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 »
Old silos along the San Francisco Bay
Our route from Candlestick Point to the Embarcadero was through some of the least desirable neighborhoods of San Francisco. At one point we stopped and Tom took some photos of an old concrete building.
(Click on the images for larger versions)
In the city, we parked in the Howard Street Car Park. They have a good deal for patrons of the Farmers Market – $5 all day until 6 pm.
The walk from the car park to the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero was as absorbing as usual. Lots of joggers around plus a few homeless souls. Mostly though the walkers were either going to or coming back heavily laden from the Farmers Market.
We were on the lookout for breakfast of course. At the entrance to the Farmers Market was a stall selling several breakfast items but at $9 for an egg sandwich, served on a paper plate, seemed a bit steep. Tom made his way to Peet’s for coffee while I meandered round a bit trying a few of the free samples. For starters I had a piece of bread dipped in olive oil. At the next stall I tried a few pieces of cheese and then at a third stall I had a piece of juicy Naval orange.
I joined Tom in Peet’s. He had his usual black coffee and I had hot chocolate. We sat outside on a seat overlooking
The Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco
the bay and enjoyed the view and the sunshine. A pigeon and a blackbird were eying the scone Tom was eating and waiting for the crumbs to fall.
We then took a tour of the market, bought a herb slab at Acme Bread and some rather special goat cheese at the Achadinha Cheese Company stall. The cheese was called Capricious and it won Best in Show at the American Cheese Society’s annual contest in 2002. Finally we bought a couple of large Naval oranges. We sat for a while, broke off bits of the bread and goat cheese and watched the world go by. What a wonderful breakfast. The bread was soft and the cheese was delicious and it was half the price of the egg sandwiches we were contemplating earlier. Who would want to be anywhere else on such a perfect day?
Inside the beautifully restored Ferry Building
Afterwards we went into the Ferry Building to check out the shops. We didn’t hang around there long as the place was heaving. What we did do though was to exit the building and climb the stairs outside to the second floor. There it was very quiet and peaceful but we could look down to the crowds below on the ground floor. A good tip for anyone wanting to use the restroom – ladies don’t stand in line for twenty minutes on the ground floor but climb to the second floor where there are two large restrooms which are hardly used.
Back on the Embarcadero we carried on walking north. Just past the Pier 1 building, we turned towards the bay. Tom wandered to the end of the pier to take photos and I found a convenient bench in the sun to catch up with my writing. The promenade has a green, wrought iron railing with a brass rail at the water’s edge and attached to the whole length are plaques with quotes about San Francisco. Tom and I have cycled along here – see this earlier post . Today though I was distracted from my writing by a crew of two men meticulously cleaning the brasswork. It is fascinating to watch people working, when you are sitting in the sunshine with time to spare.
It was time to make our way back to the car park. We crossed the Embarcadero and sauntered through the various craft stalls between the Embarcadero and Market Street. We then turned left and walked down Steuart to the car park on Howard.
January 11 2009 | Special Places | No Comments »
At 6 we hit the road. It is light already but also cloudy and the rising sun is not visible. I don’t know what makes this time of the morning so magical. The flowers look bright and fresh; the trees green and even the grass looks golden and not brown. Then we hit Highway 101 and nothing can make that freeway beautiful. Rank weeds and litter decorate the edges; numerous pylons tower within view; power lines are draped everywhere and idiot drivers abound. The state of the pavement is pretty good now, especially between Sunnyvale and San Mateo. There is always something interesting to catch the eye, like a new construction or the solar panels near Palo Alto. At Moffet Field the police stop the traffic for five minutes. When we eventually pass there was no sign of a wreck, just two vehicles pulled over and several police cars. At Millbrae there were flares laid down as they were cleaning the left shoulder.
As we approach the city, it is shrouded in fog. Parking in San Francisco is always a problem. With the bikes we could not park in a multi story and there are parking meters along all the main streets. In the end we found some street parking without parking meters at Brannan and Delancey. It is cold and there is a slight drizzle and here Tom is with his cycle shorts on. After our last cycle ride I took the precaution of wearing leggings on top of my cycle shorts. Ah well, here we go again!
Our ride starts on the The Embarcadero just to the south of the Bay Bridge. I asked Tom whether we could ride over the bridge but there is no bike lane on the section between the city and Yerba Buena Island although there will be one on the new section between the island and Oakland.
The Embarcadero sidewalk is wide and we are able to ride on it. Along the way there is much to be seen. We meander along, stopping frequently to gaze at something different – the fire boats moored at the end of a short peer; a small rowing boat tied up but barely afloat; the Bow and Arrow sculpture which is half shrouded while maintenance work is carried out and the Crouching Spider sculpture which replaced the two enormous females made out of scrap metal (we much prefered the latter).
We are both in need of a hot drink but the Java Coffee House is closed and padlocked. I hope it is because it is too early and not permanent. Two women and a boy walk towards us holding cups of coffee so we stop and ask where they’d got it from (the Ferry Building) and had an interesting chat. They were interested to know where we came from when they heard my accent.
Soon we hit the Ferry Building where it is a hive of activity with storeholders setting up for the farmers market which is held in the Ferry Plaza from 8 am to 2 pm every Saturday. Even though is it only 7.30 a lot of people are already busy buying the fresh produce. I guard the bikes while Tom goes into Peets and spent my time people watching.
We sat on a bench looking out over the bay and the ferry terminal while we drank our coffee. Then we were on our way again, exploring each pier along the way.
Not so long ago the Ferry Building and the buildings on the piers were abandoned and dilapidated but a lot of work has been done to restore them. As we cycled past, we peered into windows. In one we spotted a series of color photos hung on a wall showing views of the old buildings.
A lot of fishermen were about and it appears to be a good day for fishing. We saw a recently caught, good sized, striped bass panting on the ground. The angler told us it would make a decent meal but I’m not so sure I would want to eat anything caught in the Bay, especially so soon after the recent oil spill.
Pier 3 is where the Hornblower Cruise ships are moored -the California Hornblower, the San Francisco Belle (a paddle boat) and the Santa Rosa – all huge but very different. The Santa Rose was sporting a big advert advertising three Dinner Wine Cruises, which look exciting.
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June 05 2008 | Neighborhoods and Special Places | No 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 »