Fruit, Flowers and Fish...

Trip Start Aug 24, 2012
Trip End Sep 19, 2012

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's number five on the 'Stuff White People Like' list ( But actually, I think that it's something everybody should like. Shane may be happy to disagree with me here, yet he was relatively complaint free as we shivered our way down Market Street towards the Embarcadero this morning. Unfortunately, San Fran's usual delightful fog returned today after a brief vacation yesterday which had Shane and me thinking that we might actually see some proper summer over the next few days.

We were both hungry, because I'd promised Shane something delicious at the end of our walk. The number 5 stuff white people like destination. The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market.

After our less than whelming experience with the world famous Pike Place Markets in Seattle last trip, I'm sure Shane had some very low expectations. What we discovered though was that these markets actually have a proper market feel, unlike Seattle. In San Fran, the stalls are set up outdoors (which to be fair would never work in Seattle the drizzle capital). The stalls all had clever names like 'Dirty Girl Produce' hand painted on salvaged pieces of floorboards. Every stand had free samples to taste - from dozens of varieties of nectarines to grapes, tomatoes, jams and preserves, cheeses and of course strawberries almost the size of Shane's head.

There were collared greens I'd never even heard of before, flowers in every colour imaginable to brighten up the dreary morning. But what blew my mind most was the PURPLE capsicum! I know, now I am sounding completely insane, but purple capsicum isn't something you see every day.

Shane was unusually quiet, and when I questioned him, he informed me that he was keeping himself entertained by playing a game of 'Hippie or Hobo'. In San Francisco, this can be quite a challenge.

Inside the Plaza itself the permanent stall holders spruik their wares, and it was here that I discovered another love - a gluten free breakfast bagel, loaded with smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and thinly sliced onion. The bagel itself was so good, and tasted so much like real bread that I went back for a cinnamon bun, which I stashed away in my bag for indulging in later in the day.

Back on the Embarcadero, we wandered in the direction of Pier 39, home of the Sea Lions and full of tacky overpriced souvenir shops. The wind along the bay was icy, but it wasn't blowing off the fog, which hung low over the city, so heavy that occasionally it would spit at us, and we'd start cursing that we had no waterproof clothing with us.

Up in the distance, Coit Tower loomed tauntingly. I was as desperate as yesterday to climb it. As we approached a cross street that pointed directly towards the tower I almost jumped for joy. Until we looked along it, to be greeted with a sheer, craggy cliff.

'Oh well, we could still climb that,' I ventured. Shane fixed me with a disapproving glare. Apparently I wasn't being funny. Well, I was only half joking.

In the end Shane's common sense won out - no point in going all the way up there when the fog was obscuring most of the view.

So instead of going up, we went down.

Today Huggtopus, keeper of the lucky quarter, accompanied us, and it seemed only fair that we go and visit some of his relatives. You see, Pier 39 is also home to the Aquarium of the Bay.

While small, the aquarium has some interesting exhibits, and is very informative on the environmental state of the bay area, and the programs that are in place to restore and preserve its marine life.

I found myself fascinated by the cylinder full of anchovies, schooling together until they resembled a silvery flag fluttering in a strong breeze. On closer inspection, I was horrified - it seemed that one of the fish had a dislocated jaw - its mouth was agape and seemed disconnected from its body. Shane calmed me - apparently that's just how they look with their mouths open... And he was right; soon I could see many of them swimming in this manner.

Under the bay, the jellyfish exhibits attracted our attention. Shane still can't bring himself to believe that jellyfish are actually living creatures. I wondered aloud if PETQuarters might be able to procure me a pet jellyfish. Shane rolled his eyes at the thought. Clearly no sense of humour.

At last it was Huggtopus' turn for a family reunion. I must admit, he certainly got the good looks in the family... There is no way I would even consider hugging the tentacular beast that lurked in a tank separate from the other fish. A naturalist wandering the underwater caverns explained that there was another octopus in the main tank, nicknamed 'the Ninja Assassin'. He is never seen during the day, but at night would appear like a wraith to attack and kill unsuspecting fish.

By midday we were on a tram heading towards the Mission district, where Shane had booked some appointments at pet stores, and I had booked our lunch. Well, not booked, but I knew exactly where I was going.

Ike's Place won best eatery in San Francisco in 2010 for its incredible sandwiches with Ike's patented 'dirty sauce'. It was clear to Shane and I by the line that was out the door even at 3pm that locals and tourists alike still think it worthy of that title. We, of course, know of the place from a favourite gluttonous adventure on Man vs Food. With over half an hour wait to even place our order, with Shane making gnawing sounds in my ear to remind me how hungry he was, I crossed my fingers that this would be the greatest sandwich in history.

And it was about as close as I think humanity can get to sandwich heaven... My salmon, grilled mushroom and Havarti cheese with avocado, lettuce, tomato and of course, dirty sauce was wrapped up in a gluten free roll by none other than Mariposa - the same bakery who'd made my breakfast bagel, and whose cinnamon bun was still wrapped up in my backpack! Shane delighted in his 'Menage a Troi' sandwich - thankfully, because he'd changed his mind more than eight times while we'd waited in line.

We took our sandwiches to Dolores Park, whose existence we'd overheard in another woman's conversation in the lunch line. The park was indeed popular - most of the grassy space was occupied by laughing groups, mostly young people, and mostly smoking spliffs of medicinal marijuana. I even spotted one young man pulling on a bong. What a foreign concept, to openly smoke pot in a public park, with families and youngsters playing in the best park playground I have ever seen only metres away? And yet everyone was happy, friendly and easygoing. Except two dogs who reminded Shane and I of our own fur babies, royal rumbling on the slopes overlooking a finally clear view back towards the city centre.

We were only a few blocks from the Castro, so we wandered in that direction to call in at Best In Show, the pet boutique that last visit had inspired Shane to open PETQuarters. The owner was tickled pink and promised to catch up with us in Vegas at Superzoo.

Further along Castro Street we stumbled upon a young entrepreneur, selling homemade cookies, cupcakes and lemonade. Shane admired her drive, and ordered a 'super combo' - one of everything for $1.

We wandered back towards the tram, intending on some evening shopping back at Union Square. And as the tram pulled away, something caught my eye. Two skinny dudes, in the buff, hanging out (quite literally) on a garden seat on the corner of Castro and Market.

Clearly this was a regular occurrence, because no one else seemed even remotely interested. So I took full advantage of my tourist status, leaning out the tram window and snapping them in all their glory!

Shane found it especially disturbing. 'Why is it always ugly people who want to be naked?'
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