Monday, February 08, 2010

Six Hours in San Francisco

Last Saturday, after dropping Vinaya at University of San Francisco campus in the morning, kids and I realized that we had nothing to do up until her orientation would be over by 1.30p.m. We returned to Presidio Inn, a desi run motel near Presidio, at the beginning of Lombard St. (on the other end of this road is the famous Crooked Street in San Francisco), Sony and I surfed Internet and Amala watched TV but we really got bored soon and decided to get out. Anyway we had to check out by noon.
Somehow Amala remembered Golden Gate Bridge from her last visit or its ubiquitous pictures on various brochures of the city might have reminded her about it. She started pushing me to walk there. The bridge was not that far from where we were but not close enough to take kids on foot, and the road was still wet from showers few hours ago.

I managed to convince Amala that it was better to get there by van and soon we were on the bridge crossing the San Francisco bay. Since we had the plan to walk the bridge, crossing the bridge by car to get to the northern end was a mistake; we could park the car in one of the parking areas in Presidio, on the south end of the bridge and walk from there, and that would have saved us the $6 toll that had to be paid upon returning to the city. Let the state take the money, California needs it :-)

We parked the van at the (standard) first vista point on 101N, immediately after crossing the bridge. Soon kids and I were on the bridge walking. It was chilly outside, mainly due  wind, but we were well dressed to take care of it. The bridge is 1.71 mile long which is not very obvious when you drive, but easy to realize once you start walking in the cold. Amala's enthusiasm soon evaporated after she fell down few times due to awkward sprints from her over excitement and I found myself carrying her on my shoulder and encouraging Sony to complete the trek, as he was trying to convince me that it was better to turn back. But, we slowly walked almost up to the other end, well beyond the tower on the city side, and turned back as we had to pick up Vinaya.

I think we took more than one hour to complete the trek on the bridge, about 3 miles up and down. We saw lots of runners and bikers on the bridge, most of them seemed  to have been trying out their physical skill on the bridge. Sony and I found it very funny to see one runner starting his run with 4 bottles of some drink tied to various parts of his body to cover the maximum 3.5 miles up and down. (I am not sure if he had been running beyond the bridge to the city.)

Once in the van, I realized that I didn't have enough cash on me to pay the toll. So, we took the next exit on 101N to Sausalito. I don't have to describe how cute that ocean-side town is if you ever had been there. This time there was hardly any tourists and whole town was empty. We quickly found a grocery store with ATM and went inside. They had a small deli and few exotic sandwiches were on their menu. Though Sony was planning to eat  fried jumbo shrimp at Pier 39 in San Francisco after we pick up Vinaya, I couldn't resist ordering a Pilgrim sandwich, which was basically a turkey sandwich with stuffing and crane berry sauce which looked liked that from a typical Thanksgiving dinner. It was sloppy with all the liquids and mushy things inside but it was delicious too. Sony ate some and I hogged the rest. I was very hungry from that walk with load on my back :-)

From there we quickly reached the university campus on Fulton St. and Vinaya was waiting for us. It seemed the day was great for me to find good food: Vinaya saved half of her turkey sandwich for me from her lunch. In few seconds I gulped it down and we did a quick browsing of the campus and the St. Ignatius Church located in it. The church is very beautiful, esp. inside and worth visiting it.

From there we drove straight to The Embarcadero ,the long ocean front of San Francisco where the piers are. On one end is the famous AT &T Ball Park where Giants play, and the other end is Fisherman's Wharf. There are so many attractions in between and even with our numerous visits there we haven't covered everything yet.

We parked on Pier 23 and walked to Pier 39. It is a consummate shopping center built for tourists but we go there to eat fried seafood, clam chowder and ice cream. We always eat at Chowders and then have ice cream at Dreyer's Ice Cream across the walkway from there. This time, I liked the excellent black coffee at the seafood place than the food; may be I was stuffed with the 1.5 sandwiches I ate already.

We walked back to the Ferry Building area where the famous Farmers Market is held. But we were too late to get there. (It is held from  8a.m.- 2p.m. on Saturdays.) So, we browsed around inside the Ferry Building which has a permanent market. I was lucky again at the Boccalone (sells high quality traditional Italian cured meats) outlet; I spotted a hot Prosciutto sandwich and got one. While I waited for it with sleeping Amala on my shoulder, Vinaya and Sony got some coffee drink (I rarely go beyond black coffee). The sandwich was warm and simply delicious and Vinaya and Sony took big bites from it. I have to go back to this place and try their sandwiches; for less  than $10 those sandwiches made with excellent meat and bread, are real bargains.

San Francisco is a great place if you are a foodie. No visit to this city is complete without trying out some local offering there.

By then it was 5.30p.m and it was turning dark. We then started our drive back home. During all these quick trips to the city, we are reminded that we are so lucky  to have this great city just 45 minutes away from our home.