Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Leaving my Heart in San Francisco

The loveliness of Paris
Seems somehow sadly gay
The glory that was Rome
Is of another day
I've been terribly alone
And forgotten in Manhattan
I'm going home to my city by the bay.
"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" - Tony Bennett

My plan was to go get breakfast at a place called Mama's near the apartment. I walked over there and found it closed Mondays, so I returned to Mo's because they gave me a good breakfast before. I ordered a Denver omelet and coffee and managed to eat my way through about half of the omelet. The portion was enormous!

After breakfast I wandered back to the apartment to shower and pack my things. Then I walked to Powell street and took the cable car over the hill to Union Square. I walked around Union Square and saw people ice skating. The weather was acting strangely as it was now well into the 60s, unseasonably warm, and my sweatshirt was proving its namesake by making me sweat. I walked to the waterfront and around the piers, snapping some pictures of the Oakland Bay Bridge. Then I walked back to California St and took the cable car to the top of the hill and then switched to the Powell Street line and went back through Chinatown to the apartment.

While I was making sure everything was packed away and I'd taken the garbage out and cleaned up after myself, I was uploading some photos to my Flickr account when Wayne showed up. He had some work to do in the city and so we talked for a bit before I ran out for lunch.

I enjoyed the oysters at Sotto Mare the other day, so I walked back there and got a half dozen pacific oysters from Tamales Bay and a bowl of that excellent clam chowder.

I went back to the apartment and grabbed my things, chatted with Wayne a little bit, and then ran off to catch the Powell Street cable car back to Market Street. I got on the BART and took it to the airport just in time to catch my flight back to Chicago.

I really am in love with San Francisco, it's a fantastic town and I want to return again and again.

"When I come home to you, San Francisco, Your golden sun will shine for me!" - Tony Bennett

Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 5 in San Francisco - Cafe DeLucci, Chinatown, Ghirardelli Square, and Hyde St. Pier

After a good breakfast at Cafe DeLucci, I hiked up to the top of Telegraph Hill to get some photos. The view of downtown San Francisco is obscured by trees! However, there were lots of brightly colored birds flying around in the trees.

After looking around a bit and taking a few photos of Coit Tower, I walked through Chinatown to get some pictures of the markets and strange foods available there. I also wanted to catch the cable car over to Fisherman's Wharf.

The Hyde Street Cable Car runs from Market Street to Fisherman's Wharf. At the end of the cable car run is a pier. On the pier are a number of artifacts from the area on display. I snapped some pictures and walked around a bit. There was one person actually swimming laps at the beach, despite the relatively cold water!

Ghirardelli Square is where Ghirardelli built their first chocolate factory and they still make chocolate fudge for the ice cream shop on the grounds. I took some pictures of the chocolate making equipment and around the square. I managed to hold myself back and didn't buy any chocolate! I did have a great hot fudge sunday, though. It was HUGE and I only managed to eat half of it.

After that I walked back to the apartment and got ready to get on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to Oakland to visit my friends Wayne and Kay.

BART is the fifth busiest heavy rail rapid transit system in America. It's a wide guage system, so the trains are very roomy inside. Most of the cars are carpeted, making them quiet and comfortable. It provides a very smooth and fast way around the San Francisco Bay area. Oakland is a major city on the other side of the bay. Connecting San Francisco to Oakland are the BART and the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The BART goes under the San Francisco Bay for almost 4 miles. At the deepest point, it is 41m below the surface of the bay. The transbay tube was actually built on land and then submerged and anchored to the bottom of the bay. This is rumbly earthquake country, so seismic studies needed to be conducted before putting the tube where it is now.

There have been a few significant earthquakes that have rendered the Bay Bridge unusable, but the transbay tube always reopens within hours. In 1989 there was an earthquake during the World Series, the teams playing were coincidentally Oakland and San Francisco so they were playing in San Francisco. The earthquake caused a portion of the Bay Bridge to collapse forcing people to use BART in record numbers. This was also the first major earthquake to be broadcast live on television, because the World Series is such a big media event.

Enough about BART, I made it to the MacArthur stop in Oakland in about 20 minutes, which is pretty fast. I had a great dinner with Wayne and Kay and Wayne's daughter, son in law, and granddaughter. We had chicken and risotto along with some potatoes and an apple and walnut salad. The food was great, the conversation was really great. The wine was good, too! Kay drove me back into the city across the San Francisco Bay Bridge and the view was amazing.

On Monday I fly back to Chicago at 4:30 in the afternoon. I'll take the BART again to the airport and then say goodbye to San Francisco for now. I am in love with this city and I think I'll be coming back again soon!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day 4 in San Francisco - La Boulange, Streetcar, Twin Peaks, Lunar Perigee, Sotto Mare

On Saturday morning I got breakfast at La Boulange again. I really love this place, it's got a fun atmosphere and the "Fantastic French Toast" is worth returning for again and again! I got a large coffee, which came in a BOWL (literally, it had no handle) and enjoyed my breakfast in the corner.

After that I returned to the apartment and caught my friend Matt on MSN Messenger. We talked about Coit Tower because he'd never been there, but he recommended Twin Peaks for the best view of the city. I hadn't even heard of this before, so I looked it up and charted a course.

I had meant to take the cable car on Powell Street to Market Street, but I ended up walking the entire route without seeing one. Then I waited on Market Street for a streetcar to arrive and it took *forever* ... when one finally showed up, it was packed! I got on and found a seat near the back. This took me to Church Street where I transferred to a bus that climbed the steep hill. Near the top of the hill, I got off the bus and walked the rest of the way. This was difficult because it's a residential neighborhood and you can't cut though the yards. I managed to find my way to a staircase with a sign that indicated which way to go to the summit. By the time I reached the top, I was *exhausted* and realizing how out of shape I am!!

Well I knew the moon was full and it would be rising shortly, but I didn't think I'd arrive this late. So thanks to my poor planning, I was late enough that the sun was going down and I got a special treat. Not only was it the first full moon of the year, but it was at perigee, which means it is closer and "bigger" than any other time of the month. The full moon and the lunar perigee don't always occur on the same night, so this really is a rare and special treat. I shutterbugged for a couple hours freezing my butt off and having a dangerously full bladder, but it was all worth it.

Once the sun was completely down and the moon completely up, I wandered back off the hill and started to look for a way back to the apartment. According to google maps on my phone, there was a train stop nearby, so I walked in the direction the phone told me to go. After stopping for a quick potty break, I discovered the train station and took a number of escalators down into what seemed like the center of the mountain. Here was a subway hidden from sight... rumbling across the San Francisco Peninsula. I hopped on and took it to Powell Street where I was able to catch the Cable Car back to Chinatown and North Beach.

After washing up and looking at my photos on the computer, I went across the street to a restaurant called Sotto Mare. This place was recommended by some folks on Yelp and since it was so close I decided to give it a try. I started off with a half dozen east coast oysters from Beau Soleil. For my main I chose the grilled sand dabs, which is a local flouder-type of fish. I also had a bowl of their "famous" clam chowder was was incredibly delicious. All this was accompanied by their house red, which was Three Thieves Syrah. This was funny to me because I used to work for one of the "Three Thieves" (thief three to be exact) in the 90s!

After dinner I shuffled back to the apartment and drifted off to sleep. The sounds of fog horns in the bay were a soft lullaby that helped me to become... San Franciscan. Now I understand what draws people here, why people ignore the earthquakes and the hills. I can feel why people look past the unpredictable climate and the high cost of living. I know what drives people to spend millions of dollars on what amounts to closet-space in lesser cities. This is San Francisco, and there's no place else like it on earth! I knew before I ever visited that I would love it, but my expectations have all been surpassed. The excitement I used to get listening to Chicago through an open window on a hot summer night hits me full force in San Francisco. The sounds of the city are magical and romantic. A fog horn and a bell in the Bay. People laughing as they leave the bars. The damp breeze from the Pacific made crisp as it floats over the hills... I will always want to come back to this place.