Thursday, 2 December 2010

Thoughts on keeping busy and other things

In San Francisco I was less at ease than I had been any of the previous cities and on Thanksgiving I realised why when I looked in a tour operator’s window. The window showed a check list of things to do that was completely ticked off and I realised that was what I was doing here. I know so many people who have visited that I kept asking them what I should do there. In the other cities I just rolled up to the hostel and took it from there, doing whatever took my fancy and I ended up in some interesting places because of it. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate all the tips that people gave after all it was me who was constantly asking “what should I do?” and it did mean that I booked my ticket to Alcatraz early which is a must but it stressed me out trying to fit everything in. So I decided to stop being so rigid and go with the flow as apparently this is much more ‘me’ than sticking to a schedule, which really I should have known by now.

I didn’t do everything suggested in the end but I did have a great time and really that was what this trip was about. Exploring and discovering places for me and there have been some interesting discoveries along the way. I now know that I am far from the only person wandering round the globe with a small stuffed toy and that said toys can brighten up the dullest of photographs. Also it made people smile, not all people but most people on seeing me place Zack in preparation for his photo would smile and often make some kind comment, so in his own small way Zack has spread the happiness he brought me with others all round the USA.

I discovered a love of photography. As a child I loved taking photographs with my 35mm camera as most children do. I seem to remember I photographed our golden retriever a lot and my friends but as I reached adolescence I lost interest in the outside world and my main pursuit was reading and later writing. I did have a brief interest in my fathers more complex camera but I had neither the patience or true inclination to learn back then. In the last few months though thanks to the wonder of digital cameras I have learnt to love photography. My Panasonic Lumix took such good point and click photos that I ended up carrying it everywhere with me and I was genuinely upset when it got knocked and stopped working. I wanted to get it repaired but was told it would be cheaper to replace it thus I ended up with my Canon Powershot. It is also a point and click but it has a better zoom and in the last month I have fallen in love with it. I was fortunate that most of the people I met where happy to wait whilst I messed around with the iso, shutter speed and aperture settings. I still have no idea what I’m doing but I do know that if I mess with various settings then I can get this or that affect and it is fantastic fun. It was an inspired purchase.

I discovered that it is hard to keep telling people exactly how I ended up quitting my job and traveling but if I spend anytime with them it is easier to tell them than not. Previously I had only told other widders and before last month most of my new friends were in similar situations so telling non-widders was a little weird but people took it in their own ways and never made me feel bad for what I was. Some accepted it and moved on, some asked one or two questions before letting it go, a few hugged me and one interviewed me. So I got all ranges of responses and not one of them interfered with the friendships I made. Some would say it’s not their business but if I well, someone who puts her life in a blog for all the world to see is hardly going to shy away from it for long is she?

Did I find me? Not really. Like everyone else I’m a work in progress. Writing this blog makes me think. Knowing that I had an interested audience made me really look at the places I visited and photographing them showed me how I wanted others to see them. Sharing my random inner thought helps me work through them. I don’t pick a topic then write these posts I just type when the mood takes me and blurt out whatever is in my head, scary huh? Most of all it had been nice to know that people are interested, that they care and that I can repay that in some way with my words. So thank you for sharing my USA trip; it’s been nice having the company and I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I have enjoyed writing about it.

My Last USA Weekend

During my time in the USA I have been very fortunate weather-wise so I won’t complain that it on my last Saturday there that it rained, and it rained a lot! Of all the days for it to rain that was a good one for me but not for some of my friends who were visiting Alcatraz, I felt for them as I had been more fortunate with my weather. I decided to spend my day exploring two of San Francisco’s art museums. My first stop was the de Young museum where I was fortunate enough to see the post impressionist exhibition. The exhibition was from the the Musée d’Orsay’s permanent collection ans is making a rare tour due to the partial closure of the Musée d’Orsay’s for refurbishment. I purchased the audio tour which gave descriptions of the histories and techniques used of selected paintings as well as the histories of the artists lives and how their styles developed, I only wish I could remember at least half of it. My other issue was the space. I felt that the paintings were too crowded together. There were so many people crammed in to the small space that it was difficult to appreciate the art from afar; which made the works of Monet and Seurat particularly difficult to fully appreciate.  Despite the crowded conditions it was worth seeing and I went round a second time without the audio guide so I could see the paintings I had missed the first time and re-visit my favourites briefly before moving on. Outside of the exhibit the de Young has an extensive collection separated in to three main exhibitions. The first was African art which seemed to consist mostly of ceremonial masks and pottery such as jugs, incense burners and ceremonial statues. The Second exhibit was art from the Americas. This had ivory and glass work along with more pottery showcased the craftsmanship of different cultures and beliefs such as the Native American and Inuit from pre-Spanish settlement times. The final exhibition covered art from modern America including paintings, sculptures and furniture from the 1800’s onwards. Whilst wandering through these more modern exhibits I viewed a cathedral made of guns and ammunition to highlight the violence associated with organised religion which was impressive but once more it was the softer abstracts and impressionist landscapes that held my attention the longest.  There was an impressive variety of styles and types of art on show and it was worth the visit however I would make sure to eat well before I went the next time. Being me I was running late and to give myself the maximum time in the museum of modern art I decided to get a sandwich from the museum cafe so I could eat it on the way to the bus. $17 for a sandwich, juice and a cookie!!!! It was obvious there was no competition there. With the rain having stopped I ate my extraordinarily expensive sandwich in the gardens outside before heading to the next museum.

I had heard about the Exposed and Wine exhibits currently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art but what I hadn’t realised was the extensiveness of their photography collection. This museum was one of the first museums to recognise photography as a fine art and it’s fair to say I was in heaven. During this trip I have discovered a real love of photography, the fact you can capture a scene and use the camera to show the world how you see it. I have no delusions (well when sober I don’t anyway); I know I am strictly a tourist photographer so to see the work of professionals who seem to know just how to convey how they see a scene was absolutely amazing. The Exposed exhibition was subtitled voyeurism, surveillance, and the camera since 1870and showed the evolution of photography as both an art form and media tool. Some of the images were disturbingly graphic but all of them were fascinating.  Anyway, it was really, really cool. Along with their many photographs they had a wine exhibit entitled “How Wine became Modern”. The exhibition showcased examples of glassware, information about the worldwide wine growing regions and how their soil affects the taste of the grapes grown and thus wine produced there and examples of the art work used to sell the wines. It was a fun exhibit. They also had some paintings and sculptures and really I could have spent a whole day there but the museum closed so I had to leave. Inspired by my day of art I stopped a few times on the way back to the hostel and take some ‘arty’ shots. As always they never look on the screen the way they do in my mind but it was still al lot of fun.

I’m afraid to report my cultured day ended on a more plebeian note. I had a quick and cheap pasta dinner before going on a pub crawl organised by the hostel. It was fun, lots of fun. The measures there were huge, after one drink I was tipsy, after two.... well at the third bar I cheated and had sprite! I had to or I would never have lasted the night out. Even though the club we finished the crawl at was not my usual style it turned out to be fun. It was crowded though so a few of headed back early but on the way found this lovely little bar called Fly which was the nicest bar I visited whilst in San Francisco. Time was moving on as it inevitably does so it really was one for the road then on to the diner across from hostel where I had not pizza but a chilli dog, perfect end-of-a-night-out food.

Not deterred by our hangovers and lack of sleep it was an early start for my friend and I as we took our travelling companions Piglet and Zack on a play date to the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium is a place for kids to experience science hands on but we were far from the only childless people playing there. There was a lot of funky exhibits and I was glad I had company, as not only were there a few exhibits requiring two people it was more fun messing about with a friend. Also, though I am perfectly happy in my own company and enjoy exploring places on my own this is one place where I think I would have felt conspicuous and out of place if I had gone on my own. I am happy to report that Piglet and Zack got on well and also had fun. We managed to make a bridge of metal filing between two magnets for Zack to sit on, get a motion stop photo of Piglet and a few photos of the two of them playing together on the exhibits. I am constantly impressed by how the museums here try to engage the children who visit but the Exploratorium was something else. Play time over we headed to Fishermans Wharf for a clam chowder bread bowl and a rest. A leisurely wander through Chinatown and I thought that I had managed the perfect end to my trip but there was more yet to come. Knowing that I had a long trip ahead of me even though I wasn’t particularly hungry I left my hostel for the last time as a guest and went to the Cheesecake Factory. Wow. I had an appetizer of crabcakes which were tasty enough but the cheesecake, wow. My lemon raspberry cream cheesecake  was light and fluffy and exactly what was looking for and the tastiest desert I have ever had until I tasted my friends chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake. There are no words, it took me over a minute to finish my one bite as I didn’t want it to end. It was divine. I couldn’t have eaten a whole slice so I was glad I had chosen the one I did but, wow. It was that good.  Did I say wow yet?! To top the day off we had a fabulous view of Union Square at night with its Christmas tree lit up and skaters going round the outdoor rink. It really was a great end to an amazing trip and, yup you guessed it, I didn’t want to leave! Fast forward to 4am the next morning and I left the hostel and for the last time for my final journey and destination: home. San Francisco is a great city to visit, I would happily go there over and over and I am glad I decided to end my trip there. Now it’s home time and back to reality, I wonder where I left my winter clothes?