The California Academy of Sciences opens its doors to the public on September 27th, 2008 after many years at a cramped, temporary location. This new gem, situated in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park across from the new De Young Museum, is a must see for any visitor to the Bay Area. The Academy is the only place in the world with an aquarium, a planetarium and a natural history museum all under one living roof. The architect, Renzo Piano, also helped design the Centre Pompidou in Paris; possibly the most groundbreaking structure of its time.
I visited the new Academy of Sciences with my five-year-old yesterday, enjoying a preview visit for new members. It was stunning. The building is spectacular; it is open and airy, without the dingy 19th century feel of many Natural History Museums. The living roof is truly extraordinary, with views of the park and city. Flowers grow, apparently animals make homes; my son was in awe. He kept reiterating how the living roof was keeping the building cool. We will surely return to see the evolution of the roof ecosystem. Continue reading »
Getting around Paris is fun. The metro is so easy to figure out, on time and goes nearly everywhere. In summer it can be hot and a bit stinky, but it’s almost a game using the maps or a Plan de Paris (a little book that has every neighborhood and metro stop, every street and bus line cross referenced and easy to find if you have your eye-glasses handy) to map out your trip. When I was a student in Paris I loved to jump on the metro, pick a random stop and then get out and explore. It’s pretty hard to get lost with a Plan de Paris, and I suggest all visitors buy one upon arrival.
Once you’ve traveled by metro it’s also great to get above ground. One of my favorite things to do is take the bus… any bus. Continue reading »
First it was the lifesized sculptured cows in Chicago, then the oversized decorated hearts in San Francisco, and now it’s the Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet environmental awareness campaign in major cities in the U.S. and elsewhere. This “public art with a purpose” campaign began in Chicago in 2007 and is on display in San Francisco right now, in one of the city’s most beautiful places, Crissy Field, part of Presidio National Park along the bayfront near the Golden Gate Bridge. Thirty-five lavishly decorated globes line the footpath from East Beach to the Warming Hut, all with a singular message about what we can do to reduce global warming. Themes run the gamut from Food for Thought to Don’t Idle, Use Public Transportation, Population Awareness, Green Office, Take Simple Steps, and Listen to Our Children. Continue reading »
The Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco opened this June and I had been wanting to see the William Steig exhibit for weeks. I had seen it in New York last December with my older son, and wanted to have my little one share the experience. You probably know William Steig from his hilariously sharp social commentary as a New Yorker cartoonist. His work spanned more than half a century. Bill Steig lived next door to me as a child in Greenwich Village, and was my godfather of sorts. I remember watching him draw in his back studio and he always let me look at his latest creations. It’s one of my great pleasures as a parent to share his work with my my children. I love reading his smart, decidedly sophisticated, always colorful children’s books but most of all I was thrilled his work was being recognized, albeit posthumously. He, after all, created Shrek, and as the story goes, he only got $60,000 for it!
Post 9/11 America is so scared of the Muslim world. Many of us have no idea about the rich and diverse history, food and culture of the vast and varied swathe of Muslim nations. France is a great place to introduce yourself. The French have their own long and complicated relationship with Arab cultures. It is a relationship influenced by Colonialism, Racism and their own fears, but the French also take a keen interest in the fascinating world that includes countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In my experience, the French are also great at tooting their own ‘inclusive‘ horn and criticizing America as an insular, ignorant group of unsophisticated, often obese, materialist workaholics. All that said, and having witnessed numerous acts of racist behavior when I lived in France, the World Arab Institute is a formidable structure, institution and statement. Continue reading »