Tag Archives: street scenes

Try to Remember…

When was the last time you were in San Francisco in September with the temperature over 100 degrees?  With the advent of Labor Day and subsequent heat waves, San Francisco experienced record temperatures (over 106 degrees reported downtown??). The freak weather sparked a lot of unusual behavior–like packed parks with… what!?! people in them (See featured sketch above, at noon on 9/5/17 at the 100 First Street roof terrace).

Girls flung their normally conservative city modesty to the winds and were wearing skin-tight and flimsy almost see-through dresses. And surfers surfing at Ocean Beach without wetsuits!?! It must be an indication of the positive effect that weather has on our foggy Bay Area brains–and that we’re actually and finally capable of adaptation!

The Fall Semester has also descended. I finally consolidated my myriad choices for classes. As always, I pick more things from the buffet line than I can eat. San Francisco’s City College is free for residents starting this year, so I can gluttonize myself even more. I decided to forego the German classes this term. Instead, I opted for a purely hedonistic art and music program. I am continuing my figure drawing classes with the fantastic Ms. Diane Olivier. You may remember her from my incredible Moroccan sketching adventure in June. She continues to teach at the Fort Mason site where all the lifelong art students congregate.

As part of our class assignment in Art, we are expected to sketch daily. One of the better ways I accomplish this is joining Meet-ups for Sketchers. We draw in various parts of the city (Nob Hill, office buildings, events in the Park, etc). There seems to be a spontaneous combustion of happenings thanks to the internet. I can join several in one week if I choose to.  There are similar meet-ups worldwide, so I am really excited about these prospects in the future. Sketching outdoors has been great art therapy for me and a memorable way to view and record the city other than with a camera. Click on images below for captions.

Places

I’m making my ginger foray into Music in two directions. First, I toyed with both introductory piano and violin. Yes, I took lessons many years ago and only enough to allow me to play in solitary confinement. The incentive for the piano class was a fleet of brand-new digital Yamaha pianos.

I decided to forego the equipment upgrade and a cast of 20+ students for a beginning violin class of only 15 students (20-15=5x more attention from the instructor). My old violin that had been left unattended for decades was finally in the money again. You can imagine the delight from the poor violin’s standpoint.  It was dripping with sound from its inner belly and oozing through the curly-que slits to the world.  I could barely remember how to tighten the bow and prep it with rosin. Forget tuning and blowing up the rest pad–I had to rely on the instructor’s help for both.

Second, my next musical class is about music awareness.  We will learn more about opera using Elektra, Turandot, and La Traviata from the San Francisco Opera season. We have access to orchestra seats for $35! This is almost as good as being a Goethe Institute student in Berlin. I thought this class would be a pushover until I had to write two papers. I discovered that I had no music theory, background, or ability to explain anything in proper musical terms. Hopefully this class will improve my musical awareness!!

People

Last but not least…Emperor Norton found in the stacks of the Mechanics Library in Downtown San Francisco…during a treasure hunt. You can join the private library for a nominal fee with access to many up and coming books and their authors.

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In a couple of weeks, I plan to travel to Peru and Chile.  I’ll be visiting Macchu Picchu and Easter Island. Please join me for a bit of fun and adventure! As usual, my focus will be on art, architecture, anthropology, and food!  If you want to opt out of email notifications, you can change your settings in WordPress. Until then…

Day 71-72: End of the Rainbow

Alas, I am at the end of my fourth world trip. After 11 flights, 11 train trips, and numerous bus, taxi and private car transfers, I will have successfully completed my world travel goal for this year. We met old friends and made new ones. We gained much deeper understanding and appreciation of our roots. And as mentioned previously, I overcame my fear of drawing!! Like any phobia, it is easy to avoid what you fear most. I grabbed the bull by the horn and grappled with it. It was so easy it wasn’t even a contest. I just simply had to do it!

Granted, the circumstances were perfect, and for that, I must give credit to an incredible teacher and artist extraordinaire, Diane Olivier. Don’t miss my tribute to her in the video posted on Day 58, Moroccan Magic.

Our last day in Hong Kong included a visit to the Man Mo Temple near our Air BNB and a walk along Bowen Path. It is one of the best kept secrets of Hong Kong. It winds for three miles along the Mid-Levels in a horizontal stretch. The torrential rains that day drenched us with plenty of waterfall activity along the route. (See also Day 66, 2014, tagged below.)

We stopped for lunch at Lin Heung, an old Hong Kong mainstay. You rinse your dishes in discarded hot tea that is brewed and poured at the table.

So, until next time, Farewell! Please send me any comments you wish to share about what you liked or didn’t –I heard that there were too many opera posts so cut back (of course only after leaving Germany!!). Do write, and I definitely will write back!

Thanks to all for following travelswithmyselfandothers.  As you know, this is a personal pursuit of my favorite activities and being able to share it with you gives me the greatest pleasure.  I hope to see each and every one of you (whom I can recognize by name) in the next year–let’s make a date!

Auf Wiedersehen, 在见,  وداعا!!

VickieVictoria

P.S. In an effort to sketch every day, here are a few sketches of people eating at breakfast and still lifes of dishes that didn’t get posted.

P.S.S. Last of series of daily sketches:

Addendum: Apologies to the last few comments that didn’t get answered: I have just returned home and am in a state of recovering to bright blue skies and 72 degree weather…will write back soon!!

Days 65-68 Lives of Others in Guangzhou, China

Like in Hong Kong, searching for old remains in Guangzhou has been puzzling. Many of the vestiges of the arcaded colonial city have been erased and replaced by newer, taller buildings. We headed to the area where Gee Kin’s relatives live, and what used to be the West Gate. It has been subsumed by modern development and is now considered part of the inner city.

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Yet activity in the area carries on like it did a hundred years ago or before. You see both men and women pushing or pulling hand carts along the road, scurrying and balancing the goods adeptly and efficiently at a pace more like a gallop than a prance. I watched for awhile in fascination, as social consciousness doesn’t seem to inhibit delivering goods this way and better, faster, cheaper.

The neighborhood shops may seem mundane to tourists, but the local market economy appeared to fully support the array (mixed used at its fullest: nuts and bolts fabricators next door to pastry shops, electrical repair next to fast food–you get the drift) of products and services offered.

Each shop relies on street for light and ventilation. That gave me plenty opportunity to poke my curious and annoying head inside. For some reason this reminded me of  Amsterdam’s red light district. The curtainless windows of the Dutch tidy “shops” openly invited customers to have a peak just like these shops in West Gate (Ximen Kou) did.

Shop assistants check their WeChat accounts frequently in between serving customers. You get a distinct impression that it’s not a bad system for the full employment act, even if the shopkeepers are bored and inattentive at times. The use of cell phones to combat boredom is nothing new throughout the world, but it’s remarkable if you look at the regularity and density of shopkeepers with cell phones staked in this area.

Earlier in the week, we visited one of my star architecture students who now lives and works in his home town of Guangzhou. Lam is a talented designer who is a partner in his own firm. It has been furiously designing shopping malls and theme parks all over China.

Lam’s “industrial chic” office could outdo any firm in the States as a showcase for innovative design. The office contains an experimental kitchen and full pig roaster. Rest and eating areas, conference rooms, and a library are all available to staff. The work areas are divided into manageable rooms or suites and therefore do not follow the pattern of open office design of most architectural firms. Large murals depicting the rebellion against the Qing Dynasty is provided by one of the partners.

As part of continuing research on my family’s history, I asked our friend Susan to accompany us to various institutions throughout the city. The new Guangzhou Book Store is one of the largest in the country. It was filled with floors of books and periodicals scattered between boutiques for Chinese calligraphy brushes and inkstands, tea ware, and books for sale.

Our second stop at the also new Guangzhou Library was another fascinating glimpse into the future of Guangzhou. With such excellent facilities, the hearts and minds of the students and researchers are captured. The north west reference room at the top where we were directed contained scholar’s rosewood furniture and fretwork screens. It was a noble nod to China’s classical examination system and its history and dedication to education.

Everywhere throughout China, you feel that it is a country on the move. There isn’t much time to stop and reflect on the speed and delivery of everything, from data to food to train tickets (they arrived at our hotel as promised). It’s exciting to witness, explore, and engage in the collective spirit.

Day 62-64: Hunkering Down in Hong Kong

Returning to Hong Kong has a romantic flair to it, as this is the city where Gee Kin and I met. I was a young architect starting in the profession, and Gee Kin was reinitiating his career as a structural engineer. There’s no doubt we were impressed with each other, particularly with our mutual sense of humor. While our relationship developed slowly by today’s standards, it gave us sufficient time to think about who we were and whether we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together or not. It must have worked, because we are still together over 35 years later.

Shortly after arrival in Hong Kong we encountered a typhoon. Known as Merbok, it was the first of the year. Everyone scurried to get groceries and head home at the end of the day. It was quiet and the streets were dead empty by early evening. It felt like Chinese New Year’s but without the festive atmosphere where shops are closed and everyone is at home with family celebrating.

After a couple of days of torrential rain, I was able to head outdoors. My first exploration was to the art studio downstairs, where I learned how to copy a Chinese flower pattern and paint with watercolors for the first time ever. It reminded me of second daughter Julianne’s brush painting from her high school days. I felt a bit awkward at painting in water colors, but the instructor was very kind and explained everything very clearly in Cantonese. It gave me a chance to reuse the lively language I learned while living in Hong Kong.

We decided to visit Fulham Garden in Pokfulam, where I lived when I worked for Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway. It wasn’t far from Central, but I had trouble remembering where the bus stop was located. The buildings are taller and there are more of them. Fortunately, there are still pockets that reflect and preserve old Hong Kong. After a quick look, we walked back to Central.

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There are public parks such as Blake Garden tucked into the hillside, as well as many of Hong Kong’s prestigious private and parochial schools. The narrow roads provide relief for old banyan trees that have lived there for centuries. They cling to sides of walls like stubborn old centurions and continue to gasp for air and suck water.

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Many new trendy boutiques and cafes line the pockets above Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan. These shops are dotted throughout the area where we are staying and are immersed between many staircases such as Ladder Street and the escalators that ascend from Central to Midlevels. The manual stairs are not as nice as our tiled steps in Golden Gate Heights, but purposeful. Finally, we scaled our Air BNB in the five-level walk-up after plenty of exercise on the hilly side streets.

Day 58: Moroccan Magic

As our last night in Essaouira drew to a close, we didn’t have much time for nostalgia or glee. Between crazy over the top activities immersed with deep dives into the culture and grabbing tips and tools for sketching, each day was exhaustingly satisfying.

Diane, our instructor extraordinaire, exuded penultimate confidence in her craft. We agreed she was, indeed, a wonder woman. I would never admit that soneone knew more than me about traveling, but Diane is over the top savvy and knowledgeable.

She’s the only person I know who can smoke a cigar sitting on the ground in the middle of a major thoroughfare sketching locals who love it, AND manage a herd of cats who continually ask the same question after it’s just been answered.

Here’s the link to the video I made and shared with everyone on the last night of our sketching expedition in Essaouira, Morocco.

And, for Customer Service: a few final quickies before leaving to head back to Marrakesh:

(Note: I’m en route via Geneva, Zurich, Frankfurt, and Beijing to Hong Kong. The internet may be a bit spotty, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a few days!)

Day 56-57 Dromedary Dates

I’m not sure whether dromedaries or dates came first, but we had both in the same day. The one-humped camels, by the way, are called dromedaries.  Our group  of a dozen or so artists and students launched the camel ride at the surf shop in Essaouira. After being well-clad in Berber style scarves, we braved the mini-sandstorm and headed south along the beach.

Our guide made sure that the camels stayed in one line. They were amazingly docile and sweet, and only pooped occasional olive-sized pellets that acrobatically cartwheeled in the sand.

After about an hour, we headed to a sheltered area of trees for a grilled sardine and watermelon lunch prepared by our camel guide.

In the evening, we feasted at the home of Diane’s friend and guide, Hassan. During Ramadan, this was a particularly festive and meaningful occasion. The table was laid out with fat juicy dried dates. Next, a huge dune of toasted almond paste flattered by bread, followed by pizza, then chicken tagine with olives and fries, custard dessert, and mint tea. My stomach hurts from the memory of how much delicious food I couldn’t consume.

The next day, we buckled down with a perspective, sighting, and measuring session first thing in the morning. Here are a few before and after sketches:

Day 48-49: …They’re Taking Me to Marrakech…

When we were ferried out in a bus to the flight to Marrakesh at the Frankfurt Airport, I already sensed that the trip was not going to be a run-of-the-mill commuter. Instead, we ended up outside a hangar where planes were being repaired, and the lone plane outside looked as if it had been grounded for bad behavior.  The airport stretched for miles as far as the eye could see, between the Baltic and the Alps. I never realized that an airport could be THAT big, but Frankfurt was, like all German things, serious business.

We took off and landed three hours later to an another immense airport. The new Menara Airport, next to its old one, was so vast and empty that you wondered if they hadn’t put several square miles of the three largest airports in the world together and renamed it Menara. It was indeed a beautiful architectural masterpiece. Hopefully by a local architect. Regardless, it was impressive and ready to compete with Hong Kong, Paris or New York for tourists.

If you are in interesting places, it won’t be surprising to find that you are in a UNESCO world site without knowing it. That’s what happened here. Without trying, I discovered that the Medina of Marrakesh is indeed on the list. The history, the Islamic significant buildings (madrassas, mausoleums and mosques) and souks, or markets, all contribute to its status.

On an initial walk around the neighborhood of the hotel where we stayed, here were a few of the sights and sounds:

The Madrassah Ben Yousef was one of the earliest institutions of higher learning established in Marrakesh, where the doctors, lawyers and mullahs were trained.

The guilds within the market area preserve traditional crafts such as tanning, carpet weaving, metalwork, woodwork, and making argan oil and other pharmaceuticals for remedies.

The doorways are significant entry points through walls and into private spaces. Beautiful courtyards lie beyond reach for the public pedestrian. My guide explained, that after you arrive at someone’s home, you announce your presence. If they do not answer, you are never allowed to enter beyond the doorway, even if the place is accessible. That would be considered a breach of trust.

After a walk around the neighborhood on my own and a guided tour of the souk (market area later in the morning, I participated in a hands-on cooking class at the Clock Restaurant all afternoon. Its famous camel burger was on the menu, but we learned how to make tame versions of traditional dishes that included harisa soup, chicken tagine, eggplant caviar, and biscuits with dates.

And the Chef de Cuisine:

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At the end of a very busy day, I could escape to my suite in the historic Riad Dar Mouassine (also photo featured above)

Tomorrow: On to the Drawing Boards!!!

Day 46-47 Last Dance in Düsseldorf

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Inscription at Entrance to the Art Academy: ‘For our Students: Only the Best’

Art has been elusive in Düsseldorf, until I made a point to seek it out. Works by Luther promoter Cranach and German Expressionist Otto Dix were in town but hard to get to even though they were only a stone’s throw from where I lived. I discovered the Kunst (Art) Academy, where Gerhard Richter, one of my daughter’s favorite artists, studied and taught. The sobering words carved at the entrance seem daunting, for both student and teacher.

I originally came to the area seeking art supplies, and was delighted to find a tidy art store complete with what I needed for my sketching class in Morocco. It’s scheduled to begin at the end of the week, and I hadn’t stocked my bag yet. I sent all my German books  home so I could fit and replace the new materials in my carry-on.

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I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to lay everything out for you. Just like ingredients for a soup, these are going to be the base and the flavor for my upcoming sketches. I loved all the quality German-made sketch paper, colored pencils, pastels, graphite pencils and holder, and even the UHU glue stick. After further inspection, however, I discovered that the gray pliable art eraser (in a plastic case) came from Malaysia and the markers from Korea. Oh well.

And just so you know I have my priorities straight, I stopped at the German bakery Heinemann’s for a kirsch cake over a Chocolate sponge and chocolate biscuit. They even packed the whipped cream with tender care “to go”.

Over the weekend, friend Vladimir was visiting and we made a stop at the Neanderthal Museum. Not one of my favorites, but here’s a tiny description of the 2,500,000 years of Migration, described as a “river”, with ebbs and flows”:

The burial discovery of a family of 14 showed how they were hacked by axes, where blows to the head were visible. The museum is the site for a discovery of Neanderthal man that was dated to 40,000 years ago, but earlier discoveries of Neanderthal man were made in Belgium before then. A number of artifacts and copies of archaeological finding were duplicates used to explain the evolution of man.

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We made it back in time to see an innovative and clever version of the “Magic Flute”. The Germans are experimenting with new ways to present and appreciate the classic operas. In this one, they used the Buster Keaton silent film era graphics and period style as the backdrop for the beautifully enduring music. It worked well, the graphics and animated portions were original, creative, and thoroughly enjoyable. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing more of these interpretations as opera becomes more widespread and appealing to younger audiences.

tmp_27244-DSC_0742360256924For those interested, here’s a clip of the performance at the Opera on the Rhine in Dusseldorf:

http://www.operamrhein.de/de_DE/termin/die-zauberfloete.13972906

As I close this month’s visit to Dusseldorf, I am sorry to leave. The attention to art, music and culture is clearly evident, albeit subtle at times. In addition to promoting fashion, media, and trade fairs, the city has a bright and forward-thinking approach that will continue to make it a leader in these industries.

Addendum: a preliminary sketch of a static and well-behaved model that served as prep for my sketching class (photo was taken after the sketch!)

And the music legacy lives on as well…here’s the parting music and dance that took place on a casual 90 degree afternoon on Konigsallee around the corner from my apartment:

In Düsseldorf, you can hear year-end recitals by students at the Robert Schumann Musikhochschule free of charge. The piano recital I attended had a dozen or so students. Watch for these world-beaters in the upcoming years. The majority were Asian students. It will be interesting to see how they can influence Western music in their own countries.

I’m off to Morocco tomorrow, to meet with a sketch group organized by an art teacher at City College of San Francisco. Join me for some first-hand, and first-time experiences and adventures! I probably will post around the end of the week after getting acclimated, so stay tuned!

Day 44-45: Lost Schlosses of Barbarossa and Benrath

Kaiserwerth, just north of Dusseldorf on the Rhine, is the site of the legendary medieval Barbarossa castle. As Emperor, he built these fortifications to control the Rhine River. The town is just a small suburb of Dusseldorf. It’s easy enough for weekend party goers to get to (by public transportation, no less!) and an excuse for drunken brawls at the outdoor beer garden. It was already in full swing by Friday afternoon at 3pm.

The beach and feeder to the Rhine were fun and idyllic spots for local visitors and the historic town of Kaiserwerth made it a refreshing and worthwhile escape from the city.

Schloss Benrath (former residence of Elector Carl Theodor (1724-1799)

On my way out of the city headed south to Schloss Benrath, I continued to be impressed by the public transportation in Germany and how easy it is to get around. I am injecting photos of Schloss Benrath along with my commentary. They don’t have anything to do with each other, but maybe the pictures will help make my thoughts more interesting to read!

Having worked for the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway System in my first job out of graduate school, I became an incorrigible train junkie. I got my “first training wheels” from former British Rail or London Tube engineers. They were making use of their ex-pat junkets in Hong Kong, living a colonial life of luxury at a time that was soon to eclipse. The looming year 1997 was just around the corner, signaling the end of the empire after more than 150 years of dominance.

(note: The Palace was decorated with fabric sculptures as part of a special exhibition.)

Nevertheless, I used the skills the Brits taught me about station design, vent shafts, headways and trip generations. This led to a lifetime pursuit. I enjoy and marvel at all of the planning and logistics needed to run a public transportation system. Transit system design integrated with high density development worked wonders, particularly in Hong Kong, but the concept is no exception in major European cities.

When I get on a local transit system in Germany, I get excited by its sheer beauty and efficiency. Its citizens appreciate and  respect the system so it stays clean. The users, the workers, the managers, the leadership all work for a common goal. There are places for luggage in lieu of seats (see photo) so the upholstery isn’t damaged.  Someone can still sit there if needed. Smart signage says it’s ok to have coffee but you need a cover for it.  (See sticker in the middle of the window).

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Yes, some design forethought can go a bit far. At the Schloss Benrath, I noticed all the “mother” hardware that could probably last 1000 years in place. Forged of hand wrought brass, the hinges are twice the size of the door handle.  It must have been decided that the weight of the door on the hinge produces greater stress than a door handle holding a door in place. Any ideas, engineers in the audience? In any event, it’s different from common practice today. We just replace hinges when they wear out.

On the German speaking tour. I heard a big gasp from the crowd about the size of a corset in the early 18th Century–a mere 46 cm! I’ll let you calculate the conversion.(:))

And at the Schloss outside:  a pretty picture who looked good enough to be a model to me…

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Day 39-43: Dwarfed in Düsseldorf

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Frank Gehry’s Media Hafen along the Rhine

After learning about all the fairy tales in class to conjugate the past tense in German, I was wondering if I hadn’t shrunk myself. At the place where I am staying, the owner trains horses and is about 6′ tall. She fitted out the apartment to suit her height. The kitchen table is at my chest height. Standing up (because there are no chairs this high, not even bar stools), I can slurp soup directly from the bowl on the table top without having to lift it.

I also need a stool to get to the bottom shelf of the overhead kitchen cabinets. I wonder if I’m not going to face an avalanche of dishes stored over my head every time I reach for one. It’s a pretty funny scene after the third or fourth time around when I try to cut corners. I really feel like a dwarf.

Speaking of dwarves, we learned all about Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood in my German class. Don’t forget that these stories all come from Germany. The Schwarzwald, or Black Forest, isn’t far from here either. I always thought that the stories had a dark and ominous tone to them. I never understood why little kids were always getting lost in the forest. But not to worry. Walt Disney borrowed them, sanitized them, and made them safe harbors for the Disney Empire.

S-L-O-W Living

We talk a lot about slow food but not slow living. I have spent a lot of time meandering through parks here, partly because you run into one in any direction before you know it. The city parks are incredibly accessible, well-maintained, and beautiful here. Because Dusseldorf is along the banks of the Rhine River, it is relatively flat. A lot of bikes travel at a reasonable pace and share the footpath with pedestrians. It reminds everyone to slow down. Maybe it’s time to think about slow living.

Here are some views of one of the beautiful parks in the heart of the city.

I’m blasting a series of shots of buildings, sights, and details here:

Below: Daniel Liebskind’s masterpiece of the Ko and Shadow-Arkaden, a mixed use office and retail complex. The exterior on the Nordliche Dussel (a small lake) side is mesmerizing. The rear wavy-gravy houses Apple and Tesla, and has a great plaza for people-watching. I even managed to break out pen and paper to do some sketching.

Now I know and agree why Düsseldorf is deemed one of the ten most livable cities in the world.

PS. For those of you in San Francisco, you can see “Young Goethe in Love”, a great movie classic, at the Goethe Institute Thursday, May 25! It’s not too late! Check it out!