San Francisco - As easy as 1-2-3 (part II)

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September 17th 2018
Published: September 23rd 2018
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The Presidio, San Francisco

Today was spent with our good friends William and Simon. They had invited us to visit The Walt Disney family museum in the district known as Presidio. This suited us perfectly. Prior to our visit, Roisin and I had greed to spend time in Presidio as this is the one area of San Francisco we have not had the chance to explore. A free shuttle bus travelled between downtown and the Presidio visitor centre. We arranged to meet Simon and William at 10:45 outside an Indian restaurant called Mehfil. This was a two and a half mile walk from our accommodation but thankfully all on the flat.

The weather was perfect for walking. Only 19°C and a little overcast but no wind. We arrived outside the Indian restaurant on 2nd Street half an hour early as we weren’t too sure of the terrain so we left in plenty of time having been caught out before.

‘According to Google maps it’s only two and a half a mile away!!’ I said to Roisin as I handed her the route on my phone.

‘You said that about Kerry Park in Seattle. Only one mile, you said. A gentle stroll, you said. If I had known that the gradient was going to be the same as climbing the Matterhorn I would have just bought a postcard of the view!!’

As we had half an hour before our rendezvous, we popped in to a nearby Starbucks for a mid-morning refreshment. I was impressed by the small round table mats that Starbucks had built in to their work surfaces. On returning from the restroom, Roisin asked me why I had my Americano on a power pad!! Apparently, this is a multi-million-dollar development of a new hi-tec funky way to charge your phone and I’d been using it as a coaster for my coffee cup!!

We left Starbucks at 10:45 and immediately spotted the lads who had also just arrived outside Mehfil. William had suggested that we get an Indian carry out to take with us to the Disney Museum. We could then have lunch on the terrace before entering the museum. The only dish I recognised on the lunchbox specials menu was a Chicken Tikka Masala. I selected a dish called Sugandi Murgi, a chicken based medium strength curry that I found very flavoursome.

We picked up the free shuttle from nearby California and Drumm. This is where not just the famous San Francisco cable car, but the world famous San Francisco cable car, starts one of its three routes across the hilly terrain of the city.

Presidio is a park and former U.S. army military fort that lies in the North of the San Francisco peninsular adjacent to the Golden gate bridge. It covers an area of 1,480 acres (3.75 square miles) The Presidio has been a fortified location since 1776 when the Spanish tried to get a foothold in Alta California and the San Francisco Bay from the Mexicans.

The shuttle dropped up off outside the Presidio visitor centre only a few minutes’ walk from the Disney Family Museum located in one of the old historic buildings that frames the rectangular lawn known as the Main Parade Ground. This green ‘space’ is now used for picnics or just generally enjoying an outdoor moment. When it was first established in 1898, the Main Parade Ground had a very different purpose. It served as a training site where the soldiers who lived in the adjacent red brick barracks conducted drills and exercises and participated in military ceremonies.

Whilst, despite being overcast, it was relatively clear in the Presidio, the famous (possibly world famous?) San Francisco mist had rolled in and descended like a shroud over the bay. Just like a David Copperfield illusion the bridge had miraculously disappeared and just like a David Copperfield illusion, we knew it was out there somewhere!!

In the foyer of the Walt Disney museum alongside the wall adjacent to the entrance to the first gallery was a large display cabinet with all the Oscars Walt Disney won in his life time. He has, in fact, won the most Oscars of an individual in the history of the awards with twenty-two wins. His first full length feature cartoon in 1939, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs won an honorary award. The Oscar was on display here and consisted of one large statuette and seven small statuettes which, of course represented the titular characters although I’m not too sure how much of a likeness they were. I didn’t look close enough to see if six of the seven mini Oscars had beards!!

The museum was a celebration of the life and times of the man, Walt Disney, and not the brand. From his life growing up in Illinois to Kansas City and his first company Laugh-O-Gram that ended up in the bankruptcy court right through to the creation, development and expansion of the Disney Corporation and recognition as a great pioneer of animation. It is well documented that Mickey Mouse’s original name was Mortimer Mouse but Micky was not Walt Disney’s first creation. Introducing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. I have posted a photo of Oswald in this blog. Notice any similarities? It’s Mickey Mouse with differently shaped ears!!

Each gallery told a story of the different stages of Walt Disney’s life by using a mixture of audio, visual and photo/narrative. The elevator that took us to the second level of the museum was even designed in the Art Deco style which would have been found in the Burbank film studios in the 1940s complete with a velvet curtain on the back wall!!

Despite his twenty-two Oscar wins, he only ever received one nomination for best picture (non-animation) for Mary Poppins in 1965. Unfortunately, it was beaten to the punch by My Fair Lady.

Walt Disney died in 1966 from lung cancer. Contrary to popular belief, he did not have his body cryogenically frozen until a cure could be found. Although the origin of the urban myth is unknown, it is likely to have started several years after his death by a group of Disney Studio animators who had a bizarre sense of humour.

Just as quick as the mist had rolled in, by the time we left the Disney Museum it had completely dispersed as if it was never actually there. We had exited the museum to clear blue skies.

After waiting a further twenty minutes we took the free shuttle via the Golden Gate Plaza (a spectacular close up viewing platform of the Bridge as well as a cool panorama of the San Francisco skyline) to the Palace of Fine Arts which lies in between the Presidio and the Marina district of the city. This is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition to commemorate the official opening of the Panama Canal. Built around a small artificial lagoon, the Palace of Fine Arts consists of a wide, 1,000 ft pergola flanked by large neoclassical columns around a central rotunda adjacent to the water.

Atop the colonnade and the sculptured frieze were statues of what appeared to be figures trying to climb over a wall. I thought it could possibly represent ancient Greek culture of an early depiction of fans trying to bunk in to a football match!! However, I have since learned that the sculptures are, in fact, weeping woman and are meant to express the sadness and melancholy of life without art. I knew that!!!

Only a five minute walk from the Palace of Fine Arts is the Headquarters of LucasFilm. The company was founded in 1971 by George Lucas and is responsible for the Star Wars movies and Indiana Jones. Since 2012 it has been a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Most of the buildings are out of bounds to the general public but tourists tend to visit the site to see the iconic Yoda Fountain. I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Was this little green fellow from Dagobah Lucasfilm’s answer to Belgium’s ‘le Pis?! Somehow it didn’t seem dignified to see a Jedi Master urinating outside the Headquarters of Lucasfilm!! As I turned the corner of these immaculately kept grounds, there he was. A life size bronze statue of Yoda mounted on top of a multi fauceted stone fountain. The attention to detail in the statue was eerily lifelike; the heavy lidded grandfatherly eyes, the clasped hands, calm and pensive and the intensely focused look.

We entered the main lobby, the only section of the complex open to the general public. The lobby was tastefully decorated with Craftsman-style lamps and leather chairs. A small reception desk stood at one end with life size models of some of the characters from Star Wars on display. The costume of Darth Vader scared the bejeebus out of me standing menacingly across like a space age suit of armour. At the rear of the lobby, paying homage to the original, stood a statue of King Kong atop the Empire State Building alongside a life size statue of a proud looking Willie O’Brien, a pioneer in the development of special effects. A full-size replica of R2-D2 took centre stage in the middle of the floor.

After our brief visit to Lucasfilm we made our way back to the visitor centre where we said our goodbyes to William and Simon for being the perfect hosts over the past few days. Roisin and I decided to stay in the Presidio for another hour or so before we returned to the Financial district of the city where we stopped to have our evening meal. I didn’t know we were eating in the financial district until we received the bill!!

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