San Francisco Tour and SFMoMA

Catch-up post from June 12.

Arriving in San Francisco via the ferry is ideal. The hills, encrusted with tall buildings as well as lower-storied neighborhoods excite us, and the welcoming portal is the Ferry Building. The harbor side houses restaurants, coffee shops, wine bar, ethnic eateries, bookstore, and a cookware store.

Passing through to the street side, you’ll discover a long, high-ceilinged promenade in three sections.

The middle section is brightened by skylights, which spill light over the colorful, trendy stores/stalls, featuring such things as fine chocolates, fungi, high-end gardener’s toys, and a caviar bar along the walls by the Embarcadero. Opposite these, organic markets, a culinary antiques shop, cheese boutiques, and deli-markets, tempt tourists and commuters, and attractive, skylit young San Franciscans sip wine at an interior ‘side-walk’ café. There’s so much material here for New Yorker cartoons, but I don’t think there is an equivalent magazine in San Francisco. This was a lovely shining day for riding atop an open-air double-decker tour bus: something we’d never done before.

We got off in front of SFMoMA with no particular expectations of a specific exhibit and thoroughly enjoyed the current exhibition of artists such as Matisse, Arp, Giacometti, Pollack, Picasso, Lichtenstein, Rauchenberg, Miro, Magritte, O’Keeffe, DuChamp, etc. Many works were old friends we’d seen elsewhere; some, like the drawings of Henry Moore, we’d never seen, ever. Large white rooms: silent, reverent spaces attended by small watchful guards, contributed to the sense of being in a holy of holies. A museum is the point of arrival for the artists. Their works provide a point of departure for the rest of us: into their particular vision of the world, visions long ahead of their time and perhaps even ours.

Later, we strolled through the park by the Mosconi, center where red-clad tables loaded with giant woks were being set up for a private party that evening for Apple, after its kick-off event of introducing the new iPhone. Dozens of planters, holding boxwood hedges were brought in to create boundaries to keep the riff-raff out, so we wandered over to the new Contemporary Jewish Museum, designed by Daniel Liebeskind, which artfully uses the last remaining wall of the old San Francisco Power Station (from the 1906 earthquake) and then incorporates a blue-steel ‘chai’ form that breaks out of traditional rectilinear architectural form and creates wonderful exhibit space within.

We would have ‘done the whole museum, rather than just the gift shop, but our 48 hr. bus ticket hadn’t mentioned that bus pick-ups stopped at 5:30, so we hustled on to the next destination.

Just down from the open court that surrounds the CJM, we found the little yellow Beard Papa shop, which specializes in cream puffs: light and crisp and filled just seconds before purchase with chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry custard. Noah had brought some home, and told us where to find them. Art and culture is fine, but San Francisco food-ops should not be overlooked.

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