San Francisco - the best tour is with a resident

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Thursday, April 6, 2006

The day was improving as I made my way into San Francisco. Came in along highway 80. Managed to find toll bridge money for the Bay Bridge. It really is a most noble looking bridge, all silvery and seems to go on forever. Maybe it is two bridges in one.

I got into town and found my way via some very good directions on the internet to the San Remo. It is a post earthquake building - probably about 4 stories high with a rabbit warren of single rooms - maybe 6 down each of about 8 hallways off the main hallway - with bathrooms and toilets at each end of the hallways. Prices ran between $50.00 and 150 a night depending on whether one wanted a single or double bed and how close one wanted the bathrooms to be. I opted for the single - no bath. The room is exactly that - a room. Fitted into a rectangular room with one corner cut off to provide access to the sky was: a bed, a small chest of drawers, a small armoire, bedside table, ceiling fan and that's about it. It is minimally decorated; however, I rather enjoyed it. There is a lovely old Ristorante there which is billed as America's oldest Italian Restaurant (established 1886). It initially served Gold Rush clientele and the clients of a bordello located in the building. That burned in 1893 and then reopened until the 1906 earthquake. Day after the earthquake it reopened in a tent to serve the survivors.

After signing in and getting my keys I arranged parking a few streets away and decided on a lunch place at the Café Pescatore. They offered free wireless as well. I ordered a 2004 Riesling J. Lohr "Bay Mist" Monterey County (a bit sweet, a bit dry and sparkling; a nice light wine) as well as a veggie Panini and seafood chowder.

At about 3 I called Erica, another online friend. She picked me up at about 3:30 and we began our tour of the city. My, what a wonderful guide she is. We went from North Beach area (where the San Remo is) along past the Marina, carefully avoiding the rush hour traffic over the Golden Gate Bridge via 101. We went along Marina Boulevard past the Golden Gate Promenade to Mason, Long Avenue and out to Fort Point. In view of the fact that the weather has been very wet lately, some of the land is slumping off towards the sea and taking some of the rather large trees - eucalypts and cypress, I think, with it. On the other hand, there is not a lot of pollution present - I suppose the rain has washed it all away for the moment. This is a lovely viewpoint of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as looking out on Alcatraz and Angel Islands as well as classy areas of Marin County, Tiburon and Belvedere. In the swirling waters of the Bay off Fort Point were a couple of wet suited surfers. Brrr. Good waves though. Lovely views looking back on the city.

Then we continued our tour round the city. There is a lot more green space in San Francisco than I thought there would be. Apparently this is due to the fact that whenever a built up space comes up for tearing down, the city buys the space up and turns it into a park or a place for people to live or get food. They have rent controls which are fiercely protected against either over pricing or taking out of the living area for the purpose of tourism.

The Presidio is a huge park area above the Golden Gate Bridge and there are countless opportunities for picture taking of lovely windswept trees, greenery or the Bridge itself. There is a spot where Ansell Adams took his famous picture of the Bridge and we tried (ha) to duplicate it. Continuing round the Bay to the Ocean I got a picture looking down to Sausalito. Also took some shots of the plaques they put up about the local plants and rocks: bluish green rocks in the cliffs below is called serpentinite made up of oceanic crust and mantle rocks altered by intense pressure and chemical rich water present in areas known as subduction zones, places where one tectonic plate moves under another. The serpentinite visible below formed in a subduction zone which ran along the coast about 100 million years ago. Faulting and uplifting have subsequently moved the to the earth's surface ... . Serpentinite forms isolated tabular blocks within a mélange - a mass of highly faulted and fractured rocks developed in a subduction zone. Because serpentinite outcrops are highly fractured and have many highly zones of impermeable clay, they are prone to slumps and landslides and contain seeps and springs." This explains the number of slipping landslides I saw around the city.

We continued our drive up the Presidio to the Palace of Fine Arts Exploratorium outside of which played a classical guitarist - a bit unexpected. Even more unexpected was the absolutely stunning Holocaust Memorial which was right overlooking the Ocean. It was a series of blindingly white plaster presentations of people on the ground crumpled as if gassed. One lone survivor also in stunning white stands a little away from the others looking out of a very high barbed wire fence. There was a memorial bench in front of that and about 4 real live human people stared in at the presentation. We were looking at it from the back and it felt a bit like being on the outside looking in which, I suppose, was what the artist intended. An extremely powerful piece.

On along the "Great Highway" on the Pacific Ocean - all of which forms a part of the "Golden Gate National Recreation Area" and it was truly lovely. People out walking, running, walking dogs, rollerblading, kite flying, para-sailing or gliding in the sunny afternoon with the sun warming their activities. There are an amazing number of things to look at including a couple of windmills, a huge old beach chalet, amazing Cliff House restaurant which must have been astounding at sundown. We wound through the Golden Gate Park which has an equitation field, Japanese tea garden, Shakespearean garden, bison enclosure (buffalo paddock - in which there were about 7 bison with rather shabby coats shedding), lake; man made waterfalls, conservatory, botanical garden, arboretum and a great deal more - truly a profusion of colour. There is even a place there called "Lindley Meadow" I wonder what that is about?? Must ask.

While we were there it seemed as though we were being tailed by a very noisy and intrusive helicopter. Discovered much later that the police were investigating a MURDER and we were cheerfully driving by as tourists. Ick

Drove further along a road with the wonderful name of Parnassus, around the UC Medical Centre and, I think, the Veteran's hospital up to Twin Peaks. You can see this spot from almost anywhere in the city. You wind up more of the twisty, fractured serpentinite rock to that very high and barren place which has marvelous scenic views of the city from the top. Market street cuts the city in two, a few heights of land, the rest relatively flat - the high buildings downtown, the different neighbourhoods you can see the differences of, all the lovely coloured houses, all similar in style but oh so different in expression - even the little boxes made of ticky tacky on a hillside to the south. It spreads out like a quilted blanket of houses. I tried to photograph it all but don't think I did it justice.

Winding back down the hill we passed through the Castro and Noe Valley neighbourhoods of town and viewed the amazing Mission Dolores (not damaged in the 1906 quake and survived since 1776 nearby which is the "fire hydrant that saved the Mission District") and old city cemetery. We went a bit more deeply into the Castro and Mission areas including some of the most roller coaster like hills I have ever been on - the only one whose name I recall is Elsie Street which is only about a block long. The dedication to parks continues through out the city. There were so many wonderful houses but I could not even begin to photo them all so did not photo any.

We continued on through downtown along Market Street then headed out towards Daly City where we picked up Erica's daughter, and went to the most marvelous Chinese restaurant called the Dumpling King (I think, with 19 different types of dumplings) and had not unexpectedly, dim sum type dumplings. They were the best I have ever tasted and, other than shrimp ones, I could not say which they were. We returned to the San Remo about 9pm. A wonderful trip through San Francisco and potential for earthquakes not withstanding, I will return. The San Remo gave a good night's sleep and other than having to put trousers on when I got up to go to the bathroom, I had a good sleep.
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roffatsea on

San Francisco a marvellous place. I try to visualize it as a model for others to emulate -- the true 'city on the hill' -- and can't keep the vision. Lovely shots of the Bridge. Yours have colour, unlike Ansell's.

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