Thursday, February 16, 2017

80 North: Benicia, Benicia Capitol State Historic Park + Fischer-Hanlon House


Benicia Capitol State Historic Park  115 W. G St./First St., (707) 745-3385.  Thur 12-4pm, F-Sun 10-5. $3, 6-17 $2.  Historic information, artifacts, and period furniture await visitors inside this restored 2-story, red brick Greek Revival building that served as the third state capitol from February 4, 1853 to February 25, 1854.  Because there were no building codes then and plenty of workers, it was built in less than 5 months.  Most building materials are local.  In the first floor Senate Chambers, each desk is topped by a hat.  Depending on which way the owner planned to vote on the item being discussed, their hat faced either right-side up (yay) or down (nay).  This capitol operated during the heat of the Gold Rush, and hundreds of bills were passed, including one that allows women to own property.  It is claimed that except for a voting technicality, the state capitol would still be here.  After being used as a schoolhouse, a jailhouse, and a firehouse (once it even served as a roller skating rink), this property was restored and opened in 1958 as a state historic park.  Occasional Living History events bring it all to life. 

exterior of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
exterior of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

interior of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
interior of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California




Next to the Capitol in the park is the 1858 Federal-style Victorian Fischer-Hanlon House (135 W. G St.), a renovated Gold Rush-era hotel that also once was a house of prostitution.  It was donated to the state in 1966 and  is said to have a ghost.  The house holds an impressive collection of original period furniture and accessories, including an 1864 Box Steinway made in New York and brought here by ship, and its kitchen features an ornate wood-burning stove and a linoleum floor that looks like an oriental rug.  A carriage house and three-hole out house is behind the house, along with a garden holding a century-old wisteria.  Tours are sometimes available. 

exterior of Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
exterior of Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

1864 Box Steinway piano in Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
1864 Box Steinway piano in Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

dining room at Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
dining room at Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

kitchen at Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
kitchen at Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

bedroom in Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California
bedroom in Fischer-Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in Benicia, California

More things to do in Benicia.

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images and video ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

80 North: Benicia, art galleries


ART IN TOWN
In addition to one glass studio downtown on First Street, two additional long-established glass-blowing studios operate side-by-side about 6 blocks east.

Lindsay Art Glass  109 East F St./First St., (707) 748-1336.  See a mind-blowing selection of colorful blown glass in this retail shop, and don't miss the sale area located in back.  The studio is often open to visitors, and for a set fee you can sometimes blow your own glass ornament. 

Nourot Glass  675 E. H St., (707) 745-1463.  16 Daily 10-4.  Tour (usually on Tu or Thur at 9:30am or 10am); $100/group. 

Smyers Glass & Wood  675 E. H St., (707) 745-2614.  M-Sat 10-4, Sun (May-Dec. only) 12-5.  In addition to blowing beautiful glass items, this facility also produces turned wood.

gift shop at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
gift shop at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California

blown-glass ball ornaments at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
blown-glass ball ornaments at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
sale shelves at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
sale shelves at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California

clamping glass demo at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California
clamping glass demo at Lindsay Art Glass in Benicia, California

ART AWAY FROM TOWN
Arts Benicia  991 Tyler Street #114, 1.2 mi. E of downtown, (707) 747-0131.  W-Sun noon-5pm.  Free.  Located on the outskirts of town, in a concentrated community of artists who live where they work in vintage buildings in the historic Lower Arsenal District, this art gallery sponsors regularly changing shows. 

exterior of Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California
exterior of Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California

art show at Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California
art show at Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California
 
art show at Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California
art show at Arts Benicia gallery in Benicia, California

This section of town was originally a staging area for Union troops during the Civil War.  Now many artists have their studios and homes in historic buildings here.  Though these work spaces are usually closed to visitors, they open during Open Studios events held on the first weekend of May and December.

I visited the sculpture studio of Mary Oros.  Formerly a costume jewelry designer, Mary now makes large pieces out of concrete with an armature underpinning.  She uses lots of kitchen items--including spatulas--as tools.  “It all started in the sandbox my dad built for me,” she laughs.  Her “Blue Moves” concrete sculpture took 4 months to complete.  “I’ve never done anything like that before.  I made it as complicated as I could.” 



artist Mary Oros points at her armature underpinning in Benicia, California
artist Mary Oros points at her armature underpinning in Benicia, California


artist Mary Oros next to her "Blue Moves" concrete sculpture in Benicia, California
artist Mary Oros next to her "Blue Moves" concrete sculpture in Benicia, California

More things to do in Benicia.

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Thursday, February 9, 2017

101 South: Burlingame, Rise Pizzeria


TODAY IS NATIONAL PIZZA DAY! 
Let's celebrate with a great place to go for pizza on a rainy day . . .  or any day.

Rise Pizzeria  1451 Burlingame Ave./El Camino Real, (650) 235-9715.  L-D daily; $$.  Diners form a line at this bustling spot, then place their order with a helpful order-taker at the front, where the pizza-making process in the open kitchen can be observed.

taking orders at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
taking orders at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

making pizzas in the open kitchen at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
making pizzas in the open kitchen at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

The kitchen focal point is two 5,000-pound, custom-designed, wood-fired ovens.  Handmade in Naples, Italy, they are nicknamed Foozi and Nonni in honor of the proprietors's mothers.

pizza pick-up counter in the open kitchen at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
pizza pick-up counter in the open kitchen at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

The clean-lined contemporary interior features high ceilings, attractive elm-wood tables, and wood inlay in the polished cement floors.  It also has a large open-air covered patio heated by a fire pit, where I was warm and cozy on a dismal rainy night.

open dining room at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
open dining room at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

From the simple, pizza-centric menu, I selected several marinated vegetable appetizers--white bean and asparagus; mushroom and red peppadew peppers--which was just right paired with a pizza topped with light-as-a-cloud burrata.  The exceptional crust is made with locally milled organic, non-GMO flour.  From the add-ons, we chose pepperoni and marinated artichokes.  The result was not only beautiful but delicious.  Diners can choose from eight red and eight white pizzas.  

marinated vegetable sides at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
marinated vegetable sides at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
 
burrata pizza with garnish plate at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
burrata pizza with garnish plate at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California

Drink choices include wine (some by the glass), beer (many on tap), and house-made lemonade (refills included).  Espresso coffees are made with wood-fired beans.  At first I was disappointed to learn that the soft-serve ice cream machine was down that night.  But then I discovered the “salted fudge brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookie”--a mouthful in more ways than one--and I was in heaven.  I should definitely have ordered an extra one to take home. 

salted fudge brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookie at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California
salted fudge brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookie at Rise Pizzeria in Burlingame, California


More things to do in Burlingame. 

Great pizzas all around the world.

Take a great pizza tour in NYC.

Here are some travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

80 North: Benicia


Founded in 1847 by General Vallejo and originally named “Francisca” for his bride, this low-key town was the state capital for a short time in 1853.  (The name was changed to Benicia the same year, 1847, that San Francisco was named.  Old-timers pronounce it “Bah-nish-ah,” though newbies say “Bah-nee-shah.”)  Situated on the Carquinez Strait, about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, it became a very busy port when the town built the area’s first deep-water harbor and gained the ability to dock large ships.  Visiting permits stepping back into a quieter, less crowded time.  Street parking is still free, and the town is bike- and dog-friendly.  Plus, currently city officials are proud to say that they have their first all-female police patrol.

view of Carquinez Strait from Benicia, California
view of Carquinez Strait from Benicia, California

First Street clock in Benicia, California
First Street clock in Benicia, California

First Street is the town’s downtown.  It begins at Military West and runs for 11 blocks, ending at the Carquinez Strait waterfront.  At night, the leafy trees the street is lined with sprout romantic lights.  At the waterfront, you will sometimes see sea lions (you can also often hear them as you wander around the town).  It is also a popular place to watch the sunset.

leafy First Street in Benicia, California
leafy First Street in Benicia, California

sunset at Benicia waterfront with rock heart in Benicia, California
sunset at Benicia waterfront with rock heart in Benicia, California

A plethora of antiques shops is found in the 300 and 600 blocks.  My favorites are:

Blue Goose Antiques  622 First St., (707) 745-1715.  W-Sun 10:30am-5:30pm.  Located inside a vintage house, this focused shop specializes in primitives. 

Charlie’s Attic  632 First St., (707) 205-6960.  Vintage and collectibles.  Named for Charlie, the boxer dog who hangs here. 

The Steffen Collection Antiques  627 First St., (707) 745-1170.  Tu-Sun 10:30am-5:30pm.  Here you’ll find lovely collections of aprons, teacups, and Lucite bracelets.  I saw a two-pronged cherry pitter that I came close to buying.

aprons at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California
aprons at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California

tea cups at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California
tea cups at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California

bangle bracelets at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California
bangle bracelets at The Steffen Collection Antiques in Benicia, California

At the waterfront end of town, you'll see Benicia Main Street, a well-maintained building that was once the Southern Pacific Train Depot.  It was where both the train and individual passengers boarded “the largest ferry in the world” to be transported across the Carquinez Strait to Port Costa.  Now it holds a multi-purpose shop that dispenses town information and displays town memorabilia in addition to purveying a variety of Benicia-related merchandise and local art.  Additionally, it is the only outlet for See’s candies in town.

painting of Benicia Main Street by Ebba Navas in Benicia, California
painting of Benicia Main Street by Ebba Navas in Benicia, California

See's candies at Benicia Main Street in Benicia, California
See's candies at Benicia Main Street in Benicia, California


As you wander around town, look for the small yellow “This Place Has History!” plaques on historic markers.  Use your smart phone to read the QR code for on-the-spot connection to a website that contains photos and info about the history of that location.  No QR code reader? The same information can be found at m.historicalbenicia.org

purple morning glory in Benicia, California
purple morning glory in Benicia, California

More things to do in Benicia.

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum + Conservatory of Flowers


The de Young Museum is currently exhibiting "Frank Stella:  A Retrospective." This show includes 50 major pieces, from his early Black paintings to his more recent sculptural works.  I especially enjoyed his three-dimensional sculptural pieces, and I greatly enjoyed watching the viewers as well.  Stella is quoted as saying, "a sculpture is just a painting cut out and stood up somewhere"--food for thought.  Show runs through February 26, 2017.  More about the de Young Museum.

Frank Stella Retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California
Frank Stella Retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California


Frank Stella Retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California
Frank Stella Retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California


Frank Stella Retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California
Frank Stella Retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California


Frank Stella Retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California
Frank Stella Retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California

And just across the way, at the Conservatory of Flowers, the annual living butterfly exhibit has returned.  A chrysalis display allows watching the metamorphosis process, and then you can enjoy their 3-day lifespan with them as they flit around in a small cottage garden setting.  It continues through June 30, 2017.  More about the Conservatory of Flowers.


center dome in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California
center dome in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California


koi pond in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California
koi pond in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California


orchids in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California
orchids in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California


fashion photo shoot in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California
fashion photo shoot in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California


brilliant red anthuriam in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California
brilliant red anthuriam in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California


Zebra Longwing butterfly chrysalis display in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California
Zebra Longwing butterfly chrysalis display in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California


Zebra Longwing butterfly in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California
Zebra Longwing butterfly in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California


Monarch butterfly in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California
Monarch butterfly in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California


Julia butterfly in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California
Julia butterfly in Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California


More things to do in Golden Gate Park.

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers