Monday, August 15, 2005

Highlights from San Francisco

I love San Francisco. Its hilly to say the least, but walking is still fun.

On the first day we walked from our hotel on Lombard street to The Aquatic Park. Then we walked around Fort Mason for a little while. Then it was time to head towards the Alcatraz ferry and pick up our pre-arranged tickets. There was lots more walking on Alcatraz. My eyes also dried out thanks to all the wind. Ellen unsuccessfully attempted to put eye drops in them 8-) . Alcatraz was very prisony. We tried to go out in to the exercise yard, but it was taken over by gulls and the smell of gull droppings was horrendous. After Alcatraz, we got lunch. I had clam chowder for the first time and Ellen taught me how to eat crab. Then we walked around Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. There are a lot of crap stores there. And they must sell a lot of crap, because there are A LOT of them and they are all identical. I got suckered into one place that had a name like Flag Store, but there was in fact not a single flag for sale there. So we bought some crap. We also found an interesting nautical store. After we had our fill of looking at sweatshirts and keychains, we went to Ghirardelli Square, where we found even more tourists doing touristy things.

Later, someone (Ellen) decided it would be fun to walk from our hotel on Lombard and Van Ness to the Golden Gate Bridge, and then walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. We set out. On the way, we stopped at the Palace of Fine Arts, which is really cool, and walked through The Presidio and Crissy Field. It doesn't look like its that far from one end of Crissy field to the other, but its a looong walk. We were really tired now and weren't sure of where we were or how to get where we were going. We talked to a cyclist for a few minutes to get our bearings. Then there was hike, almost straight up, on some roads that don't have sidewalks. Exhausted, we made it to a little park by the bridge. We could have, but decided not to, cross the bridge at that point. It was more like "Oh, the Golden Gate Bridge, ok, lets go home." So we caught a bus back. The meter on this particular bus was broken so the driver told us to get on, for free!

Did I mention how I love the busses in San Francisco? For $1.50, you can get on a bus. The driver gives you a transfer that is good for a number of hours after you board. Great, cheap transportation. Not only that, but many of the busses in San Francisco run solely on electricity, and emit no pollutants (other than some of the people getting off the bus).

Anyway, it was a really long walk from our hotel, and a lot of it was uphill. After we got as close to our hotel as the bus would take us, we walked around and looked for a place to eat. We went into a little Japanese place on Lombard. I had chicken katsu, and I burned myself with some miso soup. I ordered cold sake, which you have to order by the bottle (there only hot sake was served as a single serving). I'd never had sake before, and I was a little afraid of it, so I only drank half the bottle. It had virtually no effect on me. We ordered ice cream. Weird ice cream. Now I know it was actually mochi, a japanese uh, thing that is basically ice cream wrapped in a "skin" made from rice. I didn't much care for the skin, but Ellen liked it. My main complaint is that, in order to take a bite, I had to sink my front teeth deep trough the coating and into the ice cream. My front teeth seemed to be extremely sensitive to that much cold, and it hurt. Other than that, it was a good dinner.

One day when we were getting ready to go out we had the TV on. There was this Petter Sellers movie called After The Fox on. It was really funny but we didn't get to see the whole thing, so it's in my Netflix queue now.

The day after our death march to the bridge, we headed toward the Civic Center (via bus!) and went to the Asian Art Museum. They have a really cool exhibit called Tibet: Treasures From The Roof Of The World. I was not allowed to take any photos inside the exhibit. It was really cool to see all of the art and artifacts. I later overheard someone talking to a museum employee about how the whole exhibition is being put on by the Chinese government and the Tibetan people actually get nothing from it. I wish I hadn't been so tired and could have looked around at a lot of the other exhibits, but we only saw a few and then went over to City Hall.

Going in to city hall, I opened up my back-pack and emptied my pockets into the little tray, before stepping through the metal detector. I had about 18 pounds of change and the guard sort of rolled his eyes at me. I went through the detector a few times and it kept going off. Then he started asking me questions and he wanded me. The wand kept going off too around my cargo pockets. I thought there was going to be a strip-search in my near future. Instead he just felt up my cargo pockets with gloved hands and told me to go in. After all that, we spent about three minutes inside city hall taking pictures of the impressive stairway, and then left to get some food.

We went to The Pork Store Cafe on Jeremy's recommendation. If you are ever in San Francisco, your stay is not complete unless you go there. It's some good eatin'. It is down in the Haight, which in my opinion is a really cool area. It's stores are infinitely better than say, those at Fisherman's wharf. There seemed to be a lot of people my age there. Not that I'm a really social person, but that might interest you, my reader, if that's what your looking for. There were also a different kind of housingly challenged in the Haight. They're sort of a stuck in the sixties bunch I guess.

From the Haight and the Panhandle, we walked to Golden Gate Park, where there are a lot of regular homeless people and, it seemed, bands of scary people. Once we got toward the main road of the park, the environment seemed more friendly. We went to the Conservatory of Flowers, where I took a lot of photos. We were going to go to the Academy of Sciences for the chocolate exhibit, but it had been moved out of the park to another part of the city. We also went to the Japanese Tea Garden and a rose garden.

We then took a bus to Alamo Square to see the Victorian houses. From there we went to Chinatown. We walked North up Grant and then up a very steep street to Stockton. We were looking for a few food items, namely pork rolls and these cookies that Ellen got the last time she was in San Francisco. We went into a bakery and waited on line. After the person behind the counter finished with the person in front of us, she skipped us and went to the next Chinese person in line. Ellen was disgusted, so we left without pork rolls and didn't go into any more bakeries. We popped into a few little food markets looking for cookies, but Ellen couldn't find them. I picked up some interesting cookies that I thought looked tasty, and showed them to her. "That's them!" except she was looking for pineapple. They didn't have pineapple at the first market, but Ellen hit the mother-load at the second market.

After striking it rich in cookies, we went to the financial district (downtown, or whatever it's called) to go to the Thirsty Bear, a brew-pub. It was supposed to be authentic Spanish cuisine (like I even know what that is) but it seemed very yuppified. Maybe it was just that all the people there just got out of work at their finance and lawyering jobs. The food was expensive and okay in terms of edibility. The wheat beer was a little disappointing but they had a vanilla beer that was interesting. We took the bus back to the hotel. Actually, we took multiple busses to avoided going through the Tenderloin at night.

The next day, we picked up our car. Originally we planned on getting a Mustang convertible. We, or probably mostly I, hoped it would be a brand new 2005. When we got there, they told us they only had Solara and Sebring convertibles. We looked at the two and decided to take the new Solara. Then they told us they did have a Mustang, so we went back to the garage to check it out - it was a 2005. It was cool and the decision was hard. We decided to get the Solara for a couple of reasons. First, it was slightly bigger and could easily accommodate our luggage and the extra passengers that would be getting rides with us at SIGGRAPH. Secondly, the Mustang they had, although a 2005, seemed to be missing a few parts. Nothing essential, just a side sill, a wheel lock, and a few bits of plastic, but it was enough to convince us that the Mustang might be more of a target for vandalism and thievery, so we took the Solara. And the Solara was a mighty fine car.

On the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, we stopped at Crissy Field to see the ships of the sailing festival. It was cool to see so many small and large sailboats pass into the bay under the bridge. I bought some cool postcards and a Golden Gate recreation area luggage tag at the Crissy field gift shop.

We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge (my first time) and up, around and trough some crazy mountains to Muir Woods. They had some pretty big trees there, and I think I saw an ewok village (a joke that never gets old, EVER!)

On the way back, we stopped in Sausalito. We went into an Italian ("I love Italian, and so does he") place for lunch and found that none of the employees were Italian (we could tell). Needless to say, you can't get good Italian food in California, although we probably could have if we went to Little Italy. We walked and drove around Sausalito for a while and then went back to San Francisco. Going back across the Golden Gate Bridge, I caught my first glimpse ever of the Pacific Ocean.

We parked at the hotel and took the bus to Japantown. All of the stores were closed by the time we got there. It must be really cool in the daytime. There were a lot of restaurants open, so we picked one and went in. It wasn't as good as the first-one in terms of food, but the staff was just as friendly.

The next day we drove a few hundred feet (it is really steep and we were really tired) to the part of Lombard that is billed as "The Crookedest Street In The World." We parked and took some touristy photos. Then we got back in the car and joined the parade of tourists driving down the crooked part. Then we got back out of the car and took more touristy photos. We drove towards Coit Tower and I took some photos of the Transamerica Pyramid. We drove around the Coit Tower parking lot a few times and took some photos, but didn't actually go in.

Back across the Golden Gate Bridge and on to Napa Valley. I was reading the map and I took us the long way, thinking it would be more scenic, which it wasn't. I wasn't quite sure where we were and the road must have curved, because at some point we realized we were in Napa and had been passing wineries. We stopped at the next winery, which was Robert Mondavi. We opted not to got on the tour and looked around a bit. Then we hit the tasting rooms. They actually charge for tasting at Mondavi, so I decided to keep what I tasted instead of using the spiting bucket. I tried two different Pinot Noirs and I think I liked the cheaper stuff better. By the way, I know nothing about wine and in fact have been branded a "classless hobo" by someone I know. We ate at this really good restaurant, whose name I will have to ask of Ellen. We hit one more winery as it was closing (but the tasting there was free) and then drove around. We drove into Niebaum Coppola but it was also closed.

I can't remember why, but (my photos indicate) after we got back from Napa we drove back to the financial district and drove around a little. That night we had ice cream at Ghirardelli Square. We walked there because it wasn't far from our hotel. But be knee was hurting a lot so on the way back we took the bus from Ghirardelli Square to Van Ness and Lombard.

The next morning Ellen did laundry (really, I wanted to help, but she just told me to go in the shower). Then we checked out of the hotel.

I'm not sure if it was on that morning, but we had breakfast one day at a place called Lombardi Ristorante Italiano. That might not sound like a good place to eat breakfast, but they had a sign on the sidewalk next to our hotel advertising a breakfast special. We went in and noticed that it was very crowed and there were some empty tables that had not been bussed. We were seated right next to the kitchen and that would prove to be the best seat in the house for a morning's entertainment. There seemed to be three employees: the cook, a waiter or bus boy that did nothing except occasionally pick up a dirty plate or bring someone orange juice, and an irate old chinese woman who was doing everything else. Being right next to the area where coffee and drinks were prepared, we could hear her mumbling. "I hate this job!" and "I got to do everything all by myself!" Now and then she would yell at the lazy guy and he would clear dirty dishes off of a table, usually when a new party came in and there were no clean tables. The food took forever and Ellen was grossed out by getting to watch the cook work, but it was great watching that old lady run around. She was even rude to the customers and she asked me "What you want!?!" Good times. I'm sure the Lombardi in the name refers to the region of Italy and not the fact that the establishment is located on Lombard St.

For our drive out of the city, we stopped at a drug store for some supplies. We got some snacks and I bought a knee brace (which later turned out to be too uncomfortable to wear). A woman overheard us talking about finding an Italian deli and directed us down the street. We went in to get some sandwiches for lunch on the drive down PCH. I ordered a Dagwood, but they didn't know what it was, and they couldn't make one because I don't know what's in one. So I just got their Italian sandwich with various meats and we went on our way, down the coast,

but that post is for another day...



Post a Comment

<< Home