ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Japanese Tea Garden and More

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA
The Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park.


Foiled by the unreliability of the Golden Gate Park Shuttle, Bill and I entered the Japanese Tea Garden. We were unfortunately underwhelmed.

The Trouble with Travel

You know me.  There’s no one who loves travel more.  But travel comes with a price.  The more you do it, the more room for comparison.

I like Japanese Gardens.  We’ve got a great one over in Fort Worth and there’s another nice one in San Antonio.  We saw one in Lotusland a few days before our visit to San Francisco and a few days after our visit to Golden Gate State Park, we saw an amazing Japanese Garden at the Huntington Gardens.

Japanese Tea Garden, Portland OR
Judge for yourself. This photo was taken in Portland.

Still no Japanese Garden that I’ve ever seen beats Portland’s Japanese Garden.  Two years later, my senses are still reeling from the beauty we saw in Oregon and the Portland Japanese Garden was among my favorite attractions there.  So that should give you an idea of how stunning it was.  (As gorgeous as their Japanese Garden was, it was still my second favorite garden in Oregon.  Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens was the best.)

Small and Sad

You can’t judge a book by it’s cover and I suppose you shouldn’t judge a garden by the price of admission, but we were surprised by the $7 entry fee.  That’s more than Ft. Worth’s garden, though less less than Portland’s.

The first thing we realized was that the garden was very compact.  Fort Worth’s garden is huge and so is Portland’s, though not as large as its sister in Texas.  Size isn’t everything , but the size does add to the charm, because in the bigger gardens you seem far removed from the every day world.

In every part of San Francisco’s Garden I felt cramped.  I had the sense that just a few feet away was the world, because I could hear it and see it all around me.  There were also crowds of other folks.   The Tea House was humming with business and the line for it wandered through the garden.  Serenity was in short supply.

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA
Looks magnificent in the picture, but up close it’s falling apart.

The sad part was the evident disrepair.  The gardeners are doing a great job, but the park needs to hire a company of carpenters and painters.  Right now – before the wooden structures rot away!  Peeling paint and rotting wood are just unacceptable.  The Tea House has a rollicking business.  Devote some of the revenue to maintenance.

The Rest of the Story

After the Japanese Gardens we waited around for a few moments hoping the shuttle would make an appearance, but it didn’t.  So we wandered over to the Botanical Garden.  Two things kept us out.  It was closing in less than an hour and they wanted another $7.  The last $7 each we spent had not been a good investment.

So we thought we might walk a little.  We headed toward the Cherry Tree Azaleas, got a peek of Stowe Lake and strolled past the Rose Gardens.  We were tired.  It was chilly.  We decided to call it a day.  We weren’t going to get to see all of Golden Gate Park on this visit either.

I’ll Be Back

In spite of the disappointing Japanese Garden, I plan to go back to Golden Gate Park.  I want to see the Conservatory of Flowers, the Dutch Windmill, The Chinese Pavillion, Strawberry Hill, the Carousel and the list goes on.   Next time I’m thinking about bikes or one of those surreys I saw people riding.  I guess next time I’ll need to do a little more research and be a little more prepared.  Third time’s charm, right?

Next week I’ll wrap up my stay in San Francisco, but for now I’ll leave you with a few more shots from the Japanese Garden.  It was pretty.  It just suffered from comparison.








ART, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Drat That Golden Gate Park! Foiled Again!

You can get one of these at the de Young Gift Shop.
You can get one of these at the de Young Gift Shop.


One of the first things I saw pass by, on the road outside the de Young Cafe, was the Golden Gate Park Shuttle Bus. Unfortunately, that was also the last time I saw the Golden Gate Park Shuttle Bus.

Running Out of Day

If you know me or visit the blog frequently, you know Mr. Bill and I have completely different body clocks.  I fought it for years, but I’ve learned life is a whole lot easier if I cooperate with Mr. Bill’s clock.  So even though I woke up raring to get out and start sight-seeing, Mr. Bill wasn’t quite as eager.

He slept later, enjoyed playing with his grand-nephew and eventually started wondering what we were going to do for our morning meal.  We weren’t exactly the first people to enter the de Young.  I’m not really complaining, because we’d been having a lovely time, but there was a whole lot of Golden Gate Park to see and not much time.

Where’s the Bus? 

My trusty Golden Gate Park brochure informed me, “On Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays…take the free park-wide shuttle which services all major Golden Gate Park destinations…The free shuttle operates 9 am – 6pm every 15-20 minutes.”  I’d seen one shuttle go by, so I thought that by the time Bill and I finished our meal and were ready to see the park, another shuttle would be by.  I figured it would be the best way to see the most of the park in the least amount of time.

See the park is 1017 acres, so the idea of walking the whole thing is overly enthusiastic, especially late in the afternoon – and remember, I already thought it was a little chilly.  So we stood next to the shuttle sign and waited and waited and waited.  We waited well over twenty minutes and if you add that to the time we’d spent in the cafe after seeing the shuttle, then you know that something was going on.  This wasn’t just a free shuttle running a few minutes late.

At first I wasn’t too worried.  I just perused my map and guide, familiarizing myself with what we would see.  Eventually, I realized we weren’t going to see anything if we didn’t start hoofing it.  In a panic, I read every sign in sight and realized we were quite close to one of the attractions I was most interested in, The Japanese Tea Garden.

I think Bill would have been just as happy calling it a day, but he is a good husband, so he trailed behind me as I marched towards the Japanese Tea Garden.  I had some sightseeing to do.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.

ART, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The de Young Museum at Golden Gate Park

deyoung tickets07242014



This trip to San Francisco was my second, so I’d already knocked out these San Francisco points of interest:

Jane’s Must-See Attractions in San Francisco

Golden Gate Park

I’m convinced I saw the very best of San Francisco on my first trip, but that didn’t make me any happier about missing Golden Gate Park.  We actually got into the park, but it was the end of the day and both the driver and the navigator were exhausted.  So the park was a must-see for this trip.

At the top of my list in the park was the de Young Museum of Fine Art, so that’s what I plugged into the GPS.  Last time we’d been to the park we didn’t have our electronic buddy, which explains why we were so disgusted and disgruntled.  This time we did have it, but we ran into another problem.  The GPS was telling us to turn into the park at one location and there were all kinds of signs telling us we couldn’t.  Finally we found a sign directing us to enter for de Young parking.  Victory!

deyoung brochure07242014
Instead of folding it up and putting it in my pocket, I should have studied the map. Following my nose wasn’t a good idea.

The De Young

I confess, I don’t do spontaneous well.  By the time I visit a museum, I’ve usually studied the map ad nauseum and know exactly where in the museum I want to go.  Having not had the opportunity to do that, we walked into the de Young and followed our nose.  Unfortunately, at the beginning, our nose didn’t lead us to much stuff we really wanted to see.  Maybe that’s the reason so many people claim they don’t like museums – they’ve been following their noses around!

Different strokes for different folks, but we all know what we like.  Bill and I are less fond of modern and tribal art than we are traditional figurative art.  Bill told me to just put up the map and enjoy myself, but that wasn’t very good advice.  We saw every piece of modern and tribal art in the museum, before we found our good stuff.

Now once we found our good stuff we were plenty happy and we took a long time perusing delightful pieces. Here’s a few samples:

Not everything was paintings.  There were some sculptures and decorative arts, but these were the postcards I picked up in the gift shop.

View from the Hamon Tower
View from the Hamon Tower

After our tour of the art, we went up in the Hamon Tower.  The view was actually quite amazing.  The light was not cooperating, so we didn’t get a good shot of the city vista – which would blow your socks off – but this picture gives you an idea of what you see directly below, when you’re up there.

Food Time

To my list of favorite places to eat in San Francisco I’d like to add the de Young Cafe.  Its a nice crisp modern sort of place that sits next to the Sculpture Garden.  Outside is patio seating and there were people sitting out there, but it was a little chilly for my Texas blood.  While we ate, we were serenaded by a big orchestra playing in the Temple of Music across the street.  It doesn’t get much better.

Kudos delivered, I’d like to have a do over.  This is one of those cafes where you really should have some sort of idea of what you’re doing before you actually get to the selection part.  They have a card menu to order from, they have pre-made snacks and sandwiches available to browsse and then they’ve got a sort of coffee bar, but that has a blackboard menu that you might miss before you get around to ordering.  So, if you ever go, check out ALL the options before you make a selection.

One Last Thing

Everybody but me probably already knew this, but if you’re also out of the loop, San Francisco actually has TWO Museums of Fine Art.  The Palace of Legion of Honor and the de Young.  The Palace is out by Lincoln Park and may be one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen.  I know the view from the portico is certainly one of the best.  The grounds were covered with brides having their pictures made with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

If I only had time to see one of the museums, I would choose The Palace, for two reasons.  One being the spectacular nature of the venue.  The other being that the art is more classical.  Also, now that I’ve seen them both, I think I’d be quicker to return to the Palace.  I wish I’d had time for the special exhibition of Impressionist portraits they had while I was there.  However, you should take time to see both at least once and then choose your favorite based on your own taste.

After our meal we headed out to explore the rest of the park.  Join me next week to check it out.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Pinot Days in San Francisco CA

Pinot Days Brochure, San Francisco CA
Pinot Days Brochure


If you recall, this vacation went through a number of alterations before becoming a reality. In one of the original stages, a trip to Wine Country was penciled in, but by the time we went, Napa and Sonoma had been erased. Instead we enjoyed Pinot Days at City View At Metreon.

How We Got There

When you’re visiting your hip nephew in San Fran you do all kinds of cool things.  Take it from me, Uber is cool.  It’s like a taxi, but a lot more chic.

Since all I did was go along for the ride, I don’t claim to know all the details, but to quote Uber “request, ride, and pay via your mobile phone.”  That means you don’t call or hail a cab.  You request a ride at a certain time with the app and the car shows up.  If you wonder if you have time to go to the bathroom, the app tells you where the car is and how long before it will be to your pick-up point.  You don’t have to ride in a cab either.     A sleek black SUV picked us up and the driver was dressed very professionally.When we left the wine event my nephew punched a few buttons on the phone and by the time we got downstairs our car was waiting.

Uber’s website says they do have taxis, but that wasn’t our ride.  Nephew says it’s about the price of parking and since we were going to a wine tasting without a DD it was a lot cheaper than a DWI.  Dallas is an Uber city, but I haven’t Ubered here yet.  Let me know if you have.

Where It Was

Meteron is like nothing I know of in Dallas.  It’s like NorthPark‘s Food Court on steroids, but the anchor store is a Super Target and for kicks there’s an AMC Cinemark.  You got it?

Well, upstairs there’s something called City View which is a huge event space.  They do weddings, corporate events, whatever.  The “restaurant-centric mall with multiplex” is amid the Marscone Center and City View overlooks the Yerba Buena Gardens.  Yeah, it’s cool.

How It WaPinot Days, Meteron, San Francisco CA

I’m just going to be straight with you.  This wasn’t the most fun I ever had tasting wine.  I used to live on the Central Coast and spent Sunday afternoons at Castoro Cellars Tasting Room, Edna Valley Vineyard and other local wineries.  My first date with Bill was to a function called Art and Wine at the Dallas Museum of Art.  We’ve been to Dallas Opera Wine Tastings. We have also been to other wine festivals, like the Paso Robles Wine Festival.  We know from wine tastings.

The Metreon was cool and I loved looking out over Yerba Buena Park and San Francisco’s Financial District.  However, I got a little tired of Pinot and there was a crowd.

I love wine, but I’m no wine connoisseur.  Were I a wine connisseur, I’m sure the opportunity to compare so many Pinots in one afternoon of tasting was euphoric.  However, there were so many people crowding around the tables that there was really no way to have a decent conversation with the winemakers and that’s one of the things I like best about a tasting.

There was also nowhere to sit.  There were community baskets of crackers and cheese to give your palate a break, but no where to give your sore dogs a break.  Am I glad I did it?  Yes!  Would I do it again?  Probably not.

But come back next week, because we’re going to Golden Gate Park.

DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

San Franciso Brunch Bites

Who wouldn't go to San Francisco to visit this little guy?
Who wouldn’t go to San Francisco to visit this little guy?


For us, the main attraction in San Francisco was Jack. He’s our grand-nephew and being one year old was still brand new to him when we got there. Imagine all the wonderful things you can do with a darling one year old boy and insert them here.  We also enjoyed some great food.

In the Thick of Things

Jack’s parents are hip.  Really!  Dad went to Greenhill, graduated from Wharton School of Business, got married in a museum and is an investment banker in the gaming industry.  If I wrote a novel about him, people would think I made him up.  Mom also went to Greenhill, has her MBA from UTD, had a ballet commissioned for her wedding reception and she spends her days being Jack’s mommy.

So, of course, they live in the coolest part of San Francisco.  From atop their building you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower and the Bay Bridge.  They’re blocks away from Fisherman’s Wharf, Washington Square Park and the crazy intersection of Columbus and Broadway.

Brunch at Original Joe’s

Saturday morning after Jack’s morning routine was accomplished, we took a stroll to Original Joe’s.  In San Francisco you stroll a lot.  It’s not a car-centric society like LA or Dallas.  There are plenty of cars, but you don’t drive one unless you have to.

The beautiful Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is also on Washington Square.
The beautiful Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul also faces Washington Square.

Original Joe’s faces Washington Square Park on Union Street.  The restaurant may be a San Francisco classic, but once I was inside, I thought I was in New York’s Little Italy.  Black and white tile floors, lots of woodwork, tuxedo-ed waiters, white linen tablecloths, gleaming chrome and brass;  and the aroma of marinara permeates it all.

The food?  OMG! We stuck to the brunch menu, enjoying treats like Crab Cake Benedict, Brioche French Toast and other amazing goodies.  The food looked so delicious when it arrived, I dove right in!  The prices are reasonable, but not cheap.

Brunch at Cafe Francisco

Sunday morning Bill and I ventured out on our own to Cafe Francisco, just around the corner from our nephew’s condo.  For me, this brunch spot felt more San Francisco-ish than the more famous Original Joe’s.  The space had for many years been an artist’s studio and along with serving great Belgian waffles, Cafe Francisco is also an art gallery.

If I lived in my nephew’s condo, I might just convert my kitchen into a gym and have all my meals at Cafe Francisco.  The prices were so reasonable that I doubt you can cook at home for so cheap.  The menu is not extensive, but it’s got everything from breakfast to Mediterranean salads to amazing cheese plates paired by the Cheese School of San Francisco.  I wish I’d gotten back over there to enjoy a bottle of wine and one of those cheese plates.

These were not our only gastronomic adventures in San Fran.  After brunch at Original Joe’s we went to Pinot Nights.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about that.