A fog blows in San Francisco

Old Oct 5th, 2009, 02:18 AM
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Join Date: May 2007
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A fog blows in San Francisco

With apologies to Betty Smith for borrowing her title idea, here are some snapshots of the Kiwis' flying visit to this marvelous city. We didn't do anything extraordinary, and there is no point in repeating endlessly the mundane routine of yet another awestruck couple on holiday, but here is the general flavour of our impressions:

Our arrival on the Friday morning was somewhat delayed because of a detour to a quilting shop in Petaluma, and we had to skip our planned visit to Muir Woods. We had, however, visited Armstrong Forest two days earlier, so we had seen quite a few redwoods by then. Even after all of the sights that we had seen previously, the first sight of the Golden Gate Bridge still induced a "Wow" response from both of us although, as the driver, I was concentrating pretty darned hard on the traffic. I had been told that I needed to be in the left lane, and I was anxious not to wipe out any of the dividing markers!
The towers of the bridge were shrouded in fog and the overall sense was surreal.

We had booked for dinner at Perbacco on Friday night and, having purchased MUNI passes immediately on arrival (thoroughly recommended), we caught a bus in that general direction until it seemed to be heading off a different way, and we walked the rest. It was a beautiful, warm evening, and all was at peace with the world.

Dinner at Perbacco was perfect. The service was prompt and helpful, but unobtrusive, the food was superb and the wine, chosen on the server's recommendation, was excellent. The only downside was a rather loud woman at the adjoining table who was complaining loudly and at some length to her companion about her dissatisfaction with her employer who, rather advisedly we thought, had bypassed her for some promotion. She was attracting the attention of other diners as well, so it seems that we were not the only people who thought her behaviour a bit bizarre.

As we walked out of the restaurant into the, still, warm evening, a near empty cable car was on its way up California Street so, for our first ride on this iconic San Franciscan conveyance, we rode the car right up the street as far as it went and back down to Powell where we hopped on another one to take us back to Union Square. Along with the other tourists, we whooped and hollered at the steepness of the inclines and the brakeman joined in the fun. As an introduction to our stay in San Francisco, that evening would have been hard to beat!

From our room in the Westin St Francis, we could see the bay, but not the GG Bridge. When Saturday dawned, we could see the fog rolling up the bay, so assumed that there would be little prospect of getting a clear view of the Bridge. Walking across the Bridge was one of our "must do's", so we were just waiting for the first clear day to do this. Instead, we went down to the Farmers' Market and feasted on fresh figs, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, peaches and other fruits which are out of season for us in NZ.

Although we hadn't intended to, we then caught the tram down to Pier 39, wandered through all of the tourist shops and stalls (in which we weren't in the least bit interested), smelt and then saw the sea lions, and then thought about some more food. At that point we came upon The Crab House and, having read the comments on this board about the delights of crab, we thought that we should give it a go. I assume that it was probably frozen crab and would have been better when fresh, but we thoroughly enjoyed it . I had commented elsewhere that I find it difficult to eat ribs with decorum, and I can now say that crab presents the same problem. I suppose that being equipped with plastic bibs at the start was probably a clue as what was to come.

After the gastronomic delights, we thought that a bit of exercise was in order, and the sight of Coit Tower pulled us in that direction. We did intend to walk up, but the right bus just happened along at that time, so we rode instead. Our good intentions to exercise are very easily derailed! The views from the tower are spectacular. The bay was still fog-bound though.

Dinner that night was at Boulevard. Once again, it was a superb meal but, somehow, the overall experience just didn't quite impress us as much as Perbacco had. I think that, after the previous evening, our expectations were a little too high.

Sunday morning presented another clear day outside our window but, once again, the bay was shrouded in fog. After considering our options, we decided to ride up to Alamo Square to see the Ladies. They were just as pictured. We sat in the sun for a while, enjoying the views, and then started to walk to the top of the hill. As we did so, a small vista opened through the trees and there was THE Bridge, clear of fog and shining in all its glory! The 5 or so minutes that it took for the next bus to arrive seemed like hours, but we made all the right connections and, within half an hour or so, we arrived at the Bridge overlook. It was still clear of fog, but wisps of it were starting to roll in again. We walked across and back, marvelling at the volume of traffic that it carries, craning our necks to take in the height of the towers, and watching it being rapidly engulfed by the fog again on the return journey. I don't know what I expected of that experience but, whatever it was, it was fulfilled.

We then jumped on a bus that we thought would take us back to the centre of the city, but it turned out to be going the wrong way. Instead, we had an unscheduled trip through Presidio and Golden Gate Park. Another bus change found us going down Haight, so we hopped off there, had a sandwich for lunch, and tried to imagine ourselves as born-again Hippies. DW thought my chances of finding any free love were remote, to say the least, and I don't have enough hair now to put flowers in it anyway.

That evening, we ambled down to Chinatown and stumbled across Yee's Restaurant. That is the most authentic Chinese restaurant that I have encountered outside of China. The food was quick to arrive, good, and plentiful. The total bill, including tax and tip, was $24.00!

Monday was given over to shopping. A BART ride over to El Cerrito and Berkeley (If you pause to think about it, there is a lot of water overhead on that trip!) in pursuit of more quilting supplies proved only partially successful, and getting on another bus going the wrong way gave us another unexpected tour of suburban Berkeley. We were slow to cotton on to the fact that you catch your buses on the opposite side of the street to us in NZ.

That evening, we walked up to Canteen to try our luck for dinner, but it was closed. There is no sign on the door showing the days on which it is open, but I guess that Sundays and Mondays are his days of rest. Instead we came across Cesario's and had an enjoyable meal there. The only downside was the size of the spinach salads that we both ordered as starters. The plates were piled high with solidly-packed spinach leaves such that one shared between us would have been too much. The salads were delicious but, not being inclined to see food wasted, we were barely able to tackle our mains ("entrees") once we had disposed of most of the salads.

On the way back to our hotel, we came across Bucket Man and his unusual drum set belting out a catchy tune with an equally talented, but more orthodox, group of street musicians. We enjoyed the "feel good" atmosphere that surrounded their performance and the bystanders' response.

Tuesday was set aside for whimsical things. We wandered down Fillmore Street and browsed in the shops (and were extremely grateful to the kind woman in Waygreen who allowed us to use their restrooms when we couldn't find any public facilities there), meandered along Cottage Row and, generally, enjoyed the suburban feel of the place.

That night, being our last in the city, we had made a reservation at Michael Mina to treat ourselves. It certainly was an experience. The service was faultless, the food was very good and the presentation outstanding. Was it worth around 12 times as much as the meal at Yee's? Probably not. If we were to choose only one of the restaurants for a return visit, it would probably be Perbacco.

Wednesday was get packed and check-out day ahead of our return flight that night. We did the necessary and then caught the ferry over to Sausalito. A pleasant lunch of clam chowder at Scoma's, a stroll along the sheltered waterfront, and a close-quarters view of Alcatraz on the way back all rounded out a perfect stay in the City by the Bay.

When we booked our trip, we wondered whether or not there would be enough to do to fill 5 days. We needn't have worried about that. We now hope that, at some time, our travel plans will allow us to get back there.

Thanks to all of you who contributed to our planning. You are, each and every one of you, real gems.

kiwi_rob is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2009, 04:54 AM
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Thanks for the report, so glad the marine layer cooperated and let you do the walk across GG bridge.
emalloy is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2009, 07:27 AM
Join Date: May 2003
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Don't you just LOVE SF?? What a great trip and report, thanks for sharing it. I love reading SF trip reports - reminds me of our trips there and allows me to live vicariously through your trip.
DebitNM is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2009, 08:46 AM
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Thank you for your trip report. I'm so glad you had a good time. Loved your comment about free love in the Haight. ;->
NorCalif is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2009, 09:30 AM
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I was going to say the same thing as NorCalif regarding your comments about the Haight! (I'm still smiling, and guessing we're in the same age bracket!).

Great report - sounds like a wonderful trip.
sf7307 is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2009, 10:16 AM
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Glad you had a great time. It is a great city. The fog definitely adds a lot of character to the city in the morning. I will never forget taking the boat to Alcatraz 1 morning and not being able to see it.
tchoiniere is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2009, 12:15 PM
Join Date: Feb 2009
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"We were slow to cotton on to the fact that you catch your buses on the opposite side of the street to us in NZ." - OMG I would never thought about it if somebody would ask me where to catch a bus
Dayenu is online now  
Old Oct 7th, 2009, 02:04 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 8,270
Kiwi_rob we weren't brave enough to try the buses when we visited san Francisco a couple of years ago. We would have had the same problem I'm sure. It took me awhile to remember to look left then right then left when crossing the road, rather than right, left, right as in NZ. It wasn't until I nearly got wiped out that I thought I better start remembering traffic was on the opposite side of the road.

We did use the street cars though they were great. I envy your ride on the cable-car, that would have been fantastic. We queued for about an hour to go on one.

We were there for three and a half days and it wasn't long enough, five days sounds ideal.
nelsonian is online now  
Old Oct 7th, 2009, 08:28 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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It sounds like a lovely visit. I grew up in the Bay Area and of course took the City pretty much for granted, and since moving away some 30 years ago, I love visiting and it's fun to read the trip reports about it.
crefloors is online now  
Old Oct 24th, 2009, 04:33 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 2,126
Hi Kiwi_rob....... In San Francisco at the moment. I guess you are home now. Glad to hear it went well. We are really enjoying our trip, we're about half way through. We've had perfect weather the whole way. Even had some snow in Vermont which was a treat. Beautiful sunshine since we've been in California.
aussiedreamer is offline  
Old Oct 27th, 2009, 04:15 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 3,857
Hello kiwi_rob,
I loved your trip report ! Everytime we take the ferry
over from Marin into the City we still give up
"OOOO's" and "Ahhh's" on every trip.

You may be interested to know that the crab you ate was probably fresh and arrived from up the west coast, perhaps Washington or Alaska. In Alaska, crab fishing is considered more a summer-early fall operation, while down here around SF it is more a late fall-early winter business. Our season opens this year on Nov 14 from Morro Bay, CA north to the mouth of the Russian River-then continues to move north up the coast. Dec 1 is opening day from Ft. Bragg, CA to the Oregon border, and so it goes.

I admire how you went with the flow and just enjoyed
your adventures in the opposite direction of your intention-
The unplanned is sometimes the best adventure !


PS-Glad you visited the Armstrong Woods-I'm a Sonoma county resident and feel it's one of our treasures !
razzledazzle is offline  
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