Category Archives: Neighborhoods

Neighborhoods around Northern California

Guadalupe River Trail

Guadalupe River Trail through downtown San Jose

Guadalupe River Trail through downtown San Jose

Today we took a bike ride on the northern end of the Guadalupe River Trail. Tom and I have ridden the southern end, which is called the Upper Guadalupe River Trail from Chynoweth to Almaden Lake but have never attempted the lower end. The Guadalupe River starts in the Santa Cruz Mountains and flows northwards to the San Francisco Bay at Alviso. The Guadalupe River Trail more or less follows my route to work and recently parts of it have been paved over. It now runs continuously from the heart of San Jose to Alviso.

It was early when we started out and even though the sun was up, it felt a little chilly. We drove into San Jose along Monterey/Route 82 to Woz Way. We thought parking would be easy on a Sunday but we were wrong. There were a couple of car parks open but one charged $5 and the other $7, so we decided to park on the street somewhere. Finding a street where parking was allowed was impossible but we were lucky to find a parking meter right next the the trail. As it was Sunday, parking was free so we lucked out.

When I checked the route the night before it looked as if the trail ran along each side of the river but I was wrong. We started on the west side, riding through a little park with the purple painted Children’s Discovery Museum on our left hand side. It was all very pretty with information boards along the way and an elegant footbridge in the center of San Jose. The trail on the west petered out and we had to negotiate a couple of hairpin bends to cross over the river and join the trail on the other side.

It was interesting to ride through parts of San Jose I had never seen before and there were a number of parks along the way. For the most part it was picturesque. When we passed under Highway 87 we spotted a pair of ducks busily supervising their nine ducklings. There was a more depressing side of it as well as we passed a number of homeless people asleep in their sleeping bags with all their possessions next to them in shopping carts under the bridges and underpasses.

Giant hands covering a parking garage at the San Jose Airport

We passed the HP Pavilion – home of the Sharks – on our left as we rode through another park called Arena Green.  Here there was a big children’s playground which also had a carousel. Sadly, due to the budget cuts, it has been temporarily closed down. We saw a sign ahead which said ‘Trail Detour Ahead” and once again we had to dog leg up and cross to the other side. We could see why there was a detour because an event was being set up with stalls. We never did find out what the event was for even though I checked online when I got home. I discovered there was a Fantasy Fair being held somewhere on the Guadalupe River Trail that day or it could have been something to do with ‘Little Italy’ which we cycled through shortly afterwards. I never knew there was an area or, to be more precise, three areas close by, in San Jose called Little Italy. We passed a few restored houses where new businesses were opening up. Might be worth doing a walk around the area one day.

Once again we found ourselves crossing over to the other side. After we had cycled under Coleman Avenue we found ourselves in an area called Guadalupe Gardens where a maze of trails intersected. By following the broken yellow line in the middle of the trail, we were able to stay on course. It is here that the Heritage Rose Garden can be found. Yet another trip of discovery to be made in the future.

Once passing under Taylor Street we encountered more trails off to the left. On my way home from work in the evening, I drive down Coleman and through the middle of San Jose and never knew this trail even existed. To think there is this oasis of peace between Coleman and the ever busy Highway 87. Until recently there was a huge homeless camp between the trail and Coleman Avenue but about a month ago it was completely cleared away and there appears to be no trace of it left. I wonder where they all went?  About the time we cycled under Hedding Street, we caught our first whiff of jet fuel and knew we were approaching San Jose Airport.

Before long we were passing under 880 and the end of the runway. We saw a sign showing how much parking cost at the airport.  Would you believe it costs $30 an hour to park but it is only $22 to park all day.  I know which car park to head for in the future. (I found out afterwards that the sign is misleading.  $30 is the daily maximum in the hourly lot). Soon we were passing the parking structure. This building has received a lot of criticism since it was built in 2010 not only because public parking is only available on the first level (rental cars take up all the other floors) but also for the public art on the outside. It depicts a lot of hands gesturing either ‘welcome’ or ‘farewell’. I’ve read that some people find it creepy saying it looks more like ghoulish hands rising from the grave. For the record, I quite like it because it is different.  For the last few years I have passed it many times on Highway 87 but today I was able to view it much closer. Tom noticed that there are two layers to the artwork. The mesh behind is just a back drop and the hands are made up with white plastic disks, 368,718 of them to be precise.  The artist is Christian Moeller and the hands were modelled by Silicon Valley residents.

Guadalupe River Trail heading towards Alviso

Guadalupe River Trail heading towards Alviso

We continued parallel with the runway and rode past the terminals. The trail crossed a bridge and we were once again on the east side of the Guadalupe River. Then we rod under 101 and suddenly we were in the country, or so it seemed. On our right we had a huge expanse of green fields and the river flowed serenely on our left. As we rounded a bend we spotted a blue heron standing motionless in the river. We must have startled him as he took off and disappeared. There were ducks swimming around and a couple of pairs of Canadian Geese were noisily calling to each other. The sun was shining and it was a pleasure to be out enjoying our exercise.

The next underpass was at Trimble Road. It was here in 2005 that the fossilized bones of a Columbian Mammoth were found. They are on exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose. It was on this stretch of the trail that we passed the back of the old Rockwell Collins facility in San Jose which closed down a few years ago. In my previous job I visited the place on many occasions and it brought back many memories including the BBQs which were held at the rear of the building. The building has remained unoccupied since then and it is sad to see.

We turned back when we reached Montague Expressway. Our intention is to return soon to finish the journey from here to the mouth of the Guadalupe River in Alviso.

 

Mission District, San Francisco

One of many murals in the Mission district of San Francisco

One of many murals in the Mission district of San Francisco

This was my first real visit to the Mission district and it was quite an eye opener.

We headed to Folsom and 24th Street, which is pretty much the center of the Mission. Parking was really difficult. All of the off street parking was taken by residents but there were a few spaces at parking meters. In the end we parked in one of them but got a happy surprise when we found out that on Sunday you get four hours for free.

We had read that there were a lot of murals in the Mission and indeed there was one right next to our car. The hand painted sign made me smile: ‘Vanilising of murals is not cool’. This is a paraphrase of the actual message but the spelling is correct. (I should have asked Tom to take a photo of it but forgot to ask when we got back to the car.) As we were studying, it a local resident walking by told us that there were some newish murals on Lilac behind MacDonald’s. We thanked him and starting walking west to check them out.

The Mission neighborhood is a mix of many cultures.  Spanish is predominant with a mix of Hispanic and other Central and South American countries. it doesn’t look like the best area in town, with its down at heel appearance and metal grills over most of the businesses. Only the coffee shops seemed to be open and few people were around. As we walked along we paused at many murals; all of which were colorful. Here is another quote from one of them – “Only when the last tree is cut down and the last river has dried up will man realize that you can’t eat money.”

Lilac Street is between Capp Street and Mission Street

Lilac Street is really an alley between Capp Street and Mission Street

Lilac Street is between Capp Street and Mission Street but is more like an alley because it is really narrow and runs between the backs of businesses and apartment blocks with garages onto the street. Nearly every building, door and wall had a mural of some sort on it. We walked the length of the block to 24th Street looking at them all. These murals did not depict rural scenes or recognizable parts of the Mission but I would describe them as modern artistic graffiti.They were eye-catching and vibrant but not quite to our taste.

We walked back down 24th. Slowly the neighborhood was waking up. Behind some of the grills, especially the restaurants, we could see activity. In one a load of pale chicken was beginning to heat up on the grill and in another someone was putting liners in the trash cans.

More murals on Balmy St. This was Margaret's favorite.

More murals on Balmy St. This was Margaret’s favorite.

We found another alley of murals between Treat Avenue and Harrison Street on Balmy Street. These were far more interesting to us as they were not only older but depicted real scenes and understandable  pictures. I could actually look at most of them and understand not only what they represented but what they were saying. I could appreciate the humor that was obvious in a few but had to studied closely to find it in others. Though there was some humor, the main messages that came across were: oppression and revolution. Once again they were all colorful and vibrant but, most of all, original. There were two I particularly liked, both showing scenes in the Mission. One was of a huge robot which looked like apartment buildings and the other with a policeman and wealthy lady in the bottom right corner and a homeless man in the bottom left corner.

One of older murals. A little worn around the edges but still colorful.

One of older murals. A little worn around the edges but still colorful.

We continued walking east on 24th and came to a grocery store with an array of fruit and vegetables displayed outside. Seeing all the fruit reminded me that we needed grapes so we ventured inside. I was amazed at the amount and variety of goods inside, including a whole range of meats. At first I couldn’t see any grapes but after walking around the whole fresh produce section we discovered three types to choose from. Back outside we walked up to Alabama Street before crossing over and walking back down the other side. In one window of a taqueria I spotted a mound of large plastic bags but had no idea what they contained. Tom told me it was pig skin, which doesn’t sound very appetizing at all, but on reflection it must be a variation of crackling, which is really good. Thank goodness the restaurant was not open otherwise I might have been tempted to try it out.

One of the great markets along 24th St. in the Mission District of San Francisco

One of the great markets along 24th St. in the Mission District of San Francisco

On the corner of 24th and Harrison we stepped into Bello Coffee and Tea. Although Tom had coffee with his breakfast it didn’t hit the spot and this place simply appealed to us. Inside it was warm and inviting. Immediately on the left is an electronic roaster – great, fresh coffee. The pastries looked good but the huge breakfast we had consumed three hours before prevented us from feeling hungry enough to try any of them out. Tom ordered a straight black coffee and I asked for a green tea latte. They didn’t have the powder mix that Starbucks use (thank goodness) but offered to make it using a special blend of green tea. We could have sat outside in the sunshine but I needed a table to put my iPad on so I could type so we stayed inside. There were several tables to chose from and the chairs were very comfortable. Tom took a sip of his coffee and immediately his eyes lit up. He had finally found a coffee that equaled Peet’s and Bello’s coffee might even have the edge on Peet’s. He was one happy man. My green tea latte was unusual but very tasty. We spent a happy half hour there. Before we left, Tom bought a pound of their French Roast beans to take home. I told him it was a long way to come to buy his coffee in the future.

As we walked the short distance back to our car, we noticed that most of the grills were down and there were lots of people now on the streets. The Mission was awake and humming. We discussed whether or not to go home. In the end, we decided to at least go and see the actual mission which the neighborhood was named after. The Mission Dolores  is on D0lores and 16th Street so we drove west on 24th, right on Guerrero Street and west again on 16th St. The mission was founded in 1776 and is the oldest building in San Francisco. Next to it is the larger, more impressive basilica which was  completed in 1918. We would have liked to stop and take a look around, especially at the garden of the old mission, but once again parking proved to be a problem. Maybe another day.

The San Francisco skyline from Corona Heights

The San Francisco skyline from Corona Heights

Back on 16th the object was to make our way home but at the junction with Market Street I looked up and saw a strange rock formation on top of a hill. We were stopped at traffic lights so had time to notice that there were people up there. I got the map out and discovered the hill is called Corona Heights. We felt the urge to investigate so we went straight across Market and made our way to Flint Street. As we were on the slopes of the hill, the roads were very steep and a lot of them were dead ends. Once again parking posed a problem but our luck was in when we reached Flint Street where we found the perfect parking spot not far from one of the paths to the top.

It was a lovely day to climb to the top of Corona Heights. We walked passed tennis courts and a large building, which I later discovered is called Randall Museum. The path up hill was very steep but the views were worth it. Just before a flight of steps we stopped at a bench which we took advantage of. The view in front us was amazing. We were looking east  over the bay towards Oakland. Mount Diablo was clearly visible away in the distance. Down below we could see the city to the right and straight in front we looked down on the Mission District with a good view of the old mission and basilica. The flight of steps was long – roughly 180 of them – and very steep. In parts the path ran out and we were walking over rocks. Of course we stopped often to admire the view, heaven forbid that anyone would think we were pausing to take breath! Eventually we make our way right to the rock formations at the top and the view was almost 36o degrees. Only the trees on the ridge to the west prevented us from seeing the ocean. To the south we could see Twin Peaks and the Sutro Tower.

When we had our fill of the view and sitting in the sunshine, we made our way downhill to the car and wended our way home. It was the end of another perfect day.

The Mission District in San Francisco

 

America’s Cup World Series, San Francisco

Both Oracle boats warming up for their match race.

Both Oracle boats warming up for their match race.

Tom and I wanted to see the sixth and  final day of the first round of the America’s Cup World Series in San Francisco, so we set out very early on Sunday morning. We were expecting fog in the city but it was a beautiful, sunny day.

Click on the photos for larger versions.

After our breakfast at Judy’s Cafe on Chestnut, we made our way to Crissy Field where we found a convenient parking place on Old Mason Street. From there we walked to the St Francis Yacht Club. The area surrounding the yacht club had been transformed due to the America’s Cup event. The car park we normally park in had been surrounded by crash barriers and was now reserved parking for VIPs. Huge trailers were parked behind the yatcht club and the pathway to the Wave Organ had been re-routed. We walked past the marina where there were several very large, expensive yachts moored. On the edge of the bay, temporary bleechers had been erected but access to them was only by ticket.

Another view of the the two Oracle boats.

Another view of the the two Oracle boats.

We made our way to the end of the peninsula behind the yacht club. We knew this would be a prime place to get a good view of the racing and that a lot of folks would be coming. At 8.30 there were quite a few people already staking out their chosen spot for a grandstand view of the racing. As we walked toward the end, we met up with a couple from Novato named Sabrina and Dave. Together we walked and chatted until we had nearly reached the point. We then discovered that Dave was a working photographer. They have a company called Davrina International where they produce high quality photography and video, including HD and 3D. He set up his equipment which consisted of three cameras on top of a tripod, which are operated simultaneously for panoramic shots.

Tom and I had brought picnic chairs and we set them up with a view out over the bay. The sun was shining brightly but it was a bit breezy – it was breezy enough to tip the chairs over if we weren’t sitting in them or placed something heavy on them. We were glad we brought our sweatshirts. Just a few steps away was the Wave Organ. This is one of the less known attractions of San Francisco. Even Sabrina, who had always lived in the bay area, had never heard of it so I took her over to see it. It has been built out of salvaged stone from an old cemetery and consists of pipes which have been placed at different levels in the water with an open funnel at the top. There are lots of stone benches to sit on where you can place your ear against a funnel and hear gurgling noises from the pipes. It is at a slightly lower level than the rest of the peninsula and completely protected from the wind so it was the perfect place to sit and what made it even more thrilling was the fact that nine of the catamarans taking part in the racing were moored nearby at the entrance to the marina. They are actually called winged-sailed catamarans because the sails are rigid and looked like vertical airplane wings. This was my first view of the new AC45 racing catamarans.

British boat in the America's cup

Here’s the British boat. I’d be in big trouble with Margaret if I didn’t show this one.

There were just two races that day. The first was the Match Race Final which would be between the two Oracle boats. The second race would be the Fleet Racing Championship in which all eleven boats would  take part. They looked so elegant as they bobbed and rocked on the water, tugging at their moorings almost as if they were eager to get out there and race. Roundabout there was a lot of action. Across on the mainland I could see the team work bases in the ‘Cup Village’ with the flag of each country flying over their booth. Fans were milling around over there and sitting on the edge of the wall to get their ringside seat of the action. I could hear music playing and every so often announcements were being made. Small, official craft were entering and leaving the marina, including VIP taxi boats. One of Larry Ellison’s luxury sailing yachts, Zenji, glided by and another one was moored out on the bay. Helicopters buzzed around overhead.

I went back to join Tom on the windy side and there were many more photographers gathering around us. It was a prime location to see all the action as the finish line is right at the end of the peninsula. Tom went back towards the yacht club to use the restroom but was met by a barricade.  He was told that if he went past the crash barrier he would not be let back in. He was also told that everybody already on the peninsula would be cleared before the racing started and only media would be allowed through. No reason was given to him Tom about this decision. So he came back. We talked about going back and trying to find somewhere to sit before we were asked to leave but then decided to wait and see what happened. Other people came back with slightly different stories. Someone was told the reason why they were not letting anybody through was because a parachutist would be landing on the peninsula after the races. We spoke to some people who did manage to get through the barrier who were not media and they said they just walked though even though someone tried to stop them. They were San Franciscans and said that the area is a public open space and they had every right to be there.

A guy with a water-powered jet pack called a Jetlev

A guy with a water-powered jet pack called a Jetlev

The wind slowly started to pick up and I became really cold. I kept trying to stay out of the wind by standing behind Tom but still I shivered.  Every so often I would go and sit down in the Wave Organ where it was much warmer. I was sitting there when the crews were taken out to the boats and I watched them getting their boats ready for the racing day ahead. Later I saw them, one by one, untether their catamarans and move out to the bay and boy, didn’t they move fast. Now and again, further into the marina, a guy with a water-powered jet pack called a Jetlev was performing for the crowd. At first I had no idea what was causing him to be so high in the air but someone explained what it was and that they cost $100,000. That’s got to be a rich man’s plaything.

And they're off!

And they’re off!

The issue was finally resolved about whether or not they were going to move us, the non media fans, back behind the crash barrier and we were told that we could stay.  Another crash barrier was placed near the wave organ and we all had to stay behind it. We were the lucky ones because a huge crowd had massed behind the crash barriers back at the yacht club. Apparently they wanted to keep the middle section of the peninsula clear because six parachutists were going to land after the racing had ended.

Oracle and Prada screaming towards the finish line. This was thrilling.

Oracle and Prada screaming towards the finish line. This was thrilling.

We watched the catamarans skimming, weaving and tacking out in the bay and were waiting for the first race to begin. At first we were not quite sure what was going to happen but there were plenty of people roundabout to explain things to us. The first race was at 11.45 when the two Oracle boats would be taking part in the Match Race Final. Someone explained the course to us and told us to keep an eye on one of the official boats out by the Golden Gate Bridge as it was at the starting line. Two minutes before the race, I could see a green and an orange light on the boat. One minute before the race there was just a green light and I saw the two Oracle boats moving towards the start line. The green light went out and I saw a puff of smoke and a second or two afterwards heard the sound of a gun and they were off. It was amazing to watch the pair of them maneuver around the markers and at one point they passed really close to where we were watching. Suddenly I didn’t feel so cold any more! The race took about 20 minutes and then they were heading to the finish line. They were not more than twenty feet away from us as Oracle Team Coutts narrowly beat their rival team mates.

One member of the Red Bull skydiving team

One member of the Red Bull skydiving team

There was a short lull before the start of the second and last race of the day – the Fleet Racing Championship – in which all eleven boats took part. Watching them all make their way to the start line, trying hard not to get there before the gun went off, and then the jockeying for position as they made the first turn, was exciting. At times though it was confusing and they all seemed to go off in different directions and it was difficult to tell who was in the lead. We could hear some of the commentary from the mainland but not enough of it to really understand what was going on. I could tell though when the race was coming to an end because suddenly all the boats seemed to be heading towards us at an alarming speed. Tom had moved down to the spit of sand on the other side of the wave organ and I was standing on one of the high points of the wave organ. The Italian boat – Luna Rossa Piranha – was the first over the finish line with Oracle Team USA Spithill a couple of second behind them. Team Korea was third and the second Oracle boat was 5th. The British boat – JP Morgan Bar came in 6h. The overall winner  of the series was the Oracle Team USA Spithill. Sadly the British boat came in 10th.

Everybody of course went wild and the celebrations began. We packed our stuff together and went to stand behind the crash barrier to wait for the parachutists to land. One of the event officials on the other side of the crash barrier was a Brit and he was chatting to us. He turned out to be another Hampshire Hog. Let me explain, anybody born in Hampshire is called a Hampshire Hog and he happened to be born and raised just a few miles from where I was born and raised, albeit forty or so years before him. Just after that someone spotted a little plane overhead and we saw first two parachutists jump, then another two and finally the last two. They twisted and turned with smoke trailing from their feet and came in to land one by one by skimming over our heads. They all landed very close to us – one of them was a girl – and we were able to chat to some of them as they bundled up their parachutes.

Here’s a cool video of the parachutists and the race.

After all that excitement, it was time to go home. We slowly made our way back to Crissy Field and to our car, amidst all the happy chattering crowd.  It had been another perfect day.

 

 

 

Vermont Street – the Crookedest Street in San Francisco

Vermont Street, the real crookedest street in San Francisco

Vermont Street, the real crookedest street in San Francisco

After breakfast, before we headed back to Dogpatch, we decided to check out the crookedest street in the world. Most people think that Lombard Street, further to the west in San Francisco, has that title because it has one more turn but Vermont Street is shorter and steeper. It was further up Potrero Hill from where we had eaten breakfast at Plow. Because this section of Vermont Street is not so well known as Lombard Street, there were very few tourists. Like Lombard it is a down hill, one way drive and it was fun to negotiate the very sharp twists and turns. It is no where near as pretty as Lombard Street, with its brick pavement and nicely tended landscaping, but it has a charm all of its own. Once at the bottom we drove around the block and made our way back to the top where we parked the car. We then walked down the steep street on a stairway on the left. There were a few other people walking up and down the stairs but they were all locals walking their dogs. The area would be much quieter though if the 101 were not so close by. The constant noise of the fast moving traffic could be heard but not seen.

Another view of Vermont Street

Another view of Vermont Street

Once at the bottom, I walked across the road and looked down on the 101 and then gazed south at the view of houses and roads spread out in front of me. In the near distance I could see some huge brick buildings and have found out since that they are part of the San Francisco General Hospital. Turning back to look upwards, I discovered another staircase to the left of Vermont St. Being curious, we decided to climb up it to see where it led. It skirted the side of the hill were native plants had been planted. At the top of the staircase, several trails led of in different directions, but we stuck to the one which led up the hill and ended up at the junction of  San Bruno Avenue and 20th St.

Potrero Hill Community Garden

Potrero Hill Community Garden

Off to the right, we spotted a gate with a sign next to it, so went to investigate. The sign informed us that beyond the unlocked gate was the Portrero Hill Community Garden and visitors were welcome.  Of course we ventured inside and were suddenly transported into a different world. We wandered along litttle pathways between tiny fenced off plots where an amazing variety of plants were being cultivated. Every little garden was unique, some with their own little network of walkways between the plants. I can’t begin to list all the flowers, fruits and vegetables that were being grown but will mention a few – plump strawberries; juicy looking raspberries; beautiful dahlias and zinnias; grapes; tomatores; artichokes; herbs; rhubarb. The most amazing sight though was a small chicken run with four hens inside, all with different plummage, scratching around in the ground. This garden was such a wonderful place to find in the heart of San Francisco. I could have spent hours just exploring every little bit of it.

A gorgeous dahlia from the Potrero Hill Community Garden

A gorgeous dahlia from the Potrero Hill Community Garden

We stopped and chatted to a lady gardener who was watering her plot where she grew three differnt types of grapes, tomatoes and potatoes. She was interesting to talk to and told us a little of the history and some of the problems the community garden has. It is in a very exposed position and water is probably the main problem. Some people have a drip system installed which is far more efficient than watering with a hose. I asked about the chickens and she said they had not been there long. Some folks were against the idea, being worried about coyotes, but those guys have always been regular night time visitors to the garden.

Once out of the gardens, we walked through McKinley Park, which is on the corner of 20th and Vermont. There were kids and their parents having fun in the fenced off childrens playground and family groups sitting on the grass having picnics. One family was busy blowing up something but I wasn’t sure whether it was some sort of bouncy castle, a huge kite or a tent. The sun had come out and everybody looked happy. Opposite the park, Tom pointed out a roof patio with a BBQ on the top of one of the houses and I peeped through a gate between two buildings at a beautiful courtyard with a fountain. Suddenly a huge boxer dog came rushing at the gate and slithered to a halt in front of me, spraying gravel everywhere, and barking his head off. He was certainly a good guard dog.

We took the scenic drive back to Dogpatch up and down some of  very steep streets. My heart was in my mouth when we turned into some streets and suddenly the road disappeared for a few moments before the front wheels hit the pavement again and we plummeted down. At the start of some of the roads going uphill I knew what we were in for when I read signs saying ‘Sharp Crest Ahead’.  At one point we saw the tip of the Sutro Tower standing above a fog bank. Tom wanted to stop and take a photo of it but it had disappeared by the time he found a suitable viewpoint where we could stop.

It was time to get our feet back on the ground so we made our way back to Dogpatch.

Vermont Street, the real crookedest street.

Dogpatch, San Francisco

Sign saying Dogpatch, San Francisco

You’ve arrived in Dogpatch, San Francisco

Tom and I thought we knew most of the neighborhoods in San Francisco but this week someone mentioned Dogpatch to me. Curious to know about it, I asked Tom. He had heard of it but didn’t quite know where it was situated. We googled the name and discovered it was south of Market and close to the Bay. We had to go and see for ourselves so, at the first opportunity, we set off to check it out.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

It’s great to be back on the road again after a long spell of traveling back and forth to Fresno most weekends to see family.  Our wandering the highways and byways of Northern California will  be limited for a short while yet. It was a clear day in San Jose when we left but a blanket of fog shrouded San Francisco. We drove 101 to 280 and exited on Cesar Chavez and then turned right towards the Port of San Francisco. At 3rd we took a left and wanted to turn left on 22nd but there no left turn so turned right and did a U turn.

Dogpatch is not in the best part of town but things are changing. In its heyday, it was both an industrial and a residential area.  Shipbuilding and other related industries were at the heart of the activity but the living areas were close by. The area suffered very little damage in the 1906 earthquake and, in fact, some of the oldest buildings in San Francisco can be found there.  After World War II, Dogpatch went into decline but the community spirit survived. Now the area south of Market is being revitalized and Dogpatch is beginning to change too. Slowly new shops and restaurants are opening up, artists are moving in and some of the old houses are being spruced up.

Piccino Cafe on 22nd St in Dogpatch

Piccino Cafe on 22nd St in Dogpatch

We parked under a beautiful Jacaranda tree on Minnesota in the heart of the historic downtown area. It was chilly when we got out of the car and needed something hot to warm us up. The first place we spotted as we turned onto 22nd was the Piccino Cafe, so we made a beeline for it. It has a very small coffee bar, which is open fronted, attached to the Piccino Restaurant.  There were just a couple of tables inside.  Apart from the normal range of coffees, expressos and lattes, they had some amazing pastries –  cinnamon rolls, ham and gruyere brioche, ricotta torte, prune muffins and ginger snaps. Tom had a coffee and one of their ginger scones (which was yummy) and I had a latte which came with a leaf motif crafted onto the foam. We sat at one of the tables and were the only people to stay and drink our coffee. It was an interesting place with a concrete floor but the open front made it a bit chilly. Above the bar was a big, old red and white sign advertising Allright auto parts.

We really wanted breakfast and just across the way was the Just for You Cafe but it didn’t open until 8. To work up an appetite we took a stroll along 22nd St.  On the corner of 22nd and Tennessee is a blue painted, wooden building which houses the Recchiuti Chocolate Lab. According to notices on the window, they will be opening a dessert cafe in September this year. Recchiuti is a delicious locally made chocolate so I can imagine what marvelous dishes they would serve. On the side of the building is a sign which says the building is called the Swan Building and was built in 1886 by Ship Carpenter John Swan.

Hells Angels hangout.

Hells Angels hangout. I was going to knock but thought it might be a bit early.

We turned right onto Tennessee and were immediately on a residential street. The houses were old Victorians which looked a little run down. They were all of different sizes and styles, with small gaps between them and are amazing. Some are three or four stories high and narrow. There is no space wasted with little pathways leading to side doors. There were some concrete steps down to a slightly lower level and a beautiful trumpet vine in full flower framed the steps. The road dead ends in a car park and there we were surprised to see the headquarters of the San Francisco chapter of Hells Angels.

It was time for breakfast so we ambled back to 22nd St. to the Just for You Cafe but there was a problem. A notice on the door said there would be a delay in opening. We decided to hang around for a while and chatted to a few of the people waiting outside. One of the servers came out with coffee to apologize for the late opening and then five minutes later came out to say that unfortunately it would be about two hours before they could open. The exhaust hood was not working and they could not open until it had been fixed as it was a fire hazard. People started to drift away and a young couple with their baby, who we had been chatting with, said that there was a good place for breakfast on Potrero Hill. As it was close by, we took their advice and headed for it on 18th and Texas (we’ll talk about this in the next post).

Lots of old Victorian homes. Some fully restored and others not so much.

Lots of old Victorian homes. Some fully restored and others not so much.

After breakfast and a little side tour, we returned to Dogpatch and parked on Tennessee St. this time and set off to walk the neighborhood. On the corner of Tennessee and 22nd we noticed a lot of chalk writing on the sidewalk.  None of it made sense at all.  There were some small crossword grids but also, I guess, some profound statements but I failed to understand their meaning. Some were normal words but the majority I had never heard of. Being me, I wrote down some of the words and looked them up when I got home. Here’s what I discovered – ‘Bodhidharma’ was a Buddhist monk from the 5th/6th century; ‘Fick ‘ could be related to Fick’s laws of diffusion and ‘Shree’ could refer to a Hindu language soap opera. After that mind bending experience we turned our attention to the shops and businesses along the way.

Apart from Piccino Cafe (which I understand serves mighty good pizza) and the Just For You Cafe, there are some other interesting places to try.  Fancy Italian? Then try out Marcella’s Lasagneria & Cucino. For a bit of southern cooking visit the Hard Knox Cafe or for home grown Californian cooking, the Serpentine (which doesn’t really look like a restaurant from the outside) serves, I quote, ‘produce & meat from farms & ranches that practice ecologically sound agriculture, whenever possible’.  Glancing at their menu I saw they have a cheese board as a starter and that would be enough to get me to go in if I were ready to eat dinner. For something lighter, the Cup of Blues is a coffee shop not too far from where we had coffee this morning or, for a cool treat, then Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous offer an awesome range of ice cream which is made on the premies. Several people this morning have recommended it but it was just not the right time of the day to eat ice cream.

Beautiful old Victorian in Dogpatch

Beautiful old Victorian in Dogpatch

As Dogpatch has become a haven for artists, we simply had to check out what there was to see. There is Rickshaw Bagworks but bags do not interest either of us but we did venture inside The Workshop Residence. Here we saw on display work by various artists – Aurore Thibout’s slip cast porcelain necklaces, bowls and plates; Lauren DiCioccio’s tote bags that are made out of chiffon with embroidered slogans; Jennifer Morla’s felt rugs, partition screens and cushion covers and Martha Davis’ leather and wooden shoes. Everything I saw was unusual, original and available to be bought on the spot.

All this walking and culture made us thirsty so we rounded off the day with a cool drink at the Dogpatch Saloon. Inside it is your typical saloon with a long bar and several television screens silently showing various sports. There were three people sitting at the bar and a couple at one of the tables. We sat at the bar and ordered our drinks – a pint of Guinness for Tom and a pint of Shandy (which is three quarters draught beer and one quarter 7 Up) for me. One of the guys sitting at the bar was a character and very chatty. The Dogpatch Saloon looks as though it has been in business for ages but it has not been a bar for all that long. In a previous existence it was a cafe and behind the bar the old stove and cooking hood can still be seen.

It was time to wend our way home and it has been a very interesting day.  We have met and chatted with a variety of very interesting people and enjoyed visiting this remote corner of San Francisco and will certainly come back again. Just got to have a meal at the Serpentine and try out some of that ice cream at Mr. and Mrs Miscellaneous.

 

 

 

Fleet Week, San Francisco

Fireboat along the Embarcadero

Fireboat along the Embarcadero underneath the Bay Bridge

Every year the US Navy comes into San Francisco and the event is called Fleet Week. This year 13 ships came into the bay and twelve were open for public visits. There were parades and demonstrations plus the Blue Angels practicing on Thursday and Friday and performing on Saturday. They were due to perform on Sunday as well but the fog cut the display short.

Saturday would have been a better day as the ships enter the bay under the GG Bridge in the morning. That would have been a sight to see but we didn’t wake up in time. We decided to drive up on Sunday though and set off early as we knew parking in the city would be at a premium.

We took 101 and exited on Mariposa and headed towards the ballpark. Driving along the Embarcadero, I spotted the the first ship. It was the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vincent anchored in the middle of the bay. This is the only ship which isn’t open to public viewing unfortunately. Just before the Bay Bridge we saw a second ship moored at Pier 30-32 . This one had helicopters on the deck.

Our plan was to park in the Howard Street car park but when we arrived it was closed. Nearby there were parking meters and at 7 in the morning there were plenty not being used. We expected to pay but, when Tom put his credit card in, the screen said we had four hours free parking. No complaints there!

Along the Embarcadero

Along the Embarcadero

We walked to the Embarcadero and turned right. Tom needed coffee and we both wanted breakfast. There are now a lot of eating places along the Embarcadero but none of them were open. Along the way we passed the ship with the helicopters at Pier 30-32. I discovered the ship was called the USS Bonhomme Richard. Already a line of people had formed who were waiting to look over the ship. There was no charge but there sure were a lot of rules – photo ID needed, no photography, open toed shoes or backpacks. That meant that neither of us could go on board because of course Tom had his camera and I had a backpack. A US coastguard told me I could leave my backpack beyond the black and white information board, which was over 100 yards away. As if I would just leave it there in a completely unsecured location with nobody to look after it! Ah well, next time we will know better.

Still on on the lookout for breakfast, we crossed the road because Tom had spotted a likely looking place but it turned out to be a convenience store. I noticed a realtor sign listing properties for sale. I asked Tom if he fancied a two bedroomed, two bathroom apartment with amazing views over the bay. Only kicker being they were all over $1 million. That idea was a non starter.

Sidewalk art

Sidewalk art

Back across the Embarcadero we came to Java House. We have eaten there before so knew what we were in for, namely high prices and mediocre quality, but there was nothing else around. We both ordered the (three egg) cheese omelet with hash browns and toast. Tom had coffee and I just had water. No complaints about the view over a marina and the bay with the the USS Carl Vincent aircraft carrier in the background but the cramped, uncomfortable seating, the small omelet (debatable whether it was a three egg omelet) and plastic plates were a different matter. The price of our meal was not cheap either at $18 but it was food. At the next table, which was awfully close, were two bikers and I couldn’t help but overhear most of their conversation. At one point, they were talking about San Juan Bautista, so my ears pricked up. Looking back at our previous review, I did say that we probably wouldn’t eat there again and my opinion has not changed.

There is just something about a sailor in a uniform that I have always admired, due maybe to the fact that my father was a sailor.  Walking back along the Embarcadero, there were lots of sailors and marines walking around in their smart uniforms and they added a spot of glamor to the normal galaxy of joggers, skateboarders, in-line skaters, tourists and dog walkers. People watching along the Embarcadero is always fun but this visit was even better than usual. The beautiful weather helped of course.  When Tom stopped to take photographs, I took the opportunity to sit on one of the plethora of benches along the way. It is amusing and sometimes frustrating to hear snatches of conversations as people walked or jogged by. I would add though, that amongst this array of humankind one must not forget the homeless and less fortunate members of our society.

Naval ship

Naval ship

Talking of seats, in one section there are a number of unusual benches. On first sight, you may only notice that they are made out of concrete and painted yellow, but look closer.  Every so often along the edges are brass fixtures to discourage skateboarders.  In addition, there are other brass sculptures scattered randomly depicting octopuses, turtles, starfish, scollop shells and sand dollars. The black and white poles are also interesting as they each display lots of information on the history of the Embarcadero. One post I read on this visit, contained details of the mailboats which worked in and out of San Francisco and another about the fire boats which use sea water to put out fires.  Right behind the latter post was the fire house and moored up were the two current fire boats – the Phoenix and the Guardian. As you walk along the Embarcadero, also look out for poems which have been engraved on brass plaques and embedded into the sidewalk. This is one I noted:

They dream
they dream of
dreams about
themselves
-Jack Spicer

(When I got home I looked up Jack Spicer and discovered that the above is only fragments from the poem.) One interesting, temporary, feature we almost missed, were several colorful chalk drawings on the sidewalk. There was a humming bird, an octopus and a seahorse.

Entrance to Sydney Park

Entrance to Sydney Park

When we reached the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street, we went inside. Being a Sunday, there was no farmers’ market outside but the shops inside were just beginning to open up. First of all though we paid a visit to Peets so Tom could have a decent cup of coffee and I enjoyed a wonderful hot chocolate. Then we walked round the interesting collection of shops, most of them selling different sorts of food goodies from artisan bread, olive oil, mushrooms, nuts, dried fruits and meat to luxuries like wine, gelato and gourmet chocolate.

Back outside, we continued walking north along the Embarcadero looking for more naval ships. Eventually we reached Pier 27 where we saw not only a line of people waiting to get onto the pier but lots of sailors congregating. I could just see the bow of a ship but not the name of it. I went up to a group of young sailors and asked (any excuse to talk to a sailor of course) the names. They were happy to tell me that they were the USS Antietam and the USS Milius. Whilst talking to them, I also discovered that they were getting ready to take part in the parade starting in North Beach at 12.30.

We decided that it was time to make our way back to the car but instead of walking back down the

Transamerica Pyramid

Transamerica Pyramid

Embarcadero amongst the hordes of people now promenading, we crossed the road where it was less crowded. Then we cut through a small park called the Sea Wall Lot to Front Street. We spotted a brick arch and went to take a closer look. It marked one of the entries to a park called Sydney Park, which was named after a Sydney G Walton. I could find out no details of who he was until I got home and then discovered Sydney Grant Walton was a San Franciscan banker in the early part of the 20th century. I also found out the archway is called the the Colombo Market Arch and was once part of the San Francisco produce market. The park itself was very interesting. While we were there, a group of older people were doing Tai Chi, which is always fascinating to watch.  There were a number of sculptures in the park including an eye catching one of Georgia O’Keefe. When I first saw it from the archway I thought it was made out of wood but it turned out to be cast bronze. It depicts Georgia O’Keefe sitting on a log with her two dogs.

Tom wanted to take some photographs of the Transamerica Pyramid so we made our way towards it. Of course the building is one of the most recognizable features of the San Francisco skyline. Although it is still known as the Transamerica Pyramid, it’s official name is now The Pyramid Center.  I particularly liked the sculptured trees outside cut to look like pyramids.

Eventually we made it back to the car and managed to avoid an excess fee even though we were a little over the maximum four hours free parking. The end of another perfect day.

 

 

Places to Visit in the Bay Area

Pietra Santa Winery outside of San Juan Bautista

Pietra Santa Winery outside of San Juan Bautista

Several people have asked us where our favorite places are in the Bay Area and our suggestions of places to visit either for themselves or for ideas as to where to take visitors. Recently my daughter Lizzie and her husband Ric visited from England for a couple of weeks. We thought it would be a good idea to write about where they went while they were here to give some ideas to those people.

(Click the photos for larger versions)

They arrived at the tail end of an extremely wet period on a Friday night. The next day rain was forecast and in fact it poured with rain for most of the day. We could have gone into San Jose and paid a visit to The Tech Museum or taken them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium but we decided on a trip to San Juan Bautista. Our first stop there was at Vertigo Coffee at 81 Fourth Street in San Juan, where we all enjoyed a cup of their speciality hot chocolates. If you like hot chocolate you have to try their Marilyn Monroe with coconut or their Charlie Brown with peanut butter. Neither Tom nor I like peanut butter but Lizzie chose the Charlie Brown and we had to taste it just to see what it was like. To me it tasted more like a Snickers Bar, and therefore I liked it, though I will stick to the Marilyn Monroe in future.  Also they have started carrying Bistro Blends Balsamic vinegar which is the best balsamic we have ever tasted and can thoroughly recommend it.

We would have liked to take a walk around the shops in San Juan and the Mission but it was raining too hard. Lizzie and Ric have been here before and know a whole day can be spent here enjoying the sights. Instead we drove into the foothills to visit our favorite winery Pietra Santa. After tasting their selection we bought a couple of bottles of their Signature Chardonnay (my particular favorite), one bottle of Pinot Grigio and one of their Sangiovese.

The next day we took a trip to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The weather was better than the day before bit still a little chilly and overcast. We had breakfast at Bab’s Delta Diner in Suisun City before taking tour favorite route to the old Chinese town of Locke via the ferry to Ryer Island, the ferry to Grand Island and drive across Grand Island to Walnut Grove. In Locke we visited the restored boarding house, the Dai Loy Museum and the old schoolroom followed by a walk around the residential area. Of course, every visit to the area finishes up with a vanilla malt in Mel’s Mocha and Ice Cream in Walnut Grove.

Liz at Crissy Field during their bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

Liz at Crissy Field during their bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

On the Monday Lizzie and Ric travelled on the train to San Francisco where they stayed for three nights at the Villa Florence on Powell. They spent one day shopping in Union Square; one day cycling and one day walking. For the cycle adventure they rented bikes from Blazing Saddles and rode around the bay, through Crissy Field, over the Golden Gate Bridge, into Sausalito and back to the city by ferry. The walking tour took in Chinatown, Coit Tower, North Beach, the Marina, the Wave Organ near the  the Golden Gate Yacht Club, Fort Mason, Giradelli Square and the Hyde Street cable car back to Powell.

I picked them up, plus all their shopping bags, from the San Jose Caltrain Station on the Thursday evening. The following day I wasn’t working so the three of us took a trip to the coast. As they have never visited Franklin Point, it was the obvious place to head for. It was an interesting day. First of all the 10 foot high tree stump which marks the beginning of the trail to Franklin Point was gone. We found it lying on the ground and noticed the bottom was rotted through. Then we had to wade through 2 feet of water because part of the trail was flooded. It didn’t end there. We had to take a detour to get to the bench because the tide was too high; Lizzie found a necklace partially buried in the sand; I met up again with the guy Tom and I met on our last visit; when we tried walking back along the beach we got soaked when a wave came in much higher than we expected and finally we had a difficult climb to get back to the trail. It was a wonderful day though and we finished our visit by having lunch in Duartes Tavern in Pescadero.

Liz and Ric admiring the view from the top of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. That's the new Caifornia Academy of Sciences across the way.

Liz and Ric admiring the view from the top of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

The next day was Saturday so the four of us drove to San Francisco to cover some of the sights that Lizzie and Ric didn’t get to see during the week including Golden Gate Park – where we visited the De Young – and Haight/Ashbury.

On the Sunday we drove up to Healdsburg in the Sonoma Valley. It was a beautiful day and what could be better than a trip to Healdsburg and  to visit a couple of wineries. Lizzie and Ric have never been to Healdsburg so we knew they were in for a treat. The drive up was magnificent and, being early on a Sunday morning, traffic was light. At 8:30 we were driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco sparkled in the sunlight.

We stopped for breakfast at The Lighthouse Cafe in Sausalito where we had a short wait but it was pleasant standing outside in the sunshine and playing with a puppy which was tied to a lamp post a table became available. Our table was in the window so we enjoyed the view. Afterwards, on our way back to 101, we stopped to look at the houseboats juste to the north of Sausalito.

The drive up to Healdsburg, though pleasant, was not exciting. In Healdsburg it was nice to get out of the car and stretch our legs. I love strolling around the cute little town, with its shady tree lined square, irresistible boutiquey shops and inviting restaurants. Lizzie bought a bag, Tom bought a birthday card for his grandson and I pounced on an old sign for my son.

The vineyard outside of Johnson's Alexander Valley Wines. Kind of a funky laid back winery with lucious Zinfandels.

The vineyard outside of Johnson's Alexander Valley Wines. Kind of a funky laid back winery with lucious Zinfandels.

It was time to head for the wineries. First we drove to Alexander Valley and our favorite winery – Johnson’s Alexander Valley Wines at 8333 Highway 128. Johnson’s is a small, family run winery set some way back from the road. We were greeted by Comet, a yellow lab who led us to the tasting room. In his mouth he carried an extremely well chewed tennis ball which he dropped in front of us and looked up at Ric with imploring eyes. Ric responded by kicking the ball so Comet could chase after it. We were told Comet would happily play that game all day long. Leaving Ric to amuse the dog, we retired into the cool tasting room to sample the wines. There were only three to sample and they were all reds.  We ended buying two bottle of their late harvest Zinfandel before heading off to the next winery.  If you like your wineries high class and a bit over the top then Johnson’s isn’t the place for you. Some of the reviews in Yelp are pretty bad but we think those reviewers just don’t get it. This is a laid back winery down a dirt road through a vineyard with some great Zinfandels.  Our next stop was the Hop Kiln in Dry Creek Valley, another favorite or ours. Since our last visit they have redesigned the tasting room with more space for displaying their mustards, sauces, and dips which were produced locally. As there was no space at the counters to taste any wines, we sampled the other goods for sale and bought a jar of their Sweet Garlic Mustard. Later we drifted over to taste the wine when a gap appeared and came away with two bottles pf their Pinot Noir. To round off our visit, we walked to the lake and sat at one of the picnic benches where we contemplated the beautiful view and enjoyed the warmth of the sun before heading back home.

There were only a couple of days left of Lizzie and Ric’s vacation and they spent it getting around our neighborhood by walking and shopping. All to soon it was time to take them back to the airport for their flight home and it was sad waving them off. Next time they visit there will be a host of new places for them to discover.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Embarcadero Bike Ride, San Francisco

Caltrain Station in San Francisco

Caltrain Station in San Francisco

Something Tom and I have been wanting to do for sometime is to take our bikes into

San Francisco and take a ride once again along the Embarcadero. Today is the day. The weather forecast is warm (unlike on the east coast and in the Midwest where they are experiencing some of the worst winter storms in decades).

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

We left home at 7 am, with the bikes firmly attached to the bike rack, and drove up to Milbrae. We did consider taking the train all the way but the journey takes one and a half hours, so we compromised by driving part way. This will be the first time we have taken the bikes on Caltrains, so it will be an adventure.

AT&T Park and Giants fans lining for Fan Fest Day

AT&T Park and Giants fans lining for Fan Fest Day

The whole train experience was not too bad. Parking was easy and at the weekend there is no charge. To buy tickets we had to take the elevator up. Round trip tickets to the city were $8 each. Then it was down in another elevator to the platform. We had a fifteen minute wait for the train. I noticed that there were quite a few fellow passengers wearing SF Giants apparel so we asked someone if there was something special going on at AT&T Park. Indeed there was. Today is Fans Fest day and were told the train would be packed.

On Caltrains, the first and fourth carriages are for bikes. We got into the first carriage and there were a lot of bikes but we managed to squeeze ours in. Upstairs there was a single row of seats on both sides. There was just one on each side so Tom and I sat separately. At each stop, more and more Giants fans boarded the train. That is going to be one excited gathering, all of them eager to celebrate the Giant’s success in the World Series.

Note from Tom: Baseball  is quintessentially American.  But the nerve of us calling it the “World Series”.  I know it doesn’t make much sense but the game, in person, is wonderful.  Our San Francisco Giants are the best of the best and it’s the first time this has happened in over fifty years.

At the terminal we waited until most of the passengers had disembarked before we left the train. The platform was a mass of grey, orange and black. As it might be some time before we find another restroom, I decided to pay a visit at the station. Fifteen minutes later I made my way back to Tom. Once on King Street, we walked our bikes on the sidewalk looking for coffee. There was a line outside Starbucks so we walked on. The crowds outside the ballpark filled the sidewalk. We did plan to take a ride round the back to take a look at the park but it was impossible to get through the people.

Looking across the bay to the Port of Oakland

Looking across the bay to the Port of Oakland

We stopped for coffee at Cafe Pasquita. It was a good choice. even though it was right opposite the ballpark, it wasn’t crowded. We sat at a table in the window so we could keep an eye on our bikes. The seats were white leather and comfortable. Tom had his usual black coffee and I had hot chocolate. Then it was back to pushing our bikes. On the other side of the road the line of fans stretched almost to the Bay Bridge. At Townsend we crossed the road and attempted to get to the back of the ballpark but once again we were thwarted. Just too many people. Tom stopped to take photos and I found a convenient seat and got out my iPad. Nearby there were some fitness fanatics exercising under the watchful eyes of a couple of trainers. A sign informed me that they are members of Body Mechanix. Looks like far too much hard work for me! It was hot sitting there with the sun beating down. It is turning out to be a glorious day.

Pier 14. Just sittin' on the dock of the bay, wasting time.  Life is tough.

Pier 14. Just sittin' on the dock of the bay, wasting time. Life is tough.

Our next stop was almost under the Bay Bridge between Red’s Java House and the Hi Dive bar. Tom pointed out the old clock on the front of the Hi Dive with it’s neon sign advertising Belfast Water. The seat I sat on had a clear view of the cranes at the Port of Oakland on the other side of the bay.

Some of these old haunts will have to make way for the redevelopment coming when San Francisco hosts the America’s Cup races in 2013.

Once past the Bay Bridge we stopped again. We noticed two new buildings and I went to investigate. They were brand new restaurants – Waterfront and Epic. They both look worthy of a visit when we are up in the city for an evening meal. Tom took photos of the huge bow and arrow sculpture. The backdrop behind it were high rise buildings.

The Embarcadero in San Francisco and the sculpture called Cupid's Span

The Embarcadero in San Francisco and the sculpture called Cupid's Span

Just before the ferry building we halted again at the end of Pier 14. At the beginning of the pier were some paintings on tiles of assorted watercraft. The pier is lined with single, metal swiveling chairs. While Tom took photos I sat on one of the chairs and it was fun. With very little effort on my part I was revolving at great speed. I bet the kids love these seats. You get a remarkable 360 degree view of the bay. From there I had a good view of the ferry building and the farmers market which is held every Saturday.

There is a new sculpture on the Embarcadero called ‘The Raygun Gothic Rocketship’ which is part of a revolving display of sculptures which are displayed at this spot. This one is by a group of artists and the sculpture was placed in position by Five Ton Crane (5TC). There was a stand nearby called Local Earth with a time table displayed which gave the impression you could travel to Mars, Jupiter 3, Centaurus, Pluto and Europa.

Cycling past the Ferry Building we noticed that the stalls are now not only behind the building but in front as well. It is a very popular place to be on a Saturday and there were many people busily shopping. Street entertainers amused the crowds. It was about here that three stretch limos passed us with an escort of police motorcyclists. I wonder who is in town?

Transamerica building taken from Pier 7 along the Embarcadero in San Francisco

Transamerica building taken from Pier 7 along the Embarcadero in San Francisco

We took a detour along the waterfront on a public promenade, passing various ships including the paddle-ship ‘San Francisco Belle’ and the ‘Hornblower’ dinner cruise ship. Further along we rode out onto Pier 7 with its rough timber plank walkway. At the end were benches so I once again sat down and started typing. There was a lot going on. Pilots boats were moored at the adjacent pier and we watched one pull in and moor up. A fire boat passed by and a noisy jet ski screamed round the pier. Cycling back towards the Embarcadero there were good views of the Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower.

We cycled as far as the turning for North Beach. There we turned round and made our way back to the train station, taking a couple of short detours along the way. Tom was searching for a good spot to get a photo of the Transamerica Pyramid but all to no avail. There was a lot of traffic around. As we passed the Ferry Building, the clock struck 12. It sounded a lot like Big Ben. There was still a large crowd outside the ballpark and more people turning up as well. A lot of fans though were making their way home. The combination of people and traffic was a bit chaotic.

As we were hungry, we stopped again at Cafe Pasquita. This time we sat outside under an arcade. It felt good to get out of the sun. We sat there enjoying a sandwich, listening to the loudspeaker from the ballpark and watching the people walk by. The journey from there back to Milbrae went smoothly.

What an absolutely fantastic day we had. The weather was unbelievable and we saw lots of intriguing, amusing and downright beautiful sights.

Posting Delay Due to Termites

Tented house. Fumigating for termites.

Tented house. Fumigating for termites.

Note from Tom:

Just a quickie to say that we lost a few days last week due to our house having to be fumigated for termites (fairly common in California).  So they tented the place and we had to spend a few nights elsewhere.  Not a hardship though as we spent the time at my Dad and Step-mom’s little place in San Juan Bautista.  We went to the county fair and had some lovely meals at local restaurants.  We’ll probably write about it in an upcoming post.

Click on the photo for a larger version.  Kind of reminds me of Cirque du Soleil.

When we got back in town the tent was down and we could unpack all the stuff we put in plastic bags so it didn’t get contaminated by the poison gas.  There was a sign on the front door saying all was clear but I noted that Margaret made me go in first.  Her daughter, Liz, called me Canary Tom.  I didn’t keel over so we figured it was OK.

Anyway more posts to follow.

See ya.

San Francisco, Fillmore District

Fillmore District, San Francisco

Fillmore District, San Francisco

A day off. Where shall we go? We decided San Franciso needed another visit as we haven’t been there for a while.

We checked to see what was going on at both the de Young and the Legion of Honor museums but their combined website was very confusing. ‘The Birth of the Impressionists’ was due to open the next day but there were no details about what was on today. As it was a Tuesday, we wanted to know if either were even open but Tom couldn’t even find out that information.

In the end we set off with no clear idea where we would end up. For breakfast we stopped at the Lakeside Cafe on Ocean in the Merced Manor district. We have eaten here before so we know the food is good, if a little pricey. They have soothing classical music playing in the background and the surroundings are nice.

After breakfast we made our way in the general direction of the Fillmore district. We got a little lost because there were not too many allowable left turns but we eventually arrived on Fillmore Street. The only parking was at a meter where the limit was one hour at a cost of $2.

We walked up one side of Fillmore and down the other. There are some very nice shops; we passed small, high end dress and shoe shops, elegant furniture stores and loads of beauty parlors with exotic names. In just three blocks there are five coffee shops. Along with the ubiquitous Starbucks and Peet’s, there was Tully’s Coffee Shop, The Royal Ground Coffee and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

I’ve had great trouble finding decent and stylish greeting cards and when I spotted Paper Source I made a beeline for it. Just inside a whole array of suitable cards so I bought four of them. One day I will write a list and make a special trip to a shop like Paper Source to buy a year’s supply. At the back of the shop you could purchase all kinds of paper, including blank cards and envelopes to make your own greetings cards. What particularly caught our eye on the way out were racks of beautiful Japanese paper but they were about $10 a sheet. The shop smelt of paper, which was very pleasant.

The next shop we wandered into was Browser Books. Neither of us can resist a bookshop and this one had lots of interesting reads. I’m reading Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ on my Kindle at the moment (who isn’t?) and Browser Books had it prominently displayed along with the next one called ‘The Girl who Played with Fire’. Another book which promises to be good is ‘Little Bee’ by Chris Cleave. Maybe that will be my next purchase closely followed by ‘Stones into Schools’ by Greg Mortenson, which is the sequel to ‘Three Cups of Tea’. Amazingly just up the road from the bookshop at The Clayton Theater they were advertising the film, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ (we later saw that film and it’s very good).

All this meandering up and down Filmore brought us close to running out of time at the meter so we popped a few more coins in as we passed.

Fillmore Street heading down towards San Francisco Bay

Fillmore Street heading down towards San Francisco Bay

Tom wanted to walk up a little further to take some shots of the Bay where Fillmore suddenly dips downhill. I remember the first time Tom brought me to that point and my stomach just plummeted and now we always bring first time visitors to San Francisco to give them a thrill as we crest the hill and plunge down the other side.

At the junction of Broadway and Fillmore though there was road construction going on. A massive backhoe was making light work of picking up large slabs of tarmac and dumping them into the back of a truck. At the same time, concrete was being pumped in to fill the hole and two guys were busy spreading it. If was an efficiently coordinated effort while traffic was being directed around the construction site. A Muni inspector was on duty to lower the arms of the trolleys as they approached the junction so they could maneuver around the operation. It was fascinating to watch.

Our last stop was at Peet’s coffee house. We sat for ten minutes enjoying a cup of coffee (Tom) and a hot chocolate (me) before getting back to the car just as the expired flag popped up.

Our journey home did not take too long at all and we noticed the thermometer rise from 60 – 80 degrees. It’s true what they say about how much colder San Francisco is in the summer so if you are visiting during June to September don’t forget to bring some warmer clothing.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...