“San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel.” – William Saroyan
Continuing with our summer road trip travels… (July 26, 2009)
With only one day in San Francisco this go round, we decided to hit the highlights on our way to wine country. Besides me, it was everyone’s first time there. Grabbing a tasty breakfast in San Jose, we finished the driving into the city. As we descended around a bend, into the downtown area, we were greeted with a fantastic view of the city. I immediately noticed how tightly built everything was in comparison to San Diego and Los Angeles. San Francisco is a culturally unique city, with their colorful houses, easily walkable neighborhoods, and cable cars.
We spent some time down at Fisherman’s Wharf. On the way, there was a homeless man, hiding behind a couple bushy branches on the side of the boardwalk. I thought it was strange and then noticed as unsuspecting tourists walked by, he would jump out, scaring the bejesus out of them! Not surprising, because if you are strolling from the opposite side…all you see at first is a bush. Amused, I watched for a bit, cracking up. I don’t know why it is so funny to see people get startled like that, especially considering how much I hate it when I’m startled. The bystanders and “victims” were all amused in hindsight, so it was good fun; and I must admit a unique way to panhandle.
After fighting through the crowds to get across the boardwalk, snapping a couple pictures of Alcatraz in the distance, and watching the community of seals living on Pier 39 of the Wharf, we jumped back in the car to head to Golden Gate Park.
On the way, the kids wanted to drive down “America’s Crookedest Street,” so we headed to Lombard Street. Getting to the top of Lombard was a mini-adventure in itself. Cruising up and down the majorly inclined streets that San Francisco is known for, we ended up on one so steep it should definitely not have a stop sign at the top! Here I am, parked at what felt like a 95 degree incline praying my brakes don’t fail, thus plummeting me backwards through the San Francisco streets. There was a chain of cars, so we waited for ages. Everytime I had to remove my foot from the brake, it was a game to see how fast I could hit the gas, again to avoid slipping backwards into the car behind me. Kiyah was clutching the seat incase she “flew out the back window.” To say the least… I hated that hill. Finally we reached the top and made the winding drive down Lombard and proceed through Ghiradelli Square and on to the Golden Gate Bridge.
As we were driving over the famous bridge, I noticed this ominous fog descending over the city. It was so thick you couldn’t even see across the harbor anymore. The odd thing is it was only settled over the bridge and the Financial District. It was quite strange and added a major chill to the air. I wish I had a good picture of it.
Onto the Golden Gate Park, San Francisco’s answer to Central Park in New York City (it’s actually bigger than Central Park). This gigantic, lush, urban park is a pleasant little getaway on the edge of the city… facing the ocean on the west side. There are all kinds of attractions in this park; we stopped at the windmill where the kids raced around the tulip garden, we snapped a couple pictures of a buffalo, and wandered to the beach.
By now, it was time for lunch, so we stopped at the Beach Chalet across from the ocean. They have this adorable backyard seating area on the grass. It’s a perfect Sunday brunch spot, complete with wooden lounge chairs, a live band, and the lush trees of the park behind. After enjoying our meal, while sitting across from a young group of heavily intoxicated 20-somethings, we took a spin through the park, passed through the notorious Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. (the hub of the 1960’s “Summer of Love”) at my mom’s request and it was about time to leave. We wanted to get to our time-share in Sonoma Valley wine country by early evening.
San Francisco is a great city. I need to make a point of heading up more often.