How to Save $12

How to save $12? Keep on reading this blog! If you visit the Sonoma region, which is approximately 1h15 north of Oakland, touristic guides mention the « Old Faithful », a geyser that regularly blasts very hot water in the air. Its Website says that if the geyser stops, then an earthquake will erupts within 500 miles.

Here is a picture of the geyser:

You have just saved $12 while deciding that the picture alone is enough and that you don’t need to go there.

The geyser is « privately-owned », so there are few scientific explanations, as opposed to other public attractions. The site is circled by bamboo trees to hide the geyser from the road. Goats, lamas, and sheeps lay sleepily in a paddock, a trick to make you believe that the visit is worth its price. We soon realized why there were no American tourists there, only foreigners.

The fact that a geyser or whathever is underground can be owned by citizens is an american notion still very foreign to us…


Back to (Summer) School

While the majority of elementary and high school students in North America wait for the summer break, I went back to school this Wednesday. It is a copyediting workshop, the first of three. We are only nine students and eight of us were in the same grammar class in the spring. I have the feeling that the atmosphere will be different. The course requires a heavy workload until the end of August; I may ought to hide to study in the coming weeks, when we will have guests!

I received my grade for the grammar course Tuesday and I am very proud of myself. I am confident that I will go with the flow for the rest of the program.

New Neighbors

For quite a while now, we’ve seen Fred swimming alone in the pool. Last weekend, the viking told me of a springtime hypothesis: maybe Wilma doesn’t come because she’s busy at the nest with chicks?

I had the answer this afternoon:

This introduction to swimming in a chlorinated environment didn’t last long; one of the employees scared them away.

Ah, how I love these cute new neighbors!

Neighbors’ Day

I read that Quebec’s Neighbors’ Day is this Saturday. Here, five months after our arrival,  we still don’t know any neighbor. The two young men who live next door introduced themselves when they arrived, but I haven’t seen them since. No appartment’s door is in front of another one, great for privacy, but then it’s more difficult to have social encounters.

I was glad to notice that my charming neighbors Fred and Wilma also like to spend some time on the Lake Chalet patio, a restaurant on Lake Merritt.

At least, I know they’re not the ones that stole my newspaper twice this week.


The Petrified Forest

In Sonoma County there is a peculiar forest, a petrified forest. This private forest has giant redwoods, the largest petrified redwoods in the world according to its owners.

This forest became petrified during millions of years following the eruption of St.Helena’s volcano, which is now extinct. First, the blast blew down the trees on the ground, then they were buried by lava. The silica in the hardened lava seeped in the wood, then cristallized, turning the trunks into stone

When the stone is cleaned and polished, we can then admire its beautiful cristals. You can see for yourself here and there. For those who are not planning a trip to Sonoma or in Arizona where there is another famous petrified forest, you can visit the Redpath Museum on the campus of McGill University in Montreal. The Museums has a superb stump in petrified wood; admission is free, making it a perfect getaway for a rainy Sunday afternoon.


Free Quebec! (Vaillancourt Fountain)

Québec libre! or Free Quebec! is a sculpture made by an artist from Quebec, Armand Vaillancourt. It is located near one the main attractions in San Francisco, the Ferry Building. It is a gigantic fountain.


The plaque on the fountain contains few informations. However, my touristic guide is more exhaustive. The fountain was made in 1971 and Vaillancourt spray painted Québec libre! in red letters the night before its dedication. In 1987, Bono, singer of the rock band U2, also wrote a graffiti on it: « Rock and roll stops the traffic », as the great crowd attending U2’s improvised show on the street had blocked traffic.

Three days later, during U2’s show in Oakland, Vaillancourt got on stage and was introduced to the public.

While surfing on the French CBC website, I learned that the artist is seeking funds from the public to create a sculpture to pay a tribute to Michel Chartrand. It is a worthwhile project. Michel Chartrand, with his wife Simone Monet, has been of the greatest advocates of social justice and human rights in Quebec.


Surf and Turf

Saturday, we went to Mendocino on the Pacific coast, a village a few hours north by car.  We decided the night before to spend the night elsewhere. As the head of the recreational commitee, I looked in the AAA Tourbook. Mendocino was described as a charming village filled with victorian houses. We left on Saturday morning undaunted, with a fews garments in our backpack.

We drive through Sonoma and Mendocino counties, admiring the vineyards that were rolling by on hills yellowed by the drought. It was hot, nearly 90 F. Then the road went into the forest, the air was crisp, and then we were near the ocean, where the temperature was much lower, approximately 59 F. An ocean wind messed our hair.

The village of Mendocino, nestled on a cliff (you should click on the picture to see them in a larger format).


The sea is beautiful and very cold. The landscape is very much like Gaspésie’s landscape in Quebec, with a twin of Percé’s Rock.


The view from our room, farther from the village.

Don’t imitate us, check out the lodging opportunities before going there. Rooms are priced between $150 and $500, the result of the equation « picturesque village + seaside = tourists’ exploitation ». An example: for $149 we could have rented a room with a view of the village with  a private restroom on the floor below. The Mendocino Hotel was renting an ordinary looking room with a restroom for $289, with an ocean view, but without breakfast. We finally found something in between, with breakfast and a half-bottle of wine.

The morning after, for the « surf » part of our trip, we went hiking in the Russian Gulch State Park. There is no more 500 year-old sequoias, but remaining stumps give us a glimpse of what that forest looked like before  it was subjected to clearcut in the 19th century.


But if we ever go back, we will go camping in the state park!

A Friday in San Francisco

Last Friday I spent the afternoon in San Francisco. I wanted to visit two museums; I ended visiting only one, and patronizing a wine bar after.

First stop, the Cartoon Art Museum. It is a small museum with few rooms; even if I took my time, my visit lasted only an hour and a half. The museum is dedicated to the cartoon art, but also to illustrated art.

One thing: the museum’s name is misleading. It should have « American » in it, because except for an 18th century French drawing, everything is American. Don’t look for Tintin, Asterix, mangas or japanese prints, there is none of it there. Once this is understood, you’re in for a nice tour.

The first exhibit is called I See What You Say: Visual Stories and Narrative Art. Sketches, final prints and illustrated books make us understand there is no right way to draw a story, each artist has its own.

Sam Kieth, Samplings and Dabblings is a compilation of works by Sam Kieth, an artist that I did not know. He worked at Marvel and draw the series « Sandman ». He is a gifted artist; visitors can see complex drawings that took many hours of work.

But the jewel of the temporary exhibits is the one dedicated to Chuck Jones, the famous animator and creator of Looney Tunes characters such as Bunny, Daffy Duck, Roadrunner, Coyote, Porky Pig, Pépé the Pew. As a bonus, a TV broadcasts Looney Tunes continually. The exhibit presents sketches of these famous characters, but also paintings and watercolors of « more serious » objects.

The second to last section explains the birth of the (American) modern comics, from the first drawings in early 20th century newspapers (The Yellow Kid, Little Lulu, Lil’ Abner) until the modern characters of Doonesbury, Peanuts and others, with Popeye and The Spirit in between. It is more of an overview than a complete survey of American comics.

In conclusion, this museum has a limited scope, but if you like comic art, it is a very interesting stop. However, the museum store has also a limited scope: since you can buy mangas everywhere else, why give them so much shelf space?

Then I tried to visit the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, but it had closed its doors in December 2012 after 30 years of operation. Instead I went to the Press Club wine bar, located in front of what was the museum.

Once again I was hit by « the curse of the lone woman in a bar/restaurant ». For too many people in the restaurant industry, a lone woman = unprofitable customer, and then you get a very minimal service. I would have liked to tell the waiter that the cabernet was too hot, but he went AWOL the whole time that I sipped my wine. I finally managed to catch his attention, then I ordered a snap pea salad and the check.

This is quite a posh place, but since San Francisco has a high rate of techno millinaires in jeans, do as I did and don’t be shy about ordering the happy hour specials.


Strolling in Jack London Square

Jack London Square is one of Oakland’s main attractions. I often talk about it because there is only a parking lot between the Square and my appartment building. So, I walk there everyday. Come and take a stroll with me. You can click on the pictures to see them in their original size.


These high palm trees are located near the waterfront. One can sit on the benches and daydream.






Jack London’s cabin in Yukon. It was dismantled to be transported here and then reassembled piece by piece.




A statue of White Fang is in front of the cabin. White Fang, a wolfdog, is the principal character of the novel by the same name, novel which made its author famous. Children  adore mounting it and parents adore photographing them on  White Fang’s back.



Here and there, passersby can see wolfdog prints :

Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon was one of the bars where Jack London drank many beers. The bar exists since 1883. Inside, the floor is still warped because of the 1906 earthquake. This place is very nice, and since it is forbidden to use your cellphone (inside), the average age of the patrons seems to be 40 years old.


« Small » ships in the Oakland marina.

The Waterfront Hotel is mounted on stilts.

The cranes in the Port of Oakland have inspired some artists, see here and there.

On Sundays, the Square hosts a Farmers’ Market from 9 until 2 pm; there will be a night market the first Friday of each month from May until September.

It was very nice to stroll with you, thank you!


A Monday at the Beach

Yes, dear readers asking for more frequent updates of this blog, I went at the beach Monday afternoon. I though I was on vacation, because I worked a lot during the past six weeks, with my grammar course and so on. That is one of the reasons that I updated this blog less often.

So, yesterday morning, while walking briskly on a treadmill at the gym, I saw on TV that the maximum predicted on the coast was 90 F. I don’t know how to convert Celsius degrees to Farhenheit and vice versa, but I knew it meant « hot ». I did a quick search on AC Transit website and saw that the nearest beach, on Alameda Island, was less than 20 minutes away by bus. I hurriedly packed towel, books, sunscreen, hat, water and lunch and I went to worship the Sun.

This beach was not as beautiful as those superb beaches in the Carabbean Islands or in South America were throngs of North American tourists go. But I am not fussy, going to the beach is still an « event » for me.

Here it is.