Let Pasadena have its roses. Capitola is quite happy with its begonias, 43 acres of the blooming blossoms, and this weekend, the sweet little beach town honors them with its 64th Annual Begonia Festival. The highlight is the parade of begonia bedecked boats parading down Soquel Creek but of course there are arts, crafts, food, music, sand castle contests and movies on the beach. Free. The town has the distinction of being the first (1869) beach resort on the coast.
Excuse my euphoria but I am a huge fan of the boom hitting SOMA. Admittedly sidewalks and streets are jammed, 30-story high rises are climbing halfway to the stars and construction noise rattles my hearing aids but every time I check it out there is something new and beyond spectacular. Especially the public spaces. Head west on Howard when you leave SFMOMA. Across the street is an outpost of Gagosian, the hot international art gallery. Another block and you’ll see the epic public lobby of 222 Second with 22 foot high doors, 8,700 square feet with stunning, minimal, teak walls and three massive Frank Stella pieces. Start walking towards the new Salesforce tower and check out progress on the astonishing Transit Center with its future sky garden and skin of lacy white steel. Have your mind blown.
The Rio Olympics may have fired you up to restart your exercise program but let’s face it, none of us are ever go to run a 5,000 meter race. Think a little less ambitiously. Like fencing. Adult classes at the Halberstadt Fencing Club, here since 1942, on South Van Ness start September 5. Novices are welcome to learn basic footwork with foils, epees and sabers. One class a week for 4 weeks for $100 a month. If you find your inner musketeer you can sign up for beginners classes.
The trail is short but the view is IMAX-imal. Until recently you could not get from Diamond Heights in the City to the nearby Billy Goat Hill. But SF Parks and Rec opened a 680-foot stairway path between them for a puzzling $147,000 (check with your Supervisor), a very easy stroll, winding through eucalyptus groves with a eye-popping reward at the top. Dog-friendly.
Avoid the summer hordes heading like a slow funeral train to the Sierras by driving north to the stunning, uncrowded Siskiyous. 265 miles away from the Bay check into the Railroad Park Resort in the town of Dunsmuir. 24 old railroad cars are parked around a pool with cabooses that have been turned into hotel rooms with tvs, bathtubs, one with a kitchen. Rates start at $125. A vintage dining car serves dinners daily. The railroad-obsessed town itself has a train museum, a model train set and a locomotive turntable all with a very minimal visiting hours. Mark your calendar for next June’s celebration there of Railroad Days.
You never thought twice about Greek food until your first meal at Kokkari. Their richly spiced Aegean cuisine was, and still is, irresistible. If you would like to try your hand at some of their signature dishes the San Francisco Cooking School is offering a class on Friday August 26 from 6-10 pm. The menu includes moussaka, green beans with lemon and dill and Greek yogurt with honey, dates and candied walnuts. $165.
Back in 1961 when we were just kids Tony Bennett recorded “I Left My heart in San Francisco” which went on to sell 14 million copies. The singer celebrates his 90th birthday this week and to honor him, the City is unveiling an 8-foot statue this Friday at 11:30am in front of the Fairmont Hotel In Nob Hill. (We have now have two more Fairmonts in the Bay Area – San Jose and the recently purchased Claremont Hotel). The singer is expected to perform as well as the San Francisco Girls Chorus and the SF Jazz High School All-Stars Combo. Free.
No need to wait until the next time Cirque de Soleil comes around to see stupefying, gravity defying, Simone Beil-style high-flying acrobatics here. The SF Aerial Arts Festival takes place at Fort Mason next Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Who knew the Bay Area had some many of its own brilliant local aerial troupes? $28 (vs.$100 for the Cirque)
Interested in expanding your sporting spectator experience beyond baseball, football and basketball? Why not head up to Oakmont on Saturday, August 28th to catch the 7th Annual Wounded Veterans Polo Cup, a championship 9-chukka game including world-class Argentine pros. Yes, of course there will be a Lady’s Hat Contest. General Admission $70 available on the website. For a rougher, wetter polo activity you can also check out a local water polo match, like CAL’s Division 1 team, which plays the Mountain Pacific Invitational at Spieker Aquatics this fall in Berkeley. Seniors $5.
Seems like old times at the Washoe House in Cotati. This Bar and Grill, built in 1859, might just be able to lay claim to being the most historic restaurant around. It started as a stop on stagecoach routes between Santa Rosa and Bodega. The so-called Battle of Washoe House occurred in 1865 when, after Lincoln’s assassination, Major James Armstrong lead his militia to Santa Rosa to mess with Confederate sympathizers there. They got as far as Washoe’s Tavern where they started drinking and that was the end of that skirmish. Hearty food today and a bar whose ceiling is thick with old dollar bills.11am to 11pm. No website yet. Phone (707-795-4544).