California Dreamin" - SF Weekend, Part II

Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 10:06 AM
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California Dreamin" - SF Weekend, Part II

To all those who posted to my first part, thanks for your wonderful, heartwarming comments.

Guess something happened these last few days and that thread has been shut down. I can't for the life of me understand why. Was there anything in that thread that was offensive???

Anyhoos, here's Part II. Hope it survives a bit!

Sunday morning dawns and we are in SF bright and early. So early that it's time to get a cup of joe. We stop at Farley's on 18th up on Potrero Hill. The owners had worked all night hanging up these huge 10x20 photos of their frequent customers. The walls are covered and there are so many pleased and surprised comments as the regulars walk in and see their own faces up on the walls! There's even a cute little dog! He must really like the coffee at Farley's! Lo!

This is why I love San Francisco. It reminds me of Europe, every neighborhood is distinct. There are not the large tracts of standard, impersonal houses, but there is such a sense of community in each neighborhood.

I drop my relative off at her friend's house - they are going to day two of their conference. Alone again, I drive to Bernal Heights. It's another one of those steep hills in San Francisco, but the crown has been turned into a city park. I park along Bernal Heights Road and climb to the very top. There are so many dogs and their owners all out enjoying this cold, windy morning. The dogs all romp around, dashing up and down the slopes with glee, while their owners follow behind along the pathways. I walk all around on the path that circles the crown of the hill and the views are wonderful. By the end of the walk, my hands are frozen. It's a very cold and slightly cloudy day today, in contrast with yesterday's brilliant, crystal blue skies.

Back in the car, I meander my way to Twin Peaks, passing the massive structure of the Laguna Honda Hospital. If it was cold up on Bernal Heights, it's freezing up on Twin Peaks, but the view is truly spectacular. If you wanted one great view of San Francisco, I would recommend Twin Peaks. It is panoramic and it's cold only now in the winter time.

Every time I go up there I have not had a map, this time I do and, with the map flapping in the gigantic breeze, I try to identify landmarks in the cityscape spread below me. As I'm pouring over the map, an accented voice says behind my hooded head, "May I see your map please?"

I turn and here is a handsome young man standing there smiling!

"Hello! Yes, of course!"

"I am looking for chin-ral"

"You are looking for what?"

"chin-ral" He repeats as the word is snatched by the wind and floats away down the hill.

I scratch my brain to try and figure out what "chin-ral" means.

"The hospital..."

"Oh, you mean, San Francisco General Hospital" Lights go off in my head, sirens sound.

He is a young doctor from Switzerland who recently got a position at SF General and he wants to know where would be a good place to live. His family will follow in a few weeks.

We locate SF General in the cityscape below us. He says he's already been to Potrero Hill to the east and it was too "old" a district for him. To the immediate west is the Mission area and I tell him that is not an ideal place for families. To the west of Mission is Castro. I point to the huge rainbow flag flapping in the wind.

Maybe he could try in the Bernal Heights area just to the SW of "chin-ral" or even Noe Valley.

By the end of the conversation, we are both frozen and his tour bus is about to leave. We part, strangers and friends at one and the same time.

Meandering down Twin Peaks, I head for Mission Dolores. Mission Dolores, or properly Mission San Francisco de Asis, is one of the two oldest structures in San Francisco. The first permanent structure was built in the Presidio, the second is the Mission. Divisadero Street used to connect the two oldest establishments in San Francisco.

The older part of the Mission is very old indeed and is in stark contrast to the huge newer basilica next door. It is wonderfully well preserved and I am glad to have finally gotten into the Mission, after several earlier failed attempts.

After visiting the Mission, I park the car on Guerrero - the names here - Valencia, Guerrero, Noe - are all family names of the early Mexicans who came and settled here. Then I take the Line F Muni right down Market Street intending to get to Powell.

Suddenly I see a Sunday produce market and I get off at the next stop. It's on the United Nations Plaza. Didn't know there was a United Nations Plaza in SF! The longtitude and latitude are marked out in stone and bronze on the plaza. A lot of cold and frozen people are buying from farmers who have brought their produce in from the Central Valley, fron places like Stockton.

After a quick tour of the produce market, I walk down Market Street. It's always such a sad thing for me to walk down Market Street these days, because I remember the days when SF didn't have any homeless people. Yes, folks, there really had not been any homeless people. Market Street was a vibrant street then.

AT the Powell Street cable car stop, there is a very long line waiting for the next car. I turn on Powell Street and head up to Union Square, remembering what the man from Hawaii had told me yesterday: there is a better chance of getting onto a cable car at the Union Square Powell Street station. (Now, Fodorites! This is a big secret! So use it wisely! )

Right here in front of me is another of Lori's Diners. I go in and have a Bay Shrimp Salad. There is not just one old car - dangling from the ceiling, but also an old motorcycle and along one wall there is half a car jutting out into the room. Fuuunkyyy!!!

After lunch, I am able to get onto the first cable car that comes along! It takes me to the Cable Car Museum. This is actually the heart of the cable car system. It is not just a museum, it is also the powerhouse that runs the entire cable car system. All kinds of gears and pulleys are exposed and explained. Such a wonderful invention! For each cable car line, there is a cable that runs continuously in a huge cycle. Each cable car has grabbers called "ties" which grab onto the running cable and away we go! To stop, the cable car lets go of the cable. The ties have to be changed every four days. I spend way too much time in the Cable Car Museum.

Uphill of the Cable Car Museum is Nob Hill. I climb slowly up the hill, taking tiny steps. It is very, very steep and tiny steps are just what is needed to keep a steady climbing pace. Huff! Huff! Puff! Puff!

At last, the Fairmont Hotel stands before me. I pass through their wonderful lobby, heading for the outside elevator for the Crown Room. I need a drink at that wonderful circular bar and I want to see that gorgeous view of SF again. The elevator does not come. I stop a young man with a hotel emblem on his jacket and ask him about the Crown Room. He says it's closed to the public and is available only for special private events. Boo hoo! Stopping off at the Crown Room for their wonderful Sunday buffet had been one of our favorite activities! No more! Hoo hoo!

I walk down California Street. The first part is so steep that I feel like I have to lean backwards to stay upright. At the corner of California and Grant is Old St Mary's Church. I have whizzed by it hundreds of times on the way to Chinatown, but never been inside. This time, on foot, I go in and admire the stain glass windows, each one honoring one of the saints who has given his/her name to each of the missions in California: San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara, and so on. Old St Mary's Church and the Fairmont Hotel were the only two buildings left standing in this area of town after the great earthquake of 1906.

I continue on down California Street to the Financial District. It is deserted on a Sunday afternoon. Nothing, but nothing, is open. Not the Starbucks. Not the MacDonald's. Not the flower shops. Nothing. It's nice having the entire Financial District almost all to myself - now if I could just have part of what's in their vaults to myself as well...

On I go to the Ferry Building with its renovations, turning it into an indoor market place. One can still take the ferries here, but the place is home to a number of upscale, mostly organic/healthy food stores. I spend a lot of time wandering around the displays, testing the olive oils, and buying three bottles of it. (I'm going to grow fat, doing the Italian thing of bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar!) The Vietnamese restaurant, the Slanted Door, still has not opened. About 80% of the Ferry Building is a functional market place now.

Time to head back to the car. I take the F Line Muni right outside the Ferry Building and ride it back down Market Street to Guerrero Street.

In the little alleyway where my car is parked (for free again!), there is an "estate sale" going on. I walk in and ask if everything is for sale. Yes, everything. So late in the day, much is already gone. Someone has passed away and his/her belongings are being sold. It is the end of a life. Evidence is everywhere - old books that no one wants to read but were probably treasured, old clothes that speak of bygone times, old momentos of who knows what events - it dawns on me that I have never been to an estate sale. It's an eye-opener. I leave, not buying anything, feeling sobered and a bit sad.

I drive away and return to the Potrero Hill area to pick up my relative. We then head clear across town to the Vietnamese restaurant, Thanh Long, which had been strongly recommended to us.

$33 for one crab. $9 for one glass of wine. $10 for one plate of noodles. A moneymaker. An interesting experience, but terribly overpriced for our tastes. The roasted crab was so drowned in olive oil and butter that the sauce had congealed together before half the crab had been consumed. The drunken crab was well done, but still, terribly expensive for one crab. Well, it's a trendy restaurant out in the middle of nowhere, but I wouldn't recommend it except as a one-time experience. You have to know how to deshell crab, otherwise you will go away hungry. And you have to order a plate of their noodles "with special sauce" (garlic, butter, and more garlic) to fill up. A tab for two people could run $200. Really quite steep for an Asian restaurant.

I can do crab better. Anyone wanna come over to my house for a crab fest?

Well, that's it, folks. My unforgettable weekend in San Francisco to see some of the sights and do some of the things I had not ever done before. Not everything is standard tourist fare, but hope this gives visitors a flavor for The City.

Thanks for reading so far! I hope you enjoy your visit to San Francisco as much as I did!
easytraveler is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 11:14 AM
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Wonderful report!
KathrynT is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 12:58 PM
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I really enjoyed both parts of your report. Tried to post to the first one but our SJ friend had gotten it shut down.

For anybody headed to SF, these are fabulous ideas. Click on easytraveler's name to get part one.
Grasshopper is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 04:31 PM
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Kathryn and Grasshopper: Thanks so much for your encouraging remarks!

Well, I did wonder...so the first thread was hijacked once again. Will anyone ever be able to write anything positive about San Francisco any more? Let's hope so!

Folks! San Francisco is a great city. Enjoy it! There's plenty more to do -Fisherman's Wharf, Union Square, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, SOMA with the Metreon, Cliff House and Sutro Baths area, and so much more!

For me, I have yet to get to Alamo Square with its world-famous view. Having helped a bit with a Habitat For Humanity house in Bayview, I'd still like to learn a bit more about the Tenderloin...so much more of San Francisco still to be discovered, so little time!

If this thread gets closed down - I'll know why now! Lo!
easytraveler is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 04:37 PM
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Great report - sorry that I missed Part 1, and it is too bad that one loser can ruin a nice trip report.
grantop is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 04:41 PM
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Hey, easy, is our next get-together at your house then

I don't post often, but enjoy all your mini-travels.
FainaAgain is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 05:03 PM
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grantop: Thanks very much! Part I was closed but it is still accessible.

Faina: Right on! My thoughts exactly!

I've been thinking I should open up my house to all the SF Fodorites - but it's in Silicon Valley, lo! What a twist of fate, huh!

If we make it soon enough, we can still do our own wine and crab fest! The crabs should still be full-bodied and yummy!
easytraveler is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 05:17 PM
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Great! I thought Part 1 had been deleted, glad to know I can still check it out. Thanks again for sharing your weekend.
grantop is offline  
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