SF Journey 6/2019

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Land's End

This shows the opening into the harbor from Lands End which is a beautiful park on the Western end of the Bay, looking towards the East. It is extremely windy. The vegetation has assumed a habit which allows survival despite constant buffetting by the wind.  This park is clean, has bathroom facilities and is accessible by Uber. 

Land's End Park-Ground Cover

This reminds me of alpine vegetation,  constant wind exposure.

 

Sutro Baths

These baths were the original water park/public baths of the 1896-1966. It was a remarkable system of different temperature salt water baths. This was a privately owned facility to provide recreation for residents of the city. One can descend a long staircase from Sutro Heights to explore the ruins. It is part of the Land's End complex. 

 

Windswept Conifers in Land's End Park

These have a prehistoric appearance, note the aerodynamic shape due to constant wind exposure from the open ocean to the West.

 

How to Get to San Francisco

Basic advice on flying to SF. Every family has someone who is an expert on flying from place to place. They can be a solid source of information. Unfortunately, I did not use said person in my family, so what I learned was the "school of hard knocks" for air travel.  If you want the most economical tickets try to pick an airline that will allow you to change reservations without penalty. If you buy "flight insurance" from a ticket aggregator, do not expect it to be very helpful unless you have a serious medical emergency as the reason for cancellation or changing your tickets. Truly refundable tickets are available at a cost of 2-4X the regular price. Last piece of advice, try to fly on a big plane such as an A330 which has better seating room, free movies and cell phone charging, etc. The airlines will nickel and dime you to death so bring your own pillow and try to pack everything into a carry-on bag to avoid baggage check fees. I would also advise allowing a day or two of "wiggle room" on either side of the away time.

 

Where to Stay-Hotel Advisory

You have of choice of staying close to the meeting venue or selecting a hotel which is further away and Ubering into the site each day. In my case we stayed near my daughter's apartment which was in the Tenderloin. There are many hotels available which are quite good on the inside but the neighborhood is seedy.  If you are traveling by Uber, Lyft or a taxi then it really does not matter. Be careful purchasing accomodations in advance from a travel aggregator- you should be able to cancel or modify your stay without penalty up to the day before if you are careful.  If you start looking now and book directly with the hotel online via their web site, you may be able to get a decent room for $250/night or less.  The hotel shown above is now part of the Marriott chain and had a nice eatery attached to it. The rooms inside were quite nice, and they had big suites which included living room areas and other amenities. 

All parts of the city have homeless people camped out on the sidewalk. They are more numerous in the Tenderloin, but all parts, including the financial district and the areas around the meeting venue will have them. I was not accosted or subject to any interaction at all. Some gentlemen did offer to sell me some "hash," this was downtown within 100 yards of four SF Police Officers having coffee klatch, I told them I already had breakfast, no thank you and I think they might have called me a name.

There are people in small groups snuggling up with a teaspoon and needle on the street, but if you keep to the main streets it is not an overwhelming occurrence.  

Overall the people I met were friendly and helpful. One daughter was walking by herself in the early morning from the other daughter's apartment to my hotel. A DPW worker said "young lady, you don't belong here" and he escorted her one block to my hotel entrance. Compared with Boston and New York the vibe was much friendlier.

 

Why I went to SF

My daughter Caroline (right) just graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law and we went for the swearing-in ceremony for the California and Federal Bar. She finished her classes in 2.5 years and then studied at my house for 2 months getting ready to pass the bar exam, which is the hardest one in the U.S.  Her twin, Julia (left), is a poet and came with me.

 

Bookstore/Bar visit

Every big city has an independent bookstore and this one is spectacular.

City Lights Bookstore 261 Columbus Ave. My poet daughter Julia was very happy with the second floor which is all poetry and it has a large selection of books outside of the usual mainstream.

Next door is a bar called Vesuvio Cafe. 255 Columbus Ave. This was a haunt of Jack Kerouac and the other beat literary figures, right next to the City Lights Bookstore.  I'm not a bar person, but everything about this one is "just right." It is well worth a visit after checking out the bookstore.

Walking Tour-Chinatown and Financial District

We took a free walking tour that started from Union Square. This was about three miles. It included Chinatown and the Financial District. There are 54 square blocks of Chinatown in three separate districts. It is pretty clean and generally free of people living on the sidewalk. Many of the buildings are owned by family associations that go back for many generations. We got good advice for eating locations which we followed on subsequent days and got some great Dim-Sum for lunch. Our tour guide was fantastic and knew the history of the city inside and out. It is always a good idea to wear comfortable shoes for walking, I would advise against sandals or flip-flops. 

Seven Sisters Victorian Homes  (Painted Ladies)

This is a well-known tourist destination. The message in the window- does it come from the left, from the right, from the center, ?????  Does it matter?

There is a nice family friendly park (Alamo Park)  overlooking this spot. There are many examples of a diverse architectural heritage in the city. 

 

View towards Harbor from Marriott Rooftop

Night View-Rooftop Bar at Marriott Marquis

Marriott Marquis 780 Mission near Fourth St. has pretty awesome views of the City at night from 360 degrees. Glass covered rooftop bar, very loud, but a good place to hang out with your posse. Congratulations to my son-in-law Alex Bashunov (far right) just became a U.S. Citizen.

 

Golden Gate Bridge seen from Fort Point

Sailing in the Bay

Oil tanker in Bay, Pelican flying nearby

Best deal in SF, $15 Harbor Cruise from GGB to Alcatraz. They also can arrange fishing charters.

Lberty Ship and Sea Lions relaxing on Pier 41

Sea Lion- He might be a paid actor

U.S.S.Pampanito Submarine on Pier 45

Waterfront

From Golden Gate Bridge/Fort Point you can walk the entire waterfront area or take a bike or Uber. There is enough to keep you busy here for 3 days or more. The best deal of our trip was a 1.5 hour harbor cruise for $15 which included going out to Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz Island. We saw sea lions, a porpoise, harbor seals, and a variety of birds.

Alcatraz from boat,leaves from Pier 33 Get tickets now.

Alcatraz

If you want to tour the island, buy your tickets either early, they get sold out in advance. Maps of SF with many coupons for discounts are available from MAPSF, tel. no. 415-474-3126  FAX 415-885-6070.

How to get around-power assisted bikes (photo by Grace Bashunov)

Back up to center city on a Cable Car

Transport Around the City

The city is small (46.87 square miles) and the second most densely populated in the U.S. You can reach anywhere by Uber or Lyft, be sure to load the apps before you go. We never waited longer than 6 minutes for a ride. You can also take the Trams, Cable Cars, Buses or a Taxi.  For self propelled types, there are bike rentals, electric powered bike rentals, Mini -three wheeled car rentals, and Segway rentals. You might want to bring your own helmet and other protective gear as appropriate.

 

One of the structures inside Golden Gate Park (stock image)

Kids burning off energy in Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park  Over 1000 acres of clean, mostly free activities, safe, friendly with plenty of restrooms and attractions including greenhouses ($)  Botanical Gardens ($) California Academy of Sciences ($) a Science Museum and Planetarium with special features for kids, also an aquarium and zoo.   There is also an outdoor concert venue.

California Academy of Sciences

Admission varies by day of the week, between $35-45 approximately. This contains enough activities and exhibits to keep you busy for days. Note the "green roof."  It is inside Golden Gate Park. 

 

Dim Sum @ Begoni Bistro, Chinatown 615 Jackson St. S.F. (stock photo)

Original Joe's North Beach 601 Union St. S.F. 415-775-4877 (stock photo)

Dining in San Francisco

These recommendations have been "field-tested" for your dining pleasure. Starting with breakfast I can heartily attest to the excellent cuisine at Brenda's French Soul Food  652 Polk St. S.F. 415-345-8100. Try the pecan caramel French toast with grilled Andouille sausage.  This was my favorite.

Also excellent, and sometimes there is a line, Dottie's True Blue Cafe  28   6th Street S.F. 415-885-2767. This is close to the meeting site. A huge variety of breakfast food, Louisiana Soul Food flair to the menu, on-site bakery, also serves other meals besides breakfast. 

For lunch we had Dim Sum at Begoni's 615 Jackson St. S.F. (Chinatown) 415-757-0120.  This came highly recommended by our local sources of culinary 411, and it did not disappoint. 

Another good lunch venue is Mel's Kitchen  1050 Van Ness S.F. attached to the Opal Hotel which is now a Marriott unit. 415-292-6357

For dinner, we enjoyed Original Joe's  601 Union St  (North Beach) S.F.  415-775-4877. Nice selection of Italian food and Seafood, excellent desserts, a little dressier than the other sites, and you will need a reservation. Good service, friendly, good food.

We had Mexican at Tropisueno, 75 Yerba Buena Lane, S.F. 415-243-0299. They are a Taqueria at lunch and after 5pm change into a full service restaurant. They don't take large group reservations. The food is great, as is the service, and they were able to accommodate our vegetarian diner. Friendly service, casual, potent Margaritas- what more do you need?

Salt House 545 Mission St. S.F. 415-543-8900 downtown close to meeting area, good fish, good drinks, trendy (which my daughter says is coded language for expensive) Great desserts.

 

In Conclusion,

I was a skeptic before I went to San Francisco but immediately upon arrival, I found the people to be friendly and helpful, and proud of their city. I did not encounter any problems. I spent time in all parts of the city including the Tenderloin, Financial District, Chinatown, Union Square and Waterfront. I have never gone on a vacation where I did so many different things. As far as safety, the people of S.F. are basically self-regulating; I only saw four police the whole time (all bunched up together) and there was not the overwhelming presence that one sees in New York or Boston. So if you want a good time go to the College Meeting, be sure to allocate a few days on either side of the official meeting for fun.