Tuesday, August 14, 2012

CA 2012: San Francisco

Our last full day started in Napa and ended in San Francisco. We started out on the patio again, saw the hummingbirds again, saw the crazy Raiders fans again.  I did whatever I could to soak it in--I knew I would miss that patio.  After I wandered back to the room to get ready and pack my bags, Ron drove to the center of town to buy AM buns since we hadn't bought any the day before.

Oh, AM buns.

How unflattering is this shot? Let me count the ways ...

Oh, you pack more butter per square inch than the fanciest French pastry!  Your copious quantities of sugar make me swoon like Lizzy for Darcy!  The AM bun imitations at Starbucks? Insulting! Disgusting! Outrageous! A Travesty! Oh, AM bun from Sweetie Pies in the Hatt Building in Napa, CA: How I love you.

Call me ridiculous: I try very hard not to think about my lack of access to the AM bun in PA.  It's too devastating.  West Chester: You sadden me in countless ways.  This is one of them.

It is the most awful thing to watch Napa grow smaller in your passenger-side mirror.  It would have been devastating it we had driven right to the airport (or skipped AM buns), but we had one place left to go.

The fog means you're getting closer.


Ron always plans the route into town one specific way:


If you look closely, you can see how filthy the windshield is.



No two shots are the same since you move the whole time.




After crossing the bridge, we drove west to the ocean and the Cliff House.  It had been bright and sunny when we left Napa, but the clouds were thick in this part of the city.  I zipped up my jacket because (for the first time since March) the chilly wind felt like too much.

You pass this church on Geary Street on the way to the Cliff House.


You see a lot of people playing with their dogs on this part of the beach.

To me, it's completely crazy that part of this city's limits is the ocean.  And it's not a city like Atlantic "City" or some random beach town.  SF is a CITY that sits on the OCEAN (as opposed to, say, the Delaware River)--a complete study in contrasts. Or, to put it differently, the best of both worlds.

(For a second I had to think, "Wait--what about Boston?" But, no, Boston's surrounded by a bay. Eerily enough, Boston and SF are the same exact shape if you look at a map--like the back of your left hand if you ball it up into a fist.  I can't be the only person who's noticed this?)

Inside the Cliff House--busy afternoon


Something I learned on this trip: When asking other tourists to take a picture for us, I officially only ask other tourists with DSLRs.  I'm so tired of seeking out fellow English-speaking tourists (because my incorrect assumption was that a language barrier makes things difficult) who make such a show of, "Golly gee! I have no idea how to use this thing! Just press the button? What button? How do I press a button on something like this???"  Be confident! Be bold! Just press the button!!  People act like I'm asking them a trick question, as if I want them to do some kind of professional portraiture or something.  A German tourist with a ginormous camera was standing near us outside, so I just handed my camera off to her.  Even though we couldn't talk to each other at all, she got it and we didn't even have to say two words to each other.

*sigh* I'm 28 years old, and I have the most old-lady of old-lady feet.


Advice to my point-and-shoot peeps: Just hit the button! You're not going to break anything!  If it's no good, the strangers will just tell you to hit it again.  If it's that awful the second time (not likely in my experience), they will take the camera from you, give you an enthusiastic "THANK YOU!" and then wait until you're out of sight to ask someone else to do it.  It's a snapshot--perfection is not required. It's NOT a big deal. You're not going to take The Worst Picture Ever. Give yourself more credit than that.

(I can only speak for myself, but if you DROP the camera, I will claw your eyes out and yank out every hair on your head.  Luckily, I've haven't been in that position. Yet.)

And THAT is my Virgo Snob Moment of the Week.

Moving right along ...

Marcie had told us, "If you go into the city on the weekend, park in the $10 lot! DAVID, WHERE IS THE $10 LOT IN SF??"

"IT'S ON THE EMBARCADERO NEAR THE WATERFRONT RESTAURANT!!!"

"Did you hear David? It's on the Embarcadero near the Waterfront Restaurant! The Waterfront has The. Best. Bar. Ever.  So park the car, go get a drink, and then walk around!"

We drove east alllllll the way across town, found the parking lot, and then paid $15 dollars because the SF Marathon took place that morning and all of the lots were charging "special event" pricing.  Still, not a bad deal.  AND, may I interject here: THANK YOU JESUS that we lingered in Napa extra long that morning and thus MISSED fighting our way into the city with all of the marathoners and getting detoured all over the place.  That's some perfect timing.

I didn't think all of the stores in the Ferry Plaza would be open, but they were! I'm very, very intentionally using an exclamation point in that last sentence.




You want caviar? Check.

You want fancy deli meats? Check.

You want super extra fancy cheeses? Yup.

Super duper gorgeous lovely buttery cakes and pastries? Uh huh.

Gorgeous stuff for the home and expensive silk scarves? Yes and Yes.

Herbs and olive trees and fresh fruit and the current #1 book on the NYTimes Bestsellers List?  Check, check, check.  CHECK.


The whole place was packed.  You can hear three or four foreign languages at any given time.  Did you know that SF is the #1 tourist destination in the U.S.? Yup, even more than New York.


I couldn't come here without lingering at Miette ("little crumb" in French--maybe you've seen their gorgeous cookbook at Anthro?  Take a look at their website).  See those beautiful, ivory, marshmallow clouds of perfect goodness in the cellophane bags?  SIX DOLLARS FOR SIX MARSHMALLOWS. Seriously, Ron, if you're reading this: Quit your day job and just make marshmallows and sell them for a $1 each.  We can retire when we're 35.  And I can still get a pool in the backyard.

I did buy a macaron here.  (Macarons are as abundant in SF as they are in Paris ... WHY the F do I have to travel THREE THOUSAND MILES TO GET A DECENT MACARON??? PHILADELPHIA!!!! EXPLAIN YOURSELF!!!  TRADER JOE'S DOES NOT COUNT.)  I went with Rose Geranium because I'm fascinated with California's obsession with floral desserts. It did not disappoint.

(My mother is going, "BLECH!! Rose geranium?? Didn't they have chocolate or vanilla?")

I lingered, lingered, lingered at the stores here.

Ron waited outside.

That's the Bay Bridge in the background. Note: You may think to yourself, "I know! I'll cross the Bay Bridge and take pictures of the Golden Gate from there!"  Odds are that fog will wrap up the GGB and will obstruct the view.

There was a big market outside the Ferry Terminal which I didn't expect--I thought it was only a weekday thing. I was happy to see it, however, because I really wanted to buy a painting of the Golden Gate Bridge and there were tons of artists selling their work.

I eventually picked one out (the #1 rule being, "It has to fit in my suitcase"), but I can't show it here because I already dropped it off to get framed.

Walking along Market Street, I could not believe the weather. "Marcie WOULD DIE if she saw this!" I kept saying to Ron.  "When is it NOT foggy and cloudy and cold here??"  There was not a cloud in the sky--only the bridge was wrapped in fog.  I actually took off my jacket (HUGE, people! This is big!) because it was so warm.

Up the hill to Chinatown.


I love all of the lanterns everywhere!! Doesn't it look like all the buildings are wearing necklaces?? Ron, I want lanterns for our house.  Can't we get some jewelry for our house?

It was so crazy-insano crowded here: Wall to wall people and tons of noise.  It was cool at first, but after haggling with a jewelry store for twenty minutes (and walking away from what I wanted), taking in the constant noise, and getting jostled all along the sidewalk, I was done.




It was about 430pm at this point, and I was STARVING.  I love you AM bun, but you don't stick with me that long, do you?

Ron practically dragged my sorry ass and sore feet down Columbus Ave (aka, the Italian Neighborhood) to find a restaurant. Luckily, Columbus Ave is just north of Chinatown so it wasn't that far.

Oh God. My feet hurt. Really bad. Leave it to an urban day trip to show you how crappy your everyday shoes are. I really believed that mine were a good bet, but I was borderline wrong.  (Certainly not as bad as the time that the flats I wore in Paris almost forced me to get surgery when I returned home.  That was so awful ... I'm always afraid of repeating that.  This was a distant second.)

We picked a cheesy Italian place covered in multiple Mouths of Truth and naked statues.  The food was unremarkable, but I really didn't care.  Nothing is remarkable after the girl and the fig.  It felt good just to sit. And to eat some bread.

When the waiters weren't serving, they stood around and watched the Olympics on TV.  You could tell who was winning but watching the shifting expressions on their faces.


It was about 6 when we decided to move on.  We headed north to Fisherman's Wharf and planned to double back to our car on the Embarcadero.  God, we must be getting old because when we were twenty we would've said, "Ok, we're good to go until at least 11pm! Let's walk three or four more miles! Wahoo!"

Now we're all like, "Remember when we were 20?" Sad.

See them?

Pier 39 used to be a famous home for all of the blubbery globs of goodness also known as "Sea Lions."  One day, they all just showed up and provided a free tourist attraction to the city.  They stayed here for years.  But then one day in 2009, the blubbery globs of goodness flopped off of their floating docks and swam away.  A few trickle back now and then, but not like they used to.

Ok Philly, I'll give you this: You are NOT prone to tsunamis.  There. I said something positive about you.
When you look behind you, you see the city:



And when you look the other way, you have a view of the sad and lonely Alcatraz:


I felt as if I barely saw the city that day, but the day was over and we had a plane to catch in 15 hours.  We walked through the hubbub of Fisherman's Wharf and down the Embarcadero.  My feet hurt so bad that I consciously had to not whimper, but they didn't hurt so bad that I wanted to throw up.  So it was ok.

Ron suggested that we drive all around the city to see the parts we missed.  I know this is stating the obvious, but the hills in this town are wild.  And heart-stoppingly scary.  I think Ron's watched Bullitt one too many times, but he wasn't stupid or anything.  (Ron is thinking to himself, "Gee thanks." Watch Bullitt. Then you'll get it.)  You haven't questioned gravity until you've had to stop at a stop sign on the wrong side of (what feels like a) 45 degree-angled-street ... and then keep going once you've stopped and looked both ways.

On our way down with a view of the bay.
The Castro--this was one of my favorite parts last time.  Septa could never have a system of electric buses because the constant wind storms in the winter would always knock out the power lines.
This doesn't look like a big deal, but if you look at the cars going all the way down the center of the photo you can tell how steep this is.

We were staying the night in San Carlos, about 20 minutes outside the city.  Hotels there are half the price of SF hotels, so we saved our money and didn't feel too insecure about the short drive to the airport.  This place was bare bones compared to the place in Napa, but whatevs. I really missed my cats and my own bed. Hotel schmotel.  As long as it didn't smell bad and have bedbugs, I was ok with it.

(Ron is REALLY rolling his eyes now because he knows that my bare minimum threshold for any hotel is about 1000x above "not smelling bad" and "no bed bugs.")

How creepy is that?
Ugh, it was a scene packing our bags for the airport.  After breaking the rules all week, we had to figure out how to get everything back to TSA standards without destroying 1) the 11x14 photograph I bought of the Golden Gate Bridge  2) my 8x10 painting of the GGB  3) three bottles of wine we bought in Napa. (Hint: Napa has TWO Targets--as if you needed one more reason to move there--so buy packing materials there so you're not screwed packing your suitcase somewhere else later ... Hint 2: the bubble wrap is near the office supplies like tape and staplers.)  Luckily, Ron is some kind of genius because none of the wine broke on the trip home.

*sigh* And then it was over.  We jumped on the magical tin can that miraculously sails through the sky and flew 3000 miles over an entire continent to the odd land of Disappointing Weather and Happy Fluffs.  Pearl and Penny were completely baffled and confused to see us stumble through the door at 11pm--Aunt Leslie had moved in for the week and I think they were honestly expecting her.  Like a real champ, I utterly failed to get off CA time for about four days which was not a good idea.  Luckily, there's nothing like a jury summons and the ol' "Hey now, we'll toss your sorry ass in jail if you oversleep and fail to show up at the courthouse at 830am for your civic duty" trick to get yourself back on EDT.  That'll do it every time.

I might torture you with one more post of random stuff that didn't fit in anywhere else.  I'll have to see if I can wrangle up the little tidbits I missed.  In the meantime, I have more additions to the Summer Craft Series (oh, don't you worry now! I didn't forget about it!), including an apron nightmare that will have you throwing your own sewing machine right out the window after you read it.  Isn't that fun to look forward to?

But seriously, if you're headed out to CA anytime soon and you want specifics about places to go/eat/sleep/etc., just email me and I'll send you a condensed list of My Faves.  And if this place isn't on your Bucket List, pencil it in there--OBVIOUSLY (after nearly a month of these posts), I do not think you will regret it.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

I vote for one more post! I have been living vicariously through you and your CA vacation and I am not ready to come home yet ;)