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Napa Valley is Back

November 3, 2017 at 9:21 pm

Autumn Napa vineyard

 

Return and Support the Community, say officials

The blaze that lit Napa Valley on Sunday, October 15 at 10 p.m. sparked national headlines.   Media coverage of the conflagration was so widespread and exaggerated that many believed that all of Northern California was being consumed. What many outside Napa failed to realize was that the actual tourist corridor, namely the valley floor, where many of the wineries, spas, and hotels stand were largely unscathed. Stresses Napa resident Monty J. Sander, “The fires were in the mountain ridges. The floor of the Valley had no damage at all.” According to Napa officials, the fire ravaged the eastern and western hills, and fortunately, only a few businesses were singed and burned.

Now with the flames contained, there’s no better time than now to come, says Sander, “Visitors are definitely returning,” he observes. “Hotels are receiving bookings, and locals are getting out in big numbers to support the restaurants and businesses. A lot of people are pretty thankful at the moment.”

In an act of solidarity, this week Napa Valley mayors and government officials rode the iconic Napa Wine Train together to announce that the Napa Valley is reopened for business. According to Visit Napa Valley, the region’s tourism bureau, “Currently only four wineries have reported being closed due to fire damage,” says Angela Jackson, spokesperson for Visit Napa Valley. “The majority of more than 400 wineries were open and hosting guests just days after the fires started. Additionally, all restaurants, tours and activities are welcoming guests.”

This is a time where a visitor’s dollar counts more than ever, Sanders adds.   Tourists will do well to frequent the wineries and attractions without too many crowds and participate in a slice of recent history. To encourage people to come, many local businesses are donating a portion of their proceeds towards fire relief. Indian Springs Calistoga and Napa Valley Lodge will be donating $10 a night per reservation to https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/napafirerelief  for all reservations made by November 9 for stay dates from now through November 30.

Auberge du Soleil, Calistoga Ranch and Solage , operating on schedule, are providing complimentary nights that encourage guests to linger as well as resort credit for spa treatments and restaurant meals. “Every stay helps heal the valley,” say Auberge officials. In fact, Auberge will match funds to the Napa Valley Community fund when guests make their own donations.

Other hoteliers are providing specials and discounts to attract visitors. At the Napa River Inn, the boutique property is offering a fourth night free after three paid consecutive nights when bookings occur November through February.

Hospitality vendors from various industries are also hosting benefit events together. The Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa is partnering with the Von Strasser Family of Wines and Brian Arden Wines to put on an outdoor movie night on Thursday, November 2nd at 5:30pm to benefit the Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund. A full 100% of each $30 ticket and proceeds from wine sales will be donated to help families and businesses affected by the wildfires.

Museums in the area are flinging doors wide and posting events as scheduled. In November in Yountville which was previously blocked during the fire, the Napa Valley Museum will be hosting the world premiere of “France is a Feast,” a photo journey following the famous cooking celebrity, Julia Child and her husband Paul. The rarely seen black and white photos were taken by Paul between 1948 and 1954.

Restaurants are welcoming visitors and planning celebrations. In fact, La Toque, a Michelin-starred winner, will continue to wow guests with its 20th annual Thanksgiving feast featuring a turkey and the trimmings, and its famous Chef Ken’s famous turkey sandwich leftovers as a parting gift for each diner.

The city itself is going to celebrate the holidays with fervor. Napa’s 55th Annual Christmas Parade, is slated for Saturday, Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. As in year’s past, locals will decorate parade entries, including cars, horses and even children, with festive lights. Santa Claus will be in the “Big Chair on the Riverfront” to hear Christmas wishes.

The celebrations this November and December will have an added dimension of significance after all that has happened. “We are humbled by the incredible dedication we have seen from the emergency service response teams who continue to work to keep everyone safe,” remarks Clay Gregory, president & CEO of Visit Napa Valley. “The outpouring of support from around the world has been heartwarming to everyone in our community, and the spirit of collaboration to rebuild and reopen is remarkable. Our thoughts remain with those impacted by these wildfires, including the more than 13,000 people whose jobs are supported by the Napa Valley tourism industry,” adds Gregory.

If you need assistance planning your vacation, check out California Tours Napa Vacation packages. (Note to readers: California Tours will be donating ten percent towards supporting the needs of first responders to the Napa fire).

 

Kathy Chin Leong is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,  Dallas Morning News, and many other publications. She is also the founder of www.bayareafamilytravel.com, a website for families who love adventure.

New York City Art : Hop Into the Mix

September 26, 2017 at 9:23 pm

 

As one of the world’s great art centers, New York City has everything from old masters and renowned museums to storefront upstarts and ephemeral surprises. It’s the place to get a refresh on the artwork you love, and to be stimulated by the new and completely unexpected.

Start with NYC Hop-on Hop-off Pass, an included benefit that will bring you near your choice of 30+ museums throughout the City and beyond, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org), the Guggenheim (guggenheim.org), Whitney Museum of American Art (whitney.org), and the Museum of Modern Art (moma.org).

The Museum Mile (https://www.ny.com/museums/mile.html) is a lovely area along Fifth Avenue and Central Park that’s filled with museums and other fine arts institutions. At the northern end, El Museo del Barrio (elmuseo.org) celebrates the art and artifacts of Caribbean and Latin American cultures.

Through October 29, 2017, the New York Botanical Garden (nybg.org), north of Manhattan in the Bronx, features a magical garden exhibition of glass works by Dale Chihuly (https://www.nybg.org/event/chihuly-2/). Even if you arrive after the exhibit has closed, there’s still much to enjoy at one of the world’s largest botanical gardens and gorgeous Victorian-era National Historic Landmark.

If fresh art is on your radar, you’ll find galleries galore in Chelsea and Brooklyn, as well as Manhattan. The Drawing Center (drawingcenter.org) exhibits historical and contemporary drawings. White Columns (whitecolumns.org) is an alternative exhibit space devoted to rising stars. MoMA PS1 (momaps1.org) on Long Island extends MoMA’s commitment to emerging artists.

Who says art is solely a visual experience? Explore the art of scent at Aedes Perfumery (aedes.com), an intimate shop in the West Village carrying an intriguing line of fragrances.

Resources I: New York City’s own website provides a complete list of city museums and links at https://www.ny.com/museums/all.museums.html, including links to Free Night and Suggested Contribution museums at https://www.ny.com/museums/free.html.

Resources II: Cultural goings on around town are listed and reliably reviewed at the New Yorker (newyorker.com/culture), the New York Times (nytimes.com/section/arts), New York Magazine (nymag.com/arts/art/) and The Village Voice (villagevoice.com/culture/art/).

Keep your eyes open as you stroll New York City and environs, because you never know when you’ll stumble upon great work. Keith Haring painted on empty subway signs and Jean-Michel Basquiat on the walls of broken-down buildings, and the creations of both NYC artists came to be loved by the world. Some creators working now also look to make something meaningful out of what others might pass by unawares…so do be open to the unexpected in artful New York City – on your California Tours vacation!

 

The Los Angeles Art Scene: A Splash as Big as L.A. Itself

August 1, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Downtown Los Angeles skyline during rush hour at sunset

On your California Tours vacation to fabulous Los Angeles, it’s easy to add an art destination or two. Just like the city, the art world of Los Angeles sprawls and surprises, with any medium on your radar screen accessible via the city’s web of freeways.

Every time of year, L.A. is rich with major exhibits and collections open to the public for free or a nominal charge. Downtown, next to the prehistoric La Brea Tar Pits and Museum (tarpits.org), Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (lacma.org) huge collection has something for everyone – including modern, Asian, Latin American, American, ancient art, and more. The J. Paul Getty Museum’s two campuses (getty.edu/art/collection) have exhibitions with depth and variety, in stunning settings. For contemporary art, consider the Museum of Contemporary Art (moca.org), the new Broad Museum (thebroad.org), and The Hammer Museum (hammer.ucla.edu).

Off the beaten path, smaller galleries and museums reveal Los Angeles’ past and present – its vintage Hollywood glamour, mix of ethnicities, smooth surfer lines, and modernist chic. Here are a few favorites:

  • Eames House, the modern Pacific Palisades home and studio of husband-and-wife designers Charles and Ray Eames (eamesfoundation.org) showcases the influential couple’s take on contemporary furniture, architecture, art, and living. You can combine this with a visit to the Getty Villa, also in Pacific Palisades, but please note that advance reservations (bookable from the website) are required.
  • For film buffs, The Hollywood Museum (thehollywoodmuseum.com), in the historic Max Factor Building in Hollywood, displays one of the largest troves of treasures from the silent screen, Hollywood’s golden era, film noir, feature films, and more.
  • At Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station (bergamotstation.com), an eclectic mix of more than 30 galleries and a café is just 15 minutes by car from Santa Monica Pier.
  • On the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Watts Towers are towering sculptures built by Simon Rodia. The outsider artist worked with found materials such as rebar and colored glass from soda bottles, with hand tools alone, and no predetermined design. Guided tours are available for a nominal fee (wattstowers.org/tours).
  • The Los Angeles Times’ Arts Reviews section provides a good look at what’s happening in L.A. art (latimes.com/entertainment/arts/reviews/).
    And don’t forget to pack your camera and sketchbook to record your take on L.A.’s visual palette during your California Tours vacation. From the translucent waves at your beach destination, the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles and the hills beyond from your Griffith Observatory stop, or the colorful produce at your visit to the Farmers’ Market, each L.A. stop has its own unique, and memorable, visual splendor.

 

San Francisco’s Art Scene: On and Off the Beaten Path

July 25, 2017 at 12:19 am

San Francisco’s creative soul has rocked the art world from one generation to the next – so where better to explore the delights of the visual imagination than on your California Tours vacation to the City By the Bay?  The art of the Beats and the Summer of Love; Bay Area figurative painting, abstraction, and photography; and the output of untold artists over time inform one of the most free-spirited and cutting-edge art communities on the planet.

As you dip your toes into the Bay area’s myriad inspirations, you’ll find a superb choice of major museums with internationally significant exhibits – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (sfmoma.org), De Young Museum (deyoung.famsf.org), Legion of Honor Museum (legionofhonor.famsf.org), Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (bampfa.berkeley.edu), and Oakland Museum of California (museumca.org).

If your interests lie off the beaten path, there’s much happening locally, as well. All venues below are near transit lines and entry is free of charge.

A good starting place is one of the area’s renowned colleges of art. The San Francisco Art Institute (sfai.edu) (two blocks from Lombard Street’s curves), and California College of the Arts (cca.edu) (San Francisco and Oakland) have welcoming campuses showing fresh sculpture, painting, photography, performance, digital art, printmaking, film, and more. Both have curated galleries and informal areas exhibiting the work of established and up-and-coming pros, and hot-off-the-brushes student work.

If you want to remember your stay by purchasing a piece of art but are put off by high prices and slick galleries, head to Crown Point Press (crownpoint.com). In the heart of San Francisco’s tech-centric SoMa neighborhood, this old-world publisher of hand-pulled etchings, with a workshop, gallery and store in a lovely historic building, represents a wonderful variety of artists. And, you can snap up one of their prints at a nice price.

After you sample California cuisine at Berkeley’s gourmet ghetto on Shattuck Avenue, be sure to check out ACCI Gallery (accigallery.com), an artists’ cooperative with an appealing range of attainably-priced jewelry, ceramics, paintings, fabric arts, and more, by local craftspeople. Ship your purchase home from the post office only one block away.

Once a month, many downtown San Francisco galleries stay open after hours to host receptions and viewings on First Thursday (sfada.com/member-events/). If you’re in town, this lively art and people-watching experience is worth checking out. And if you’re not in town, the link takes you to a comprehensive calendar of art events.

And, as you head out on your California Tours vacation package to San Francisco and beyond, don’t forget to pack your sketchbook and watercolors or pencils. When inspiration comes, you’ll have the tools handy to jot down the day’s impressions, and return with your own take on a memorable area.