Friday, June 27, 2008

Parc de la Mare Adam: Choosing an Outdoors Party Spot in the West of Paris

When looking for an outdoors party spot in the west of Paris, my constraints were
multiple and somewhat challenging. The place of my dreams would need to fit the following bill:

- public transit accessible for the non-motorized Parisians

- green, trees, shade and lawns

- not too popular to avoid weekend crowds

On that basis, the Bois de Boulogne, the Ile de Puteaux and the Parc de St Cloud were out.

The Bois de Boulogne is a nightmare to navigate without a car. The Ile de Puteaux is way too popular on weekends because of its sports complex, family events and jazz Sundays. And the Parc de St Cloud, although close to a train station, was hosting an vintage automobiles show on the day I was interested.

Therefore I broadened my horizons to Chaville, a quiet sleeping suburb of Paris flanked by historical forests on the east and west.

Chaville has been immortalized by a 1953 French song by Pierre Destailles called "Tout ca parc' qu'au bois de Chaville," gently blaming the blooming lily-of-the-valley for the birth of a candid child who'll be taught lots of useless things in life such as peace treaties and the budget chief.

Chaville is accessible by train (20 minutes from the Gare Montparnasse) and car (freeway N118 roughly 30 minutes out of Paris). Behind the train station Chaville Rive Gauche is a steep path leading to the old cemetery.

Now, the trick is that behind the cemetery is a bucolic green expanse called the Parc Forestier de la Mare Adam, with open lawns, acres of century-old oak and chestnut trees, a pergola and a playground. This park is part of the bigger and better-known national forest of Meudon, the biggest and wildest forest of the Hauts-de-Seine. This combination seemed just right to me and I settled for it.

What seemed a daunting task at first was resolved in a day thanks to my step-sister Stephanie. Had she not lived in Chaville to tell me of this hidden jewel, I would never have stumbled upon it. That's the discrete charm of local woods around Paris: they are not very well documented.

Parc Monceau and Patisserie Lecureuil

In Paris, my two favorite things are pastry shops (patisseries) and close behind, old parks reminiscent of times gone by. The Parc Monceau, in the 8th arrondissement, is such a park.

A charming 12-acre English-style garden, it is one of the most informal of Paris' public gardens with trees growing where they please and statues placed randomly throughout the park. Purchased between 1769 and 1778 by the Duke of Chartres, the piece of land was designed by the landscape architect Carmontelle and adorned by period replicas of exotic monuments such a miniature Greek temple, a Dutch windmill, and an Egyptian pyramid.

Alas for the Duke of Chartres, his head did not resist to the blood-thirsty French Revolution and his garden was seized by righteous citizens. Thus in 1793 the Parc Monceau became an English-style garden and a place of popular dances. On October 22,1797, it even saw the first parachute jump ever in the world. The crowds stood there, expecting a bone-shattering disaster and were disappointed. Andre-Jacques Garnerin survived the jump and made history.

In 1860, the park was acquired by the City of Paris and configurated as it is today under Napoleon III.

On the edges of the park are two of my favorite Parisian museums, the Musee Cernuschi and the Musee Nissim de Camondo, the former hosting the Chinese art collection of the city of Paris - not the national collection which is at the Musee Guimet - and the latter being one of the most somptuous 18th centry private residences open to the public.

As my girls were playing at the playground, very popular with little Parisian kids, I couldn't help admiring the classical facades of the buildings behind, certainly some of the most expensive park-view buildings of Paris. Through tall French windows and fleeting curtains, I got a glimpse of gilded three-tiered chandeliers and I helplessly wondered whether the inside was modern or old-school.

Not far from the Parc Monceau, we stopped at the Patisserie Lecureuil, a pastry shop lauded by Clotilde Dusoulier author of Chocolate & Zucchini as "offering moist little cakes shaped like corks, whirligig cookies, and petits fours that seem right out of a children's book."

Since I was stopping there to get cookies for my little girl's birthday party in the woods, it sounded just right. I settled on an assortment of macarons, almond-based round cakes, crunchy outside and moist inside filled with flavored creams. I can't wait to taste the violet-black currant variety.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cinderella Puppet Show

Bay Area-based Zanzibar Fairytale Puppet Theater brings puppetry to a higher state of art.

Until now my Bay Area-standard for puppetry resided at the Storybook Puppet Theater of Children's Fairyland in Oakland with the seasonal exception of Punch & Judy shows at the Dickens Fair, the hilarious Nick Barone puppet shows at library branches or in a different genre, the Fratello Marionettes.

However, Zanzibar is different. It's full blown Broadway fairy dust applied to rod puppets. I never dreamed puppet shows could involve 7,500 watts of stage lights, two years of production, 22 hand-crafted puppets and tri-dimensional sets.

Honestly, after reading the New Yorker's review of Basil Twist's Petrushka puppet-show-turned-puppet-ballet, I was very jealous that the Bay Area failed to offer such shows. But now I feel much better.

What Zanzibar offers is very different from Basil Twist's but it definitely deserves praise and applause for the professionalism and artistry of the show.

Even before the curtain opened to their production of Cinderella at the Starlight Room of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco, there was a magical buzz in the air. Dark room, purple lights, massive puppet theater stage with velvet and rhinestone curtains, symphonic music from Prokofiev's Cinderella ballet and Gounod's Faust opera.

My two girls wanted to get upclose even though I warned them there might be loud noises and explosions of fairy dust in the room. Throughout the half-hour that the show lasted, they wouldn't take their eyes off the stage. Everything was so well done, the different voices on the puppets, the deep three-level sets with Christmas light curtains, the music, it was just a big treat.

Interestingly enough, I saw quite a few adults without children in the audience. Isn't that a sign?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

California Academy of Sciences

Hail to the Golden Gate Park and its revamped museum concourse! The man-made green lung of the city has been completely relooked in the past five years.

First the De Young museum, a major architectural feat, opened in 2005. Now the brand new California Academy of Sciences is set to open its doors in 101 days on September 27, 2008, after being closed four years on this site. Now all city officials need to do is remodel the Exploratorium, rush the San Francisco Museum, think about a tribute to the Coastal Indians and the city will have a brand new menu to offer tourists.

Back to the Cal Academy of Sciences. It's a big project. Think a 212,000-gallon tank 25 feet deep with trained scuba-divers to tickle the Philippine Carol Reef. Think 63 gallons of paint to reproduce the 24 dioramas of the African Hall. Think two big installations by American artist Maya Lin, one being on climate change. Think Renzo Piano as chief architect, no less, designing the 2.5-acre living roof with seven hills of native plants coming from a 25-mile radius from the site. Think a planetarium tilted at a 30-degree angle with live space feed from the NASA. Think a tropical rainforest in a bubble with underground viewing of the flooded Amazon.

As I said, this is a big project.

Despite the facts and impressive achievements, I couldn't help regret that no part of the museum was dedicated to a North American eco-system. I asked Stephanie Stone of the academy's press relations, why rebuild a tropical rainforest from the other side of the world when the Tongass National Forest in Alaska is a rainforest too and almost in our backyard? Olympic NP would be an even closer example. She replied that when the project was initiated several years ago, the directors faced a tricky blank slate with (too) many options to fill it.

They decided to focus the exhibits on:
  • Areas of the world with a history of research by the Cal Academy of Sciences
  • Areas of the world with a high level of biodiversity
  • Areas of the world where that biodiversity is threatened

So they ended up selecting Madagascar, Borneo, Costa Rica and the Amazon. That's all very nice but since the Cal Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum, why not fill the crying gap in San Francisco's museumscape?

Obviously it's too late, but currently if you wanted to achieve something remotely close to the High Desert Museum experience in Bend, Oregon (an A-list natural history museum), you'd need to first take a hike to the Randall Museum in San Francisco, cross the Bay Bridge to the Oakland Museum of California to visit their aging natural sciences permanent exhibit, get on the freeway to visit the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, and for good measure finish at the Coyote Point Museum in San Mateo.

Is there ever going to be a simpler all-in-one venue in the city? For instance, who's going to tell the story of the coastal indians who were decimated when pioneers and explorers settled in California? A Miwok hut in the cemetery of the Mission Dolores, another one at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center and a Miwok village at Point Reyes are no match in front of the enormity of what happened. Who is going to present coastal scrub, redwood groves and bristlecone pine desert forests in a sexy way to school students? Now, that would be a challenge.

I understand the point of the Cal Academy of Sciences, I do. It's a noble mission and I'll be the first one to bring my kids despite the $24.95 entry fee for adults. However, I would have preferred to see exhibits centered on our backyard too.

I'll come and watch the 10.45am feedings of the African penguins just because I love Happy Feet and because penguins are cool animals. Also, Dr. Chris Andrews (on the picture in front of the penguins) was right. I didn't know there were penguins in South Africa. I like surprises. Can't wait to see the miniature replica of the turn-of-the-century two-mast schooner "The Academy" that sailed to the Galapagos Islands for scientific research purposes in 1905-1906. It's going to be the centerpiece of the play area for young children, the Young Explorers Cove.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

A river flowing through it? Sandy beaches? Less than 2 hours drive? Fog on the coast, sun in the redwoods? Steam train? It does sound like a pretty good deal.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a hidden gem. Barely 10 miles from the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk (where the movie The Lost Boys was filmed), there it is, nested between two big thoroughfares, and the cities of Felton and Ben Lomond. Despite the commercial and residential surroundings, the park is surprisingly quiet inside.

My guess is that people don't even notice it's there. Most "out-of-towners" who take the trip to Felton are headed to the Roaring Camp Railroad with its steam trains, beach trains, country singers by the barbecue and Old West general store.

Ironically, the parking lot of Henry Cowell Redwoods' Nature Store connects with Roaring Camp but the flow is mostly one way. So it's no wonder we came across an old man after our train ride who admitted "I've been coming to the trains for many years. Now I'd like to see the park." And he crossed the tracks against the flow of people trickling in. Good for him.

Henry Cowell Redwoods SP is a nice redwood grove with a river trail going up and down along the creek. We were lucky to get it by late spring with water flowing and three feet deep in places. A ranger told us that by late summer, you wouldn't want your kids to play in there. It dries out.

While we didn't have the time to hike deep into the forest, we splashed and pretended to fish in the creek, an activity that kept our youngsters occupied.

As far the train ride, it's lots of fun but longish for the young'uns. We went for the steam train ride that leads up to the top of Bear Mountain and the whole ride probably lasted one and a half hour. Both our girls fell asleep on the way down, despite the deafening steam whistle and clanking noise of the wagon.

What I'd love to do though, is come back for special events like the train robberies, harvest fairs, ghost trains and moonlight dinner trains, all complete with actors in costumes and special decorations.

Now that would be a good reason to return for a camping weekend and explore the redwood groves as they deserve it. As we drove back home, we stopped at a wonderful restaurant in Half Moon Bay for dinner. Despite one of the tackiest names and restaurant fronts, Pasta Moon is really quite good and it passed the preschooler test. Both our girls cleaned their plate of butternut squash ravioli with sage butter before we got our mains. We'll be back.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sex and The City

I just sacrificed to the female rite of passage of June 2008: a girls' night out to watch the big screen version of Sex and The City. I discovered the TV series last week and fell asleep three times in front of it. But hey, it's such a big societal trend that it just can't be ignored, like it or not. All around me, friends went out in groups, downing cocktails and jaw-dropping at Mr. Big even bigger than on TV, the least attractive specimen of manhood I've seen in a chick flick lead role. He looks like a big sappy puppy. Who can get excited over a big sappy puppy?! OK, all of my friends. Sigh.

As far as I was concerned, the buzz was about getting out for drinks so we chose the best venue in San Francisco to combine Big and cosmos: the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in Japantown.

I hadn't been to the Kabuki since the remodel and it's nirvana for movie-goers. A Bistro Bar with food and drinks downstairs, a Balcony Bar for over 21 with drinks and small plates upstairs, and the possibility to reserve exactly your seat. Needless to say at six chicks, we headed to the Balcony Bar. Margaritas, Shirley Temples and white wine glasses soon crowded our table.

Wherever I turned, women in tight dresses and high heels engaged in heated conversations over martini glasses. Oooh, that's not a common sight in casual-hippie-laid down SF. Older women too, not stuck at home but going to town. SATC is not a teenage affair, oh no. You've got to have mileage to understand allusions to sexless married life with children or the beauties of spa waxing. So here we were, mostly over 35 or 40 or 45, expecting the silver screen magic of the love life of four New York socialites.

Well. Magic didn't happen with me. I found the movie predictable from very early on and agonizingly long. But then as Jenny said, "The TV series is only 30 minutes long!" Yes, and this was 2 hours and 15 minutes long. Do the math. It is entertaining at parts, but if it were only for the fashion, I'd vote for The Devil Wears Prada.

Rite of passage over. Had fun though. Check the box.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

San Bruno Mountain County Park, Take 2

San Bruno Mountain, we're back! On a beautiful sunday, it is really one of the most pleasant short hikes near San Francisco. Barely 15 minutes south on I-280, drive to the top of the mountain and voila! This time, we met Inga and Tony with Andrew and Lucas, as well as Lai and Nigel with their daughter Alice.

The most rewarding view, the one on top of Cow Palace overlooking downtown and the Bay Bridge, comes fairly early on Saddlebag Trail and the children enjoyed it while picking grasses and flowers. By the time we completed the loop, it was time for a nice picnic and just then I realized what a perfect place this was to fly kites. In front of us on the main lawn were a dozen kites flying high in the gentle breeze. We just may have to get a kite some day.

San Francisco Botanical Garden

The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a serene place to spend the end of a sunny day. Since it's not a hot spot that opens new attractions like you snap your fingers, no risks of crowds between the greens. The public is a mix of chatting highschoolers, strolling parents and sunbathing singles. We were part of the strolling parents, meeting Cath and Danny with Alex and Evan. Clearly a scientific expedition.

After a flash visit to the garden of fragrance, it was obvious that both Louise and Alex only wanted to play hide and seek, while Evan wanted to push his stroller and Iris desperately wanted to replace him. So on we proceeded to the big ferns with giant leaves in the primitive plants section. The pond and its ducks, trouts and turrtles was our next big stop, before we came out through the library exit.

Now, one of the oddities of the library exit is a short wall if old stones. Nothing to fuss about, apparently. Except these belong to the Cistercian monastery Santa Maria de Ovila in Spain. This actually comes as a surprise because San Francisco is not New York and nobody speaks of moving The Cloisters here. Bought by William Randolph Hearst in the 1930s, the walls of this abbey were supposed to become part of a big architectual fantasy designed by Julia Morgan called Wyntoon.

For several reasons, the stones never made it to Shasta and were gradually integrated into various structures of the Golden Gate Park: Japanese Tea Garden and the Botanical Garden notably.

Now the rest of the stones (or at least 20 truckloads of it) have made their way to New Clairvaux, a cistercian abbey in the Sacramento Valley that's using them to build their chapterhouse. How funky. Only in San Francisco.

Frida Kahlo at the SFMOMA

I just attended the press preview of the upcoming Frida Kahlo exhibit a the SFMOMA. The exhibition displays 50 paintings and 75 photographs of the famous Mexican artist. At a time when Europe was embracing surrealism and leaving Dada, she invented her very own Mexican surrealism and introduced a brutal element to it. All folk art, all blood and guts, all passion and all Diego Rivera.

The exhibit also goes over the time that Frida Kahlo spent in San Francisco and I didn't realize how important episodes of her life had taken place here. In that, the exhibition was a real discovery. However, I wasn't sure how to react to her art.

The way she exteriorized her immense suffering by splashing it and detailing on the canvas is just extraordinary. I wouldn't say I'm a fan, but it certainly strikes a chord.

Darkly ironic to think that she would probably not have been a great painter if she hadn't been hit by a bus at age 18. Since I just finished a course on art avant-garde from the post-impressionnists to modern times at UC Berkeley Extension, I was able to relate some of her paintings to other works that were shown to us by art historian Terri Cohn.

One of the photos that struck me in class was called Blood Scarf. It is a 2002 work by New York based artist Laura Splan. In her own words, "Blood Scarf depicts a scarf knit out of clear vinyl tubing. An intravenous device emerging out of the user's hand fills the scarf with blood. The implied narrative is a paradoxical one in which the device keeps the user warm with their blood while at the same time draining their blood drip by drip."

I hesitated between the totally creepy and morbid fascination. Exactly the words that come to me when I think of Frida Kahlo's art. Indeed, Frida Kahlo self-portraiting herself at length with blood transfusions, insides out, metallic corset and aborted feotuses flying out of her bleeding self, is not a pretty view.

But it works. It conveys a powerful emotion and now that art has separated from traditional media, emotion is definitely a measure of art appreciation.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Brad Mehldau Trio

On June 6, 2008, the Brad Mehldau Trio played for the SF Jazz Festival at the Herbst Theatre. I was there with my friend Sue, childhood friend of the bass player Larry Grenadier. I'll be honest, I'm not a jazz fan. I was not even a Brad Mehldau (with or without trio) fan. I'm a fan of Nick Cave, Nine Inch Nails and Marylin Manson. My only previous appearance at the SF Jazz Festival was for the Swedish piano trio E.S.T. five years ago and I fell asleep. Bad jazz record.

However, I have to say that listening to Brad Mehldau yesterday was one of the best musical experiences I've had in a long time. Not just listening but watching. Such feline movements on the keys, such hands independence, such a dynamic yet dreamlike touch, it was incredible. It was deep and moving, often entrancing with deceptively simple harmonies and perfectly coordinated bass and drums. It opened up new doors and I discovered how much I'd missed on. I let my mind wander away as I once did on Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert or some of Pat Metheny's music. Clearly, it was time to catch up on the new face of jazz!

The problem with jazz concerts is that there's no program. It's jazz. Freedom and improv. So thanks Brad for announcing the song titles as time flew by, but how can I find out about all the songs played? It's annoying when you love a melody and you would like to listen to it again but you're a jazz ignorant and you don't connect the dots.

Guess I should have been taking notes. Or I could wait until a new album comes out. Or I could write to Congress to vote mandatory programs at jazz concerts. The options are plentiful really.

After the concert, we joined the trio and their close group for drinks at Jardiniere. I had a great time discussing with Brad. Being a mediocre pianist myself, I certainly appreciate good piano. In Brad's case, one of today's most impressive and influential jazz piano there is. Even more, I love discussing about piano and music.

Brad told me about his daily morning Bach practice, his love for Brahms, his admiration for Messiaen, Chopin's innovation. I didn't realize that a jazz pianist could spend his days playing classical piano and somewhere it's comforting.

It's as comforting as knowing that Picasso could get to cubism after being an accomplished figurative painter, art form which he favored for his daily practice. It's as comforting as learning that Mondrian made his way to abstraction after years of stunning impressionist landscapes. So Brad Mehldau not only loves and plays classical music, but he writes about it.

An unlikely topic we shared experiences about was Holland. His wife Fleurine is Dutch and he of course knows a lot about Holland. Since I've had a very close Dutch friend in Bangkok, attempted to learn Dutch (can only read slowly) and spent a summer in Amsterdam, I have a weakness for things Dutch. Or rather, a piqued interest. So continued the conversation on Holland, broadened to Europe and back to music festivals.

But for all of Brad's incredible musical gift, for all the amazing places he visits, all of the famous musicians he plays with, I wouldn't trade my life with his. Yesterday San Francisco, today Los Angeles, tomorrow somewhere else. Unusual life but what a concert it was. Now I really wish there was a program.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Haas Lilienthal Heritage Hikes

June marks the last of the school groups taking place at the Haas Lilienthal house museum. This year, I joined the pool of docents for the school tours after having led regular tours since 2002. In 2007-2008, no less than 840 students from 17 schools attended these tours. The Heritage Hikes program is destined to all students interested in Victorian San Francisco, from K through 12, but schools come all over the Bay Area and all grades. The full program includes:
  • a teachers' workshop taught at the Haas Lilienthal to introduce the house,
  • an "Architrunk" going to the classroom to prepare the visit,
  • a Treasure Hunt tour of a Victorian neighborhood, and
  • a tour of the Haas Lilienthal house.

The best thing about the Heritage Hikes is that they are free for schools because they are funded by a city tax. Unfortunately that is not enough to get schools to learn local history through hands-on experience. They also neeed adult supervision and when both parents in a family work, this can be hard to find. In 2007-2008, three schools cancelled because the teachers couldn't find adults to accompany the group.

I put together a Victorian outfit for the school tours (from Victorian wig to scalloped vintage 1880s dress and 1900s watch) and the children seem to get a kick out of it. Only the little ones are fooled by the wig, but most girls are impressed by the ample skirt and the leather boots.

Boys love the train room and the functioning little green train. Even if the tour is roughly an hour of talking about 1880s fashion, 19th century games, children's manners, 1890s lifestyles and books, most children really get into it and ask questions.

From "Is there a ghost?" to "What is this?" (looking horrified at a bidet) or "Can we hear the player piano?", children show more than interest. They observe the surroundings and learn from them asking clever questions.

The best part for them probably comes in the kitchen where they are treated to a Victorian snack time with Sarsaparilla (the grand daddy of root beer) and ginger snaps. If only there was a good chapter book covering the 1880s in San Francisco, they'd be ready to go back over their experience at bedtime.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

San Francisco's Maritime Museum

Now and then, I like to think of myself as a tourist in San Francisco and I head over to Pier 39.

On the face of it, there's nothing worse than Pier 39. Any San Franciscan will sneer at the kitsch and nothingness of the place. There, you can embrace the usual "coastal town" tourist mix of fudge shops, street performers, hot bretzels and made-in-China souvenir stores.

However, the boardwalk and its tacky planters, the two-story carousel with scenes of San Francisco, the barking sea lions sponsored by Pier 39 all attract me. I've come to appreciate Pier 39 as an enclave in the city that serves tourists who take comfort in seeing like-minded tourists and locals who like to be reminded of San Francisco's fishing past, something neither the Mission nor Laurel Village will ever be able to achieve.

As part of the fishing and sea-faring theme is the most overlooked museum in the city: the Maritime Museum. Why, it's more than a museum, it's a national park! Stretching from the historic brick cannery warehouse to the Hyde Street Pier, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park has a historic collection of steam and sailing vessels ready for you to visit.

We were joined by Inga and Andrew, our infatigable coastal explorations friends. Before starting, there was an essential stop though: the Boudin Bakery flagship store at Pier 41. Children can stare for hours at the bakers modeling animal-shaped sourdough breads in the demonstration window.

Today was crocodile day, but we've seen teddy bears, turtles, crabs, lobsters, flower baskets and more at this window, seasonal shapes being just as fun. Up on ceiling cables, metallic baskets of freshly-baked breads glide around giving the place a clean Willy Wonka feel. I just love looking at the baskets traveling from the ovens to the bread counter and coming back empty. Surely we couldn't just stop at the window. Andrew would have collapsed.

We had to get inside for a taste. As each of the three children asked for a miniature sourdough turtle, I chose a chocolate chip-raisin loaf and a multigrain loaf to take home. Now with bread in hand, we could head to the first ship on our list, the USS Pampanito.

The USS Pampanito is a Balao-class submarine and offers the most wonderful educational opportunity as overnight encampment for school-age children. Imagine sending your offspring to sleep on one of the 48 bunks on a wartime submarine. How cool is that!! Just last night, a ranger told me they had boyscouts spend the night.

Our little ones though, are way too young to even think about it. They oscillated between downright fear and sheer excitement, running the length of the enclosed compartments and hardly paying attention to the torpedos, engines and officers' quarters. Submarines are awesome.

Next, the C.A. Thayer, the Balclutha and the Eureka, for which we walked to Pier 45. The C.A. Thayer is a schooner and as it is currently being restored, there isn't much more to see than a barren wooden deck. The Balclutha however, is first class.

Formerly called the Star of Alaska, it is an 1886 square-rigged ship that saw the end of an era with the last sailing voyage from San Francisco to Alaska to bring back tons of canned salmon. As on the USS Pampanito, the children loved running up and down the steep stairs and up and down the galley, looking through windows and openings.

The Balclutha has been lovingly restored and features a re-creation of the life of all on board: the "China gang" who worked on salmons below the deck in miserable conditions, the sailing crew who slept in wooden bunks by the anchor and the lavish captain's quarters in pure Victorian style (though today we missed it). It is quite a sight.

The Eureka was the last on our list and has some of my favorite items. As a paddlewheel wooden ferryboat set to transport 2,300 passengers, the Eureka is an imposing ship. It's big.

It's so big that it ferried cars on the ground deck. Today's exhibits display an impressive array of old automobiles, trucks and carts, including a great old Ghirardelli wooden cart with the words "Chocolate, Cocoa & Mustard". Andrew and Louise had a ball playing with the main steering wheel taking us to distant shores such as Georgia and New Caledonia.

Now, I'm dying to attend one of the monthly sea chanteys on the Balclutha. First Saturday of each month, 8pm to midnight on deck. Bring a mug for hot cider. That's got to be a killer during the winter.