We were in Tucson over the New Year, and the scenery there is very dramatic. In addition to its striking landscape, an unusual cold snap brought morning frost and a dusting of snow in the mountains to enhance the effect. There is great beauty in the sky, in the San Xavier Mission, in cactus varieties, and in the sun and cloud play on the foothills. I liked it.
While there, I spent some time contemplating passages as we entered into 2019. We had two new family relationships to celebrate in 2018 (Tim & Corky, Ariel & Nate), and many wonderful moments, but the year was also marked by changes and losses, as is always the case. “Enjoy the best and leave the rest” remains good advice for moving forward, and I hope the new year settles into a productive experience of expanding enrichments, with less drama than we’ve witnessed around the world this past year. When the need for excitement arises, Mother Nature’s theatrics come with an awe-inspiring effect well worth pursuing as an alternative.
I like and use TripAdvisor (tripadvisor.com), the web site that collects advice from travelers about places to go, things to do, where to eat. I have found it useful and a generally reliable resource for developing travel plans, and dreaming of new adventures. A recent TripAdvisor post caught my eye because, of course, I wondered how I was doing in accomplishing what “Travelers Say These Are The 10 Best World Landmarks To See Before You Die (And Here’s How).” The “Travelers’ Choice award winners this year includes historical sites, scenic attractions, and breathtaking examples of architectural innovation in destinations far and wide.”
I haven’t seen them all, but those I have would make my “best” list too … except for one: Alcatraz. Alcatraz, along with the Golden Gate Bridge, are the two landmarks which represent the United States on this list. I get that they may be unique, and the bridge is certainly an iconic symbol of San Francisco. But Alcatraz? I can’t say it’s an example of anything I’m particularly proud of about our country. It’s a 22 acre rock, with ruins of a former federal penitentiary. It also has a lighthouse and lots of birds, but I don’t think tours would be filled with enthusiasts if stories of criminals weren’t part of the experience. I really don’t understand the appeal. I agree it’s an historical site, and taking the ferry around San Francisco Bay is very scenic, but compared to other options on the “best list”… the Taj Mahal in India … St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome … the Parliament building in Budapest? I have no trouble choosing. And wouldn’t you think travelers would find the Grand Canyon or the giant Sequoias or the Lincoln Memorial more noteworthy sights in America than Alcatraz?
(I did find the locks looking through the fence toward Alcatraz of some appeal as a tourist photo op).
We had been to the San Francisco Bay area before and always loved it, but perhaps never for so many good reasons as this trip offered: we attended a wonderful wedding in Sonoma at a gorgeous location, dined with long time friends, visited family, and celebrated our anniversary. The weather also favored us far beyond expectation.
We chose to stay in Tiburon, in the delightful Water’s Edge Hotel, just steps from the ferry-boat landing, and once settled in we didn’t use our car again. Taking the ferry from Tiburon to Fisherman’s Wharf offered a completely new perspective on the city, its famous bridges, and Alcatraz. But the best location for immersion and pleasure was sitting on the hotel deck at dusk for cocktails, and for morning coffee. San Francisco was visible across the bay, and the sinking sun brought a shimmer to the view. Darn close to heaven.