Rancho San Antonio Refrigerator Trees Get Hot

Arbutus menziesii (11/9/12) John Poimiroo

Arbutus (strawberry tree) (11/9/12) John Poimiroo

Refrigerator trees (madrone) in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Reserve (Los Altos) are warming up with red, orange and yellow in an early display that has local spotters asking whether the drought has contributed to this unseasonal show of fall color.

Wiki.answers.com reports that the madrone (arbutus menziesii) is native to chaparral regions. Its outside layer and leaves use sunlight to photosynthesize nutrients and energy. Since the outside layer of madrone trunks transports water and life-supporting fluids, the trunk of the tree is cold, explaining why madrones are called the refrigerator tree. Madrone do not have a dead layer of bark on their trunks or branches. The entire tree produces energy, including the trunk and branches. Just Starting – Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

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Berkeley Birders Searching for “Painted Redstart” Find Fall Color

Color spotter Sandy Steinman started yesterday looking for a rare bird, the Painted Redstart which normally lives in Arizona, eastern New Mexico and northern Mexico. It had somehow winged its way north to matriculate near Berkeley and ended up itself being studied by Redstart-fevered birders. Steinman never was sure he saw the bird (perhaps a glimpse), though ended up taking these shots of spots of remaining fall color along Berkeley’s streets.

Berkeley (12/1/13) Sandy Steinman

Berkeley (12/1/13) Sandy Steinman

Past Peak – Berkeley – Spots of color can still be seen with some trees not fully turned.  The most exciting spot of fall color is the red, black and white Painted Redstart seen flitting through Berkeley’s urban forest. A cold front will push through Northern California, beginning today, perhaps urging the Redstart to head back to Mexico and with days expected to be cold, chilling further prospects for color development in Berkeley and forcing global warming protestors from the steps of Sproul Hall to warm themselves, indoors.

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Yes and No

Protest beside the Wheeler Oak, UC Berkeley | © Eric Broder Van Dyke | Dreamstime.com

Protest beside the Wheeler Oak, UC Berkeley | © Eric Broder Van Dyke | Dreamstime.com

In our last posting two days ago, we asked if the color would survive this past week’s moisture.  The answer is “Yes and No.”

Much of the turned color across California was blown from branches, though pockets of bright color remain in areas where trees had not fully turned.  One of them, color spotter Sandy Steinman reports, is Berkeley, where beautiful color is seen within the East Bay city’s urban forest.

The City of Berkeley is so devoted to trees, that there’s a city department devoted to forestry.  That department reports Berkeley plants over 600 trees a year.  Those trees provide both ambience and financial benefits.  A 2005 report estimated that they provide approximately $3.5 million in annual benefits to the community, including: shade that reduces the need for air conditioning and electrical use, improved air quality, reduced costs of storm water runoff, and improved property values.

The University of California at Berkeley shares its city’s passion for trees, as much as its students do protesting perceived wrongs.  The old expression, “Meet me at the Wheeler Oak,” has been used as a hookup line by students, since the campus was founded.  In front of Sproul Hall (seen above), this venerable Coast Live Oak stood until it grew ancient and sickly, to be replaced by a younger oak.  An online guide to campus trees provides the background and directions to UC Berkeley’s most interesting trees, including artistic Italian Stone Pine, California Buckeye, majestic London Plane Tree and Blue Gum Eucalyptus that are believed to be the tallest stand of hardwood trees in North America.

With winds predicted to gust to 70 mph across Northern California today, much of the remaining color along Berkeley’s boulevards is likely to be blown away, though that, too, will provide quite a show.

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California’s Urban Forests are – in a word – “Glorious”

Acapulco St., Campbell (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Acapulco St., Campbell (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

A road trip from the Sierra Foothills to Silicon Valley and back, today, provided opportunities to see how color is developing along the I-80, I-680 and I-880 corridors.  In a word, it is “glorious.”

Land Park, Sacramento (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Land Park, Sacramento (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Sacramento – Piles of leaves along Sacramento streets are a sure sign that the fall color is past peak on some species.  Sycamore are among them, though other large species in Sacramento are still yellow and orange, with spots of red.  Land Park, south of U.S. 50 and the Fabulous 40s in midtown have the best displays of color.

GO NOW! 75 – 100% – Dixon Agricultural Corridor – Orchards between Davis and Vacaville are at peak.

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Danville Oak (File Photo) Yelp

Danville Oak (File Photo) Yelp

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon – Native oak are softly pastel orange, while exotic species are blazing.  Color spotter Linnea Wahamaki sent along these shots taken this past week at the Livery Shopping Center in Danville.  We tip our hat to Danville which, Linnea reports, “Does a good job of planting and protecting trees, and is really gorgeous during the autumn season – as is evident by these stunning trees!”  Danville is one of California’s Cities of Trees, even with a landmark oak that has it’s own Yelp page.

Palo Alto (11/17/13) Mathias Van Hesemans

Palo Alto (11/17/13) Mathias Van Hesemans

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – San Francisco Peninsula – The Peninsula communities of Burlingame, Hillsborough, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton are providing the best show of color in the Bay Area.

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Leaf pile on Pine in San Jose (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Leaf pile on Pine in San Jose (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Pomagranate, Silicon Valley (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Pomegranate, Silicon Valley (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

 

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Silicon Valley – The Santa Clara County communities of Campbell, Los Gatos and San Jose are dressed in fall foliage.  Brilliant stands of gingko are found along the boulevards.  Before it became known as Silicon Valley (for the silicon chips produced here by Intel), the Santa Clara Valley was known for growing fruit (apricots, plums and other tree fruit).

Today, a pomegranate bush along Pine in San Jose was heavy with ripe fruit.

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Vintage Year for Wine Country

Calistoga, Napa Valley (File Photo) John Poimiroo

Calistoga, Napa Valley (File Photo) John Poimiroo

Reports from wine growing regions in northern and central California describe beautiful color in the vineyards with different varieties showing maroon, crimson, orange, yellow and lime grape leaves.  All but a few late harvest grapes remain on the vines.

GO NOW! – 50 – 75% – Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Clara and Contra Costa County Vineyards – Peak will evolve through vineyards as specific varieties of grapes turn color.  The show will likely continue for another two to three weeks.

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San Francisco’s Golden Palace

Editor’s Note:  2009 marks the centennial anniversary of the reopening of San Francisco’s Palace Hotel.  The hotel was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake and fire, rebuilt and reopened on Dec. 15, 1909.  November is San Francisco’s month for fall color, particularly in Golden Gate Park.  If you’re heading to The City during this glorious month, plan to include a visit to the Palace.  Whether you stay there, dine there or just tour its beautiful interiors, it’s worth the visit, as the following article originally written by me for California magazine tells.

Golden sunlight brightens the Beaux Arts décor of the Garden Court in San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, preserving for ever this city’s gilded age.

The Palace Hotel has long been where San Francisco’s financial, commercial and social royalty have held court, and the Garden Court has been its throne room.  “It is the most beautiful dining room in America,” says James Dalessandro, author of 1906, a novel about the San Francisco earthquake and fire, “There’s nothing that comes close to it.  It’s regal, yet comfortable.  The food is fabulous, and dining there is one of the great joys of visiting San Francisco.”

Garden Court diners sit at creamy, draped tables on Napoleonic armchairs, while curtained by lacy palm fronds and surrounded by a cloister of Ionic columns of Italian marble.  They dine on local Dungeness crab salads dripped with the hotel’s original Green Goddess dressing, as a harpist plays.  Overhead, a vaulted, 110 by 85 foot-long (33.5 x 25.9 meter), leaded-glass skylight, trimmed in antique gold, bathes the room with soft light, while Austrian crystal chandeliers suspended from the stained glass ceiling provide dazzling, dangling “bling.”

Everything about the Garden Court impresses, and that is what San Francisco pioneers William Ralston and Senator William Sharon intended when they opened the Palace Hotel in 1875.  It had been 27 years since gold had been discovered on the American River; in that time, San Francisco had evolved from a sleepy coastal village into America’s western commercial and financial capital.  A second, “green” gold rush fed by the export of abundant California produce and wine was just beginning, which would establish San Francisco as the most affluent city, per capita, in the United States.

And yet despite its growing affluence and influence, San Francisco got little respect, particularly in New York, Boston or Philadelphia.  So, Sharon and Ralston gambled their fortunes to build a grand hotel… one so elegant that with the first ring of its front desk bell, their city would be transformed from wild, frontier town to refined, cosmopolitan city.

To subsidize his $5 million dream, Ralston drained his banking empire and learned, two weeks before the hotel’s opening, that his Bank of California would be forced to close.  A day later, Ralston’s body was found floating in San Francisco Bay, leaving Sharon to foster the dream.

And, what a dream it was.  When the Palace opened, it was the world’s largest hotel.  Its guests were awed by its unprecedented size and luxury.  Four hydraulic elevators, known then as “arising rooms,” lifted the hotel’s guests in comfort and style.  Each room came with an electronic call button in order to access hotel services.  And, a 100-place solid-gold dinner service (one of the world’s oldest and most complete still in use) was set for state dinners and other grand occasions, causing a bedazzled Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, to say to the mayor of San Francisco, “Nothing makes me ashamed of Brazil so much as the Palace Hotel.”

The Palace’s comforts so surpassed all other San Francisco accommodations that it became the obvious destination for visiting potentates and celebrities.  Ten U.S. Presidents have stayed there, as well as countless kings, queens, statesmen, industrialists, generals, lords and ladies.  A list of the hotel’s celebrated guests numbers three, single-spaced pages, including such luminaries as: Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, Amelia Earhart, Robert Anthony Eden, Thomas Edison, Field Marshalls Foch and Joffre, Ulysses S. Grant, Nikita Kruschev, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Fiorello La Guardia, Ferdinand de Lesseps, Thomas Lipton, George B. McClellan, John Pierpont Morgan, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, John David Rockefeller, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Lillian Russell, William Tecumseh Sherman, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Woodrow Wilson.

With its location on Market Street – the commercial spine of San Francisco – the Palace became the epicenter of the young city’s commerce and culture (today, it stands in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District).  Such a central location made it a natural gathering point.  Businessmen would meet along the block-long Redwood Room bar, which ran from New Montgomery to Third Streets, an expanse so long that 30 bartenders were needed to keep glasses full.  It is said more deals were transacted along its length than occurred in the State Capitol.

Like a magnet, the Palace Hotel attracted not only the successful, but those seeking success.  One such young man was my grandfather, French immigrant Maurice Ducasse, who watched the deal makers come and go and noticed that there was no cigar store nearby to serve them.  So, he opened one across the street just days before the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.  Grandpa then watched his cigars go up in smoke, but not as he had intended.

Few would have thought Ralston and Sharon’s original Palace, designed by architect J. P. Gaynor, to be so vulnerable, as it was built to be earthquake and fire proof.  The hotel was banded with reinforcing steel and contained a million-gallon cistern below the hotel to fight fires.  It even had its own security and fire personnel.  Indeed, the hotel survived the earthquake and was defending itself from fire when its cisterns were drained battling fires in surrounding buildings.  Once the water was gone, the hotel became a casualty.

For San Franciscans like my grandfather, the Palace Hotel was more than a place of rest, it was a place to read the city’s pulse.  And thus, rumors of the Palace’s demise passed excitedly through refugee encampments in Golden Gate Park.  While many dreams ended in 1906, San Franciscans will tell you that more were renewed, including the Palace Hotel, which like its symbol – the mythical Phoenix bird – rose from its ashes as a new structure three years later for twice its original construction cost.

With its reopening on December 15, 1909, the original carriage entrance was enclosed for the Garden Court (today, the only indoor historic landmark in San Francisco), additional innovations were added and a more civilized bar was placed within the hotel that included a mural by American fantasy realist Maxfield Parrish whose fairy-tale-inspired mural of Old King Cole, painted in 1905 for John Jacob Astor’s Knickerbocker Hotel, set the style for hotel bars.

“Hotel owners, upon seeing the Old King Cole mural at the Knickerbocker, commissioned nursery-rhyme and fairy-tale paintings to enhance their own establishments,” Coy Ludwig writes in his book, Maxfield Parrish. In San Francisco, it was The Pied Piper… for the Palace Hotel and Sing a Song of Sixpence for the Hotel Sherman in Chicago.” More recently, a cluster of tourists on an “Urban Safari” tour of San Francisco (identifiable by the pith helmets they wear) was seen stopping at the bar’s entrance to view the mural and hear that the mural, originally commissioned for $6,000 is now considered to be worth as much as $6 million, though its cultural value to San Francisco is priceless.  As the time-crunched tour guide led the group away, he checked his watch and said, “Safari, so good.”

Parrish would have appreciated such mirth, as when asked why he chose the Pied Piper for its subject, he said, “I don’t exactly know, except that I must have thought it an attractive one, as I do now.  Seems to me I heard somewhere that it was not a subject quite suited to increase the receipts of a bar, as guests draining a glass were apt to note a child in the painting that resembled a little one at home and, then and there, cancel their wish for a second glass.”

Whoever said that never spent a night in San Francisco.  No painting of a child, mythic or real, would ever restrain its revelry.  San Franciscans are culturally wired to celebrate the fine things in life whether it be food, drink or entertainment.  Indeed, on the night of the earthquake and fire, no less a cultural icon of his day than tenor Enrico Caruso was in San Francisco to perform at the San Francisco Opera House.  After the earthquake shook him from his bed, he fled the Palace Hotel wearing only a towel and swearing, “I will never set foot in San Francisco again.”

Clearly, Caruso is one of the few who ever said they wouldn’t return to San Francisco or its Palace.  An extensive renovation of the hotel completed in 1991 restored the hotel to its original elegance and continued the tradition of innovation, adding conference facilities and a spa, pool and fitness center.  A stream of design and preservation awards honoring the restoration soon followed from such lofty organizations as The National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Institute of Architects, California Preservation Foundation and the California Heritage Council.

The restored guest rooms have lost none of their turn-of-the-century grandeur, high ceilings or opulent comfort.  Grey, cream and gold fine Italian Frette linens and pin-striped draperies complement refined palatial rooms, some furnished with Louis XV and Empire chairs and settees.  Whether your choice is the Presidential suite or a standard room, the same appointments are provided, though you’ll pay more for a better view of bustling Market Street, the San Francisco skyline or extra space in a suite.

“Sometimes luxury hotels can be intimidating, but the Palace has always been approachable,” explains the hotel’s business travel and international account director Sarah Bisa.  Among its accommodations, the Palace is pet friendly, a standard established after celebrated French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt arrived in 1887 with her pet baby tiger, and hotel management kindly provides its guests with bottled water.  However, what sets it apart, Ms. Bisa says, is that,“The Palace is a museum that happens to operate as a hotel. It is also the most San Franciscan of San Francisco hotels and its authenticity appeals to my international clients,” who, she explains, know that when staying in Las Vegas it’s all about the fantasy, whereas when staying in San Francisco it’s all about the history, environment and culture.

While the hotel’s rack rate is $599, shop online and you’re likely to find deals.  Prices are best on Friday and Saturday nights and during national holidays.  Although The Palace hotel is renowned among business travelers, it is pretty well designed for the leisure traveler with its shallow pool and location within walking distance of the trollies, cable cars and numerous attractions and museums.

Now part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts “Luxury Collection,” the Palace Hotel is owned by Kyo-ya Company, Ltd.  Though it is now a century and a third removed from the days of Ralston and Sharon, the Palace Hotel still basks in the golden glow of that age.  Diners at the Garden Court are enveloped by softly gilded light, as if the San Francisco air is filled with gold dust.  And, it is… at least, for those privileged guests of San Francisco’s Golden Palace.

Linking the Palace Hotel

The Palace Hotel

James Dalessandro

San Francisco CVB

1906 Earthquake

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A Guide to San Francisco Fall Color

San Francisco Botanical Garden Fall Color Map

Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park (11/2/09)

Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park (11/2/09)

San Francisco is California’s emerald city by the Bay.  The City prides itself for being one of the most environmentally attentive municipalities on Earth and that pride is evident within its many parks and streets where beautiful fall color can be found.  This is particularly true in The City’s expansive Golden Gate Park.  However, Golden Gate Park is so large it can be difficult to find the color.

To the rescue comes San Francisco color spotter James Theriault who provides “a very clever, detailed map of the San Francisco Botanical Garden with notations on where the best color is to be found,” writes San Francisco publicist, Cindy Hu.  To open the map, click on the orange “San Francisco Botanical Garden Fall Color Map” above.  You’ll have to click again on it for the map to open.  This is a .pdf file, so you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader or another .pdf reader to see the map.

Begin your tour at the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park.  This is an open-air concert hall between the fabulous de Young art museum, Japanese Tea Garden (a magical place to see fall color) and the world’s greenest museum, the California Academy of Sciences.

Congratulations to The Palace hotel, San Francisco’s great accommodation which on December 15 celebrates its 100th birthday.  I’ve stayed there many times and have enjoyed luxuriating in its traditions, beauty and superb service.  As a tribute to that great hotel, an article I penned about it for California magazine will be blogged here on Friday.  Now, The Palace’s anniversary has little to do with fall color, though now’s the time to head to San Francisco to see The City’s beautiful change of season and what better place to stay at than the grand and historic Palace Hotel!?  Besides, my daughter works there and I’m a couldn’t-be-prouder dad.

Photo Credit: copyright 2009, James McCormick