December 12, 2018

San Francisco: Axiom Hotel


Axiom Hotel  28 Cyril Magnin St., 3 blks. from Union Square, (415) 392-9466.  152 rooms; 6 stories.  Fitness room; communal game area.  Restaurant; room service.  Valet parking $59-$64/night.  Pets ok. 

exterior of Axiom Hotel in San Francisco, California
exterior of Axiom Hotel in San Francisco, California
Built in 1908 in the Beaux-Arts style of architecture that was popular when San Francisco was being rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake, this newly remodeled boutique hotel is a mix of artsy and contemporary minimalist (think exposed-pipe ceilings), yet retains its vintage design elements.  High ceilings are found throughout, and it features a beautiful original staircase with iron banisters but also has two modern elevators.  And though the official front door on Cyril Magnin Street is where guests unload their cars, the alternative Powell Street entrance is one of San Francisco’s best--right smack in front of the cable car turnaround.  The reception lounge holds a small library stocked with San Francisco- and California-related books, and Astro the hotel’s pet robot (he delivers items to guest rooms using a storage space in his head) rests here when not working and accommodates selfie requests. 

lobby of Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California
lobby of Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California

Guests can refill their personal water bottles at a Brita Hydration Station located on each floor, and quiet, motion-activated central heat and air conditioning turn on and off automatically as guests enter or leave the room.  Plumbing is new, and double-paned windows keep street noise way down.  Additionally, the hotel is techie-friendly with everything from alarm clocks with iPhone 6 charger attachment, to Smart TVs that you order room service though, to grey hoodie sweatshirt robes. 

guest room bed at Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California
guest room bed at Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California


Turn Cafe is a super casual lobby restaurant and bar.  Happy hour specials include delicious Cajun kale chips and carne asada tacos, both of which pair well with the photogenic rye “Axiom” house cocktail that is laden beautifully across the top with four big red, juicy maraschino cherries (I adored this cocktail).   I plan to return to try the breakfast Acai Bowl and French toast brioche.  The eclectic menu for the rest of the day has something for everyone and includes several burgers, tacos, and pastas. 

interior of Turn Cafe at Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California
interior of Turn Cafe at Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California


carne asada tacos at Turn Cafe at Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California
carne asada tacos at Turn Cafe at Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California


cherry-heavy Axiom cocktail at Turn Cafe at Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California
cherry-heavy Axiom cocktail at Turn Cafe at Axiom Hotel with delivery robot in San Francisco, California




December 4, 2018

Berkeley: The Bear’s Lair Tavern


80 North

The Bear’s Lair Tavern  2465 Bancroft Way/Telegraph Ave., in Eshleman Student Union, (510) 664-4191.  L-D M-Sat.

interior of The Bear’s Lair Tavern in Berkeley, California
interior of The Bear’s Lair Tavern in Berkeley, California

The BLT isn’t your grandpa’s Bear’s Lair.  With a new name and a new menu, the Lair has also opened up into the light.  No longer the dingy downstairs retreat of yesteryear--a real lair--the Lair today has moved away from the original Student Union and is now a first-floor, table-and-chairs kind of place with an abundance of light provided by walls of windows, one of which looks out to Lower Sproul Plaza and has a view of the Campanile.  However this Lair does make a nod to the good old days with its blessedly familiar upbeat sound track--think “Good Vibrations” and Sugar Pie, Honey Bun.”  The bar dispenses an assortment of local brews and a variety of cocktails.  Whatever you do, don’t miss the refreshing vodka-powered Butterfly Soda made with exotic butterfly pea blossoms from Thailand.  Through a biochemical reaction, the drink turns from blue to lavender right before your eyes as it is prepared.



Now inching away from typical student fare towards gourmet gastropub cuisine, the menu offers sambal chili-honey chicken wings and a signature fried chicken sandwich.  My dining partner and I shared a simple salmon filet atop quinoa topped again with a dab of chimichurri sauce for a little kick (I would have liked a lot more of that tasty sauce),

salmon with quinoa at The Bear’s Lair Tavern in Berkeley, California
salmon with quinoa at The Bear’s Lair Tavern in Berkeley, California

and a Cobb Salad consisting of romaine lettuce topped with the expected ingredients--avocado, hard-boiled egg, bacon, and bits of that delicious fried chicken.

Cobb Salad at The Bear’s Lair Tavern in Berkeley, California
Cobb Salad at The Bear’s Lair Tavern in Berkeley, California

Of course, this menu must have a burger and so it offers several--a classic patty on a toasted brioche bun, as well as the highly-publicized Impossible Burger.  Pizzas are also an option.  Ordering at the counter helps keep costs down and makes service faster.  The bar offers prime TV seating, but communal tables and traditional private tables are also available.  In good weather, a large beer garden complete with fire pits provides plenty more seating outside.


More things to do in Berkeley. 
 
Way more thing to do in Berkeley.  
 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.
 

images and video ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

November 30, 2018

Berkeley: Guerilla Cafe


80 North

Guerilla Cafe  1620 Shattuck Ave./Cedar St., Gourmet Ghetto, (510) 845-2233.  B-L daily. 

exterior of Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California
exterior of Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California

This narrow hole in the wall seems somehow intimidating, but once you’re inside the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.  It has a comfortable, casual cafe vibe, with local art on the walls.  Seating consists of a long counter with round stools, and a few tables with chairs both indoors and outdoors.  Customers order at the front counter, then take a seat.  Breakfast includes a variety of pastries--the mini scones are mega good and the popular gluten-free mochi muffins are usually gone--as well as an assortment of egg dishes, polenta porridge, and a waffle of the day (are you up for lemon-poppyseed?), but no bacon.  The chai latte is delish, and a rich hot chocolate is also exceptional.  Lunch items include a savory polenta topped with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and a drizzle of truffle oil, and the soup is always vegetarian.  Breakfast is served until 2 p.m.; lunch begins at 10:30 a.m.

Guerilla Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

interior of Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California
interior of Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California


barista at Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California
barista at Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California


chai latte and mini scone at Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California
chai latte and mini scone at Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California


menu at Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California
menu at Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, California


More things to do in Berkeley. 
 
Way more thing to do in Berkeley.  
 
More ideas for exploring Northern California.
 

images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

November 27, 2018

San Francisco: The Great Dickens Christmas Fair


San Francisco

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair  $30, 5-12 $14; parking $12.  No pets.

Father Christmas at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
Father Christmas at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco

          See "A Christmas Carol" brought to life at this re-creation of Christmas in Victorian London.  After playing spirited parlour games, purchasing some fine yuletide gifts, and feasting on period food and drink (my favorites are the banger sandwich and the hot cider), even the grumpiest Scrooge will capture the season’s spirit.

Charles Dickens at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
Charles Dickens at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco


plate of bangers at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
plate of bangers at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco


characters belly up to the bar at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
characters belly up to the bar at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco

          Special shops include a hair-braiding parlour on Petticoat lane and a children’s clothing shop not far away on Nickelby Road--little girls between the ages of 5 and 8 are in heaven here.  Entertainment is continuous and includes parades, theatrical performances, and caroling--even dancing with Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig and guests at their celebrated party.  And as if this isn't enough, Her Majesty Queen Victoria and consort Prince Albert always attend.  Visitors are encouraged to dress in period costume.

boys paint ornaments at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
boys paint ornaments at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco


ladies get braids at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
ladies get braids at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco


young girl in purple taffeta dress at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
young girl in purple taffeta dress at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco


portrait painter at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
portrait painter at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco


Queen Victoria sips tea at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
Queen Victoria sips tea at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco




          High Tea is served by Cuthbert’s (a private concession) in the Tea Parlour every day at 4 p.m. ($27).  Reservations are required and can be made online or when you arrive at the fair.  If you’d like to see the popular Saucy French Postcards Tableaux Revue, you need to secure a separate free ticket when you arrive at the fair.  Shows are presented daily at 5:30 and 6:15 p.m. for adults over 18 years of age only.

tea time at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco
tea time at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco

Things you’ll want to know:
●A fair map, show schedules, and special Children's Tour are included in the free souvenir program provided as you enter the fair gate (they are also available in advance online).
●The Scrooge Special offers “twilight tickets” after 3 p.m. (adults $18, children $10).
●You can ride BART or Muni to the Glen Park BART Station, then just outside board a free shuttle to and from the fair that runs every half hour from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.  I did this myself and found it to be easy and efficient, and the shuttle dropped me right at the entrance to the fair.
          It is hard to believe that it has been more than 35 years since this festive event originated in San Francisco.  More images.



More Bay Area Christmas events.

Way more things to do in San Francisco. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

images and video ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

November 14, 2018

San Francisco: Transamerica Redwood Park


San Francisco

Transamerica Redwood Park  600 Montgomery St./Merchant St.  M-F 7am-5:30pm.  Situated on the east side of the Transamerica Pyramid building,  this privately owned redwood grove is found unexpectedly in the middle of San Francisco’s skyscrapers.  Trees for the half-acre grove were brought in from the Santa Cruz Mountains and transplanted in 1957.  There are now 56, and some reach 100 feet.  And who knows?  Perhaps these trees will one day be as tall as the pyramid itself.  Benches and tables offer visitors respite, but note that this urban park is locked up each night.

Transamerica Redwood Park in San Francisco's Financial District
Transamerica Redwood Park in San Francisco's Financial District


Transamerica Redwood Park in San Francisco's Financial District
Transamerica Redwood Park in San Francisco's Financial District


More redwoods.

More things to do in San Francisco's Financial District.

More things to do in San Francisco 

Way more things to do in San Francisco. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

November 2, 2018

Bishop: Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site


High Sierra: Highway 395

Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site  Off Hwy. 6, 4.5 mi. N of Bishop, (760) 873-5950.  Daily 10am-4pm.  $5; train rides additional.  No dogs.

visitor center at Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site in Bishop, California
visitor center at Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site in Bishop, California


antique train at Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site in Bishop, California
antique train at Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site in Bishop, California

A replication of the 1883 frontier community of Laws that developed here as a railroad depot for Bishop, this 11-acre facility features 30 original 19th-century buildings.  Some were here from the past, and others were brought in to recreate the town.  You can visit a newspaper office, a beauty parlor with a scary-looking permanent wave machine,

permanent wave machine at Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site in Bishop, California
permanent wave machine at Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site in Bishop, California

a post office, a medical building, a replica mine shaft and headframe, and way more.  When the town sprang up, nearby Keeler was the largest producer of silver in California and Laws had as many residents as Bishop.  Vintage locomotives and railroad equipment as well as mining equipment are sometimes operated.  A restored Death Valley tourist railroad car is restored and often available for rides on summer weekends.

restored Death Valley tourist railroad car at Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site in Bishop, California
restored Death Valley tourist railroad car at Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site in Bishop, California

This railroad shut down in 1959, hurt by the popularity of trucking.  “Nevada Smith” starring Steve McQueen was filmed here in 1965.  Visitors can wander through on their own, but sometimes docents are available for a tour.  Pack along a picnic.

These videos are tons of fun:


This handcar was built from a kit.















More things to do along Highway 395.

More things to do in nearby Yosemite.

images and videos ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
docent in videos is Jay Smart


October 30, 2018

Mill Valley: Playa


101 North

Playa  41 Throckmorton Ave./Miller Ave., (415) 384-8871.  L-D daily; $-$$.  Reservations advised.

dining room and bar at Playa in Mill Valley, California
dining room and bar at Playa in Mill Valley, California
In a thoroughly contemporary setting, with dangling golden light orbs and a full bar, this bustling spot serves up some delicious and colorfully-presented fare--watermelon salad, a brilliant Tijuana Caesar salad, enchiladas de mole rojo.  Traditional tacos, tamales, and quesadillas sometimes are filled with the unusual, think octopus.  My dining partner and I sat outside on the back patio, where the tables resembled shiny hatch covers and where we were warmed by a fire pit and overhead lamps, and made a nice light dinner of guacamole, grilled asparagus, and traditional house margaritas.  Intriguing dishes I will return to try:  vegan soup menudo style, an empanada with chimichurri, and vegetarian asparagus tacos.

back patio at Playa in Mill Valley, California
back patio at Playa in Mill Valley, California


guacamole at Playa in Mill Valley, California
guacamole at Playa in Mill Valley, California


house margarita at Playa in Mill Valley, California
house margarita at Playa in Mill Valley, California


asparagus special at Playa in Mill Valley, California
asparagus special at Playa in Mill Valley, California


More things to do in Mill Valley.

Even more things to do in Mill Valley. 

An overnight escape to Mt. Tam. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.
  
images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

October 11, 2018

Independence: Manzanar National Historic Site


High Sierra: Highway 395

Manzanar National Historic Site  5001 Hwy. 395, (760) 878-2194.  Visitor Center open daily 9-4:30; site open daily dawn-dusk.  Free.

Visitor Center at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
Visitor Center at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California

The original inhabitants of this desolate, 1-square-mile spot that was once home to apple orchards (“manzanar” means apple orchard in Spanish) were Paiute Indians, who were massacred and forced out.  Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, the area became one of 10 bleak U.S. internment camps that were used to detain 11,000 Japanese Americans.  They were considered a potential threat to the nation and were held against their will beginning in March of 1942.  Most camp inhabitants here were from San Pedro, California and Bainbridge Island, Washington.
  When the Manzanar War Relocation Center closed after World War II in 1945, most of the buildings were either moved elsewhere or dismantled and sold as scrap.  The prisoners left in November of 1945 and  were given just $25 and a bus ticket to wherever they wanted to go.  Over the years, this site has become a peaceful, beautiful spot, with sagebrush and trees and the Sierra peaks visible in the distance.
  The Visitor Center, which opened in 2004, was originally built by internees in 1944 as a high school auditorium.  Now it is home to state-of-the-art exhibits that are thoughtful and enlightening as well as disturbing.  Begin your visit with a viewing of the excellent documentary movie “Remembering Manzanar,”  which gives a voice to the 11,000 people who endured incarceration here, then browse the museum, and move on to the out buildings--barracks, women’s latrine, and mess hall--which because they were rebuilt to code were reconstructed better than they were originally built.  A self-guided tour weaves through these buildings, providing plenty of food for thought.

U.S. flag flies at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
U.S. flag flies at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


site map at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
site map at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


overview of reconstructed buildings at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
overview of reconstructed buildings at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


inside barracks at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
inside barracks at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


exterior of women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
exterior of women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


view from women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
view from women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


showers in women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
showers in women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


toilets in women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
toilets in women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


exterior of mess hall at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
exterior of mess hall at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California



October 9, 2018

Berkeley: Taste of the Himalayas


80 North

Taste of the Himalayas  1700 Shattuck Ave./Virginia St., Gourmet Ghetto, (510) 849-4983.  L-D daily; $$.

exterior of Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California
exterior of Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California


lunch specials at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California
lunch specials at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California


Featuring a menu of Nepalese, Tibetan, and Indian dishes, this atmospheric restaurant features a large open dining room decorated with hand-painted murals and furnished with elaborately carved wood chairs and accents.

dining room at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California
dining room at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California


statue at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California
statue at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California


You’ll want to try the momos and Nepalese-spiced lamb curries in particular.  Here for lunch, I recently tried the tandoor salmon special but found it disappointing in that it was still cold in the center and the outside didn’t have the charred, crispiness that I expected.  It was only ok, although the charred onions on the side almost made up for it.  The special included a lovely lentil soup and a very good crispy-yet-soft nan.  My dining partner ordered an excellent chicken birayani.  Between us, we had enough leftovers for another lunch at home.  The menu offers a decent selection of vegetarian items.  Spicing is mild, so ask for additional heat if that is what you like.

tandoor salmon at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California
tandoor salmon at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California


lentil soup at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California
lentil soup at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California


chicken birayani at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California
chicken birayani at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California
Taste of the Himalayas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


More things to do in Berkeley. 

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers