Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pirates Festival of Northern California

When other little girls of my age were dreaming of being ballerinas and hollywood starlettes, my ambitions laid somewhere between being on the A-Team and working with Indiana Jones. However, I was 5 years old when I went on my first trip on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World and realized that what I really wanted to be when I grew-up was a swashbuckling pirate.

I can 't remember the day that I realized that Santa Claus was just a myth, but I do remember the day I had the crushing realization that the days of Jack Sparrow and sailing the seas on a tall-ship are over. I've held a special place in my heart for pirates ever since. So when I was told of a mythical Pirate Festival held this weekend in the Vallejo Marina, you can imagine my excitement. So with childlike enthusiasm, I took the BayLink Ferry from the San Francisco Warf to Vallejo in search of Pirates and hidden treasures.

The Pirate Festival was like walking onto the set of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, with most of the people in attendance in elaborate costumes. Designed to be like Renaissance Festival, the Pirate Festival was set up by the marina with tents full of costumes, cool crafts and gifts, games, and food. There were also multiple stages with entertainment going on at the same time including sword fights, cannon fights, craft demonstrations, bands, and even a pirate magician by the name of Jack Spareribs. However the biggest draw of the festival was the people watching with so many amazing dressed pirates, period dressed naval officers and Victorian ladies walking around. Even children, pets, and strollers came decked in Pirate gear! My favorite part of the day was the cannon show when a Pirate ship sailed the harbor and fought a battle with a village of Pirates on shore.

The Northern California Pirate Festival was created four years ago to celebrate pirate mythology: the world of sword fights, bawdy wenches and buried doubloons. The local newspapers are estimating over 40,000 people people will attend. And the count today was that 2,643 people came out in costume to try to set the Guinness record for the world's largest gathering of pirates. All in all, it was worth the hour long ferry ride from San Francisco and I highly recommend his free festival for pirates and pirate lovers of all ages!

Friday, June 18, 2010

North Beach Festival

The North Beach Festival is this weekend and I am looking forward to celebrating one of my favorite neighborhoods in San Francisco...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Tale of Two Artist

Recently, I have discovered two local west coast based oil painters that I admire and thought I should share. The first artist is Amanda Blake. Recently my friend saw a couple of her pieces at a gallery in Texas and forwarded me a link to her oil painting, "Rebecca Wore a Dress of Wildflowers." (Image to the left.) I instantly loved the piece and ordered a print to frame and hang in my flat. Doing some research, I found that Amanda lives in Portland, OR. Inspired by religious and literary symbolism, art history, superstition and found photography she works to create narratives that are at once familiar and mysterious. I love how each peace tells a story. You can check out more of her work at her blog:

The second artist, Leon Roulette, has many of his beautiful oil paintings scattered amongst the vineyards of Napa.
I fell in love with the painting, "Poppies in Sunshine," displayed at the Rutherford Hills Tasting Room a couple of years ago (image below.) and have been admiring his work ever since. His oil paintings are so realistic at times, sometimes you wonder if you are looking a photograph. Although he doesn't have a persona website, it appears that he has been teaching art in the West Coast for many years and his romantic styles are perfect for the Napa Vineyard settings.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Best Ports in Napa Valley

On the hunt for the best port in Napa Valley, my cousin E and I have traveled to vineyards all over the valley. He loves them sweet and syrupy, I love them to be smooth and nutty... so we tend to disagree on what quantifies a good port. However, we have found some diamonds in the rough that we can both agree on. Here is our list of the top four finds:

4. V. Sattui - All the sweet wine lovers in California know of V. Sattui. A great place to stop in the valley and grab lunch, this vineyard is known for its picnic grounds and sweet wines. (It is little known fact that it is one of only two vineyards that are allowed to host weddings in the valley.) Personally, I love their dry reislings for sunny picnics. However, my cousin E loves their sweet and syrupy Port as well. Not my favorite, but it's still worth the stop to see the vineyard, try the BBQ, and sit out at the picnic area and enjoy the scene!

3. Rutherford Hills - Tucked away in the hills above the Auberge du Soleil hotel and napa valley, this vineyard is famous for its wine cave and picnic area with views of Napa Valley. (You may recognize it from the 2009 Top Chef Finale.) However, its hidden secret is its 2005 Zinfandel Port. Coupled with chocolate covered blue berries, this port is smooth with a hint of cherry and blueberry jamminess. (is that a word?) This port is perfect for stand alone, or my favorite, dashed over some vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with raisins. A tour of the Rutherford Hills wine caves & tasting is $20, and is one of the best wine tours of the valley. Ask for Jack... he's the most entertaining tour guide on staff. My suggestion is to pack a picnic lunch (or swing by Dean & DeLuca) and have lunch on the Rutherford picnic grounds. Its less crowded than V. Sattui and since its on the Silverado Trail, its less touristy and not as crowded as V. Sattui's grounds.

2. Heitz Cellars - One of the oldest vineyards in Napa Valley, they have been selling wine for nearly 48 years. Located next to V. Sattui, I have driven past this unassuming vineyard dozens of times without knowing about this hidden gem. Recommended by some other port enthusiast, my cousin and I swung by to try the free tasting and was surprised by both ports that are available. The Ink Grade port is a shinning example of the best port has to offer. Smooth, rich, yet hints of ripe berries and sweet plum... this is a port that everyone will love. Even my cousin's fiance, who hates ports, thought this was tasty. The 2004 Grignolino Port was also delicious, with hints of orange and caramel. Its deep ruby hues reminds me of the antique ruby gem stones i covet at a local SF jeweler. This unassuming vineyard is highly recommended!

1. Prager Winery & Portworks - To be short and sweet, this is a must stop for any port lover. The 2005 Aria White Port is magical and takes your taste buds on a Willy Wonka-esque adventure starting off nutty, then a fruity sweet flavor... and leaves you with a hint of burnt caramel. Mmmmmmmm... pure yumminess. The 2004 Royal Escort Port is nothing to be laughed at either. Coupled with the Prager's caramelized walnuts, it is nectar from the Gods and you think that you should always have liquid desserts before dinner. Tastings are $15 for 5 ports/wines and you can keep your glass. The gardens outside the tasting room are beautiful, however the tasting room (tucked away through a barrel cellar that leaves you smelling of oak and old vineyard) has aesthetics that needs polishing and reminds me a couple dive bars i've hoped to forget. In some ways this is a good thing as you know that the vineyard pours all it's love and energy into their wines.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Advice for Rome...

In honor of my kid brothers having a Roman holiday next week, I thought I would post some travel notes. My colleague, Ginger, gives this advice for travelers going to Rome:

1) When you visit the Coliseum, buy the tickets to the Forum. There is a separate (very short) line for the Forum. The ticket gets you into both the Forum and Coliseum, and you don't have to wait on the 4 hour line for Coliseum tickets.

2) Try the Pizza Dolche, if you can find it.

3) If you visit The Pantheon, eat at the restaurant with the outside tables (apparently you need to try the gnocchi and sage)

4) If you go to the Vatican, do the guided Vatican tour... its worth it. (And the non-vatican tours are bogus.) Keep in mind, if you look at every piece of art at the Vatican for one minute each, you'd be there for 7 years...

5) "Don't be afraid to do all the regular touristy stuff because it is UNBELIEVABLE!!"

(PLEASE NOTE: Photo posted is from another blog.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Giants vs. Rockies

Yesterday, thanks to an unnamed director at my Firm, i was able to get my hands on two luxury box tickets to the Giants vs. Rockies game at AT&T Park. The ballpark is one of the most beautiful ball parks I've been too, with the stands facing the bay, and views of Oakland and the Bay Bridge. Luckily, I brought my Colorado Rockies gear back with me so that I can support my team and give the local fans a hard time. Although there were some nail biting moments, the Rockies stayed true against Barry Zito and show-off Torres, and won in the 11th Inning 2 -1. Of course, one of my friends in the box bought some Fat Tire so we could celebrate the Colorado's win! All in all, it was an extremely fun night with some good friends from the office. To quote my friend, I prefer to sit with the proliferate. However, an evening watching two of my favorite baseballs teams from the lap of luxury is not bad either.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Leopoldina Productions on the web!

It's official! My new professional photography website kicks off today! Please check it out!

I would just like to take some time to thank all my family and friends who have encouraged me to believe in my dreams and take things to the next level! I need to start scanning all my film and add them to the site soon... in the meantime, there are enough tasty treats to use as a digital portfolio. Enjoy!