San Francisco Trip
May – 2011
(Click on photo to see large version.) Back
As the songs says…”If you are goin’ to San Francisco you will meet some gentle people there…” Tony and I did meet pleasant, gentle people from the Taxi drivers to the Helicopter pilots.
We departed to Will Rogers at 11:00am arriving in SF at 4:50, slight delay but ready to see SF on a beautiful sunny day. The friendly cabbie gave us tips and highlights to enjoy on our journey into the city by the bay.
Our new home for 11 days was at a hotel by Fisherman’s Wharf, convenient to everything…shops, restaurants, piers and of course cable cars and street cars!!
After a yummy meal at Lou’s of seafood and a window seat view of classic cars parked on the street to gawk at, Tony and I trekked off along wharf and ventured ontoGhirardelli Square and the beach. This was our first good glimpse at the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB, see how many times I use this acronym in my story J). Stunning is the word for me of the GGB especially with a sail boat and a ship cruising underneath it and a glowing sunset. As we snapped shot after shot a cute bicycle rider appeared along the beach walkway. She was decked-out in a pink and black furry outfit with music booming from her bicycle and a bubble machine attached spewing bubbles into the bay air…now this just seems perfectly normal for San Fran. After some more strolling along the wharf we snuggled into bed doing some California Dreamin’.
Monday, May 9th, 2011
Out of bed to a yumo spread of breakfast and walked up our first hills to catch a cable car ride. Tony and I watched the cable car operators turn the car around at the cable car turnaround. We jumped on bought a day ticket and held on as we dangled out the sides of the moving car…now aren’t we the typical tourist! It was fun and kind of scary, especially when another cable car passed us within what seemed like inches. The hills of SF are just breathtaking and lovely with Victorian style homes and buildings. The steepest climb in SF is 31.5degrees incline!!! We literally jumped off at Union Station, I thought I was a “gonner” but those senior citizen aerobic workouts taught me how to avoid twisting an ankle. My exercise leader would be so proud.J
The plaza at the Union Station is just so lovely and perfect for relaxing, shopping, eating, shopping, walking and shopping. All the big name stores literally surround you as you stroll along. Note: recycling bins are provided everywhere in CA. Even bins labeled compose!
We braved the “BART”, SF’s subway system, very clean, efficient and super-fast!!! Berkley was our destination to gander at the incredibly beautiful campus of the University. Ginormous pines greet you as you approach the entrance, as well as all types of flora and fauna. We strolled and trudged up hills and back down to the town to rest at a sidewalk café and soaked up the California sun and watched all the intellectual students and townies bike and walk by.
Tony wanted to hop on the BART to scope out how to get to the Paramount Theater in Oakland for a show we were going to see later in the week (it would be at night on the subway in a city known for its murder rate…Tony didn’t know that, but I did…ugh) We found the classic Paramount Theatre with its art deco design in all its glory!
We stepped back on the BART to venture into GGB Park to see the Japanese Tea Garden. As we entered the serene lovely atmosphere of the oasis our souls were at peace. A gate opened to the sound of a waterfall surrounded by lush greenery and blooming flora and fauna. Nestled inside this lush green was a traditional Japanese tea house serving tea and sushi, etc. Snap, snap, snap and oh wow, oh ahhhh, oh ahhh…around each course of the pathways winding between bridges, pagodas, trees, flowers, Buddha sculptures, ponds with koi fish, birds, blue, blue skies and jaw dropping beauty. After that overload of beauty we rested our puppies in the picturesque park that was the scene of the 1800s exposition. We noshed on vender California style hot dogs, soaking up some more CA sun in a peaceful gorgeous place smack in the heart of the city.
Tony and I jumped onto a classic 1940s style yellow and blue street car for a fun ride by the piers and the San Fran port, then back to our hotel…ahhhhhh nice day in SF.
Tony snoozed and I trekked off to the wharf for some fun sightseeing and shopping. I walked all along the touristy Pier 39 with its shops and views of the bay. Loved watching the seals on the wharf and listening to the sea sounds, toot, toot of the tugs, mine, mine of the gulls, clang, clang of the street cars and the gentle waves rolling in. Snacked on wharf food, sipped some wine, took a long ride up to downtown and then got stuck waiting on the street car and visited with a retired CIA gentlemen at the stop. He lived on Treasure Island…can you imagine getting to say that…I live on Treasure Island in SF bay. To my relief the street car swung by and I got back to the hotel to my own treasure island…my Tony.
Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
Rented a car after a long walk up one of those SF hills!
49 mile tour of San Francisco:
Drove over the GGB (you must pay a toll on the way back)
Muir Trees (you have to lay down to really see the tops of these mammoth trees)
Bay Bridge/Treasure Island view of the city at night
Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
Our excursion by car out of the city:
Hwy 101 beach drive
Half Moon Bay Beach (another favorite place of mine)
Stanford University Art Museum – Rodin Exhibit (bucket list)
Computer History Museum—nerd to the max but really cool!!!
Apple Headquarters @Infinity Circle / Apple Store
Oakland to Napa!
Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Checked in and rested at a sweet hotel in Napa Valley then up early to check out at 4:30am to our adventure in Yountville, CA just north of Napa for one of my bucket list moments…hot air balloon ride! It was dark when we arrived at the lovely winery that would be our base for the launch into the air to view Napa Valley. We were greeted by our hosts and a continental breakfast and a warm cozy fireplace to dine at white linen covered tables. The sun began to rise to reveal our surroundings of a green, lush garden and high style winery with several gardens, ponds, trees and arbores, and patios. It is considered one of the best in the valley.
Tony and I boarded a van to the launch sight at a golf course for lift off! We watched the balloons fill with air as the operators and pilots fill 3 colorful beauties before our eyes. I was doing the happy dance in anticipation of our ride. The basket turned upright from its side and we began to pile in…literally…14 people packed into the basket!!! Quiet…then whoosh…a blast of heat and fuel above our heads, thrilling and crazy right? I’m thinking how will it feel as we lift off the ground…then softly, softly up we glide and float on air…whoosh…float…whoosh…float…the valley spread around us and the sunny crisp air was so fresh up in the sky. The vineyards rows lined the ground and hills, the joy of seeing all those grapevines and thinking about all the gallons of wine was intoxicating!J
After a top altitude of 700feet, we floated down to a soft landing helped by the ground staff with ropes to pull us in the exact spot our pilot wanted to rest the basket. It was a cleared area of vineyard without any vines. Out for a group photo shot, (by the way, the pilot had a remote control camera to take shots of us in the air). Back in the vans to a full breakfast topped off with Mimosa drinks (champagne and orange juice…yummo) Tony and I toasted the pilot and each other of a ride of a lifetime and thrill to see one of our beautiful states in a balloon above the magical valley called Napa.
Our rental car carried us through a 35 mile tour of the vineyards. We stopped at David Mondavi’s Winery, a California styled architecture with sculptures and beautiful roses. All the vineyards were loaded with rose bushes filled with huge blooms. I especially like how they placed a rose bush at the end of each row of grape vines at the front of each vineyard.
We ended our drive at the Mum Winery nestled at the foot of the hills designed to reflect the country style of American architecture, not the red neck look, but the Ralph Loren country look. Absolutely beautiful and again filled with roses, trees, fountains and one of my favorite places the sunny and shady patios with views of the vineyards. The tour covered the full aspects of blending the sparkling wines they specialized in. Tony and I were given samples of three of their sparkling wines (champagnes) that were made there at the winery. We learned all about the processes by walking with a guide through the winery and then ended with an incredible art gallery filled with a unique photography exhibit created by fiber optics.
Tony daily watches and listens to podcasts by techies that broadcast from a small cottage in Petaluma, CA. It is called the TWIT (This Week In Tech) cottage. We drove to Petaluma to visit the cottage. Sarah Lane’s “ipad2 today show” was airing so we couldn’t break in and tour. But, one of the staff told us to walk down the block to the new digs and see how it was being remodeled for the TWIT people to move into this summer. One of the guys inside was so friendly and gave us the full tour of the new place and Tony was a happy little camper dude.
Guess what? Back over the GGB!!
Friday, May 13th, 2011 (yikes Friday the 13th on a vacation day!)
Well this was definitely not an unlucky day it was a great day riding bicycles around SF!!! Tony rode a regular bike and Margee the Senior Citizen Aerobics queen got to ride an electric bicycle…yep…you read this correctly…electric bicycle. Oh my gracious this is the way to go!! Especially on San Fran hills. While everyone huffed and puffed I blazed ahead on my “Blazing Saddles” rented bike.
Marina drive along the beach
Fort at the foot of the GGB
Lunch in GGB park entrance
Ok another bucket list moment…Tony and I riding bikes across the GGB!!! WOW…WOW!!!! The view is just killer…the shear look over the edge is enough but then your eyes land on the shimmer of the sky on the waves at the bay, the hills of SF, the Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, boats below, helicopters above and that is just the first few feet onto the bridge!!! We would ride against the strong wind (of course I really didn’t pedal just buzz on the handle to propel myself alongJ). Tony would stop to photograph then I would stop, and then he would, then I would…geez I got camera carpel tunnel. The sun and the air was so much like I thought northern California would be, and watching Tony ride up ahead was such a sweet moment for me. I know he was bored…NOT!! J
Across the GGB is another entrance park that is filled with more views back toward the city. I was amazed that people surf the waves and windsurf in that rough cold 56 degree bay water.
We biked down to Sausalito…I mean down…down…down…I almost wiped out on that hill. Now this is a picturesque city with a European style and really, really wealthy people and celebrity homes.
Onto the Blue and Gold Ferry, our bikes were stacked leaning against about 200 other bikes on the boat! We crossed the bay by Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf then biked along the piers toward the Bay Bridge.
Rested at Port of San Francisco with a great view of Bay Bridge and enjoyed delicious treats and coffee. Headed back to the Ghirardelli Square and we sat by the beach watched the waves, the people and a sunset on a perfect day filled with the luck of knowing we actually rode that far around SF Bay…we boomers rock!
Saturday, May 14th, 2011
Beautiful sunny day again!!! Off to Coit Tower, Lombard Street (crookedest street in America), China Town, back to Fisherman’s Wharf to a Sushi Bar to people watch. We sipped, then guzzled Japanese beer…who knew…I am now a fan of Japanese beer. The restaurant was inside a section of the Cannery on the wharf. It had lovely gardens and sidewalk cafes and someone actually got married as we sipped our beverage!
Sunday, May 15th, 2011
Up early to watch 100,000 people run, walk and jog in the 100th Anniversary “Bay to Breakers Race”. Californians know how to jog for sure…costumed or not…completely nude not even shoes!!! I now know what a rainbow of diversity can mean in CA. To begin this journey we entered the park through the lovely Rose Garden on a chilly cloudy morning, and then the heavens showered us with rain. My favorite moment was when a girl jogged by wearing a replica of Princess Eugenia’s hat (the one that looks like a squid) from the Royal Wedding…oh my gosh that was the funniest and clever thing to see, and part of the many clever costumes we observed. We just chilled and watched the parade of happy party people, of all ages. The sun broke out and warmed up the “bare joggers” and my cold fingers.
After that adventure we needed a long nap to prepare for our evening of fun at the Chelsea Handler show in Oakland at the Paramount Theater.
The theater is just a gem of deco art and design. Lush carpets, golden painted Oscar like sculptures, and comfy seats provided the backdrop to a really hysterical fun time. Three warm-up comedians performed. I totally laughed my fanny off at the impersonation of Celine Dion by one of the female comics! Then Chelsea trotted on in casual attire and that just out of bed hair that drives me crazy! I really think she is so pretty when she combs her hair!J But, her “No Lies” act is really funny and full of observations of life that we have all thought about and got to hear her actually say them out loud…diversity is her middle name. She tells no lies…no lying!
Well like an idiot I sat my wallet down on the bar in the lobby as we were leaving, I needed to bundled up in my jacket and stylish scarf and arrrrrggghhh…I forgot to pick up my wallet, (I had a sleepless night thinking of my wallet in the hands of a thief racking up huge bills on my credit cards and no ID to get back to sweet home OK), lucky for me we got a call two days later that the lost and found had it at the theater. There is a vacation god!
Monday, May 15th, 2011
Alcatraz Tour by Red and White Ferry Line:
Island of the Pelicans = Alcatraz Island. We walked around the east side of island to see beautiful views of the bay and the island gardens.
Inside in the shower rooms we received audio tour equipment and trust me this is one of the best presented tours I have been on, so much like you were back in time experiencing life in Cell block A, B, C and D of Alcatraz. (Side note: I remember the Ellis Island tour is done the same way in NYC) Thanks National Parks of America!!!
We could step inside the tiny cells and peer out the bars to get the feel of living in at 8ft by 5ft space. Creepy. Really creepy when we could also step into the isolation cells. Some cells were “decorated” with the items the prisoners would have been able to have on one small shelf.
I was intrigued by the library area that most of the literate inmates visited. Statistically they would read more books and more classics that the average person on the outside, some even obtained their degrees.
The audio was by a former guard that worked on The Rock before it was closed. His script of little details about daily life and each section of the prison was very entertaining. They staged the story of the worst prison riot with sound effects and visual displays…again just a creepy, sad place but very interesting. We also learned that prison guard families lived on The Rock with their children who were ferried to school each day to SF, sometimes with new inmates on board!!
Before we could leave Alcatraz after boarding the ferry, emergency boats and 3 helicopters that hovered in the air above the island were ready to help two women that had neck injuries on the tour! The fireman from the fireboat brought them onboard our ferry. The fireboat escorted us back to the wharf.
It was pouring rain as we left The Rock. So it was perfect timing to dance right into the Hard Rock Café for dinner. We have enjoyed these restaurants all around the world and states and it is always a rockin’ good experience. You can enjoy a good burger and good music videos blaring rock songs surrounded by rock music legend’s memorabilia; Janis Joplin, Jimmi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Stones and Bejonce’ graced the walls like a shrine.
We then braved a wild wet cruise around The Rock and under the GGB for a view that was not like any that we had seen up until then. We stepped on the outside deck of the boat to peer up at the deep-orange bridge structure looming overhead. The salt water splattered our faces and the wind whipped us mercilessly like little ants. How did they build that structure in this unforgiving bay?
Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
OK one more bucket list moment…. a helicopter ride over San Francisco!
We boarded our shiny red helicopter on a chilly windy misty day thinking no way will we have any visibility, but to our delight when you are above the fog and below the clouds you can see a lot!
We gently lifted up from the Coast Guard area of the San Fran airport accompanied by another couple from England. Here are the highlights:
Over South San Francisco
Over the downtown city area/financial area/sky rise buildings
Over 2 ball parks
Various beautiful neighborhoods
GGB under and then back under!!!!!!!!! Thrilling ride!
(Gazed over the view of a 65 million dollar home perched on top of Angel Island.)
Over SF again
Perfect landing at coast guard area of the SF airport.
We were in a “total rush” from that ride and asked the van driver to drop us off at Union Station to get our feet back on the ground again and to enjoy a yummy lunch at the Marketplace at the port of San Fran. I love this place, filled with upper crust restaurants and shops that have exotic items like every type of mushroom known to man. Wine bars, dessert bars, sandwich bars, tea rooms, fresh food markets and a farmer’s market outside on the pier!
Street car back to Pier 39, Tony off to nap, Margee off to shop! As I strolled along the wharf I stopped in the different shops to see the wares. Then it began to sprinkle so I popped into the Maritime Museum, a free lesson about San Francisco and the Bay. I love model ships and the displays were stunning. There was a partial bow of a wrecked ship to view, left completely intact as a wreck along with photos of the famous shipwrecks around the Bay. A large lighthouse light in it shiny glory was also on display.
Back onto the wharf to my favorite spot, the Ghirardelli Square park! Not just because you could smell chocolate and yummy things it is such a beautiful peaceful view of the GGB and beach. (But gimme the chocolate) So of course my female duty is to sample as much chocolate as possible and then have the time to decide on what flavors to buy…oh my gosh…those chocolate stores are a dream. Huge cellophane wrapped squares of every flavor of chocolate tied in a satin bow are piled in the center of the stores to entice you. Beautiful people with crisp aprons ask you…”Would you like to sample a square of caramel filled milk chocolate”…duh? I decided to try the chocolate ice cream too in a huge waffle cone dipped in…you guessed it …chocolate. Wow sugar overload, but a happy girl was I. After enjoying the beautiful Ghirardelli Square patio area, I stepped into the tasting room of a lovely wine store with hill views of the beach and of course the GGB. Ahhh…perfect.
(By the way there are 3 chocolate stores each with those beautiful people in crisp aprons asking you if you want a sample.) J
Down the huge hill to the beach again, I just can’t get away from that spot. Believe it or not there were three red capped swimmers doing laps in the frigid cold Bay water!
Meandered along the wharf some more and stopped into the place Tony and I had eaten the first day of our trip, Lou’s, I love the seafood. It was a fun place with a great bar upstairs with a Blues band playing. I couldn’t resist and sat down to enjoy the music and the wine, David Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon goes very well with the Blues. And it brought back recent memories of our tour of the Napa Valley.
Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
A Happy Birthday call to my mom at 95 years young! She was born on May 18th, 1916!!!
Our last vacation day in San Francisco was greeted by blue and sunny California skies.
Tony grabbed a couple of tickets for us from the Hop-On Hop-Off tour bus vendor. Looking the tourist part we climbed up the stairs of the huge red bus to sit in an open-air top! Cameras in tow, souvenir ball caps on our heads, backpacks on our back. Actually this is a very cool way to see the city. It was so “British” feeling and the city is so European looking anyway. I hope these natives know what they have to enjoy each day!!
We hopped off at the famous Haight/ Ashbury district loaded with Victorian homes and buildings and wacky shops and restaurants. I could just imagine the hippies and peace, love and understanding, because it is still like that…I saw people that could be leftover from that era of the 60s and sadly young people trying to find it as homeless wanderers. I found a wonderful art shop and bought some art supplies, posters and art cards for my studio! The murals were the best along the shop fronts, sides and alley ways.
Hopped on the bus and of course we rode across the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE (GGB) one more time and then back over it to the wharf to step onto the streets to visit the Wax Museum (Tony visited this when he was a kid with his family). I did not realize that a wax museum is fun to visit and some of those figures are creep real looking! The Donald and Barrack and Johnnie Depp greeted us first.
Tony and I will never forget our great experience in San Francisco— a city that has a big heart…and ours!
Love to all, Margee and Tony Gaeddert
PS-I counted 16 GGBs!J