I'd signed up for a day-long tour with SF Comprehensive Shuttle Tours , but had FORGOTTEN to bring my paperwork along!!! Luckily for me, the dynamite hotel concierge found the tour and got all my info for me. Whew! So I was off early to get to the Ferry Building from the hotel. There was that little mixup with the guy who hails taxis for hotel guests, but eventually I got the taxi, found the Ferry Building amid returning marathoners wrapped in yellow plastic after their extremely early morning run, tracked down a bathroom, and then joined the tour group.
The first half of the day was San Francisco. We hit all the major sights of the city, enough so that when I came back and saw a show that was shot at varying places around SF, I could shout (as is my annoying but endearing habit) "Been there!" every time. Saw Nob Hill and Grace Cathedral (which for some reason lets tourists stop there just to use the bathrooms. Are they hoping for an occasional conversion?) and that bookstore near Chinatown that my co-worker was so keen on me seeing because Hunter S. Thompson hung out there (it was also a block from "The Stinking Rose," which serves only garlic dishes, which was in turn a block from "Trattoria Pinocchio"—unless I got those switched—which had been recommended to me before I left home as Places You Have To Eat At).
I was particularly keen on seeing Lombard Street because back in the sixth or seventh grade I'd gotten The Dagger Affair, #4 of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel series, which had an extended scene of our dashing Men from UNCLE (and their THRUSH allies) (yes, allies!) (for this one great book) (the other great book in the series was #6, The Vampire Affair. Both were by David McDaniel.) where were we? Oh yes, Illya and Napoleon were taking turns running beside their limo while a bad guy was chained to it. The car was creeping down... wait for it... LOMBARD STREET!!!
And I got to see it, oh joy! Took lots of pictures but unfortunately my camera doesn't have an anti-shake feature so only a few came out well. I do want to paint something from this because it was so colorful and then there's that zig-zag of a street in the center. Cool! Also cool were the wild parrots in the area, which I only got one far-off silhouetted shot of.
Our guide kept pointing out places saying “Dirty Harry” this and “Steve McQueen” that, where the various chase scenes took place, but when I asked where the chase scene from What’s Up Doc was, or where the time machine from Time After Time showed up, or where Starfleet HQ was located or where Mr. Sulu'd walked through Chinatown, for pete’s sake, he just stared blankly at me. Afterward I told him that all he had to do was take 2 hours and watch Star Trek IV and he’d have all the ST SF trivia he’d need. He said that he didn’t think he could survive 2 hours watching Star Trek. Harumph!
Anyway, we trekked down a couple of the steeper hills... which took like three inches at a time to creep down, trying to hold on to walls along the way so you wouldn’t fall. Some of the streets have sidewalks that are so steep they had to be made into stairs the entire way. We walked a bit through Chinatown and the International Palace whatsis down by the Presidium where the time machine appeared, and we got to choose whether to go to the Japanese tea garden or the de Young museum with the gorgeous view down at Golden Gate Park. (Though I still had no idea where the Enterprise had parked there.)
SF that day was COLD!!!! Before that, it had been beautiful crisp fall days. But as soon as we got across the Golden Gate (toll booth for southbound only) the weather turned sunny and warm and we could look back and see the curtain of clouds over the city, showcasing the weather anomaly caused by the Golden Gate that results in distinct miniclimates.
The ridges were fabulous. I can't recall such beautiful lays of land. No wonder so many people move to CA. (Our tour guide had to explain how rents and taxes work to keep things affordable.) Over on the Sausalito side of things growth was much more controlled and wild areas preserved than in the SF area, which was good to hear.
We got off the bus for lunch in Sausalito. I was looking for... well, something. Saw some really nice paintings and decided what the hey to have lunch next door to the gallery. It was an ice cream and hot dog place up front, but farther back it turned into a really awful-looking restaurant that seemed like someone had just piled up some old walls they'd dragged in from the local dump with some nasty corrugated plastic panels here and there and over the entire place as a roof. Still, they had a wonderful clam chowder, salad and bread. The restroom was beyond awful for a civilized town. Even the pit toilet at the Pacific outlook (see below) was cleaner.
In the afternoon we piled on another bus to tour Muir Woods and the redwoods there — gorgeous! Apparently the valleys along the coastline offer enough steady rain/dew that redwoods grow well. The Muir Woods redwoods aren't the tallest species but they are the oldest. They were spectacular (and imho tall enough)! Sometimes they'd be split up the middle and seem to glow from within. Hopefully I can bring that out in some paintings. I took lots and lots of pictures, but again my hands were shaky.
On the way back we hit a scenic outlook far, FAR above the Pacific. So I finally got to see that ocean! The horizon glowed white in the midafternoon sun. The coastline was WAAAY below us, all craggy and such with a teeny-tiny beach. The ride back from there was pure cliffside and I unfortunately hung over a lot of air as we twisted and turned along the highway. Arrrgh! Did I kiss the ground when we finally disembarked? It's all so hazy. I don't recall.
Why do they have to make tipping so difficult? I thought I'd brought enough but then realized that I needed a tip for the driver as well as the guide, and I didn't have change. So unfortunately I didn't tip before lunch and after lunch we had totally different guys! Can't recall what happened to my money, but by the time the afternoon tour was over I was all for giving the bus driver my life savings because he didn't run us over any cliffs and we were still alive, ALIVE! but didn't have anything to tip him with, though I had some by the end of the ferry ride to give the guide who met us in SF. Weird.
Second bus guy, I owe you bigtime!Caught the ferry from Sausalito back to SF. Caught strep throat or a bad flu there, too. Sat outside so I could savor the experience (and apparently the germs). The ferry guy slowed down and detoured so we could get a good look at Alcatraz. Cold, cold, cold and windy! Cough. Could have gone down to Fisherman’s Wharf from the Ferry Building since we got a free transfer but instead decided to wobble back to the hotel.
Which way did the buses go? I wanted straight ahead, but the bus with the correct number went left-right. And besides, I thought it was stopped at a bus stop when it wasn't (don't know why it stopped) and would have had to have run to the central bus stop to catch it—how embarrassing! People had told me the hotel was only 15 minutes walk away, so I decided to do that.
A few blocks later I wondered if that was a good idea. It was Sunday afternoon in downtown SF and NO ONE was on the streets but me. I held my purse tightly to my side and marched onward, ever onward. After a couple of suspicious-looking individuals passed nearby and I neared what I thought were familiar surroundings (they weren't, but after a few more blocks they were), suddenly the entire population of the city turned out on the sidewalks and it was just a matter of hitting the food court one last time and hobbling back to the hotel where I could collapse. My pedometer registered something like 19,000 steps for the day.
San Francisco deserves much more than a one-day tour. I'd say three days would be minimum and five or six just right, especially if you want to savor the SF food and get in lots and lots of great photos.
And do take your Airborne tablets. By the flight home I had that kind of bad breath that's in the back of your throat that warns you that you've caught something awful. I felt sorry for the lady I sat beside from Cinci to RDU. (And honey, if you're burning up with the need to write that book that's inside you, but you don't sit down to do the actual writing because you
(1) only write when the muse strikes and
(2) that muse won't let go once she's visiting, which means you can't stop writing, so you neglect your kid and hubbie and your own life, and
(3) the idea that you should give yourself only a convenient and regularly-scheduled amount of time to write, at the end of which you make notes for ideas to write about the next time you sit down to the typewriter even though your lovely muse may not show up that day—
if that so upsets you because you feel it's so WRONG... Well, how's that working for you? You should give a listen to one of the RWA's workshops on CD that's called something like, "Screw the muse—I'm on deadline!" Muses are terrific, but they're not needed every time you sit down to the computer.)
Great flights. You CAN survive on 4 biscotti for 4 hours with a couple of slugs of cranberry juice. Just make sure you bring lots of sudoku and a good romance novel (with kleenex for the happy/sad parts!).
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