Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cable cars, island prisons, long bridges, fabulous chocolate, crooked street...and no sleep!

A few months ago, my friend Melinda told us that she'd have to be working a lot in California. She does trainings down there during the week and then flies home for the weekends. The past month or so has been full of these fun weeks of her living in hotels and finding her way around Sacramento.

At the beginning of December, Melinda and I were talking about how the weekend before Christmas, she'd be stuck in CA. We'd been discussing how fun it would be for me to come visit and then for the two of us to venture out to San Francisco for a day or two to see the sights and have some good times. The next morning after we talked, I bought a ticket to Sacramento to come see her the weekend she'd be all alone.

Then came the research...what were the things not to miss in such a big city? The list kept getting longer as we'd remember things. "We could take a cable car!" "Oooh, the Full House houses!" "Let's go to Alcatraz!" And we had one day to cram it all in.

We decided to start our day at the crack of dawn at Coit Tower, with a big view of the city, including both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge at the same time. The sun rose over the water as we started our day with this lovely photo:

Hold it! Back up. Getting to Sacramento and then on to San Francisco was quite the adventure, and I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention the craziness we survived. Long story short: I hate snow. It delayed my flight FOUR hours, so instead of getting to Sacramento at 10:00pm Friday night, I got there 2:00am Saturday morning. When we finally got in bed at 2:30 that morning, we debated setting our alarms for 4:30 to get up and get ready for the trek to San Fran. But we had ONE DAY. And you bet we got our butts out of those warm beds that early to get a good start. Melinda was even prepared with Coke Zero and Diet Coke for us to drink on the drive in.

So yeah, if you can imagine 5:30am, we're trying to find a Wal-Mart that's open 24-hours and close to the freeway so we can buy breakfast and extra caffeine. Oh, and warm gloves and hats. Yes, even though we were in California, we were still battling temperatures in the thirties and forties (but as I understand it, Utah was way colder that day...). Since both Melinda and I are experts in efficiency, we hustled out of there and made our way to the big city just in time for the sunrise after 7:00.

The rest of the day passed in kind of a blur--but a glorious one. After sunrise at Coit Tower, we walked up Lombard Street, also known as "the crooked street." At 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday, we basically had the neighborhood to ourselves, and it was a crisp, beautiful day.

Then we found parking and made our way to Pier 33 to catch our "cruise" to Alcatraz. We'd decided on the earliest one so we could have the rest of our day to plan and play as we pleased (Lace, I think I caught one of those alliteration sales you are so fond of!). We thought it would be freezing cold, but it actually wasn't too bad for December 20th. On the island, we took an audio tour of the cellblock. It was quite fascinating learning how Alcatraz housed the worst of the worst prisoners and some of the mutinous and crazy things that happened there. For instance, did you know that some of the guards and their families actually lived on the island? Hmm...not ideal for kids growing up, if you ask me. Melinda bought a tin cup (supposedly like the prisoners used) at the gift shop...and I mocked her. :)

After Alcatraz, we took a walk up the bay to see Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. We stopped at a fun little restaurant with great views and had some lunch. And of course, if you're going to eat on Pier 39, you've gotta have seafood. We ate and then moseyed about and saw the carousel, some other fun shops, and even walked by a little magic show. If you haven't been to Pier 39, just imagine a permanent carnival. I bought some sunglasses at one of the stores because I was blind with how sunny it was, especially with all the surrounding water. Huh...go figure. And Melinda mocked me and my enthrallment with the carousel. Then we went and saw the famous Pier 39 sea lions. As we walked up further, there wasn't much to see at Fisherman's Wharf except for these cute little guys...

So we continued our trek and found Ghirardhelli Square. This was a little more up our alley...out with the carnival and in with the classy little shops. Everything looked like it came out of a scrapbook page. We stopped in at a little tea shop and saw people having afternoon tea with cute little cups and little pastries and sandwiches. The only word I can think of to describe it is 'precious.' Unfortunately, however, we had just stuffed our faces with lunch, so all of the chocolate and ice cream that abounded in the Ghirardhelli shop was not looking too appetizing.

By this point, my energy level was plummeting, and we still had to walk back to our car....which was a dozen blocks or so away. But it was a lovely day and downhill, so we enjoyed the sun and the fun houses we walked past. It's surprising to me that whomever decided to build San Francisco did so with SO many hills around. You're always either going up a hill or down it, no matter where you go. Our shoes padded down the pavement perfectly, and we made it to the car where I fueled up with some more Diet Coke (no, Coke didn't pay me for this endorsement), and I was ready to see more.

Our plan was to head to the Palace of Fine Arts/Exploratorium and then onto the Golden Gate Bridge. My awesome (read: failed) navigational skills got us on the highway for the bridge, but it wasn't much of a detour at all, so we just changed our plans accordingly. After we drove across the vast expanse, we parked at a little look-out point and hiked back across the pedestrian portion of the bridge. I found out later from my dad that 18 people died building that bridge. It doesn't look so bad when you're in a car, but actually standing on it and looking up, that thing is massive and imposing. Don't look down, either...even if you're not fazed by heights much, the sight is daunting.

We drove back across the bridge into the city and found the Palace of Fine Arts. The architecture of this building was exquisite, Grecian and so classic. There was a pond with a fountain, and the weather was just so lovely. We dallied around and got some pretty amazing pictures.

At this point, we also took the opportunity to work on our video diary that we had started earlier in the day (if I ever get the videos from Melinda, I'll post them here...maybe...). I watched it when we were done, and I asked, "Is that what I really look and act like?" Yep. Strange how self-aware we think we are and yet we actually aren't. Take a video of yourself or record your voice and see how weird it seems to watch yourself in the third person.

By now, it was only 3 in the afternoon. Don't believe it? Yeah, we couldn't either. We had seen most of the things that topped our list already. But we decided to head on over to Union Square to see the shopping and the Christmas decorations. Melinda was a trooper as she drove up some pretty big hills (she hates driving up steep hills) and we even got to drive down Lombard Street (Remember that crooked street? The one we walked up that morning?). We got some fun pictures of the buildings downtown as we headed into the metropolitan part of the city. It was really busy, it being the Saturday before Christmas. I had really wanted to go to H&M, and just my luck, we went to two! I love that place...and I spent way more than I should have. But all in the name of good fashion! Union Square was decked out with a beautiful Christmas tree and some sort of skating rink. By this time, we were about dead. We decided to call it a night and get back to Sacramento.

I was really surprised that we fit it all in! At the beginning of my adventure, I was feeling a foreboding as my flight kept getting more and more delayed, and with the lack of sleep, I was sure we were going to hit a wall and not get everything done that we wanted. Or that I would get us lost (my navigational skills struggle...). But seriously, we couldn't have asked for a better San Francisco day.


Blogger Joswha said...

I'm so jealous. I love Frisco! I really need some fresh sea food form the wharf right now!

January 1, 2009 at 11:15 AM


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