Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO IN 30 HOURS, PART I

I know, I know, 30 hours isn't much time in a city with as much to offer as San Francisco. But here's the story. My plans for the week included visiting my Aunt Marilyn, who lives in the foothills between Sacramento and Tahoe, a three-hour drive from SF. My Aunt Jeanette was also flying in to join us for the week. These two are a lot of fun - sort of like the big sisters I never had - and when you're vacationing with other people, and have lots of potential activities to fit into your allotted time, it's best to go with what works. What worked for us was to fly in to the San Francisco airport and spend our first day and a half there, packing in as much as we could.

We had several museums in mind, but when we started getting realistic about time zone changes and how long it takes to get between points A and B, we realized that by the time I retrieved my luggage from the airport carousel, at what was nearly dinnertime according to the time zone my stomach was accustomed to, we wouldn't have a lot of museum-going time Friday afternoon. Our solution was a visit to Golden Gate Park, and the first of many picnics.

Marilyn and Jeanette picked me up and we drove through the park and out to the beach near the Cliff House, which was so foggy I dispensed with taking any pictures. As we drove back into Golden Gate Park in search of sunshine and a pleasant place to picnic, we stopped at Queen Wilhelmina's Tulip Garden, over which towers this windmill. Wilhelmina's garden doesn't feature tulips this time of year, but the plantings sure were gorgeous.



Next we found a parking place and a picnic spot.

As we made our way to our picnic table, we heard music. At first I thought someone must have their car radio turned up awfully loud. But we were enjoying listening to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," one of my favorite U2 songs, when it abruptly, and jaggedly stopped. Then started again. Then stopped, and started again. Marilyn had read that a peace rally was scheduled for Golden Gate Park the following day, and I surmised we were listening to a sound check, getting giddy at the idea we had happened on to a private preview performance that lovely afternoon. After we ate, I trekked up and over the hill. Sure enough, there were tents and a sound stage from where the music had emanated.
I held on to my delusions of being serenaded by Bono as long as I could. But I later googled for more information about the Power to the Peaceful festivities and could find absolutely no mentions that U2 were in town. According to the band's website, U2 were actually performing in Zurich that day. But while it lasted, it was a perfect fantasy for a perfect day.

After lunch and a bottle of wine, we had a short window of time before we needed to check in at our North Beach hotel and head for our sunset cruise on the bay. There is a hereditary strain of indecision on my mother's side of the family, and we debated what else to try to see as we moved the car to another spot in the park. We walked up to the Japanese Tea Garden, intending just to glimpse it from outside, when Jeanette, thankfully and impulsively, suggested we go in after all. Good thing I had cash on me, as my aunts had left their purses in the car. We didn't begin to see the entire garden, but what we did see was serene and inspiring, especially in the late afternoon light.

After that idyllic interlude, we ventured out into rush hour traffic, dropped our bags at the hotel, and hoofed it down to Fisherman's Wharf, just in time to make our sunset cruise.

I always love being on the water, and it's a particularly interesting vantage point from which to view a city as massive as SF. Our two-hour cruise took us past Alcatraz and Treasure Island and snug up against the Sausalito and Tiburon hillsides, before going out under the Golden Gate Bridge and back at sunset. We were also treated to a one-man blues band on the second deck, and heavy hors d'oeuvres from Boudin on the lowest deck - which were tasty, but not exactly photo-worthy after being plowed through by the other cruise-goers by the time we pulled ourselves away from the top deck in search of food and drink. We were lucky the fog had finally burned off an hour before we set sail, and I was glad I'd brought a couple layers of fleece. A bit windy and choppy at spots, but all things considered, a glorious night to be on the San Francisco Bay.


The sliver of moon you might be able to discern in that last shot would, of course, grow substantially during the following week of my vacation. What's not so "of course" about it for me was being able to see the moon and a sky full of stars every night for a week at Marilyn's place in the Sierra foothills, with little smog or urban lights to obstruct my view.

After deboarding the boat, my aunts indulged my request to check out Boudin, which was just across the parking lot from our pier.
Boudin is a bakery and restaurant known for its sourdough bread, which it fashions into various critter forms as well as baguettes, as I'd learned via the photos my sister and niece shared of their CA trip this summer to visit my nephew. I snagged a couple of theirs for an earlier post, but had fun checking things out myself now that I was there.


We thought about buying some bread while we were there, then settled on the idea that it would be fresher if we bought it the following day before heading up into the hills. Alas, our follow-up visit got derailed, but lots more delicious bread was in our future.

Reveling in the vibrancy of a city with so much going on after dark (and avoiding the Fisherman's Wharf T-shirt shops), we walked back to the hotel, making a stop at the Trader Joe's on our route so Jeanette could see what it's about, as a TJ's is set to open in Nebraska. Setting the tone for the rest of the week, we purchased some chocolate, an introductory 2-buck Chuck, and some more indulgent wine, then headed back to our hotel, where the beds and couch looked inviting indeed. It may have been only 9:30 California time, but it was after midnight for me and almost midnight for Jeanette, who'd risen crazy early to catch her 6 a.m. flight from Omaha. We needed to sleep and recharge for our Saturday morning trip to Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, which was all I'd hoped it would be and more. I have so many photos from that lovely experience that I'll be back with another post. Soon. I promise.

Meanwhile, because I can't get this song out of my head, I'll leave you with this U2 clip. I did find what I was looking for on my CA vacation, but I still love this song, even if Bono wasn't personally serenading me :)

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome Sharon, love all the pictures and the stories! =) Heather

Making Space said...

That's amazing! What a great start to your trip, and now I wanna know who was sound-checking that afternoon.

Dani said...

It's all so pretty! I would have had a hard time not filling my suitcase with bread. :)

Buzz Kill said...

It's been about 12 years since I was in San Francisco and I really miss it. It's my favorite big city. I've been to Golden Gate Park but not the Japanese Tea Garden. I'm glad you got to Boudins, it's a cool bakery. There is an Irish bar just off of Fisherman's Wharf called "Fiddler's Green". The bar maid (Kathleen I think) would draw a Guinness and finish it with a shamrock design in the foam. They had a really good Shepherd's pie too. Fun times.

WaterDog said...

Wonderful post and photos. I am so glad you had a good time! You deserved it after the last year.

moi said...

What a great recap! The closest I've gotten to San Francisco since a childhood trip was when I was in Berkeley two years ago this month. From my vantage point in the hotel restaurant, I could see across the bay to the city. What a view, with that sun setting! I was dying to get over there. A friend and I have tentative plans to head over in November to shop and eat until we drop and get in some sightseeing, too. Fingers crossed . . .

Jen said...

We went to SF for our honeymoon and I had the greatest time there and would love to go back. We went to FOUR museums in one day, mostly walking between several of them (as my husband had that sort of thing you usually get in Vegas where you think things seem closer together than they really are). But overall, SF is the greatest city and I wish we had gone to Golden Gate park!

intuitive eggplant said...

Heather, thanks for commenting! The story about your dad being a "sweet white guy" will be coming up in a future post :)

MS, me too. The U2 song had to be a recording, but there were some actual performers on that stage too when I peeked over the hill.

Dani, the lovely gardens made me think of you - glad you enjoyed the pics! I managed to resist bringing back bread, but I did bring back some olive oil!

Buzz, I didn't see your recommendation of Boudin's clam chowder in a bread bowl until after we'd been there. Darn, I would have forced myself to eat a bowl.

WD, thanks for your kind comments. Glad you're enjoying your vacation too!

Moi, I hope your Nov. trip comes to fruition. SF is such a fabulous city!

Jen, what a great place to honeymoon. Which museums did you go to?

LaDivaCucina said...

Dear Eggy, what a wonderful 30 hours you had! The first park and picnic sound divine, all the gum trees make the flora look so much like Australia. (speaking of which, imagine the jetlag to get to and from there!)

I love Japanese Gardens, so tranquil and beautiful. You did the things I would prefer to do on a holiday. I always like to get a good Italian dinner in North Beach when in SF as well.

Trader Joes is in Nebraska? AND NOT IN MIAMI?!! WTF? I miss TJ's and the two buck Chuck was the grog of choice for many a party (and gallery opening!) I am surprised they still have it. I used to get Brancott Sav. blanc from Marlborough NZ for $8.99, wines are more expensive here.

$20 for a loaf of that alligator bread?! Yikes! I remember seeing everyone on the plane out of SF with the Boudin bread on their laps. Can't wait to see more photos.

Jen said...

It was sort of a whirlwind, but we went to the Museum of Modern Art, the Exploratorium, and the deYoung Museum as well as the Legion of Honor. They were all a part of the SF City Pass that we bought. That way we were able to ride public transit all over the city (except the Bart, I think) for free. (Well, not free, we bought the city pass--but it also got us a boat tour of the bay and a few other things, so it was probably worth it!)

mangocheeks said...

Wow Eggy,

I know there are so many more photographs to come and i am looking forward to seeing them.

So good to read you had a great time. You must be shattered with your busy schedule. When I visited Amenrica, I flew into SF Airport. I got the opporunity to see it on one of the days I was there. Of course I saw the bridge, but the other thing I remember was the windmill. Your photograph reminded me being with my friend who I miss so dearly - she lives near Berkeley.

I absolutely adore the bread photographs. Who would of thought of making animals with bread. Totally love the turtles and the alligator. Now why doesn't my breadmaker do that?!

Grumpy Granny said...

OMG, Eggy, I am just now looking at your SF posts and I am so envious. I've never been to SF, except for a business meeting once for a week, and they kept us locked in a hotel by the airport! Anyway, G and I are planning a trip there in our heads, so this definitely gives me some ideas!! Love the photos, your descriptions, everything. I'm also planning to do that Alcatraz swim at some point, too. Thanks so much and glad you had a fabulous time!

Alessandra said...

Ciao, I was just popping by quickly to thank you for your comment and I found lovely reportage about SF. I have good memories from there, (including a romantic picture on that Japanese bridge), will go back one day, even if only to buy the crocodile bread :-).