San Francisco 12/05

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A pre-Christmas California road trip...

San Francisco's night skyline viewed from Alcatraz

Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field

Twas a week before Christmas... Ben had just finished his fall quarter as a sophomore at UCSB, so off we went for the 'almost annual' Ben and Wayne end-of-year sojourn. This year we did a road trip to San Francisco, driving north through the San Joaquin valley and then south along the California coast. We stayed at the top of Nob Hill where both cable car routes intersect, putting us within walking distance of Chinatown, Union Square and the Civic Center and a single cable car ride away from Fisherman's Wharf or the Embarcadero.

Saturday December 17th

Our road trip took us north from Los Angeles on the Golden State freeway (i5), cutting through the heart of California's agricultural land. We grabbed lunch in Santa Nella (first picture below) before heading west on a rainy i580 toward San Francisco bay, crossing into town on the Oakland bay bridge. Drive time was about 6 hours. We pulled into the Stanford Court hotel just after 3pm. From there we took a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf where we roamed and then ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe on Pier 39.


"Painted Ladies" Victorians from Alamo Sq.

Sunday December 18th

Rain was threatening and in the forecast, so we grabbed umbrellas and walked down to Union Square (second picture above) for breakfast at Lefty O'Douls. We started to explore Union Square but then a strong storm hit forcing us inside at the Hyatt. Once the rain and wind died down a bit we walked up to Chinatown (third picture above) and strolled the length of both Grant and Stockton Streets. We snacked at a little cafe in Chinatown where they served green tea ice cream and the newest rage, tapioca pearl drinks. Back at the the hotel, we bought three-day Muni passes for $18 each (a bargain given that each cable car ride is $5), allowing us unlimited cable car, trolley and bus travel for the rest of the trip. We headed out by cable car to Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world, where Ben ran up and back in the rain (fourth picture above).

We walked the rest of the way to Fisherman's Wharf and picked up our Alcatraz night trip tickets at Pier 41. After grabbing a late lunch at Boudin's cafe, we boarded the ferry to Alcatraz (first picture below). The audio tour was okay and the scenes were interesting (Al Capone's cell in the second picture below), but I got the impression there's much more they could do with Alcatraz. There was a great view of San Francisco's skyline from the main cell block exit (panorama picture at the very top of page). Returning to our hotel by cable car, we dropped off souvenirs, had a few sips of good wine with a quarter loaf of Boudin asiago cheese bread and then walked to Union Square for a late dinner at Johnny Foley's Irish pub, which had live entertainment until midnight. We headed back up to Nob Hill on the last cable car of the night.

Monday December 19th

Donning coats and umbrellas against threatening rain, we headed out by bus (#30 from Chinatown) to Crissy Field to begin a 3-mile hike along the Presidio and then a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Crissy Field (third picture above) is 100 acres of nature, history and recreation, including a restored tidal marsh and dunes, a scenic promenade, restored historic airfield, beaches and a community environmental facility. The Golden Gate Bridge is a constant backdrop (large picture top of page left). Nearing the bridge, there's a long climb with excellent views (fourth picture above and first picture below). The Golden Gate Bridge is a spectacular engineering feat, completed under-budget and ahead of schedule in 1937. Walking the 1.2 miles across it (second picture below) gives a sense of how immense the undertaking must have been. There are great views of San Francisco (third picture below) and Sausalito all along the way. On the sidewalk every 50 yards or so there are emergency "crisis counseling" phones set up, presumably for potential jumpers (fourth picture below with Ben hamming it up).

After the walk, we went back to the hotel (buses #28 and #30) to relax before heading out again to the southeast. The sun came out for the first time in two days so off we went (buses #1 and #22) mid-afternoon to Alamo Square, a small park surrounded by Victorian houses which has one of the most famous views of San Francisco (large picture top of page right and first picture below). From there we walked southeast to Haight Ashbury (second picture below), which seems to be stuck between modern gentrification and some weird version of the sixties. Leaving Haight Ashbury, we took the #70 bus to the civic center where we walked around for a while, ending up at Union Square for a good dinner at Max's on the Square. From there we walked back to the civic center before hopping a cable car to Chinatown for a late night stroll.


Tuesday & Wednesday December 20th & 21st

After a morning walk around Nob Hill and a final Christmassy photo in the lobby (third picture below) we hit the road south along the coast, chased by the next rainstorm moving in. We drove to San Luis Obispo, where we stayed the night at the Apple Farm Inn, stopping along the way in Paso Robles for wine tastings at Tablas Creek and Justin (sunset picture over the vineyard, fourth picture below). Wednesday morning we headed south on 101 for home, stopping in Santa Barbara for lunch. All in all, not a bad father-son pre-Christmas road trip.

Home Up Boston 5/01 Grand Canyon 11/05 Hawaii 11/00 Hawaii 2/08 and 3/08 Hawaii Big Island 9/13 Maui & Kauai 12/12 Kauai 10/14 Key West 12/06 Key West 12/09 Los Cabos 10/16 New York City 12/04 New York City 7/16 Orlando 12/02 Pacific Northwest 4/02 Philadelphia 8/02 San Francisco 12/05

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