About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

25 February 2012

The San Francisco Symphony

Celebrating its 100th birthday this year, the San Francisco Symphony is one of the world's top classical orchestras. I have always wanted to go see a top class symphony playing in a dedicated symphony hall, so this was an ideal moment (incidentally I still haven't managed to go see the Berlin Philharmonic). To sweeten the deal, unsold tickets are discounted on the day of the concert to $20, which made the experience even better ;)

The Miles Davis Symphony Hall is a fantastic venue with brilliant acoustics. It looks stunning from inside and outside, and has a small exhibition on the 100 years of the symphony on the first level.

Last nights program included Hayden's 104th Symphony, Mozart's 39th Symphony and Piano Concerto no 25. The conductor was Rinaldo Alessandrini and the soloist was Olivier Cavé.

Cycling around the bay

The bike (cycles) rental companies proudly claim, that biking around the bay is the best way to see the bay. They are not overselling ...

After spending the last two days walking everywhere, I decided to take a cycle instead. Starting at the end of Fisherman's wharf, going up to the Golden Gate bridge, over the bridge to the town of Sausalito and then taking the ferry back. It is clearly a popular route, not only on the evidence of the number of bikes on the ferry, but the infrastructure in Sausalito to support the cyclists.

There are two climbs, though not very difficult - the first comes too soon when you are starting out and the second is up to the bridge. Thereafter, it's a nice ride down to the ferry. I had thought of going a lot further, but the ferry times, at least in winter, are not conducive.

San Francisco is a great city for cycling. The bike rentals are not cheap (mine came to about $30), but it beats walking.

24 February 2012

Noise Pop at the Brick and Mortar

Noise Pop, now in its 20th year, is an annual musical tradition focussing on Indie Rock, in Sab Francisco, and responsible for unearthing quite a few well known bands. I discovered it last night while looking for potential gigs, also unearthing the fact that Die Antwoord were playing a sold out gig a 3 blocks away from where I am staying! So I resolved to attend at least one gig of the festival, which ends on Sunday.

The first band, a duo really, Carleta Sue Kay, comprising of a singer and a guitarist; was a last minute addition to the line up. The lyrics were brilliant - humorous, witty, interesting (e.g. "my post appocalyptic, super narcissistic love song") and the singer had an impressive vocal range to complement.

The second band, Chapter 24, was a four piece (2 guys, 2 gals) and were quite opposite to the band they were following. The vocalist had a weird reverb effect and seemed to mumble quite a bit, although she did sound good. What it was however. Is really good music and a singer who seemed to be jumping or walking in a trance. It was entertaining to listen to, and amusing to watch.

Bare Wires is a three piece band that'l looks and sound as they are from the 70's. Their guitar play was superb, and overall had foot tapping, some jumping and/or swaying music. Can't really comment on the lyrics as I couldn't make out the words; not sure if the singer was mumbling or I was just very tired.

Dirty Ghosts, the last band lived up to its headline billing. Their lyrics weren't as interesting as the first act, but they had a richer and most interesting sound of the bands of the night. They had an engaging stage presence.

It was quite a packed venue, and the audience demographics was quite varied. Compared to South African bands at the same stage of their performance career, these bands were a lot more polished and professional.

Golden Gate Park

Bigger than New York's Central Park, it's a damn log walk from one end to the other. Unlike Manhattan, San Francisco has a lot of parks, but even then the Golden Gate park was busy, and most people seemed to be locals.

There are a number of additional attractions within the park, though apart from the AIDS memorial, I didn't enter. The park was busy with the usual joggers and cyclists, as well as the homeless and numerous drug dealers (I was offered marijuana at least 5 times, though all before the entrance to the AIDS memorial grove). I also came across a drumming circle, featuring a cross section of the San Francisco populous.

The park ends at the Pacific ocean, and getting back to town was a bit of a challenge (more due to a lack of signage more than anything else, the number 5 bus is fairly close by).

Mission Delores

It is the site of the oldest building in San Francisco, and the third site of the catholic mission. I was fortunate that my arrival coincided with the start of a school tour group, and I got a fascinating history lesson from the curator, Andy. Andy is the direct descendant of one of the earliest Indian (as he insisted not Native American) converts, and gave a fascinating story on the construction and the history of the mission. He focused a lot more on the Indian story, such as the impact of colonialism in diet and the environment, the impact of disease and also the story behind some of the very impressive artwork within the church.

23 February 2012


Every Chinatown I have been to, seem to have the same things - cheap t-shirts, massage parlors, gift shops, food places and buildings decorated in an oriental style. The San Francisco Chinatown is certainly bigger, with a number of higher end art shops, but is not remarkably different.

San Francisco Skyline

Top of Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower provides a stunning viewpoint for the San Francisco skyline. The clear skies certainly helps with the views!

Coit Tower

It was granted historical monument status due to its murals, but some of the murals are inaccessible as the stairway is closed. Stunning views from the top makes the $7 entry fee worth it.

The walk down towards Embecardo is steep, but through some stunning gardens.

22 February 2012

Latin Grill Express

Near Ghiradelli Square, Latin Grill Express is a small coffee and sandwich store with a Latin flavour. I decided to stop for a quick lunch, enticed by the free wifi, but stayed due to the organic fair trade coffee and "exotic" sandwiches.

It was apparently the school lunch hour, as the shop was flooded by kids stopping by for a quick lunch.

Glorious Day in San Francisco

It has been a great day. So far, just walking around ...

This is a very scenic city.

The long route to San Francisco

When I was looking for flights to SFO from South Africa, I had only one requirement - only deal with American airports once. traveling via Europe was a bonus.

On the surface, the end route was reasonable, JNB - MUC and MUC - SFO. I did discover that the Munich - San Francisco flight stopped in Chicago, but since it was the same flight number, and I had no changes indicated on my ticket, I didn't think I had to get out of the plane.

I was wrong. Despite having the same flight number, not only did you have to deplane, but the Chicago - San Francisco route was on a different plane altogether. I must admit that it was pretty efficient - immigration (without any hassles), followed by a change in terminals, the long laborious security check (for the first time, I had no extra screening ... that was nice) and I had enough time to dart into the lounge for a drink and a visit to the toilet.

I was also very impressed with United. The last time I flew intercontinental with United, I was stuck in the middle seat (in a cluster of 5) in the middle row. This time I was surprised at the amount of legroom on both flights as well as the general facilities (as can be attested by the number of movies i watched) and service. It seems, that on United the old timers get the international flights while the newbies get the domestic as there was a considerable gap in the average age of the flight attendants!

There was also a stark contrast in the airports. Munich is modern, with lots of space and gleaming glass and steel. Both Chicago and San Francisco are old concrete behemoths, crowded and feels a bit creaky and worn down.

Ultimately, it was a long trip, about 10:30 hours to Munich, about 9:30 to Chicago and the last leg was about 4:30 hours. Added to that, there was the transit time and the general airport waiting, and it was about 36 hours in total. So, in hindsight I should have taken the Frankfurt route, even though I am not too big a fan of the city ... lessons for next time.

Movie: Drive

The original version of the game, Driver was, in my opinion one of the best driving games of its time. The opening scene of the movie reminded me of the game; the police chases, the hiding from the cops and even the countdown to the finish line!

Sadly, apart from a few more car chases, the movie is excruciatingly slow and overly artistic. Ryan Gosling plays the driver, part time stuntman, part time getaway driver who gets set up with a dud job while trying to help a friend. The entire movie could have been 45 minutes if all the arty slow motion effects and the long shots of nothing are taken out; and it would be a better movie too.

Movie: Immortals

Badly written, horrible dialog, crappy story ... lots of gore, heroic deaths, saving the world, a few beautiful women - I suppose there are a few redeeming qualities. Sadly, it still feels that I should have watched something else ...

Movie: 50/50

A comedy about cancer, in itself sounds strange. Set around the story of a young man (played brilliantly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) diagnosed with a rare cancer, detected early enough for him to have a 50% chance of survival.

The movie is not all laughs, but instead of focusing on the tragedy, it focuses on the many absurdities, from insensitive doctors, to eating biscuits with marijuana, to the constant "you will be fine". It is not an inspirational tale of beating the odds (or trying to), but it is still the most upbeat story of cancer (or any other serious illness) that I have seen.

21 February 2012

Movie: Ides of March

The George Clooney directed political thriller has been at the theatres for quite a while, but I only got round to seeing it on the plane. It is billed as "an idealistic staffer getting a crash course in dirty politics", but I think it is a lot more.

Centered around a fictional democratic primary for the presidency, it is a study of strategy firstly, and politician's ethics secondly. The beauty of the movie is not the dirty politics, but how the central character played by Ryan Gosling, takes advantage of the situation to further his own end. While he comes across as caring and very much a "good guy", earlier in the movie, in the end we are left with a cold, calculating cynic. The transformation, and the story around the transformation is brilliant.

19 February 2012

Groenkloof Nature Reserve

When I moved to Gauteng, I was introduced to Groenkloof for mountain biking. I haven't biked for a long time, but have become a very regular (weekly is my aim) hiker.

Just outside Pretoria, it is one of the oldest reserves in South Africa, and features a number of hiking, bike and 4x4 trails. There is a wide variety of game, and I have often come across at least 3 or 4 species of large animals. The hiking and bike trails allow one to get very close to the animals (and sometimes too close). There is also an incredible transformation just after the rains when the main valley is filled with croaking frogs and a huge variety of bird life.