A Little Riesling in San Francisco

Trip Start Jun 22, 2010
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, November 13, 2010

I have wanted to go to San Francisco for years. Since Mike and I got married we knew at some point we would live in Monterey, so we decided to wait. Since moving within two hours from the City on the Bay, our plans to visit have gotten delayed for one reason or another. Finally, Mike and I had booked a room on his long Veterans Day Weekend. There was just one wrinkle.  A week earlier an unexpected ten week old puppy had found his way into our lives.  A miniature version of our older dog had been brought to the winery where I work. He has been tossed from a car at an intersection and rescued by one of our wine club members.  We were not looking to get another dog, but I could not resist taking the little guy home.  In honor of his winery roots, we named him Riesling with the nickname Ries (pronounced Reese).  We were boarding Harley, but Ries was too young and all of our friends had weekend get-away plans too. I called the hotel and confirmed they were dog-friendly. However, Mike and I wondered if we were crazy to attempt to take a non-housebroken puppy to a hotel and to our romantic weekend. I didn't want to postpone our trip yet again and with the weather report predicting sunny skies and temperatures in the seventies, we decided to take our chances.

After settling into our hotel in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, we crossed our fingers as we put Ries in his crate and left the room.  We were hoping that he would nap while went to get lunch. Unfortunately and of no surprise, he did not like being left in a strange room, and we could hear his cries as we walked down the hotel halls. "This is not going to work," Mike declared and went back to reclaim the pup. Reception informed us that a nice park was about a half a mile away. Another wrinkle, Ries hadn’t learned to walk on a leash yet.  In addition, his tiny six pound frame was threatened with the heavy sidewalk traffic.  Mike scooped him up and we walked to up to Washington Park in the North Beach district. The park was a little farther than we anticipated and I was surprised that Mike did not complain about going so far from the hotel.  The park consisted of a square block and we were pleased to see several dogs running off leash. Fearless, Ries ran up to unfamiliar big dogs wanting to play.  He was so enthralled with the park that he could not be bothered to pee. My husband’s impatience finally revealed itself about the same time that Ries finally relieved himself.

“Let’s go to Rogue Ales,” Mike suggested. And I realized that he had no problem carrying the dog uphill to a park that was around the corner from a brewery I knew he hoped to visit. Luckily they had an outdoor patio that was dog-friendly as well as food since it was well past lunch. Mike sampled several beers and I munched on a sandwich. My husband had been wise and threw a dog toy in his pocket. The teething puppy chewed on that so everyone was content relaxing in the sun. Yet, we knew the puppy was going to limit our options and we were both a little worried about how the weekend would unfold. We had already bought tickets to Alcatraz and knew we could not take him with us.

 We arrived back at the hotel just in time for their complementary wine hour.  The lobby was packed with tourists, many foreign. Mike and I walked up to the wine line and noticed they were pouring Two Buck Chuck. Mike looked at me and laughed at the disgust on my face, “You brought wine right?” he asked. Of course I did. We headed to the room while I continued to shake my head.  “Welcome to Northern California, a world renowned wine region. I know you are from Europe so let’s impress you with some great California wine.  Shameful. ”

The rest of the evening passed by uneventfully. We took two long walks with Ries around Fisherman’s wharf.  Well, we walked.  Despite being carried most of the day, the little guy was exhausted and he slept peacefully and quietly in the hotel.  We got up early the next morning and took him back to the park and then with us for breakfast.  We wanted to try to wear him out before abandoning him in the hotel room.  We then moved his crate into the bathroom, covered it with a blanket, turned on the fan and then a sleep machine with frog noises.  Again, we crossed our fingers and exited the room, putting the do not disturb sign on the door.  We hung out in the hall for a few minutes, and could not hear any cries.  I would not say we were convinced but we headed out anyway.

The ferry ride out to Alcatrez was wonderful and I was again thankful that we were not experiencing typical San Fran weather. Alcatrez Island was in fact smaller than we imagined and was a bit prettier than I pictured. I loved the way the round hilly island jetted out of the water. The tour was interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to explore some of the prison cells.  The views of San Francisco from the island were also incredible and I seized the opportunity to take more photos as well as soak in some rays.

We returned to the city having been gone almost four hours. We briskly walked back to the hotel crossing our fingers. Luckily only silence greeted us as we headed down our hallway and no nasty note waited for us.  We grabbed the pup and began climbing uphill to China Town (via a detour to the park of course).  We entered what I will call the more legitimate area of China Town. The sidewalks were crammed with people of all Asian ethnicities and grocery stores full of interesting items lined the streets. It was obvious when we entered the tourist district as the hustle and bustle was replaced with tourists leisurely window shopping for clothes, handbags, and souvenirs. The number of Chinese decorations increased yet the authentic feeling of these streets decreased. Finding a dog friendly restaurant in China Town proved to be a bit difficult and there was nothing to be found in the more authentic blocks. However, we finally found a place on the main drag that allowed us to bring Ries up onto their narrow second floor balcony. The food was still very good and we stuffed our faces as it was much closer to dinner than lunch.  I was grateful for the long walk back to the hotel as I needed to work of some of the meal.  The temperature was dropping as the sun was sitting low in the sky. Ries began to shiver, so Mike placed him inside his jacket with his little head peeking out.  At that moment, I realized how much Mike loved that little guy and was reminded of how much I loved my husband.

Another glorious day greeted us on Saturday. After another trip to the park and yummy breakfast, we ventured to Ghirardelli Square where I had read about wine tasting. I walked into Cellar 360 and was disappointed to see mass-produced broad market wines. Mike told me he saw another tasting room. We entered Wattle Creek Winery, and I was delighted to discover this was a small winery based in Sonoma. Mike and Ries settled in on the patio. I visited the bar and brought the tasting notes and wine out to the patio. We loved several of the wines, but settled on the 2008 Shiraz as we did not want to carry a lot.  Next we found a dog-friendly sports bar in the North Park district so we could watch the Ohio State vs. Penn State game. Luckily we found a spot at the bar, before the bar was inundated by Oregon fans.  Apparently this bar was a pick-up spot for a bus to the Stanford game. By the half time, the bar scene was out of control and Ries and I were a little antsy.  Mike decided to take the pup back to the hotel room to watch the second half of the game. I really wanted to ride the Cable cars, so took the dog break as a good opportunity.

I consulted the map and decided my best option was to meander over Lombard Street, one of the Most Crookedest Streets in America. It was very crooked, but kind of cheesy.   I could not help but sympathize with the homeowners as throngs of tourists were driving and walking this one block residential stretch of road. A cable car stop was at the top of the street and I loved that being alone meant that it was easier to find a spot on the side than if I was with a group. I rode a few of the cable car routes feeling like a total dork, but also grinning from ear to ear. It was a quintessential San Francisco experience that I didn’t want to miss

After my rides and the conclusion of Mike’s game, we planned to meet at Coit Tower. As we came up different routes it took us a little while to find each other. Thankfully we did with time to grab a spot and watch the sun set.  The heating lamps and warmer than average temperatures allowed us to enjoy delicious meal on VIccoletto’s patio.  Ries napped peacefully under the table while we eat Lobster Ravioli and drank a bottle of Montepulciano savoring every minute of the romantic and relaxing dinner.

I’ll admit it was not exactly the same trip that Mike and I had envisioned when we made our reservations. San Francisco is very dog-friendly, but we did not get to see everything we wanted or always eat at our first choice restaurant. However, we got to see a different side of San Francisco. We walked a lot of the streets and talked to a lot of the locals. Granted they were more interested in the puppy than us, but it was a wonderful experience nonetheless. And we still got to put a lot of checks in the box. I got to see Alcatraz, eat in China Town, and ride in a Cable car. But most importantly as I watched Mike carry Ries all over the city, I learned that my husband is going to be an amazing dad.


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