Sunday, August 26, 2012

Insider Tips from Outsider Fellows!

I skipped a week of writing. 
At the beginning I was just delaying the writing, waiting for the time right time to go take some photos, but the time never seemed to come and I stayed busy with work and life in general. I was getting a bit anxious about the lack of what I thought was inspiration, and by the fact that the days of the week kept passing by and I had not had the chance to explore somewhere, seen something new, or been motivated to take photos.
It all started two weeks ago when our friends visited from Paris. They stayed with us and we spent the week showing them around our wonderful city. It was quite refreshing to see San Francisco through the eyes of tourists. Not only did we see the same old things in new ways, but we also discovered many new things in our city.  For example, I had never visited City Lights (, a super cool bookstore founded in 1953 right on the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Streets in North Beach. We had walked pass the bookstore many times but had never gone in. In fact, we hadn’t even noticed it was there.  Thanks to our French friends, we learned about it and got super excited about all the fun books in it!
While at City Lights, one of our friends showed us a book about the graffiti artist Banksy.  This “British graffiti artist known for his intricate stencil images with ironic socio-political content” seemed familiar in some ways. I guess I had seen one or more of his famous images on t-shirts or in a book. But, the point is, we learned that we could find some of his original work right here, in San Francisco!

Our friends also went on a self-guided tour of the famous murals that are hidden in alleys in the Mission District. My blog on Street Art had some photos of these murals from one of our first visits to San Francisco before moving here but, since moving here, we haven’t really visited the murals to see what new and fun art is now decorating these alleys.

During our friends’ visit, I didn’t take photos because I was busy being their tour guide and I was simply enjoying showing them around. Seeing how much they loved San Francisco made me want to re-discover our city, to do something new, to see all the exciting things that the city has to offer and that, sometimes, I don’t even know exists!

Our friends left a week ago and it was then that my week got very busy. In the back of my mind I wanted to go out, take some photos but it just didn’t happen. Not until this weekend!

As if things weren’t challenging enough, the weather last week was quite gloomy. The fog didn’t clear until the afternoon and only for a few hours. Evenings were very foggy, windy and cold. As we walked Bomber in the evenings, it was funny to think that this is summer weather in San Francisco!

During one foggy walk, I took some photos. I don’t mind the cold damp weather. I actually like it a bit and it was fun to take photos of the fog, of what the city looks like on a foggy Wednesday evening during the summertime!

We got home when the sun was already down, which meant that I got some cool night shots along the way.

On Friday we set out on a walk with the purpose of taking photos but it didn’t work. We didn’t get quite to where we wanted and ended up just walking around, with our dog. We did see, from one of the hills, some of the fancy sailboats that are in town for the America’s Cup. We sat on the sidewalk on a street corner, and watched the races for a bit. After a while, we got up and moved on.

With the weekend finally here, I hoped to finally be able to find inspiration – weekends are great, they feel so free! So, on Saturday, I headed up to Noe Valley to meet a wonderful friend who was visiting the city (she recently moved out of the city) and, a few hours—and several cups of tea—later, Joe came down with Bomber to meet me to go for a walk somewhere new, hopefully somewhere with a good view of the city.

Having no plan, we started walking up the street. We walked a few blocks and then saw a hillside park called Billy Goat Park. We went up it and got an amazing panoramic view of San Francisco. Because of the time in the day, the fog was already making its way into the bay, and downtown was almost covered in clouds and fog. Nonetheless, the views were quite beautiful.

We climbed up and then found some wooden stairs that went down. We followed them down until we reached Laidley Street. We were in between Glen Park and Diamond Heights, but yet it felt like we were in some sort of quirky movie set. The houses were extremely colorful and the shapes were very unusual. There was even a house that had golden eggs adorning the roof, very similar to Dali’s house in Figueras!

The more we walked, the more pleasantly surprised we got by the amount of quirkiness we encountered. We decided to call this walk the Architecture Walk!

After a few blocks we left Laidley St. and continued our walk up Diamond Heights to a nearby dog park. We thought Bomber would not mind a quick sprint before walking back to the train station to head back home.

Today, Sunday, the skies were blue when we opened our eyes to the new day. After taking care of some chores around the house, we headed out, determined to look for two of the works of art of Bansky that we knew were close to us.

Street Art by Banksy
The first stop was Chinatown. On the corner of Grant and Commercial Streets, behind a protective glass, we found the first Banksy. Strangely, there was nobody there taking photos of it. For some reason I had pictured the scene full of people, snapping photos, but that wasn’t the case.

We stared at it for a while. The image depicts a doctor listening to a big spray-painted red heart that is next to a peace sign. Some minutes later, we took a few steps back and saw the full scene. The wall in which this piece of art is painted on is also painted with two huge and colorful dragons. The dragons are, at the same time, located in a very colorful corner of Chinatown. I can see how other people would miss the much smaller, almost hidden piece of political art.

Street Art by Banksy

We left Chinatown and started to walk towards North Beach, to see the Banksy our French friends had seen while exploring San Francisco. Once again, right on a busy corner where books dangle from cables, and poetry is written all over the sidewalk, on the side of a second story of a building, was another street graffiti. This time, the image of a young kid wearing a gas mask drawn next to a caption that read, “If at first you don’t succeed—call an airstrike.”

Street Art by Banksy

Satisfied with having seen 2 of the 7 works of street graffiti by Banksy that are in the city, we walked towards the ferry building, along the water.

Who knew that a visit from French friends would turn into a walk of discovery for us? Well, the truth is that we really got motivated to stick to our determination of seeing a new part of the city every weekend, or as often as possible.

I also learned that perseverance is a great thing. I kept my eyes open, and my camera in my bag at all times and, finally, I got some photos and a blog post to share with you!

Enjoy! For more fun photos, visit my Etsy store at:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Growing Older in the Forest

Last weekend I turned 32 years old. Somehow it felt a little bit like I was getting closer to 40. I guess, in theory, every day I’m getting closer to 40, 50, 60, etc. Every day I turn a bit older or, as I like to think of it, a bit wiser!

To celebrate my big day, we went camping for 4 days. We booked our campsite sometime back in February, which was a good idea because the campground was full when we arrived to it on Thursday afternoon. We have noticed that parks in California get heavily used. I mean that in a good way. I’m not just talking about the big well-known parks like Yosemite, but about all parks, forests, preserves, etc. There is a TV ad that uses a play of words to say that Californians are “out there.” Yes, they are out there in many ways, but they sure are out there in the woods and in nature, enjoying the beautiful scenery this state has!

We have camped in many different areas in the state. We have been to the desert in Death Valley, in the valley at Lake Isabella, on the coast at Big Sur and MontaƱa de Oro, and this time we went up north, about a 4-hour drive from San Francisco, to the Mendocino area.

Because I wanted to bring Bomber with us to celebrate my birthday, we had to do our research to find dog-friendly parks that had trails where dogs were allowed. Well, Joe was the one who did all the background work and he did great! The result was a very cute site on MacKerricher State Park, a popular park located about 4 miles from Fort Bragg, a “city” in Mendocino County.


The campground was very close to the beach, about a 5-minute walk, and dogs were allowed on it. Alongside the coast there was a great paved path that ran for miles in each direction. The haul road, as it was called, had been used to transport lumber and is now used as a walking/biking path. If you walked south, you could get all the way to Fort Bragg and, if you walked north, you reached a 10-mile preserve.

When we arrived to the park, we were greeted by a very cheerful park ranger. After checking us into our site, he told us to make sure to keep our coolers locked because, sometimes, the “local youth” come around looking for free drinks. In fact, he suggested we keep valuables out of sight when we were not around the campsite. We thought it was funny in some ways. I mean, the “local youth” probably consists of a bunch of 13-15 year-old kids who have too much time on their hands.

During our time at the park, we walked pretty much all of the haul road and enjoyed the beauty of the gorgeous California coast with its rocks, arches and dramatic cliffs.  We also walked north, all the way up to the preserve, but couldn’t go in because no dogs were allowed. The sign made it look like dogs used to be allowed on a leash but probably they changed the rule to no dogs because some people seem to be completely unable to follow rules and respect laws that are in place simply to protect wildlife.

I won’t lie. Sometimes, I too want to bend the rules regarding dogs and let Bomber off-leash at beaches where dogs are supposed to be on-leash.  But, either Joe or I end up reminding each other that there is a reason why dogs are not allowed, and that letting him off-leash would have a greater impact on the ecosystem than we actually think.

Nesting birds and other animals will change their nesting and migration patterns if they sense a predator. Dogs, as much as we think of them as pets, are predators in nature, and they can be threatening to certain species, regardless of how small the dog is.

The park also had a great boardwalk that ran over wheat-like grass areas. From the boardwalk you could see an endless field of gold to one side, and the endless Pacific Ocean to the other. Ahhhh, the California coastline, simply a beautiful thing!

It was during this walk that we had one encounter with the “local youth.” As we approached one of the platforms alongside the boardwalk, we saw two kids sitting on the ground and another one leaned over the railing. Well, the one on the railing was obviously carving something on it, presumably his name, and the other two were acting as lookouts. We walked by the lookouts with Bomber. The two of them looked so tough, so not willing to be friendly but, when Bomber started acting crazy after seeing a ground squirrel, one of the kids’ faces slowly turned from a frown into a smile, the smile that kids his age should have: carefree and sincere.

Why do kids try so hard to grow up?

During our walks, we also enjoyed seeing lots of wildlife. We saw deer, seals, Great Blue Herons, Western Scrub Jays, lots of seagulls and other fishing birds, Snowy Plovers, and three Ospreys! What a treat!

It was such a lovely weekend and such a lovely way to celebrate another year of life, out in nature! There is something amazing about being outside all day long, tuning up with nature’s clock, going to bed when the sun goes down and waking up with it. On top of that, we could hear the ocean all the way to our campsite and, every night, when we went to bed, we would fall asleep to the sound of the waves.

On the day of my birthday we went for a drive on Highway 1. This highway is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been on and, on this new stretch, it lived up to my expectation. We drove through giant redwoods and right next to ocean cliffs. It was foggy but it didn’t really matter. Nature is beautiful in any way, rain or shine!

But, like everything in life, our camping trip had to come to an end. On our way back to the city we stopped at the Cabrillo Lighthouse and were fascinated by the beauty of this lighthouse. After that, we drove through redwood forests first, and through small towns, before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into our foggy but lovely city!

In other news, yesterday I sold another photo. This time it was a photo of a yellow cable car in Lisbon and it’s going to join other photos in decorating the laundry room of a wonderful lady from Portugal! So very excited about this!

I hope you enjoyed this week’s post and photos. For more fun photos, visit my Etsy store at: