Saturday, September 16, 2017

If you are going to San Francisco ...

If you have children, you know the trials and joys of the family vacation - the constant search for affordable activities to keep them entertained and the lasting memories when you do.  Recently, it was 100% role reversal when we visited #1 Daughter (#1D) in San Francisco - she took complete control of the 4-day itinerary - and it was a treat in every sense.  Here are the highlights from Day 1.

San Fran is famous the world over for its vintage rail transit vehicles - cable cars and street cars.  We were just darn proud that #1D had mastered the public transit system back in April when she arrived at the San Fran airport on her lonesome to start her summer internship with California Shakespeare Theater.  During our visit, she navigated nimbly between the subway, bus system and street cars.  

On our way to Pier 33 to catch the ferry for Alcatraz, our streetcar driver provided free entertainment in the form of running commentary.  People were a little slow to get on and he said: "You all might be on vacation, but I have a schedule to keep!"  When his car was full, someone asked when the next car would come along, and he said: "When it gets here, you let me know! " 

Alcatraz evoked a plethora of reactions - some unexpected.   By its very nature, the audio tour in the cell house puts you in the sounds of a jail - doors clanging closed, jeering voices from other prisoners, barking commands from the keepers.  So well done.  You can easily imagine the solitude and depression.
The unexpected?  The flowers and especially the birds.  The Island is a bird sanctuary, and there is no attempt to keep the park clean.  In some areas, the odor was so ripe I found myself covering my nose just to keep walking.  I don't often complain about these sorts of things, but I am confident there is a way that the Park Service can maintain the sanctuary while still making it palatable to paying customers.
Next!  Pier 39 is a glorious tourist mecca with something for everyone.  Crepes made to order - even if you're not buying, you can watch (for free!) the jaw-dropping expertise of the crepe-maker - just enough batter spread perfectly evenly using a special swivel tool.  And the toppings!  Chocolate, strawberries, bananas, you name it!  Not sure how I got out of there without one!  Two-tiered carousel.  Gift shops.  Restaurants. Ice cream.  And did I mention the seals?  Laugh out loud free entertainment -  we must have braved the cool breezes for at least 30 minutes, while the seals flopped on and off the platforms.  Clearly, landing on your fellow seal is not an issue since we saw seal after seal gracefully leave the water only to plop onto another seal and then wriggle to an open spot, with nothing more than a lift of the head for a reaction.

No port is complete without ships, and San Fran is no exception.  Pier 45 is home to the USS Pampanito, a Balao-class submarine.  She completed six war patrols from 1944 to 1945 and served as a Naval Reserve Training ship from 1960 to 1971. She is now a National Historic Landmark, preserved as a memorial and museum ship.  Right next door is the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, a Liberty ship built during World War II.  She is a rare survivor of the 6,939-ship armada that stormed Normandy on D-Day, 1944.  On the wall near the ships is this mural, which is a tribute to the women who supported the war effort.  You go, ladies! 

On a slightly smaller scale, Fisherman's Wharf still bustles with fishing vessels that support the local, family-owned restaurants and an active deep-sea fishing tour trade (but you have to be willing to be at the wharf at 5.30 a.m!).  I will stick with just taking pictures!

So, as you have probably figured out by now, #1D had mostly focused on free entertainment, and I continued to be amazed at what is available if you look.  Our next stop was nothing short of amazing (and amusing).  The Musée Mécanique is one of the world's largest privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines (over 200) in their original working condition. (You can play them!)  My favorite was the Wurlitzer Style B Orchestration, circa 1912.  Only 50 to 75 of these were made in 1912!  The 13 songs on the playlist included Stars and Stripes Forever, which of course I chose to play.

A day in San Fran is not complete without sampling the restaurants - #1D had chosen Coqueta on Pier 5 for its menu and proximity to the Bay Bridge.  

As the sun left the sky, the Bay Bridge glittered.  (The Bay Lights , an iconic light sculpture on the west span of the bridge, was designed by world-renowned artist Leo Villareal with 25,000 LED white lights that stretch 500 feet high for 1.8 miles. Inspired by the Bay Bridge’s 75th Anniversary, the artist created a never repeating, dazzling display for the original period March 5, 2013 through March 2015.  Beloved by city residents, the installation came back permanently on January 30, 2016.)                

And the curtain came down on day one, with a standing ovation.
Linking to Mosaic Monday

Linking to Our World Tuesday
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  1. Wonderful. I always enjoy visiting a city when someone who lives there can give us a personal tour. Your daughter did a great job for your visit.

  2. What a great adventure! Nice photos. I am so glad the rains finally came and it is so lovely here in MT now. I hope the same is for you up North. :) Kit

  3. That sounds like a wonderful and very full day. How fun to have your daughter organize it all for you!

  4. Oh it has been wayyy too long since we visited! Thank you for the memories and the lovely pictures. It's a nice feeling when your kids entertain you well isn't it!!

    Was the odor on Alcatraz from the great number of birds there? If that's true, I don't think the park would be able to do anything about it. Sometimes breeding/nesting places do stink (the stork rookery that we love in Florida definitely's just the nature of life I think)

  5. OH what a wonderful first day. I do love San Francisco - we used to visit all the time when we lived in California - it is the perfect vacation spot - so many things to do. So much to see. You surely covered some of the very best spots. Thanks for sharing the photos - it brings back sweet memories.

  6. I'd love to visit. Thanks for the tour.

  7. WE have visited San Fran and loved the Pier. Your pics are beautiful. Love the lights on the bridge. Nice not to have to make all the plans for each day.

  8. You packed a lot in for your first day!!

  9. Hi! The last photo is very beautiful. I remembered the song. Thanks for sharing.

  10. WOW! Since I know I'll never get there, thanks for taking me around!!! Beautiful memories!!!...:)JP

  11. How great to have a daughter that planned the itinerary in San Francisco. There’s lots of fun to be had at little cost and I do recall, from my trip so many years ago, that the drivers are often charismatic and transform ordinary tours into something special with their extraordinary commentary.

  12. So many wonderful memories evoked by your blog post. I, too, love San Francisco. I agree with your daughter, and my good friend Penelope Puddle (above) that fun in San Francisco need not be expensive. Thanks for the memories as well as the tour!
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  13. More wonderful memories from seeing this SF post! The seals on the pier were always fun to watch and there are so many wonderful seafood restaurants along the waterfront.


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