Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

Saturday
March
28th
2009
1:55 pm

Visiting the States

I visited the States for the first time since leaving more than two years ago. It was Little Brother’s birthday, which seemed like a reasonable excuse.

Oregon

Since my putative excuse for the trip was LB’s birthday, I started my visit on the Oregon coast, near Lincoln City. I made LB a seafood lasagne and blueberry cheesecake (his favorites!) for his birthday, and we just hung out. We did make one little excursion to the Rogue Brewery in Newport, where I discovered their Hazelnut Brown Nectar. That is one seriously excellent ale.

California

The second part of my trip took me the Bay Area, to catch up with friends and the rest of my family. There were excursions to Marin County and Sacramento for family, dinners, lunches, glasses of wine with old friends, and a few days just wandering around revisiting old haunts. I was not, alas, able to visit my favorite bookstore, Staceys, as it closed its doors for the last time before I arrived:

The California Academy of Sciences

I took one day to play tourist in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I was thinking about paying a visit to the new DeYoung Museum:

First, though, I made my way across the Music Concourse:

My destination was the new California Academy of Sciences, where I ended up spending the day.

The new Academy is significantly more expensive than the old one: $24.95 for the day’s admission. Although, since I was able to show a bus transfer as evidence that I had dutifully taken public transit to get there, I did receive a $3.00 discount. Unlike the old Academy, however, the admission price included free admission to the planetarium show. This was something of a mixed blessing. While I appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to pay yet again to see the planetarium show, the fact that it was already included meant that everyone seemingly attends a show. It is necessary to have a pass, but at 10 AM, passes were available only for the last show at 4 PM.

Even though it was a weekday, this new Academy was also much more crowded than I ever remember the old one being. And it didn’t appear to be due to school field trips either: it looked as though it was mostly families.

My favorite part was the new Rain forest exhibit: four stories of flora and fauna:

Some of the birds dining on a bit of melon:

The route through the exhibit goes in an upward spiral. Looking down from the midpoint:

They very carefully control access to the exhibit to make sure that no butterflies or birds slip out when people enter and leave. On leaving, there’s an attendant at the elevator to help you check:

Another feature that I liked was the living roof: 2.5 acres planted with close to 2 million native plants.

I also attended the 4 PM Planetarium show. The old projector is gone, and with it, the silhouette of the San Francisco skyline. Instead, there is amphitheater style seating and the effect is more akin to an IMAX theater. Indeed, as with IMAX, the effect can be a little dizzying at first. I enjoyed the show.

I was particularly disappointed that the fish roundabout is gone. And, generally, I was unimpressed by the new Aquarium, though some of that undoubtedly had to do with the crowding.

They devoted a lot of exhibit space to self-congratulations on how green and sustainable the new building is. I appreciate their virtue, but I could have done without the self-righteousness!

Oakland

The new cathedral, Christ the Light, which was still under construction when I had left, was recently dedicated. And so I stopped by. I have to say that I was less impressed than I expected to be. I found it rather stark and not particularly welcoming. On the other hand, my first impression of Our Lady of Lourdes, my old home parish, had been similar. It was only when I went to Mass there that I warmed to it, so I’ll reserve judgment on the cathedral until I can attend a service there.

A friend had expressed disappointment with the central image of Christ Pantokrator above the altar, saying she thought it too stern. Since that space is usually occupied by a crucifix, though, which doesn’t exactly portray a cheery Christ, that didn’t bother me.

As luck would have it though, my visit to the cathedral coincided with the tail end of the press conference in which the newly appointed bishop, Salvatore Cordileone, was introduced. And so it was that I got to see the new bishop in the flesh before most of his new flock even knew about the appointment.

Back to Prague

By the end of my two weeks in the States, though, I was starting to get homesick. While it was lovely to see family and friends and to be in familiar surroundings, it’s just not home anymore. At least not for now, it isn’t.

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