Sunday, February 19, 2012

The City by the Bay

I first visited San Francisco with my parents in 1983.  The rolling fog, the sunny hillside homes called Painted Ladies, the wharf, the bridge, Alcatraz- I fell in love with them all.  I knew I'd be back.

Twenty-nine years later, I discovered I really had left my heart in San Francisco because I felt the love for the city return immediately.  Walking down to Fisherman's Wharf with Greg for his first view of the Bay, I watched his face for signs.  Yep, it was there.  He was in love, too.  When you see the beauty of San Francisco Bay from the Wharf with the sweeping view of the silver giant, Bay Bridge to your right and her stately and majestic younger sister, the Golden Gate Bridge to your left with the anomaly of Alcatraz, The Rock, in the middle, your heart does a little flip-flop.  I defy anyone to say differently.  I really like this city.
Golden Gate

Bay Bridge
With one day a wash for sightseeing due to illness, we opted for another whirlwind Hop-On, Hop-Off tour and I'm so glad we did.  The Great American Tour Bus that we first hopped on had a live tour guide named Katie.  I'm not sure if our children fell in love with San Francisco, but they definitely fell for Katie.

She is a twenty-something college student living in a one room apartment with two roommates in the famed Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco, and basically, loving life.  She engaged the kids with her history of the city and made them laugh on each street.  She made them hold their breath for good luck (no fog) going through the tunnel before the Golden Gate Bridge, made them be silent going over the bridge to better enjoy the view, and then ordered everyone to scream with her through the tunnel returning to the city.  What kid wouldn't love all that?  Thank you, Katie, for making learning while sightseeing so much fun!

We had so much fun with Katie that we didn't hop off the bus until our stomaches growled with protests as we entered Chinatown.  We strolled the overwhelming streets of the largest Chinatown in North America searching for the perfect restaurant.  We gave up, tossed a coin, and stepped in the next place on the right creatively named, The Chinatown Restaurant.  We ordered luncheon for five and dug in, enjoying course after course of delicious Cantonese food.  Forty-five minutes later, the lazy Susan was spun out and we decided to explore Chinatown in the rain.  Window shopping in Chinatown is a feast for the eyes.  We passed trinkets of all shapes and sizes, implements of destruction (individual not mass), roots, herbs and spices for medicinal and culinary purposes, and a "to drool for" kitchen supply store.  Though we purchased nothing, we enjoyed looking at Made in China products guilt-free.

Returning to the hotel, the kids crashed while Greg and I enjoyed a private moment around the outdoor fireplaces of the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf.  Pizza from a nearby Little Italy pizzeria was the perfect dinner for a pooped family.

The next morning, we greeted the day with Boudin Bakery sourdough breakfast sandwiches and sea lions.  Touted to be the second most visited site in California (Disneyland is number one!), Pier 39 has many offerings for tourists from shopping, games, and boat rides to excellent restaurants and bars, but the number one attraction is its sea lions.  These adorable, but loud, creatures have their own docks where they sleep, visit and fight with one another daily.  Definitely fun to watch.

After conversing with the sea lions and strolling the wharf one last time, we headed for the airport.  Once again I left my heart in San Francisco which was kind of ironic to do so on Valentine's Day.  Sorry, Greg!
Next stop?  Vegas, baby!

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