Archive for August, 2006

Ghirardelli Chocolate, The San Francisco Treat!

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

After the mud run we decided that we ought to take a trip out to San Francisco since I had never been there. Tommy and Elizabeth have become quite adept at touring the major spots in San Francisco since they’ve taken so many of their family and friends out there. The drive is not all that interesting. Much of the drive is waiting for your turn to fork over $3.00 for the privelege of driving over the bay bridge into the city. It seriously took an entire hour just to get to the toll booth. After that things moved rather well.

Confusingly deceptive San Francisco intersectionParking is horrendous and some of the streets are crazy with incomprehensible intersections. Once we parked we tried to figure out how much we would be charged by reading the ticket they gave us. The parking garage had all sorts of confusing pricing plans based on the time of day, the length of your stay, and whether or not you had eaten at any of their partner restaurants. Once we got out of the car, though things started to get interesting.

A man singing and playing the guitar at Pier 49There is no shortage of street performers in San Francisco. Some people were singing or break-dancing, and others were acting like robotic statues all painted up in silver or gold. Many of the performers looked like they were making about $100/hour. Maybe I just saw them at their best time of the day. In any case, it certainly appeared that one could make a living off of performing and relying on donations from passersby and onlookers. I didn’t take their picture because I assumed that they would expect money for capturing their poses.

AlcatrazWe didn’t go out to Alcatraz, but from the area around Pier 39 there is a pretty good view of it. Nearby there are seals that have some protected area where they sunbathe. A few of them were in what appeared to be a rather playful mood. I couldn’t tell if they were wrestling for fun or to actually hog certain areas and claim them as their own territory. The wind was so strong that the pelicans in the area were unable to always fly in the direction they desired. Many of them were not even flapping their wings and were just hovering in the air above our heads waiting for a break in the wind.

Nearer Fisherman’s Wharf there are about five different restaurants with street-vending open on the outside of their restaurants. They all sell about the same food, but they are fiercely competitive with one another often competing on one or two cents difference from their neighbors. Elizabeth was trying to find the cleanest looking setup while the pigeons, no longer afraid of humans, dive-bombed my head. I didn’t actually get hit by any of them, but they were not making me feel comfortable. Once Elizabeth and the rest of us agreed on where we should go to get ourselves some fish and chips we walked around to see their display cases. The cleanest one appeared to be selling minced fish shaped, breaded, and fried. It looked like it came out of a box and it wasn’t what we were after. We walked along and stopped at a moderately less clean-looking stand run by a group of Asians. They had the best looking food, so we decided to order from them instead. While we were waiting for our turn a man asked for a sample of their soup. The cook, who was very busy, took a plastic spoon and, without looking up, dipped it right in the large cooking vessel and handed it to the man who was very surprised and started telling his friends about it immediately.

Lombard Street: The least-straight street in the world.After we ate we got back in the car and headed over to Lombard Street, the windiest section of street in the world. There was a terribly long line of cars waiting on the incline leading up to the summit where the famous snake-like section begins. Tommy looked at the map and saw that there are three directions one could approach that particular intersection from, so he headed the direction that looked the least congested. When we got to the top and prepared to make a left on the street we were disappointed by a sign reading “No Left Turn.” No one was going, and Tommy was already sick of waiting, so he made a left anyway and we wound our way down to the bottom. We, the three passengers, were incredulous.

We visited the free sample-laden Ghirardelli Chocolate Company store. Tommy demonstrated that the people that hand out free samples either don’t care or don’t notice when the same person exits and reenters with an open palm. I think he got a total of four free samples of their dark chocolate filled with caramel while we were there. If it hadn’t been so crowded I would have enjoyed getting an ice cream sundae for dessert after our meal, but the Ghirardelli place was packed, so we headed out to our next stop: The Golden Gate Bridge.

Tommy enjoying taking pictures at the Golden Gate BridgeIt was overcast and the top of the Golden Gate Bridge was obscured by the low clouds. It was still an amazing sight. At a prime photo spot a large group of people of Indian descent was trying to get their picture taken together. Tommy negotiated a camera swap and he and Krissy took pictures with their cameras, then we switched. Tommy gave his camera to a man who appeared to be the Father or leader of the group. I gave my camera to a 16 year-old girl from the group. The Father went first. He took about 20 seconds to take the first shot. Then he spent another 20 seconds trying to figure out how to get the zoom to work on Tommy’s camera. Tommy helped him get it figured out. Then it took him another 30 seconds to finally take his second picture. When the girl with my camera’s turn came up she took the picture in about 2 seconds. The pictures on Tommy’s camera cut off Elizabeth’s chin. He had sacrificed us to frame the background perfectly. The picture taken with my camera came out almost perfect. We wanted a picture of our group, not the bridge. I guess he didn’t understand that the bridge was only there to incidentally show where we were at the time.

No Missiles Allowed.  It's only a misdemeanor though.We had a lot of time on our metered parking space so Tommy convinced us to walk across the bridge. I’m glad he did! It was amazing to feel the strong winds out there. Many people from all over the world were taking pictures as they walked across this California landmark. Tommy demonstrated that it took almost 30 seconds for spit to reach the water below. The wind was so strong that after you spit over the side and after it had fallen below the level of the bridge the wind would carry the spit far out away from you and you could watch it fall all the way to the water’s surface. Right after we both did this a few times I noticed a sign that said it was a misdemeanor to drop anything from the bridge. I assumed that included spit. Strangely, the sign specifically included missiles. I would have thought that dropping missiles from the Golden Gate Bridge would have carried felony charges, but what do I know. It was now getting late in the day, but there was one more spot we wanted to see.

The steps to Coit Tower must have been funded through donations.There is very little parking at the base of Coit Tower, so we parked a little way down the hill and walked up some stairs, the construction of which appeared to have been funded by donations. Tommy and Elizabeth had never been up to the top of Coit Tower. It’s not free, but Krissy and I wanted to go, so we took the four of us up to the elevator to the top. Although there are some amazing views up there, I was more fascinated by the international coinage that had been dropped through the edges of the windows and that had landed on the sills of each port hole. I also found a soccer field at one of the ports which seemed oddly out of place and somewhat suspicious. By the time we had seen all there was to see and had taken nearly a hundred pictures of Alcatraz trying to time it when the light from the lighthouse was facing us, it was starting to get dark.

I’m so glad that Tommy was driving because I was pretty tired. We had just driven for nine hours the previous day and were looking at a total of six for today. I don’t know why it is that sitting in a car makes you get tired when all you really have to do it not move much for hours on end, but it sure takes the energy out of me.

It was great to finally visit San Francisco even if it was for only a whirlwind tour all over the city. That’s one more place I can check off my list of places to visit!

Tommy, Elizabeth, Krissy, and Shawn at the Golden Gate Bridge.