Sunday, June 28, 2009

San Francisco

Well, we're home! We had a terrific time sightseeing and walking around that beautiful city. We were struck by how much there is to do there! Here are some of the highlights from our trip.

First, we flew Southwest Airlines, on buddy passes. Let me just say, trying to get 4 people all the way across the country on buddy passes in the summer is an adventure in itself. We all got bumped from our first choice flight to Phoenix, and ended up going to Chicago instead. Once there, we were split into 2 groups with My Girl and me going to LA and then to SF, and My Man and My Boy going to Albuquerque, then to LA and then to SF. We left our home at 8:30 eastern time that morning, and arrived in our hotel room at 11:30 Pacific time -- that's right, 2:30 am eastern time. But we were grateful for the passes, and the folks at all the ticket counters were terrific. I highly recommend Southwest's customer service. They all went way out of their way to help us get where we needed to go.

In fact, things were looking doubtful for our getting out of SF on Saturday at all, but thanks to a group that was (no lie!) trying to smuggle in a small dog, we got to board at the very last second. We have no idea how they got that dog past security, but there it was in the line to board!

On day 1, here's what we did:

-- we decided to rent a car so we could go wherever & whenever we wanted. I'm glad we did that. Part of the time we drove the "49 mile Scenic Drive" route. That's a great way to do a self-guided tour that hits all the good spots.

-- we couldn't get the line out of our heads from "Elf" where Buddy meets a guy named Francisco at his dad's office. "Francisco! That's fun to say -- Francisco!"


-- our first stop was the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park. These gardens were gorgeous, and the weather that day was perfect. We had tea and cookies at the outdoor Tea House. As we were sitting at a counter overlooking a pond, sipping our tea and munching our cookies, we were shocked by a bold squirrel who just walked right up and took a sesame cookie out of our bowl! It was so funny, because we all just sat there in shocked silence and watched him do it, without realizing what he had done until it was too late! He sat in a tree not 4 feet away from us and munched happily on that cookie until it was all gone. And then, yes it's true, he came right back again. This time, I snatched the bowl away, but that pesky squirrel grabbed the sesame cookie right out of My Girl's fingers! He knew exactly what type of cookie he wanted, because he got the same kind both times, and left us alone once all of those were gone. The Tea Garden was the second-favorite thing we did on our trip.

-- next, we drove to the Ocean Beach and saw Seal Rocks and Cliff House. We ate a late lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant in the Marina district. We drove through several areas, including Presidio and Pacific Heights, and then took a short visit to the gorgeous hiking trail area at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. We decided not to walk out on the bridge that day because of the thick fog, but we did drive across it and through Sausalito. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around places like Lombard Street ("crookedest street") and Coit Tower. We finished the day at Ghiradelli Square with hot fudge sundaes from Ghiradelli's and cupcakes from Kara's.

-- the highlight of the trip was the tour we took Thursday morning to Alcatraz. My Girl was secretly dreading this, but even she said later that it was the best part of the week. So interesting! My Boy bought a book while there that he's been reading non-stop ever since, and My Girl is trying to be patient for her turn with it. Today, they rented the movie "Escape From Alcatraz" to watch later tonight!

-- after Alcatraz, we walked to Chinatown and ate lunch at Brandy Ho's Hunan restaurant. It was very good, but oh so hot & spicy. I ordered "mild" but around the places I'm used to, that would have been "medium" or "hot". We shopped some and ventured into a Chinese bakery. We did NOT make good selections at the bakery. Ick. I can't remember what they were called, or I would tell you and warn you. Just remember, if you go to an authentic Chinese bakery, it's not Krispy Kreme ;-) Thursday night we went to the Asian Art Museum to see the "Lords of the Samurai" art exhibit.

-- Friday morning we drove to Muir Woods and saw the awesome Ocean Redwoods. We hiked around the Cathedral path, and that was probably my favorite part. Just beautiful. If only there hadn't been so many people, but I guess you can't help that.

-- on the drive back from Muir Woods we stopped at a roadside stand where a fellow was selling almonds, plums, cherries, and apricots that were out of this world. So that's what really fresh, huge plums taste like! mmmmmm.....

-- from there, we went to Japantown for lunch. We had sushi, tempura, and teriyaki dishes. We drove around a little more, and then My Boy requested one more visit to Ghiradelli Square for another hot fudge sundae. He said those were his trip highlights :-) After our sundaes we walked to Pier 39 and watched the sea lions for awhile, and then it was back to the hotel.

It was a great trip, and we all had a terrific time but now we're all exhausted! It was a fun 5 days!

Here's a slide show of our photos, in case you're really interested :-)


Kristine said...

Jana! I grew up 45 mins. south of San Francisco, in San Jose! I am LOVING your post, what memories it brings back!

Southwest Airlines--dd flew with them last year, as she could fly nonstop between Raleigh and Denver. They were terrific, and she'll be flying them again this summer.

Back to SF: Ah, Golden Gate Park and the tea gardens...Pacific Heights, where so many Danielle Steel books took place (hey, I read a LOT of Danielle Steel 25 years ago!!!).

The beautiful bridge, Sausalito...

I still remember our elementary school field trip to Alcatraz. If I ever take my kids to SF, this will be a definite MUST. My parents had a friend whose father had been the lighthouse keeper there, it must have been back in the 30s or 40s. Phyllis (the daughter) would take a boat to the mainland to school each day.

Aren't Japantown and Chinatown two completely different worlds? Chinatown is so very busy, loud, quick, with dead animals hanging in the windows. Japan town is so subdued, calming, and I could imagine it was what being in Japan would really be like.

And you bet I was totally "really interested" and watched your slide show. Some FAB pictures in there!

You might check out your library for Parrot Man of Telegraph Hill. I *think* that's the name of the movie (documentary-style), and there is also a book. Your kids would enjoy the movie, I think. We watched it several years ago. The "parrot man's" name is Mark Bittner, and it's just a quirky story about SF culture, something you could view as a family.

What an awesome trip, thanks for sharing!

Jana said...


you know, one of the things that suprised me the most about Alcatraz was that there were kids who lived and grew up there. I never would have imagined that!

I'm glad you were able to reminisce about SF -- you were lucky to grow up there!

Mrs. C said...

It looks and sounds like such an exciting adventure. I'm glad you were able to go.

I love that bridge that your daughter was standing on at the gardens. How cool was that!!! It was fun to see the sights via your pictures (including the notorious squirrel thief!).