Tours Galore! | San Francisco Bay Area | July, 2017

One of my favorite things about having such a flexible schedule is that I can set aside time to go out exploring in my own town. July was a month filled with all sorts of tours and mini adventures. I did a Symphony Hall & the Performing Arts Center tour with Tiffany, Fourth of July up in wine country, two different walking tours in Oakland, and finally, a free painting workshop at Anthropologie in Walnut Creek.

First up, a tour of Davies Symphony Hall and nearby buildings. We learned that the symphony was founded in 1911 and started playing in this current building in 1980.

Did you know that the U.N. was born right here in the War Memorial Opera House? They met in the opera house to create the charter and then signed it on stage next door in the Veterans Building.

The Veterans Building is a twin to the War Memorial Opera House, but with a much smaller auditorium (Herbst Theater).

Next, a Fourth of July trip up to wine country with Tiffany, Greg, Carrie, and Nick. We started off at Bella– the last time we were there was for Tiffany and Greg’s proposal!

Staying cool in the wine cave.


Next, we picked up some picnic supplies.

And we headed to Sbragia for a lovely afternoon on their porch overlooking the vineyards.

And finally, over to Ferrari-Carano for a jaunt through the garden and down into the cellar for more tastings.


I’ve long known that the city of Oakland offers free walking tours, but I hadn’t gone on any of them until now– almost a decade after living here! I started off on a Sunday tour of Old Oakland, where Swan’s Market also happened to be celebrating 100 years that week. Below is a picture of the previous City Hall buildings. The current building is the fifth Oakland City Hall. The photo on the left was the third one, which was destroyed by a fire in 1877. And the photo on the right is the current building being built next to the fourth version which stood right next to it.

We also learned that Old Oakland was the western end of the transcontinental railroad when it was built, so the area was filled with amenities designed for the train people.

Much of the architecture here remains or was restored, because the entire neighborhood was declared a historic neighborhood.

New boutiques in the revived old neighborhood.

On a weekday, with far fewer people, I went on the “churches and temples” tour of Oakland. It begins here at the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, which was the first church to be founded in Oakland in 1853 when they just had a tent near what is now Jack London square. This building is now their fourth location, built in 1914.

Here’s my watercolor sketch of the church. If the steeple looks a bit tacked on like a unicorn horn, it’s because halfway through building, they decided they were spending too much on the building and wanted to spend more on missions, so they eliminated a whole middle section of the steeple to save money.

Next, we visited Temple Sinai and learned about the three things that are found in any Jewish sanctuary: the ark, the torah scrolls, and the eternal light.

Next, we visited St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, which was built for only $8000 in 1920.

They took a lot of shortcuts, like the trim pieces which were just bought from a hardware store. And this cardboard-like material on the right, which is made to look like carved leather.

Next, a sanctuary designed by famed architect Julia Morgan. The First Baptist Church. It was damaged in the 1906 earthquake but later rebuilt and then retrofitted with lots of metal poles. The 1906 earthquake was centered in San Francisco, so other than one other house in Oakland that fell down completely, this building suffered the worst damage out of the buildings in the East Bay, with a side of it collapsing.

The original First Baptist congregation is too small to afford staying in their own church, so now it’s rented out to a Burmese congregation.

Finally on the church tour, the Cathedral of Christ the Light, which is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland. Depending on who you ask, it’s either a beautiful modern interpretation of a church building, or it’s a huge eyesore and a waste of lakefront property, which pays zero taxes and doesn’t really benefit the city.

I’ll leave you to decide!

And finally for my July mini adventures, I headed to Anthropologie in Walnut Creek to join in on a free flower-painting workshop led by artist Lynne Millar.

All the supplies were provided, Lynne did a quick demo of her approach to painting, and off we went!

It was fun to try acrylics after all the watercolor I’ve been doing. I picked a magnolia branch as my inspiration, and I think it turned out alright! I do want to try more acrylics and maybe even oils in my future.

Hope you liked coming along on my little explorations around town. Til next month!

Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco but often traveling and working around the world. See more of her museum, opera, and symphony exploits under #awculturetime on instagram and view more of her professional work at