Friday, January 26, 2018

Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco star always ready for her close-up

 San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is known worldwide for its dramatic bridge towers.Since 1941, it has been featured
 in a wide range of movies -- from suspense dramas to family fare and science fiction.


Tourists and locals alike traverse the bridge on 
foot, by car, bike and even aboard a vintage fire truck.
Hollywood has shot many pictures on and around her. 

'San Francisco, open your Golden Gate,
you let no stranger wait outside your door....'

and Hollywood studio archives

ONE OF THE world's most famous landmarks is celebrating her 81st birthday this month with a star-studded string of movie close-ups to her credit.
The song that became the anthem for 1906 earthquake survivors implied what savvy Hollywood has long known: no one is a stranger to this magnificent architectural and engineering feat.
Hollywood has loved the landmark for decades, even when the bridge was but a youngster.
DID YOU KNOW that since the bridge opened to the public in 1937, it has appeared in nearly three dozen movies -- romances to science fiction and disaster epics, suspense thrillers to Disney pics?

Director John Huston loved San Francisco and
used the bridge in his film, "The Maltese Falcon."

Right, we toured the bridge recently aboard
a vintage 1955 fire engine, for our own movie.

Jimmy Stewart rescued Kim Novak in "Vertigo."
Director Alfred Hitchcock loved San Francisco.
At the young age of four years, the bridge made its movie debut. Director John Huston used it to enhance the mood of his 1941 film noir classic, "The Maltese Falcon," starring Humphrey Bogart as the no-nonsense private detective Sam Spade.
Director Alfred Hitchcock, who loved northern California and the City by the Bay, used the bridge in a famous scene in his 1958 thriller, "Vertigo."
Remember when Jimmy Stewart's detective Scotty rescued apparently suicidal Madeleine (Kim Novak) from the bay?
 Visit the bridge by fire truck
Christopher Reeve in “Superman: The Movie,’’ saved a group of teens just as their school bus was about to slip off the ‘quake-damaged bridge.
"Planet of the Apes" films have used the bridge.
"Star Trek" has used the bridge
more than once.
Roger Moore's James Bond took
a turn on the bridge, too.
My favorite James Bond, Roger Moore, went on location in San Francisco for the 1985 film "A View to a Kill." The suave Agent 007 took on his nemesis Max Zorin on one of the bridge's iconic towers high above the roiling waters and whizzing traffic.
The bridge is constantly being painted its distinctive 
orange by a full-time crew, to keep it looking good
for international tourists and for the movies.

IN MORE than one "Planet of the Apes” movies, the bridge has been featured. In 2011, a super smart chimp, Caesar, led a revolution of apes and a whiz bang fight scene on the bridge pitted apes against the California Highway Patrol.
Remember the shock as a giant tsunami hurdled a huge freighter at the bridge in the 2015 disaster film, “San Andreas"?
   THE BRIDGE has taken bows in romances, too, as in “Going the Distance” a 2010 romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. "Star Trek" fans know that the bridge was featured in the 1986 time-travel adventure “Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home.’' A captured Klingon Bird of Prey starship from 2286 flew under the foggy span to land in 1980s San Francisco. Then William Shatner’s James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy’s Mister Spock rode a bus across the bridge to Sausalito, trying to track a rare humpback whale. In the 21st century “Star Trek’’ flicks, Starfleet Command runs the galaxy from headquarters near -- guess where -- the Golden Gate Bridge.

                                                           photo by Aaron Rumley
From left, Omri Schein, Richard Baird and Loren Lester are
three of the gifted ensemble in "Around the World in 80 Days."
The North Coast Repertory Theatre production is top drawer.
UP NEXT:   Elevate your artistic visions and feed your soul with a  satisfying offering of fine theater.  The arts are bread and butter -- not mere dessert -- and there's nothing like a first-rate production. Here in southern California, San Diego's North Coast Repertory Theatre is serving up a smashing version of  Jules Verne's classic novel, "Around the World in 80 Days."  Five gifted actors, dozens of quick costume changes and inspired direction make for an engaging time.  It's held over through Feb. 11. Don't miss it -- and other San Diego theater treats which we'll preview next time. Remember to explore, learn and live. Catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature and art.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Fire truck tour, a San Francisco treat, rings the bell for good times in City by the Bay

A young fireman, James Brian Ganner, rings the bell and gives thumbs up for a delightful family-oriented tour.
A beautiful vintage fire truck awaits you for a spectacular way to see the Bay Area. We took three generations; all had fun.

Our guide,Alexandra, and driver John, show their love of the city with lively
commentary and unexpected sights, providing a safe, lively, different tour.





RING THE BELL for the most exciting tour we've taken in many a trip around San Francisco over  decades of delightful visits to a favorite city.
The Fire Engine Tour of this seductive, hilly and photogenic town traverses traditional sights as well as peeking into hidden roads, neighborhoods and parks.
Its lively guide and entertaining drivers compliment the city's quirky neighborhoods, lovely parks and beautiful buildings, inviting children of all ages to yield to San Francisco's charms.
The journey begins for 14 lucky passengers who climb aboard a vintage fire truck on a street behind Fisherman's Wharf.  The tour guide offers blankets and even fireman's jackets if you like, making sure everyone is comfy for the breezy, inviting open-air adventure.

The Golden Gate Bridge is always a beautiful sight, here viewed at a
half-way point stop on the Fire Engine tour, from the Sausalito side.
WE RODE THROUGH the city with a bird's eye view of the picturesque Victorian homes, winding streets, beloved neighborhoods and iconic buildings, with the guide pointing out landmarks, famous restaurants, nightclubs and churches.
Our companions aboard a shiny red 1955 Mack fire engine were my enterprising Bay Area niece, Amarylla, and three excited kids -- ranging from an eager teen-ager who grew up in San Francisco, to an enthusiastic four and seven-year old
Cookie and Keller joined the fun with family to explore
San Francisco's neighborhoods from a 1955 Mack fire truck.
born  there. Amarylla knew we were looking for something unusual to do -- having written dozens of pieces
A spin through the Presidio is an unexpected bonus.

about one of our favorite towns.   She discovered the fire engine tours from a friend.  All of us -- the natives and the two of us San Francisco regulars, learned little tidbits we hadn't known before thanks to our guide, Alexandra, who moonlights as a jazz singer.  She offered  vintage tunes along the way, and her knowledge and love of her adopted home enhanced the leisurely 90 minute tour.

through the neighborhoods -- Departing the Cannery and Fisherman's Wharf for the Financial District, Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, Fillmore and
Driver John is helpful and  a fine
navigator of challenging streets.

  Fire Engine Tours take  a break in Sausalito.
 The photo opportunity is one not to be missed.



Pacific Heights, navigating through the Presidio towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Alexandra's commentary paid tribute to firemen, too adding history along with spice to the cool afternoon. After a leisurely drive through the park near the bridge, we stopped for photos -- at one of the prettiest skyline views we've seen.  The driver let our great nephew James ring the bell that it was time to head back. James and Peny were the youngest participants and Lucy was one of two teen-agers. There was one other youngster and the rest of us were  adults. One should be limber enough to get on and off the fire truck and old enough to stay safe.
THIS IS A  wonderful tour, an excellent way to see the city, even if you think you've seen it all.  Familiar, lovely and novel sights all take on a new fresh look from your cozy fire truck seat! 
Call 415 333-7077

UP NEXT:  San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is known world wide. When it opened 81 years ago this month,  after 20 years of planning, it was greeted by thousands with delight.  We take you back in time, to present day bridge wonders.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post for the weekend, offering a novel and global view of travel, cruising, nature, family and the arts at

Friday, January 12, 2018

Delos delights: Excavations reveal thriving Bronze Age society

The superb location of Delos -- right in the middle of the Aegean --
it an ideal meeting place and trade center centuries ago.

Aboard RCCL's Brilliance of the Seas, Doric temples, markets, an amphitheater, elaborate houses,  mosaics and the iconic Terrace of the Lions await your exploration of a magnificent ancient Greek culture

Delos, the mythological birthplace of Apollo, has splendid ruins of temples, markets, a theater and famed Terrace of Lions.

Delos was declared a free port in 167 BC, it became a main trading
  centers on the Eastern Mediterranean. A thriving town developed. 



APPROACHING DELOSone marvels at the sophisticated people who thrived here two thousand years ago.
What happened to these wealthy merchants and scholars, no one knows. They simply disappeared,  -- but here on the lovely
Aegean Sea, early in winter, the light seems -- dare we say --Apollonion.
An animated, accomplished Greek guide brings Delos history to life.
 No wonder, for it was here in the center of a magical archipelago where Apollo was born.
The god of music, truth and prophecy, healing, sun, light, poetry is a spiritual presence as we stroll through   ruins  dating  to 600 B.C. 
OUR BRILLIANT guide brings the culture back to life, describing a busy port, important religious center and home to wealthy and sophisticated merchants and scholars.  Their highly evolved hygiene, culture and architecture made the prosperous village a huge internationally touted "find" when it was discovered by the French centuries later in 1873.
Cookie about to board a ferry after a wonderful day in Delos.
 As we studied glorious ruins, the morning sun reflected off the marble and stone as if to say: search always for harmony, ask questions, seek reason and balance -- all trademarks of Greek philosophy.
WHY THE ancient Greeks left their island home is unknown -- perhaps disease or crop failure, a sudden shift in tides or weather.  But we know that long abandoned Delos was once sacred throughout Greece, as the centerpiece of an artfully arranged archipelago .
Mykonos was the port for a day
in Delos on Brilliance of the Seas.
We joined a group of students and tourists on Delos, to study a
 culture dating to the early Bronze Age. Important mythological,
 historical and archeological discoveries make it one of the
world's most famous excavations. RCCL organizes great tours. 

The French began extensive excavations of Delos in 1873. 
Work continues today, with many questions unanswered.

We boarded a ferry in nearby Mykonos,
setting off for a half-hour sail on the peaceful Aegean Sea.
It was Day 8 of our Mediterranean odyssey aboard Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas. Our destination was this famous mythological birthplace of Apollo, whose mother, Leto, gave birth to him and his twin, Artemis here.

EXCAVATIONS on Delos started in 1873 by the French School of Archaeology at Athens and by 1914 the most significant sections of the ancient site had been uncovered. Work is ongoing, and recently more ruins were discovered underwater nearby: kilns, pottery and  remnants of a major religious center and port during the 1st millennium B.C.
We admired ruins of Doric temples, markets, an amphitheater, houses with mosaics and the iconic Terrace of the Lions statues. We wished for more time in the excellent Archaeological Museum on site which displays statues excavated from the site. It was our third visit to Delos, and not long enough.

Young James Brian Ganner gives thumbs up to his ride
aboard a Mack fire truck. More on this fun family tour soon.
UP NEXT: Thumbs up for San Francisco Fire Engine Tours, a unique way to see the city.  Whether you're a native to the City by the Bay (as is our great-nephew James Ganner) or a tourist on a first-time or 20th visit, the delightful 90-minute tour will introduce you to new sights and little known streets, as well as familiar and iconic sights, buildings and parks. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel approach to travel, the arts, nature and family.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Mesmerizing Malta delights, intrigues: Come visit an ancient land

Malta's famed Blue Grotto is an enchanting series of caves accessed by small boats to the delight of worldwide tourists.
Mesmerize: to entrance, dazzle, bewitch, charm, captivate, enchant, fascinate, transfix, grip, bedazzle or hypnotize.....


Come have a bite, perhaps the
catch of the day, with vino.

have an addictive quality.  In five visits, I've found myself wishing we'd stayed longer, eagerly planning the next visit.
This small but interesting Mediterranean country is less than 100 kilometers from Sicily and has many Italian traits, including a love of churches. 
Rabbits abound on Malta, so enjoy a rabbit stew. 
 Nearly everyone speaks Italian, but Maltese is the major language, a pleasing blend of several tongues, including Arabic, because of the proximity to Africa. Other languages are French and English. The country's closeness to two continents inspires Malta's art, music, architecture,  food and eclectic feel.

Valletta at night  offers a beautiful sail-out. Maltese society, striking
architecture and 300-plus churches reflect centuries of foreign rule by the
 Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Swabians,
 Aragonese, Hospitallers, French, and British. 
THE FOOD is gloriously rustic -- a tasty blend of southern Italian meats and seasonal vegetables, with hints of north Africa's fabled spices. We tried the fish pie, lampuki, the rabbit stew, delicious bragiolie -- beef olives -- succulent soups and sheep's and goat's cheeses. The kapunata, a Maltese take on ratatouille, is not to be missed.
The artwork is colorful and beautifully hand-crafted, reflecting the country's ancient, multi-cultural history and influence of both African and the European peoples.
Maltese shopkeepers are genial and welcoming, as these
two in Valletta prove. (We bought kids' t-shirts and a dress.)
MALTESE history goes back to the dwindling years of the last Ice Age. The ancestors of  today's Maltese  came after Malta "broke apart."  It was once a high mountainous land  connected to Italy.  But when the Ice Age ended around 10,000 years ago, the sea level rose and Malta became a group of islands. A few dozen centuries later, about 5,200 BC, Stone Age farmers from the neighboring island of Sicily spied an island across the horizon.  They arrived in Malta in search of greener pastures and began to farm the land.
FOR MANY centuries, the culture flourished -- with astounding temples and a peaceful, diverse citizenry.   
 The lovely walled city of Valletta was established in the 1500s on a peninsula by the Knights of St. John, a Roman Catholic order. Its magnificent fortress grew on the arid rock of Mount Sceberras peninsula, which rises steeply and with grandeur from two deep harbours, Marsamxett and Grand Harbour.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte took  Malta away from the Knights on his way to Egypt. The French presence on the islands was short lived.  The English, who were requested by the Maltese to help them against the French, blockaded the islands in 1800. British rule lasted until 1964 when Malta became independent  --to the cheers of its population, estimated now to   
be an industrious, multi-lingual 437,000 people. 
With a land area of 316 square kilometres,Valletta -- Il-Belt -- is the tiny capital of this intriguing Mediterranean island nation.
Malta's  appeal includes ancient sculpture, colorful crafts, several hundred
churches and a pleasing culinary menu. The citizenry is friendly and educated.
 MUSEUMS, palaces, cafes and grand churches dot the landscape and elders recall the Siege of  Malta -- a military campaign from 1940 to 1942. The battle played a strategic role in World War II as Malta, then a British colony, pitted the air forces and navies of Italy and Germany against the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy for a decisive Allied Victory. 
Baroque landmarks include St. John’s Co-Cathedral, whose opulent interior is home to one of the world's most famous paintings, Caravaggio's masterpiece, "The Beheading of Saint John." 

Delos rises from the sand of centuries ago, a magnificently preserved relic.
UP NEXT: Delights of Delos.
The Greek island's stunning ruins include Doric temples, markets, an amphitheater, houses with mosaics and the iconic Terrace of the Lions statues. We took a boat trip from nearby Mykonos to spend a day among the ruins. The island's Archaeological Museum displays statues excavated from the site.
It's worth a day trip to view the wonders and imagine life in a sophisticated village, deserted for a reason no one knows.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday.