Friday, July 29, 2011

Silicon Valley: Paypal - Ebay Headquarters 2011

Fun Friday Foto 

This week's image as I roam around Silicon Valley.  This headquarter campus is larger than appears.  I thought you might enjoy.

Paypal - Ebay Headquarters,  San Jose CA

Which Silicon Valley company do you want to see next? ~ The Fun Tour Guru

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grapes & Glass Art Design Tours - at Annieglass Studio, Watsonville, CA

I searched for “Made in USA” this past weekend and became acquainted with a well known, local, Smithsonian Artist and entrepreneur, Annie Morhauser or, most people know as, the Annieglass production studio in Watsonville, 310 Harvest Drive. (one half hour south of Santa Cruz, one hour from San Jose).

I have seen glass blowing artists many times – two recent trips were to Vecchia Murrano in Venice, Italy and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.  Wow, what a discovery and a local gem nearby!   Why is this local glass art so different?

Annieglass Production Studio in Watsonville, CA

Summer of Love: Annieglass Studio Tours

A must see right now is the Annieglass Summer of Love, featuring grapes and glass – yes, wine tasting and a glass studio tour which is available through Labor Day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You may go on their free glass art studio tours at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on these weekend days and then taste wine with one of the (fabulous) local winemakers from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (fee for tasting) (831) 427-4260

Update:  Pours & Tours is still available - please call Annieglass to find out who is the current tasting vendor at the wine bar.

Annieglass Production Studio

The insider secret that I found on my trip – is that Annieglass is not made by the common method of glass blowing which I know – Annie developed a process called “slumping.” Starting with a sheet of flat glass that is cut into a circle, the glass is melted in a ceramic mold in a kiln to take shape.

I won’t go into the technical artist details here, I will let the experts tell you in their own words.  Information is on the Annieglass website and these tours have in depth, excellent information.  (Sorry, no pictures were allowed to be taken inside)

Note:  Even though individual tours is fun, I enjoy going with private small groups because of you learn so much from everyone's curiosity and questions. 
After my guide showed me the glass plates they purchase, I watched Joseph actually cut a small piece of glass by hand. Joseph walked me through the entire studio (15,000 square feet) and explained about each of the machines, tools and equipment; where Annie and the other artists make the individual glass art pieces during the week.

Each piece is inspected when it is finished and has an authentic signature etched with name, number, and date.  Not just an artist, Annie is also a business woman who employs a expert team of artists year round along with other valued employees to make their production goals. Annie continues to share her stories of how she started her business today.

I went without preparing my beginning research this time and learned "in the moment" of this how this was a different process.  Annie's first piece that she created in her studio in 1983, was a simple circle of glass with a 24k hand painted gold rim before firing in the kiln, titled Roman Antique. This actual process you discover on your tour ensures each piece is dishwasher safe and with chip and tarnish resistance.  

There is another Annieglass store in downtown Santa Cruz for shopping if you don't have time to drive to the studio.  Of course, glass art enthusiasts already know Annieglass is sold at many luxury retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdales. You will also find Annieglass in prominent hotels and restaurants like the Bellagio Hotel and Casino and Ritz Carlton. Yes, there is a piece on exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Can you name 2 famous people which have Annieglass in their private collections? 

Don't Forget the Wine Tasting, Windy Oaks Estate

During my visit, I found this fun and unique story of this local winery. There were Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from Windy Oaks Estate in Corralitos, CA. One of my favorites, 2008 Estate Pinot Noir, Cuvee, was awarded 91 points, 2011 Gold Medal, beverage Tasting Institute, with a bright fruit flavors.

Windy Oaks Estate, Corralitos, CA

I had a private conversation with the Assistant Winemaker (yes, he is a son of the Winemaker) about the crush process, the acres where their grapes are located (two locations nearby), and the global history trail starting in the central USA of how this family of tech workers started the winery. Windy Oaks Estate just opened their new tasting room – Saturdays from 12–5. (831) 786-9463  I will return for a second story.

Just another fantastic trip of discoveries 
off the beaten path ~ The Fun Tour Guru 

*This is not a sponsored post, I simply followed up on news which I received and went to see for myself. I even became a buyer with my new knowledge.  Although advertisers are always welcome!

Visit our new website, Lighthouse Travel and Tours, for news and destination information now!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fun Fridays: Salt Water Taffy, Chocolate, Wine Tasting, Shopping

Fun Fridays

What can go wrong with salt water taffy, chocolate, ice cream, expresso, and wine tasting? Remember shopping next door for fun stuff at Made in Santa Cruz.  My favorite stops! 
(Marini's, Vino Prima, and Made in Santa Cruz are separate entities, of which I have been a *silent* regular customer for many years, meaning they don't know me, I know they love my shopping sprees)

Its okay to use with moderation with these.  Remember, use everything with moderation.

Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz, CA

My insider tip - head over the hill to Santa Cruz on Friday mornings before the weekend rush. 

Where will you be going?  Share with us in the comments below and on social media - and click to the icons in the sidebar!

 Sharing Favorite places! ~~ The Fun Tour Guru

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What is there to do at Palace of Fine Arts, Marina District, San Francisco

In San Francisco, I drove to another favorite spot away from traffic.  Admittedly, I find these places as I try to avoid some of the San Francisco hills when I drive my standard shift car using a clutch.  Driving these hills is not always easy for me. 

So I found how to drive around some of the steepest places.  By the Marina, an area where the tour buses cannot go –  there were more amazing views of the bay. But wait, don't forget to turn around. You'll see another San Francisco attraction, the Palace of Fine Arts, rising above the homes.  

The Marina District was created from landfill for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.  Today, this area between Fort Mason and the Presidio, you will find these Mediterranean rival homes. And, a leisure place for walkers, joggers, and cyclists. 

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Palace of Fine Arts from the Marina

We now enjoy the 2010 restoration of the Palace of Fine Arts.  This is the only remaining building from 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, when San Francisco celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal after recovering from the 1906 earthquake. San Francisco kept this favorite building after the fair, which was originally designed to look like a Roman ruin. 

Yes, another view of the Golden Gate Bridge by the Yacht Harbor

I enjoy walking and sitting by the lagoon at the Palace. A couple of things you might find interesting to do.
A fun, geeky attraction (found at Pier 15 now) for the entire family is the Exploratorium. I have been and found that you will stay the entire day exploring. The science and technology museum is where over 500,000 visitors each year explore the hands-on exhibits. Visitor information may be found at the website.

Don't forget you may attend events at the Palace of Fine Arts TheatreFind information about different events and tickets, prices, and dates at their website.  

 Insider secrets:

Have you found the miniature replica of the Palace of Fine Arts, as a symbol of San Francisco, located in Disney’s California Adventure?

And, did you know a 1976 presidential debate between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford was held at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre?

Do you like this article?  Please leave answers to the above quiz in the comments below.  And share with your friends.  

Just another day finding things to explore!  
~~~The Fun Tour Guru

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fun Friday Foto - Linked In, a Silicon Valley Company

For my Fun Friday Foto:

I thought it would be fun to snap this picture yesterday and share with you while I was in Mountain View, CA. This is Silicon Valley.  This particular company has been in the news quite a bit because of their recent IPO. I access their network everyday, I don't really think about their office building.  

I read this interesting comparison of three famous Silicon Valley companies, by Sharon Machlis. Of the sizzling three, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter – 2 of the companies located10 miles of each other (Mountain View and Palo Alto) and with Twitter in San Francisco.  I agree with how Machlis summarizes each. 

I admit, I am an early user with some success of all three networks, as each company started. Am I amazed all 3 are super star businesses now?  How will they evolve? As these networks seem to be over crowded now, I tend to search for the next rising star.

Linked In is located only 2-3 miles away from the Google campus.  Don't forget the growing Apple Computer, although much, much older in years, is nearby in Cupertino, 15 miles south.

As I mentioned many times, Silicon Valley is always changing, it might be as soon as overnight when you drive by and see a temporary cover over a company sign because of an acquisition.

This is Silicon Valley!  

Linked in, less than 5 miles from Google campus, 10 miles from Facebook

How do you use each of these social networking companies?

Out and about, Silicon Valley ~~~ The Fun Tour Guru

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fun Fridays May Bring California Gold To You

Fun Friday Foto

My Fun Friday on Twitter has become a ritual for quite some time now (before everyone else found it).  I enjoy hearing the stories of everyone's plans for the weekend are. Sometimes they are short – tweets, and others will go into the longer, descriptive narratives. Each story is unique.  I continue Fun Friday here, as I share this Foto I took a couple of weeks ago.
"While you are looking around, don't forget to look down. Found gold by my feet today!"

Pot of Gold

Where YOU are going this weekend?  Comments?     

Out and about, The Fun Tour Guru

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Don't Forget About Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Passport Day

Update:  Passport weekends are still available - prices and rules have changed. Be sure to verify of the wineries available directly with the Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries Association.     

“Summertime and the livin is easy” by George Gershwin lyrics are playing over and over in my mind. It is July already, boy the years zoom by.  I always remind everyone each summer of this favorite event, wine tasting on Passport Day, in July, in the Santa Cruz Mountains.   

By now you know that I am a wine enthusiast, yet I am not a wine sommelier.  I have my own ways to taste wine and enjoy traveling (and writing) in many regions. Yes, I do visit many Napa and Sonoma wineries for the day or weekend getaways, and I visit other favorite wine regions around the world. 

David Bruce Vineyards - Santa Cruz Mountains
I am very partial and passionate of our Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries. One of the oldest Appellations in USA, and of course, many of these wineries are close in proximity – less than 30 minutes away from Silicon Valley (San Jose). The wineries are smaller. You may even be able to talk directly to the wine owners and wine makers when you visit Monday – Friday. 

These Wineries are sprinkled throughout mountains, be careful, as sometimes they are difficult to find on these windy, mountain roads – each winery has a unique ambiance of their own.  The mountain roads definitely made arranging group wine tasting trips a bit of a challenge.

Currently, I write and taste about wine now, (what a life, heh?) and I only arrange a handful of small group wine tasting tours. I do know excellent local wine tour companies which I refer smaller groups less than 14 people that want to visit these mountain wineries.

Wine Passport Day, 4 times a year

Passport Day on Saturday four times a year and used to be one of the best kept secrets of the Santa Cruz Mountain Wine region.  It is the third Saturday of January, April, July, and November. 

Byington Vineyard & Winery, Santa Cruz Mountains - Pacific Ocean view (maybe)
Passport Day is when wine enthusiasts, like me, may take their wine passports to get commemorative stamps from favorite wineries. You may visit each winery once, get your stamp, and the passports never expire.  Purchase the official wine passports through the Santa Cruz Mountain Wine Association, (831) 685-8463, with a donation, or at the wineries the day of, while their supplies last.  Each passport covers tasting fees at participating wineries for one person on these special Saturdays (only) four times a year.

This is a special day because a few of the boutique wineries are not open to the public except on these Saturdays and many of the wineries offer special pours or barrel samples.  I highly recommend these special events. 

Santa Cruz Mountain Grapes
Insider secret, my favorite Santa Cruz wineries:

Bargetto Winery, Beauregard Vineyards, Burrell School Vineyards, Byington Vineyard & Winery, Cinnabar Vineyards & Winery, David Bruce Winery, Clos LaChance, 
Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyard  (let your kids ride horses here), & Winery, Ridge Winery, Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards, and Thomas Fogarty.

David Bruce Winery, Santa Cruz Mountains

You may find more participating wineries during Passport Day. 

Don't miss these other wine regions nearby:

There are more wineries in Santa Clara Valley (near Morgan Hill and Gilroy), Monterey and San Benito counties.  So be prepared to include more wine tasting trips to keep you busy this summer.

Which of these Santa Cruz Wineries are you acquainted with and have been to? Comment below.

Be sure to get updated with more information the Santa Cruz Mountain Wine Association website.   

Need to contact me?  Be patient, I may be out tasting wine
this summer!  The Fun Tour Guru