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
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.
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.
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 of
(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
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
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.
October 28 2011 | Neighborhoods | No Comments »
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
February 20 2011 | Neighborhoods and Special Places | No Comments »
Java House Restaurant, San Francisco
The Java House Restaurant is somewhere not to miss if you are ever near AT&T Park in San Francisco. For one thing, according to the plaque outside, it has been around since 1912 and is the oldest eatery on the Embarcadero. Constructed entirely of wood, it is more like a shack. The outside is covered in posters, mostly to do with baseball, but also a poster for the movie ‘I Love You Man’. If it is good enough for Herb Caen and Willie Mays, then it is good enough for me.
Inside you order at the counter. The menu is very basic and I warn you in advance, it is a greasy spoon. All the egg dishes have three eggs so high doses of the wrong kind of cholesterol. Obviously no oatmeal. There were some specials on the board but they didn’t appeal to us. We both ordered the cheese omelet with hash browns and toast ($7.50).
Seating is in three areas, a couple of tables near the counter, a side room and six tables outside on the sidewalk. We chose the side room where there were three sorts of chairs. All the furniture was a bit tacky to say the least. One thing I noticed was the sticky floor (and the table top was almost as sticky). Can’t complain about the view though, as we looked out over a marina with a collection of desirable small boats.
What about the decor? It can only be called a hodgepodge. Beer adverts were everywhere including a Coors frieze going round the walls and across the ceiling. Lots of signed photos of Giants baseball players. One outstanding feature in the side room was a large cut out sculpture on the wall of a cartoon couple jiving, dressed in clothes of the fifties. I wonder if it has been there since then?
After a false alarm when we thought Tom’s name was called, we collected our food from the counter. It came on a pink plastic oval plate. The hash browns were more like country potatoes and the omelet didn’t look like it was big enough to have three eggs in it but what do I know? The toast was buttered and placed on the same plate. We had to go get some jam from a side counter. The selection was not great.
My omelet was a tad undercooked but it tasted fine. Tom really liked the potatoes and the coffee was OK. We cleared our plates though, with just a greasy film remaining.
I made the trip to the restroom with great trepidation, which turned out to be fully justified. It was not the worst but, in the recent past, I can only think of one other which was worse. Would we go there again? Not to eat I don’t think but maybe for the coffee.
Java House Restaurant
Pier 40, The Embarcadero, San Francisco CA 94107
August 13 2010 | Breakfast Log | 2 Comments »
From Hunters Point we drove north. We drive passed the AT&T Ballpark, the home of the San Francisco Giants. It is a beautiful ballpark and we have spent many happy hours here watching some exciting games.
Parking in the city is hard to find and expensive but on a Saturday you can park in the Howard Street car park (which is just off The Embarcadero) for up to four hours it is just $5. It is the closest parking for the Farmers Market which is held outside the Ferry Building every Saturday morning from 8 a.m – 2 p.m. There is also a Farmers Market here on a Tuesday as well at the same time.
It is just a short walk from the car park to the market but there are a lot of distractions along the way. The Embarcadero itself is a show stopper all on its own. for many years, this part of the city was overshadowed by the Embarcadero freeway which ran above the road and separated the city from the waterfront. During the 1989 earthquake it was badly damaged and was pulled down. Thanks to the then Mayor, Art Agnos, it was never rebuilt and the city and the waterfront became reunited.
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October 31 2007 | Special Places | No Comments »