Friday, March 11, 2011

California Tour Journal: Part 3

Day 6: Berkeley

Today was my rest and relaxation day after the past two days of heavy sightseeing and concerts. I had no responsibilities because the concert this afternoon was Mahler 6 again.

I slept in, took a long shower, and then leisurely packed my bag while my room was again filled with beautiful California sunshine. I talked to Kristi for a while, and even got a few words out of Eli before he ran away from the phone. It’s nice the way the time difference works out, because I get to talk to Kristi and Eli first thing in the morning, which somehow just puts me in a great mood the whole day.

I took my bag downstairs just in time for lunch, and spent about half an hour walking around the Berkeley campus. Being that it was in the middle of a Sunday, there wasn’t much going on.

I happened upon a large grove of eucalyptus trees, all of which were ginormous and smelled incredibly fragrant. In fact, it was the smell that drew me to them in the first place.

After hanging around campus for a while, reading my Kindle and writing emails, I went to Zellerbach Hall and listened to most of Mahler 6 from backstage. What wonderful music! It’s one of the Mahler symphonies I don’t know so well, but after hearing the orchestra’s soulful and skillful rendition, I think I have to get better acquainted with it.

After the concert, we loaded up the buses and set out towards Santa Barbara. I was very sleepy as night fell, and ended up sleeping for the first couple hours of the journey. We had been told that we would stop for food about halfway to Santa Barbara, and sure enough, we pulled off the highway after about three-and-a-half hours. I assumed the driver would drop us off at a shopping center or something with several different fast food restaurants. Nope. We pulled into a parking lot and I was STUNNED to look over and see … a Valero gas station and a Jack in the Box.

So here you have 30 hungry orchestra members all heading towards a very small Jack in the Box at about 9PM on a Sunday. Not ideal. The poor workers had a look of panic as we all crammed in front of the counter and ordered our ‘food’. It was very slow going, especially with the European members having to really think about which of the undesirable and greasy choices they would select. And for some reason the entire restaurant was freezing cold. We nevertheless sat there in the middle of nowhere California in our full winter gear, shivering and silently wolfing down our hastily prepared Jack in the Box meals. We loaded back onto the bus and finally made our way to Santa Barbara around midnight.

Days 7 & 8: Santa Barbara

I got an email today from a friend of mine that said, “The Wiener Philharmoniker in Santa Barbara… someone was smart with their planning!” Boy was he right!! We had the most incredible couple of days here in Santa Barbara, rightfully nicknamed the ‘American Riviera’.

We awoke yesterday morning to temperatures of about 60 degrees and bright sunshine. I met several of the guys in the lobby, and we had no plans whatsoever other than to go find some food. We exited the hotel grounds and immediately gasped at the beautiful view.

We crossed the highway to the beach and spent the next half hour just meandering our way towards the pier we saw in the distance, pausing for a couple impromptu and not at all staged photographs.

The pier we had seen in the distance turned out to be Stearns Wharf. We walked down it in search of breakfast, but it became quickly apparent that breakfast food wasn’t really available. So we all had fish and chips! We found some seats in the sun outside the fish & chips stand and even had some entertainment. A pelican was flying around very close to the pier, and we really enjoyed watching him swoop and suddenly dive at full speed into the ocean after his prey.

Walking onto the wharf, we had seen an advertisement for a ‘land & sea’ tour and decided to check it out. We found out it was an amphibious vehicle tour and all hopped aboard for a 90 minute tour.

We had a fantastic tour guide named Milo, and despite being a bit chilly from driving/boating around in an open vehicle, everyone enjoyed it immensely.

The historic Santa Barbara Courthouse

The view from the tour boat

We spent the afternoon walking around downtown, stopping occasionally for a coffee or to take in the many magnificent Spanish mission-style buildings. I really enjoyed the architecture, and especially the courthouse. It was built in the 1920s and it is truly spectacular. We went to the top of the building’s 7-story tower to revel in a breathtaking 360-degree view of Santa Barbara. We didn’t want to leave. We just stayed up there, chatting and taking photos and soaking up the sun.

Today I slept in and then spent the morning and afternoon just walking around town and taking in more of this amazing city. I walked the beach for an hour at least, then circled back into downtown Santa Barbara, where I did a little bit of shopping and had lunch at Chipotle, my favorite burrito place.

Tonight was our one and only concert in Santa Barbara. I showed up at the appointed hour at the gorgeous Grenada Theater and giggled when I saw all the colleagues. The whole orchestra was pink! Everyone, myself included, had spent so much time outdoors in the past two days (in 60-degree breezy weather) without so much as a drop of sunscreen, and every single colleague I saw was sunburned!

As we rehearsed, we quickly found out that although the Grenada is really pretty and interestingly decorated, it doesn’t so much sound really pretty. It was very dry, and it was often hard for those of us in the back to hear the strings. It was nonetheless an enjoyable and well-received concert.

1 comment:

  1. The Granada was originally a movie theatre, then converted into a performing arts theatre. It is much more suited for plays, and dance companies. Just be thankful ya'll weren't playing in the Arlington.