San Fran Recap

Back in Brooklyn since Tuesday night; got sidetracked due to travel fatigue; errands; and that Great American Dread: Jury Duty (see next post). Below is a Long Post; this is what I get for not blogging for awhile. Hopefully you’ll be entertained.
See the posts for Thursday and Friday for what my sibs and I did on 9/21 and 9/22 (edited the Friday post).

Saturday, 9/23: Chinatown. Went to the Four Seas Restaurant that FC and P went to on their SF trip back in 2004 – food pretty good. Probably should’ve gotten more of the dim sum, but didn’t want to splurge (my cheapskate nature getting the better of me).

Big crowd grew for the Moon Festival events. Cute parade, with dragon dancing and firecrackers and people in costumes.

Eastern Bakery on Grant – best mooncakes (in my personal biased opinion; we bought two boxes; having sampled the ones from Boston and NYC, when we got home, I can definitely say that other mooncakes have too much of a peanut oil taste that I dislike – the Eastern Bakery mooncakes are quite good… ;-)). Saw that Eastern Bakery highlighted their photos on the wall: that of Bill Clinton having eaten Eastern Bakery’s mooncakes. I figured that it didn’t matter who was president; the bakery would’ve highlighted any major celebrity eating the mooncake. Really interesting tidbit: Eastern Bakery had on the door a publicity photo of Chinese-American actor Michael Paul Chan in his youthful days; he’s the actor whose face is probably more famous than his name (he’s a character actor who gets around a lot for quite awhile; I had thought he was great in the role of the Chinese-American of the 19th Century American frontier in Thousand Pieces of Gold). Apparently, Chan’s the local celebrity who made good for himself; thumbs up!
Anyway, we saved some money buying the mooncakes directly in SF rather than buying the brand in NY’s Chinatown (where the shipping cost adds almost $10 to the price).
After plowing through the crowds in Chinatown (I don’t think we spent nearly enough time in Chinatown), we headed off for more sightseeing: Legion of Honor and DeYoung Museum, thanks to the handy dandy City Pass.

The Legion of Honor museum – fascinating. Medieval to modern art; in the middle of a great piece of architecture; next to… a golf course. Nice lady directed us to a short cut through the golf course. Missed its recent Monet show and its upcoming Lorraine show; otherwise got to see a lot of Rodins. Would have liked to have spent more time, but had to get to De Young to comply with the City Pass Do-Two-for-One Admissions.

Bus ride to DeYoung Museum – creepy view of Pacific Ocean (fog probably made the creepiness possible, I daresay).

DeYoung – also another fascinating piece of architecture in the middle of a nice looking Golden Gate Park. Didn’t get to see much of the park, mind you; and modern art’s really not me (although I thought the exhibit on Chinese and Western art interacting in the 19th Century was fascinating). But, quite something to see.

Dinner at Max’s – appetizer: dungeness crabcake – yummy. Entree: Grilled portobello sandwich – tasty and satisfying; dessert: Niagara Falls cake – ooh, really chocolatey. Podcast attempted until my sandwich came; siblings ignored me as I was on the cell phone for the podcast. Cell phone charger can’t be found; probably left in Brooklyn (to date, still not found).

Sunday, 9/24: Road Trip! Brother rented car; we visited Palo Alto, driving through Haight Asbury; Stanford – what a beautiful campus next to a beautiful town of Palo Alto; Santa Rosa, where we visited the Charles Schultz Museum (the museum was closed by the time we got there, but the grounds were still open – ice rink for the Woodstock statues auction plus quite a souvenir store/gallery); and then dinner in Berkeley at Cafe Rouge, a moderately priced restaurant recommended by San Francisco for Dummies (yep, turns out that it’s a pretty nifty book). Appetizer: fried green tomatoes. I had the salad with Gravenstein apples (tasty) and grilled corn on the cob on side, and the affogato (vanilla ice cream in espresso and biscotti) for dessert. Didn’t see much of UC Berkeley (it was night), but looked interesting; very much more an urban campus than Stanford (which was its own town).

Splitting headache that night, as my brother drove up/down the steep hills of SF (sending my stomach reeling) to/from Coit Tower (which is creepy at night; who the hell is there, the apparent prime make-out/time-out for pot area?). I so don’t do hills very well.
Monday, 9/25: Tour bus to Wine Country. Tour bus driver seemed like an amiable guy who knew his wines well enough. Irritated my brother that the guy didn’t know that the previous day’s Moon Festival events (including the Dragon Boat racing) were Asian/Chinese, rather than… “Hawaiian” (uh, yeah, right). Nonetheless, the Wine Country was just beautiful. Scenery’s great. Wine tasting – ooh. Madonna Estate in Napa in the morning. Tips on the proper wine tasting technique. Lunch in Sonoma (the town) – Maria’s (pizza and other items of the mostly Italian variety). Had the Sonoma wrap – BBQ chicken, bacon, avocado, and veggies; fresh tasting and very satisfying. Sonoma’s a cute town. More wine tasting in the afternoon – Viansa in Sonoma (beautiful views – the Sebastianis giving up some of their land to rebuild wetlands – thumbs up for environmentalism/conservationism) – nice wines plus food tastings of their gourmet sauces; and across the road Cline, where they’re really generous on wines to taste. Really lovely reds and whites, plus Zinfadels. I’ve much preferred sweet red wines, but it was all very good. Cline was also famous for using solar power – enough for its own use and to give back to the grid. Cool. Tour guide there was most informative about history.

At least the bus ride got us breathtaking views of SF and a drive through Chinatown.

Then, off to another baseball game: San Francisco Giant v. Arizone Diamondbacks. No playoff contention for either team. SF lost, 7-1, to Arizona. Sibs and I were probably of the bunch booing Barry Bonds, the steriods man. AT&T is a beautiful ballpark – in an urban setting, so easy access; across the street from… Borders? Cool. Plus the water in the back with the people in kayaks waiting for homeruns and a cable car – plus garlic fries from the concession stands. (very garlicky; tasty, but thanks goodness they gave complimentary mints). Game got boring (didn’t help that SF lost so badly – felt bad for their manager, Felipe Alou (most appreciated for his managing the Expos in the 1990’s, in my mind; the Giants players just aren’t there for him).

Tuesday morning, 9/26 – breakfast at Sears Fine Foods – highly recommended in the travel books, and very well rated for famous breakfasts. I highly agreed – breakfast was delicious and substantial. French toast in sourdough – strawberries and syrup – yummy. My sibs had pancakes – boy, was there a lot.
Took the BART back to the airport. Flight home. Again: the processed cheese and crackers; cranberry raisin mix; stale chocolate chip shortbread. Dry roasted peanuts. Smoother flight than the one to SF. Onboard movies: the remake of Poseidan Adventure (didn’t not bother watching; fell alseep) and Nacho Libre. Posted my review on Yahoo – essentially, Nacho Libre was a lighthearted movie, good for flights. Some laugh out loud moments.

Don’t like takeoffs or landings very much; goes to show you what flying does to a person who hasn’t done it in years. Don’t know what to say when, landing at JFK, the pilot says: “Folks, JFk’s not known for being an easy place to land, but that was a textbook landing!” and people cheered when he said it. I mean, I’ve read somewhere that JFK is not easy to land, but to hear it confirmed – well…

Final thoughts:

Starbucks really is the modern symbol of civilization; whereever you go, it’ll be there.

Walgreen’s is SF’s answer to Duane Reade. It’s everywhere you want to be. Considering I’ve only seen two in NYC (one in Manhattan, around the 14th St/Union Sq area and one in Brooklyn, by King’s Plaza), I think I’ve never seen more Walgreen’s than ever after only one day in SF.

Homelessness and panhandling – well, I don’t know if the problem was that transparent because the hotel was near the border of Union Sq (SF) and the Tenderloin (the not-so nice end of SF), but seeing the sorted assundry at almost every block got irritating. And seeing them in the heart of tourist land by the Tourist Info Center on Market and Powell St – really irritating. Stuck with the don’t-make-eye-contact rule, but them yelling, “Change!” or just sleeping right there on the street one block from the Asian Art Museum (like in a body bag – one moment thinking it’s garbage and then realizing, oh wait, that’s a sleeping person, oh shit) – I mean, really prevalent problem here. You don’t attract tourists that way. Maybe that’s why the Asian Art Museum lacked people that night? On the other hand, we got there by sunset and passed by UC Hastings Law School, so I thought it was safe – but it got really dark and creepy at night – especially upon seeing the creepy folks coming out too.

Funny how none of this bothers me when I’m in NYC – don’t know why. Thought it was ironic that the same time we visited SF, SF’s mayor was visiting NYC to study how NYC Housing Authority does public housing; considering the homelessness in SF (they take up residence in UN Plaza – good grief, that wouldn’t be tolerated in NYC), maybe this is the urban problem to continue fighting in the 21st Century. I really have taken it for granted that NYC has done a great job to clean up Times Sq and other locations. At least we don’t have panhandlers or homeless sleeping at the front of our City Hall. But, kind of a sad feeling that SF, like any other city, has two extremes: the very rich and the very poor within a two block radius of each other. For all their liberal politics (and I must say that they’ve done a fantastic job to make things more accessible for people with disabilities and to be more environmental), they haven’t suceeded all that much (name me a city that has won the war on poverty, I guess).
Missed out on seeing more of Chinatown (I really admire the elderly for their climbing up and down those hills; or, as my brother suggested, that’s why they get on the cable cars); the Civic Center (would have liked to have seen the US Court of Appeals and the City Hall); North Beach (Italian food in the West Coast – aww shucks – would’ve liked it…); Nob Hill and the Victorian mansions (well, at least I was spared of yet another hill to send me hyperventilating). Would have liked to have at least walked by the TransAmerica building or walked on the Golden Gate. Perhaps another time; but we squeezed in as much as we could with the running around and despite travel fatigue setting in and giving us headaches.

City Pass was a useful item; kind of felt like a scavenger search to do the places it had coupons for but great that the public transportation was covered by it.

Beautiful weather (even with fog – an experience), and interesting stuff sampled. A worthy trip indeed.

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