Category Archives: San Francisco 2010

Last Day in San Francisco

Wednesday was my last day in San Francisco. We went to the DeYoung Museum, where we were thirty minutes too late to get into the visiting Impressionism Exhibit (they close that museum too early). So we just walked around the rest of museum for a bit, which was actually pretty small. But there were some cool things, like…

… the famous gumball picture.
Aaaaandd….
An awesome miniature cathedral (about as high as my waste,
perhaps) made entirely out of thousands of deconstructed
guns. Talk about making a statement.
After the kinda failed attempt to go to the DeYoung Museum, we went down to the Fisherman’s Warf area. People had told us that it wasn’t much to see and just a big tourist trap, but we didn’t really have anything else on our list of things to do, so we went anyway. Those people were right. It was a huge tourist trap.
Oh well. At least we went. I got some neat pictures of the ocean and all (and challenged myself to take pictures that make the area look interesting). And we got to do some more walking around. Good for the heart.


We ended the evening with an absolutely delicious dinner at this awesome Vietnamese restaurant, where we spent over two hours eating Chilean sea bass wrapped in banana leaves, blackened cod, and the best green beans I’ve ever eaten.
It was the best ending to a great vacation in a beautiful city. I definitely want to go back and visit again.
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Napa Valley Excursion

On Tuesday, John and I rented a car (since he doesn’t have one in S.F.) and we drove out to Napa Valley for the day. Before we left the San Francisco area though, our first stop of the day was the Mt. Tamalpais State Park (in Sausalito, across the bay). There we took a fun little one-hour hike (which was the perfect amount of time– 30 minutes in on the trail and 30 minutes out… long enough to see everything but still like the place when you leave).
And I look lots of pictures. Again.

You can’t really tell, but there is an ocean between those
hills, which is pretty awesome. In California, you can have both!






The woods there are beautiful. Everything is green, wildflowers are everywhere, and there is moss growing over all of it.
After our little hike, we hopped back in the car and drove about an hour to Napa Valley. Armed with an old navigator and a little brochure of various wineries, we were on a mission to find a winery with free wine tastings (key word here is free). We found one!
V. Sattui Winery
It was actually a very touristy little place, built as a tourist spot rather than starting as an authentic winery. But it was still really fun. The building resembled an old Tuscan villa, and beneath it was the wine cellar, a damp, warmly lit area full of giant barrels of wine and lots of fun facts/information about the winery’s history and the history of wine in California in general.

There was this beautiful courtyard to the side of the villa,
on the way to the wine cellar below.

I’m sure there is many a wedding held in this place.

The wine cellar

Our delicious wine-tasting adventure… If I’d had the money,
I would have purchased a bottle or two.
After our wine tasting, we bought a baguette and some
delicious spreadable cheese (can’t remember the name,
but it was exotic, I promise) and ate lunch on their lawn
under a giant leafy tree. It was so peaceful.

A familiar sight in these parts.


Some more roses… I couldn’t help taking pictures of them.

The roses here are ginormous and exquisite. Love, love, love.

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Bucket List Check-Off

Our first order of business on Monday was going to the Golden Gate Bridge park, where there was this B-EEE-AAA-UUU-TIFUL rose garden. Some of them had such strong scents that they literally smelled like those bottles of rose oils and rose soaps you can buy in specialty shops. They were fantastic.

I also walked the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday. For some reason, that was one of the largest items on my bucket list (maybe because it’s one of the easiest for me to remember), and so it was extra fun to walk the bridge and check it off my list.
More beautiful roses
The view of the bridge from the look-out
This is me showing you how wide that piping
(or whatever it’s called) is. Please admire stylish yellow
windbreaker. It’s also reflective.
Proof that I walked the Golden Gate Bridge
After walking the GGB, we were getting rather cold from all that wind (I lost my trusty old sunglasses to the great depths below after a particularly strong gust that swept them off. my. head.), so we stopped at this little cafe at the end of the bridge for some coffee/hot chocolate. It was delicious.

Our last event of the day was biking to Land’s End, a really neat preserved area on the coast with great walking paths and fantastic views. We went down to this great little beach and ate our picnic dinner of bread, cheese and salami. I then went crazy with the really nice camera that John let me borrow. I think I took over 300 pictures of that little beach. Below are my favorites.




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Sunday in S.F.

Sunday was a pretty low-key day. Beth and I slept in super late and then had a nice heart to heart chat about life (over delicious coffee and Cheerios) while I waited for John to wake up across town (he was getting sick the night before, so I figured he should sleep in as late as possible to recover). Once he was up, and I was done getting ready, I took the bus across town to meet him at his aunt and uncle’s house (where he’s staying all summer remodeling their basement).
Once I got there, we rode bikes around Golden Gate Park a bit and then headed over to the beach. I’ve done quite a bit of bike riding over the last couple days. Normally I’m not a fan, but it’s really fun to see a new city on a bike, because you have a lot more time to admire your surroundings (as long as you pay attention to the road too). So the bike ride to the beach was really fun. We went through the Presidio, a forested area that surrounds the Golden Gate Bridge, and then rode down a long windy road, through an old military compound (now used for various things, including schools and housing), and down to the beach.
The view of the beach from my tummy. That’s John’s aunt and uncle
on the left, and his cousin Adelaide is in the sand fortress.
The Golden Gate Bridge from our spot on the beach.

Alcatraz!
After the beach, we got a ride home from his aunt and uncle (who we’d met at the beach), which was a life-saver. The ride down that hill was a blast, but the bike up would kill me.
Our last stop of the day was Chinatown, where we ate dinner on a tiny narrow balcony overlooking one of the many little streets in the labyrinth that is Chinatown.

Our balcony view at dinner
Chinatown at night

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Note: Pictures Added

If you have already read my posts from yesterday, look through them again. I added some more pictures!

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Today Was a Dot Day

Beth’s latin lover once told her that he sees life as one continuous line, where all the days meld together and are indistinguishable. But every once and a while, a day comes along that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Those are called dot days.
For me, today was a dot day.
This morning (and by morning, I mean around one, as we slept in until about noon– what happens when you don’t set an alarm) Beth and I went down to the Farmer’s Market at the old ferry docks on the bay. We bought scones for brunch and supplemented that with free samples of jam and the most delicious apricots I’ve ever eaten (I literally took a bite and had fruit juice immediately dribble down my chin).
We also scored some free espresso from a woman who, excited to talk to someone after standing for what was probably over an hour of solitude, explained in great depth the wonders of the individual-press Italian espresso maker ($400 plus tax and then $.75495 for each little shot of espresso, in packs of 21) that she sells on behalf of a long-established Italian family-owned business. If I had that kind of money, I would have written a check on the spot– the espresso was delicious and there was virtually no clean-up. Brilliant.
We probably spent over an hour and a half just wandering around, taking in all the sights and smells. Beth told me that she loves the Farmer’s Market so much that she went there on her birthday. And I can see why. It’s an almost magical place.
Most of our time at the market was spent pretending to be interested in buying things to try to get free samples. And I’d say it was a success. We sampled goat cheese (so good), all different sorts of cherries, an assortment of jams and cheeses (sometimes together), and numerous baked goodies. When we got thirsty, we bought exotic iced teas (mine was infused with jasmine and Beth’s had some sort of hibiscus flavor).
Inside the ferry building… Apparently it was badly burned in the
epic earthquake/fire of 1906 and remained abandoned until about
ten years ago, when the city fixed it up and turned it into a little mecca
of shops and eateries.
An adorable little candy shop inside the building, whose
decorations (and choice of fonts) reminded me a lot
of Wes Anderson’s style.

Outside, at the market.
The clock tower of the ferry building, from the market.
The view of Bay Bridge from the doors of the ferry building.
But I think perhaps one of the real gems of the day was the tarot card readers that sat against the wooden railings overlooking the docks and Bay Bridge. We stumbled upon them by accident, as we were making our last round of the market taking pictures, and drawn in by their charismatic personalities, we sat on the benches across from them and passively observed (i.e. eavesdropped on) their readings for a bit.
Alexander
His “receptionist” Sof
I’ve never been a believer in tarot cards, but I was fascinated by this guy. He’s such a great storyteller that it’s mesmerizing to watch him work. He, Alexander Friend (which is in fact, according to him, his real birth name), sits on a blanket, accompanied by his “receptionist” Sof on his left. While he reads the cards for someone else, Sof entertains those waiting in line with tea and conversation. Then, after drinking semi-warm tea (using water heated by the sun) out of miniscule little cups that have probably had the lips of twenty different people on them over the course of the morning, the individuals move to the left and seat themselves in front of Alexander. And the fun begins.
This was the first time I’ve ever watched anyone have their tarot cards read, so it was amusing to watch the process. Each card has a picture– rather busy with lots of things going on in each– and Alexander has the individual pick a number and then he draws three cards from a position in the deck based on that number. He then lays out those three cards on an elaborately embroidered cloth (in the middle of more elaborately embroidered cloth), using a crystal-type rock to keep them from flying away in the breeze that comes off the water and keeps their fabric dancing.
Then, once the cards are placed, the storytelling begins. Because that’s really what he’s doing (at least in my mind). Each card has a detailed medieval picture, and combining the three cards (one for where you’ve been, one for where you are now, and one for where you’re going), he weaves this elaborate story of hopes and trials, sadness and joy. It’s enthralling. It’s like being a child again, listening to a master weaving his story.
We listened to at least three people’s stories before Sof the receptionist motioned for us to step forward. However, having heard Alexander’s price (20 bucks a pop), we weren’t really in the market for a reading ourselves. To be honest though, I’m quite curious as to the kind of story he’d tell about my life. Because that’s the other thing. He speaks in such general, broad terms that it’d probably be very easy to identify with what he is saying.
For example, at the beginning of the first woman’s reading, Alexander told her that he doesn’t predict the future because no one can do that. There’s something called free will, he said, which would destroy all best laid predictions. But there are tendencies, and he pointed out that it’s the tendencies that show themselves in the cards.
So after hearing that, people listen to identify with tendencies. Brilliant strategy. It’s much easier for him to sound legitimate and less hokey if he doesn’t claim to know everything and then paints in very broad strokes. Because unless they’ve lived a touched life, everyone has experienced sadness, love, and periods of uncertainty, and everyone is longing and striving for something. These are universal emotions and human experiences, and he just weaves a tale with them.
We probably sat there listening to Alexander and making small talk with Sof for over half an hour. Finally it was time to leave. Beth needed to get back to change for work, and our legs were falling asleep from attempting to sit daintily on little cushions on concrete. So we thanked them for the enjoyable time and departed. It was a bit sad to go, like I was leaving behind one of the most fascinating documentary subjects I’ll ever meet, and I’m now more certain than ever that I’ll most likely never have my tarot cards read (though now it’s no longer because I think it’s bogus, but because I’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone as interesting or charismatic as Alexander to make up my life’s story).
The ferry building from the city side… As we were leaving,
we walked through this great art market outside the building
(where I caved and bought a necklace, continuing my trend
of getting a piece of jewelry in every place I visit).

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Exploring on Friday

After blogging yesterday, I explored the downtown San Francisco area for a while. Starting off in the general direction that Beth had pointed the night before, I managed to stumble upon Union Square, this great place in the middle of downtown that was inundated with tourists and businessmen on lunch break. They were having this great outdoor art fair, where over ten different artists were showing their work on large easels. I walked around in bliss, mentally taking notes and picking out which of the various styles (ranging from simple watercolor to etchings on painted plaster) I think I might want to copy for my next painting.

I chatted with one of the artists, a woman by the name of Janne, for a while, and she told me that she’d originally trained to be a dancer in school, but once she decided that New York City wasn’t for her, she moved out to Alaska for some wilderness job for a while. She then found her love for painting, and, moving to San Francisco, has been painting and selling her artwork to tourists ever since. And despite the uncertainty that comes with having no regular paycheck, she says that she can’t see herself loving anything more than her current life. Talk about contentment. She also told me that while she’s never traveled the world, her paintings can now be found on all continents except Antarctica. So cool.
Janne also gave me a list of recommendations for places to eat on my lunch break. Taking her advice and heading for a place that according to her was very economical, I found Tad’s Steakhouse, a buffet-style cafeteria with a cheesy neon sign outside and interior decorating that looks like it hasn’t been changed since the thirties. Can’t say it was all that economical or anything, but the food was good and I took it To-Go so I could eat it in Union Square and people-watch.
While munching, I watched a high school orchestra play on a conveniently located nearby stage. This place supports the arts so much, I feel like I’m in heaven.
After lunch, I did some more exploring, turning down any street that struck my fancy. I figured that since I knew the intersection that my friend lives close to, I could always find my way back if I got lost. And I did get lost. Thoroughly, wonderfully lost.
Being alone is one of my favorite ways to travel, because I can do whatever I want. I can turn down any street that catches my attention, linger as long as I wish in any store, and strike up conversations with waiters and storeowners as much as I please. There’s no one pushing or dragging or wanting to do something different. There’s no collaborating needed. I can do whatever I want, and it is so liberating. I love it.
For example, being determined to cater to every passing whim, I decided at the last possible moment (before the teaming crowd drove me forward) to step into Neiman Marcus. From experience, I know that I definitely can’t afford their clothes. Even on their sale racks, nothing is less than $100. But their vaulted glass ceiling, which I could see from the street, was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist. I went inside, winding my way through ridiculously expensive perfume and make-up counters, and took the escalator up to the second floor, where there was a prime viewing area of their gorgeous ceiling (pictured below).
I also may or may not have tried on some fabulous shoes ($578, on sale) while I was there. I couldn’t resist.
Oh, so funny story…
Close to Chinatown (which I stumbled upon the gates to), there are a few of these beautiful stores that sell antiques and things. The first one I come upon is small, and the window display is incredible– crystal chandeliers, gold filigreed jade elephants, ivory chess sets. Curious and drawn by sheer sparkle power, I step inside. There are three older gentlemen in suits sitting at various desks tucked in behind the opulent abundance of merchandise (all packed into one tiny space), and there are no other customers in the store. I should have taken this as a sign.
But I am too fixated on the china cabinet full of figurines against the wall to notice. I move that way. These aren’t just any figurines. Standing about six inches tall, they are all of women in various poses (reading, taking tea, strolling, etc) in clothing that looks like something Marie Antoinette would wear, with dresses full of layers and layers of porcelain lace. One of the salesmen, a nice Jewish gentleman with a royal blue kippah and impeccable suit, approaches me and tells me that each figurine is hand-crafted from Austria.
So cool, I think.
“Are you looking for gifts?” he asks me.
Still needing to get a Christmas gift for my brother (I got the rest in France)… “Sure,” I reply.
And then I happen to see a price tag. $8000. For one.
It’s all I can do to keep my composure. Mentally, my jaw drops, and I look down at my clothing, suddenly incredibly self-conscious. Here I am, obviously a tourist wearing a simple t-shirt, and I’ve stumbled into a shop selling the riches of the Orient and other faraway places.
I try to act cool. I admire the remaining figurines and then turn my attention to a case full of diamond necklaces, rings and bracelets. The old man hovers. I want to run, but that’d be too obvious. And I want to look at the jewelry. There is a particularly gorgeous diamond engagement ring that catches my eye, and I lean closer to get a better look.
“Are you looking for a ring?” he asks.
I make a split-second decision and lie.
“I am, actually. But I haven’t found anything I like yet. This one is gorgeous,” I say, pointing to the exquisite ring.
“Would you like to try it on?”
Bless his heart for pretending to take me seriously.
I nod, and he unlocks the case. I hold my breath. At any point, he’ll change his mind. But he doesn’t, and out comes the ring. He passes it to me.
I slip it on. Of course it fits perfectly.
“The setting is white gold, and the center diamond is two carats.”
Seeing as the entire ring is one big explosion of diamonds, I’m suddenly curious as to what this little item costs. I find the tag.
$42,000.
This time I can’t hide my surprise, and the older gentleman chuckles. I’ve never touched anything this expensive in my entire life (besides a house, maybe), and I’m suddenly inexplicably paranoid.
“It’s a little out of my price range,” I squeak out.
He smiles and nods. I return the ring and it’s promptly locked back in the case. I pretend to be interested in something else across the room, but I’m really just making a hasty retreat toward the exit (the other two guys have been staring at me since I came in, and I’m starting to feel ├╝ber silly). I’m sure they’re all laughing at me inside, but my salesman keeps a straight face and wishes me a good day. I almost want to hug him, he’s so nice, but instead I return the smile and duck out quickly.
Definitely the most eventful stop during my day of exploring.
My wanderings eventually made me quite thirsty, and I stopped at a little cafe to write for the remainder of my afternoon until I met up with John. It was the perfect end to my adventurous day.
(Oh, and I ended up not being lost at all. Walking up two blocks from the cafe, I was suddenly miraculously back at my friend’s place. Perfect!)

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