A to Z 2021 – Reflection

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge Reflection post. It was certainly a fun one for me as I traveled through San Francisco, a city I have known and lived within a few miles of my entire life but had never seen as up close and personal as I did during the last month. I was able to visit some old favorite spots but also found some really new (to me) interesting places to go back to sometime. It’s funny because I usually go through the A to Z with pen and paper in hand ready to jot down those books and movies I read about in other blogger’s posts but this year I had to keep a list of places I wanted to revisit from my own blog!

In case you missed any, here is a list of the places we saw.

Enough about my topic though, let me introduce you to some other folks who did a wonderful job with their A to Z themes:

Crackerberries (Barbie) wrote Love letters to herself, but they were certainly words that we could all use.

J. Lennie Dorner, in addition to being one of the Challenge coordinators, highlighted his favorite bloggers and gave us some tips on new books to read. I was honored to be his letter “J.!” And I’ve said it before, it was one of his comments that gave me the idea for my theme this year, along with the coloring books I got from the San Francisco Chronicle.

John (also a co-host) gave us music using the call letters of radio stations and Mary at Jingle Jangle Jungle gave us music from the 80’s. It was great to open one of their blogs first and then listen to the music as I read the rest of the folks.

Frederique gave us some great DIY ideas. There are a couple I’d love to try and Weekends In Maine (Karen) also shared some crafty projects.

Trudy at Reel Focus gives us some movies that represent human needs. Added lots to my movies to watch list.

Mike gave us reptiles. Some were really interesting, although I’m not really a fan of snakes! Turtles aren’t so bad.

Jill gave us the idiom of the day, Cathy drew us Looney Tunes and “T” told us what she is looking forward to being able to do again once the pandemic is over.

We can’t forget to thank the founder of the A to Z, Mr. Arlee Bird who told us all about rivers.

I didn’t get to visit as many new bloggers as I wanted to because it was hard enough to keep up with my own and visit the folks I already knew. Thank goodness for the Road Trip and the Master list so I can go back and visit now that the rush is over.

Thanks again to all who visited my blog and left such kind words for me. I’m going to have to think really hard to come up with next year’s A to Z!

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May You Smile All Month

Fresh off the A to Z Challenge, I’m about to embark on another one because the name of the challenge just called to me. Deb Stott is curating 31 Days of Smiles with these prompts:

My answer to “Fresh” is

Because nothing beats a fresh calendar page. Hopefully we’ll be able to fill it up with fun activities as the pandemic restrictions start to ease up. What says “fresh” to you? Hope to see you play along with #SmileForAMonth.

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A to Z 2021 – Z is for the Zoo and Zuckerberg SFG

We are lucky to have the San Francisco Zoo so close. I can remember visiting when I was a child and I revisited several times when the kids went on school field trips. Our next door neighbor works there and she has told me a couple of times to go and hold a koala but so far I haven’t.

In 2007 a Siberian Tiger named Tatiana attacked some visitors who were taunting her and throwing things at her. She was put down, which was sad because it really wasn’t her fault. That was the first visitor fatality due to an animal attack in the history of the organization. Of course the zoo was closed to visitors for a while and they made modifications so it could not happen again, although how do you modify for stupid visitors?

Right now the Zoo is open but you need to make a reservation to go. It is a fun place to visit, however, it is very close to the beach so the weather can be a bit iffy sometimes. Dress in layers. There are some amazing animals who live there but sadly no elephants since 2005. Many different exhibits and beautiful gardens as well. There is also a carousel to ride and a Children’s Petting Zoo. That’s where our neighbor works so if you go, say hello to Irene and tell her Janet sent you!

Our final “Z” is for Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. It used to be just San Francisco General Hospital but in 2015 Mark Zuckerberg and his wife donated $75 million toward the renovation project and so they renamed the hospital after them.

The hospital is very impressive from the outside. It is a teaching hospital for the UCSF medical students and provides 24-hour psychiatric services, just in case you were wondering. According to their website, it is the “safest place in California to have a baby and is the only certified “Baby-Friendly” hospital in San Francisco, also nice to know.

“Everyone is welcome here,” is their motto, which brings me to the hearts (you didn’t think I would forget did you?) In 2004 the “Hearts in San Francisco” art project was started by the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation as a means of fundraising. The idea was taken from the song by Tony Bennett, “I left my heart in San Francisco.”

Each year sculptures are designed and placed throughout the city including Union Square. At the end of the year the hearts are auctioned off to raise money for the hospital. Here are this years designs.

There is a map of over 80 hearts that are around the town. Some of them are in private residences or in buildings not accessible to the public although that seems kind of selfish. I mean, if I was going to pay for a statue like this, I certainly would show it off. I found a few of them but ran out of time to find more.

I am adding the hearts to my “list of things to go back to,” kind of like a TBR list of places instead of books.

And we’ve come to the end of the A to Z Challenge for 2021! I made it! I have really had a great time going exploring for you. I hope you have had an interesting journey as well. Oddly enough, what started because of a coloring book and the fact that my son worked in San Francisco turned into a great staycation. The pandemic limited my complete participation in some of the places but I think I managed to capture the essence of each area. One of my vision cards for this year is Experience and I can definitely say I’ve had some experiences so far. Time to start thinking of what to do for next year. My reflection post will have a link to all the places in case you missed any and I am definitely going to use May to go visit all of the other interesting blog participants this year that I didn’t get a chance to read. Another staycation! Thanks so much for all the comments and kind remarks that you have left for me. It is sincerely appreciated!

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A to Z 2021 – Y is for Yerba Buena Gardens, the Year of the Ox and Yoda

There is so much going on in the Yerba Buena Gardens! In addition to the gardens there is a children’s carousel and museum, an ice skating rink and bowling.

I walked around the block to see what I could fiind. Near the Center for the Arts building is the gardens. Such a beautiful spot and the church in the background was lovely. Lots of room to sit and enjoy the views.

Then I turned around and saw this:

I walked behind the waterfall and inscribed along the wall was a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King.

It was very impressive. I also took a short video of the fountain and the garden.

In the Chinese New Year, this is the year of the Ox and because of COVID the traditional Chinese New Year Parade was not possible so instead the Chinese Chamber of Commerce decided to have statues placed throughout the city and call it The Year of The Ox on Parade. This one was across the street from City Hall.

Unfortunately, they were only on display for a month or so and I wasn’t able to get around to visiting any other ones. Also, I didn’t realize that there was a contest going on and you could take a picture near the statue and submit it to win a prize. These are what the other statues looked like.

If you look really closely at this picture of Union Square you can see the orange ox right in the middle. This one actually was defaced and had to be removed. Sad that people do things like that.

I have one more “Y” for today since I wasn’t able to get to see the Ox on Parade, I did find another statue that starts with “Y,” Yoda! I mentioned when we were driving around the Presidio that the Letterman Hospital building had been sold to LucasFilms and this statue is in the garden entrance.

Isn’t he cute? Well, one more letter to go. You have to come back tomorrow to read the story of the hearts. See you then!

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A to Z 2021 – X is for Xeriscape and X-tras

I had no idea what Xeriscape was until I saw this coloring page. Apparently Xeriscape is a type of drought-tolerant landscaping using plants native to the area requiring little or no watering or maintenance. For a state like California, that is very important.

Once I knew what it was, I started looking for it and it was showing up in all different parts of the city. In Dolores Park, near the Esmeralda Slide, on Lombard Street and by the Hidden Garden Steps.

There was some by the 16th Avenue steps as well and I’m pretty sure I read that the Salesforce Tower Garden was designed that way too.

I have even seen some examples of it in my own neighborhood and it makes perfect sense for a non-gardener like me. Lots of cacti of different sizes and shapes sound perfect.

For my second “X” I’m taking the easy way out and going with X-tras. These are a bunch of random things that I’ve seen during my excursions that I wanted to use but they didn’t fit well with any other topic.

City hall looks so cool at night.

The painted wall outside the Van Gogh Exhibition and other wall art. These are just a couple examples. I found it amusing that the Hotel des Arts had a mural on the front.

Miscellaneous statues that are all over the city:

St. Mary’s Cathedral, home to the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church. Looks like a Bishop’s Mitre. They even named a new hill, Cathedral Hill, for it.

Sutro Tower, the 3-legged TV and radio antennae and all the muni wires that made taking pictures sometimes incredibly difficult.

Bill’s Place where we stopped to have lunch on two of our sight seeing expeditions. This is funny because my husband’s name is Bill. Apparently we are not the only ones that enjoy the food. Chris Isaak, Sharon Stone and Robin Williams dined there as well!

A couple more really neat looking buildings and the home of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Last but not least, this sign in a store front window that made me chuckle.

As we get down to the last two letters I must admit I’m going to miss the exploring I’ve been doing in this city. I think I’m going to have to bribe my hubby with lunch at Bill’s Place so he’ll take me back to some of my favorite spots. Think it will work? See you tomorrow with “Y.”

Disclaimer notice. The coloring book pages are from the inserts the San Francisco Chronicle put out and I mentioned them in my theme reveal so you can go to that to get the info about the artists if you are interested. I did the coloring and took the pictures.

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A to Z 2021 – W is for Windmill and the Walt Disney Museum

When we were visiting the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden the other day I purposely did not show you the picture of the windmill that is there because I was a saving it for my “W” post. There are actually two windmills in Golden Gate Park, both around the beach.

The windmill by the tulip garden is the Dutch Windmill which was completed in 1903 and the one a little farther down the road is the Murphy Windmill, completed in 1908. The windmills were installed to be used as irrigation pumps to pump ground water for the park rather than buying it from the water company.

Both windmills are very impressive and continue to be functional. In the past at the end of April there has been a huge Dutch celebration called Kings Day, celebrating the Dutch King’s birthday. It was cancelled last year due to the pandemic and I can’t find anything about it for this year, although I’m pretty sure it would have been held last weekend if it was going to occur.

When we were at the Presidio, I saw the Walt Disney Family Museum. It was closed but you can take the tour if you schedule a time. Admission is free for retired and active military personnel and their families.

Opened in 2009 it is owned and operated as a non-profit by the Walt Disney Family and is not formally associated with the Disney Corporation. There are no rides at the museum but there is a lot of history and interesting things to see. There is also a theater which screens Disney movies daily.

Kind of short post today but at least I made it! Down to the last 3!

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A to Z 2021 – V is for Vaillancourt Fountain and Valleys

At first I was going to use the Vaillancourt Fountain as my “Q” since it has also been called “Quebec libre!” but then I found Queen Wilhelmina’s Tulip Garden and I was free to use the fountain in it’s natural letter.

Located across the street from the Ferry Building in the Embarcadero Plaza, this huge concrete sculpture has been the subject of some controversy. There were several attempts to dismantle it over the years because people think it is too stark, some even calling it “idiotic rubble,” and “a jumble of nothing.” Interestingly, U2 held a free concert there in 1987 and Bono spray painted graffiti on it, “Rock and Roll stops the traffic.” He was cited for malicious mischief, although the artist himself flew from Canada to San Francisco to praise Bono and spray painted his own message, “Stop the Madness.”

The water has been turned off a few times over the years because of draught conditions among other things. In 2017 it was turned back on. It is designed to pump 30,000 gallons of water a minute! The water has “Blue Lagoon” dye in it to prevent algae build up. You can, but I didn’t, walk behind it. When I first started taking the pictures, the fountain was not active. All of a sudden I heard a “whoosh” and the water started pouring out. Here is a short video. It is all very impressive, pretty or not.

Near the fountain is the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Monument, which is a series of panels 40 feet long and 8 feet high, dedicated in 2008. It is to honor the volunteers in the Spanish Civil War and features quotes from the volunteers and people like Ernest Hemingway.

It stands to reason that if there are hills, there must be valleys and San Francisco has those too. Cole Valley is the smallest neighborhood in the city and was at one time home to Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Eureka Valley (which includes the Castro), Hayes Valley (between Alamo Square and the Civic Center), and Noe Valley where the “urban professionals” live. The valley I am most familiar with though is Visitacion Valley for that’s where my family lived when I was born.

At that time there was a nursery there where my father worked, Geneva and Sunnydale Nursery. The picture below shows my dad on the far right, another worker next to him and then my grandmother, grandfather and older sister, JoAnne. When I was about a year and a half we moved to San Bruno and a few years later the nursery was sold and new housing was built. The Sunnydale Projects were low income housing and turned the area into one of the most crime ridden parts of the city. Fortunately, things are better in the area now after the two tall Geneva Towers were demolished and the crackdown on drugs cleaned the area up.

I drove by the house where the family lived on Schwerin Street. I’m sure it doesn’t look the same after 60+ years but at least it is still there! The school I would have attended is right across the street and the church is a few blocks away.

You can see the Cow Palace in the right corner of the picture of the Valley as it used to be. The Cow Palace has been used for many different things over the years. The Warriors basketball team played there for a while, Roller Derby and wrestling matches have been held there as well. It has seen livestock shows (hence the name Cow Palace) and gun shows as well as ice skating. The Sharks started out there before their stadium in San Jose was built.

The last time we went was to see the circus.

The site was also host to another circus, the Republican National Convention, once when Ronald Reagan was nominated and once when Barry Goldwater was nominated.

What I really missed out on was the concerts! The Beatles were there in ’64 and ’65, the Rolling Stones in ’66 and a host of others like Van Halen, the Cars, Pat Benatar, Fleetwood Mac and Prince until Metallica played there last in 2008. To connect the dots, U2 did a performance there the night before the free concert they gave at the Vaillancourt Fountain in 1987.

Okay, we are really in the home stretch now. Four more letters to go. Hope you have been having fun!

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A to Z 2021 – U is for Union Square and the Urbano Sundial

Union Square is a public plaza in the middle of downtown San Francisco. It is the hub of the upscale shopping and boutique retailers. There is a place you can rent bikes to tour the city and a coffee shop.

I was able to park and take a stroll around the whole square taking some pictures for us. On each corner is a huge heart. More about those in a future post.

In the center is the Dewey Monument honoring Admiral George Dewey, hero of the Spanish-American war. On the top is a statue of Nike, Ancient Greek Goddess of Victory.

And all around the square for several blocks are the stores that are out of my price range.

Well, maybe Macy’s is okay. Actually, I remember when I was a little girl there was an Emporium Department store and going into the city with my mom to shop at the Emporium was a real treat, especially during the holidays because the store was all decorated and had a huge tree in the middle of it. There were rides on the roof too, which we got to go on after sitting on Santa’s lap. We would be there before the store opened and they would ring a bell when they unlocked the doors. What a push there was by all the women wanting to get in and get the sales! Union Square is also close to the theaters I mentioned yesterday and there is a hotel, The Westin St. Francis, right across the street.

My next “U” is the Urbano Sundial. This is another one of those spots I happened to find while looking at the map of the city. When it was first built in 1913 it was actually part of the Ingleside Raceway. I had no idea that this was even a thing. Of course 1913 is a little before my time.

The original design had a fountain in the middle with statues of seals playing in the water but that didn’t last very long. There are several benches ringing the sundial so you can sit and pass the time. Kids (and maybe some adults?) like to climb to the top and then slide back down. I wasn’t having any of that!

Some occultists claim this is a bit like Stonehenge or the Pyramids, a “cosmic calendar built on a power spot.” How would you feel having something like this in the middle of your street?

Taking a break tomorrow and coming back on Monday with the home stretch in the A to Z. I have all my pictures ready for the finale so I feel pretty confident I’m going to be able to cross the finish line in this race.

Disclaimer notice. The coloring book pages are from the inserts the San Francisco Chronicle put out and I mentioned them in my theme reveal so you can go to that to get the info about the artists if you are interested. I did the coloring and took the pictures.

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A to Z 2021 – T is for Transamerica Building and Theaters

I kind of feel sorry for the Transamerica Building. Built in 1972, it was the tallest, most distinctive building with its pyramid shape until the Salesforce Tower topped it in 2018.

It is no longer owned by the Transamerica Corporation, having been sold in 2020 to a New York investor. Still, it is definitely an impressive building in the middle of downtown. There are four cameras at the top of the spire that make up the “Transamerica Virtual Observation Deck” that can be controlled from the lobby by visitors. How cool is that? There is also a 1/2 acre park around the base that has redwood trees which were brought in from Santa Cruz mountains.

As you can see, from certain vantage points, it still looks like the tallest. During the Christmas holidays and on the 4th of July there is a star that is lit at the top of the spire.

I know I talked about the Orpheum Theater in the letter “O” but I think that Theaters deserve a bit more attention. There are many spread out over the city. One is the Curran Theater, where we saw Jersey Boys 4 times, and Rock of Ages. My daughter was going to take me to see the Harry Potter play last year for my birthday in March but we all know what happened instead.

And right next door to that is the Geary Theater, which I have not been to but which is home to the American Conservatory Theater and looks very cool from the outside.

There is also the Golden Gate Theater at which I saw Hairspray and/or Mamma Mia. It is so old, there are no elevators so you definitely have to be able to walk some stairs if you are sitting in the balcony!

Stately Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall and the War Memorial Opera House along with Herbst Theater are all in a row across from the City Hall. Unfortunately there has been constant construction going on all up and down Van Ness Street. It has been really hard for me to get good pictures.

I wrote about the Palace of Fine Arts during my A to Z last year.

The Great American Music Hall is right around the corner from my son’s work. It only holds 470 people so I would imagine that any seat is a good one. I have not been there before.

And right next door to the Great American Music Hall is the famous Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theater. I guess you can tell from the marquee what kind of things go on in here!

I have not been to that establishment either, just in case you were wondering. All of the theaters are still closed but I am hoping that they will be able to start having some performances again this year.

One more letter this week and then we have a day of rest.

Disclaimer notice. The coloring book pages are from the inserts the San Francisco Chronicle put out and I mentioned them in my theme reveal so you can go to that to get the info about the artists if you are interested. I did the coloring and took the pictures.

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A to Z 2021 – S is for Steps and Salesforce

You know I was on the lookout for some out of the way, unusual things to share with you all and one of the things I noticed was that there were several staircases mentioned as tourist attractions. What could be so interesting about steps?

Actually we have seen some pretty steps on our journey so far. The steps by Lombard Street, the steps up to Kite Hill, by the Ina Coolbrith Park, the rainbow steps by Ghirardelli Square and the steps leading up to the Esmeralda Slide.

But I had also seen some other special staircases so I went to find them for us. First up was the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. This was a community project that was started in 2003 and finished in 2005. It is several sections and the tile design takes you from the sea to the stars.

After I got out of the car and walked to them I realized I didn’t have a mask on and there were quite a few people walking up and down so I just took a couple pictures and then left. So pretty though.

Then there are the steps at Lincoln Park. These are by Lincoln Park Golf Course and the Presidio. They are a lot wider than the steps at 16th Avenue and very pretty as well. The steps themselves date back to the 1900s. As you can imagine over the years they fell into disrepair and in 2007, Friends of LIncoln Park had the idea to repair the steps and transform them. In May 2015 the steps were officially opened. Aren’t they beautiful?

I don’t really know what the story was with the guy standing in the middle of the staircase. He was all dressed up in a sparkly costume and there was someone taking pictures of him and using a drone to take a video. I asked if it was okay if he was in my picture and he said it was but I only took a few. Interestingly, I took these shots and then we went to Lands End and the Immigrant Overlook, ate some lunch and when we were heading home we stopped by to see if the stairs were clear and he was still there! That had to be close to 2 hours later. At one point I saw him singing or something.

Finally, there are the Hidden Garden Steps. Tucked away between a couple of houses is this staircase. If you are not looking for it, you won’t necessarily see it, although there is a bench at the bottom to sit down.

The first time I went by the steps was right after I visited the 16th Avenue steps and this time I remembered to bring a mask but I didn’t walk all the way up because I had a lot of other stops to make and I had already climbed to the top of Mt. Davidson! I was disappointed about the Lincoln Park Steps being occupied so I had my hubby drive past the Hidden Garden Steps again and this time I was determined to walk all the way to the top!

There are 9 sections with 148 steps! A lot of the tiles have names and dates in dedication of people and families. The view from the top is nice but not spectacular. There were lots of trees and just the rooftops of the neighborhood. You couldn’t see the ocean or either of the bridges. I think they need that bench at the top not at the bottom! Looking down the stairs they look like ordinary tile steps. It was a lot easier going down than it was going up. I must admit that my legs were tired and I had to stop a few times on the way. I felt really good after making it up there though. Kind of helped me walk off the lunch we had. If I was thinking, I’d have told my husband to go around the block and pick me up at the top!

I struggled to find a second piece for the letter “S” since I didn’t want to use anything that started with “San Francisco” as I felt that would be too easy. Of course it was getting down to the wire (like this morning) and I still didn’t have anything. I could have just let it go since the steps are pretty amazing by themselves but I thought I’d give it one more shot. I was going to take a chance on the Sutro Tower but wouldn’t you know that today is such a cloudy day in the city that you can’t even see the tower and it is 977 feet tall!!!

I decided to go with my next choice, the Salesforce Tower. I had used part of that with “Q” as that is the picture that looks like a spaceship.

Fortunately the clouds were in the other part of the city today and I was able to navigate my way to a spot where I could park and take a couple of pictures.

The Salesforce Tower is overall 1,070 feet tall with a roof height of 970 feet. It is the tallest building in San Francisco and second tallest building west of the Mississippi. The top 9 stories of the building are actually part of an electronic art sculpture called Day for Night and using LED lights in the evening it features abstract videos of San Francisco filmed each day. I have seen it a couple times when I was driving in to pick up our son during the winter when he worked late but since I was driving, I couldn’t take any pictures of it.

There is a park that spans the street but you can only access it via a gondola from inside the building and I didn’t have time to get up there today as I was parked in a 5 minute zone for loading and unloading.

It has definitely changed the look of the skyline. This is my view when I drive in every day.

If you click on the link above for Salesforce Tower there are some pictures of the gondola to the garden and the led light show.

Whew! Made it through and it is only 11:30 AM my time! Now I have some typing and crafting to do so I’ll see you back here tomorrow for “T” I hope. I’m having a bit of trouble with this letter too. And you thought Q and X were the hard ones!

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