Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Lot to be Thankful For

We certainly had a nice Thanksgiving. Andrew, Connie and Alex were able to join Nancy and me, and we had a great time over the entire long weekend, enhanced by some fabulous weather.

The kids all came home on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning we set the table and gathered around for a group shot.

While Nancy worked on the finishing touches of our meal with a just a bit of assistance...

... the rest of us broke out Wii Resort and generally entertained ourselves.

To improve our appetites we took a hike up the Morning Sun Trail into the Marin Headlands. Although it was a nice day, it was a bit hazy and the views from the top of the trail were not great as can be seen from this video and the below photo of Connie looking out over Mt. Tam.

Back home we broke out some cheese (Brillat Savarin, Abbey de Belloc, Comtè and Cabot Clothbound Cheddar) from our favorite cheese store, Cheese Plus, which we enjoyed while we watched some football, and then moved on to our Thanksgiving dinner which was great. Nancy’s brined turkey turned out exceptionally well and after a few years of experimentation, I think I finally have perfected a stuffing recipe I like. We also had a couple of wines that went very well with the meal. Pumpkin and chocolate/coffee pecan pies rounded out the day.

On Friday, after an emergency run to Best Buy for a replacement TV (our former set having suddenly taken on a decidedly greenish hue), we went to see “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”, then were off for dinner at Sociale in San Francisco where we were well cared for by our friends Cornelia and Melissa (fabulous braised pork shank!).

On Saturday we hopped on a ferry in Tiburon for the short trip across Raccoon Straits to Angel Island where we hiked around the island and enjoyed the panoramic views of the bay.

On our way home we stopped by the Farley Bar in the Cavallo Point Resort at Fort Baker, happily early enough to catch dusk falling over the Golden Gate.

It was a wonderful holiday.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

More Friendship from Chile

Earlier today I stopped by the Sausalito's Civic Center to say hello to Mike Langford, the head of our Parks & Recreation Department who is taking the lead to look into the revitalization of our sister city relationship with Viña del Mar in Chile. As I was leaving his office, Mike asked me if I had seen the Hermandad statue in Gabrielson Park in downtown Sausalito that had been donated several years ago by Sergio Castillo Mandiola, a Chilean sculptor. I had to admit that I had not, but after leaving the meeting I drove down to take a look.

In 1968 Sr. Castillo was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley. Learning of the sister city relationship between Sausalito and Viña del Mar, he kindly offered to create a steel sculpture as a gift to Sausalito to reflect the goodwill between the cities. He gave the sculpture the title of "Hermandad" -- "sisterhood.”

At the time of the sculpture’s dedication in 1969, the sculpture was located in an open area in Sausalito near the Bay and the city’s Viña del Mar Plaza.

Soon thereafter, small trees were planted around the sculpture to provide some landscaping. However, as the trees grew to full size over the years, they gradually crowded in on Hermandad and largely obscured the work from public view.

In 1989 the Loma Prieta earthquake toppled Hermandad from its base. An initial effort was made to reattach and strenghten it, but elements of the sculpture were lost as a result and the integrity of the original work was compromised.

Finally, in September 2008, on the 40th anniversary of its original dedication, as a result of several years of efforts led by the Sausalito Arts Commission and with the support and guidance of Sr. Castillo and the work of local artist, Archie Held, the restored Hermandad was erected on a elevated pedestal at the entrance to Gabrielson Park in downtown Sausalito. It sits there today, just next to the ferry terminal where it once again welcomes visitors to the city.

I am sure Sr. Castillo would approve.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sausalito and Viña del Mar - Dos Ciudades Hermanas

Our family has lived in Sausalito for over 30 years, but I am sorry to say that it was only recently that I looked into our sister city relationship with the Chilean city of Viña del Mar ("Vineyard of the Sea"), just north of the port of Valparíaso on the Pacific Coast and about one and a half hours by car from Santiago.

The sister city relationship was established in 1960, but apart from being remembered by our Viña del Mar Plaza in downtown Sausalito next to the ferry pier, it does not seem that it has been active in the recent past. I recently had a chance to meet Chile’s new Consul General in San Francisco, Alex Geiger-Soffia, who hopes to organize an event to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the relationship. That sounds like a wonderful idea, especially given the long-term, special relationship that exists between California and Chile as reflected by our Chile-California Partnership (see the links here and here).

Although I have never been to Chile, I have become very interested in the country and would like to learn more about the background of the sister city relationship. There are some obvious similarities between the cities - for example, both are seaside tourist destinations close to important ports and both, as the following photo collages reflect, are blessed by considerable natural beauty.

Both cities are also close to important wine production areas, including, in the case of Viña del Mar, Casablanca Valley (through which one passes on the drive to the coast from Santiago) which is itself a sister city of Napa, California, less than an hour north of Sausalito. Viña del Mar is considerably larger than Sausalito - its population of around 300,000 (compared to around 8,000 for Sausalito) makes it the fourth largest city in Chile. It also hosts two important annual festivals – a music festival, now in its 50th year, each February (“Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar”), and a film festival, now in its 21st year, each November ("Festival Internacional de Cine de Viña del Mar”).

Viña del Mar also has a top division soccer team named CD Everton (nicknamed the "Ruleteros" (“the roulette players”), a reference to the city’s status as a gambling resort). The team plays at a 18,000 seat stadium named Estadio Sausalito.

The stadium was named after the small lake – Laguna Sausalito – next to which it is located.

I am not sure if the Lagoon was named in honor of the sister city relationship or if that may just be a coincidence due to the possible presence of the same willow trees after which Sausalito (“"small willow grove” in Spanish) was originally named.

Returning to California, as can be seen by this video, the Viña del Mar Plaza has always been a peaceful oasis in downtown Sausalito.

The elephant statues, which flank the entrance to the park, and the fountain in the middle of the park, are the key decorative elements.

The statues have plaques – one in English and one in Spanish - affixed to their bases which reflect the sister city relationship.

The elephant sculptures and fountain were originally designed for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco by Sausalito architect William Faville.

After the Exposition, Faville acquired the elephants and the fountain and in 1916 they were placed in their current location in Sausalito, then known as Depot Park, where residents dubbed them Jumbo and Pee Wee. The original statues eroded over time, so castings were made of Pee Wee so that concrete replacements could be placed in to the Park. In 1960 the name of the Park was changed to commemorate the new sister city relationship with Viña del Mar.


"I have been a lucky man. To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses – that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things."

Pablo Neruda, Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet who maintained a home, “La Sebastiana,” in Valparíaso, near Viña del Mar.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Dinner for Abruzzo

Abruzzo is an Italian region on the Adriatic coast in the center of the country with its western border less than 50 miles east of Rome.

The Apennines mountain range runs through the region and, as a result, Abruzzo is one of the most mountainous regions in all of Italy.
Its spectacular peaks include the Corno Grande, part of the Gran Sasso massif and the highest summit in the Apennines, and La Majella ("Maiella" in Italian), part of Italy’s Majella National Park, both pictured below.
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