next time, we’re off to see a few things in the SoMa neighborhood.


Spencer on the Go (415-864-2191)
Spencer on the Go
near Terroir Natural Wine Merchant & Bar, 1116 Folsom Street, between 7th and 8th Streets.

Chez Spencer – 82 14th St., San Francisco

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review