San Francisco

Trip Start Jan 01, 2012
Trip End Jan 18, 2012

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, January 6, 2012

It’s been a few days since my last entry and we’ve seen a lot of amazing places in the past three days:

Point Lobos Nature Preserve. After watching the sunrise off the coast of Pacific Grove, we took a short drive to this small state park positioned on a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. We arrived shortly after daybreak so we pretty much had the park to ourselves. On our way through the forest winding out to the Point we encountered some deer grazing in a small meadow. On the Point itself the cold Pacific water crashed in frothy white spray on the cliffs. There was a group of sea lions sunning and barking on a rock outcropping just off the shore.

Monterey Bay Aquarium. This was an incredible aquarium with huge tanks full of local fish and other marine life—sea lions, sharks, sea turtles. They pipe water in directly from the ocean. As spectacular as the aquarium was it pales in comparison to the real thing. It would be great to get a chance to come back and go diving on the Pacific Coast.

Final Stretch of Coastal Highway. We headed north from Monterey toward San Francisco for our final stretch on the Highway 1. It wound along the coast for a time and then cut inland through the Salinas Valley. This valley is the setting for most of East of Eden, and Steinbeck’s descriptions of the rugged hills and green irrigated valley were reflected in the landscape around us.

Arriving San Francisco. We got in late Thursday night and met up with an old high school friend and her husband for dinner. I hadn’t seen Bethanie in quite a few years and it was an incredible coincidence that her and Matthew had arrived in San Francisco the same day as us, also after a cross-country journey, theirs beginning in Atlanta.

Biking the Bridge. Matthew recommended we check out Sausalito, a small seaside town right across the Golden Gate Bridge. So the next morning we rented bikes near Crissy Field and biked over the Bridge. We started out in the early morning, gray fog banks obscuring the bridge and peninsula on the other side. When we reached the middle of the bridge we looked back and saw downtown in the distance, also rendered hazy by the low-lying clouds. A couple from Beijing asked us to take their picture at the top of the bridge and were pretty surprised when I responded in Chinese.

Sausalito. After the steep climb up to the Bridge it was a relief to find the route down the other side into Sausalito was entirely downhill. We coasted into the quaint little town around half past ten and things were pretty quiet. I imagine most of the residents had already headed into the city for work, and we seemed to be the only tourists around. It’s amazing such a quiet and bustle-free community is so close to San Francisco just across the bay.

Mid-Morning Ferry. We caught the ferry back to the city, stashing our bikes on the lower deck and clambering up to the top deck for panoramic views of the bay and surrounding peninsulas and islands. We passed right by Alcatraz Island and could see the prison and surrounding buildings perched in the center. As we neared San Francisco the fog began to burn off and the sunshine lit up the hills, wharves and downtown skyscrapers. After we disembarked at Embarcadero we biked back along the north edge of the peninsula. We stopped briefly at Fisherman’s Wharf to see the sea lions sunning themselves. Great to see them up close—the sea lions at Point Lobos had been so far from shore that they were hard to make out sans binoculars.

Exploring the City. I dragged my Dad to a dimsum place in Chinatown, hoping I could bring him around to the joys of Cantonese cuisine. In retrospect maybe I should have not ordered “Phoenix Claws” (aka chicken feet), but the damage was done, and we ended up heading a few blocks over to Golden Boy Pizza. The Little Italy section of town was right next door to Chinatown, just like in Manhattan, is it like this in all American cities? Regardless, it was convenient for our purposes—my Dad enjoyed his beer and pizza, but unfortunately I couldn’t join him as I had just finished dimsum for two all on my own.  We took a circuitious route back to our hotel, through Russian Hill and Nob Hill and finally back to Union Square. A few trolleys passed us on the way, laboring up the steep hillsides.

We just finished a day of hiking and driving around Yosemite and I am dog tired, so more to come about today’s adventures in my next entry. I’ll leave you with one last thought, my overall impression of Northern California—it is the most beautiful place in America, at least that I have seen so far, and possibly the most beautiful place in the world.
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