Wednesday, July 09, 2003

San Fran: The Fog Has Lifted

Tired and late so just a quick rundown. Monday started just like Sunday. Cold and Foggy. Amy and I thought we were going to be in for a chilly week. But by noon the fog lifted and it's been sunny since (and the nights clear). Tomorrow is supposed to be the warmest yet!

Monday we started off towards North Beach, which I was looking forward to because of the Italian food and the history of the Beat. The change is quick from Chinatown to North Beach, which border each other. We spent some time in The City of Lights Book Store which I could have spent hours in. It was the first offbeat part of San Fran I really experienced. It made me realize that San Francisco is a necessary part of America. It's eccentricity and leftists politics helps counter the bible beltin right of the south. It also made me realize even more the pluralism of America.

From North Beach we headed to Cloit Tower which was a hike. I finally busted out the tripod and got some pictures. Tried longer exposure times so we'll see how they turn out. By mid afternoon we were back to the Wharf and Amy got to see the seals. We got pretty close up and it's funny how they battle for space on the floating docks. Reminds me of my summer swim team parties where we had a big wooden platform floating in the middle of the pond and we would play a version of king of the hill to gain your spot on the raft.

For dinner we ate Sushi in Union Square (I'll get the name later) which was very good. I had San Francisco Roll, Rock n Roll and Spicy Crunchy Tuna roll. From there we wound up at an Irish pub a few blocks away and ended up talking with 2 pilots from British Airways (they had a long layover... so don't worry about anyone flying under the influence). Very interesting conversation. The perspective from Brits is refreshing. We talked about everything from marathons to politics. Amy's Comment: Now I want to run a Half Marathon!

Today was the day of tours. First we headed to the Haight for the Haight-Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour. Our guide, Stan, was terrific. He fit the part with a mohawk looking hairdo, several earrings and some funky clothes. Great guy who moved to the Haight in 1976 and has seen many transformations. We saw the houses of the Greatful Dead and Janis Joplin. I highly recommend the tour if you're ever making a visit. Stan was also on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and won $32,000 and used it on a lifelong dream to do an archeological dig for a summer.

The second part of today we spent touring Alcatraz, which is everything everyone says it is. The cells were incredibly small. And we heard a presentation on the Battle of Alcatraz where several inmates tried to escape.

We ate dinner in North Beach at a place called Mona Lisa. After the sales job from the guy standing outside I was expecting something special. But I'd say it wasn't close. 2 stars. And the desserts looked like the came from a catalog (a place down the street offered the exact dessert menu). Not to mention the sauce tasted a little too much like Ragu for comfort. We were going to hit some jazz clubs but the one we wanted to go to was closed, and we were pretty exhausted from a full 3 days of walking.

Tomorrow we're taking it easy in the morning then heading off to Sausalito.

Monday, July 07, 2003

San Francisco: Day 1

Amy and I finished up a great first full day to San Francisco. It's great to spend some quality time with her, since we both seem to be so busy -- especially with Amy getting her MBA. We arrived late last night and it was too dark and foggy to gain our bearings. Not to mention it was pretty late and we were tired from traveling. But we wanted to give ourselves a little action, so we headed to the top of our hotel to a swanky joint called the Top of the Mark. It had martini written all over it, so I helped myself to a Belvedere martini, with olives, straight-up, and Amy sipped a glass of chardonnay. The Top of the Mark gives a panoramic view of the city, but the fog and cloudy weather blurred out most of what was to see. We thought we had a decent view of the Golden Gate Bridge but in ended up being just the Bay Bridge. We both crashed hard once we got back.

We woke up much later (8am) than I thought we would because of the time difference, but I guess we adjusted pretty quickly (as I write this at 10:40 pm, I'm feeling pretty good). I opened the shades to a pretty thick fog, but we were anxious to get going.

This trip is the first time I'm using my new Nikon N65 (yes, a film camera). Being a total beginner when it comes to photography, I was excited to try out my new wares and experiment with some of the things I had read. Walking out the door I looked more like a photographer for Time magazine than your run-of-the mill tourist; backpack with tripod sticking out the top, camera bag hanging to my side, and camera ready for action around my neck. I did some last minute cramming in one of the 5 photography books/magazines I brought with me. San Francisco, here I come. Amy shook her head and laughed at the ridiculousness of it all --- and I did look pretty ridiculous -- especially since I didn't pop the tripod out once today (oh, but tomorrow is another day).

Did I mention I was wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt? By the end of the day we heard, "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco" at least twice. I know we are in northern California, but this is cold! Walking out the door I knew one of my first purchases was going to be something warm to wear. Amy too. By afternoon we had both secured ourselves two light-weight jackets from Old Navy. Tomorrow is looking to be a little nicer. It wasn't even foggy today ... it was just very cloudy.

First stop: Chinatown. We got there a little before the hustle and bustle, but I took my first picture of the Chinatown gates. I was hoping to set up the tripod and compose a photo emphasizing the action around the market using a longer exposure time, which would have created a motion effect from the people, but by the time we got to that part of town the streets were too mobbed and there was no way I was going to make room to set up. But the market was pretty incredible .... live fish flopping around, live toads, octopus -- all being bought up by locals. I could have gotten some great shots of the unique foods, but most of the places wouldn't allow photography. And I got several looks from shopkeepers with glares that ordered, "keep that camera of yours out of here." We took the recommendation of Frommers for their walking tour and also ended up eating at House of Dim Sum, which was tastey, authentic, friendly and very affordable.

From Chinatown we headed to Union Square where it was time to find some jackets. After a little bit of a shopping detour, Amy and I ended up with two stylin' jackets from Old Navy that looked a little too similar for comfort. But we'll stay warm -- not to mention Amy likes the fact we sorta match.

After poking around Union Square we headed back up to the hotel to get ready for some night time activities. The walk was our first experience with the hills of San Francisco. We hoofed it all the way back up Nob Hill, which was probably good because I was able to work of that Decadent Brownie I ate earlier.

After a quick nap -- not to mention some more reading up on photography -- we got ready to head out again. Since we hadn't been to Fisherman's Wharf, we decided to check out what most of the guide books try to keep tourist away from. We thought it was fun -- definitely touristy -- but there was lots of action and some cool shops where we picked up some schnazy cocktail napkins and coasters. We ended up walking down Mason street to get there and got some great views of the hills. I thought the architecture on this route was pretty neat. I want to head back to get some shots with the camera.

After poking around the Wharf, we headed to the Buena Vista Cafe on everyone under the sun's recommendation. It's a classic place -- more Irish than Latin -- with great drinks and decent bar food. We decided too keep dinner low key so we ate there. Amy had a burger on sour dough and I got a half crab -- which was good, but I still prefer Maryland crabs. We finished our drinks and debated between more drinks elsewhere and Ghirardelli Square. Feeling the need for chocolate, we decided (I guess I was the main proponent) on Ghirardelli Square we I stuffed myself with a brownie Sundae. Worth every last calorie.

We faced the daunting task of climbing back up to Nob Hill -- and it's a far greater challenge climbing from the Wharf than from Union Square -- especially after a brownie Sundae. But we started --- and after the first break in the hill we came across a cable car stop. We hadn't ridden a cable car yet, so we decided, what the hell. It was packed to the brim. The trip was well worth the loss of exercise. They really are something special. With the huge cranks, the burning metal, the steep climbs and descents, winding our way to Nob Hill it felt more like an ancient roller coaster than public transportation. Amy and I both loved it. And we got the full experience by hanging on the side instead of finding a comfortable seat inside. It was a great way to cap off the evening.

Tomorrow's plan so far is explore Nob Hill a little in the morning, hit the Wharf, then head to North Beach -- which I'm very excited about. Tomorrow night we going to find a place for Sushi. And then we going to find a cool, loungy jazz/blues bar.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Getting Personal

Being that I've got a few readers on my other blog that are friends and family and that I've been thinking of more and more stuff to write on a personal blog, here it is. Amy is invited to write too, so hopefully she'll write every once in a while, but she isn't in to the blog thang.

Some of the things I'll be blogging here .... traveling, music, books, our wedding, politics and anything else that's worth posting here.