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July 27, 2005

Where little cable cars.....Climb halfway to the stars....

So then, after a whopping four hours of sleep, we got up for our first day in beautiful San Francisco. And the Fourth of July at that.

After discussing where the BART station might be (so we wouldn't have to drive our car into SF on a holiday!), we rapidly decided that if we EVER owned a hotel we would make our employees take a class in "where stuff is that tourists might want to see and how to get there." Let's just say the guy was not very knowledgeable.

We found our own way to BART and took the subway/train into San Francisco, with exactly NO other people on the train with us. Apparently everyone with any sense is actually SLEEPING IN on the 4th of July.

Not us! We made it into downtown, but then had to walk about a zillion miles (remember--we're from Texas--we drive to the end of the block!) down to the place where Blue and Gold starts the bus tours. Due to factors beyond our control, and some that were in our control--like driving in the pitch dark for 5 hours through a wilderness--we missed our tour! And I'm thinking, "I could be sleeping right now!!!!" No refunds, and we even gave them the sad tourist faces and our song and dance story. I don't blame them. I'm sure they hear the same story every single day.

Being the good ex-accountant I am, though, we started looking at other options for tours. I mean sunk costs are sunk costs and shouldn't be part of your next decision. They can't be helped. So, we ended up at the Grayline tour desk a block or so down from Blue and Gold. Sent PapaC in to see what they did. He told them the sad story, and was prepared to buy 3 new tickets for their tour.

Then a wonderful thing happened. They are a subcontractor for Blue and Gold and do work with them. "We'll take your tickets! You'll still lose a little, 'cause our tour is a little shorter and $10 cheaper, but we'll argue with them about reimbursement. Not only that, but if you'll hurry, we'll hold the bus that's just about to leave for you."

Now that was nice. I've written a very complimentary letter to the company, thanking them for their exceptional treatment of 3 tired Texans that busy, busy day.

So, we spent the morning getting the three hour tour (yes, you can hum the theme of Gilligan's Island if you want) of San Francisco. It seemed appropriate, since we had so little time there, to spend some of it seeing what we might want to see more of the next day. And the guide was good and funny. Thoroughly enjoyable, even if totally touristy. Saw all the major sights, even if quickly: Golden Gate Bridge, Nob Hill, Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf (where we started out), the Presidio, Chinatown, Japantown, etc, etc, etc.

After that, we ate lunch (yum!) at the Franciscan on Fisherman's Wharf, watching the birds, boats and folks out of the big windows.

Then we did the next totally touristy thing. We took the boat out to Alcatraz. It was great. I am a total nerd junky for audio tours of stuff. And Alcatraz has a great one, with voices of guards, prisoners, sound effects, etc. Award winning it said. But who gives awards for audio tours???? And is there a red carpet ceremony somewhere? It makes me laugh to think.

Anyway, all three of us were fascinated by the whole thing. And for me, who'd rather be hot than cold any old day, it was eye-opening to think how cold and dank the cells were. And they were nasty tiny, too. From there, back to shore for supper.

Walked up to the Italian section of town to get Italian food for supper. Ate at some really garlicky tourist trap restaurant. I had 40 clove chicken, which was OK, and garlic mashed potatoes, which were EXCELLENT. I'm such a one for mashed potatoes. The guys had vegetarian lasagna of some sort. They said it was just OK. Walked off the pasta by going BACK down to the Wharf for the next adventure.

Then that night, we went on a boat out on the Bay to watch fireworks. It was awesomely great--they do them double, so it's like fireworks in stereo! Plus we went out early enough that we saw fireworks from surrounding towns as well. The only problem? I was freezing!!! With jeans, socks and tennies, long sleeved shirt and jacket on! We knew about the weather, but dang! It was cold on that water.

Made our way back to the hotel and dropped in to bed and slept like there was no waking. But there was!

Day Two was spent just walking, walking, walking. Looking at amazing things. Chinatown was Zack's favorite. He was astounded with a place that you could live and never have to speak English. We got off the main drag some and spent a lot of time googling at dead chickens and ducks in store windows, live fish swimming in giant tanks until their number was up, dried mushrooms and stuff in baskets, and getting out of the way of little old Chinese ladies who were spitting on the sidewalks. It was GREAT! We ate at a random restaurant there for lunch. Good food. Can't remember the name.

Rode the cable cars, of course. Went to the cathedral, pretty new, too modern for my tastes, but not as bad as it looked from the outside. And why, oh why, did they make the inside of the ceiling look like Star Wars fighter plane wings? Just because they could?

Went to St. Dominic's--because a priest friend of ours asked us to. And because Dominic is Zteen's confirmation name. Met some nice Dominicans. Saw a sacristy that made me drool. Cool flying butresses that were added after the '89 earthquake.

Walked through Japantown and marvelled at the plastic food in the restaurant windows. You don't have to know how to read, just point! And the kid meals were a scream. Who knew you could make noodles look like an airplane? Looked at the bonsai in one of the shops. Amazing. And I could kill it in 5 minutes if I took it home. Needless to say, we didn't take it home!

Window shopped in Union Square, laughing at some of the high dollar clothes, and lusting after some of the high dollar jewelry. Ah, well, I don't have the life style for it anyway!

To Ghiradelli Square for chocolates to ship home to my parents and some friends. Ambled back to the touristy part of the wharf, so Zteen could buy his San Francisco hat (he has a baseball hat collection) and to eat seafood one more time.

GREAT time. Loved the city. One of the best places we've been!

Posted by MamaT at July 27, 2005 8:35 AM


My brother lives in the Bay Area and I always pack heavy sweatshirts when I visit. Remember Mark Twain who said "The coldest winter of my life was the summer I spent in San Francisco."
I've never done the touristy thing out there - he always takes me off the beaten path. I'm glad you had tons of fun! I too have gotten on some strange roads outside Yosemite in that area and it is really scary and interesting. Enjoyed the story - thanks for sharing!

Posted by: rosie at July 27, 2005 9:56 AM

Sounds like you had a great time. It inspires me to take the trip out to Alcatraz. I haven't been since I was about seven or so, and Melanie has never been.

I am really glad that you saw St. Dominic's, which is one of my favorite churches in the city (along with the National Shrine of St. Francis, which is about half a block from the Stinking Rose, where you ate dinner. Don't know if you peeked in there or not).

As for the Cathedral, I think it predated Mr. Lucas' film. Since he is a local, it is entirely possible that he stole from the Cathedral. There is a persistant (and undocumented) rumor that he based the snow walkers on the container ship cranes in Oakland.

Posted by: Erik Keilholtz at July 27, 2005 10:42 AM

One of my favorite touristy place in SF is the Ghiradelli place. WHen my dh and I were courting, and in our first year of marriage, it was our cheap but fun place to go hang out. We haven't been to San Francisco for years now...
Too bad that you didn't get a chance to meet up with Erik and the lovely Melanie and vivacious Amalia. They really are great company.

Posted by: alicia at July 27, 2005 7:40 PM

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