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!
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.
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.