Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I’ve been to California dozens of times but for whatever reason, I’ve never been to San Fran and after three soggy days exploring in the rain-- I’m a big fan. The thing I like about San Francisco is that its not as stuffy and pretentious as London and it’s not so in your face and “get out of my way” as New York. This city seems to securely know who it is and it happily welcomes you to visit. You can come or you can go…its cool. It was clear San Fran gets down to business but they also know that weekends are made for sleeping in, taking it easy and connecting with friends while wearing jeans, comfortable sweatshirts and enjoying baked goods.
I was delighted to learn that it truly is a walk able city… and we walked. We rode trolley cars and we walked. We rode BART and we walked. We took buses and we walked. We splurged on one cab and we walked. And we sampled all of these forms of transpiration in the pouring rain. I never left our hotel without my trusty umbrella and we returned home each night soaked to the bone. Even while dodging puddles and sidewalk moats we had a terrific time exploring. Cable cars are fun…and quite refreshing with a little speed and a little moisture. On two separate mornings, while walking throughout the financial district, we heard live music. Spontaneous melody coming from a liberated soul who just had to get it out. One day it was a trumpet soloist who played jazzy renditions of show tunes and the second day we heard a man singing Puccini at the top his well-trained lungs. I’m not even kidding and I’m not sure if this music was actually spontaneous or if was the result of a very well planned marketing ploy planted so successfully from San Francisco travel and tourism department. Either way it was fantastic. This free downtown concert created an authentic soundtrack for our trip. Factor in the rain and the weekend foot traffic casually walking from one Starbucks to the next coffee house the whole city was washed in a sensible shade of classic grey complete with a well-timed musical score. Toss in some expected, yet not overbearing car horns and you have a movie worthy backdrop. We fully expected to see a well dressed Meg Ryan or Scarlet Johansen round the corner looking for her next great romance. Ahh…..perfection.
Our hotel was just blocks from Chinatown-which I loved! Loved the colors. Love the architecture. Loved the sidewalk markets and fruit stands. Loved the rich culture and tradition. The historic Fortune Cookie Factory did however leave a bit to the imagination and mostly resembled a hot stuffy cramped building carefully hidden in a side alley full of Chinese women pulling hot Asian short bread rounds off a large machines. I’m not really sure what I expected to see when we arrived but it was a bit of a let down. However, I will probably always think about theses ladies whenever I crack open a fortune cookie.
One highlight of our trip was visiting Britex Fabric Store. Unbelievable! Four floors of fabric and zippers and ribbons and bolt after bolt after bolt of the most beautiful textiles in the world. It was like a visual thanksgiving feast and I slobbered over every square inch. The Ribbon Room. OHHHHHH…..THE RIBBON ROOM! And the wall of zippers can only be compared to the wall of buttons, which can only be compared to the wall of tassels and trim. Clearly a new happy place has been identified and for the sake of my pocket book and my already overgrown fabric collection its really good I live a few states away.
Then there was the food. Oh my, the food! We basically ate bread and cheese and chocolate for three solid days. A warm crusty loaf of sour dough break is absolutely my favorite meal and when paired with artisan cheeses…well, can it get any better? We watched master artisans kneed, cut, weight, shape and bake loaf after loaf after loaf. HEAVEN!
You can’t visit this city without experiencing two iconic structures…Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge…both landmarks I found captivating. Alcatraz…really? The idea of a maximum-security prison floating on a distant island, which is often surrounded by fog and shark, infested water. BRILLIANT! While standing on the boardwalk looking out over the water and peering at this floating jailhouse I could not help but think of the constant reminder it was for this community. How many heart broken lovers and family members stood on the shore longing for there loved ones who were locked behind bars? What of the victims and family members of those who were victimized? You can’t help but see the prison starting back at you from wherever you are in the city. Looming. Always Looming. A constant fixture of both crime and punishment and all just a short ferry ride away. It is both haunting and romantic and the perfect place for a secret, or not so secret, lair.
AND then…the bridge…The Golden Gate bridge was no small task and when you see it up close it become even more inspiring. I love the bold orange color. I love the history of those who worked on this massive project. I loved roaming around the visitor’s center learning about the science of bridge. It’s worth seeing and if it had not been a constant down pour I would have ventured across it.
There was shopping. There was chocolate. There were sea lions. There was a soggy afternoon spent at the Ferry building enjoying an outdoor farmers market and an inspiring collection of specialty shops and eateries. There was lots of good conversation. There was much needed girl time. And thankfully there was a trusty pair of flip-flops, which I exchanged for a pair of sopping wet sneakers before I boarded the airplane home. All in all…it was a terrific weekend! Thanks for having a Birthday Carolyn! I’m so glad we are friends!