Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Away Far Away

Well this Christmas was certainly different for us- no family, no friends, no snow, no tree, and Max had to work on Christmas Day. In fact I suppose in some ways it just wasn't Christmas at all- some hybrid of a winter holiday. But we did celebrate in this place far from home.

We started the celebration on the winter solstice, the 21st. I'm always excited when the winter solstice finally arrives and the sun starts coming back. There's something quite magic about celebrating such an ancient tradition. We spent the evening in a more modern manner- dinner out and an evening at a concert! We went to a new restaurant (there is always a new restaurant to try in San Fran)- the Absinthe-

And then we were off to a concert of Handel's Messiah. Though I had heard the Messiah on many occasions this was the first time to hear a professional group (The American Bach Choir that actually uses period instruments). The concert was incredible! Better yet, they did the whole Messiah and did not end it at the Hallelujah Chorus as most groups do at Christmas.

On Saturday night we had the first of THE CHRISTMAS CHOWDERS! We started with a big pot of corn chowder. On the first night- Saturday we added in fish for FISH CHOWDER-

Max has really enjoyed the availability of fresh clams and mussels here in SF. So I keep getting them added to our meals. They aren't exactly my favorite sea food and I often wonder if they are still alive when we plop them into the boiling water to cook them. Does that shell become a steam room that slowly heats up so they get cooked alive in their homes? I can't really hear them scream for help, but I wonder......

On Sunday the 23rd we spent much of the day at Grace Cathedral in Nob Hill. This is the church we've started attending. It is a very large French Gothic style church that is the cathedral for San Francisco and it is the third largest episcopal church in the U.S.

After the morning service we went to lunch at a small Italian Cafe, the Nob Hill Cafe. It is actually a cafe we have been visiting for over 10 years since Don started attending conferences that were held at nearby hotels- the brunch was wonderful- we'll be back!

After brunch we spent the afternoon in the Cathedral- there was a holiday concert of their men and boy's choir (the cathedral has a private Episcopal All Boy's school- and for many years have had a Men and Boy's Choir. The concert started at 3:00 and the doors opened at 2:00 for our general admission seating, so there was no reason to take the bus back to the apartment and then turn around to come back for the concert.

But before the concert I walked the labyrinth that is in front of the church!

And Don read the paper!

And then it was home for more Chowder- this time CHICKEN CHOWDER!

But the highlight was definitely Christmas Eve. We started at Mel's dinner for breakfast-

And then from there went to Muir Woods for a long hike in the middle of the tallest of Christmas trees! As I've said before, this is one of my favorite places. I was somewhat amazed that this was a very popular place to be on Christmas Eve. The place was really pretty crowded, but it was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid-50's (as usual), so I guess we shouldn't have been surprised that there were a lot of people there. We took one of the trails that climbs up to the top of the canyon, a route that most people do not take since it is a fairly high climb, so we were alone in the woods for a good part of the hike, but we did meet quite a few on the trail.

After a wonderful walk in the trees, we drove to the overlook of Muir Beach, a place where you can see miles of cliff coast line in either direction, and then drove down to Muir Beach where there were again, quite a few people enjoying the beautiful weather by visiting the beach. Max and I actually came here once on one of my early trips out here and had lunch on the rock above the surf while we watched the waves crash into the shore.

From the beach we headed to Sausalito to our favorite restaurant on the bay, Horizons. We had a seafood dinner and watched the bay as the sun set behind us. Max's scallops below were fairly artistic and my seafood paella wasn't even close to what I expected, but it was not wasted. My only other time to have paella was in Madrid when I visited Amber during her study abroad. Spanish paella was very different from this.

Dessert came with a porpoise diving over the edge. I must admit, that I don't usually eat dessert, but this one was very good, and after all it was Christmas Eve.

With full stomachs and our hike behind us, we headed home for a short nap before heading back to the church for the midnight service that starts at 11:00. We had read that the Christmas Eve late service is very popular and that we should try to arrive early to get a seat, so we left around 8:45 and arrived just as the 7:00 service finished. People were still walking out as we walked in and to our surprise, the church was already starting to fill up. We found seats fairly close to the front and by 9:30 the church was about full. By 10:00 there was standing room only and by 10:30 there were people standing in the back, along the walls on the sides and even behind the choir in the front. It was a beautiful evening in SF, but there were plenty of ladies in fur coats with matching fur hats. This was truly a service at which to be seen and not really the type of service we had in mind. Of course there was significant pomp and incense as the choir and staff marched in, along with the Bishop and the banners. It felt more like a pageant instead of a Christmas service. We will probably rethink our participation in this church. We didn't get home until around 1:30 which is only about 3 hours past my bedtime. Worst of all, Max had to work the next morning.

But there was one very nice surprise on Christmas. One of the bulbs of our Amaryllis was in full bloom when we got up. The timing was perfect.

Christmas Day was more than a bit of a bust for me. I did work- a very, very long day- 10 hours with much, much paper work- but that wasn't the worst of it. I started the day at the office to get my assignment. I parked on the street because we can't get in the parking garage easily on the weekends or holidays. I parked on Van Ness- (the main thoroughfare of San Fran). While in the office some low life (there are rather abundance of those in a big city) broke my window and stole the GPS. So I spent the day visiting patients without the passenger side window (I turned up the heater- and fortunately it is warmer here than Cinti) and brushed the broken glass off my bag. The rest of the week I drove a rental car (it is important to note that all of the nurses have had at least one broken window while on duty). So Merry Christmas in the BIG CITY!


Anonymous said...

I can sympathize with "Christmas" not feeling like "Christmas", we had much the same experience in Las Vegas, minus the break in. The pictures are wonderful, despite Don's scowl! But on the flip side, his smile brightens the photos tremendously. love, brandy

Lucas said...

Sorry to hear about your car, Aunt Max. I know exactly how that can make you feel really intruded on and it's unsettling indeed. Though your holiday was quiet, you seemed to stay busy and again, my favorite thing is those tall, tall trees! So gorgeous and I can't wait to see them in person. You both look great, very trim and healthy! And I'm with Brandy, I like the smiles better than the scowls but those scowls remind me of The Captain! Sometimes I take so many pictures he gets a bit scowly himself. Much love to you both! Keep the posts coming. I love them.

Max's Dream said...

OK, I hear you! You will only see smiles from me in the future. I thought I was looking serious and contemplatve, not scowling, but I can take constructive feedback.