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SFO: Planes, Boats, and Buses

June 19, 2006

It’s been two days so far, and I have to say I rather like this whole ‘relaxation’ business. I’ve been on the internet quite infrequently, and have for the most part been enjoying the ridiculously nice San Francisco weather. It’s cool here, probably in the 60s-70s, but there is a lot of sun to make up for it.

Saturday’s travels went basically without a hitch. We were at the back of the plane on the longer ride, and it sounded like a three-ring circus. After we’d tired of reading, we both tried to get some sleep. Katie had a lot more success by putting on her headphones and listening to her iPod. I’m not that smart. I still managed the occasional fitful nod, and it make the overall trip shorter. Once we were in town, grabbing the car and heading over here was painless. The gent at the counter at Enterprise was competent and helpful (a big change from my last rental experience), and Google Maps came through again with the directions. We spent a few hours just decompressing from travel, and then hooked up with our cousin Steff for dinner. He took us to a Japanese noodle place, which satisfied our well-traveled stomachs. The Yaki Udon I had wasn’t the best ever, but it was still a nice ‘welcome to San Francisco cuisine’ moment.

Sunday was pretty much just a blast. We decided for our first day proper that we’d do the tourist thing, and see the city all in one go. Grey Line offers tours of several different varieties. We opted for the ‘City Tour and Bay Cruise’ option. The City Tour itself is a three hour blast around the city, with the driver talking essentially nonstop. If we’d had a different guide, I’m more than a little bit certain it would have sucked. This guy, though, was pretty fun. He had a great patter going within a few minutes of us leaving Pier 43 (our embarkation point), and didn’t stop until we came back to Pier 39 at the end of the voyage. In between we went up through North Beach, into the Financial district, through the Presidio, across the Golden Gate, and back through the Marina district. He had snarky comments about things like Lombard Street (not even the crookedest street in the city), other tour operations (Mr. Toad’s wild ride … not so wild), and the fashion choices of people passing us on the street. We had the chance to get out at the Park, allowing us a chance to wander through the Japanese Tea Garden for about half an hour. That was simply beautiful, and would be reflected more in our copious snapshots for the day had we not run out of space on the memory card. I’m smark ™.

After the tour we had lunch at Boudin, the ‘first place to make sourdough bread’. Among a bevy of touristy options, it was worth the price for relative lack of crowds and the decent food. I had out of season crab cakes, which were kind of eh. Afterwards I wish’d I’d had the Fish and Chips, because Katie’s chicken sandwich came with some truly tremendous french fries.

The tour came with a ‘Cruise around the bay’, a voucher for a 1 hour excursion with the red and white line. Fed and happy, we stood in line for about twenty minutes chatting while we waited for the ferry to return. Onboard, we immediately headed for the ship’s bow. As we walked, we put on headphones and clipped radio packs to our waistlines. The ship broadcast a pre-recorded audio tour over a series of frequencies, with options for over half a dozen languages that I could hear. I found that out, along with the knowledge that my volume was up too high, when a french person began screaming into my ears. Ready for the tour, we braced ourselves just behind the flying flag of California as the boat headed out into open water. We passed the coastline of the city, going north to get a good view of the Marina and the Presidio. We were heading straight at the Golden Gate, and the wind funneled beneath the bridge created a strong breeze and a lot of chop. We hung on tight to the bow as our hair was whipped back and the deck rolled beneath us. It didn’t feel dangerous at all, but it was quite exciting and we both had a great time. Even catching the odd spray of water (me right in the mouth) didn’t diminish our enjoyment of the experience. Just as we were about to pass under the bridge, we stopped, turned, and headed back towards Alcatraz and Angel islands. The audio tour filled us in on Sausolito and the surrounding areas. It also described the less than savory past of Angel Island (the ‘ellis island of the west’) with anecdotal support from some people who had gone through there. To continue the depressing details brigade, the tour went on to describe the history of Alcatraz. A former inmate provided colour commentary. We pulled into port actually quite sad that it had ended so soon. An hour seems like a long time, and it was a satisfying amount of time. We both still wanted to be out on the water, just the same.

Off the boat, we headed back to Pier 39 to do some wandering around. Pier 39 is a big shopping/dining complex along the water, with wares and menus of all types to tempt the wallets of visitors. We were still full, so we just indulged in some window shopping. Katie found a San Francisco Giants sweatshirt for the game tonight, and I enjoyed using one of those quarter-operated telescopes to see the names of the ships out on the bay. (The ‘Tokyo Marine’, a large cargo container flying the Japanese flag, was only slightly more interesting than a sloop of odd-looking folks sailing on the ‘Sanity Check’.)

We headed home after that, and managed to catch Steff in time for another dinner. We had a really great pizza at Georgio’s Pizzeria, while talking about family and books and whatnot. I haven’t had New York style pizza that good in a very long time. Afterwards we were walking back to the car when I heard music coming out of a pub along the street. The Plough and The Stars pub had recently been redecorated, and Steff lamented the loss of character the bar had suffered. Just the same, the Boddington’s the bartender pulled was delicious. There was a group of people doing a jam session around a table laden with Guiness, and while it was fairly empty when we got there the mood became more and more festive as we sat there drinking and talking. A great evening all around.

In about an hour or so I’ll be taking off to have lunch with Simon Carless and some other folks, and this evening we’ll be taking in the Giants vs. the Angels at Pac Bell Park. Ahh, stadium food.

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  1. well, that’s the french for you. always what with the screaming and the ears and such. maybe its the boats that bring it out in them.

    hope the game was entertaining. i suppose nobody threw nachos on barry bonds again. sigh, i’ll have to remedy that.


  2. Hah. Actually, we were sitting right next to a chick who kept screaming ‘I LOVE YOU BARRY’. He was obviously used to her, because he turned around and gave her the glove wave a couple of times.

    Weeiird.



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