Saturday, August 9, 2014

California 2014: Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden, and (not) the Sunset District

My least favorite day of the whole trip was last Wednesday mostly because I screwed up.  I have to really resist doling out partial blame to Ron on this one, but resist I shall.  Here was the plan: Go to Golden Gate Park since we had never been, visit the Conservatory of Flowers/Japanese Tea Garden/Botanical Gardens (or just one or whatever depending on how intense they each were), walk a few blocks south to the Sunset District, and then either A) go to the Cliff House for drinks and maybe some food or B) save the Cliff House for the next day and just go back to the hotel.


So, we headed out for Golden Gate Park. On foot.  For the record, I LIKE walking in cities a lot.  I also like being married to a guy who brags to me about A) his amazing sense of direction; B) his crazy ability to read maps of any kind (geographical, political, unfamiliar transit maps, whatevs); and C) his ability to judge how F-ing far away random crap is from his current location.  Ron calculated Union Square --> Golden Gate Park = Andiamo! and this would've been ok if we had planned to go to bed at 3pm.  But we had no intention of going to bed at 3pm, so this was a problem.

Here is my advice: If you are staying on or near Union Square in SF, then TAKE THE F-ING N TRAIN ALL THE WAY DOWN TO GOLDEN GATE PARK.  If you'd like to walk through the Sunset District after that, GET BACK ON THE FRICKIN N TRAIN AND TAKE IT ALL THE WAY DOWN JUDAH TO THE BEACH.  It will cost you less than $5 to do this.  There. Now there is no excuse for YOU to learn the hard way how frickin far it is from Union Square to Golden Gate Park or anything west of it.

Here's what happens when you do the whole thing on foot and also have no clue where to go in the Sunset District (my fault).

"Oh, because, you know--that's the climate we just have here."

Ah, yes: the day was so young, and we were still so dumb ...

So I walked in here expecting the conservatory at Longwood--nope nope nope.  This is totally different--it's not meticulously arranged the way Longwood is. I heard a tour guide saying that this was basically set up as, well, a conservatory: basically, a giant greenhouse that provides an ideal setting for one's collection of plants. I loved it.

I apologize for how many pictures follow here of just plants. I was pretty obsessed and couldn't stop. Plus, I knew my mom would want to see all of them. You can skip them if you want (my mom won't).

If you can't hear my hair curling from the humidity, then you're not listening hard enough.

My fave fern: maidenhair o in italiano, "capelli di Venere" (hair of Venus).

All of this stuff was in my fave room.  I could just die in here--it was perfect. Except for how awful my hair looked, but whatevs.

What the hell is this??? Anthurium??

The flowers on my air plants look exactly like this, only they're 1,000x times tinier.

Ha! What's this called again? Also, gorgeous button ferns.

Here's why the building looks white from the outside.

Air plants air plants everywhere!!! Thousands of them. I literally just had to put my camera away or I would've used up the whole camera card.

The sun finally came out--it was really warm last week. 75 and sunny everyday.

There are 20 more pix of plants that I did not include here. Let's look at outdoor plants at the Japanese Tea Garden:

We really liked it here--at first I didn't understand what we were paying money to see.

The gardens were bigger than I thought, and everything was this unearthly green-yellow.

My only gripe were all the annoying kids running around.  In a different setting, I wouldn't have noticed them.  However, some of the paths are really narrow (only one person wide) and go right over the water.  If you lose your balance, into the water you go.  Apparently, 21st century parenting dictates that it's ok for your kid to run like a mad person over these paths, dodging around other people and nearly shoving them off balance into the water.  It was ALL I could do not to trip this one kid who really had it coming to him.  But, I resisted (because I am--allegedly--a grown up).  If he had fallen in, though, I would've died laughing and not really at him--at his moronic parents who thought he was the CUTEST THING EVER.  And who are we kidding? Ron would've died too.  He's no saint.

I was obsessed with pagodas in middle school--I bought a tiny green one at the garden shop at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, when I was 12.  They have a gorgeous garden there.

Don't be fooled--there are fifty kids on either side of the cropped boundaries of this photo.

At this point, we decided to head south out of the park into the Sunset District.  Why did I care about the Sunset District, you ask?  Good question. There was a big article on it in the now-defunct Whole Living Magazine right after my last visit here.  I put it on my mental list and remembered it ... but never revisited anything online to find out the best way to get there/where to go specifically/etc.  I figured it was like Pacific Heights: just get there and then walk around until you're bored.

We exited the park on Rt. 1 aka 19th St and walked two blocks south to Irving and turned west. I was already dying at this point (because it had taken FOREVER just to get from the hotel to the park, and then we had spent--I don't know--2 hours? 3 hours? walking around the Conservatory and the Japanese Tea Garden).  But we kept walking west, pausing only A) to stop in a public library so I could google "Sunset District" only to discover it was 20 blocks more west and B) at a gas station to buy crackers so I wouldn't claw my eyes out.

We walked.

And walked.

And walked.

Every block looked like this:

I like it--so different from home.  But absolutely deserted.

I don't know how far we made it ... 13 more blocks?  And finally I gave up and nearly screamed:

... and begged Ron to find a way out because walking three hours back to the hotel was not an option. Ordinarily, we would've just looked for a cab.  But this street was EMPTY. Clearly, people lived on it, but there was not a soul around let alone a cab.  My brain had lost all reasoning ability and meltdown began mostly because I was SO PISSED that we were going to waste our entire afternoon on a wild goose chase that I should've researched better the day before.  Plus, I had used up all my "steps" (ie, ability to walk? daily walking quota?) just to get from the hotel to the Conservatory.  Bad bad bad planning all around.  We saw a Muni stop on the next block, checked to see how many $1s we had in our wallets and waited for (you guessed) the goddamn N train to come along and take us back the exact blocks we had walked + 25 more minutes back to Powell.

Thank you Jesus for the N train.

Thank you thank you thank you.

We got off the N train at Powell and slogged back to the hotel to collapse.  After awhile though, Ron said he wanted to go buy a hat (because that's what you need when you lose your hair when you're only eighteen) and there was a hat store near Union Square and then we could walk to dinner from there.

Ok, fine.

We stopped in Macy's on the way there just to see if they had hats.  They didn't, but they did have a cafe with an amazing dessert counter:

S'more bite and toffee/sea salt/caramel cookie thing.  So good.  The SF Macy's is just gorgeous--it's like out of a movie.  If you stay across the street at the Westin St. Francis, they give you a 10% coupon for Macy's (to use your whole visit!) ... and then you find out the sales tax in SF is 9% and suddenly you think to yourself, "Hold up: I have a Macy's at home ..."  But, it's still gorgeous.

Union Square

From there, we went to the hat shop which was SO CUTE but the two hats that Ron tried weren't the right size. He wanted one that looked like the one in this picture.  Bust. Oh well.  Off to Sweet Woodruff for dinner--only 10 minutes away, but all uphill. Who cares! Leslie says it's great.  What's ten more minutes of uphill walking??

... and then we got there and THEY WERE CLOSED FOR A PRIVATE PARTY.  We just kept striking out on this particular day. Couldn't win to save our lives.

We went to Roxanne Cafe instead. It was a solid "good," but honestly we were so hungry that dirt would've tasted good.  We had no business judging food at that point.  The creme brulee was amazing--totally worth it.  It was perfect, actually.  That, I know, I judged correctly. Definitely.

Scroll back up to that last picture of him at the beginning of the day: Compare.  In hindsight, this makes me laugh so hard.  Also, I like how I got the cable car in the background--no mistaking which city we're in.

I really don't know how we got back to the hotel. We definitely walked there.  All the bones in my feet felt like they had been crushed and I was actually worried about ye ole (non existent) bunion because it felt like crap.  Nothing to do except put together a plan for the next day, go to bed, and hope that my feet magically feel normal the next day ...


Linda C said...

Holy moly! And you call this a vacation???? Old person advice - be careful walking on deserted streets when you don't know the town. Could be dangerous - YIKES. On the plus side of things, I loved all the plant photos and street scenes. Poor St. Ron.

Jo Harper said...

It was a rough day mostly due to poor planning--oh well!